Trump presidency

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Zohar
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Zohar » Wed Jun 28, 2017 2:46 pm UTC

It sounds like you're trying to reinvent the wheel for something for which there are already existing and efficient solutions (that don't involve sending medication twice around the world).
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby cphite » Wed Jun 28, 2017 2:54 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:
cphite wrote:have such high deductibles that they might as well not even have coverage in the first place.


Note cphite: this was the explicit design of the ACA. By encouraging high-deductibles, we encourage price shopping on consumers.


By encouraging high-deductibles, we also put care completely out of reach for a lot of people, especially the poor. We aren't encouraging price shopping; we're discouraging people from seeking care because they cannot afford it.

Check out the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, which only exists now because high-deductables are a thing. We consumers now actually care about the prices of our surgeries and stuff because the high-deductibles (and percentage-based costs) force us to care about the prices we pay. The free market is beginning to offer price transparency in an online fashion, in part because of the new scheme of deductibles under the ACA.


Dig a little deeper. Those prices can vary wildly, and there are always additional costs that come up. And setting that aside, the fact remains that for a lot of people who are buying ACA plans, paying for serious medical procedures is way out of their budget no matter how "competitive" the prices become. If you've got a deductible of $5,000 and require surgery - you're going to end up paying $5,000. Whether your insurance company covered an additional $1,000 or an additional $10,000 is irrelevant from your perspective - which pretty much eliminates any influence that transparency has as far as the consumer is concerned.

Under the old system of "Co-pays", we pay $50 no matter the "actual" cost of our surgeries or whatnot. I know doctors who complained about their peers who'd do unnecessary surgeries, taking advantage of the "copay" system. I mean, if a surgery costs a flat copay for the consumer... then price really doesn't matter.


Unless the costs are below the deductible, it still doesn't matter. The deductible essentially becomes a flat copay.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:00 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:But if a catastrophe happens, the typical high-deductible plan will cover catastrophes (ie: My "Bronze" plan covers 100% of my costs above $6000). However, I'm very interested in knowing the cost of my health care because my "High-Deductible Bronze" plan covers 0% of my costs below $3000, and only a % of the costs between $3000 and $6000.
I'll present this as a question since my knowledge of this is limited. The only difference I see between the two options is how much I am going pay to hedge my risks. And the definition of catastrophic is by nature about your ability to pay, so at one level what may be difficult to you, may be a catastrophic to someone with fewer resources. Seems counter productive to me. If the plans are one size fits all, and given the statistical nature of calculating the risk pool the insurer has to maintain, I'm uncertain how you would balance it by income level. It just seems to push those people off private plans and onto the public options.
KnightExemplar wrote:In any case, it has become possible to actually price shop. Under a Co-Pay system, I wouldn't give a crap because it'd all be the same "Co-pay". (Note: Co-pays aren't banned under the ACA. They're just discouraged. There are tax-incentives to offer high-deductible plans)
I used to believe that. The obvious statement is that most times price shopping isn't an option. The whole point of insurance is to plan for events that might occur. And they might occur under circumstances that will offer you no options at all, in terms of understanding the problems well enough to ask the right questions when you need to. The prior assuming you are conscious and can communicate at all. Catastrophic events are, well, catastrophic.

Having wrote all that, I suppose I should have asked the question that seems to be just hanging out there. How much healthcare are we morally obligated to give any one person who is an resident of the US. Is a tiered system, in and of itself, morally repugnant? That's what we are really discussing.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Zohar » Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:17 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Is a tiered system, in and of itself, morally repugnant? That's what we are really discussing.

I don't know if we need to get into morals here. It's financially and socially advantageous to me that people around me are healthy.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby ucim » Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:44 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:And as someone coming from a country with universal healthcare, the concept of shopping around for health is appalling.
What about the concept of shopping around for food or shelter? Or legal aid?

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Zohar » Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:49 pm UTC

Yeah, the US isn't great about those things either.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:54 pm UTC

cphite wrote:
Under the old system of "Co-pays", we pay $50 no matter the "actual" cost of our surgeries or whatnot. I know doctors who complained about their peers who'd do unnecessary surgeries, taking advantage of the "copay" system. I mean, if a surgery costs a flat copay for the consumer... then price really doesn't matter.


Unless the costs are below the deductible, it still doesn't matter. The deductible essentially becomes a flat copay.


Nope. Under a HDHP plan, above the deductible you still pay a percentage of the service until you hit the "Out of Pocket" expenses.

So only if your costs are above "Deductible + (% paid) * (Out of Pocket - Deductible)" does it become equivalent to a copay. Which is like... well above $20,000/year+ for my personal health care plan. $3000 deductible, $6000 max out-of-pocket and I'm responsible for 10% of the costs between deductible and out-of-pocket. So... I guess that's $33,000 / year (at which point I've paid ~$6000 out of pocket)

Note: these numbers are from memory. I did all this paperwork like... last November. So I'm probably off by a few % here or there. But the concept is sound.

cphite wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote:
cphite wrote:have such high deductibles that they might as well not even have coverage in the first place.


Note cphite: this was the explicit design of the ACA. By encouraging high-deductibles, we encourage price shopping on consumers.


By encouraging high-deductibles, we also put care completely out of reach for a lot of people, especially the poor. We aren't encouraging price shopping; we're discouraging people from seeking care because they cannot afford it.


Potentially yes. But the poor couldn't afford health care anyway. Which is why Medicare pays for your premiums till ~$40,000 / year incomes now (or... its supposed to. If Republican Governors didn't block Medicare expansion anyway)

Now... HDHPs are part of the picture. The other half is the tax-advantaged HSA account. Consider this: my employer has a nice Bronze plan for $100 / month with the deductible schedule I've described throughout my posts. There's a classic "co-pay" plan for $300 / month as well. (My employer is paying for a huge portion of the premiums btw, which is why the costs are lower than most. I think a "Bronze" plan typically costs $300/month, and a "co-pay" plan would be like $700 / month... but I'm not too familiar with the ACA's marketplace).

So instead of paying $300 / month for the typical pre-ACA health care plan, I'm paying $100 / month and then saving $200/month TAX FREE in an HSA. The HSA has stock-options and mutual funds, so I can expect my HSA savings to grow at a rate of 7%ish as well (I mean I could, but my HSA account sucks utter ass and has like a $50 fee per year if I take this option... uggghhhh). Any medical expenses I pay out of my HSA-account is basically a flat bonus because it was never taxed with income-tax... and since contributions to the HSA reduce my AGI, its as if I'm saving 25% or so (whatever my tax-bracket is. Yes, from the top-of-my-tax bracket. Since it reduced AGI)

Yeah, the HSA gives you the benefits of the Roth AND the Traditional IRA for any health-care expenses. Its kind of ridiculous as a tax-haven. Its the best savings account in the USA by far.

If I get fired from my job, all of the HSA money is still mine and I take it to my next HDHP. Once I hit the age of 65ish or so, I can withdraw from my HSA kind of like a retirement account too, tax-free. So there are severe tax advantages for me buying a low-cost, high-deductible health care plan.

The idea of the ACA is to buy insurance for the "catastrophic" $30,000+ medical bills that sometimes happens, but to "self-insure" yourself through a tax-advantaged HSA account.

morriswalters wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote:But if a catastrophe happens, the typical high-deductible plan will cover catastrophes (ie: My "Bronze" plan covers 100% of my costs above $6000). However, I'm very interested in knowing the cost of my health care because my "High-Deductible Bronze" plan covers 0% of my costs below $3000, and only a % of the costs between $3000 and $6000.
I'll present this as a question since my knowledge of this is limited. The only difference I see between the two options is how much I am going pay to hedge my risks. And the definition of catastrophic is by nature about your ability to pay, so at one level what may be difficult to you, may be a catastrophic to someone with fewer resources. Seems counter productive to me. If the plans are one size fits all, and given the statistical nature of calculating the risk pool the insurer has to maintain, I'm uncertain how you would balance it by income level. It just seems to push those people off private plans and onto the public options.


Note that the US Government is supposed to pay insurance companies for taking on high-risk citizens, to counter-balance the risk that high-risk citizens pose to the health care system.

Donald Trump has made such payments... ambiguous. He's not helping.

Anyway, the main benefit to the consumer is... Health Care insurance under a HDHP is almost purely insurance. That is, it only is there to cover the catastrophe (in my case: I am limited to $6000 out-of-pocket in case any medical emergency costs $30,000+). However, I am responsible for all payments below the deductible, and for a percentage of the payments below the out-of-pocket cost.

So now I'm incentivized to shop around for health care.

---------

Under the "copay" system, since you pay $50 per doctors visit and other such flat-fees all the time... you never care about the cost of the services. You leave it 100% up to your insurance company to negotiate the price. Which... had issues as far as warping the marketplace. It turns out that insurance companies don't really care about us, they mostly care about saving money. So relying upon insurance companies to make decisions on behalf of us is innately disastrous.

True, the "new" system where we citizens are responsible for price-shopping is annoying. But its also more honest with how the world works. At least, how the world works in America. We know citizens care about themselves and living long lives. So, they're probably the best people to make the health care decisions.

"Single Payer" means that an agency in Washington DC would come up with the prices, as well as who gets those services and who doesn't. I know some smart people in Washington DC who work for these agencies. I'm talking Masters degrees in statistics, PH.Ds in advanced maths and medical degrees all combined into singular people. But that doesn't change the fact that the typical American is too distrustful of Washington Bureaucrats (even if said bureaucrats are highly educated and highly trained). So I have my doubts that a single-payer system would work.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 28, 2017 5:55 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Is a tiered system, in and of itself, morally repugnant? That's what we are really discussing.

I don't know if we need to get into morals here. It's financially and socially advantageous to me that people around me are healthy.
KnightExemplar wrote: But the poor couldn't afford health care anyway.
Yeah.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Jun 28, 2017 5:59 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Zohar wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Is a tiered system, in and of itself, morally repugnant? That's what we are really discussing.

I don't know if we need to get into morals here. It's financially and socially advantageous to me that people around me are healthy.
KnightExemplar wrote: But the poor couldn't afford health care anyway.
Yeah.


Good job cutting out the other line: where I stated that Medicare Medicaid Expansion would cover the poor if the program wasn't blocked.

There's like... straight up $80-billion $376 Billion or so dedicated for the explicit purpose of paying for poor people's health care. The question is long over of "should we pay for it". The real question is "how poor is poor enough" (Medicaid expansion raises the bar to ~$40,000/year. Before, it was the Federal Poverty line at ~20k or so), "is the structure of the payments creating market distortions??". "Are there 'fiscal cliffs' in the deal?" And of course "Is the health care we are paying poor people to have actually even effective??"

And that doesn't even touch the "Are my tax dollars going into medical procedures I find morally wrong?" question. (aka: Abortion) But for the most part, everyone seems to agree that Medicaid is a good idea and we should continue to support it. The main question is about structure.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:04 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:
morriswalters wrote:
Zohar wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Is a tiered system, in and of itself, morally repugnant? That's what we are really discussing.

I don't know if we need to get into morals here. It's financially and socially advantageous to me that people around me are healthy.
KnightExemplar wrote: But the poor couldn't afford health care anyway.
Yeah.


Good job cutting out the other line: where I stated that Medicare Medicaid Expansion would cover the poor if the program wasn't blocked.
Their was no intention on my part to draw any moral conclusion about you. I don't know you. I asked him about a morality of tired levels of service. Whatever else your comments say, you've made the choice of tiered service. I think you have made a good choice for you, for now. Later maybe not so much. Medical savings accounts are ok. Probably a good idea for care later in life. Penalties for non healthcare use limit it as a general investment vehicle. The line highlighted in blue made me laugh however.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Thesh » Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:43 pm UTC

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby jewish_scientist » Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:49 am UTC

Just wondering, but what if healthcare was a municipal service, like the police force or fire department. Yes, taxes would sky rocket, but the cost of healthcare to any single citizen would reverse-sky rocket to about $0.00. What is particularly nice about this is that everyone in a given town or city will receive the same level of care (at least in theory). If the richer citizens want better coverage, then they must pay more in taxes and/or lobby for redistributing tax revenue, which in turn increases the healthcare of the poorer citizens. In theory, the REALLY rich could buy private hospitals and use those instead of the municipal services, like how a private security force can be hired to replace the police to a certain degree. I find this unlikely to ever happen however, because medical supplies and equipment is very expensive.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Zohar » Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:12 pm UTC

At the very least you should compare this to how property taxes determine public schools and what that has done to them (hint: it's not great).

I have a question about the Muslim ban - initially the administration said they need it in effect for up to 120 days in order to review their procedures and such. It seems like that is still true, from what I can find. What I don't get is, it's been more than 120 days since it was initially proposed - what was stopping the administration in doing this investigation in the meantime? Why is this still a valid excuse for it?
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:28 pm UTC

@ j_s: what would be the advantage, compared to the same universal system on a higher level? There are obviously downsizes to such a low-level approach. Many municipalities are too small to cover the full range of healthcare, especially a large hospital with advanced specialisations. Even larger municipalities would still suffer from lack of scale, except perhaps for multi-million people cities. And such a system would strongly reward towns that bully their poorer residents away, creating a race-to-the-bottom dynamic that would be hard to resist.

Against such downsides, there should be strong upsides. What do you have in mind?

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:40 pm UTC

It's a question (@zohar, re: Muslim Ban time limit) I've seen asked (and I think it was 90 days, but there might have been an adjustment) directly to @realDonaldTrump's recent mishmash of barely coherent 'announcements'. I didn't see any attempt (nor imagine any inclination) to reply with the answer to that. (But if I was @realDonaldTrump and getting the YUUUUGE deluge of both haters and sycophants responding, I'd probably forgo reading any of the responses (even the ego-boosting ones) and just get on with reading the primary timelines of the more agreeable contributors looking for things I wish I'd sais and RTing them, maybe as if I had...)

The reality, I suspect, is that a lot of Trump's stuff is Write-Only and Fire-And-Forget, based upon what a mostly self-filtered subset of lucky advisors tell him gets the most press attention (without regard as to the polarity). But that's just my unqualified observation.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Zohar » Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:47 pm UTC

I believe it was 90 days ban for travel and 120 days for the refugee programs.

What Trump says is one thing, but I thought the supremes actually referred to this in their decision...

As for Trump, I wouldn't be surprised if a team of interns scours articles and prints out small complementary snippets to feed his ego instead of him actually looking at news sources.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby trpmb6 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:12 pm UTC

Ditto on the question about the length of the travel ban and the "review" period.

I happen to be a supporter of the President's authority to enact a temporary travel ban. I believe it to be at the heart of the executive branch's powers. As evidenced by how long it took to battle this out in the courts, it's pretty clear that we need some way to protect the country in the event of some potential outside threat that the President may be made aware of, but the general public and courts outside of the FISA court are unaware of or not privy to.

That aside, it's been over 90 days. Clearly any review that may have been needed to be done could have been completed by now. The question is then, did the lower court rulings put a stay on the ENTIRE executive order then? I'm not really sure how they could have since there would have been no reason to prevent them from doing such a review. The supreme court actually asks this very question in their opinion:
To begin, we grant both of the Government’s petitions
for certiorari and consolidate the cases for argument. The
Clerk is directed to set a briefing schedule that will permit
the cases to be heard during the first session of October
Term 2017. (The Government has not requested that we
expedite consideration of the merits to a greater extent.)
In addition to the issues identified in the petitions, the
parties are directed to address the following question:
“Whether the challenges to §2(c) became moot on June 14,
2017.”


Where 2(c) refers to the expiration of the travel ban. The administration issued a memo noting that the dates associated with the travel ban would be based on the dates of the injunction being lifted.

The last point to be made is that which many news outlets have already pointed out. The travel ban will have run its course before the case is even brought before the supreme court in October. The only reason at this point to litigate the case is simply to confirm or deny whether or not the executive branch has this authority. Based on the comments in the 9-0 opinion, it's pretty clear the justices think the Federal Government has a somewhat reasonable chance of winning the case. (based on them granting certiorari)
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby KnightExemplar » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:20 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:Just wondering, but what if healthcare was a municipal service, like the police force or fire department. Yes, taxes would sky rocket, but the cost of healthcare to any single citizen would reverse-sky rocket to about $0.00. What is particularly nice about this is that everyone in a given town or city will receive the same level of care (at least in theory). If the richer citizens want better coverage, then they must pay more in taxes and/or lobby for redistributing tax revenue, which in turn increases the healthcare of the poorer citizens. In theory, the REALLY rich could buy private hospitals and use those instead of the municipal services, like how a private security force can be hired to replace the police to a certain degree. I find this unlikely to ever happen however, because medical supplies and equipment is very expensive.


Have you visited a small American town?

Because I have. This one small town in Washington State had a building with roughly ~10 rooms total as their "Hospital". The locals tell me that there were literally 3 long-term rooms for the entire town. Furthermore, it was a historical logging / milling town, and the mill shut down years ago, so its not like the municipality has a significant source of money. The primary source of "income" for the town was agriculture, a nearby military base, and a US Federal Dam miles away. I guess you can potentially count the Native American Casinos that were nearby... but... there wasn't much out there in terms of economic activity. (According to Wikipedia, tourism is the next biggest economic activity. Which makes sense, it was very beautiful, and the wilderness was invigorating. Mountains, Forests, Lakes, Fishing... etc. etc. Lots of parks and activities of that nature. But I am worried about how the locals make a living...)

Cities will always be fine because of the efficiency of large gatherings of people. If you own a CT scan machine in a big city for instance... you can rent out the time to (probably multiple different) universities for teaching to young MD in training. And then you can sell timeslots to the myriad of hospitals in the region.

In contrast, a CT Scan machine in a smaller town 200+ miles away from cities? That's likely unprofitable. There are simply too few people in the municipality to support the millions of dollars of investment (training, specialists who understand the machine, and of course... the machine itself). The neighborhood I live in had more people in this entire town... there were less than 5000 people in the entire town proper, and less than 10,000 in the extended region according to the latest Census.

FYI: This was the largest city in the county. I shit you not. That's what small-town America looks like. For dozens-of-miles around, a ~5000ish group of people is the largest Town / Municipality you can find.

Again, we're talking about towns and municipalities that live roughly 200-miles away from the nearest city. I dare you to go to maps.google.com (or maps.bing.com if you prefer) and look for major human activity between Seattle, WA and Spokane, WA.
Last edited by KnightExemplar on Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:34 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby sardia » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:32 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:Ditto on the question about the length of the travel ban and the "review" period.

I happen to be a supporter of the President's authority to enact a temporary travel ban. I believe it to be at the heart of the executive branch's powers. As evidenced by how long it took to battle this out in the courts, it's pretty clear that we need some way to protect the country in the event of some potential outside threat that the President may be made aware of, but the general public and courts outside of the FISA court are unaware of or not privy to.

That aside, it's been over 90 days. Clearly any review that may have been needed to be done could have been completed by now. The question is then, did the lower court rulings put a stay on the ENTIRE executive order then? I'm not really sure how they could have since there would have been no reason to prevent them from doing such a review. The supreme court actually asks this very question in their opinion:
To begin, we grant both of the Government’s petitions
for certiorari and consolidate the cases for argument. The
Clerk is directed to set a briefing schedule that will permit
the cases to be heard during the first session of October
Term 2017. (The Government has not requested that we
expedite consideration of the merits to a greater extent.)
In addition to the issues identified in the petitions, the
parties are directed to address the following question:
“Whether the challenges to §2(c) became moot on June 14,
2017.”


Where 2(c) refers to the expiration of the travel ban. The administration issued a memo noting that the dates associated with the travel ban would be based on the dates of the injunction being lifted.

The last point to be made is that which many news outlets have already pointed out. The travel ban will have run its course before the case is even brought before the supreme court in October. The only reason at this point to litigate the case is simply to confirm or deny whether or not the executive branch has this authority. Based on the comments in the 9-0 opinion, it's pretty clear the justices think the Federal Government has a somewhat reasonable chance of winning the case. (based on them granting certiorari)

The administration argument is that they are so incompetent that they were unable to start a review of the security procedures until just recently. Hence why the issue is still valid. Of course the administration used smarter sounding words but still...
The annoying thing is it's the TSA debacle all over again. Lots of flash but with almost no consideration to actual security. Why do refugees get scrutiny but no tourists? Why those countries but not others with actual terrorists.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby KnightExemplar » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:42 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:I happen to be a supporter of the President's authority to enact a temporary travel ban. I believe it to be at the heart of the executive branch's powers.


I happen to think its a legal order. I expect that the Supreme Court will allow Trump to enact the ban eventually.

But this is entirely different from actually supporting the ban. I think the ban is a dumb idea that only solidifies the racist faction of the Trump party, while making the US look like a laughing stock in the world. There has not been a single terrorist who came from any of the countries banned by Trump. So its incredulous to suggest that the ban is for terrorism related reasons.

In contrast, 15 of the 9/11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia. And the President awarded them with a sword dance. (Saudi Arabia was the first foreign country Trump visited while sitting as President). Then the President failed to talk about "radical Islamic terrorism" during his entire trip.

Talk about a wuss.

As evidenced by how long it took to battle this out in the courts, it's pretty clear that we need some way to protect the country in the event of some potential outside threat that the President may be made aware of, but the general public and courts outside of the FISA court are unaware of or not privy to.


Erm... you do realize that the Senate Intelligence Committee and House Intelligence Committees are bipartisan and have complete access to the entirety of classified information?

What do you think the recent "Laptop Ban" was all about? Clearly, there's a threat that only Homeland Security knows about (although tons of information seems to have been leaked to the press). The President issued a command, and all airports immediately complied with the order. There's a very strong security presence across the USA. And when the whole system agrees with a major ban or whatever, it acts swiftly.

Believe it or not, the FBI, Homeland Security (including US Air Marshals, TSA, ICE) work together to detect threats and prevent attacks. And the 15 Senators and 32-House Members of the intelligence committees are regularly briefed on the subject.

If something is going down that's important, tons of people will know about it. Inside the President's circle, and outside. The main issue is that not a single Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee agrees with the President, despite having the same access to the information. The Democrats are calling "Bullshit" on President Trump, and Trump doesn't have much to stand on aside from "But I'm (probably) legally allowed to do this".

Which is an incredibly shitty argument in the great scheme of things. Republicans mainly support the President only because they know he's the source of Republican Power at the moment. For better or for worse, the strongest faction of the Republican party are Trumpers.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby trpmb6 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:14 pm UTC

Notice that I said "I support his authority to enact a temporary ban"

I never said whether or not I supported the merits of this ban, though I'll admit, I do give a little credence to the point that the countries listed are essentially failed states with incompetent governments.

As an aside, I also wouldn't put it past the administration if they felt it necessary to withhold information from the senate given the tremendous flow of leaks coming out of it.

To that point, can we all agree that leaks are a serious problem now and need to put to a stop? There are proper whistleblower channels for handling government and official misconduct. What we have right now are just people on both sides of the aisle selectively leaking things to score political points. I think we can all agree that undermines our fake democracy.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Sableagle » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:57 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:I do give a little credence to the point that the countries listed are essentially failed states with incompetent governments.


First point: how many have you actually seen?
https://www.gadventures.com/trips/iran- ... rsia/ARIR/
http://s1372.photobucket.com/user/Disco ... 4/library/ <=== no burkas. It's not Saudi.
Spoiler:
1) Totally worth it!
2) Everybody's very friendly and hospitable.
3) Quite a lot speak some English or German, but don't count on it. Learn Farsi.
4) Not recommended for diabetics. They sugar-coat EVERYTHING. Even the dates. Seriously.
5) Too many mosques. Just too many mosques. I don't know how many we actually visited, but it was too many. Would rather have learned to make local sweets or helped the high school English students or played volleyball with the locals or something occasionally.
6) Awfully large place, meaning we spent a lot of time on the bus.
7) If you're thinking of going next year, bear religious festivals in mind when choosing a date. The last two nights of our trip this year had a parade going up and down in front of the hotel at 11 at night for a religious thing.
8) They do a five-and-a-half-day week, Saturday 7am to Thursday 1pm, and on Friday only the cafes, ice-cream shops and restaurants stay open. If you arrive on a Friday, change money in the airport before heading into town.
9) Paper money is in Rial. Most business is actually conducted in Tooman. 1 Tooman = 10 Rial. The script for Tooman has three loops in the writing. The script for Rial is all lines with no loops. If it doesn't say, check which they mean.
10) If you're up at Darband for lunch (highly recommended), those shiny little bowls of berries for sale every twenty paces or so up the path are pickled, not syruppy. It's a very intense flavour, far less sweet than I was expecting. Also they have the stones in, so they can be tricky to stab with the little plastic forks and you'll have to spit out a lot of stones.


Secondly, Iraq wasn't all that "failed" until shortly after they had nothing to do with 9/11. Syria was in many ways a shithole and had a lot of tension ready to erupt in 2010, but may well have been doing a lot better now if only We Westerners had stuck to our mission in Afghanistan and not abandoned it to make a godawful mess of Iraq. Yemen's a mess for a number of reasons, which have included Saudi Arabia (using our second-hand military aircraft) for quite a while now. It seems that overt US hostility isn't a magnificently effective way to turn a Middle Eastern or North African country into a prosperous, modern, equality-respecting Sozialdemokratische success story. Considering how much Iranian forces have been doing for decades to keep Taliban heroin off our streets and for years to keep ISIS away from Iraqi civilians we abandoned, mabye we ought to be a bit friendlier. The vast majority of Iranian people would like us to be friends. Sure, their system of government puts, effectively, the Pope and the Cardinals in charge of education and the military, but look what the US system put in charge of the US military. Domino theory is not a valid reason for despising Iranians.

Thirdly, Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst places to be a woman, where the government is a little bit less LGBT-friendly than that of Sudan, isn't on the list. They're not our allies in the fight against the Taliban, are they? Why isn't Saudi on the list?

Fourthly, if it's ISIS (and Saudis) that are so scary, wouldn't lesbians fleeing them be our natural allies, rather than seen as infected with the Islamist Terrorism Virus?
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby trpmb6 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:26 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:
Thirdly, Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst places to be a woman, where the government is a little bit less LGBT-friendly than that of Sudan, isn't on the list. They're not our allies in the fight against the Taliban, are they? Why isn't Saudi on the list?

Fourthly, if it's ISIS (and Saudis) that are so scary, wouldn't lesbians fleeing them be our natural allies, rather than seen as infected with the Islamist Terrorism Virus?


I am fairly certain the question about why Saudi Arabia wasn't included is well documented in the media. (In fact, if you go to google and type in "why isn't saudi arabia" it auto completes to "on the ban list." So clearly this is well researched.

One possible reason, of which I know has been mentioned in news reports, is that countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt (Egypt being a much better example in this situation given its most recent turmoil during the Arab Spring uprisings) have systems in place with a high level of cooperation between the US embassies and their own government for facilitating background checks. One of the major issues coming out of Syria of late is the absence of a database of documenting owners of Syrian Refugees. Given the reports that ISIS has under their control numerous passport making facilities with blank syrian passports, being able to verify whether one is a forgery or a true Syrian passport is of some importance. Granted, this is only one example.

I think it is worth noting that just because there hasn't been a terrorist from one of these countries that has attacked the US doesn't mean it can't happen in the future. Just because a majority of the 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia (though everyone seems to forget to mention they trained in Yemen) doesn't mean we haven't learned from that mistake and have since vastly improved our vetting system with the Saudis' cooperation. I'm obviously speculating here.

I still stand by my assertion that I believe the President has the authority to enact a temporary travel ban. What I do question, is the merits of doing so in this specific case. I can certainly see halting travel to and from Syria, given the example above. But absent a verifiable credible threat from our intelligence agencies (bearing in mind I don't have a clearance so I wouldn't know if there was in such a case) I think such a ban was ill-advised in this political environment. The optics make for bad publicity for the President. (In a far reaching hypothetical, maybe they knew the optics would be bad but they genuinely didn't care because they truly did think this was in the best interest of the nation's security.)
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby KnightExemplar » Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:43 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:As an aside, I also wouldn't put it past the administration if they felt it necessary to withhold information from the senate given the tremendous flow of leaks coming out of it.


That's not how it works. The Senate (and House) Intelligence Committee are the ones in charge of the budget, and all laws that have to do with national security. They have ALWAYS received classified briefings for the last 30 years.

The leaks are likely coming from the White House, in all honesty. Think about it, there were far fewer leaks during the Obama administration (still a ton of high-profile leaks). The Senators / House members of the intelligence committees barely changed. The main change is that Trump has entered the White House, and his administration is full of newbies who are unable to keep their mouths shut.

To that point, can we all agree that leaks are a serious problem now and need to put to a stop?


Yeah. The job of that is squarely within Trump's hands. Trump's incredibly incompetent hands. Obama's dudes are out of the Government. The last 5 months have been Trump's white house, which clearly is the leakiest piece of crap I've ever seen.

EDIT: Case in point: Trump controls the Department of Justice, which controls the FBI. If you really think that certain people are leaking information for political gain, then prosecute them and put them in jail. Its that simple. The FBI (and by extension, Donald Trump / Jeff Sessions, who leads them) controls the situation in its entirety.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Vahir » Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:44 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:To that point, can we all agree that leaks are a serious problem now and need to put to a stop? There are proper whistleblower channels for handling government and official misconduct. What we have right now are just people on both sides of the aisle selectively leaking things to score political points. I think we can all agree that undermines our fake democracy.


I believe they call that transparency.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Sableagle » Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:58 pm UTC

To be fair, yes, we are indeed in a position where we can't guarantee that an Iranian isn't a member of ISIS. Our evidence kind of supports the hypothesis that Machiavelli would consider Hassan Rouhani my friend, doesn't it?

I suppose I'm not really arguing with you here, as we seem to be on the same page really. I just feel the ban needs facts throwing at it. Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, has arrived at a striking finding: Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015. Between 1975 and 2015, the “annual chance of being murdered by somebody other than a foreign-born terrorist was 252.9 times greater than the chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist,” according to Nowrasteh. His targetting may be a bit off, in other words. As for the scale of the threat, Heritage say: "From 1969 to 2009, almost 5,600 people lost their lives and more than 16,300 people suffered injuries due to international terrorism directed at the United States." If you skip 9/11 you halve that fatality figure, so for 39 of those 40 years the average has been "almost" 67.1 people per year. 2002-2009 RTAs killed 112 per day[/i, and "oops oh shit it was loaded" and "turns out interior walls aren't bulletproof" are up and down above and below [i]ten times 67.1 people per year, so it's a strange precaution to prioritise ... unless your target audience values their freedom to drive and their freedom to keep and bear arms way more than their right to life, their neighbours' right to life and strangers' rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (as gained by seeing one's daughter graduate from college rather than seeing her become a sex toy for ISIS, for example) or just plain hates Muslims and cheers for anyone else who hates them too.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby trpmb6 » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:49 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:
That's not how it works. The Senate (and House) Intelligence Committee are the ones in charge of the budget, and all laws that have to do with national security. They have ALWAYS received classified briefings for the last 30 years.

The leaks are likely coming from the White House, in all honesty. Think about it, there were far fewer leaks during the Obama administration (still a ton of high-profile leaks). The Senators / House members of the intelligence committees barely changed. The main change is that Trump has entered the White House, and his administration is full of newbies who are unable to keep their mouths shut.



Yeah. The job of that is squarely within Trump's hands. Trump's incredibly incompetent hands. Obama's dudes are out of the Government. The last 5 months have been Trump's white house, which clearly is the leakiest piece of crap I've ever seen.

EDIT: Case in point: Trump controls the Department of Justice, which controls the FBI. If you really think that certain people are leaking information for political gain, then prosecute them and put them in jail. Its that simple. The FBI (and by extension, Donald Trump / Jeff Sessions, who leads them) controls the situation in its entirety.




I'll admit, you got me on the Congress aspect. I hadn't thought that through 100%. Congress has complete authority to oversee our intelligence apparatus. Withholding information from them would be tantamount to a constitutional crisis.

But I think you're partially wrong on the part about the Trump admin being solely responsible for the leaks. Are there folks on the top leaking things that favor the president? You betcha. Technically the president can leak whatever he chooses to. He is the final arbiter of declassifying information.

But what you seem to forget is there are still a ton of holdovers from the Obama era who hold no allegiances to Trump. To be honest I'm not sure why they still haven't cleaned the house out completely. Part of that is likely due to the lag of the "changing of the guard" so to speak. Some are likely career folks who disagree with the president (though I put less credence to this.. such people generally hold a higher respect for the office).
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby trpmb6 » Fri Jun 30, 2017 1:06 pm UTC

I'd like to ask the anti-Trumpers what they think they'd actually gain by either having Trump removed from office or having him step down. What do you really think would be different with Pence running things instead? On a lot of issues Pence is to the right of Trump. Throw in that Ivanka is whispering in Trumps ear about policies she cares about, like mandatory maternity leave and child care deductions and Trump falls to the left of Pence easily. I really don't see Pence ever supporting those type of issues. I don't see Trump talk much about abortion really, except maybe the occasional mention of planned parenthood funding. But I actually think that's not a priority of his, and being driven more by house republicans than anything. Pence is definitely more vocal about his views on abortion.

So from my standpoint there is nothing to gain from a policy position by having Trump removed.

As far as I'm concerned Democrats are better served by having Trump in the office right now. Maybe talking about having him removed scores some political points, but I don't see any real benefit to actually following through with such attacks.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Jun 30, 2017 1:32 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:But what you seem to forget is there are still a ton of holdovers from the Obama era who hold no allegiances to Trump. To be honest I'm not sure why they still haven't cleaned the house out completely..

Irrelevant. Loyalty to Trump or loyalty to Obama should be of no consequence, compared to loyalty to the Office Of The President, the country, the People, etc, according to the purposes and responsibilities of your position.

You don't want the transient Cult Of Personality to supersede the non-corporeal progression between administrations. Figureheads may come and go, and everyone has their favourites, but continuity demands something smarter than a virtual Palace Coup/Purge. Bad things happen otherwise. Well, chance bad things happen, anyway, but these examples tend to go worse.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:11 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:I'd like to ask the anti-Trumpers what they think they'd actually gain by either having Trump removed from office or having him step down. What do you really think would be different with Pence running things instead? On a lot of issues Pence is to the right of Trump. Throw in that Ivanka is whispering in Trumps ear about policies she cares about, like mandatory maternity leave and child care deductions and Trump falls to the left of Pence easily.

Well, we'll see what shakes out with Pence in Russiagate (his people have been quick to insist that he's Sgt. Schulz and "knew nothing!" but that seems kinda hard to believe considering he headed up the transition team, so it's possible he's dirty as well,) but yes, there isn't really a particularly great option down the line. However: any one of them, while I may dislike their positions or their character, is at the very least not an unstable, narcissistic manchild with zero impulse control and zero interest in any facet of the job that doesn't involve TV cameras.

And as regards the notion that people like Ivanka are "Trump whisperers" who can steer him in such-and-such a direction, we've already seen dozens of times that that isn't the case, or at least that it only lasts until he randomly changes his mind and wanders off in some different and probably opposite direction. The GOP thought it could puppeteer him into behaving more "presidential" - that's blown up in their faces multiple times. He was against the Ryan version of Trumpcare until he signed it, then he celebrated it in the Rose Garden for all the TV cameras. Then a couple weeks later he was publically calling it "mean" right while McConnell was trying to cram it through the Senate in a rush. He was backing his son-in-law against Steve Bannon in the weird little game-of-thrones thing they've got going on in the Cabinet, then Kushner was revealed to be under investigation and suddenly Bannon's back on the ascent, then it'll probably be Kushner again when Bannon's revealed to be under investigation as well or whatever. And his entire PR department has found it so totally impossible to either keep him on-message or at least keep up on his message enough to accurately reflect it that they've just stopped pretending to have any answers at all. Literally the only thing that he can be relied on to stand for consistently is...not even his own self-interest, because he frequently pulls some stupid thing that he thinks will make him look good but only undercuts his agenda in some way, but his own ego gratification.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Zamfir » Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:14 pm UTC

@trmb6, the democrats won't get far by hoping for crumbs from a republican government, hoping that Trump will give them anything. If they want their policies enacted, they have to win elections. In the shorter term, they have to be popular enough that some republican politicians are hesitant to support the republican agenda.

For those goals, what would be better than a republican president who gets so disgraced that his own party members support his removal?

Of course, that assumes that there is evidence that will disgrace Trump to that level. But what's the downside in looking, from a democratic perspective? Investigations might dig up up facts that are not enough to unseat Trump, but that still do lasting damage to his popularity and that of his party.

Or they might find nothing. The whole Benghazi/email show made it rather clear that investigations are useful even when they go nowhere.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby KnightExemplar » Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:37 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:But what you seem to forget is there are still a ton of holdovers from the Obama era who hold no allegiances to Trump. To be honest I'm not sure why they still haven't cleaned the house out completely. Part of that is likely due to the lag of the "changing of the guard" so to speak. Some are likely career folks who disagree with the president (though I put less credence to this.. such people generally hold a higher respect for the office).


And who is responsible for staffing the White House?

Bush -> Obama's transition was completed on inauguration day. Obama started working on the transition on November 8th, the day after Obama was elected. Hell, one can argue that Obama's plans for the transition team began even earlier than that. In contrast, Trump started working on the transition after inauguration.

There's a level of incompetence here that hasn't been seen for decades. No matter how you slice it, Trump isn't working. We're 5-months into his presidency and SEVEN months after we figured out he won... and the man hasn't actually fully staffed his own fucking team yet.

And also, please name the Obama-era holdovers in Trump's leadership. Name them. All the names are public. Honestly, Trump fired most of them after 90 days. The vast majority of positions in the Federal Government are empty. Trump fired them without any replacement.

The few that Trump kept from Obama's years are highly-respected generals and/or spymasters who are universally accepted to be non-partisan. And I'm pretty sure those guys aren't leaking.

trpmb6 wrote:I'd like to ask the anti-Trumpers what they think they'd actually gain by either having Trump removed from office or having him step down. What do you really think would be different with Pence running things instead? On a lot of issues Pence is to the right of Trump.


For me, its not an issue of political "Abortion vs non-abortion" anymore. Its a simple issue of competence. Trump is unfit for President. He spends more time watching TV than hiring out positions. He self-sabotages the Republican effort to pass legislation.

I'm a Republican. Tell me something: do you really think the Republican Congress will be able to pass Health Care reform, Tax Reform, and a Budget by years end? Hint: We still don't have a budget. Despite owning the Presidency, the Senate, the House, AND the Supreme Court. Trump is an ineffective leader, who simply does not understand the Moderate Republican vs Conservative Republican divide... and therefore, Trump will never be able to bridge it.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Zamfir » Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:55 pm UTC

Tell me something: do you really think the Republican Congress will be able to pass Health Care reform, Tax Reform, and a Budget by years end?

I obviously don't follow this in detail, but I got the impression that the Republicans were now negotiating the last votes in a health care bill that undoes most of The Affordable Care Act, and then some more? A that speed, they can surely pass more?

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:11 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:I'd like to ask the anti-Trumpers what they think they'd actually gain by either having Trump removed from office or having him step down.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby KnightExemplar » Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:30 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Tell me something: do you really think the Republican Congress will be able to pass Health Care reform, Tax Reform, and a Budget by years end?

I obviously don't follow this in detail, but I got the impression that the Republicans were now negotiating the last votes in a health care bill that undoes most of The Affordable Care Act, and then some more? A that speed, they can surely pass more?


The problem is that they started over in the Senate. Which means after they pass it in the Senate, it goes back to the House, because the Senate Bill is grossly different from the House Bill. If the differences between the House bill and the Senate Bill aren't resolved, the Bill may die.

Furthermore, because of the Reconciliation process (bypassing the Filibuster), they can only undo some of the Affordable Care Act. So the House / Senate needs to come up with a 2nd bill (one that can get passed a Democrat's Filibuster) to actually fully repeal the Affordable Care Act. We're like... at step 1 of a very, very long process.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby ucim » Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:42 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:I'd like to ask the anti-Trumpers what they think they'd actually gain by either having Trump removed from office or having him step down. What do you really think would be different with Pence running things instead?
First, while Trump is a problem, he isn't the problem. The problem is that somebody like Trump can get elected in the first place. He's right when he says he can shoot somebody on fifth avenue and not lose his core support. That is the problem.

That said, the problem with Trump isn't his policies (or his total lack of them). Under Pence, those policies may end up worse, and Pence would be able to actually enact them. And taking Pence out still leaves a pretty ugly succession line.

No, the problem with Trump is the not-so-vanishing chance that he could be our last president, and in 2020 be crowned King For Life, after postponing elections because of some crisis or other for which "he is the only one" that can save us. I don't know how he keeps his support, but he has done so in the face of such atrocities that I no longer count on reason. His actions have been rather disturbingly autocratic; a business is run like a dictatorship but a democracy probably should not be.

Removing him won't solve the problem however; his base has to see this, see that this is a Bad Thing, because otherwise the underlying issue will remain. Alas, in the meantime he is doing plenty of damage, primarily through his normalizing of the disregard for actual facts, and of his entire family's blatant abuse of the office for self-enrichment.

Ultimately, it's the Republicans that have to remove him, not the Democrats.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby orthogon » Fri Jun 30, 2017 4:37 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
trpmb6 wrote:I'd like to ask the anti-Trumpers what they think they'd actually gain by either having Trump removed from office or having him step down. What do you really think would be different with Pence running things instead?
First, while Trump is a problem, he isn't the problem. The problem is that somebody like Trump can get elected in the first place. He's right when he says he can shoot somebody on fifth avenue and not lose his core support. That is the problem.


Yeah - there seems to be a bigger principle at stake than any particular set of policies: the very idea that somebody in a position of supreme power can go around blatantly lying, lying about lying and repeating the lies that he lied about. That somebody can be elected despite an recorded confession to acts of sexual harassment. Getting rid of him would feel like a victory for the principle that these things shall not stand.

It appeals particularly to those of us watching from overseas, since we don't have to put up with whatever right-wing horrors Pence et al would implement, whereas we do have to put up with a bunch of racists and misogynists emboldened by the Orange One and with a general undermining of facts and mainstream news that he has encouraged. And on the international stage, Trump is far more dangerous than even the most hawkish conservative, because of his utter lack of grasp and his flip-flopping instability, so we could sleep better at night without him in the White House.
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Jun 30, 2017 5:10 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:But I think you're partially wrong on the part about the Trump admin being solely responsible for the leaks. Are there folks on the top leaking things that favor the president? You betcha. Technically the president can leak whatever he chooses to. He is the final arbiter of declassifying information.


I think what you're missing is that the Trump administration isn't some unified bloc. There's a bunch of factions (eg. Kushner vs. Bannon) that are working at opposing purposes, and are leaking materials damaging to the other group, which are incidentally also damaging to the president. Here are some examples where people have figured out the likely leaker based on, essentially, textual analysis of the words.

trpmb6 wrote: Throw in that Ivanka is whispering in Trumps ear about policies she cares about, like mandatory maternity leave and child care deductions and Trump falls to the left of Pence easily. I really don't see Pence ever supporting those type of issues. I don't see Trump talk much about abortion really, except maybe the occasional mention of planned parenthood funding. But I actually think that's not a priority of his, and being driven more by house republicans than anything. Pence is definitely more vocal about his views on abortion.


There is no evidence that Ivanka's influence is having any moderating effect on Trump. She apparently cares a lot about climate change, and, well, we know how that went down.

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Re: Trump presidency

Postby DaBigCheez » Fri Jun 30, 2017 5:47 pm UTC

Another for the "why to oppose Trump" bandwagon: Pence has views and policies that I view as very harmful to myself and those I care about, and that I think are misguided and not the right direction for the nation. I would prefer him not to be President. However, Trump is that *and* an embarrassment on the world stage who stands to severely damage America's diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, and IMO stands a very real chance of alienating our allies, enraging our enemies, and very possibly kicking off World War III.

The only reasons I'd have for preferring Trump over Pence are perverse ones - embarrassing the Republican party further to give opposing views a better chance in coming elections, or the fear that Pence might actually be able to get something *done* in office. And there's no feasible path to "remove Trump from office *and* have a Democrat in office", so it's looking at the best of bad options.

Plus, I feel like Pence might at some point have *read* the Constitution...
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Re: Trump presidency

Postby Dark567 » Fri Jun 30, 2017 5:52 pm UTC

Pence is a political threat to the rights of many people.

Trump is an existential threat to the USA and much of the rest of the world.

Pence sucks but I would take that everytime over the latter.
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