G-20 State Dinner Myth vs Fact

The Venue [1]

The Elbphilharmonie (also English: Elbe Philharmonic Hall) is a concert hall in the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg, Germany, on the Grasbrook (de) peninsula of the Elbe River. It is one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world.

The Elbphilharmonie has three concert venues. The Great Concert Hall can accommodate 2,100 visitors whereby the performers are in the center of the hall surrounded by the audience in the vineyard style arrangement. The acoustics were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota who installed about 10,000 individually microshaped drywall plates to disperse sound waves. The Great Concert Hall contains a pipe organ with 69 registers built by Klais Orgelbau. The Recital Hall is intended for the performance of recitals, chamber music and jazz concerts; it can hold an audience of 550 people.  In addition, there is the Kaistudio that allows for 170 visitors and is intended to serve educational activities. Likely the site of the dinner, which followed the concert, likely held in the Recital Hall.

The Cast

The G20 Heads-of-State, their spouse, one translator each and the wait staff.

Seating

Heads-of-State and their spouses were separated, Melania Trump was seated to the left of Vladimir Putin and right of Argentine President Mauricio Macri.  While Donald was seated, on the opposite side of the table, to the left of Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

seating
Putin upper circle, Trump lower circle. credit NBC News

Translators had chairs arranged along the walls behind their principles.  When needed they would move into position between their principle and their conversation companion.  It is widely reported that Putin and Melania didn’t need a translator because they shared a common language, German.  This photo tends to disprove that assertions, it appears that the translator is an active participant in the pre-dinner conversation between Melania and Putin.  Putin’s translator would have been Russian/English as he was seated next to Melania.

PutinTranslator
Melania and Putin in pre-dinner conversation, obviously using services of translator. credit Daily Mail/Reuters

TrumpSeat

POTUS, lower left, was seated between the wife of Argentinian President Juliana Awada on his left and Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe on his right.  His translator, who spoke Japanese, is seated directly behind him.

Timeline

The dinner took place after the concert, which began at 8:00 PM, one report has the dinner still underway at 10:40 PM.

The Source

Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk consultancy firm, Eurasia Group, reportedly broke the story of the meeting, even though he was not present, his source has not been reported.  In a note to his clients, Bremmer reportedly wrote:

Halfway in [the dinner], Trump gets up from his seat, sits next to Putin, and spends roughly an hour talking privately and animatedly with the Russian president, joined only by Putin’s own translator. … Several notable pieces here. One, that Trump didn’t bring in his own translator — a breach of national security protocol Trump likely wouldn’t be aware of, but that significantly advantages the meeting towards Putin.

I find this scenario difficult to believe; getting up in the middle of a State Dinner and either having Melania or the individual on Putin’s right move, which wasn’t reported.  Tthis would have been noticed by others at the meeting, unless it was at the end of the meal when people were moving around being social.

The image of Putin, Trump and Putin’s translator huddle at the table, out-of-earshot of others (reported elsewhere), half way through a State Dinner is hard to conjure.  It should be easy to verify, I am sure an enterprising reporter could find someone on the wait staff to confirm the story, as it would have disrupted the flow of serving the remainder of the meal.  Likewise the Senate can call the translator, presumably a government employee, for verification.  A simple yes/no question; “Did POTUS get up from his place at the table and sit with Putin, for an hour, midway through the meal?, without all of the normal grandstanding that goes on in the Senate hearing.

The White House version:

The White House confirmed that Trump and Putin spoke at a dinner for G-20 leaders and their spouses. But a White House official appeared to dispute that the discussion lasted an hour, saying the two only spoke “briefly” near the end of the dinner.

We have a difference of when, midway vs near the end and length, hour vs briefly.  I can envision a meeting after desert, as the dinner is breaking up, when POTUS had come over to talk with FLOTUS.  But, at that point, in the evening, an hour meeting is very implausible.

Myth 1 – “Only the Russians will have a transcript” [2]

There is no transcript, the meeting was NOT recorded, Putin and his translator could have contemporary notes or recorded debriefing, written or recorded after the meeting.  I would hope (expect) that POTUS has the same.

Myth 2 – “Secret Meeting”

It is hard to hold a secret meeting in a room with 80 – 100 witnesses.  Undisclosed, or unreported OK, but secret, not hardly.  Vanity Fair reported it as a “private encounter”, private is hard to come by in a room with 80 – 100 people.  Likewise his conversation with others at the dinner have not been “disclosed” nor reported.

Myth 3 – “Strange … no national security official was present”

Given that the only three US representatives were POTUS, FLOTUS and a (State Department ?) translator it would have been impossible for a national security team member to be there.  Again, there is no reportage nor scandal or national security concerns relative to any other “encounters” POTUS had at the dinner.

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The Smoking Gun

The E-mails

The Atlantic posted a transcript of the e-mail chain between Donald Jr. and Rob Goldstone, the smoking gun being [emphasis mine}:

On June 3, 2016 at 10:36 AM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Good morning

Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Best

Rob Goldstone

Note Bene! – There is no such position as Crown Prosecutor of Russia, anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Russian history would realize that there would be no reference to the Russian monarchy in modern day Russia.  It is a British term, so we can infer that the effects of the “telephone game” are showing, the message is getting farther from the original (truth) with each retelling.  In this case. 1) the source, 2) possible surrogate, 3)Aras, 4) Emin and finally 5) Rob Goldstone.

The e-mail chain continues culminating  with:

On [Tuesday] Jun 7, 2016, at 4:20 PM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Don

Hope all is well

Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday [June 9th].

I believe you are aware of the meeting — and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday [June 9] works for you?

I assume it would be at your office.

Best

Rob Goldstone


On Jun 7, 2016, at 5:16 PM, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

How about 3 at our offices? Thanks rob appreciate you helping set it up.

D


On June 7, 2016, at 5:19PM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Perfect… I won’t sit in on the meeting, but will bring them at 3 pm and introduce you etc.

I will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today.

best

Rob


On Jun 7, 2016, at 18:14, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me. 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor.


Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 10:34 AM

To: Donald Trump Jr.

Subject: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

Good morning,

Would it be possible to move tomorrow meeting to 4pm as the Russian attorney is in court until 3 i was just informed.

Best

Rob


On June 8, 2016, at 11:15, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Yes Rob I could do that unless they wanted to do 3 today instead … just let me know and ill lock it in either way.

d


From: Rob Goldstone

Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 11:18 AM

To: Donald Trump Jr.

Subject: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

They can’t do today as she hasn’t landed yet from Moscow 4pm is great tomorrow.

Best

Rob


From: Donald Trump Jr.

Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 12:03PM

To: Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort

Subject: FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

Meeting got moved to 4 tomorrow at my offices.

Best,

Don

The Cast

In order of appearance:

  • Rob Goldstone – 56 year old British  music publicist and former tabloid journalist, who lives in New York.  He claims to have been publicist for BB King, Richard Branson, EMI Music Publishing, TLC, HMV Music, The Hard Rock Café, Steinway & Sons and Best Buy.  His firm OUI 2 Entertainment, based in NY City.  He became associated with The Trump Organization via his representation of  the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant.
  • Emin – Emin Agalarov, 37 year old, US educated, Russian-Azerbaijani singer-songwriter and businessman, Vice President of Crocus Group (owned by his father). He writes and performs songs in English and Russian.  In June of 2016 he was preparing for a tour that began with a performance in Red Square on June 12th.
  • Crown Prosecutor – ambitious reference, possibly a Russian Official and the source of the “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” or Natalia Vladimirovna Veselnitskaya the Russian attorney who met with Donald Jr.
    The Atlantic identifies the analogues Prosecutor General of Russia as Yury Chaika, a Presidential appointee (Vladimir Putin).To round out the speculation it could have also been a lower level Federal Prosecutor or a surrogate for any of these.

    Or to use the British term Rob could have just been being a poser [1], inflating his importance via the term Crown Prosecutor.

  • Aras – Aras Iskanderovich Agalarov [2], [3], 61 year old President of Crocus Group, op. cit., who sponsored the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant and later negotiated with The Trump Organization, Alex Sapir and Rotem Roser to build a Moscow Trump Tower.
  • RhonaRhona Graff, Vice President, Assistant to the President
    Trump Organization, does not appear to have played a part, maybe Rob just name dropping, being more of a poser.
  • Don – Donald Trump Jr. DJT’s son and campaign advisor.
  • Russian government attorney – Base on her attendance at the meeting Natalia Vladimirovna Veselnitskaya,  age estimate to be about 45 based on graduation date, she is a lawyer in private practice who founded her own law firm Kameraton Consulting in 2003 specializing in corporate and property arguments in court after serving in Federal Prosecutor office for 3 years. Most of her clients are businesses, including  the Russian Businessman Denis Katsyv.  She reported graduated from Moscow State Legal Academy in 1998.She reportedly is divorced from a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow area, her only apparent link to Russian Government, other than her work for the prosecutor’s office, where she reported worked on legislation.According to Homeland Security she was visiting the US on a Business (B1/B2) visa at the time of her meeting with Donald Jr.

    Is this another case of Rob being a poser, referring to her as a government attorney?

  • Two people –  Natalia Vladimirovna Veselnitskaya (see above) and Rinat Akhmetshin, age 50, a naturalized, 2009, US citizen from Russia.  He served in Russian Army as a 19 year old draftee from 1986 – 1988, has stated that he was responsible for law enforcement and some counterintelligence matters in the Baltics.  He has been described in filings from various law suits, by opposing parties as “a former Soviet military counterintelligence officer.” and “a former member of the Russian military intelligence services (GRU).”It is unlikely that a 19 year old draftee would be an officer, more likely and enlisted, equivalent to US private or corporal.  This photo would seem to confirm an enlisted grade.
    Rinat
    Rinat Akhmetshin, center, on a training exercise in Russia while he was in the Soviet Army service in the 1980s. Credit via Rinat Akhmetshin in NY Times

    An acquaintance claims that Akhmetshin “openly described his years as an officer in the Soviet GRU, the military intelligence arm, serving in Afghanistan.”  he goes on to say “The original NBC News reports suggested that Akhmetshin’s intelligence past somehow has rolled forward until now, putting Russian spies in the same room with Donald Trump, Jr. Nothing I picked up in numerous intense reporting experiences with Akhmetshin over the years — in the former U.S.S.R. and the U.S. — suggested any current such relationships.”

    Many news outlets and blogs are referring to Rinat as a former spy, evidently not realizing the difference between counter-intelligence and intelligence.  Counter intelligence units are spy hunters while intelligence units are spys/spy-masters.

    He appears to be linked to Natalia via  Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, set up by one of Natalia’s clients Denis Katxyv.

Note: It appears based on subsequent reporting that Natalia’s posse expanded to four.

  • Paul Manafort – 68 year old political consultant, lobbyist and lawyer, chairman of DJT’s campaign from March 2016 to August 2016, when he resigned because of questions regarding his consulting work in the Ukraine.
  • Brother in law (sic) – Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump.
  • Russian attorney – Natalia again, this time without any link to the Russian Government.  Rob no longer being a poser.

The Meeting

Who was in the room:

  1. Donald Jr.
  2. Paul Manafort – reportedly was texting on his phone for most of the meeting.
  3. Jared Kushner – reported left after 7 – 10 minutes.
  4. Natalia Veselnitskaya
  5. Rinat Akhmetshin
  6. Rob Goldsmith, at least for introductions per e-mail, unclear if he stayed.
  7. Anatoli Samochornov, an Ex-State Department contract translator, reportedly hired by Natalia.  Potentially the most important witness, as he has no potential legal jeopardy, and if translating have been a party to the whole conversation.
  8. CNN reports “a representative of the Russian family who had asked Goldstone to set up the meeting. The source did not provide the names.”Two obvious choices, 1) a representative of Aras Iskanderovich Agalarov or 2) a unknown party, who was the source and not the Crown Prosecutor of Russia and possibly not affiliated with the Russian Government.This would also be a very important witness, but if foreign national unlikely to appear.

The meeting reportedly lasted 20 minutes, there was some “evidence” disclosed but evidently discounted by Jr., the remainder of the meeting was a discussion of adoption of Russian babies in the US.

The meeting evidently came to light when Jared updated his SF-86 subsequent to his initial January submission and reported a contact with Natalia and it was leaked to the NY Times.

Kushner’s attorneys provided the FBI with an amended SF-86 form — used to obtain a security clearance — on June 21 to list the meeting with the Russian lawyer from a year earlier after discovering the email chain while preparing documents to turn over to the Senate intelligence committee. The change was the third time Kushner has amended his SF-86 form.

Note, the relevant SF-86 question (Sec. 19, pg 59),  re: contacts with foreign nationals is “Do you have, or have you had, close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven years with who you, or your spouse, or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation.”  IMHO a 20 – 30  minute business meeting, which he left, does not rise to the level of “close and/or continuing contact

What Was Discussed?

CNN reports:

Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya and Goldstone have said the meeting centered on the Magnitsky Act — a 2012 US law that imposed sanctions on Russian individuals — and the retaliatory Kremlin-imposed ban on adoption of Russian children by American citizens.

Continuing with Jr.’s original statement re: Hillary info:

“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information,” Trump Jr. said in a statement last Sunday. He added that Veselnitskaya’s “true agenda” was to discuss the Magnitsky Act and the adoptions dispute.

Was There “Collusion”?

Certainly a prima fascia case of intent to collude, if there was such a charge, can be made based on the first e-mail’s  “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.” passage.  But there is no statute for collusion;

“But unlike obstruction of justice — which is clearly defined in the United States Code — there is no specific statute for collusion.”  [PBS]

Certainly it puts the Administration in the position of making a false statement relative to Russian Contacts, this was clearly a campaign meeting with Russians with the intent to get dirt on Hillary.

Did it result in any actions, no.

Should Donald Jr. have been savvy enough to not take the meeting and  refer Goldsmith to a surrogate, oppo research team or PAC, yes.

Will the Dems on the  Senate and House committees and press have a field day with this, yes.

Will the most important witness, in my opinion, Mr. Samochornov, be called before Congress to testify publicly, unlikely.

Will Mueller investigate this, most likely.

Will he find criminal activity or intent via campaign finance statutes, perjury or other crimes, To Be Determine, likely in 2 or more years.

Deconstruction of NY Times Natalia Veselnitskaya Article

On July 8th 2017 the on-line edition of the New York Times published Trump Team Met With Lawyer Linked to Kremlin During Campaign  

Two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records described to The New York Times.

The previously unreported meeting was also attended by Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them.

First two paragraph of article, emphasis mine.

Presuming the NY Times is using Confidential [1] to denote classified information, thus we can speculate that the source was a DOJ document, possibly something from the Mueller investigation, since the other likely source is Jared Kushner’s SF-86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, which is Personally Identifiable Information (PII) not classified [2].  If it had come from a NSA/FBI intercept the classification would have be much higher.  Donald Jr. emails are not classified information, so they are not the source.

Apparently Jared did disclose the meeting, at some point in time, presumably before the NY Time article.  It would be informative if when he disclosed this meeting would be revealed.  Neither Manafort nor Donald Jr. have a requirement to disclose as they are not government employees nor do they have security clearances.  Should the Trump Team have gotten ahead of the “Russia Collusion” story and detailed all meeting with Russian nationals from the time of DJT announcement in 2015, certainly yes.  I personally would recommend that his private counsel do this ASAP.

WENY News
… Kushner’s attorney Jamie Gorelick gave this statement: “As we have previously stated, Mr. Kushner’s SF-86 was prematurely submitted and, among other errors, did not list any contacts with foreign government officials. The next day, Mr. Kushner submitted supplemental information stating that he had had “numerous contacts with foreign officials” about which he would be happy to provide additional information. He has since submitted this information, including that during the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition. Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”

IMHO the meeting did not fall into the scope of the SF-86 questions, reproduce here:

Note: the SF-86 requires that all questions be answered going back seven years, which is almost impossible to do relative to Section 19 – Foreign Contacts (page 59 of SF-86) for incidental contacts, but incidental contacts are not required to be disclosed:

Do you have, or have you had, close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven (7) years with whom you, or your spouse, or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation?

NB! A 20 minutes meeting isn’t, by my standards, close or continuing contact.

Section 20A – Foreign Activities (Pg 63 of SF-86)

Have you, your spouse, cohabitant, or dependent children EVER had any foreign financial interests (such as stocks, property, investments, bank accounts, ownership of corporate entities, corporate interests or businesses) in which you or they have direct control or direct ownership? (Exclude financial interests in companies or diversified mutual funds that are publicly traded on a U.S. exchange.)

NB! Certainly doesn’t cover a 20 minute meeting.

Section 20B – Foreign Business, Professional Activities, and Foreign Government Contacts (Pg 72 – 79 of SF-86)

B-1 Have you in the past seven (7) years provided advice or support to any individual associated with a foreign business or other foreign organization that you have not previously listed as a former employer? (Answer “No” if all your advice or support was authorized pursuant to official U.S. Government business.)

B-2 Have you, your spouse, cohabitant, or any member of your immediate family in the past seven (7) years been asked to provide advice or serve as a consultant, even informally, by any foreign government official or agency? (Answer ‘No’ if all the advice or support was authorized pursuant to official U.S. Government business.)

B-3 Has any foreign national in the past seven (7) years offered you a job, asked you to work as a consultant, or consider employment with them?

B-4 Have you in the past seven (7) years been involved in any other type of business venture with a foreign national not described above (own, co-own, serve as business consultant, provide financial support, etc.)?

B-5 Have you in the past seven (7) years attended or participated in any conferences, trade shows, seminars, or meetings outside the U.S.? (Do not include those you attended or participated in on official business for the U.S. government.)

B-6 Have you or any member of your immediate family in the past seven (7) years had any contact with a foreign government, its establishment (such as embassy, consulate, agency, military service, intelligence or security service, etc.) or its representatives, whether inside or outside the U.S.? (Answer ‘No’ if the
contact was for routine visa applications and border crossings related to either official U.S. Government travel or foreign travel on a U.S. passport.)

B-7 Have you in the past seven (7) years sponsored any foreign national to come to the U.S. as a student, for work, or for permanent residence?

B-8 Have you EVER held political office in a foreign country?

NB! Certainly doesn’t cover a 20 minute meeting.

When filling out my SF-86 it was required that all questions be answered, no blanks, using either Not Applicable or None, if no information was provided.  And yes, in my case there were several iterations, I would submit and the SSO would come back with questions which would result in a revision and resubmission.  The official submission is when the SSO submits it for investigation, a nine month minimum process, back when I submitted my SF-86.

[1] Confidential is the lowest classification level of information obtained by the government. It is defined as information that would “damage” national security if publicly disclosed, again, without the proper authorization.  Part 1, Sec. 1.2, “Executive Order 13526 of December 29, 2009, “Classified National Security Information””. Federal Register – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 75, No. 2, p. 707. January 5, 2010.

[2] My SF-86 was included in the 2015 Chinese hack of the OPM, so much for the governments protection of PII.

 

Curmudgeon On Health Insurance

Introduction

The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Health Care, is in reality a mixture of Health Insurance and Welfare. The pure insurance portions are the various exchanges, the pure welfare portion is Medicaid Expansion, and the mixtures are the subsidies, which lower the monthly premium cost and “cost sharing”, which lowers the deductible and co-pay. Eighty five percent of 13 M ACA marketplace enrollee receive subsidies while 37% receive the “cost sharing” benefits.

ACA offers four tiers of coverage, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Bronze is designed to cover 60% of medical cost, Silver 70%, Gold 80% and Platinum 90%,

A single person making in excess of $47,500, well below the $66,560 (1st Qtr 2017) median salary of a college graduate, and well above the $36,504 median salary of a high school graduate, will not qualify for any subsidies. The threshold for a family of four is $97,200.

The nationwide average (2017) Bronze plan, for a 30-year-old has a $311 monthly premium ($3,732 yearly) and a $6,092 annual deductible, a Silver plan would be $365/mo. ($4,380/yr.) with a $3,572 deductible. A 60-year-old would have an average Bronze plan premium of $744/mo. ($8,928/yr.), 2.4 time the cost of the 30-year-old. In addition are co-pays for doctor visits and drugs which are approximately 30% each, with a typical cap of $6,500 per year. Thus a maxed out 30-year-old would have out-of-pocket expenses of $16,324. This is 34.3% of the individuals $47,500 income.

The ACA plans also cover drugs, the typical out-of-pocket cost for a 30-day supply of drugs are:

ACADrugs
By way of comparison, 150 M individuals have employer based health care with a typical premium of $440/mo. ($5280/yr.) paid by the employee and $1,075/mo. ($12,900/yr.) paid by the employer. Most have lower deductibles and copays.

An Existing Alternative

How would a program

  • with 250+ insurance carriers, regional and nationwide,
  • that are actuarially sound,
  • has been in existence for 57 years,
  • covers preexisting conditions,
  • has a single premium regardless of age,
  • dental and vision options are available,
  • and is codified in federal law
    • statute is only a few dozen pages long, and only a few paragraphs are devoted to the structure and functioning of the program.
    • Regulations are minimal; only another few dozen pages

sound.

Last year the average of the premiums, of typical nationwide programs, rose only 6%. A median standard nationwide family plan cost $17,451 per year, with the employee paying $363.57 per month and the employer paying $1090.70 per month, with:

  • Doctor and Hospital;
    • co-pays of $20.00 per visit and $200 per hospitalization,
    • deductibles of $350 per individual (or $1050 for all family members)
    • and a maximum out-of-pocket annual cost of $5,000 per individual and $10,000 per family.
  • Prescription Drugs co-pays, with catastrophic limits of $1,500 per individual, $3,000 per family.
    • Network retail pharmacy
      • Generic = $8 copay
      • Preferred Brand Name = 30% of plan allowance, $70 maximum
      • Non-Preferred Brand Names = 40% of plan allowance, $110 maximum
    • Mail order pharmacy (90 day prescriptions)
      • Generic = $15 copay
      • Preferred Brand Name = 30% of plan allowance, $150 maximum
      • Non-Preferred Brand Names = 40% of plan allowance, $275 maximum

This is the Federal Employees Health Benefit program administer by the Office of Personnel Management, covering 9 M individuals, employees and families and retirees and families. Wikipedia tells us:

The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program is a system of “managed competition” through which employee health benefits are provided to civilian government employees and annuitants of the United States government.

The FEHB program allows some insurance companies, employee associations, and labor unions to market health insurance plans to governmental employees. The program is administered by the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The FEHB program relies on consumer choices among competing private plans to determine costs, premiums, benefits, and service. This model is in sharp contrast to that used by original Medicare. In Medicare, premiums, benefits, and payment rates are all centrally determined by law or regulation (there is no bargaining and no reliance on volume discounts in original Medicare; these parameters are set by fiat). Some have criticized the FEHB model because neither the monopsony power nor purchasing power of the federal government is utilized to control costs. This controversy is similar to that which surrounded legislation for the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage passed during the George W. Bush administration. Over time, however, the FEHB program has outperformed original Medicare not only in cost control, but also in benefit improvement, enrollee service, fraud prevention, and avoidance of “pork barrel” spending and earmarks. (Medicare Part D has also controlled costs far better than originally forecast through a competitive, consumer-driven system of plan choices similar to and modeled after the FEHB program.)

In the FEHB program the federal government sets minimal standards that, if met by an insurance company, allows it to participate in the program. The result is numerous competing insurance plans that are available to federal employees. Local plans have ready access to participation in the program, but the underlying statute prohibits entry of new national plans.

The FEHB program has often been proposed as a model for national health insurance and sometimes as a program that could directly enroll the uninsured. These proposals began within its first decade[11] and have continued ever since. Notable economist Alain Enthoven explicitly built a proposal for a system of “managed competition” as a national health reform decade ago, and has continued promoting the idea ever since. A version of this proposal was recently adopted by the Netherlands. In the 2004 presidential campaign, Senator John Kerry proposed opening enrollment in this plan to all Americans. In enacting the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, the Congress explicitly modeled the reformed Medicare Advantage program and the new Medicare Part D Prescription Drug program after the FEHB program. One of the prominent proposals for health reform in the United States, the proposed bipartisan Wyden-Bennett Act is largely modeled after the FEHB program.

Providing Health Insurance to all Americans

Having established that there is a viable free market insurance model, lets address the insurance market segments:

  1.  Government provided coverage for those who are drawing Social Security, Medicare; the program need to be reformed to be actuarially sound, with it unfunded liabilities eradicated over a 15 – 20 year period. This will require tax, premium and benefit adjustments. It should be expanded to address dental and vision care.
  2. Government provided coverage for those not covered by Medicare who fall below a TBD income threshold (? x the poverty level). This could use the FEHB model or the Medicaid model. It should be funded via a health care surtax to the existing income tax system, applied proportionally to the in-place tax brackets, or a national sales tax system. IMHO the sales tax system is the most appropriate approach to approach a “fair share” contribution by all Americans and “transparency” of cost.There could be a transition income range where vouchers for insurance premium assistance would be available. The program would be required to operate on a balance budget, tax revenue = operating cost plus reserves.
  3. Government provided coverage for “wards and employees” of governments, those who are wards of local and federal government, such as prisoners, children in foster care, … and those employed by local and federal government agencies. This would also include; FEHB, military services, VA and BIA programs. Funding is part of the operating cost of the parent government organization.
  4. Employer (non-government) provided coverage, mandatory for employers of more than TBD employees. Employer based long term care insurance should be addressed, probably on a voluntary basis, but a tax benefited program, i.e. paid with pretax dollars by individual and deductible by employer.
  5. Individual market, based on the FEHB model and existing insurance programs, for those not covered by employee plans. Affinity groups could create plans such a trade union programs, national associations, such as National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU), … . Health insurance, including dental and vision, should be paid with pre-tax dollars. Long term care insurance, not provided via employer should be tax advantaged to the individual.
  6. There is also a medical liability insurance market.
  7. The final program, that I am aware of is Workers Compensation insurance, which includes both medical coverage and disability coverage. The program should be reformed to provide coverage by the patients established providers.

Where Would We Be Today

If over the last seven years the Republican Party and their Think Tanks has crafted model bills to:

  1. Establish a FEBH modeled Individual Insurance Marketplace
    1. with actuarial estimates of cost if the 10+ million ACA Marketplace subscribers were folded into the existing FEHB program.
  2. Expand and fully fund Medicaid Expansion
  3. Create a Individual Insurance Assistance Program to subsidize those transitioning from Medicaid to the Individual Insurance Marketplace and fully funded the program.
  4. Made Medicare actuarially  sound and eliminate the unfunded liabilities over a 15 – 20 year period.

 

 

 

 

Stopping the Partisan Gridlock

If the American electorate wants to stop the partisan gridlock, here is my roadmap, using the Fire-um-All approach.

The Democratic and Republican electorate must primary and defeat the current Congressional Leadership:

Democratic Leadership

Senate

  1. Charles E. Schumer, New York, 2022
  2. Dick Durbin, Illinois, 2020
  3. Patty Murray, Washington, 2022
  4. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan, 2018
  5. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts, 2018
  6. Mark Warner, Virginia, 2020

House

  1. Nancy Pelosi, California, 2018
  2. Steny Hoyer, Maryland, 2018
  3. James Clyburn, So. Carolina, 2018
  4. Joseph Crowley, New York, 2018

Republican Leadership

Senate

  1. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, 2020
  2. John Cornyn, Texas, 2020
  3. John Thune, So. Dakota, 2022
  4. Roy Blunt, Missouri, 2022

House

  1. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin, 2018
  2. Kevin McCarthy,  2020
  3. Steve Scalise, Louisiana, 2018
  4. Cathy Rogers, Washington , 2020

 

My Speculation on USS Fitzgerald – ACX Crystal Collision

USS Fitzgerald

Fitzdwg

FitzphotoFitzchar

ACX Crystal

Crystalph

Crystalchar

Crystal Vessel Track

The Crystal’s track from an Automatic Identification System (AIS).

CrystalTrack
Credit Freerepublic.com

 

This plot appears to show the Crystal making a 90° port turn into the collision at 17:29 UTC (02:29 LT)

A finer scale time lapse animation of the ACX Crystal’s track is available on YouTube.   From this we get this tract, I have added approximate course of Fitzgerald and event times from the AIS time tags.  There is a discrepancy in the times, if I read the Marine Traffic time stamps correctly, and it is UTC, there is a one hour difference, that need to be resolved.  The T-4 time tag is approximate position of Crystal at 17:30 according to Marine traffic’s time stamp.

MarineTraf

 

If the AIS data is correct, and the collision occurred at T-3,  the ACX Crystal was on a parallel reciprocal course from the Fitzgerald when it did a 180° turn to port at T-1 (17:45 ?),  Then at T-2 (18:28 ? ) it did a 90° turn to port before colliding with the Fitzgerald at T-3 (18:35 ?).  The reported time were:

Time1
T-1   17:45 UTC ?

 

Time2
T-2   18:28 UTC ?

My T-3 is about the time of the collision, based on the vessel track, not the reported time of the collision.

Note: I find it strange that the mainstream news media hasn’t purchased a copy of the Marine Traffic data and presented an analysis similar to this.

Time3
T-3   18:35 UTC ?

From AIS reporting it appears the normal cruise speed of the ACX Crystal is 20 kts.  I will assume, based on the “30 knot Navy” that the Fitzgerald was like doing 30 knots or more, overtaking the Crystal.

Alternate Scenario

If the collision occurred at T-4 then the Fitzgerald track would have had to been 90° to the Crystal track, heading northerly.  The Crystal’s post collision track would have been loitering in the area.

Questions

The erratic track of the ACX Crystal prior to the collision (T-3 or T-4)  certainly raise the possibility of some form of mechanical failure.

Likewise the 90° turn to port just prior to the collision (T-3)  raises the possibility of an intentional ramming.

I will leave it to those more knowledgeable to comment on the lane separation distance, T-3 scenario.

June 20 Update

Another AIS video, annotated with vessel speed; https://youtu.be/m1b58yelh_c

Just to add a little more fog to the narrative, the time of the collision is now in question, according to Daily Mail article.

 

 

Alexandria Shooting – Facts, Myths, Conjecture and Speculation.

The Shooting

Many news outlets are labeling this an assassination, which is the targeted killing of an individual.  In my humble opinion there is no evidence to support this.  This should be labeled a mass shooting, likely politically motivate.

The Shooter

James Thomas Hodgkinson, has been profiled by his hometown newspaper:

1951

James Thomas Hodgkinson was born Dec. 12 to Deloris and James J. Hodgkinson. He was one of three children. The younger Hodgkinson sometimes went by “Tom” or his middle name.

1965

Hodgkinson joins Belleville West High School’s wrestling and track teams as a freshman, according to his school yearbook. In his sophomore and junior years, yearbooks list him as a member of the varsity wrestling team at Belleville West.

Hodgkinson attended Belleville West with Belleville native Tom Calhoun, the PA voice for the Gateway Grizzlies and the St. Louis Blues. Calhoun remembered Hodgkinson as “Tommy” and they were in the same kindergarten class at Henry Raab Elementary School. They were both interested in sports in high school and played pick-up baseball games together as teens.

Belleville resident Dale Walsh grew up with Hodgkinson, attending Belleville West High with him. He said Hodgkinson was “a fun-loving guy” who was passionate about his views and “never backed down” on his convictions, but Walsh never knew his friend to be an extremist.

1968

He graduated from Belleville West High School. No activities or clubs were listed in Hodgkinson’s senior yearbook.

1969

He studied aviation at Belleville Area College, which later became Southwestern Illinois College.

1971

In the fall, he transferred to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, then only six years open in its current location. Hodgkinson took two classes in one term, according to SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga, but did not complete a degree.

1976

Hodgkinson opened JTH Construction, which he operated for nearly 20 years, according to his Facebook page, which was later taken down.

1992

Hodgkinson was arrested Dec. 31 for driving under the influence, resisting arrest and fleeing police.

1993

Hodgkinson has DUI, resisting arrest and fleeing charges that were dismissed after court supervision.

1994

JTH Construction became JTH Inspections, a home inspection and air quality testing service.

JTH Construction became JTH Inspections, a home inspection and air quality testing service that he listed as closed in 2016.

1996

The Hodgkinson’s foster daughter, Wanda “Ashley” Stock, killed herself at the age of 17 by dousing herself with gasoline and setting herself on fire inside her car on a rural road south of Belleville. The Hodgkinsons spoke to the News-Democrat at the time, saying they did not know what triggered a “very practical, level-headed girl” to kill herself. Later they discovered there had been a previous suicide attempt before Ashley came to live with them, and that hours before she completed her suicide, her boyfriend had broken up with her.

2002

In December, the Hodgkinsons assumed legal guardianship for their 12-year-old great-niece, Cathy Lynn Putnam. Cathy’s biological parents’ rights had been revoked, and she had been in foster care or with the Hodgkinsons since she was 4 years old. Her name was eventually changed to Cathy Hodgkinson.

2006

April 1: Cathy refused to leave a friend’s house. Hodgkinson grabbed Cathy by her hair and pulled her to the floor. Cathy and her female friend try to leave in a car, but Hodgkinson opened the car door, cut the ignition and used a pocketknife to cut the seat belt. When Cathy’s friend threatened to call police, he punched her in the face. When the boyfriend of Cathy’s friend went to Hodgkinson’s house to talk about the attack, Hodgkinson aimed a 12-gauge shotgun at his face. The boyfriend fled and Hodgkinson fired a shot behind him.

Hodgkinson had two battery charges and an aiding damage to a vehicle charge later dismissed.

July 7: Cathy was returned to state custody.

Dec. 26: In a court document, the Hodgkinsons wrote: “Since then His Honor has seen fit to award guardianship of Cathy to our next-door neighbors, which is a quite stressful and uncomfortable situation for our family.”

2008

Hodgkinson began writing letters to the editor to the Belleville News-Democrat. In them, he often railed against Republicans and tax policies, and at least once advocated for legalizing marijuana. His last letter to the editor was dated Sept. 12, 2012. He sent in nearly 30 letters to the editor between 2008 and 2012.

2009

Hodgkinson was charged by Belleville with failing to obtain an electrical contractor license or electrical permit before performing work, but it was dismissed.

2012

Hodgkinson protests low taxes for the rich outside the Belleville post office. Hodgkinson said he was part of a “99%” team drawing attention to the amount of money and political power the top 1 percent of Americans acquired.


I KNEW HE WAS A DEMOCRAT, A PRETTY HARDCORE ONE. I KNOW HE WASN’T HAPPY WHEN TRUMP GOT ELECTED, BUT HE SEEMED LIKE A NICE ENOUGH GUY. … HE WAS A DEMOCRAT AND I WAS A REPUBLICAN, SO WE DIDN’T HAVE TOO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.  Neighbor Aaron Meurer


2017

March 24: A neighbor called deputies when he heard 50 shots fired in some pine trees near Hodgkinson’s home. Neighbors complained and called the St. Clair County Sheriff at 3 p.m. He had a valid Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card at the time and was firing a hunting rifle on his own property in unincorporated St. Clair County, so sheriff’s deputies did not file any charges and reminded him to shoot responsibly. As no illegal activity had taken place, no charges were filed, according to St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Bruce Fleshren.

Late March, early April: Hodgkinson moves to the Alexandria, Virginia and lives out of a gym bag for several months.

June 14: Hodgkinson allegedly opens fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice. Five were shot, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. Scalise was in critical condition Wednesday night after undergoing surgery. President Donald Trump said Hodgkinson died during gunfire exchanged with congressional security workers during the practice session in Alexandria, Virginia.

Law enforcement officials have not said what they believe Hodgkinson’s motive may have been for the shooting.

Hodgkinson’s social media was marked by politics, and he belonged to multiple anti-GOP Facebook groups, including “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans,” “Donald Trump is not my President,” “President Bernie Sanders,” “Expose Republican Fraud,” and “Terminate the Republican Party.” Facebook removed his account Wednesday afternoon.

The Guns

From FBI/ATF joint statement update (June 16, 2017)

According to ATF, weapons traces of the 9mm handgun and 7.62mm caliber rifle found at the scene were legally purchased by the shooter with federal licenses. The ATF provided photos of weapons similar in appearance to those used in Wednesday’s shooting.

Stock image of a rifle that resembles a weapon in the June 14 shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.
Stock image of a 9mm handgun that resembles a weapon in the June 14 shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

Rifle
SKF Rifle, 10 round clip

 

 

Pistol
9 mm Pistol, typically 9 round magazine

The Myths

The rife was an AK-47 Assault rifle, with the implication, in many people mind, that it was an automatic weapon.

The SKF is a 1950 vintage soviet design that predates the AK-47.  It is a clip fed and reloading is more complex than a magazine fed weapon.  It is semi-automatic.

 

Clip
Inserting a new clip into a SKF rifle.

In interviews, Senator Ran Paul and others, intimated that there was a pause while the shooter reloaded.  A SFK expert who listened to a tape of the shooting reported that he heard 10 7.62 mm rounds (rifle) and 50+ 9mm rounds (pistol), noting there is no way to tell where in the event the recording started.

 “From the more than five-minute video, I heard only 10 7.62 rifle shots. That’s the legal capacity for that firearm. I’m going to assume that his rifle is not modified but it’s hard to know when the videographer started taping.

The first five rifle rounds were not well-placed shots because they were too fast. He was shooting indiscriminately. But the second set of five are the ones I’d be worried about. He was acquiring targets and his shooting was more methodical because he was giving himself more time.

There were 56-57 pistol shots in all, and that includes after the police got there.”

The expertise of the shooter must also be questioned, if we assume two SFK clips (20 rounds) and four Pistol magazines (36 round) he hit 4 individuals, one twice, 7% accuracy, and only two shots were in center mass of body.  Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots, within six seconds, at twice the range, at a moving target, using a bolt action rifle, and had two hits by comparison.

Conjecture

There are frequent reports that the shooter was subjected to a Federal Firearms Background Check , this will be true if the weapons were purchased post 1998, when the checks were begun, before that no checks were required.

The fact that he had an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) in 2017 indicates that he had applied for it subsequent to 2007, unless it was a renewal, which would mean that he could have acquired it as early as 1967, when the law was enacted.

Speculation

Based on the infamous “unnamed sources” it is being reported that the shooter “had a (handwritten) list of at least six GOP lawmakers’ names at the time of the shooting.”  And “all of the congressmen are associated with the conservative House Freedom Caucus.”  It is not reported where the list existed, on his person, in his van, in his gym bag, …, but some outlets imply on his person by use of “carried or with”.  The reporting is that two of the named individuals were on the practice field at the time of the shooting.  As with most speculative reports it concludes with “law enforcement officials are cautioning against drawing conclusions about the list or the suspect’s motivations for having it”  The classic we will tell you something then tell you not to believe it.  Far from the classic factual reporting mantra of who, what, when, where and why.

The only injured congressional member is House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, who is not a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

The Park

 

Scene
The Park, from the area of 3rd base dugout to 2nd base is 130 ft.