Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One Toe Over the Edge

I was going to write a post about the fun and hi-jinks of WesterCon this last 4th of July weekend, but the political games in Washington make it clear that I've got to hurry up and make my personal predictions before they come true.  Therefore...

First, let's back up a ways and take the long view.  Remember back during the Bush administration when Bush and Co. put together a collection of assorted American capitalists to develop Russia's Siberian oil-fields and help rebuild Russia's collapsed economy?  Remember that one of those capitalists was Donald Trump.  Now, any such gang of influential rich guys going off to do business in Russia back then would inevitably have had a few visits and briefings from the CIA or the NSA or MI, or any combination thereof.  Trump, as I've often said, is no fool;  he would have listened and learned well.

One thing I'm sure he took to heart, if he hadn't already, was the importance of secretly recording himself and everything that happened around him -- especially when dealing with the Russians.  Another thing he would have learned was that you can never trust any Russians who have even the smallest connection to the government -- and the higher the rank, the greater the efforts to lie, spy, swindle, blackmail, and manipulate.  Trump, who had been swimming with the sharks most of his professional life, would have thoroughly understood that.  The third thing that he would have learned, not to mention seen for himself, is that Russia's economy was in shambles, even its famed military was and is an economic wreck, and that the only thing that keeps China from marching in and conquering it is that China's economy -- and culture -- is secretly just as bad if not worse.  Both countries, and a few others whose names I'm sure you can guess, are 90% pose -- Showoffsky -- and very little power.  Of course, when that power includes nukes, it has to be taken seriously.  I'm sure Trump would have seriously considered the implications of this.

A fourth thing he would undoubtedly have considered were the advantages of remaining very cosy with the CIA, at least.  Remember, this was decades before any thought of running for president had entered his head.  The idea of being a "civilian supernumerary" Secret Agent of the CIA would have been very appealing.  You can bet he kept those contacts!  Keep that in mind.

In any case, that contact helped make Trump quite successful in Russia.  He wasn't robbed of money or building materials (a serious problem in Russia), wasn't blackmailed (as note his laughing off that Russian story about the whore peeing on the bed), built his buildings and came home with a large amount of Russia's money.  What's more, back in the US he kept on selling buildings and real estate to rich(!) Russians at exorbitant prices -- and collecting large amounts of Russia's money.  Seeing how much of Russia's economy (better than 50%) is done on barter, one has to wonder why so much of Russia's money has been transferred to the hands of an American capitalist.  Democrats have sneered that Trump is money-laundering for Putin & Co., but it isn't money-laundering if he doesn't give it back.  And there's no evidence that he's given it back.  I really don't think that he could have pulled off a scam like this without a little bit of CIA "oversight".

Pause here and consider what Putin wants, what Russia wants to get out of all its political/economic fancy-dancing.  Why, what else could it want -- desperately, with its economy staggering as it is?  Why, trade with wealthier countries, of course!  Obama's trade-sanctions taken off.  And maybe some way to get that money back from Trump.

Trump has strongly indicated that, out of all those foreign economically-staggering but nuke-armed countries, he'd prefer that Russia survive and the rest go down in flames.  Why?  Because for all its totally corrupt society, Russia's government at least has to be realistic about its survival -- and can be reasoned with.  The reasons why Russia is that rational and other countries aren't would take another whole article, and this one is already long.  Suffice it to say that during all the decades of the Cold War, when only the US and the USSR had nukes, neither side ever used them.  I'm sure we can all think of other countries that would not be so forbearing.

Consider also that Trump is a more-than-slightly-shady businessman, who loves to brag and talks like a used-car salesman -- when it suits him, but I daresay few people on this planet know more about economic warfare.  The CIA would gladly make use of his expertise.  It's a perfect partnership.

One more thing to ponder is Trump's claim that lots of other countries have tried to "meddle" in our elections -- by giving large chunks of money to particular political campaigns, dropping assorted lies and half-lies into respectable news media, trying to hack our voting systems -- and have been trying for a very long time.  None of them have had much success, for reasons that would take another long article to explain.  Only American politicians themselves have ever been any good at American election fraud. 

Only now are the Democrats trying ferociously to spread the story that any foreign government tried -- and, they hint endlessly, succeeded -- to manipulate the presidential election, and only so they can howl that Trump really, really shouldn't have won.  You'll note they never mention the fact that the Chinese government filtered money into Hillary's various campaigns, which should certainly count as foreign election-meddling.  And never mind the long financial and propaganda campaign funded by certain Arab/Muslim countries!  Oh no, it's all Trump and the Russians, and it's never happened before.  Yep.   

The interesting bit is that, aside from saying it's all fantasy and flatly denying the charges, Trump hasn't come right out and shown evidence to refute them.  If anything, he's allowed his backers to fan the flames of Liberal hysteria into a raging inferno -- which has begun to catch some of the hysterics themselves, most notably in the mainstream media.  Note how CNN got caught trusting too eagerly in unverified stories from "an unnamed source in the Intelligence community".  Note too how Rachel Maddow, a very clever woman, exposed a very good forgery of an NSA document (purporting to confirm that members of the Trump campaign "colluded with the Russians") and revealed that, if MSNBC had run with this story, it would have eventually been discredited as badly as CNN. She speculates at length upon just who in the Trump camp could have perpetrated this fraud, and her favorite choice is Jared Kushner;  this isn't surprising, since the smarter Democrats have figured out some time ago that Kushner too is quite smart, in fact probably Trump's major tactician, and desperately want to get rid of him.  It never seems to occur to her that the perpetrator might have actually been someone in the NSA, or the CIA, or even MI -- all of whom, remember, support Republican administrations as firmly as the FBI supports Democrat ones. 

Well, whoever has been feeding the Democrats fuel for their fantasies is clever enough to have quickly abandoned the tactic that Maddow exposed.  Instead, mirable dictu, we have Trump's own son admitting -- at least partially -- to the current scandal about the Russian lawyer, back during last summer's campaign, enticing him to come talk to her about stolen emails that supposedly revealed dirt about Hillary.  The story goes on to claim that not only Don Jr. but -- of course -- Jared Kushner took the bait and went to the meeting.  Ah, but there the story sort of fizzles out;  Junior claims that the Russians (the lawyer and her "friend") only talked about adoption laws.  The stolen emails wound up being publicized, first on Wikileaks and then (in fairly innocuous excerpts) in the media.  Trump joked about stolen emails but never exactly quoted them.  In other words, although the Liberals are drooling buckets and already howling for impeachment, charges of treason, and mental fitness examinations, there's still no proof or even direct evidence of that legendary "collusion".  Nonetheless, the story has gained so much momentum that all the people involved will soon, soon, be hauled in front of Congress to testify -- certainly including Kushner, and possibly even Trump himself.  The game is rushing toward its conclusion.  As Maddow herself noted, this is "either the end, or the beginning of...something really weird."

I vote for "something really weird".

What if, having lured lots of blood-lusting Democrats and a good number of hostile Republicans into exposing themselves as dupes and hysterics, Trump finally reveals the real story -- with proof -- and discredits the lot of them, in front of the whole world? 

Maddow commented, about this latest story, that if she had been sent that enticing email from a Russian official, the first thing she would have done would be to call in the FBI. 

Well, why not the CIA instead?               

What if Trump has been working with the CIA all these years, brought his smart son-in-law into the game, and steered the lesser lights (including Junior) accordingly while keeping them blissfully ignorant?  What if Kushner made that little bureaucratic error about registering as a go-between for a "foreign power" because he had already been working with the CIA for years, and automatically thought of himself as a government agent?  What if Trump and his cronies know perfectly that all those foreign powers, including the Russians, who had repeatedly tried to "meddle" in our elections had failed laughably -- because he'd seen the proof?  What if, in fact, he'd scr*wed the Russians royally and had Putin by the short hairs? 

What if he could prove all this with decades' worth of video/audio recordings -- which, he could honestly say, weren't "tapes"?  After all, almost nobody uses clumsy old tapes and clunky "wires" anymore;  for many years, state-of-the-art recording devices have used electronic data transmission and storage, sent from cameras and microphones that could be disguised as jacket buttons.  You know who has access to state-of-the-art spy gear like that today, and it isn't the Russians.

Well, that's my prophecy.  I daresay we'll see very soon if it's true.

--Leslie <;)))><        
 

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

An Unexpected Medical Scam -- and Solution


Now for something completely different (how many of you can identify that quote?);  a scam nobody else has mentioned, and an easy way out of it.

Rasty has been steadily losing his hearing for the past 10 years, which is a real tragedy, since he used to be one of the better sound-engineers in the San Francisco Bay area.  He also used to be a very good electronics engineer, who built proof-of-concept models for Bill Hearn -- designer of the UC Berkeley Exploratorium.  We learned the hard way that his Medicare, and its associated HMO, don't cover hearing-aids.  We also learned, after fairly extensive shopping around, that the average price for commercial hearing-aids is somewhere between $2000 and $3000 a pair.  The cheapest we could find anywhere cost $600 a pair, with no guarantee or warrantee.  This p!ssed Rasty off to no end, since he knew, from his years of electronics and sound-work, that a good hearing-aid requires no more than $10 worth of electronics.  He swore that if he'd still had access to Bill Hearn's old lab, he could have easily made a pair for himself with just a couple hours' work.  He did in fact put together an adjustable amplifier, with earphones, out of cheap parts bought at Radio Shack.  It worked only moderately well, since he couldn't make it compensate for distortion in the lower range or balance the high range.

He gave up trying to get anything better after the second time we followed up on a TV ad for a "free hearing test" as part of a come-on for a hearing-aid company.  Yes, we went and got the free test, and Rasty read the results -- which pretty closely confirmed what he'd already figured out.  The intriguing part was the way the doctor (of what?) kept hinting broadly that seniors who can't hear words clearly tend to fall into "dementia".  He then offered us a great deal on hearing-aids: just $2200 a pair.  Uhuh.  We made polite excuses and got out of there fast.  Rasty drove home muttering all the way, swearing that he'd make do with whatever he could pick up at Fry's Electronics.

Ah, but our luck was about to change.  The next day we got a package in the mail from one of Rasty's clever daughters, containing her husband's old (3 years) model smart-phone.  He got bored with the old model and bought a new state-of-the-art smart-phone (that was guaranteed not to catch fire), and decided to send the ol' man the ol' phone rather than dumping it on Gazelle or someplace like it.  'Twas a lovely piece of electronics, but it came without the manual and Rasty had no idea how to transfer his old phone's information to it.  Fortunately, Bill and Carol came for another visit before Rasty's blood-pressure could get any higher.  Bill, who's much more hacker than electronics freak, found the original manual in short order, also found Rasty a much cheaper phone-company (through Fry's), transferred his card-info for him, and -- purely as an afterthought -- added a free app called "hearing aid".  A pretty good ($20) pair of Fry's Electronics' earphones-with-microphone completed the set.

And it worked!  ...Well, partly.  Any phonecall Rasty got through that phone and earphones he could hear perfectly.  Overjoyed, Rasty spent the next couple days calling up his daughters and all his old pals and having long clear conversations with them for the first time in years.

The catch was that it didn't work so well on live sounds -- better than the cheap Radio Shack amplifier, but not by much.  Nor to mention that his rather broad fingers had problems with the persnickety phone's taps and swipes, and he has to get used to using the stylus.

Still, this is a great start -- and Bill's coming back tomorrow, so Rasty can go over the problems with him.  Maybe he'll need a better earphones and mike set, maybe he'll have to pay for a better "hearing aid" app, maybe it'll be something else -- but in any case, we're off to a great start.

And besides, we've discovered a great way for poor folks -- or even ordinary folks -- to beat the hearing-aid price scam that's been going on unhampered, and even unnoticed, for all these years.

 --Leslie <;)))><       

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Gathering Tease


What a disappointment -- for Democrats -- Comey's testimony turned out to be!  For all his earlier hints and promises of juicy revelations about Trump, once under oath Comey squirmed and weaseled and said nothing that could be used as evidence that Trump "obstructed justice".  If anything, he dug his political grave with his mouth;  not even the most frantic Democrat will love him now, and his days of political power are over.  What made him switch positions like that?  I have a theory, but I'll hold it back for awhile.

And then there's Sessions' testimony today -- which was tangled, confused, and full of contradictions -- and made Sessions look like an idiot (without, again, providing any solid testimony or evidence against Trump).  Pretty clearly, Congress will now pile on Sessions too.  I expect he'll be out of his job by the end of the summer.  Was this planned?

I note also the particular question the Senators on the committee made a point of asking: "Did you have any contact with any Russians on... ?"  This is a question guaranteed to confuse, especially to confuse a person who doesn't think fast, as Sessions clearly doesn't.  What do they mean by "any contact"?  Shaking hands and saying hello at a convention rally?  Probably everybody on the Trump campaign -- and probably everybody in Washington -- has had that much contact.  Hell, I've had more contact than that with Russians, at Science Fiction conventions.  If "any" contact with any Russians is evidence of crime, then all the reporters of all the major media, and most of the elected and appointed members of the federal government can be hauled in front of the firing squad.  The fact that Sessions wasn't smart enough to deal with questions like this shows that he just plain isn't smart enough to be Attorney General.  Surely Trump knew that when he offered Sessions the job.  Why?  Again, I'll hold off on my theory for now.

Just in case the dickering in Congress today wasn't exciting enough, Trump let (nudged?) a junior (and obviously not too sharp) staff member tell the media outright (not just "leak") that he thought that Trump was wondering if he (Trump) could "fire the Special Prosecutor".  Of course Trump made no such move, and the rest of his staff insisted he had no such intention, but hoo-hah, did that ever stir up the media!

The icing on the cake is the revelation according to Bloomberg from the "intelligence community" (Just which agency?  Not specified.) that Russian hackers, before the 2016 election, hacked into the voter-registration lists of "39 states" (How many counties in those states?  Not specified.). 

And what did the Russian govt. do with the names and addresses of all those voters?  ...Not a damned thing.  I doubt that this was because the US govt. learned about the hack and told Putin & Co. to cut it out.  Although various pundits have speculated about what an enemy govt. could do with that knowledge, I suspect that the real reason is that the Russians really don't know what the hell to do with the knowledge.  For one thing, they have to know that the computer lists are backed up by hard-copy, and any computer-games would be quickly revealed.  For another, they know that Americans -- as voters or anything else -- are unpredictable;  they can't understand us, and they think we're all crazy.  Meddling with us, they know, would be about as safe as playing catch with a bottle of liquid nitroglycerin.  For a third, Russia has never been a democratic country, and have no idea how such a system really works.  When Stalin bragged "It doesn't matter how people vote;  what matters is who counts the votes" he revealed himself as an amateur.  Americans have had more than two centuries' experience with conducting elections, cheating on elections, and countering election cheats;  our election process -- being different in every one of the 50 states -- is so complex (as I can personally attest!) that most Americans can't keep track of it, and absolutely no Russian can.

So, what's the point of revealing this Russian voter-registration-list hack now, and then revealing that absolutely nothing came of it?  Why, keeping the Democrats and the media fixated on the whole Trump and the Russians flap, of course.  It's all part of Trump's don't-throw-me-in-that-briar-patch tease!  He's got everyone absorbed in two questions:  what is Sessions not saying about Comey's firing, and why was Comey really fired?  Trump is confident enough to keep pouring fuel on the fire -- clearly waiting to be called into the hearings himself.  He's whipping up the tension for more than dramatic effect;  the longer he holds out, the more hysterical the attacks by the various folks who don't like him will get, the worse the excuses by the frantic conservatives will get, the more they'll reveal themselves as idiots and incompetents, and the more excuse he'll have to fire them in droves.  This is a neat way to get shed of those troublesome troglodyte reactionaries his election obligations required him to hire, and also a fine way to flush out the stealth Democrats in the federal bureaucracy.

Obviously, when he's called to testify, he'll say that he fired Comey for other reasons -- and he can prove it. 

And how will he prove it?  I've seen a few hints.  Note that Comey started trimming his sails (and contradicting himself) when, according to a reporter who happened to overhear, Trump commented that Comey had "better hope that our meeting wasn't taped".  Click! -- as we used to say back in the early days of Women's Lib.  I also note that one of the cannier senators in the committee hearing asked Sessions if he knew of any recordings that might have been made of meetings with Trump.  Sessions promptly said no, and you could see that the idea was new to him.  The senator, clearly thinking of Nixon, then asked if he knew of any federal law that would forbid the president from erasing any portion of those recordings, and Sessions admitted that he'd have to go look that up.

Heheheheh.  No fear of erasure, folks.  I'm convinced that Trump's ace up his sleeve is that he's been recording everything he's done, audio and video,from waking to sleep, for a very long time -- and he has no intention of erasing any of that.  I believe he has recordings that will show up Comey for a liar and worse, and will show that -- far from being Putin's tool -- Trump screwed the Russians seven ways from sundown, and possibly still has their balls in his pocket.  And the gods only know what else. 

Yes, Trump too remembers Watergate.  And he's no fool.

--Leslie <;)))><                        

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The War of Appearances

I saw something on MSNBC News tonight that made me give a double-take, and then crack up laughing.  It was a brief shot, during all the gabble about Trump And The Russians, showing a Russian official heading into a building for an EU meeting -- and being hounded by papparazi.  'Twas amazing.  There was the Euro reporter sticking out his microphone and questioning a mile a minute over what was the Russian position on Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Accords, and the harried Russian repeating: "No comment, no comment". 

That by itself would only have been funny, but it was followed a few minutes later by a clip from an American TV news interview with Vladimir Putin, wherein the veteran KGB man contradicted himself within 30 seconds.  First he insisted that the Russian government was not responsible for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee's emails -- that hackers could be anywhere in the world, and he named a few countries -- and just a few seconds later he claimed that the hack had been done by "patriotic Russians".  Now of course Putin, being a Russian politician, has made a career out of lying -- but never before have I seen or heard of him lying so clumsily.  Also, I noticed that the pictures of him were carefully angled and cropped to disguise the fact that his hair has gone totally gray -- and pale gray at that.  His well-trained face showed his usual politely-blank expression, but the lines in his cheeks and forehead were deeper than when we saw them last -- just a couple weeks ago. 

Given how important appearance, bluff, "showoffsky" is to Russian politics, my conclusion is that something is coming apart in Russia.  Given how uncharacteristically quiet Trump has been for the past couple days, I daresay he knows all about it.  The news-media, happily trading speculations about whether there's proof that Trump committed "obstruction of justice", don't seem to notice.

Another odd fact, largely overlooked by the preoccupied media, is that the government of China -- China! -- made a public announcement that it would not tolerate North Korea's "provocative" nuclear program.  To anyone who's been watching developments in Asia over the past few years, this means that Kim Jung Un is doomed -- and soon.  Trump is one person who has to know what this means, but again, he isn't saying a thing. 

So what, besides the obvious, is the media full of?  Proclamations of doom, predictions that the US has lost its position as "leader of the Free World" -- and that France and Germany are vying for the position -- because the US pulled out of the Paris "carbon-footprint" accords.  Despite the frantic predictions of Al Gore and friends, none of this will have any effect on "Global Warming"...  Oops!  "Climate Change".  As I've mentioned a few times, excess CO2 in the atmosphere is readily taken up by plant life -- the bigger the better, the more the merrier -- so the quickest and cheapest and surest solution to "greenhouse gases" in the air is to plant more crops, more ground cover, and especially more trees.  A concerted media campaign encouraging  planting would do far more to clean up the atmosphere than all the "carbon reduction agreements" in the world.  Yet the Paris agreement, which was never binding anyway, is being treated like the rejected salvation of the Earth.

What I see going on here is the classic failing of both the media and the politicians who make use of them: being sucked in by your own propaganda.  When you make your living creating phony appearances and using them to stampede the public, you can easily fall into the illusion that the appearance is as good as the real thing.  From that point, it's all too easy to grow more and more careless about the appearance's connection to reality, and that's the kiss of death.  Reality always snaps back and bites you, sooner or later.

I get the insistent feeling that the whole Get-Trump frenzy is about to blow up in the gleeful media's and Democrats' faces, sooner rather than later.


--Leslie <;)))><    




Friday, May 26, 2017

The Red Phone Remembered


Does anyone remember the infamous Red Phone?  It was a reliable, secure, private phone line between the White House and the Kremlin.  The Red Phone sat on the President's desk throughout the Cold War, for the express purpose of preventing World War III, as shown in various movies -- including the classic "Dr. Strangelove".  Everybody knew about the Red Phone, and nobody complained about its existence. 

Since Glasnost, however, knowledge of the Red Phone has dropped out of sight.  Does it still exist?  Is it still connected?  Whom would you ask to find out? 

In particular, whom would you ask if you were a President-elect who was extremely unpopular with most of the federal bureaucracy -- whose staffs are preponderantly Democrats, including the FBI -- not to mention the mass media, who can be relied upon to put a negative spin on everything you say or do?

Well, why not send a smart, trusted relative to go to the Russian embassy and simply ask the Russian ambassador? 

The ambassador might indeed be surprised at your unorthodox method of determining whether a communication line of great importance to national security was operative or not.  It might give him ideas about how trustworthy your federal bureaucracy was.  His communications back to Putin might be full of speculations as to how they could use this knowledge.  You can be sure that Putin's instructions would have been, basically, use it in any way that makes Russia look powerful and clever and scary and deserving of respect in the world.  And what could give Russia more respect than to tell of Jared Kushner asking about a "secure communication line" with the Russian government --at a time when the Useful Idiots in America are trying to paint their President as a tool of Russia?  Wow, wouldn't that make Russia look like the biggest, baddest kid on the block!

The only problem with this impression is that both Trump and Kushner himself are entirely too confident.  All the Democrats in any branch of government, and the media, and academia, and even in the medical/pharmaceutical business, are drooling buckets at the thought of actually being able to convict Trump of something and impeach him -- but Trump is still calmly saying that The Russian Connection is "a fantasy", and Kushner -- whom the congressional special investigating committee has finally called upon -- is coolly saying that he'll be happy to answer any and all questions they have for him.  This is the confidence of someone with an ace up his sleeve, someone with overwhelming evidence that his accusers are dead wrong -- and biased idiots.

That should have signaled a warning to the gleeful Democrats.  Indeed, older and wiser experts from both parties, in both government and media, have cautioned their colleagues that there could be perfectly "legal, if not moral" reasons for everything Trump and Co. have done with Russia.  Perhaps they too smell a trap being set, ready to  spring.  They have to know that Trump is not a fool, and neither is his son-in-law.   

When it springs, it will reveal just who/where the leaks and covert Democrats are in the White House staff, in the federal bureaucracy, in the "intelligence community" and just about everywhere else -- and Trump can gleefully fire as many of them as he can reach.  The ones he can't reach directly will still be exposed with egg (or worse) on their faces.  It will be a tremendous Machiavellian coup, and the world -- and the Russians -- will have to respect him.

And I'll do my damnedest not to say "I told you so."

--Leslie <;)))><           

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Briar-Patching Redux


Last month I warned that Trump was "Briar-patching" the Democrats in government and especially the Liberal media: teasing them into believing their own favorite fantasies and making ever more outrageous claims, until the undeniable facts show them up as idiots -- in public.  I mentioned that, given the downright hysterical claims of the Liberal media, Trump was doing quite a good job of it.  Well, given the claims of the media today, they're Briar-patching themselves marvelously with no further assistance.

First, there's the firing of FBI Director Comey, at a time when the FBI (along with a few other federal agencies) has been investigating connections between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government.  Of course the Dems/media make the obvious conclusion: Trump fired Comey to stop the FBI's investigation!  Of course!  There couldn't possibly be any other explanation, could there?

Well...  Comey -- following the tradition founded by J. Edgar Hoover himself -- was always much more a politician than a policeman.  Trump called him a "showboater...a grandstander", and (it takes one to know one), as more than a few ex-FBI employees claimed, he wasn't wrong.  Another old FBI tradition is that the agency protects and supports Democrat administrations, much as the CIA does for Republican ones, and Comey had been a faithful lapdog to Obama and Hillary over the years of his tenure.  On his orders, FBI personnel avoided using the term "Islamic terrorism", the FBI hired spokesmen from CAIR as advisers rather than investigate the organization, and made a priority out of collecting and investigating reported "hate crimes" against Muslims.  When Hillary's election committee received surprisingly large donations from the government of China, the media soon dropped the story and the FBI declined to investigate.  These would have been reason enough for any Republican president to replace Comey.

The icing on the cake was Comey's handling of the Hillary Unsecured E-mail case.  When Congressional pressure demanded an inquiry into Hillary's misuse of the email account, the Democrats and media turned on Comey and demanded that he be fired.  What Comey did was call a press conference on July 5, 2016 during which, according to at least three FBI Assistant Directors -- James Kallstrom, Bill Gavin, and Ron Hosko -- Comey assumed the role of a prosecutor and recommended no charges be filed against Hillary.  This put him back in the Derms/media's good graces again, he thought.  Kallstrom claims that the investigation itself was a sham, and this action "threw the reputation of the FBI under a bus.  That's what I'm very mad about".  Gavin agreed that Comey's firing was "something that had to happen", that "when he made a prosecutive opinion in an investigative matter, he made a mistake."  The FBI, being part of the Department of Justice, has to be very meticulous about such things.  Hosko agreed that "that is, reasonable minds can agree, the province of the prosecutor."  The move may have seemed like good politics, but it was bad law and made Comey's firing inevitable, no matter who was president.  In the end, it wasn't even good politics;  Democrats blamed the investigation, and it's "tarnishing" of Hillary's image, for sabotaging her campaign and costing her the election -- and again started howling for Comey's resignation.

The only real question about Comey's dismissal was when and how it would be done, and Trump's method was guaranteed to Briar-Patch the media.  Note how readily he agreed to that TV interview about it, and especially note exactly what he said.  After Trump gave technically accurate but vague explanations for the firing, the anchorman asked if he hadn't worried about "how it would look" that he fired Comey in the middle of the "Russia investigation" -- and Trump replied that he "thought about it", but then remembered that the supposed scandal was "a fantasy, a made-up story", and blithely went ahead with dismissing Comey -- leaving him find out about it on the TV news.  Right after that interview was aired, no less than Rachel Maddow (usually a quick and intelligent woman) claimed that Trump had "admitted" that he fired Comey to stop the investigation -- when in fact he said no such words, and the taped interview shows it.  This is an example of the hysterical lengths the Dems/Liberal media will go in pursuit of their own fantasy.

Then, merrily adding fuel to the fire, Trump invited the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, and even the head of the Russian news agency, to a private meeting in the Oval Office -- from which the US news media were firmly barred.  The reaction of the media remarkably resembled a jealous tantrum thrown by bratty children who haven't been invited to a swanky party.  First they howled that Trump had no right to hold a "secret meeting" with agents of a foreign government, until embarrassed legal experts pointed out that, a) far from "secret", the meeting was announced by the White House staff, and b) the President of the US has not only the right but the duty to meet and talk with agents of foreign governments -- in fact, that's a big part of his job.  Next, the news-hounds claimed, with no facts whatever, that Trump was "giving highly classified material" to the Russians -- until, again, legal experts informed them that the POTUS also has the right to decide what "classified material" he deems fit to give to foreign governments.  Perfectly legitimate White House staffers reported that what Trump had discussed with the Russians were matters of mutual concern in the middle-east, specifically dealing with ISIL, and the media went into an orgy of speculation.

Finally, a few days later, an outraged Washington Post claimed that Trump actually had revealed "highly classified information" to the Russians -- details about an ISIL terrorist plot involving the use of laptop computers on aircraft, among other things.  Obviously, Russia was one of the intended victims of this plot, and the information would be very useful to Russia's security.  Of course Trump asked for some favor in return, and the most likely guess is that he got the pledge of more help in destroying the whole Jihadist movement, something that the Russian government would be quite willing to do, if it could.  Why should the Dem/Liberal media crowd be upset by this?  Well, according to the Post, "Trump's disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State", information provided by "a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the US government, *officials said.* (emphasis mine).  The partner had not given the US permission to share the material with Russia, and *officials said* Trump's decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.  After Trump's meeting, *senior White House officials took steps to control the damage,* placing calls to the CIA and the NSA."

Really?  Just where did the Washington Post claim to have gotten this information?  From unnamed "current and former US officials", the Post said.  Uhuh.

Now, supposing the Post story is true, just which "US partner" would fit the description?  The only possible candidates are Turkey, which is becoming less of an ally every minute, and one-third of the government of Pakistan, which was never an ally in the first place.  To be blunt, the only valuable assistance we can expect, or have gotten, from either of those is bought for money and unreliable.  You can be sure that our "intelligence community" verified this information from other sources before trusting it enough to use for a bargaining chip with the Russians.  That means there are other information sources in place which our spies could use for that verification, and those are still there.  The US didn't lose anything of value by giving the Russians information which could save them from some nasty Jihadist attacks.

And is the story true, after all?  H. R. McMaster, the White House national security adviser who was actually present at the meeting, claimed that "At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly", but the media have largely ignored him.

The Post appears to have gotten a real scoop on this story, for everyone else reporting the tale quotes it, in a wonderful display of blind faith.  Other assorted Liberal Dems are having a field day with the story, crying for appointment of a "special prosecutor" to investigate the "Trump-Russia Connection", already chortling about impeachment, and a group of psychologists are happily labelling Trump a sociopath, psychopath, and everything-else-opath that they can think of, ignoring the fact that the usual label for a doctor who diagnoses a patient he's never met is "sued".  Only a few cooler heads have urged caution, such as the famed Alan Dershowitz and Jonathan Turley, who noted that Trump should appoint as new FBI director "someone absolutely above reproach" and "support a special investigative commission, not an independent prosecutor, because I don't think we have any probable cause, yet, that crimes have been committed."

Could it be that this is exactly what Trump wants to do, because a special investigative committee would reveal that he's innocent, and his accusers are biased, hysterical liars and idiots?  Could it be that this particular tease has revealed leaks and hostile members of the White House staff, whom Trump can now happily fire?  Could this be the cliff that he's hoping to stampede the Dems/Liberal media over?  It's the sort of plot that Trump's smart Jewish son-in-law could have thought up.

Be careful of that briar-patch!

--Leslie <;)))><





  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Healthcare Studied -- Finally


When the ACA/Obamacare was first passed, the bill was over 2900 pages long and nobody in the Senate, at least, had read it all the way through.  I don't recall offhand the name of the politician who said that they had to pass the bill to find out what was in it, but she was a political idiot.  Would you dive off a cliff in the dark just because some charming speaker said 'Trust me'?  Ah, but the Liberal euphoria at having elected Our First Black President distracted Congress from all those citizens complaining "Just Fix Medicare". 

It was the bureaucrats tasked with the details of making the new law work who noticed the several little bits of political pork hidden in the nooks and crannies of the bill, such as a gift of $100 million to repair the infrastructure of... Gaza.  The law they finally put into operation was *only* 2100 pages long, and none of the media were so rude as to ask exactly what was in those missing 800 pages. 

It was the army of medical finance accountants who began noticing problems with the new law, and issuing alarms, which government and media took care to ignore.  People who noticed and spread these warnings were usually denounced as "right-wingers", "racists", and worse -- as if criticizing what was considered the crowning achievement of Obama's administration was blasphemy, much like any criticism of Islam.

Only after the election, when Trump started his attempts to replace the ACA, did it finally become acceptable to seriously question our current system of public healthcare.  As it turns out, there's a lot to question. 

The first federal public healthcare system was the Veterans' Administration, which was obliged to provide free hospitals and medical treatment for veterans, and did a repeatedly bad job of it.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs did something similar for the Indian tribes.  All that could be said of these free hospitals and clinics is that they were better than nothing.  There actually was a bill passed in the 1970s that would have provided the same services for the definable poor, but a concerted campaign by the AMA and associates kept the bill from ever being funded.  That law is still on the books, forgotten and still unfunded.

Medicare was passed in the '60s, and was intended to be the safety-net health insurance system for the poor, funded out of Social Security, which would pay directly for medical treatments.  Medicaid was intended as a supplement, to fill in the gaps in the system, but has turned out to be a trap;  any mistake in the complex paperwork -- regardless of whose fault it is -- can result in its clients being robbed of everything they own.  Any social worker with any sense today warns their clients to apply for Medicare, but avoid Medicaid like the plague.

The major problem with Medicare was that in providing direct payments, it cut the health-insurance companies out of the loop, and out of all that juicy money.  No one in particular has every been prosecuted for this, but the insurance companies entered into a conspiracy with the medical industry to exploit a particular loophole in the law;  any medical practitioner could refuse to accept direct payment from Medicare, so that the Medicare money had to be diverted through middlemen -- certain health-insurance companies that were favored by the state governments -- and the insurance companies would then pay the medical providers, who gleefully accepted those payments.  This system did nothing to reduce medical costs.  More, the insurance companies would pay only 80% of the costs, leaving the clients to pick up the other 20% in co-pays.  And never mind the added costs created by the paperwork itself, which deserves a whole article of its own.  The ACA only increased these costs, building up a snowballing debt, which is what those accountants tried to warn the public about.

Put them all together, and they describe a system built to fail.

Yes, the ACA has to go, Medicare needs to be severely overhauled, Medicaid should be thrown out completely -- and, incidentally, both the Indian-reservation and the VA hospitals and clinics need to be reorganized from the ground up.  The various regulations have to be simplified, the paperwork must be cut to the bone, and the bureaucracy with it.  Most of all, those middleman insurance companies must be cut out of the loop.  Medicare payments must be made directly to the medical providers -- hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, doctors and all -- and there must be some federal enforcement to keep them from refusing those direct payments.  Possibly the fed.-govt. could take away the license to prescribe medicines from any refuseniks, which would cut drastically into their incomes.  Also the FDA has got to be overhauled -- and marijuana re-scheduled as an over-the-counter medicine -- and the whole drug-approval system re-examined, but that's a different can of worms and needs a bill of its own.  The health-insurance companies can continue to offer their services to the public, but they won't get an automatic slice of the taxpayers' money through Social Security via Medicare anymore.  They might even have to compete honestly for the market, which will mean improving services and cutting costs like any other business.

The problem with getting to a sensible bill like this is that not only will the insurance and pharmaceutical companies scream bloody murder, but the rich reactionary-conservative faction wants to inject its own politics into the healthcare system.  They don't just want to de-fund Planned Parenthood (which, frankly, survived quite well on private donations for nearly a century before Medicare began paying into it), they want to ban all abortions, all fetal-tissue research, and even all contraception -- which the majority of the citizens will never stand for. 

Now, these groups contributed heavily to the GOP in the last election, so Trump has to at least make a convincing show of trying to please them.  Of course, he's already done that with his first attempts to replace the ACA, which famously failed, so he can convincingly say to the reactionaries and insurance/medical/pharmaceutical companies that he's done all he could to please them -- and then he can go on to more sensible attempts at healthcare reform.  The current bill will probably fail too, and then he'll have to come up with something better yet.  No doubt he knows this;  he's not a stupid man.

Meanwhile, just about everybody in the federal government is -- finally! -- studying the federal healthcare system with a magnifying glass, going over all the laws with a fine-toothed comb, looking to clean up the whole mess -- everything that should have been done before the ACA ever passed.  It's more than a shame that this took so long.

In any case, yes, the ACA will eventually be repealed and replaced.  It's just a question of when, and how well.         

--Leslie <;)))><