Friday, May 26, 2017
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."
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
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!
Sunday, May 7, 2017
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.