Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A REAL Federal Healthcare Bill


I don't usually write posts this close together, but the whole healthcare flap pretty well requires it.  Look, I've worked in the healthcare biz, have been a public healthcare recipient, and have friends in curious corners of the biz -- such as professional medical billers, coders, and clerks: the people who really deal with the nuts and bolts of healthcare funding.  I'm convinced that these are the folks that the federal govt. should be talking to.  But to start:

If Congress simply repealed the ACA/Obamacare bill, federal public healthcare would simply go back to what it was before.  That included Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans' Administration and, if you please, a division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  The latter two consist of supplying hospitals, clinics, doctors, nurses and treatment to those two groups of citizens -- for free, or close to it.  The previous two consist of funneling tax money through the state govts. into health-insurance companies, with certain written limitations.  We've all seen repeated scandals about the insufficiency and lousy quality of the VA system, and nobody has asked the Indian tribes what they think, but they've been using the money they're earning through their casinos to fund hospitals of their own.  As for Medicaid, it's full of so many traps and pitfalls that social workers warn their clients against it.  Medicare is, and was, just plain insufficient;  its coverage falls far short, and its paperwork is horrendous -- as any medical clerk can tell you.  And all four of them wasted money at an unbelievable rate.  Those are the shortcomings that the ACA was supposed to deal with -- and didn't.

I recall that while the ACA was being debated, there were protesters marching around waving signs that said "JUST FIX MEDICARE", and looking back, that made far more sense than anything the fed. govt. has proposed since.  Here's how I think the fix could be done.

First, Congress should go, hat in hand, and humbly beg the Government Accountancy Office for another copy of that report it sent to Congress years ago, which was ignored: the report on redundancy, waste, and downright corruption in the federal bureaucracy -- which listed some 1500 govt. departments/offices/bureaus/etc. which should be completely abolished in order to streamline govt. services, save money, and reduce chances of corruption.  This time don't ignore that list, but take the GAO's advice and abolish all those departments, every last one of them.  Take the money that frees up, and dedicate it to funding the improved federal healthcare system.

Then, having shown sufficient respect to the GAO, set it to the task of putting together a healthcare bill that will work.  Tell it to pay due attention to communications from citizens who know something about the problem.  Yes, set it parameters:

1)  An absolute minimum of regulations, especially the sort that create paperwork -- which requires clerks/coders/billers/etc. to deal with the paperwork, which creates excessive bureaucracy and costs.

2) Abolish the ACA and Medicaid outright, but expand Medicare to cover everything that both of those did -- and more: pre-existing conditions, experimental treatments, and all.

3)  Make Medicare pay directly to the healthcare providers, not go through insurance companies.  Medicare is supposed to be the poor folks' insurance, not provide a cash-cow for insurance companies.  Add penalties for any healthcare provider who thinks they're too good to accept direct Medicare payments.  And insist on no co-pays.

4)  Launch a thorough investigation into the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA, and collusion between them to keep prices of medicine high and discredit non-synthetic -- and cheap -- treatments which are more effective.  Apply punishment where it's due.

Then stand back and let the GAO do its work, at which it has shown itself to be quite competent.  Once the GAO comes up with a workable bill, written as much as possible in plain English rather than Legalese or Bureaucratese, pass it with NO amendments.  Don't let anyone hide any cute little bits of pork in the bill.  If repairs are needed later, pass amending bills separately -- and only after fully transparent argument and discussion in Congress.

Now that would produce a really efficient and workable federal healthcare bill, one that would allow people with enough $$ of their own to get their own private health insurance but would provide a basic healthcare safety-net for the rest of us.  It would also give Congress the time and space to concern itself with other serious matters of government.


--Leslie <;)))>< 

The Wave Begins To Crest


The next-to-next-to-latest news gem in the ongoing saga of Trump and the Russians is that Trump is supposed to have questioned some loose-lipped lawyers in the White House about pardons -- i.e. whether he could pardon unnamed people, or even himself.  As more than one news pundit has noted, this is a remarkable echo of Richard Nixon's actions during the Watergate scandal.  Coincidence, or a deliberate tease?

Along with this was another leak by a loose-lipped White House insider that Trump was checking to see if he could fire Mueller.  Oooh, shades of Watergate again!  Enough to keep the Liberals panting.  Mueller himself made it clear that he would not go down easily, nor be swayed by any such threats.  And of course Trump took absolutely no action in that direction.  And why should he?  He was only poking at Mueller to see if he'd fold or fight -- plus teasing the Democrats/Liberals again.  He really wants a guy with guts and integrity in charge of the investigation!  

The next-to-latest juicy bit is that Trump is now throwing Jeff Sessions under the bus, supposedly because Sessions recused himself on the Trump-and-the-Russians investigation when he should have stood fast.  Uhuh.  I'm sure that excuse will satisfy the foaming-reactionary segment of Trump's supporters, seeing that Sessions is the last of their crowd whom Trump appointed to high office -- and who were shot down for various reasons (leaving their jobs to more "moderate" -- or at least rational -- candidates, which I suspect was Trump's plan all along).


Ah, but the latest and greatest piece of news is that Jared Kushner is testifying to Congress -- in a closed (secret) session -- under oath, about all he knows of the Russian Caper.  I daresay they'll get quite an unexpected earful.  Just how much of it they'll be able to leak, in turn, to the media and therefore the public, is a good question.

Pause here for a couple flashbacks. 

Remember that when Trump had that fateful last meeting with Comey, that the then-Director of the FBI at first claimed that there was nobody else in the room.  Only later did anyone mention that there actually was a third person there, whom Comey had overlooked as a mere secretary -- but who turned out to be no less than the Director of the CIA.  How did Comey miss that?  Either Comey was incredibly inept at his job or CIA directors -- like their agents -- are very good at not being noticed.  Or both.    

Second flashback: recall that when Trump Jr. had that meeting with the Russian lawyer in Trump Tower 'way back last June, the number of people at that meeting was enough, as Rachel Maddows pointed out, to have filled the elevator.  There was Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, various other members of the presidential campaign, two or three Russians, and... on the Trump side of the table, an overlooked translator.  An overlooked and forgotten translator.  Uhuh.

So what is Kushner telling that congressional committee in closed session?  My bet is that he'll tell them about his connection with the CIA, and that just might lead into his father-in-law's CIA connection too.  And who/what do you think that "assistant" was that filed the paperwork for his security clearance?  Now think about the implications of that.  It means that the Russians went trawling the Trump campaign, and called up a school of sharks.  No wonder they only talked about the trade-sanctions in distant terms of international orphan adoptions, and Kushner arranged to leave the meeting early.  The Russians, when they exited, left a dossier on the table which was supposed to contain juicy dirt on Hillary, but the Trump team never used it -- most likely because that "overlooked translator" grabbed it first, trotted it over to the CIA office, and then pronounced it untrustworthy.  We do know that the hacked Democrat emails which showed up soon afterwards on Wikileaks didn't have anything really good on Hillary -- and really didn't effect the outcome of the election.

Now, how much of this will Mueller and company agree to reveal to the public?  Tell all, and they pretty well exonerate Trump, embarrass hell out of the Democrats, and discredit huge chunks of the media.  Tell too little, and of course they look as if they're covering up for Trump and the Russians.  Besides, the Democrats and the media will only yell for more blood and demand that the committee put Trump himself on the stand -- and he could reveal a helluva lot more.  The other shoe has got to drop sometime -- and the longer the wait, the bigger the impact.

I think (and I suspect Trump does too) that Mueller will do the honorable thing and tell all.  That means the political wave is cresting and about to break.  The whole Get Trump movement will be discredited, disintegrate into the embarrassed/quiet and the hysterical/loud. 

And you'll hear long laughter from the briar-patch.


--Leslie <;)))><           

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 <;)))><