Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sabotaging Medicine


First, a bit of information that every nurse, EMT, or first-year Biology student is supposed to know by heart: antibiotics must be taken for their full course.  Usually this is two weeks of three doses per day, sometimes it's weeks longer, and rarely it's only ten days.  This is because bacteria have several defensive strategies, just as the antibiotics have several attack strategies, and it can take a long time to deal with them all.  It's vitally important that the bacteria all be killed, because if even one survives, it will pass on the trick/immunity of its survival to its descendants.  This is how bacteria become immune/resistant to antibiotics, and particular antibiotics become useless.  The problem with giving antibiotics too much, too freely -- such as, to livestock -- is not that the livestock get too little, but that small amounts of the antibiotics get passed on to whoever consumes the milk or meat, and kill off only the weaker bacteria while leaving the stronger/resistant bacteria alive.  Under-dosing, by any means, with antibiotics creates bacteria resistant to those antibiotics.  That's what happened to the original form of penicillin.  All healthcare professionals are supposed to know this.  Keep that in mind.

Now my case was just the opposite;  when I was a little kid I got a severe case of pneumonia, bad enough to put me in the hospital, and the doctors shot me up with massive doses of penicillin.  The penicillin killed the pneumonia bacteria completely, but left me permanently allergic to penicillin.  Ever afterward, I had to rely on tetracycline to clear up all my bacterial infections.  That was all right;  tetracycline worked well with my personal chemistry.

The problem was that, over the past ten years or more, it's grown harder and harder to find doctors willing to prescribe tetracycline.  When I asked why, I got dozens of different excuses -- mostly revolving around a theme of "We have much better antibiotics these days".  A few personal experiences showed that those "much better antibiotics" cost about ten times as much as tetracycline, or even classic old penicillin.  Uhuh.

A little more research (gods bless the Internet!) revealed a few more interesting facts about both of those old standbys.  First, both of them were developed so long ago that their patents have run out;  this means that anybody can produce and sell them without paying royalties to the original -- or the last -- patent-holder, which makes them cheap.  Second, both antibiotics are easily found in nature -- penicillin derives from blue bread mold (I wrote a song about that), and tetracycline from an African beer-yeast;  it was only the refining process that could be patented.  The basic breeding-stocks can be readily found, collected, bred and refined -- just about anywhere, by anybody with the knowledge, which is likewise commonly found.  Third, both remain reliable killers of most kinds of bacteria, despite sloppy over-use by everyone from incompetent medics to corner-cutting factory-farm managers.  So, they're cheap, easily made and reliable: everything that big pharmaceutical companies hate.  No wonder doctors are discouraged from prescribing them.

However, I found that by insisting -- and maybe claiming "allergy" problems with the shiny-new expensive antibiotics -- I could still get prescriptions for tetracycline, which still worked just fine, thank you.

Then, about six years ago, I discovered at least one doctor at my local clinic using a new tactic.

I'd gone there with a pesky jaw infection, gave the usual explanation about my allergies, and asked for a "full course of tetracycline".  The doctor frowned, but wrote up a prescription and handed it to me, and started to head out of the exam room.  Fortunately I'm a very fast reader and have a habit of always reading my prescriptions as soon as I get them, so I caught the anomaly before the doctor could escape.

"Hey!" I snapped, "This is wrong.  This is enough for only one week;  a full course of tetracycline takes two weeks.  You'll have to change it."

He didn't like that, and he used the Argument From Authority: "Who's the doctor here?"

"Who's the doctor's daughter?" I countered, "And who's been taking tetracycline all my adult life?  It's never prescribed for less than two weeks."

He retreated to the second line of Argument From Authority: "I've could show you where it's ordered in the Official Publication."

I called his bluff: "Yes, please show me that exact page."  I didn't mention that I intended to xerox it as soon as I got my hands on it.

He shifted to: "It's not convenient.  If you don't like that prescription, give it back, and go see another doctor."  And he grabbed for the paper.

I snatched it out of his reach and replied: "You know perfectly well that it'll take me a week to get another appointment, so I'll make do with this for that long."  And I hurried out before he could come up with another excuse.  I also didn't mention that I wanted to have his signature on that prescription, in case he tried to squirm out of the clear malpractice.

First thing I did on my way home was stop at a copy-shop and get several xeroxes of that prescription.  Second thing I did was stop at a drug-store and get the original filled.  Third thing I did was take the best xerox copy, touch it up a little to make it look like a genuine original, take it to another pharmacy and get that one filled too, just in case (no, I'm not afraid that the DEA or somebody like them will come after me, these long years later, for illegally purchasing antibiotics).

Fourth thing I did was look up the phone numbers of the city health department, the county health department, the state health department, and finally the CDC in Washington, DC.  I spent the rest of the day phoning those various Expert Authorities, asking if anyone knew about this new -- and dangerous -- tetracycline policy, and who had ordered it.  All I was able to reach were various secretaries, none of whom had a clue about any policy of under-prescribing tetracycline, and somehow none of them were able to reach anybody who did know anything about it.  A few more days of phonecalling brought no different results, so eventually I phoned the biggest newspaper in town, told them my tale, and asked if they knew anybody who knew anything.  The reporter I talked to had an eager note in his voice when he promised he'd "look into it", so I guessed that he actually would do a bit of investigating.

He must have raised enough questions with enough of the right people, because the next time I needed to get a prescription for tetracycline, the doctor (a different one) had no trouble writing me a scrip for a full two-week course.  I thought that was the end of the problem.  Silly me!

A couple years later, troubled with another bacterial infection, I went to my local clinic here in Arizona, and tried to get a prescription for tetracycline again.  This time the doctor claimed that tetracycline had been "discontinued", supposedly because so many bacteria were now "resistant" to it, and nobody was even making it anymore.

Surprised by this, I made more phonecalls and Internet searches.  I found that tetracycline was really still being manufactured -- but only for "veterinary" use, and not much (just one company in the US) of that.  Nowadays, you can only find tetracycline -- and penicillin, for that matter -- sold for use in tropical fish tanks.  Other pet owners have advised me on how to calculate the dosage for other animals, but you have to mix the powder in distilled or boiled water yourself.  The interesting part is that these supposedly-useless old antibiotics still work on the majority of bacterial infections.

What I see happening here is a years-long deliberate campaign of sabotaging two old reliable -- and cheap -- antibiotics.  Now, who would have the ability to pull off a campaign this widespread and this effective?  And who would have motive?  Think.     
           
--Leslie <;)))><  

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 <;)))><        
 

 

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 <;)))><