Let's Fix This Country

surveillance

Trump’s and the Chairman’s Plot to Neuter the Intelligence Committee

We're speculating, but we must

That Monday session of the House Intelligence Committee had been a bad day for the President. FBI Directory James Comey had confirmed that the Bureau was not only conducting an investigation into Russia's assault on the American democratic process but that they were also looking into possible collusion with the Russians by the Trump campaign. And with NSA (National Security Agency) chief Adm. Mike Rogers at his side and concurring, Comey said:

"With respect to the President's tweets about wiretapping by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same in all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets."

The Director had confirmed as a lie Trump's series of tweets claiming that President Obama had wire-tapped him, culminating in this one:


Something had to be done. As he had done so successfully in the preceding weeks, Trump had to counter and deflect to draw the attention away from this serious setback.

Two days later, like a deus ex machina deliverance in a Greek tragedy, the California Republican and Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes swooped before cameras and microphones at two locations to tell us of documents he had seen that confirmed that surveillance of foreign nationals by U.S. agencies resulted in the "incidental collection" of members of the Trump transition team. "The President needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there and…

healthcare

What’s Next for Obamacare?

Not so benign neglect, probably

The collapse of Republican attempts in the House to pass repeal and replace legislation leaves the Affordable Care Act standing, but for how long? Major insurers have dropped out across the last year and
a half, citing the low enrollment of the young leaving them with the high cost of paying for the old. That accounts for the premium price increases for 2017 that averaged 22% for insurance bought on the federal and state exchanges.

Fixes could have and still can be made to elements of the Affordable Care that need adjustment, but since its inception, Republicans have refused to consider any repairs, preferring instead to vote for repeal in the House some sixty times. Their objection has always been ideological: that the subsidies and Medicaid expansion are yet another entitlement; that no one should be required to pay for something they don't want. The problem is that these conservative principles leave the people prey to the staggering costs of health care in the United States. The poorer enter hospitals through the emergency room, the hospitals recover their costs by charging more to patients who have insurance, the insurers…

The New Regime

Bannon Deconstructed: The World He Has In Mind for Us »

Donald Trump had flirted with the notion of running for president in the past, but mostly drawn by the aggrandizement of self-image it would convey, one assumes, given how remarkably little he had done to prepare himself for the job. What
could make that any clearer than, 20 months into the political arena, he just said, "Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated", when everyone knows how complicated it is.

When he descended the escalator at Trump Tower in June of 2015 to announce his candidacy, his only apparent motivation was more and better jobs for American workers — jobs taken away by trade on terms that made us fools, and by immigrants pouring across the southern border who took away what jobs were left. He would fix that by imposing a 45% tariff on goods entering the country from China, by tearing up NAFTA, and by building a "beautiful" wall to shut out Mexicans. That was about it.

Stephen Bannon had taken over the Breitbart News Network after the death of its eponymous founder. While there, he hosted a radio call-in show and often had Donald Trump as a guest. The media speaks of their shared views, but the knowledge imbalance had to be vast. Trump had simplistic attitudes supported, often as not, by "facts" he makes up. He disparaged other countries and people along with Bannon — an all-inclusive list — but was vacuously short on…

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foreign policy

North Korea Threat of War Heightens, As U.S. Options Diminish

Hermit Kingdom's Moves Hold U.S. and Partners in Check

On departing the White House, President Obama warned President-elect Trump that North Korea had become the number one national security threat. With the Trump administration preoccupied with banning entry of people from six Muslim nations, there's little sign so far that the advice has been taken. Trump has said ISIS is his first priority. There was no mention of North Korea in his address to Congress.

North Korea would not be ignored. First came the missile launch that made for indigestion at the President's Mar-a-Lago restaurant where he was hosting Japan's
Four North Korean missiles leave their launch pads simultaneously.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Days later, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un staged a synchronous launch that sent four mid-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, three of them violating Japan's exclusive-use economic zone. The shoot was a warning to the U.S. and South Korea; it was timed for the sixth day of their joint military exercises that Pyongyang believes are a rehearsal for invasion.

But one action has been taken by the U.S., the sort that persuades Mr. Kim that he is right. The U.S. has just begun installing THAAD missile batteries in South Korea. This line of defense was ordered up not by Trump, but by former president Obama.

cyber not enough

As the launchers were Globemaster'd in, The New York Times broke a story it had begun researching last spring but held back for national security reasons: much like the malware introduced into Iran's centrifuges that had sent them… Read More »

foreign policy

With a Year of Gains, North Korea Startles the West

And they may have the ultimate weapon

Over the past year, North Korea has made remarkable strides toward its goal to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads to the West Coast of the United States. There follows a timeline, and at its conclusion a devastating assessment that North Korea may already have far worse — a doomsday weapon:

  In January 2016, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, claiming it was a hydrogen bomb, although that was doubted.

 In February a year ago, Pyongyang successfully put a satellite into orbit with a three-stage rocket. Their ministry claimed a range of 7,400 miles and a payload of as much as 1,300 pounds, both exceeding the missile it tested in 2012 and enough to reach West Coast if reconfigured as a missile.

 This violation led in March to further sanctions imposed by the United Nations that included cargo inspections and a cutoff of aviation fuel.

 Meanwhile, according to U.S. intelligence, North Korea had…

foreign policy

Remind Us Again: What’s the Six-Nation Ban For?

The Trump administration rescinded its original executive order that would have blocked ingress by the
Seven countries originally banned are in red.
Iraq has since been removed from the ban.



people of seven Muslim nations, and substituted a new six-country version with the rough edges that the Ninth Circuit court objected to filed down.

It is still problematic, is still in violation of a Supreme Court ruling that entry to the U.S. cannot be based on nationality. The state of Hawaii filed suit. So have California, Minnesota, New York and Oregon. A Hawaiian judge has ruled a halt to the ban, the second time the courts have stopped it. President Trump says he will take it all the way to the Supreme Court, by which time, with extreme vetting long since installed…

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