16 January 2017

Update no.787

Update from the Heartland
No.787
9.1.17 – 15.1.17
To all,

            The follow-up news items:
-- This week, Congress passed S.Con.Res.3 - A concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2017 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2018 through 2026 [House: 227-198-0-10(0); Senate: 51-48-0-1(0)].  The resolution actually is a budget planning declaration, as noted in the title.  Contained in the resolution is Title III – Reserve Funds; § 3001 – Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund for Health Care Legislation.  This is the first step by Congress to dismantle the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [PL 111-148; 124 Stat. 119; 23.March.2010] [432], et al].  We continue to hear a lot of yammering about a replacement for PPACA; however, we have seen nothing, yet, beyond a lot of hot air.  In this instance, it would be exceedingly easy to say, hey, none of this affects me.  Our entire family is covered by existing health care insurance.  Further, Jeanne and I are comfortably covered for the remainder of our lives.  There is always the potential our children might need PPACA, but they may not unless they become unemployed.  The Republicans continue to claim they have a better approach to health care coverage for all citizens.  I sure hope they are correct.  I shall continue to maintain a positive, “benefit of the doubt” attitude, until I am presented with evidence of disappointment.
-- In the continuing eMail saga [710 & sub], the Justice Department announced an internal investigation by the Office of the Inspector General into the FBI’s conduct with respect to the Clinton eMail fiasco.  Director Comey was placed in an untenable position [760 & sub], especially after Bill Clinton’s extraordinary, bonehead move to pay a “social visit” to Attorney General Lynch on the tarmac at Sky Harbor Airport [759], thus compromising Comey’s only political cover.
            I trust the IG will conduct a fair, unbiased review of this tragic episode in toto.  The Democrats can rail and whine about the FBI’s contribution to their candidate’s loss of the presidential election, but reality cannot be avoided or discounted.  The root cause of this whole sordid affair was the blatant arrogance and disregard of common sense by Hillary Clinton, period, full stop.  There is only one person to blame in all of this disgusting mess – Hillary Clinton . . . with a good secondary dose to her husband.

            I listened to President Obama’s farewell address on Tuesday evening.  Despite what so many other citizens say about him, he is a class act.  A man, a husband, a father, and a president who understands the nobility of the office he holds and respects the people he has served for eight years.  I will miss his smooth rhetoric and engaging oratory style.  Well done, Mister President.  Godspeed and following winds.

            I watched as much of the confirmation hearing testimony as I could.  I managed to see most of the hearings for Attorney General, Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and Director of Central Intelligence.  To be frank, I was shocked by the depth and breadth of disagreement between all of the nominees and the President-elect.
            I also witnessed first hand President-elect Trump’s first news conference in many months and since his election.  The contrast with the dignity, calm and respect of President Obama’s news conferences and the rather disgusting exhibition on Wednesday is stark, foreboding and rather ominous.  His berating of CNN for reporting facts associated with the Russian activities surrounding the most recent election was nothing short of disgusting, rude and disrespectful, but what does he care.  He did not like the content.  His public display of contempt puts an extraordinary chill on the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press, and that will hurt us all, just as it did the German people in 1933.
            Just a related supplemental opinion, especially in the light of the congressional testimony of Trump’s cabinet nominees, I can understand and appreciate the President-elect’s cozying up to Putin and the Russians.  His nominees sounded far more rational than he did, so this will be an interesting few years.  He will not be able to browbeat or intimidate these guys.

            Comments and contributions from Update no.786:
Comment to the Blog:
“I share your opinion of Trump, the Russians, and the spy services, with two caveats. (A) I know the explanation for not providing evidence, but the spies have not provided evidence for their claim about the Russians. I don’t really care why. Their statements are unsupported, and the nature of spying is such that they cannot be taken at their word. (B) From a Green Party perspective, I will note that the content of the emails has not been challenged. The Democratic National Committee actually did those things to Senator Sanders and actually broke their own written rules in important ways.
“Trump is the biggest loose cannon that ever destroyed a deck.
“The Republican distaste for ethics has been put in the open. ‘Deplorable’ is an appropriate term for more than ugly Trump supporters.
“We can no longer claim to address dangerous mental illness in any prevention sense. The shooter at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport asked for help in clear words to an appropriate resource. He was not helped and nothing was done to prevent the harm he went on to do. Also, the revelation that people may carry firearms as checked baggage seems to me an invitation to exactly this kind of violence. People rage on about the government taking away their firearms while they’re allowed the opportunity to kill people at will. Nonsense.
“The rise in hourly earnings is a figure I watch. Obama has done as much good on the economic front as circumstances and opposition would allow.”
My response to the Blog:
            The problem we face . . . for the intelligence to have any value, we must trust our leadership who see and hear the intelligence.  With the compromise of that relationship that occurred in 2003, developing such trust is a rather tall order.  By definition, they rarely can publicly support their analysis, as it will often expose means and methods in addition to degree; a noted exception was the release of highly classified aerial photography during the Cuban missile crisis.
            Re: the eMails.  Quite so.  They fell victim to their own weapons.
            Re: Trump.  That is my opinion.  His personality flaws are quite likely to validate your assessment.  I truly hope I am wrong.  I want him to succeed, but he has not given me any reason for confidence.
            Re: deplorables.  Unfortunately, such labels condemn good people as well.  While Hillary’s public statement was certainly appropriate and apropos for a segment of those citizens who supported Trump, it was a gross generalization that cost her dearly, not unlike condemning all Muslims for the obscenity of a comparatively few jihadis.
            Re: mental health (system).  I have been an outspoken proponent for a real, genuine, energetic, and proper mental health care system from triage to treatment that should have handled the FL airport shooter.  As you noted, he asked and practically begged for help with his mental illness, in similar fashion as the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter sought mental health assistance for her son . . . to no avail.  We suffered the consequences.  I dare say, we are destined to suffer many more similar mass killing events until we can mature as a society to properly intervene with mentally ill citizens.
            Re: Obama economic efforts.  Agreed.  And, despite the economic improvement from those scary and dismal days of 2008/09, they will refuse to give him his justly deserved credit simply because of who he is and what political party he is affiliated with . . . very disappointing.
            As a related side note, I was impressed by President Obama’s generous magnanimity in his public statement that he would energetically support any replacement of PPACA that improves the health care for uninsured and underinsured citizens.  That was a very bold and encouraging statement in this world of hyper-charged political parochialism.

Another contribution:
“Trump ‘hardly has the clear mandate...’
“Well, let's see:
“Votes for Hillary and the Democratic Party =            65,844,934
“Votes against Hillary and the Democratic Party =     69,651,744
“What's this about a mandate?  Who cares?  We have a chance for real change.  Let's take it together.
“‘.....Trump’s publicly espoused disdain for Muslims,...’
"IMHO, those who have read Trump's books and examined his life, as well as having heard both his tirades and his bull's eye comments and his genuinely respectful accounts of admiration for patriotic Muslim Americans based upon deeds rather than words, would respectfully disagree with your too-quick conclusion referred to above.
“Trump and I and millions of others only have ‘disdain’ for the unvettable minority of Muslims who are terrorists and the huge majority of Muslims who fail conspicuously to condemn the portions of the Koran that underpin radical Islamic terrorism and similarly categorically anti-American Shia law.  
“It is increasingly apparent that you simply don't like Trump and, therefore, never miss a chance to take a shot at him.
“I am all for continued caution and even suspicion in our support for all elected officials, because they are human, but I am tired of one-sided treatment of this brave skillful successful man who has put his money where his mouth is.
“As the blind man said, ‘We shall see.’”
My reply:
            Interesting rationalization, I must say.
            Using that logic, the inverse is certainly true as well.
62,979,879 citizens voted for Donald Trump and the Republican Party, AND
72,516,819 citizens voted against Trump and the Republicans.
The outcome appears a whole lot different when presented this way, does it not?
            Re: “What's this about a mandate?  Trump publicly claims a decisive mandate to do whatever he pleases . . . just trust him.  It will be the greatest, believe him.  Who cares?  Unfortunately, I do!  If he had some modicum of humility, I would not be so apprehensive.  We have a chance for real change.” So he keeps telling us . . . trust him.  I truly and genuinely hope and pray you are correct, and my apprehension is misguided.  Unfortunately, he has offered few meager signs that would give me confidence.  Even his choice for SecDef, as much as I am a fan of Mattis, I am seriously concerned about the Mattis nomination for the reasons expressed by Congress in the National Security Act of 1947 [PL 80-253; 61 Stat. 495; 26.July.1947], Title II, §202.  The eligibility hiatus was only reduced from 10 years to 7 years in 2008, and he must have a congressional waiver of the law.
            Re: “read Trump's books. Trump sells his name to be slapped on everything; do you really believe he wrote those books?
            Re: “I am tired of one-sided treatment of this brave skillful successful man who has put his money where his mouth is.  Well, actually, he puts other people’s money where his mouth is, but no need to argue about that.
            Re: “you simply don't like Trump.  Spot on!  I have seen far too many manifestations of his character flaws in other men throughout history and life.  I was much younger, less experienced and knowledgeable, and I saw far less character flaws in Richard Nixon; yet, I voted for the man twice against my immature judgment.  I was dreadfully disappointed that his character flaws blossomed into full-blown criminality; he was properly impeached and would have been convicted, if he had not resigned.  Trump’s character flaws are FAR more foreboding than Nixon’s flaws, as I have consistently written for the last 18 months.
            Believe it or not, as I said and will continue to state, I truly and genuinely hope and pray I am terribly wrong about him and his potential.  Concomitantly, we ALL need him to be successful; I imagine the Romans said the same thing about Caligula and Commodus.  He was duly and properly elected president of the United States; I accept the election results.  I shall do my utmost to respect his performance.  Yet, like every president in my lifetime before him, I shall not shy away from criticism, where appropriate, and praise when due.
            “That is just my opinion, and I [hope] I am wrong.”  If I am not wrong, we are likely to experience a presidential term worse than Jimmy Carter, and criminality worse than Richard Nixon.

A related query:
“Can you explain to me the reasoning behind the law that states in order to become the Secretary of Defense you have to be a civilian, and off active duty for seven years?  Wouldn't we want someone in this position who is up-to-date on the current militaristic happenings of the world?  Mattis only being 3 years removed from active duty seems almost a good thing.”
My answer:
            So glad you asked.  Let us start with the actual law.
            A couple of years after the end of World War II, Congress passed the National Security Act of 1947 [PL 80-253; 61 Stat. 495; 26.July.1947].  The law created the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council.  Included in the law was Title II, §202 [61 Stat. 500] that set the eligibility hiatus at 10 years post discharge.  The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 [PL 110-181; 122 Stat. 3; 28.January.2008], Title IX, Subtitle A, §903 [122 Stat. 273] reduced the time to seven years.
            As I read the text of the law and the applicable legislative notes, Congress was concerned about several factors, not least of which was the new superior organization should not be dominated by one service or the other; there were so many highly accomplished flag officers.  Second, they wanted to ensure SecDef was a civilian, not just another general fresh out of uniform.  Civilian control of the military is an essential element of our form of government.
            I think those reasons are still valid and remain a serious concern.  I think the Senate is performing its due diligence, and they will arrive at the correct decision.  Mattis is a uniquely qualified man to my understanding, not least of which he is a scholar and student of history.  I suspect and expect the Senate will grant him the necessary waiver and confirm him, if not unanimously (or at least an overwhelming majority).
            That’s my answer, and I’m stickin’ to it.

            My very best wishes to all.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
Cheers,
Cap                        :-)