Who the hell is George Papadopoulos? We’re going to find out it seems. He’s someone who was associated with Trump’s campaign back in 2016, although he doesn’t appear to have been anything like a key player. What he did do, however, was apparently lie to the FBI in January of this year regarding his contacts with Russians or with those who had or have contacts with Russians who may themselves have had or who may have contacts with the Kremlin.

Apparently Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about his contacts with a professor. Who exactly this professor is remains unknown to us mere mortals. Is the professor American? Russian? According to The Washington Examiner he’s an “overseas” professor. Is there a sworn cabal of red-robed journalists who are forbidden to say the word “Russian”? Is he some other nationality? What is his (he seems to be a he but who can tell at this point?) field of expertise and how did this professor happen to have inside information on Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, specifically on the fact that the Russians had information on her emails, as seems to be suggested by the indictment of Manafort?

It’s this promise of information on Hillary’s emails that spurred Papadopoulos to set up or to try to set up meetings between Putin associates and Trump associates. Did he help set up the meeting between Donald Jr., Jared Kushner and Natalia Veselnitskaya? She being the Russian lawyer who was lobbying on behalf of Putin in order to get the Magnitsky Act overturned. A lobbying process that involved Fusion GPS of course, who by the way were initially hired by Paul Singer’s Washington Free Beacon. Is there anyone in Washington, London, Moscow or Caracas who hasn’t hired or worked with Fusion GPS? Just wondering …

So Papadopoulos has been talking to the FBI since at least early October, after having been arrested at Dulles International back in July of this year, and has subsequently pleaded guilty in what must have been some form of plea bargain. If he actually revealed some sort of provable connection between Russia and the Trump campaign then this will presumably come out. If not, then maybe he’s being squeezed to scare others into testifying. Remember it was the lie that jailed Scooter Libby, not anything he actually did or didn’t do.

The series of Russia probes may end up being a rolling series of dramatic announcements with no real compelling case for collusion on the part of Trump’s campaign. The Hillary dossier has now been pushed to the side of the stage, for example, by the indictment of Manafort and Gates. A new announcement will push Manafort and Gates to the sidelines at some point in the future one can fairly safely say. But this circus still has a ways to go.

Until and unless there is a clear decision one way or the other, however, and one that is based on a reasonable view of the evidence, these probes will only deepen the partisan divides across America. But at this point, there’s no turning back.

David French talks about the unbearable weight of grief combined with the sudden thrust into the public spotlight for Gold Star families – those who have lost to combat a son or daughter who were serving in the armed forces. And he rightly says that it is a shame to politicize such an event the way Congresswoman Wilson did in the case of Sergeant La David Johnson. And the way the president responded with a typical Twitter slug fest.

Allow to me to respectfully disagree with David French on certain aspects of what may very well turn out to be a symbolic turning point in not just how we view combat casualties, but how the war on terror itself is viewed.

In the first place it is more than reasonable to ask what the hell those marines were doing in Niger. The answer seems to be twofold.

  • Boko Haram – an Al Qaeda and/or ISIS affiliate – operates in Southern Niger and Northern Nigeria.
  • Nigeria is a major oil producer and should it’s corrupt democracy – with a history of authoritarian governments and military intervention something like various Latin American countries in past decades – fall to radical islamic terror groups like Boko Haram, then those groups will have their hands on at least part of Nigeria’s considerable oil wealth.

Does this mean that the Niger-Nigeria region is at risk of becoming another Syria within a few years? Or a few months? With French, American and possibly Russian forces competing for influence and territory through proxy forces or directly? So yes, it is more than reasonable to politicize Sgt. Johnson’s death. It’s how you politicize it that matters.

That’s why Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford’s press conference was so key. In marked contrast to Defense Secretary Mattis, he promised as much transparency as possible on why Sgt. Johnson and his cohorts – along with Nigerien (that means soldiers from Niger as opposed to Nigerian which of course means from Nigeria) army personnel – were there in Southern (or Southeastern) Niger. In other words, tax payers, voters, and yes Gold Star and other military families deserve to know if America is being pulled into another low-level war in West Africa. As well as more specific details on what went wrong in that ambush by Boko Haram terrorists.

This the key point. The sacred honor that is justly and righteously (in the true and virtuous sense of the word) bestowed on those men and women who give their lives for their nation does not mean that any questions on how and why and who and what Sgt. La David Johnson’s patrol was doing in Niger are somehow inappropriate. It is a great temptation to use that honor as a shield against civilian scrutiny.

Yes, it is a tricky balance. Debating in public the roles of intelligence assets on the ground in places like Niger and Afghanistan and elsewhere, for example, is often impossible for obvious reasons. But America’s military does not need to be stripped of its honor in order to be a little more forthcoming about its multiple engagements around the globe. And President Trump could be a little more creative and diplomatic when it comes to the impossible and thankless job of contacting Gold Star families. And that’s despite the fact that Democrats want to turn the Niger ambush into a Benghazi for the Trump administration. There are better ways to shame Congresswoman Wilson. Just ask your Chief of Staff, Mr. President.

And rather than just give a speech, perhaps George W. Bush could give the president a phone call and share some of the harsh attacks from Gold Star families that he himself had to deal with. It would be more than a gesture. It would be the right thing for Bush 43 to do, regardless of whether President Trump takes his advice or not.

The sacred honor of the military exists to defend freedom of the press and freedom of expression in all its unruly forms. Not the other way around. Even as this ideal is often compromised, it must remain as the guiding principal.

Electric Cars Will Revolutionize Politics, Too

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

Electric vehicles (EVs) are poised to have a major influence on the automotive market in the near-term future. We’re talking about pure electric vehicles, not stop-gap gasoline-battery “hybrids.” Like any paradigm-shifting technology, electric cars have started out with significant shortcomings. To date, they have been marked by exorbitantly high selling prices and driving ranges that are too short to be viable for daily, carefree use. But this is changing for the better, quite rapidly. Driven by the potential of huge market demand, R&D has dropped battery pricing very quickly and driving range is increasing to a point where EVs will soon be a workable alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.

In the opinion of many, the range needed for electric cars to be accepted by Joe/Jill Average Consumer without undue driving range anxiety is 350-400 miles. That’s a full work week’s driving with some safety margin built in, assuming an average 25-mile each way commute. That comes to 50 mi/day x 5 days = 250 miles. If you’re stuck in traffic because of an accident or unplanned construction, you still have 100-150 miles of ‘idle time’ safety margin. Looking at it another way, the drive from Boston to NYC is about 225 miles and LA to Las Vegas is about 260 miles, so a 350-400 mile range is just fine.

Electric cars are getting really close. This recent article (Aug 2017) from Ward’s Automotive

thinks by 2022, in about 5 very short years, they will be fully viable. Let’s paint that as overly optimistic and say 10 years. That’s still essentially immediate. We all remember ten short years ago—2007—like it was yesterday.

In the near term, the uncertainty/incompleteness of a nationwide charging station infrastructure will limit EV use to around town/commuter use, and restrict their use for cross-country treks and inter-state car-based vacations. In the early stages of widespread EV market penetration, it’s likely that two-car households will have one EV for short-range trips (where at-home, overnight recharging is possible) and one ICE vehicle for longer-range trips where the absolutely certain availability of remote refueling is a requirement.

For anyone under 65 or so, there’s a very good chance they will own an EV in their lifetime. For people simply going to work, an EV would be fine. They’d drive it every day and recharge it at home overnight one night a week. The idea of a remote “charging station” wouldn’t even enter the picture for them—and I suspect that’s the way a lot of people would use EVs early on.

Other than the inability of the Liberal/Green sect to be emotionally/intellectually capable of taking “yes” for an answer (reducing the oil companies’ stranglehold on their current dominant energy-providing position will rob the Green lobby of their most prized bogeyman), there is not really any net downside to anyone to the EV revolution. It’s not a perfect solution, but the prospects are quite good for a very solid Won-Lost record in upcoming seasons. Far more upside than down.

While there can be no disagreement that ICE cars are getting remarkably clean and efficient (the 2018 Accord—a full-sized, 5-passenger car—gets the remarkable mileage of 30/38 city/hwy and accelerates 0-60 in around 7 seconds!), the emotional/political tide of the younger buying generations is against them, and the thrust of that tide is inexorable. Much like scenario where the early flat-screen TVs had pictures that were inferior to the day’s best CRTs, the flat-screens took over anyway. The emotional pivot-point for EVs has been reached and the days of the 100% market dominance of the ICE are numbered.

Although much attention and publicity has been showered on the flamboyant, attention-seeking CEO/Founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, “Tesla” as a company is simply not part of this calculus. They’ve assumed the lead role and paved the way in people’s minds to the realistic possibility of actually owning an EV, and that’s a worthy contribution, but focusing on one man or one company misses the forest for the trees. Tesla’s eventual profitability or total demise is a minor aspect–very minor–of this story.

This is the story: EVs—from whatever sources—are coming in big numbers. Will it be 2022 like Ward’s says? 2030? 2040? Who knows. But with their lower maintenance and the fewer moving parts of electric drive vs. internal combustion engines, EVs are particularly well-suited to the coming expansion of driverless car-for-hire fleets, when individual car ownership is no longer the accepted business model that it is today. Make no mistake—a large, fancy, status-laden car or SUV is not the material goal for Millennials that it was for Baby Boomers and to a somewhat lesser—but still meaningful—degree for Gen X-ers. Today’s 27-year-old simply has other material/social things on their mind besides a Cadillac XTS or a BMW 7 Series. For many Millennials, a car is simply a “transportation appliance,” carrying no more emotional or egotistical importance to them than a lightbulb. It simply does a job they need done, whether that job is providing light or getting from Point A to Point B.

The flat screen TV vs. CRT analogy is essentially spot-on accurate. EVs may not be as “good” yet as ICE cars—just as early flat screens weren’t as good as CRTs—but the genie is out of the bottle and people will want a car free of petro-politics and petro-pollution. The supposed advantages of EVs in the consumer’s mind (whether totally accurate at this point or not) are just too appealing and therefore, the market is headed electric.

Here’s the political impact that EVs will have: When EVs become a significant portion of the on-the-road fleet, oil will be displaced as a primary land-based transportation fuel. OPEC will not be anything close to being as major a factor on the world stage as they are today, from either an economic or political standpoint. There will not be anywhere near as many millions of polluting ICE cars on the road. “Warming” will cease to be a dominant, divisive issue since car-produced CO2 pollution will decline precipitously. Foreign policy based on oil and access to foreign-held oil reserves will end. “Drilling” and “spills” as political/economic/environmental wedge issues will disappear.

The EV vs. ICE analysis is a complex subject, with emotions, false perceptions, and the Government’s thumb on the scale (in favor of EVs to the detriment of oil-based transportation) all playing a part.  But once there is widespread EV market penetration, be that in 5, 10, or 30+ years, the social/political issues of climate change, foreign policy strategy and alliances, environmental stewardship, and social/economic buying patterns/marketing/ownership will change in a big way. Forever.

The only way the Fusion GPS story really takes over the mainstream media is if the mainstream media turns on itself. After recycling Fusion GPS’ smear stories, large media organizations and key journalists within those organizations will have to come clean about how the game worked with Glenn Simpson’s dirty tricks squad. About how they could never reveal that their anonymous sources were in fact a paid communications shop that used incredibly sleazy tactics to turn a story in favor of a client. Clients like the Kremlin or corrupt Venezuelan oil industry contractors. Among others who remain, for now, in the shadows.

The Hill has been at the front of some of this latest change in the reporting on Glenn Simpson and GPS. One can’t really say that The Washington Post or CNN have been as equally rigorous in covering this side of the Russia story as they are in obsessively covering how much Russia spent on Facebook ads. But as we segue towards less of a Trump-Russia scandal and towards more of a Russia-on-its-own scandal, most mainstream media are not really coming out and saying that the evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign team and the Kremlin is not really there, regardless of what Adam Schiff likes to imply. And that the real evidence is in fact pointing exactly the other way:

Towards Hillary’s campaign, and the Obama administration’s knowledge of an FBI investigation into bribes, kickbacks, and money laundering by Kremlin associates; all tied to the sale to Russia of a key stake in Canadian-owned uranium mining company, Uranium One.

The story of Uranium One runs through Kazakhstan and involves Canadian billionaire Frank Giustra a Clintons donor who managed to get Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help out his operation in Kazakhstan which around 2010 was being squeezed by Putin who wanted control. Giustra had leveraged uranium mining rights he had managed to previously extract from Kazakhstan’s leadership into a 3.5 billion mining company with operations in South Africa, Central Asia and North America. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton had benefited from Giustra’s donations so it was natural they’d come to his aid now.

A deal was worked out needless to say, and much of the background sleaze surrounding the deal would have remained under wraps with Obama’s FBI and DOJ dutifully keeping mum about ongoing FBI investigations into Vadim Mikerin’s racket to bring American companies into the now Russian-owned Uranium One’s fold.

But by 2014, with Putin’s Crimea grab and his slow-burn war with Ukraine in its opening phases, Vadim Mikerin was finally arrested but was able to plea bargain down to one single money laundering charge. Read Andrew McCarthy’s piece on this in the National Review, to get a veteran prosecutor’s view on how ridiculous a travesty of justice this was. The story was reported on, but nothing like the Trump Russia story.

Well now the Uranium One story is back, and it may have assumed too much critical mass to be able to be wished away by ex Obama officials, especially those at State. Of course, if things get too uncomfortable, and if the real Russian collusion turns out to have been with Obama and Hillary Democrats and not Trump’s campaign team, perhaps they can fight back the only way left to them.

They can hire Fusion GPS, assuming Glenn Simpson isn’t too busy defending himself in criminal court.

Should one be grateful for Senator Thad Cochran’s return to the upper chamber after his recent health issues? The senator was apparently rather confused when reporters asked him a few simple questions in the halls of Congress, one of which supposedly was where the Senate chambers were located. No matter. His aides whisked him away, although it’s hard to imagine the verb ‘whisking’ applying to a 79-year old man recovering from health problems.

On that frail mind and body depended yesterday’s budget vote that now paves the way for tax reform. One that may very well fail, but at least has a chance to be voted on in the Senate without needing Democrat support. But the Senate shall make its own rules, and that’s how the future of tax reform hangs on the vote of someone who should be in bed, being attended to by his nurses.

Should we be angry at Kentucky’s Senator Paul, for being ideological instead of pragmatic on such an important issue for Americans and the economy? Perhaps, but his condition to get to a yes vote was pretty simple: keep to your own spending caps. A solitary voice saying you have to control spending to make any tax cut truly effective in terms of its longer term impact on the American economy. But that would require a simple commitment to not raise spending. Or at least by not too much. And even that slight nod towards the other side of fiscal discipline – spending restraint – is seen as disruptive by the media and by the Republican party. Easier to talk about cutting taxes by closing loopholes – unless the loopholes are deemed to important to key constituencies to be able to close.

So Rand is a disruptive radical for insisting on spending caps. And if you want to close all those loopholes in the tax system you need to realize this:

Some loopholes are apparently Too Big To Close (TBTC if you like). Look at the mortgage interest deduction. Consider high-tax states like New York and California and the angry reaction of those states’ GOP Members of Congress to plans to eliminate deduction of state and local taxes. How dare they? Every loophole has an army of lawyers/lobbyists defending it’s purpose, and the longer the loophole has been around the deeper it’s roots on K Street.

Does this sound like a Senate that’s ready to tackle substantial tax reform?

The wall may be coming after all. And it might be solar-powered, as the President has suggested since last summer. And according to an article in The Washington Examiner, prototypes of proposed border walls are being built at the border in the San Diego area. That would include solar panelling in at least some cases.

Unfortunately, the geeky radicals at Vox had to come up with a back of the envelope analysis of whether a border wall with extensive solar panelling could actually pay for itself. Their figures produce an estimate that a fully solar border wall could generate about $300 million annually which wouldn’t really cover the cost of construction (around $10 billion) depending on what time horizon you use to amortize it.

Fools! Don’t they realize the solution? Bring back Elon Musk!

Yes, that’s what President Trump needs to do to ensure the border wall is big, beautiful, and solar. Get Elon Musk to lobby for all sorts of grants and subsidies, money that is hidden far away from the appropriations process and it’s messy Congressional slugfests.

Drape the project in new-age technocratic, green-job-creating hyperbole. Let Musk announce to the world that what in fact President Trump is doing is building the world’s first ever eco-friendly service platform. A multifunctional high-tech platform that is powered by solar. Drones that recharge at Tesla Superchargers. Electric ATV’s that do the same. And all Customs and Border Patrol officials beyond the rank of a Deputy Assistant Commissioner get discounts on their Tesla’s that they drive to and from work. Solar powered e-bracelets as a complementary service to your e-Visa maybe?

And please. Don’t call it a border. Let Elon give a more appropriate name:

The Heliozon! The world’s first 21st century fully functional solar-powered service platform! This will be what the Panama Canal was to the 20th century. Which of course means that President Trump will not only have to sweet talk Elon back into his fold, he will have to make like Elon and work with the Chinese. Let China build, own, and operate a drone producing Fabrication Plant in Arizona. Think of the jobs. Bringing manufacturing back to America, and building the wall!

Or The President can insist that America has the legal, constitutional, moral, and political authority to control and manage its borders and that a wall along much of the southern border is a reasonable, if hardly cheap, solution to the problems of mass illegal immigration. Unfortunately that means he has to work with Congress.

Maybe hiring Elon would actually be easier.

Women being harassed is Hollywood.

Yes Debette Goldry (aka as the very talented and funny Kate McKinnon), it sure seems that way. For some time now. A Vanity Fair article from back in 2003 detailed the very disturbing, and hardly surprising story of Patricia Douglas who was raped by David Ross at a swanky bachelor’s party thrown by MGM apparently.

In 1937.

As the Vanity Fair article recycles through the media again after its initial publication in 2003, it is more than passing curious that the story of a plucky Irish American woman in her early 20’s who fought back and was destroyed by a judicial system in bed (sorry but what other metaphor is possible?) with Hollywood and worthy of a tinpot Latin America narco-dictatorship, aroused little commentary on how true Patricia’s story was in 2003, or 1983, or 1993, or 2013. For example.

All years in which Harvey Weinstein was harassing or assaulting, or possibly raping vulnerable women who were part – the lower part usually – of Hollywood’s structure. I forget who the actress was back in perhaps the 90’s who bluntly stated that the way to get cast in a role was to be someone who the producer or casting director, or whoever, wanted to have sex with. I think she may have used one verb, rather the cautious clause I just wrote.

Had she had to deal with Weinstein himself, or someone of similar predatory instincts? What do you think?

And yes, it is more than possible that as the floodgates open, President Trump may find himself once more in the path of an oncoming rush of women trying to revive possible sexual assault charges against a sitting president. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time.

But here’s the thing. Women being forced to, or intimidated into, or even willingly participating in sex with powerful politicians has been around in D.C. for a long, long, long time. Is it worse now? Perhaps, but it’s hard to tell, because of the legal clout a senator or governor or other powerful politician has at his disposal. It may be that these type of stories see daylight a little more quickly nowadays. Maybe.

So yes, Hillary is beyond hypocrisy on this one. Hands splayed girlishly on Weinstein’s fat chest at some do for the powerful, wealthy and connected. No surprise at that photo. And the West Coast righteous and their several day silence at Harvey’s scandal, Kimmel and the rest. Of course they’re hypocritical. If you’re not, it’s much harder for your predatory instincts and your righteousness to co-exist in Hollywood,

Hypocrisy shouldn’t be the main issue here. The issue should be how cute Harvey looks in an orange jump suit with El Lobo, the tattooed narco thug, eyeing him intensely before shower time.

Yes, that last comment is a bit much. Or should be. But that’s my point. In the culture wars of today, the eventual response to this scandal will be something like hysterically denying white males access to campuses, community centers, heck theatres on Broadway, and even schools where their own kids attend class, in order to root out the obvious cause of cases like Weinstein: white male power.

Instead, how about a justice system that handles sexual assault in all its forms in a reasonable, efficient way that does not make the life of a victim hell on wheels a second time during the trial process. That’s a tough ask with the power of trial lawyers. And on the other hand, how about a justice system that imposes a reasonable restraint on the crazed identity policies of campuses across America?

Another tough ask in today’s culture wars. Because cases of rape have now become another weapon to hurl at the other side.

Bedlam – a Seattle coffee shop – does not want you if you are pro-life. In fact, they will aggressively and abusively hurl insults at you as a form of defense apparently. That is certainly what happened last week when a group of pro-life activists decided to grab some java after putting up posters in the area.

The video of Bedlam owner Ben Borgman going postal and explicit on the group is viral by now and it is a little shocking, but not because it reveals anything surprising – gay sex is an issue that divides and divides deeply in the cultural wars in America and Europe and elsewhere. What is just a touch surprising is to see how it is used as an angry weapon to be thrown in the face of those who you disagree with.

But wait a second. The disagreement was over abortion, and specifically the use of graphic images of fetuses in the material the group was posting. This seems to have been their great sin, according to Borgman. And from this Borgman deduced that they were persons of faith who must oppose gay sex as sinful and gay marriage as wrong as well. So he went on a rant that ended up with him suggesting that he’d love to sodomize Jesus Christ. As well as denouncing the pro-lifers as being led by Satan.

Yes, it’s probably a logical deduction to make, that someone who is pro-life is likely not as tolerant of gay sex or gay marriage as someone who supports Planned Parenthood, for example. But all it takes nowadays is one trigger issue to divide you, in the eyes of the person shouting, on almost every other issue, right down to what neighborhood you choose to live in. And the rage that Bedlam owner Borgman displayed is one that is being directed at the very edifice of Western culture. You’re pro-life, therefore you must be an islamophobic, white supremacist who wants to kill immigrants. Because you put up a poster that (explicitly) denounces abortion as murder. And Columbus was a genocidal murderer while the Aztec culture was practically Buddhist. Jesus is hot and Che Guevara is a saint.

The polls of course show that dividing between so-called white patriarchal culture and everyone else gets a little tricky on issues precisely like abortion. Hispanics in America – many first or second generation immigrants – are more likely to be against many forms of abortion than a coffee shop owner in Seattle might be. But this isn’t how the culture wars work. They work by prying apart rather than finding common ground. As I keep saying, this comes from their roots in Marxist liberation theory, where revolution demands constant raw material in the form of customs, social norms and structures, laws and conventions, all as fodder to be hurled into the mouth of the insatiable behemoth of constant revolution.

So as the left and center celebrates the 50th anniversary of Ernesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna (known to us all as Che Guevara) the ghost of the revolutionary might take comfort that even if nowadays armed guerillas in Latin America are mostly drug smuggling killers, people can still work themselves into a rage over a poster of a fetus. And even if the fact is that if Che were brought back from his grave he’d be in North Korea or Afghanistan trying to kill Americans, a coffeeshop owner can feel proud that he signaled his vice in such a progressively virtuous manner by insulting people of faith.

Will Ben Borgman be summoned by the Washington State Human Rights Commission, as Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips was? Ah, but this is different. Borgman is a cultural warrior, defending a safe space for abortion-friendly non-homophobic, progressive, tax-raising Seattle denizens. And woe betide you if you dare cross into a self-selected neighborhood that does not hold your views. And yes, that works both ways nowadays.

This was another nasty skirmish in today’s cultural wars. Anyone who has any idea when all this might possibly de-escalate, please let the rest of us know.

From the WSJ’s article a couple of days ago we find out this:

Back a year or two ago, some idiot NSA subcontractor (or contractor) took home some key documents or took home a data stick or flash drive and worked on or viewed these documents on his home PC. That meant that the Kaspersky Labs antivirus software running on his machine or even embedded on his machine without his (or her) knowledge, went to work and found something.

What the Kaspersky Labs apparently found were hacking tools the NSA uses as part of it’s cyber surveillance. NSA’s core mission is signals intelligence after all. This raises more than a few problems:

  • Did the Kaspersky Labs software find malware which is indeed how some of NSA’s (perhaps a large part – who knows?) spyware apparently works. In other words, was the antivirus software merely doing it’s job? In which case it would have sent a report back to Kapersky Labs Head Office. In or near Moscow.
  • Who then within Russia’s intel services (the FSB and whoever else does this sort of thing in Russia) managed to access these NSA hacking tools (most likely some form of malware)? Was it an FSB mole discreetly working at Kaspersky, or does someone at FBS HQ merely call up the Russian company and request they hand over the information? Former American intel operators seem divided on this issue, as far as the quotes in Cipher’s recent story go.
  • Do Russia’s intel agencies piggyback Kaspersky’s software through a massive hacking breach? Most experts seem to think this is unlikely. That is, they are more willling to believe that Kaspersky is a willing (or forced) partner at some level – whether directly or through embedded Russian intel personnel. Many of Kaspersky’s employees are precisely former Russian intel people.
  • Who would now be willing to trust Kaspersky’s software on their company’s or institution’s or government agancy’s information systems? The solution that some beltway intel experts seem to be suggesting is that Kaspersky Labs move their base of operations out of Russia. A dramatic move that would seem to be just a touch tricky in Putin’s Russia. You can imagine Kaspersky himself suddenly falling victim to some strange disease and dying quickly on a hospital bed somewher in Western Europe if he was lucky. Or under even more unpleasant circumstances within Russia. Are they being forced to go to cyberwar for Putin just to keep the peace with the Kremlin?

Finally, there are two main questions aside from speculating on how the hack was done:

  • Why the ever fricking loving heck was Kaspersky Labs still being used on information systems belonging to government agencies – some of them intel agencies?? Why did it take so long and such a disastrous leak to force DHS’s hand and make them finally require government agencies to use a more trusted antivirus provider? The reply that Kasperky Labs antivirus software is good, is not a valid answer in this case.
  • If the NSA can’t control – and that would be with “extreme prejudice” to quote Apocalypse Now – their own contractors, how can America’s premier signals intelligence agency be truly effective? Yes, intel agents do occasionally ge turned for various motives, but this was different. A lapse in physical security (no way that contractor should have had those documents on his home PC) combined with a potentially dangerous backdoor, Kapsersky’s software, that intel experts had been worrying about for some time, to produce a disastrous breach. The only surprising thing is that it didn’t happen sooner. Assuming it didn’t and we don’t know about it.

This was a breach that had been just waiting to happen. Now the NSA has to clean up a mess that it’s sloppiness helped make.

So now we all know who Nick Ayers is, even if some GOP establishment types are asking the aggressively rhetorical question: “who the f#ck are you?” But that sneering dismissal barely masks a stunned concern over what the Vice President’s chief of staff told a group of Republican donors at a recent gathering. This is what Nick Ayers said:

If the GOP doesn’t get tax reform and perhaps an infrastructure bill of some sort done over the next few months then you should keep your wallets shut. Even better, go find a primary opponent and open your wallet for them. Better to have a Trump-GOP minority after 2018 than an establishment-GOP minority in Congress.

The crowd laughed and clapped apparently.

Look, the GOP and the Democrats are coming apart at the seams. Right now the focus is on the party in power, as is most understandable. But similar things are happening on the other side of the aisle, if a little more slowly and sporadically. Politically that is. Ideologically, the Democrats are as divided as the Republicans have ever been, but they’re better at avoiding the open display of division that Republicans have become known for. The wildfires have been at full blaze for a couple of years now, and don’t seem to be burning out. So the question is: can the GOP reform it’s way out of this? Or will the centuries old duopoly in American political parties finally crack open and give birth to a lasting third or even fourth party?

Or is this the latter stage of Trumpism’s takeover of the Republican party? Trumpism, not Trump himself, even if the two are mostly the same at this point. With Alabama as a warning that Trumpism may well outlast the man who brought it to the center stage of political life in America. If this is Trumpism’s takeover , then the next midterms become something rather different, as Ayers’ joke implies. It will be about building a base of populist/conservative (yes that’s an uneasy coalition at best) representatives and senators. Not necessarily about winning a bigger majority in the Senate or preserving a clear majority in the House. And like any civil war (fought within the cultural revolution that is even fracturing liberals from radicals on the other side) it may prove bloody. Especially in the Senate.

And exhausting for voters? For some perhaps. But for many – especially Trump’s base – the 2018 midterms will be seen as a chance to put meat on the bones of Trumpism by burning down anyone they feel is what I’ll call a TOOL – a Trumper Only On (E)Lection day. Feel free to come up with your own acronym, because RINO as a political term is becoming as endangered as it’s African cousin.

The president may very well have set in motion – or more accurately recognized and ridden – a trend which he can participate in and feed, but cannot control. That’s been the history of political parties in some sense. But America has been the great exception in this regard. The stability of the duopoly has been unprecedented in modern Western political history. That may be about to change. TOOLS beware!

Liberal Outrage Is All About Getting Votes

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The Vegas shooting has brought the topic of gun control front and center once again. Within mere hours after the event took place, countless liberal politicians and celebrities were prattling on in their best sanctimoniously outraged voices about the evil of guns and the need for more gun control laws. We need to do “something,” they said. Disgraced former NBC anchorperson Tom Brokaw said, “It’s time for a national dialogue on guns,” and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel opined that the “GOP should be praying to G-d for forgiveness” (at the 4:59 mark) for basing their national policy on the wants and needs of the NRA.

There were lots of vague statements from these same liberal sources about the U.S. having more mass shootings than other countries, with the thinly-veiled implication that they are all the fault of white male conservatives. (Historical facts need not apply. Disregard the Asian Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, or the Muslim shooters at Fort Hood [Nidal Hasan], San Bernardino [Syed Rizwan Farook] or the Orlando nightclub [Omar Mateen]. We have a political narrative to put forth here and we’re not about to let any random facts stand in our way.)

There is also widespread liberal praise for the gun buy-back programs that have supposedly been effected in Britain and Australia. The lower proportional numbers of mass gun violence in these countries is presented by the anti-gun lobby as an evidentiary component of the value of having an unarmed civil populace. It’s a risibly-simplistic, unprovable causality, but it’s unquestionably a convenient statistic for them, to be sure.

No one—absolutely no one—is saying or implying that any normal, rational person doesn’t and shouldn’t feel genuine sorrow and compassion for the victims of gun violence. But…as Rahm Emanuel once said in his early days in the Obama administration, “[Liberals should] Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Indeed, they never do. The entire liberal community—the liberal mainstream media, politicians and celebrities—has been quick to paint this as just the latest in a string of disastrous shootings brought about by conservatives’ unwarranted, blind, inhumane support of the NRA-led gun-owner’s lobby. The liberal message is clear: Don’t vote for them! Conservatives support policies that kill your children.

When pressed for details to define the “something” that must be done, liberal pundits and politicians come up heavy on clichéd platitudes but very short on specifics. Private ownership of fully automatic weapons is illegal, as is the conversion of a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic version. So, the weapons that the Vegas gunman used were already illegal. A new law would not have prevented Stephen Paddock’s action. He was not on any Federal, State or Local watchlist or database. He had no history of mental illness nor any noteworthy criminal background or prior convictions. He had no known association with terror groups, nor any documented travel to terror hotspots. Paddock didn’t espouse allegiance or belong to any extremist organizations. There were no missed red flags. His inner thoughts are apparently to blame, and it doesn’t appear that there is a specific law or pre-emptive action that is opposed by conservatives that could have prevented it.

So what, specifically, should be done? Liberals usually only say “something,” but then they cover up their lack of specific proposals by implying that conservatives are fine with occasional mass shootings, because they (conservatives) consider such shootings to be the “price of freedom.” Yet when asked to recommend actual new laws and policies that would have prevented this—or any other—mass shooting and to specify how the new law would have done so, liberals get often just get mad at the questioner and resort to the “something” line. Or is it the “now’s the time” line? Or the “we’ve had enough” line?

Nonetheless, while the entire country mourns the senseless loss of life and is justifiably angered by the heinous actions of a madman, half the country—the liberal half—is concurrently scheming and strategizing to co-opt a national tragedy and turn it into political advantage by explicitly blaming conservatives for creating the circumstances and conditions that enabled the event to take place.

Brokaw, Kimmel, Chuck Todd, Hillary, Bernie, Chris Matthews, Chris Cuomo, Whoopie, Ellen. All the usual liberal talking heads are seemingly more concerned with pinning fault on conservatives—thus rendering them unworthy of election by any intelligent, lucid, humane individual—then they are understanding the motives and reasons for the crime itself.

This is yet another example of liberals’ mastery of media manipulation when it comes to influencing public opinion. It may be distasteful to attempt to ply a domestic tragedy into tactical political leverage, but the liberal side knows its strengths. They know they’ll be afforded cover by the mainstream media when they use a grievous national heartbreak and attempt to court naked political advantage.

It may not work. Many people will be repulsed by liberals taking blatant advantage of an appalling occurrence. But in some instances, with some people, it will work. Liberals are gambling they’ll win more supporters by blaming conservatives than they’ll lose from appearing crass and distasteful. For liberals, it’s always about the votes.

 

 

Somewhere around half a million dollars. That seems to be the going price for ejection from either a Cabinet or Chief of Staff position if you’re GOP. Remember John Sununu – Bush 41’s White House Chief of Staff? Back in recession-wracked 1991, his jet travel to various locations – some of them resorts and once or twice apparently his dentist in Boston – eventually forced him to resign in December of that year. The total cost of his travel was apparently estimated at around $600,000.

And the cartoonists had a field day, as they say.

Tom Price is now history, being the first Trump Cabinet member to resign. The total cost – again we have to assume these estimates are reasonable calculations based on what a private, chartered flight would cost your average wealthy traveller – has been estimated at around $500,000 by Politico. Or at least Politico has reported that his private flights cost about half a million based on someone making a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation.

The president does care about costs and maybe there is something compelling about seeing a mid-six-figure number waved in front of you when you ask about the HHS Secretary’s flights. Especially when you’ve browbeat Boeing into shaving multimillion dollar amounts off the cost of Air Force One as proof of your business acumen.

Was it that figure that made Trump so angry?

Look, the president can’t fire Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the senate’s strikeout on repeal and replace. He can threaten to oppose his own senate leader in Kentucky’s next senate primary, but so far it hasn’t quite come to that. Not yet at least, not with McConnell himself.

Or he can take a the Secretary of Health and Human Services travel expense scandal and use it to get rid of the Secretary. Which is what the president did. Fine. But does the White House now have anybody lined up as replacement? Is Kelly handling the replacement process with the cool of a veteran commander under fire? It’s too early to tell who might be nominated but here’s a thought:

Replace a few key Assistant Secretaries inside HHS, under the Senate’s radar, and keep acting Secretary Don Wright busy with Price’s agenda of weakening the ACA from within by cutting back on marketing outreach and shortening the enrollment period, for example. And every now and then leak a few possible names that might be under consideration.

Because who in his or her right mind would want to be HHS Secretary right now?

You will be mercilessly grilled in your senate confirmation process by Democrat Senators who now have to deal with their own party’s embrace of single-payer health care. Should you make it through the confirmation process – which will be nasty and personal – you will then be hit on both sides from your fellow GOP members of congress who will feel you aren’t taking control and helping to lead the party on an issue over which the party is deeply divided and where a handful of senators can and will sabotage any effort at reform. Or you will be ignored and cast aside as irrelevant – a deputy manager whose job it is to patiently wait for legislation that never comes.

Who could ever want the job?

Unless you could find someone – say a doctor – who has political experience and lots of ambition. Even more than Doctor Price had. Who wanted to be President but who at best can capture barely a tiny sliver of GOP votes. Who’s the junior senator from the Majority Leader’s state.

Yes, Mr. President. Kill several birds with one rock. Propose Rand Paul – self-proclaimed genius on healthcare – as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Do it in a series of provocative tweets.

And then find someone to run for Rand Paul’s vacated seat. Hopefully someone that really annoys Mitch McConnell. No it will never happen. Yes, healthcare replace and repeal has become a bit of a joke hasn’t it? But imagine: Ron Paul as the new HHS Secretary. Worth a thought, or at least a laugh.