neo-neocon Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:07:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The FBI appears to have lost its collective mind Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:59:27 +0000 Or perhaps it’s become a PC tool.

I prefer the first explanation, but the second could be correct.

What am I talking about? This:

The FBI’s briefing appears so contrary to the facts as to be insulting. When a man with a history of hating Republicans cases a location, takes pictures, verifies the targets are Republicans before opening fire, has a list of Republican politicians in his pocket, and shoots and nearly kills Republicans, it’s hard to swallow the FBI’s contention that the shooting was “spontaneous” with “no target.” The agency should reconsider whether it wants to troll Americans about something this serious.

I haven’t been able to locate a transcript of the FBI briefing, but I keep hoping that if I could read the entirety of the remarks and their context that there would be a rational explanation. I can think of only one somewhat rational possibility, though, and it’s that what the FBI was actually trying to say may have been some version of this: Hodgkinson was looking to kill Republicans and attempting to kill Republicans in general but not necessarily the specific Republican (Scalise) he came within a hair of killing. Under this theory, Scalise would have been a target of opportunity who happened to be on that baseball field, as were the other people Hodgkinson wounded. Hodgkinson may have been more interested in killing certain other Republicans, but when he saw that group on the field and asked whether they were Republicans or Democrats and was informed “Republicans,” he figured hey, I may as well make the most of this golden opportunity.

One glitch in that theory, however, is that Hodgkinson apparently had taken photos of the baseball field in the days leading up to the shooting. Hard to believe it was a major tourist attraction.

The entire FBI briefing therefore appears to be something out of the Twilight Zone. And that’s the second time in the past week I’ve used that “Twilight Zone” analogy. Not an encouraging sign.

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Andrew C. McCarthy on Mueller’s empire Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:30:18 +0000 Here’s an excellent, excellent article by my go-to guy for legal matters, Andrew C. McCarthy. The subject is the enormous and nearly-unlimited fishing expedition that is the Mueller investigation:

Into an investigation that was already fraught with political tension, the special counsel has recruited partisans—donors to politicians who describe themselves not as a loyal opposition but as the Trump “Resistance.” What are fair-minded people to make of that?

Not just one or two recruits, but 14 lawyers, with more to come.

McCarthy points out that investigations of much greater scope don’t seem to need nearly as many lawyers:

I was the lead government lawyer in the terrorism investigation of the so-called Blind Sheikh’s jihadist cell, following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and an unsuccessful plot to bomb New York City landmarks. The case involved extensive undercover investigations. We also probed the history of overseas jihadist movements, as well as that of covert American aid to the Afghan mujahideen’s war against the Red Army. There were classified-information challenges, including litigation over the admissibility in a criminal trial of evidence obtained under foreign-intelligence-gathering authorities. The eventual nine-month trial of 12 defendants, involved hundreds of witnesses and intercepted conversations (translated into English from Arabic).

We managed to get by with a team of three trial prosecutors and one appellate lawyer assigned to help us with the many novel legal issues. After all the defendants were convicted, I wrote the government’s appellate brief with the assistance of a single appellate editor.

There’s much, much more. Please read the whole thing.

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The debate about the Senate version of the health care insurance reform bill… Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:28:05 +0000 …rages on.

I believe the bill will be modified, and has not reached its final form. But in the meantime, I was thinking about the following question to ask the critics who say it’s just Obamacare light: what else would you expect? After all:

(1) The president is not a conservative and would be unlikely to favor, and has not pushed for, a more conservative solution.

(2) Same for Congress, which does have some conservatives in the GOP, but they are not in the majority and not likely to be so any time soon.

(3) American citizens have become accustomed to subsidized medical insurance as a right, just as Obamacare proponents expected them to and planned that they would.

(4) Democrats are more than prepared to portray Republicans as heartless meanies who want to kill people. In fact, they’re portraying them that way right now—but a more Draconian, market-based bill would cause the cries to crescendo even further.

(5) As a thought experiment, consider what the GOP did when they last controlled the House and Senate as well as the presidency. They passed Part D of Medicare. They wanted to get out ahead of the Democrats on this; not that they ever got much credit for it. But I wonder what the GOP might have passed to deal with health care insurance reform prior to Obama’s election (and prior to Obamacare, of course), had they been focusing on the problem. Would it in fact have been something that looked something like Obamacare-lite, even without Obamacare having been previously enacted? I’m using Part D as an indicator.

And now—ta-da!—we have the article I was waiting for: Avik Roy’s analysis of the Senate bill. He is enthusiastic. Here’s an excerpt:

The reason that Medicaid’s health outcomes are so poor is because the outdated 1965 Medicaid law places a laundry list of constraints on states’ ability to manage their Medicaid programs. As a result, the main tool states have to keep Medicaid costs under control is to pay doctors and hospitals less and less each year for the same care. Hence, many doctors don’t take Medicaid, and Medicaid enrollees struggle to gain access to care.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 addresses these problems in several ways.

First, the bill repeals Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, and replaces it with tax credits so that low-income Americans can buy the coverage of their choice at an affordable price.

Second, the bill gives states a new set of tools to make their Medicaid programs…

A third area where the Senate bill does extremely well is in giving states the latitude to come up with new ways to serve their needy populations with better results and lower costs.

We’ve talked already about the new flexibility that states will have with their Medicaid programs. They’ll have even more flexibility to open up their private insurance markets to innovation and competition, through a new set of “Section 1332” waivers in which the validity of the waiver applications will be assumed by the federal government so long as the plan doesn’t increase federal spending…

…[A]ny Republican conservative in the Senate who is thinking of voting “no” on this bill: how many times in your life will you have the opportunity to vote for a bill that fundamentally transforms two entitlement programs? How often will you get to vote for a bill that cuts spending by hundreds of billions of dollars? How often will you get a chance to make a difference for millions of your constituents who are struggling under the weight of rising premiums and exploding deductibles?

Please read the whole thing. One of the main points I take away from it is that the bill would restore a measure of federalism to the entire operation.

Why do I put so much weight on what Avik Roy says? Simply because, in the past, I’ve found him to be the most knowledge and fair writer on health care insurance reform issues, as well as practical and realistic.

I find what he writes about the current bill to be very encouraging—that is, if his voice isn’t drowned out by all the others.

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The opioid epidemic Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:03:45 +0000 For anyone interested learning more about the opioid addiction epidemic, I strongly recommend this very comprehensive article. It’s long, but it covers a great deal of territory rather succinctly, and illuminates some of what was previously unclear.

Rather than post excerpts, I’ll just link to it and suggest you read it. It’s the best thing I’ve read so far on the subject.

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Tale of the non-tapes: Trump says… Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:59:45 +0000 nope, no tapes:

With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” Trump tweeted.

I would have loved to have listened to a tape of the Trump/Comey dialogues, but I never thought such tapes existed. I thought Trump was just teasing us (and Comey) with the notion.

Not exactly “presidential,” but very Trumpian.

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Covering the Senate health insurance bill Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:51:33 +0000 First of all, let’s call it the right thing: it’s not a health care bill, it’s a health insurance bill.

Semantics aside, what’s in it? And does it matter? I doubt this will be the final version, but it’s a good indication of where the thing may be headed.

Trouble is, it’s a hard subject to talk about for the simple reason that we can’t trust the media to summarize it or report on it fairly, and that distrust been present for a long time. Here’s the memeorandum coverage for today, for what it’s worth; you can see for yourself how much is propaganda.

I’m not about to read the bill myself (I’m very busy today), although I may have to resort to that. It’s not a question of left or right, either, because the left tends to distort in one way (“this is going to kill us all!”) and the right in another (“It’s fabulous!” or “It’s another cruel lie of the GOP establishment cucks!”, depending on which part of the right is speaking).

I will wait for the analysis by someone in whom I feel a relative amount of trust, like Avik Roy. But I noticed that Roy has tweeted a preliminary reaction: “Finished reading the Senate HC bill. Put simply: If it passes, it’ll be the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime.” The responses on that page are as you might expect.

Roy also added, “The centerpiece of the @FREOPP plan ( )—means-tested, age-adjusted tax credits—is in the Senate bill. This is huge.”

I am tentative, but I have to say that I’ve found Roy to be the fairest and most intelligent analyst of health care insurance bills in the past, and I find his reaction very encouraging indeed.

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Longest sniper kill confirmed Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:35:58 +0000 It occurred in Iraq, killed an ISIS fighter, was by a Canadian sniper, and was fired from two miles away (11,319 feet.).

That’s pretty extraordinary.

The sniper and the exact location have not been identified, but we do know this:

The bullet was fired from a McMillan TAC-50 rifle set on a high-rise tower and took 10 seconds to travel the 2.14 miles towards the fighter, who was attacking Iraqi soldiers…

A military source told The Globe and Mail the kill was verified by video, adding: ‘This is an incredible feat. It is a world record that might never be equalled.’

Canadian snipers are regarded as among the best, if not the best, in the world.

When I saw the news I wondered whether snipers who fire at these distances have to take into effect the curvature of the earth. Seems to me they would, although I know next to nothing about it. The fact that the rifle was set on a high-rise tower certainly indicates it, but perhaps a reader can enlighten me as to whether I’m off-base with that supposition.

I also picture the movie scene: something a little like when, in a Western, a shot comes seemingly out of the blue, and then later you see where the shot came from—which, of course, is never two miles away. In the Iraqi case, no one ever actually saw its origins; it just appeared out of the blue. But I’m sure the onlookers got the drift of what must have happened.

There’s also this scene from “High Noon,” which I realize has little to do with it, but which came to mind. This scene always moves me, because the Grace Kelly character is a Quaker, and yet she feel she must respond this way:

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Another daycare child abuse conviction overturned Wed, 21 Jun 2017 19:01:49 +0000 The 80s and 90s featured a great deal of hysteria about child abuse in daycare, and there were a number of high-profile miscarriages of justice, most notably the McMartin case and Fells Acres in Massachusetts. In large part, the convictions were a result of the fact that investigative techniques were primitive and prejudicial to the accused, with a great deal of cross-contamination and leading of the tiny child witnesses.

There were a few “real” cases—child abuse exists everywhere. But they were far more rare than believed at the time. Unfortunately, though, once a conviction has occurred, it’s extremely hard to reverse it.

Here’s news of a Texas case (one with which I was previously unfamiliar) in which a convicted couple has been exonerated—after 25 years, most of them spent incarcerated:

The exoneration is the first for the nascent conviction integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office under the new DA, Margaret Moore. Court documents filed Tuesday announced that there is “no credible evidence” against the Kellers. Moore said she personally reviewed the case and believes exoneration “to be a just outcome.”

Fran and Dan Keller were each sentenced to 48 years in prison for the alleged sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl who was an occasional drop-in at their home daycare center on the rural outskirts of Austin. The child initially accused Dan of spanking her “like daddy” used to, but under intense and repeated questioning by her mother and a therapist, the story morphed to include claims of rape and orgies involving children. From there, the number of children alleging abuse increased and the accusations grew even more lurid and confounding: The Kellers had sacrificed babies; they held ceremonies in a local graveyard; they put blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; Fran cut off the arm of a gorilla in a local park; they flew the children to Mexico to be sexually assaulted by military officials.

At the time of their conviction, there was a prevailing belief that children never lie in such cases. That was always a preposterous supposition, and it is no longer the going theory. Fortunately.

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I have grown to dread computer updates Wed, 21 Jun 2017 18:47:45 +0000 An update is supposed to make things better, right? But it seems to me that a great many of them (you can’t predict which ones—or at least I can’t) will throw a monkey wrench into the works instead.

After several near-disastrous experiences, I never update iTunes if I can help it. My cellphone recently updated Google Maps (which I use for navigation), and although I consider some of the new bells and whistles to be improvements, others make me gnash my teeth with frustration.

And don’t get me started on Yahoo Mail (fortunately, I’ve written about it before). Suffice to say that with Yahoo’s various revamps, nearly everything that was done was a negative and nothing a positive. The only reason I still use it is a combination of the inertia of force of habit, dislike of other email services too (for other reasons), and not wanting the bother of informing everyone of a new email address.

And one of the reasons I haven’t gotten a new computer is lack of desire to learn Windows 10. I’ve used it on other people’s computers and I hate it (I have an archaic 7). I know, I know; I should bite the bullet and make the adjustment. I’ve never done well with change in any computer system, though. It’s not just the initial transitions that I find hard, although there’s that. I continue to be annoyed at losing the things I liked and gaining things I don’t like, although I’m happy for the improvements. It just seems that, a lot of the time, the so-called improvements turn out on balance to be not-so-much, or even steps backward.

However, all I have to do is look back on my early days with computers and remember when pre-Google search engines would throw the kitchen sink at you in what seemed like random order, and you could make lunch while waiting for each site to load, and I see that progress is not an illusion after all. And remember the sound of the dial-up? Even the memory fills me with dread.

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Karen Handel wins Georgia seat Wed, 21 Jun 2017 18:19:32 +0000 Georgia’s 6th Congressional District has been Republican for quite some time, sometimes solidly Republican, and it turns out that yesterday was no exception: Republican Karen Handel won by about four points despite the Democrats’ throwing a ton of money into defeating her, and despite their hopes that Trump had alienated enough usually-Republican voters that they’d take it out on Handel by rejecting her.

Didn’t happen. The money was wasted, and either voters are not all that disaffected with Trump or they managed to realize that Handel and Trump are two different people (they don’t even look alike!), or both.

Dan McLaughlin has this to say in National Review:

Patrick Ruffini estimated on Twitter this morning that the two parties combined to spend more money in this House race ($50 million) than Ronald Reagan spent on his 1984 presidential re-election (even adjusting Reagan’s $28 million campaign for inflation). At this writing, given the projected outcome, the net result looks very much like Verdun: a costly and depressing victory for the Republicans, bled white defending their own turf, and a debacle for Democrats, who came home empty-handed and must be able to win districts like GA-06 if they are to take control of the House in 2018 and carry out their chief policy goal of impeaching President Trump…

The reason why both sides poured so many resources into this race was the simple calculation by both sides that upscale suburban Romney-not-Trump voters are precisely the kind of swing votes that the Democrats need in 2018 to reclaim the House. And yet, Karen Handel persisted, and prevailed. If the Democrats are going to crack that code in 2018, they haven’t yet. Ossoff’s message was a mixed bag of occasional Trump-bashing, conservative-sounding promises to tackle wasteful DC spending, and a very belated rush to hit Republicans on health care after soft-pedaling the issue until the campaign’s final days, when candidates traditionally give up on persuasion and focus on firing up their base.

Funny thing; I don’t see many Republicans today who find this victory the least bit depressing. I suppose Handel’s victory should have been larger, but it was a substantial win and wins are usually not a cause for sorrow.

My takeaways from this election?

(1) Once again, the Democrats ran a bad candidate. Bad fit for the county, extraordinarily young, inexperienced, and to the left. Why did they make such an obvious error? I’ve researched it a bit, and I haven’t found the answer, except that the other candidates must have been pretty awful. That’s a problem that’s getting very serious for the Democrats in general, and was responsible (IMHO) for their 2016 loss of the presidency, when the very poor candidate Hilary Clinton emerged as the most viable candidate, with the geriatric (sorry, Bernie!) Sanders close behind. Osoff was new blood, but not all new blood is good blood.

(2) Money can’t buy you love. Ooops, I mean elections. But it can help.

(3) Polls continue to be not so hot, although not so very bad either.

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