Sunday, March 12, 2017

Returned From Blake and Dagny's 3rd and 5th Birthday Party.

Erick Erickson continues to bash Republicans for their version of Obamacare which he calls "swampcare." Is his criticism justified? (See 1  below.)

Meanwhile, Newt explains why some of the confusion is necessary. (See 1a below.)
This from a dear friend and fellow memo reader: "Dick, Gen. Flynn was outed by a tapped phone call to the Russ Ambassador --- FROM TRUMP TOWER"
Before I left for Orlando, Friday morning, I spoke with a friend who, from time to time, reads my memos.

We discussed two topics.  a) Netanyahu's trip to Russia and visit with Putin and b) The recent buzzing of another American Ship by Iran.

My friend agreed that Putin has no animus towards Israel and/or Netanyahu but whether he is willing to curb Iran vis a vis entering Syria and posing a threat to Israel is another question.

As for Iran buzzing our ships, he noted after Trump was elected Iran made no threatening overtures for about a month. Yesterday they repeated their circling near one of our patrolling destroyers and we took no action. I was under the impression Trump had released our military from having to seek approval from a New York law firm and we were both disappointed that there was no unilateral reaction.

Feed a bully and you only encourage them.  We confront Iran now or will face  a bigger thereat and have a larger confrontation later.  Trump needs to respond by allowing our military unilateral action against Iranian provocations but then what do I know. My friend happens to agree. See 2 below.)
Soros and his money. (See 3 below.)
1) Swampcare: The Great Betrayal
By Erick Erickson

Since 2010, Republicans have repeatedly promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is now universally referred to as Obamacare. Last week, Republicans finally unveiled their alternative to Obamacare and it is best described as swampcare. Far from repealing Obamacare or replacing Obamacare, it only tweaks the Affordable Care Act and does nothing to drain the swamp.

Obamacare has never been popular. It has never polled above fifty percent. Democrats have invented a host of reasons why it polls so terribly including that people just do not realize Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act. It is simply not popular. More people were hurt by Obamacare than helped. It created a massive new and costly entitlement and expanded the least efficient, least effective existing entitlement program — Medicaid.
For all of its flaws, and the flaws outweigh the benefits, the Democrats included mechanisms to keep government spending on Obamacare from exploding in the first several years of the legislation’s enactment. Many of those provisions are the massively unpopular parts of the legislation. They include employer mandates on providing insurance, individual mandates forcing people to buy insurance, and taxes on generous healthcare plans.
In enacting their swampcare alternative, Republicans will scuttle all the things people have hated about Obamacare, but they will not restructure the legislation to save money. The Republicans’ plan will wind up costing taxpayers even more. On top of that, they are not really even getting rid of the individual mandate. Under swampcare, instead of paying the government a fine for failing to get insurance, people will pay insurance companies a penalty if they cancel insurance then get new insurance later. The constitutionality of that provision alone is dubious.
Swampcare violates core Republican promises going back to 2010. Republicans have taken to noting how many times they have voted to repeal Obamacare, but those times did not really count and they know it. In 2015, Republicans structured a comprehensive plan to roll back Obamacare. Every Republican supported that legislation. Now many of the same Republicans who supported the 2015 plan are refusing to support it again. They know that now it could become law.
The reality is that if Republicans pass swampcare they will be breaking all their promises made in the last seven years. If they do nothing, they will also be breaking all their promises. But if the Republicans do nothing they will not have to own the collapse of Obamacare. The system will collapse. The spending will eventually explode. The insurance companies involved are fleeing Obamacare. None of that is the Republicans’ fault. But the moment they pass swampcare it all becomes their fault and Democrats can abdicate responsibility. 

Republicans promised to repeal Obamacare and President Trump promised to drain the swamp. Swampcare makes the whole mess worse. Ironically, President Trump is President because his voters had enough of the Republican Party. They had enough of the leadership of the party and its pundit cheerleaders who supported every Republican expansion of government and every too clever by half compromise with Barack Obama.
Now those very same establishment politicians and their pundit cheerleaders are rushing to claim swampcare is the best thing ever. President Trump’s supporters are outraged and recognize the breach of trust. But President Trump himself appears to be going along with the GOP plan.
President Trump’s long time supporters hope this is just the opening salvo and the art of the deal. They presume he will take a strong stand against swampcare if it does not change. They better hope so. If swampcare continues the government take over of healthcare will escalate and costs will sore. It will all be on President Trump.
Republicans are whispering that swampcare is only the first salvo. If they pass this, they will pass tax reform. If they pass tax reform, they will fix everything. Republicans always tell voters about the next fight hoping they are distracted from the present. We should, this time, focus specifically on the present. Since 2010, the GOP has pledged to repeal Obamacare and now, in the present, we know they have been lying the whole time.

1a)The First Step to Obamacare Reform


 The Obamacare repeal bill Republicans presented this week is an important, first step toward achieving a next generation health care system in America.

For Republicans to meet their commitment to repeal Obamacare – and to do so in a way that is real, lasting, and substantive – the writers of the American Health Care Act had to closely follow the Senate’s narrow budget reconciliation rules, which strictly limit legislation passed under budget reconciliation.

The Congressional Budget Act – which is the overarching legislation that sets reconciliation rules for both houses of Congress – says reconciliation can only be used on legislation that alters federal spending, revenues or the national debt. Obamacare certainly fits that bill, but rules in the Senate further limit reconciliation bills through a rule named after the late Democratic West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.

Under the Byrd Rule, at any point during the reconciliation process, any senator can block any bill provision that doesn’t change the budget, spending or debt in specifically measurable ways. Other limitations under the Byrd rule include prohibitions against provisions that don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the committees that recommend them, or provisions that in any way change Social Security programs such as disability.

If House lawmakers include provisions that the Senate Parliamentarian finds to be extraneous or unrelated to budgetary matters, Senate Democrats can block them and slow down the Republicans’ momentum. This is the bottleneck through which every provision of the American Health Care Act has to fit.

That’s why the American Healthcare Act is just the first of many steps to come.
Still, even with these limitations, this legislation is better for consumers than our current law. This bill will allow Congress and President Trump to eliminate Obamacare taxes and its mandate that forces people to buy health insurance; strengthen and expand Health Care Savings Accounts to give families more control over their health care spending; reform Medicaid so states can use per-capita block grants to best serve their residents; provide tax credits to people who don’t get insurance through other avenues; and take health care decision-making power away from Washington and return it to patients and doctors.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price will implement dramatic regulatory reforms in the health care sector that will empower states to make health care decisions that are best for their residents while lowering costs.

These regulatory changes must be followed by a series of targeted health care reform bills, which should be much more visionary, more powerful, and have a positive impact on the entire health care system.

The health care system is enormously complex. It addresses many completely unique challenges – each with its own special set of intricacies – and health care accounts for one-fifth of our nation’s economy. More importantly, our health care system’s success means life or death for millions of Americans. So, a rolling series of focused bills is far better for the American people than one gigantic bill that no one reads or understands. Passing future targeted bills will be more difficult if we let President Trump lose this first major fight – we cannot allow that to happen.

The 21st Century Cures Act is an excellent model to follow. The Cures bill was targeted, specific and just under 1,000 pages long. By comparison, Obamacare drastically changed many aspects of our health care system, was 2,700 pages long and produced more than 20,000 pages of related regulations, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The American Health Care Act is the start of a remarkable reinvention of American health care. By 2018, President Trump and the Congress will have made serious progress and we’ll have a dramatically better system for all Americans.
Your Friend,

2) Is Iran Attempting to Thwart U.S. Naval Surveillance of Its Missile Tests?    
Tehran seems eager to extend the range and capabilities of its antiship missiles, and just as eager to prevent the West from monitoring its progress toward that end, even at the risk of escalating naval tensions.

In the latest episode of unsafe encounters between the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and U.S. naval assets in the Persian Gulf, IRGC speedboats closed on and blocked the path of an unarmed American vessel under escort by British Royal Navy warships on March 4, forcing the vessel to change course. The IRGC claims that the ship was intercepted after it veered out of the “international corridor” in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, though it remains unclear whether the vessel ever entered Iranian waters. Whatever the case, the act was apparently intended to disrupt American snooping on Iran's recent missile tests in the area.

The harassed vessel was the USNS Invincible (T-AGM-24), a missile range instrumentation ship that was likely involved in a measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) and foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT) mission near the Strait of Hormuz. In fact, the Invincible may have been monitoring Iranian missile test activities at the time of the incident. According to Fox News and UPI reports quoting unnamed but knowledgeable sources, the IRGC fired two “active-radar homing” ballistic missiles at a target barge in the Gulf of Oman that day. Further details suggest the first missile only managed to reach the “vicinity” of the target while the second scored a hit. Earlier today, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh confirmed that the “Hormuz-2 ballistic anti-ship missile” was successfully tested over the past week, destroying a target at 250 km range.

The Invincible has been monitoring Iranian theater ballistic missile tests since 2012, and the latest tests were probably no exception to this routine. According to the website MarineTraffic, the Invincible left Bahrain on January 23 and returned on March 6. During this period Iran also reportedly fired a medium-range ballistic missile southward from its Semnan test range less than 1,000 km north of the Strait of Hormuz, within the tracking range of a vessel like the Invincible.

This week's missile test was reportedly conducted near Jask on Iran's Gulf of Oman coast, some 50 km southeast of the strait. In recent years, the national Iranian navy has been developing Jask into a forward base to monitor the strait's busy inlet. The IRGC also operates a number of launch areas near Jask where it can quickly position and deploy its mobile antiship cruise and ballistic missiles.

In February 2011, the IRGC unveiled its Khalij-e Fars electro-optically guided ballistic missile, developed from the Fateh-110 in order to target surface ships from a claimed range of 300 km. The missile has been tested on several occasions since then. Three years later, Iran introduced other guided derivatives of the Fateh: the Hormuz-1 with a passive radar emission seeker head, and the Hormuz-2, which reportedly sports an active radar seeker in its nose.

If General Hajizadeh's claim is true, this week's launch was the first known test of the radar-guided antiship Hormuz-2. From the Jask coastal test range, this missile can reach the entire Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman. And if the system's combination of electro-optical and active and passive radar guidance performs as claimed, it could give Iran some flexibility to circumvent the countermeasures the U.S. Fifth Fleet typically employs when its strike groups transit the strait.

Using the powerful Cobra Gemini dual-band radar, the Invincible can track and plot the detailed trajectory and dynamics of tactical ballistic missiles from launch until they reach their target. Other listening equipment can record and decipher encrypted telemetry communications between a missile and its launching party. Among other things, the data collected can then be used to support regional missile defense assets such as Aegis, THAAD, and Patriot. Yet while the Cobra Gemini can detect a typical ballistic missile from 1,000 km over a 20-degree-wide horizon, full tracking and radar imaging reportedly requires the system to be closer than that, perhaps explaining the U.S. ship's relative proximity to this week's test.

Given the timing of the incident, the harassment of the Invincible does not seem like a random act by a hotshot IRGC boat crew. Rather, it was likely part of a concerted effort to hinder effective monitoring of Iran's more sensitive weapons technologies. On March 8, senior IRGC Navy commander Capt. Mehdi Hashemi blamed the slow American ship for initiating the maneuver and called on Western navies to leave the region permanently before their “unsafe” actions bring about “irreversible consequences.” Similarly, on several occasions in recent months, Iran has warned off U.S. intelligence-gathering aircraft flying in the international airspace over the Persian Gulf.

Such warnings point to the possibility that Iran's most recent missile activities are part of an accelerated test and training program to create a viable deterrence and rapid-attack capability against strategic U.S. Navy assets, at ranges unattainable by most of its existing antiship missiles. The latest iterations of the Fateh family of missiles — the composite-airframe Fateh-313 and Zolfaqar — have claimed ranges of 500 and 750 km, respectively. If those claims prove true, it is only a matter of time before other versions of the design (e.g., the Khalij-e Fars and Hormuz) also incorporate the added benefits of the lighter airframe and the resultant extended range.

Farzin Nadimi is a Washington-based analyst specializing in the security and defense affairs of Iran and the Persian Gulf region.
In the economy of world politics, George Soros has billions at stake, and they extend even to remote places like the Republic of Macedonia.

In fact, the tiny Balkan state is becoming emblematic of a battle royale taking place in Europe between conservative parties that support traditional values and national sovereignty, and those—often funded by the liberal billionaire—with an ambitious agenda that includes liberal drug and sexual orientation policies as well as trans-nationalism.

Making things even more complicated are the Kremlin’s routine strategic interferences into the equation. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vast propaganda network often intrudes into these disputes, whether invited in or not, by ostensibly taking up the traditionalists’ cause and going to war with his arch-nemesis, Soros.
In some places, such as Macedonia itself, there is one added variable: Obama-era embeds.
The Obama-appointed U.S. ambassador in Skopje, Jess Baily, has come under congressional scrutiny over accusations that he has shown a political bias against the Macedonian conservative party, VMRO, and that he facilitated coalition negotiations between the main leftist party and ethnic Albanian parties.

In a letter sent to Baily on Jan. 17, Republican members of the House and the Senate also asked him to explain reports that his embassy had selected Soros’ Open Society Foundations as the main implementer of U.S. Agency for International Development projects in Macedonia.

The State Department’s Feb. 6 response, which I had the chance to read, was thin on details regarding funding for Soros’ foundation and groups it controls.

Grants to them were awarded through a “competitive procurement process,” the letter said. The aid, it added, was to “strengthen the rule of law, increase economic growth, support regional security,” and pursue other nebulous goals.

But in fact, a Feb. 27 USAID announcement of a $2.54 million contract with the foundation revealed that the project included paying for training in “civic activism,” “mobilization,” and “civic engagement.”

Far from strengthening the rule of law or regional security, these are activities associated with the redefinition of civics as 1960s-style progressive political activism. They are all strategies straight out of Saul Alinsky’s subversion manual, “Rules for Radicals,” whose translation into Macedonian, incidentally, was funded by Soros’ foundation in 2014.
One of the world’s richest men, Soros has a long history of intervening politically around the globe in the pursuit of his dream of open borders, global governance, and the erosion of regional particularism—what he calls the “open society.”

Because the State Department’s letter was “vague and failed to answer the questions we posed,” the same six Republican members of the House who wrote him—plus a new one, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.—last week asked the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office to open an investigation and audit of the State Department and USAID regarding Macedonia and Soros’ foundation.

The legal watchdog Judicial Watch, for its part, has filed Freedom of Information Act requests asking that the State Department and USAID produce documents related to any grants, contracts, communications, assessments, etc. made by the department to the Foundation Open Society-Macedonia and its subsidiaries.

Whatever comes from these efforts, the political parties that the U.S. ambassador was helping negotiate—the leftist Social Democratic Union and three ethnic Albanian-based parties, the Democratic Union for Integration, Besa, and the Alliance of Albanians—did on Sunday reach an agreement to form a government.

But Macedonia’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, on Wednesday refused to give the Social Democratic Union a mandate to form a government because its leader, Zoran Zaev, acquiesced to the Albanian parties’ demand that Albanian become an official language throughout Macedonia.

The parties worked out the language deal next door in Tirana, Albania—one of the reasons Ivanov cited for withholding the mandate.

Albania is another country where the activities of Soros and his foundation are also under scrutiny for supporting the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama—a socialist who personally brokered the “Tirana Platform.” And in Albania, too, we find an Obama-era ambassador, Donald Lu, who backs the Soros-supported parties.
Rama, who is so close to Soros he attended his 2013 wedding, last week issued an impassioned plea for the U.S. not to abandon the Balkans to Russia, whose influence, he told The Telegraph, “is stronger than ever before.” “Russia,” he added, “has been interested in spreading its influence and there’s a lot of it in the region.”

Putin’s Kremlin routinely and opportunistically tries to maneuver itself into the politics of Europe. Senior Whitehall sources say it plotted to assassinate Montenegro’s prime minister last year.

In Macedonia, too, it has tried to portray itself as being on the side of the conservative VMRO, which leads the present government and won the most votes in the Dec. 11 elections. Even an article I wrote last month was quoted at length by Russia’s Sputnik International.

Reuters reported that on Thursday, March 2, Russia accused Albania, NATO, and the European Union of trying to impose a pro-Albanian government on Macedonia.
Far from backing pro-Putin policies, however, VMRO has long been a staunchly pro-U.S., pro-NATO party.

But our embassies’ notorious support for Soros and his progressive policies does irritate traditional-minded people in Macedonia and elsewhere.

“Some of my conservative friends in Macedonia are now telling me, ‘I hate America,’” Jason Miko, an American businessman who has been visiting the Balkan country for over two decades, told me. “They don’t really hate America. They hate what the Obama administration has done.”

“If Soros wants to spend his own money, then let him, but when he starts using taxpayer money it’s something else,” said Miko, Macedonia’s honorary consul in Arizona.

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