Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rice No Longer Served At Conservative Weddings. The Sizing Up Begins. Compassion Morphing Into Insanity.

America's mass media is so interested in covering up
they ought to demand all reporters and TV analysts wear

Meanwhile, conservatives no longer serve 'rice' at weddings. (See 1 below.)
Trump blunders once more in foreign matters? You decide. (See 2 below.)

(Subsequent to this, Trump acknowledged the mess Obama left he now owns.)

But, even Putin has his bad periods. (See 2a below.)

And, soon the sizing up begins. (See 2b below.)
Did Obama fox FOX and Hannity? (See 3 below.)
It is one thing to be liberal and compassionate.  It is another matter to carry it to the point of insanity. (See 4 below.)
Read this before going to Cuba. (See 5 below.)
Finally,  Obamacare on its deathbed in Knoxville? (See 6 below.)
1)  Susan Rice Keeps Her Mask On

The press corps buys her story that ‘unmasking’ was no big deal.

Ms. Rice didn’t deny that she had sought the name of a Trump transition official in intelligence reports, though she said she hadn’t done so “for any political purposes.” We’ll take this as confirmation that President Obama’s confidante was receiving summaries of surveilled foreign officials that included references to, or conversations with, Donald Trump’s team.

Ms. Rice insisted that unmasking was a routine part of her job and is necessary to understand the context of some intelligence reports. Perhaps, but why specifically did she need to see intel summaries dealing with Trump transition plans and policy intentions? And what was the context for seeking the name of any Trump official? Unmasking is typically the job of professional intelligence analysts, not senior White House officials.
Ms. Rice was also at pains to say that unmasking is not the same as leaking to the press and that she “leaked nothing to nobody, and never have.” But she hasn’t been accused of leaking the name of the Trump official. She is responsible for unmasking a U.S. citizen, which made that name more widely disseminated across the government and thus could have been more easily leaked by someone else. Michael Flynn lost his job as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser because of leaks about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Democrats and the Beltway press are rallying to defend Ms. Rice by claiming that it isn’t news for a senior White House official to unmask the name of a political opponent of an incoming Administration. Thanks, guys. If you want to cover only one side of the Trump-Russia-intelligence story, we’ll be happy to cover both.
2)Trump Is Not Off the Hook on Syria
He needs to put the onus on Putin for Assad’s atrocities.
By Jonathan S. Tobin 
Though Obama bears responsibility for the horror in Syria, the Trump administration’s Russia tilt means it owns the mess it inherited and must respond accordingly.

The timing for the Trump administration couldn’t be worse. Just days after statements from the White House as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley made it clear that the U.S. accepted the permanence of the Assad regime in Syria, Damascus reminded the world of its awful nature. The Syrian government dropped a poison-gas bomb on a hospital, taking the lives of dozens, including eleven children. As reports of the attack spread, fingers began pointing at Trump.

Senator John McCain wasn’t alone when he made it clear that the statements from the administration — including Tillerson’s astonishing assertion that the tyrannized Syrian people would determine their own future — provided encouragement for Assad to do his worst, safe in the knowledge that the U.S. didn’t care what happened in that tortured country.

McCain is right to the extent that the U.S. does bear a great deal of the responsibility for what happened in Syria in recent years as Assad has gained the upper hand in that country’s civil war with the help of his Russian and Iranian allies. But even if the main culprit here is President Obama, that doesn’t get the administration off the hook. The gas attack is a wakeup call to Trump that he has to choose between two of his foreign policy priorities: better relations with Russia and getting tough with Iran. If the administration doesn’t begin to respond, the mess in Syria will only get worse, and blaming Obama won’t be enough to avoid complicity in one of the great human-rights catastrophes of the 21st century.

The administration’s attempt to divert attention from its own silence about Assad by pointing to its predecessor has some merit. The Syrian debacle didn’t merely unfold on Obama’s watch; his actions and statements materially contributed to a situation in which Bashar Assad’s barbarous regime acts as if it has carte blanche from the international community to commit unspeakable atrocities.
Obama’s initial reaction to the 2011 Arab Spring protests in Syria was to encourage opposition to Assad. As the situation erupted into violence between rebels and the government, Obama made it clear Assad had to go. Historians will debate, as analysts did at the time, whether Western intervention to arm the more moderate rebels would have proved decisive and ended the conflict before Islamist groups became major players there. But what we do know is that Western inaction led to a civil war that quickly spiraled out of control and allowed radical Islamist groups to assume a major role in the opposition to a hated regime.

The turning point was in 2013 when Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. Prior to that, Obama had stated that their use would constitute the crossing of a “red line” that would mandate an American response. But without a coherent plan of action and faced with opposition from those who thought two Middle East wars was enough (a group that included one Donald J. Trump), Obama backed down. That was more than one of the most humiliating moments in the history of American foreign policy. It also provided an opening for Russia — which, along with Iran, was already aiding Assad — to embark on a full-scale intervention in Syria. Obama made a deal by which the Russians would supervise the collection of all of Assad’s illegal weaponry. But that flimsy agreement was never fully enforced, and Damascus has continued to employ gas against Syrian civilians.

Obama’s retreat went farther than just the “red line” fiasco. Despite sometimes paying lip service to the need for Assad’s ouster, he fully acquiesced to Russia’s assertion that its Syrian client fell under Moscow’s sphere of control. This not only marked a beginning of the realization of Vladimir Putin’s dream to reassemble the old Soviet empire. It also was part of a U.S. retreat from the Middle East; in 2011, Obama had completed the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq. The vacuum left by that decision provided the opening for the emergence of ISIS, as the Islamist group assumed control of large parts of both Syria and Iraq.

While the U.S. eventually deployed forces to fight ISIS, the initial decision to back away from conflict with Assad has ensured the continuance of that conflict. Assad and his allies have concentrated their military efforts on destroying rebels — moderates and radicals — not associated with ISIS. That left the Islamic State as the sole force in the field perceived to be defending Sunnis against the minority Alawite regime and Iranian and Lebanese Shiites (Tehran’s Hezbollah auxiliaries who were also deployed in Syria) as well as the Russians. So long as that remains the case, ISIS can count on support from Syrians who have good reason to hate Assad and his friends more than they do the equally barbarous Islamists.

Trump inherited a mess to which there are no easy or attractive options for the U.S. Trump’s foreign-policy team is simply stating the facts when they observe that Assad and his allies have already won the civil war and that there is no viable option for forcing him from power even if ISIS and pockets of rebels are still the field. But that does not excuse a policy of inaction from the administration.

This is a moment when the president needs to make it clear to Russia that if it is truly interested in better relations with the United States, it must put a leash on its Syrian client. Trump can start by insisting that Putin finally make good on the deal he struck with Obama to confiscate Assad’s chemical weapons. Equally important would be an effort to make it plain to Moscow that it cannot have normal, let alone friendly relations with the West while still acting as an ally of an Iran that is using the war in Syria to pursue its goal of regional hegemony.

Trump must understand that thinking that Russia can help him achieve his goal of defeating ISIS makes no sense so long as Moscow is in bed with Iran and Assad. Given Obama’s mistakes and Trump’s criticisms of past U.S. interventions in the Middle East, the administration has little leverage in Syria. But merely waving the white flag on the issue as it did last week only makes an already terrible situation even worse.

Given the reports about back-channel negotiations with Russia about breaking its ties with Iran, it may be that the administration understands that Trump’s contradictory rhetoric about the two countries must be resolved. Merely focusing on Obama’s mistakes is no longer enough. Like it or not, by signaling his desire for a new beginning with Assad’s Russian enablers, Trump is linked to what is happening in Syria. This is a moment for the president, who is not generally shy about sounding off on his views of the world, to say something that puts the onus on Putin for Assad’s atrocities and makes clear that the U.S. won’t continue to turn a blind eye to the horror there. If he doesn’t, his critics will be right when they say he, along with Obama, now owns the Syrian disaster.

2a) Don’t Worry, It’s Worse for Putin

Though idiocy and partisanship are rampant in D.C. it’s no ‘win’ for Russia.

By Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Dick Cheney unburdening himself on Russian meddling in the U.S. election has already been lost in the flood of new revelations of the last few days. “In some quarters,” the former vice president overstated to a New Delhi audience last week, Russia’s action “would be considered an act of war.”
One might quibble with the legal basis for this claim, but Mr. Cheney’s statement is one more reason it’s increasingly hard to imagine that Vladimir Putin judges the outcome to be anything but a disaster.
Let’s see, his hacking adventure has turned even Democrats into Cheney-like anti-Russia hard-liners. The chances of the U.S. removing sanctions now are nil. Western governments no longer can cover up for Mr. Putin to make him an acceptable interlocutor. The Brits failed to keep a lid on the Litvinenko murder. The Dutch have not kept a lid on the MH17 shoot-down. In The Hague, Russia’s annexation of Crimea is on trial.


Marco Rubio, in a Senate hearing, publicly aired the most dangerous dirty linen of all, a possible secret police role in terrorist bombings that propelled Mr. Putin to his first presidential election.
Even Rep. Adam Schiff was demanding the Central Intelligence Agency open its files on Mr. Putin’s corruption until he decided the real opportunity to position himself for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat was to attack Mr. Trump.
We hasten to add, none of this remotely represents a “win” for the U.S. either. U.S.-Russia relations are spiraling, if not out of control, into a state of hostility that likely won’t be relieved as long as Mr. Putin (age 64) remains in power.
Two bombshells landed Monday in relation to the competing partisan scandal quests here.
The Washington Post claims a typically dubious Trump hanger-on, with help of an Arab government, arranged a meeting with an unnamed Putin associate to see if Russia could be lured away from its alliance with Iran and Syria.
Not that the idea is a bad one, but everything about the episode, including the Trump White House’s response to the disclosure, was characteristically amateurish.
The other big revelation was that then- Obama aide Susan Rice plumbed legitimate “foreign intelligence” in search of possibly illegitimate intelligence on the Trump campaign.
Mike Doran, a Bush security official now at the Hudson Institute, tweeted: “By 1/1/18 most voters will have concluded that Obama criminally abused the foreign surveillance machinery.”
Unlike the Trump allegations, at least we know these acts took place.
The quality most lacking in media coverage of these events has been judgment. Paul Waldman in the Washington Post has shown himself ready to believe unsubstantiated allegations about Mr. Trump, and now defends Obama spying on the Trump campaign, fairly shrieking that such monitoring is justified because “we’re talking about associates of a presidential candidate communicating with representatives of a foreign power.”
Huh? Really? Doesn’t the Washington Post, like The Wall Street Journal, communicate incessantly with “representatives of a foreign power”?
Seminars, conferences and confabs occur daily all over America at which said “representatives of foreign powers” are invited guests.
Between 1994 and 2013, U.S. presidents made 14 trips to Russia, dragging along hordes of U.S. business leaders to schmooze with “representatives of a foreign power.”
Isn’t the likelihood that any presidential candidate would have associates who “communicated with representatives of a foreign power” virtually 100%?
In this vein, perhaps the most truly useful revelations of the past 24 hours are those concerning so-called Trump adviser Carter Page, whom a Russian agent apparently called an “idiot.”
Mr. Page, it turns out, was “Male 1” in U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s 2015 prosecution of a Russian spy ring centered on the New York office of government-owned Vnesheconombank. Google the details of the criminal indictment for an idea of the lameness of Russian espionage efforts in the U.S. these days. Read the long Politico magazine article on the vaporous wannabe Mr. Page.
Now use this information to reframe your thinking on the competence of Russian intelligence as it handed the fate of Moscow’s diplomatic interests over to hired hackers from Russia’s cyber crime netherworld.
When the chaff is boiled away, the real story will be the one U.S. institutions are still choking on: Donald Trump—ignorant of and contemptuous of the byways of America’s governing class—is president. A decisive part of the U.S. electorate decided he couldn’t be worse than the standard-issue alternatives.
In this context, one Trump-Russia connection really does leap out. Present at his 2005 wedding was a man who would soon raise $140 million from parties variously associated with the sale of a U.S. uranium business to the Putin government. His wife controlled a U.S. agency that gave a needed approval of the deal.
That wedding guest was Bill Clinton.

2b) Mr. Trump Meets Mr. Xi

China’s strongman will be taking the measure of the new President.

President Trump has warned that the Mar-a-Lago summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week will be “difficult,” and it’s hard to know what that means. Mr. Trump likes to stake out tough negotiating positions but back down later, while the Chinese like to offer cosmetic concessions to mollify foreigners while relentlessly advancing their interests over time. The real measure of this summit will be whether Mr. Xi comes away thinking Mr. Trump means what he says or can be pushed around like President Obama.
In that sense Mr. Trump’s warning not to expect immediate deliverables is a positive sign. After eight years of the Obama Administration papering over major disagreements between the U.S. and China, Mr. Trump may win Chinese respect with a tougher approach. But subtlety, hardly the U.S. President’s strong suit, will be needed to keep the relationship constructive while pressuring Beijing to change its aggressive and mercantilist ways.
On North Korea, the most pressing issue, the two sides are poles apart. Mr. Trump says correctly that China could use its economic leverage to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs but has failed to do so. Beijing believes the U.S. forced Pyongyang to build nuclear weapons by threatening its existence. The Chinese view is that Washington can and should resolve the standoff by making the Kim regime feel more secure.
Mr. Trump is trying to overcome Beijing’s reluctance to help by suggesting that if it refuses the U.S. will solve the problem itself—a hint of potential military force. The U.S. will also continue to improve Japanese and South Korean missile defenses and other capabilities, which infuriates Beijing. Mr. Trump is justified in impressing on Mr. Xi that the American people can’t accept the North deploying a nuclear missile capable of hitting San Francisco.
It’s hard to predict how China will react to this pressure. It could recognize that the risk of war between two nuclear powers in its neighborhood is too dangerous and try to install a more pliable regime in Pyongyang. But even in that case Mr. Xi would avoid the appearance of acting under U.S. duress. He is more likely to push back hard and accuse the U.S. of destabilizing the Korean Peninsula.
On the South China Sea, Trump officials have made hawkish statements about rolling back China’s base-building, yet the U.S. Navy is still having trouble getting approval from the Pentagon to conduct freedom of navigation patrols. Mr. Trump needs to decide on his red lines, communicate them to Mr. Xi and stick to them.
On trade there is greater room for compromise, although an immediate breakthrough is unlikely. Mr. Trump brandished big sticks in the campaign by promising to declare China a currency manipulator and impose punitive tariffs. But this would hurt the U.S. as much as China. U.S. officials now concede that a better approach is to target areas where China fails to grant Americans the market access that Chinese enjoy in the U.S.
So if China declares internet industries off-limits to foreign investors, Chinese companies will be blocked from buying similar American firms. If Tesla is hit with high tariffs on its U.S.-made cars, then Chinese cars will face higher duties in the U.S. Exports from firms that receive state assistance under the “Made in China 2025” industrial-policy plan could be blocked or subject to countervailing duties.
That won’t change the bilateral trade balance much, and tit for tat exchanges have a way of escalating. But such a policy would address the reality that after benefitting from access to Western markets, China in the past decade began to harass or close its door to foreign companies. The recent report by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China is a non-American summary of this systematic bias. The Chinese should recognize that America’s political tolerance for such mercantilist behavior is waning, and the resonance of Mr. Trump’s protectionist campaign is a warning.
The Obama Administration often rewarded China’s poor behavior, or protested rhetorically without taking credible action. Meanwhile, allies like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were given too little attention. Mr. Trump has begun to rectify this mistake, for instance, by inviting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as his first foreign guest at Mar-a-Lago.
The U.S. goal this week should be to show Mr. Xi that the new Administration will be hard-nosed but constructive. If Mr. Trump masters his briefing books, he could lay the foundation for future deals. But nobody, least of all Mr. Trump, should expect the Chinese to agree to new bilateral terms at the first meeting. The Chinese are impressed by firmness and consistency, not rhetoric.

BREAKING: Stunning New Report Shows Obama May Have Also Spied On Fox News Star Anchor

 Sean Hannity, considered to be “the second-most-listened-to talk show host in America”, may have more listeners than he thought.
As reports:
Tuesday on his nationally syndicated radio program, conservative talker and Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity responded to reports that he may have also been spied on by the Obama administration.
Hannity said he would not be shocked if the reports were true, but claimed to have “no knowledge” of it.
Johnson says:
I have been told that when Susan Rice says that they were not surveilling the transition members – I don’t know if that part’s true.
But I can tell you 100% they were surveilling people who were on this sort of unofficial transition.
So these were people who were helping out on the side. People like [Blackwater founder] Erik Prince. People like Sean Hannity.
These were folks having their phones monitored. Their phones were drained of power.
I can tell you 100% Sean Hannity was surveilled and had to change all of his material, change all of his situation on his phone.
City governments vow to protect even violent predators in defiance of Trump administration.

By: Joseph Klein 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned on Monday that sanctuary jurisdictions risked losing federal grants if they persisted in obstructing the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Billions of dollars in federal law enforcement funding are at stake. "I urge the nation’s states and cities to carefully consider the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws," Attorney General Sessions said. "Countless Americans would be alive today and countless loved ones would not be grieving today if these policies of sanctuary cities were ended." 

Instead of heeding the Attorney General’s sound advice and taking care of their own citizens, city officials around the country are planning to sabotage federal law enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. 

“We are going to become this administration's worst nightmare,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. On the same day that Attorney General Sessions issued his warning, she hosted a meeting with like-minded officials from other sanctuary cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, and Philadelphia, who prioritize the welfare of illegal immigrants over their own citizens. Ms. Mark-Viverito and her comrades threatened to block access by federal immigration authorities to city property and to city records that could help with the enforcement of the nation's immigration laws. They are acting in the spirit of Alabama’s late Governor George Wallace, who stood in the schoolhouse door to defy federal enforcement of desegregation. 

“The Trump Administration is pushing an unrealistic and mean spirited executive order,” tweeted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Spare us the tears, Mr. Mayor. We are not talking about innocent children caught up in vindictive mass deportation sweeps. Rather, President Trump’s so-called “mean-spirited executive order” is intended to rid this country of fiends like Estivan Rafael Marques Velasquez, a gang member from El Salvador with a criminal record, who was released from Rikers Island this year onto the streets of New York before U.S. officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit could pick him up for deportation proceedings. And there is Luis Alejandro Villegas, 31, who was released from local custody on Dec. 31, 2016, despite a detainer request from ICE. Villegas had previously been removed from the United States and has a prior conviction for forcible theft armed with a deadly weapon. 

"Villegas is a criminal alien who was released back into our New York communities, posing an increased and unnecessary risk to those who live in this great city,” said Thomas R. Decker, field office director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in New York. 

Fortunately, ICE agents were able to catch up with both Velasquez and Villegas on their own and place them into federal custody. If de Blasio has his way, we may not be so lucky next time. In the New York City suburb of Hempstead, two women and a 2-year old girl ran out of luck. A MS-13 street gang member, who had been deported back to El Salvador from the U.S. four times and had a number of prior arrests, stabbed the women and sexually assaulted the little girl. 

Hempstead is in Nassau County, which is a sanctuary jurisdiction. Hempstead’s Mayor Wayne J. Hall, Sr. said last February, "President Trump's recent executive orders go against the moral fiber with which our great nation was built, and I wholeheartedly support New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and countless other Mayors throughout the United States in denouncing these acts. I, Mayor DeBlasio and leaders from many other communities throughout the country will work together to oppose these executive orders and protect the rights of all people." Good going, Mayor Hall. Now you can explain your opposition to rounding up and deporting illegal aliens with prior criminal records to the illegal aliens' victims in your town, whom you should have been more worried about. 

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is presiding over a city beset by rampant crime, reiterated his pledge that Chicago will “continue to welcome” immigrants. “Chicago was built on the back of immigrants and our future is hitched to the wagon of immigrants who come to the city,” he added. Do these include the 45 out of 48 illegal immigrants picked up in a raid last month in the Chicago area who had previously been convicted of crimes, including criminal sexual assault? Twenty of the illegal aliens had returned to the country after have been already deported. In refusing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officials, Mayor Emanuel is hitching Chicago’s future in part to criminal illegal aliens who remain free to prey on Chicago’s citizens. 

Challenging the Trump administration’s intention to put an end to sanctuary cities, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that his city’s policies are “designed to keep our residents safe.” Tell that to the surviving family and friends of the Californian woman killed in a car crash caused by a drunk illegal alien with a long rap sheet, who had been deported previously. Perhaps Mayor Garcetti would do well to listen to the victim’s fiancĂ©, who blamed politicians like himself for the “criminal illegal immigrants that are being harbored here.” Then again, Garcetti, Emanuel, de Blasio and the rest of the sanctuary city crowd are intent on placing their own pro-illegal alien progressive agenda above the safety and welfare of the people they are supposed to serve and protect. 

In Travis County, Texas, Sheriff Sally Hernandez, known as “Sanctuary Sally,” has adopted sanctuary policies for the county in defiance of both federal and Texas state law enforcement. “We can’t have state and elected officials in the state like Sanctuary Sally [Hernandez] down here in Travis County turn a blind eye to releasing illegals that have felony convictions and then wonder what’s going to happen when they get back into general population,” said Texas District 7 Senator Paul Bettencourt. But it may be too late. According to a report issued by ICE on March 20, identifying those sanctuary jurisdictions which released criminal aliens under an immigration detainer, Sanctuary Sally’s county scored the number 1 position. It’s only a matter of time when a released illegal immigrant with felony convictions commits another crime. 

Illegal immigrants in the United States make up approximately 3.5% of the nation’s entire population. According to data compiled from the U.S. Sentencing Commission for fiscal year 2015, illegal immigrants were responsible for 30.2 percent of convictions for kidnapping/hostage taking, 17.8 percent of convictions for drug trafficking, 11.6 percent of convictions for fraud, 10.4 percent of convictions for money laundering, 6.1 percent of convictions for assault, and 5.5 percent of convictions for murder. So much for the myth spread by the pro-illegal immigrant crowd that illegal immigrants commit serious crimes at a much lower rate than U.S.-born citizens. 

Harboring or shielding from detection any alien who “remains in the United States in violation of law” is itself a violation of federal law. It also has real life consequences for the victims of the crimes committed by illegal aliens who are being shielded in sanctuary jurisdictions. Local and state officials who willfully help illegal immigrants evade detention for possible deportation should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam.
5)A Trip to Cuba
Those of you who have been talking about going to Cuba may find this interesting!

A 77 year old guy goes to Europe, Canada, Mexico and now Cuba for bicycle road trips. I thought you might enjoy reading of this gentleman’s bicycle trip to Cuba:

On February 1st I flew to Atlanta, met some friends and we flew to Cancun, Mexico.   We spent 4 days there, mostly touring the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza and getting ready for the next part of the adventure. Seven more people flew in and we all boarded a Mexican airline, Interjet, and flew to Havana for a week of bicycle riding in Cuba.

Cuba, where nothing works, including the people; unemployment is 48% and of those who do work, 8 out of every 10 work for the government. Before heading to the western part of the island, we spent a night in Havana at the Riviera Classic, the finest hotel at the time. 20 stories with 3 elevators, but only one worked. Contrary to what I found in the rest of the country, my shower only had hot water. Turn the knobs all you want, but you only got hot, scalding water.

The stories about the old cars are quite true, but many of those cars are used to take tourists on tours of the city. $30.00 gets you 2 hours in 1952 Cadillac convertible and you can pile in as many people in as you want. Old Chevys seem to be the most popular and a few are quite nicely restored. They all fell in the 1941 to 1957 range. I saw nothing newer than a 57. By restored, I mean they look good on the outside, but as our Cuban tour guide said, there would not be a V8 under the hood. The original had failed decades ago and with no parts to fix it, other means had to be found. Generally that involved putting a 4 cylinder Russian made diesel in and making the necessary changes to get it to fit and mate up with an unknown transmission.

Outside Havana, the country is still in the 19th century. Many people walk, but equally as many use horses, both to ride and pull carts. I saw wagons pulled by oxen on the highway. We traveled by motor coach, stayed in crude motels, and ate in restaurants; all owned by the government. Staying clean was a challenge.   In the public restrooms washing your hands was interesting. You need three things to wash your hands; water, soap, towel to dry. Well the towel was your shirt or pants, because there never were any towels. In 1/3 of the toilets there was no water and in one case, there was a lady standing beside the sink with a bottle of water to pour over your hands. In an equal number of places, there was no soap.

If you thought not having soap and water in the rest room was a problem, imagine not having a toilet SEAT. Yep, no toilet seat and it wasn’t just confined to public facilities. One of the rooms we stayed in had no toilet seat, which was matched by the fact there was not toilet paper. In its place, somebody had carefully torn individual sheets of toilet paper from a roll and placed them on the back of the toilet.

Free health care and education is one of the things Castro brought with his revolution. The health care is generally limited to the bigger cities. Our guide told us that a taxi driver in Havana earned more in tips each day than a medical doctor earned in salary in one month. Oh, and the doctor can be arrested and jailed if he attempts to treat people on the side for extra money. Education is free, but the reality is that most people cannot afford to stay in school. Our tour guide was the exception. He completed college and got a Master’s degree in computer technology, but can’t find a job in that field, so he conducts tours.

We visited a tobacco farm, where we had the opportunity to purchase genuine Cuba cigars for $3.25. The farm had been in this man’s family for 3 generations, but only recently had actual title been put back in his name. The government claimed it after the revolution. After harvest, the government takes 90% of the tobacco, leaving the farmer with just 10% for his “own personal use”. He chose to demonstrate how to hand roll a cigar, then sell it to tourists. I asked our guide if all farmers lost 90% of their crop to the government. His reply, “Oh no, vegetable farmers only give up 60% of their crop”.

The roads looked like they had been carpet bombed with huge pot holes everywhere. Add that to the very steep hills we encountered and it made for slow biking. While I am no speed demon, one day I averaged just 4.5 MPH as I attempted to find bits of pavement between the holes in the road. In many cases, there was no road, just dirt and when the trucks went past, we were engulfed in a storm of dust and exhaust fumes. A few of the trucks were left over Russian military vehicles. Personal transportation in the rural area was provided by stake bodied trucks. People would stand by the side of the road and climb aboard when such a truck came by. The fare was around 8 cents and you stood packed in the bed of the truck with several dozen other people.

Those on welfare receive $25 a month, plus a ration of beans, rice, and cooking oil. The money came from the Cuban government, but the Russians provided the food. Each month a supply cargo ship docks with beans, rice, and cooking oil sent by the Russians. Speaking of them, the Cuban version of the Missile Crisis is quite different from what we heard in the US.

Glad I went, but have no desire to return. Cuba makes our inner cities look like paradise and the poverty is staggering. After two weeks abroad, we flew home and I spent the night in a Hampton Inn at the Atlanta airport, before catching an early morning flight back to Seattle; took the longest hot water shower ever after having a cheeseburger, fries and two gin & tonics for dinner. I was really glad to be back

Knoxville, Tenn., could be the first city in the U.S. where Obamacare completely collapses, leaving tens of thousands of people without the option to buy a subsidized insurance policy.

Knoxville, Tenn., could be the first city in the U.S. where Obamacare completely collapses, leaving tens of thousands of people without the option to buy a subsidized insurance policy.
Humana, the city’s only remaining insurance provider on its Obamacare exchange, announced it is exiting the market in 2018. If that happens, Knoxville citizens will be in a rough spot. Unless another insurance provider fills Humana’s place, some 40,000 people in the Knoxville area will likely be left without the option to purchase an Obamacare-subsidized insurance policy, CNN reports.
Knoxville is illustrative of one of the main problems with Obamacare: It doesn’t promote market-based competition. Insurers pull out of marketplaces where it is not cost-efficient for them to provide services, and, as a result, consumers are left with fewer options at higher prices. 
Tennessee is one of the largest casualties of the current health care system. Three insurers have pulled out of the state entirely, the state’s co-op failed and premiums continue to skyrocket annually by double-digits. Tennessee’s health commissioner has all but given up, describing the state’s health care system as “very near collapse.”
 As it stands, insurance providers have until July 1 to let state authorities know what plans they will provide, if any, on the exchanges in 2018. State officials expect a formal announcement from providers within two months.

Knoxville citizens would still have the option of purchasing insurance on the private marketplace. Without the Obamacare subsidy to purchase insurance, it is unclear how many consumers would choose to participate in the private insurance market.
To help struggling consumers in their state, Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee put forth legislation that would allow consumers to use Obamacare subsidies to purchase any state-approved insurance plan on the private marketplace. If the bill passes, it would remain in effect through 2019.

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