theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director

Sunday, December 31, 2017

US Closer Than Ever to 'NUCLEAR WAR with NKorea,' Mullen Says

Image result for US closer than ever to 'nuclear war with North Korea,' Mullen says

Joseph Weber

Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen on Sunday gave a dire predication about U.S.-North Korea relations, suggesting the countries are closer than ever to a nuclear war with no diplomatic solution.
“We're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we've ever been,” Mullen, a retired Navy admiral, told ABC News' “This Week.” “I don't see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point.”
Relations between the countries certainly have gotten worse -- even threatening -- in recent months, analysts have pointed out, as President Trump and world leaders call for North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un to end his pursuit and testing of a nuclear warhead and inter-continental missiles on which to launch the weapon.
The United Nations Security Council recently imposed more economic sanctions on the rogue nation to curtail such testing. And the Trump administration has sought help from neighboring China, Japan and South Korea to reach a diplomatic solution.
Dictator seen on video attending government conference; Greg Palkot reports from London.
But Trump has also confronted Kim with the threat of U.S. military action and has taken personal jabs, even calling Kim “Little Rocket Man.”
In September, Trump, in his first U.N. speech, vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if it continues to threaten the U.S. and its allies with its actions.  
A few weeks later Trump tweeted: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man...”
Kim has in turn called Trump “old” and a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” 
Pyongyang called the recent U.N. vote “act of war.” 
Mullen also suggested Sunday that Trump has created an “incredibly dangerous (international) climate” with North Korea at the “top of the list.”

Happy New Year 2018!

May Your New Year be Filled with Life, Laughter and Prosperity.
Leonid Afremov's Fusion of Color.

theodore miraldi.

Looks Like a Happy New Year for the FORCES of FREEDOM

Image result for FREEDOM

Clarice Feldman

As I leave D.C. for a weekend in frosty New York City, thousands of people are taking to the streets of Iran to protest the corruption and mismanagement of the ruling mullahs.

The White House is not following the last president's "bearing witness" to the pleas of the oppressed. It has, instead, issued through the Department of State a release strongly supporting the protesters and asking "all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption."

I have to believe that the protesters are heartened by President Trump's new view of the Middle East and our role in it and the change of rulers and outlook in Saudi Arabia. While the prior U.S. administration sent pallets of cash to their oppressors, this president has stood firm. And where once they might have feared Saudi intentions on their homeland, I think they see a new Saudi Arabia – desirous of bringing the region into the modern world, stamping out corruption and terrorism, and encouraging capital formation and investment as the collapse in oil revenue ends the days of easy living. Lavish living based on little more than exploitation of oil, which the rise in U.S. production based on new energy policies makes the old Saudi way certain of diminishing returns.

Here, the special counsel and speculation about his operations continue. For an up-to-date review of the publicly available information about Robert Mueller's work, see Conservative Treehouse's long, detailed account this week.

As the role of the wives and mistresses of the key players becomes more obvious in the production, dissemination, and use (certainly to get a FISA warrant to spy on Trump and his associates) reveals, a subheading could well be "The Merry Wives of Dossier." As a reminder, the FBI has stated it was unable to find – despite over a year of searching – any evidence to support the dossier, an unverified political opposition research paper, contrived by Christopher Steele and paid for by Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and probably the lawyers hired by Obama and even the FBI itself.

In the meantime, no reporter seems to have bothered to check whether the wife of Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the FBI, who received a $700,000 campaign contribution for a state senatorial election (which she lost) from Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe, used all that money in her campaign. As I understand it, campaign contributions not used by a candidate in Virginia may be kept by the candidate. McCabe reportedly will retire in mid-March, when his pension kicks in.

The FBI general counsel has been reassigned, along with FBI agent Peter Strzok, an anti-Trump operative in the agency who actively sought to acquire and pay for the dossier. In mid-January, the Department of Justice's inspector general is expected to issue the first tranche of his two-part report on his investigation.

Here is the key charge to his office overlapping the work of the special counsel:

Review of Allegations Regarding Various Actions by the Department of Justice and the FBI in Advance of the 2016 Election

The OIG, in response to Congressional and other requests, is reviewing allegations regarding various actions by the Department and the FBI in advance of the 2016 election. The review will examine whether the Department and the FBI followed policies or procedures in connection with, or in actions leading up to or related to, the FBI Director's public announcement on July 5, 2016, and the Director's letters to Congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016, and whether certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations. The review also will examine allegations that the FBI Deputy Director should have been recused from participating in certain investigative matters, that the Department's Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs improperly disclosed non-public information and/or should have been recused from participating in certain matters, that other Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information, and that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI's release of certain Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize this release, were influenced by improper considerations. The review will not substitute the OIG's judgment for the judgments made by the FBI or the Department regarding the substantive merits of investigative or prosecutive decisions. If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.

My online friend "Rattler Gator" expects that the key figures described in the summary at Conservative Treehouse will all be tagged with wrongdoing and explains why:

[I]t doesn't really matter if Mueller is directly working for Trump. Either way, he's essentially working for Trump. So are Peter Strzok & Lisa Page (because of powers and capabilities available to [NSA head] Admiral Rogers; this means… they don't need to remember – it has been digitized for them).

A reminder: Peter Strzok led the charge to acquire and pay for the Steele dossier. James Baker, Sally Yates, Bill Preistap & Strzok used the dossier in their illegal spying on Trump, their coup attempt, and their targeting of General Flynn. Remember, also, the OIG investigation – encompassing a VERY BROAD review of allegations – dates back to January 12, 2017 and includes the following:

[1] Review of allegations that Department or FBI policies or procedures were not followed in connection with, or in actions leading up to or related to, the FBI Director's public announcement on July 5, 2016 – implicating Comey, Lynch, Bill Clinton, McCabe, among others, involved in the fraudulent clearance of Hillary Clinton by Comey's FBI in July, as well as the crazy shut down / cover up of the Huma Abedin email investigation

[2] Review of Comey's letters to Congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016, and that certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations

– implicating Comey, Lynch, Bill Clinton, McCabe, among others, involved in the fraudulent clearance of Hillary Clinton by Comey's FBI in July, as well as the crazy shut down / cover up of the Human Abedin email investigation

[3] Review of allegations that Comey should have been recused from participating in certain investigative matters

– implicating Comey and Andrew McCabe

[4] Review of allegations that the Department's Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs improperly disclosed non-public information to the Clinton campaign and/or should have been recused from participating in certain matters

– implicating Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Peter Kadzik's role investigating & working with Comey / McCabe to shut down the Huma Abedin investigation along with Kadzik's collusion with the Clinton Foundation and John Podesta, etc.

[5] Review of allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information
– implicating the plethora of organized leakers along with the strategy employed by the Trump Administration (the leaks are real, the news is fake) to deal with these criminal violations ... and who solicited said leaks.

[6] Review of allegations that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI's release of certain FOIA documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize same, were influenced by improper considerations

– this appears to implicate both Bill and Hillary Clinton but info was also released on Donald Trump's father; however, the bulk of these records come from a 2001 FBI investigation into the pardon of Marc Rich (1934-2013), aka Marcell David Reich, by President Clinton in 2001; this specifically implicates Bill Clinton, Eric Holder, and Clinton's then Chief of Staff John Podesta[.] ...

Here's the last sentence from that January announcement: Finally, if circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review. ...

So… EVERYTHING is in play, including the revolving door between Google, the law firm of Perkins Coie, CrowdStrike, Fusion GPS, the Clintons, Soros and many other players.

Rattler Gator reminds us: "Admiral Rogers has access to most everything incriminating; he has shared that with the OIG, who will now share with Congress; Sessions and the Department of Justice will prosecute from there. General Flynn placed an Army of spooks into the system during his very-planned-to-be-brief tenure as National Security Adviser. They have identified, documented and flushed most of the leakers; others have been left in place to aid continuing investigations. Flynn was the honeypot drawing out the bad actors while the Trump Administration, via Admiral Rogers, was able to identify, track and investigate them."

I would like to believe this is true, and even if only a great deal of it is, I'd be satisfied that our move toward a banana republic has been scotched, but I'm not sure I'm that optimistic. In any event, the inspector general can only lay out his findings, and then Congress and the attorney general will have to carry through to prosecute wrongdoing.

Many have been suspicious of Mueller. His staffing and his public silence – along with the recent memory of the Ted Stevens and Lewis Libby political warfare – fuel these suspicions. On the other hand, F.H. Buckley, whose judgment I value, offers up a more sympathetic view of Mueller and thinks he will wind down this operation well before November.

All of this is under investigation by Congress and the Justice Department's inspector general, and a year later, we seem to be left with two possibilities: Either the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, or the Democrats had connived (and perhaps colluded) with the Russians and used all the tools at the Obama administration's command to spy on a Republican challenger in the midst of a presidential campaign – and thus far, we've seen no evidence of Republican collusion.

Mueller now starts to look less like a flint-eyed Inspector Javert and more like a bumbling Inspector Clouseau, shining his flashlight into empty caverns when the real skullduggery lies in the sunlight behind him.

He's no fool, however. He has to know this. And he'll also know that the 2018 midterms look like a match-up between jobs and 3 percent GDP growth for the Republicans versus impeachment for the Democrats. And what's the evidence to justify an impeachment? Just the ongoing Mueller investigation.

The special prosecutor is supposed to keep politics out of his mission, but it's too late to do so when the investigation will be the chief campaign issue for one of the parties.

Were Mueller a liberal partisan, that's just what he'd want. Except I don't think he's a partisan. I think he's honorable. That's why the White House is confident that he'll wrap up the investigation shortly, well before next November.

Well, we'll see soon enough which view proves correct. In the meantime, asScott Adams notes, the president has demolished the GOP and reconstituted it; the DNC lacks a leader and funds; the Clinton and Bush dynasties are over; the public has learned to distrust the media; the NFL ratings are down; the FBI leadership has lost all credibility, as have the pundits, nearly all of whom "were wrong about Trump's nomination, election, and successful (by Republican standards) first year"; federal government regulations are far fewer; Hollywood has alienated almost half its audience; North Korea's economy has gone from pathetic to even worse; ISIS has been largely defeated; and we bade adieu to the Paris Accord and the TPP.

As for the economy, the stock market is up, employment is up, and the upper Midwest economy is growing its fastest in three years.

I don't think any president in my memory has had such a consequential first year, and certainly none had the pathetic dossier and corrupt FBI and DOJ officials to contend with at the same time.

Of course, not everyone's happy. Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald announced he is selling all of his stocks in his children's education accounts in anticipation of the stock market tanking.


In preparation for a completely unpredictable Trump presidency, I sold all stocks in my kids' education accounts today. I urge u to do same.

1:46 PM - Sep 26, 2016

He missed out on the Dow's longest winning streak in 60 years and the S&P's in more than 34 years.

Happy new year to you and your families.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Iran HARD-LINERS Rally as New Protests CHALLENGE Government

Iranian protesters chant slogans at a rally in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. Iranian hard-liners rallied Saturday to support the country's supreme leader and clerically overseen government as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country's ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Photo by: Ebrahim Noroozi
Iranian protesters chant slogans at a rally in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. Iranian hard-liners rallied Saturday to support the country's supreme leader and clerically overseen government as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country's ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic. 

Amir Vahdat and Jon Gambrell

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian hard-liners rallied Saturday to support the country’s supreme leader and clerically overseen government as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country’s ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic.
The demonstrations, commemorating a mass 2009 pro-government rally challenging those who rejected the re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid fraud allegations, had been scheduled weeks earlier.
However, they took on new importance after the economic protests began Thursday, sparked by social media posts and a surge in prices of basic food supplies, like eggs and poultry.
Thousands have taken to the streets of several cities in Iran, beginning first in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city and a holy site for Shiite pilgrims. Demonstrators also have criticized Iran’s government during the protests, with social media videos showing clashes between protesters and police.
The semi-official Fars news agency said protests on Friday also struck Qom, a city that is the world’s foremost center for Shiite Islamic scholarship and home to a major Shiite shrine.
The demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since its 2009 Green Movement arose after Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
However, information about them remains scarce as both state-run and semi-official media in Iran have not widely reported on the protests. An online report Saturday by Iranian state television said national media in the country hadn’t reported on the protests on orders from security officials.
State TV also aired its first reports on the protests Saturday, acknowledging some protesters chanted the name of Iran’s one-time shah, who fled into exile just before its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“Counterrevolution groups and foreign media are continuing their organized efforts to misuse the people’s economic and livelihood problems and their legitimate demands to provide an opportunity for unlawful gatherings and possibly chaos,” state TV said.
State TV aired live Saturday’s pro-government “9 Dey Epic” demonstrations, named for the date on the Iranian calendar the 2009 protests took place. The footage showed people waving flags and carrying banners bearing the image of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Tehran, some 4,000 people gathered at the Musalla prayer ground in central Tehran. They called for criminal trials for Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, leaders in the Green Movement who have been under house arrest since 2011. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose administration struck the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, campaigned on freeing the men, though they remain held.
Mohsen Araki, a Shiite cleric who serves in Iran’s Assembly of Experts, praised Rouhani’s efforts at improving the economy. However, he said Rouhani needed to do more to challenge “enemy pressures.”
“We must go back to the pre-nuclear deal situation,” Araki said. “The enemy has not kept with its commitments.”
Ali Ahmadi, a pro-government demonstrator, blamed the U.S for all of Iran’s economic problems.
“They always say that we are supporting Iranian people, but who should pay the costs?” Ahmadi asked.
But by Saturday afternoon, hundreds of students and others joined a new economic protest at Tehran University. Witnesses said they saw a mass of riot police at the gates of the university while some roads had been blocked off.
Iran’s economy has improved since the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the end of some of the international sanctions that crippled its economy. Tehran now sells its oil on the global market and has signed deals for tens of billions of dollars of Western aircraft.
That improvement has not reached the average Iranian, however. Unemployment remains high. Official inflation has crept up to 10 percent again. A recent increase in egg and poultry prices by as much as 40 percent, which a government spokesman has blamed on a cull over avian flu fears, appears to have been the spark for the protests.
While police have arrested some protesters, the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard and its affiliates have not intervened as they have in other unauthorized demonstrations since the 2009 election. The economic protests initially just put pressure on Rouhani’s administration, but purported footage from recent demonstrations included anti-government chants.
Early on Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted out his support for the protests.
“Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad,” he wrote. “Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! (hashtag) IranProtests.”
It’s unclear what effect Trump’s support would have. Iranians already are largely skeptical of him over his refusal to re-certify the nuclear deal. Trump’s insistence in an October speech on using the term “Arabian Gulf” in place of the Persian Gulf also has also riled the Iranian public.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments in June to Congress saying American is working toward “support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government” has been used by Iran’s government of a sign of foreign interference in its internal politics.
The State Department issued a statement Friday supporting the protests, referencing Tillerson’s earlier comments.
Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos,” the statement said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the comments.
“The noble Iranian nation never pays heed to the opportunist and hypocritical mottos chanted by the U.S. officials and their interfering allegations on domestic developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying.

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A YEAR Later, an Investigation in SEARCH of a Crime

A year later, an investigation in search of a crime


In all of the end-of-year reviews, the most surprising (and most disappointing) realization for many is what’s missing from the list: the charging of Donald Trump. 
Indeed, much like Mark Twain, President Trump could claim reports of his impending indictment have been much exaggerated. Even before he took the oath of office, commentators predicted indictment or impeachment as the inevitable end for the 45th president. While 2018 (and special counsel Robert Mueller) could still bring new evidence or allegations, a review of the “clear” crimes articulated over the year have produced little in terms of actual charges. 
The year began poorly. with a mantra on networks like CNN and MSNBC that Trump and his family were guilty of the crime of “collusion.” While a few of us repeatedly noted that there is no crime of collusion with the Russians, the media continued for months to hype the notion that receiving information from Russian sources was a crime. It was not until September that these commentators and hosts began, begrudgingly, to agree that there was no such crime. 
Indeed, some liberal outlets by the end of the year acknowledged that it is unlikely that collusion would be the basis for any criminal charge, as opposed to a political embarrassment. What is clear is that the Trump campaign was perfectly willing to accept dirt on Hillary Clinton when Donald Trump Jr.Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower. Taking that meeting was remarkably naïve and reckless, but it was not criminal. 
Election violations 
When challenged on the absence of an actual criminal code provision barring “collusion,” many commentators shifted to a novel theory that receiving information would violate the Federal Election Campaign Act as a “thing of value” from a foreign national in connection with a federal election.  
Nick Akerman, a former Watergate assistant special prosecutor, declared: “It’s illegal campaign contributions. It would be conspiring to commit campaign violations.” MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler declared that the meeting in Trump Tower “is the smoking gun of evidence” of the crime of “soliciting a campaign contribution from a foreign national like a Russian government operative.” 
The problem is, no court has ever adopted such a broad definition and, if it did, it would raise serious constitutional problems in criminalizing interactions with foreign academics, public interest groups, nongovernment organizations and journalists supplying information to a campaign. 

The election-fraud angle has notably subsided recently with revelations that, after long denying any connection to the Russian dossier containing allegations against Trump, the Clinton campaign was forced to admit that it (and the Democratic National Committee) financed the effort by a former British spy to compile that dossier; its information came from foreign entities, reportedly including Russian government sources. 
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) electrified his base by saying Trump might be charged with treason or impeached for such a crime — even though such a charge is rarely raised without the precursor of a declaration of war. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) cited his background “as a former prosecutor” to declare that “these emails are a textbook example and evidence of criminal intent” and "potentially" constitute “treason.”  
Likewise, Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, has said Trump met “the dictionary definition” of treason. Likewise, former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman declared the emails to be “almost a smoking cannon” and added that “there’s almost no question this is treason.” Treason charges have since receded to the most biased blogs where the line between fact and fantasy is comfortably irrelevant.
With more defined charges falling to the wayside, some reached for the darling of prosecutors: conspiracy. Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin has declared the Trump Jr. emails to be “a shocking admission of a criminal conspiracy.” MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler identified the crime as “conspiring with the U.S.’s sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy” and “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime.” 
Again, this conspiracy theory is based on the simple disclosure that Trump Jr. wanted to see evidence of alleged crimes committed by Hillary Clinton in the campaign from the Russian lawyer. 
Alternatively, some have suggested charging Trump with a conspiracy to hack a computer system if the Trump people knew that the Russians were actively hacking into Clinton or DNC computers. Of course, after spending millions of dollars and more than a year of investigation, charging a conspiracy to hack a computer would be like mounting a guppy in your trophy room. More important, after a year of multiple investigations (and endless leaks), there is no evidence of any coordination or direction to hack a computer system.
The most serious allegation in this investigation was possible obstruction by Trump in firing FBI director James Comey. As I have previously discussed, I supported the appointment of a special counsel in light of the firing and the need for an independent investigation into the troubling claims made by Comey. However, I stated (and remain convinced, as 2017 ends) that the available evidence falls well short of a strong case of criminal obstruction. 
Nevertheless, former Watergate prosecutor Akerman declared in June (based solely on the evidence of the firing and Comey's statements): “Our president is guilty of obstruction of justice for endeavoring to obstruct an FBI investigation.” 
While I do not agree with those claiming that a president is immune from an obstruction charge in using his constitutional authority to fire a director, such a charge requires evidence of an intent to obstruct a grand jury or other pending proceeding. FBI investigations are not generally considered a pending proceeding. Again, this claim would allow the government to broaden the element of trying to “corruptly” influence to an extent never reached in any prior case. Trump had ample reason to fire Comey separate from the investigation, and Comey said Trump agreed that the Russian investigation should be allowed to reach an independent conclusion.
Despite this record, many continue to add new criminal acts to this pile. Just last week, Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor, told MSNBC that Trump’s recent tweets criticizing the FBI and the investigation constitute new evidence of crimes. According to Wine-Banks, a president declaring his innocence, or denouncing charges as politically motivated, constitute “obstruction of justice, witness intimidation — and it’s obstructing justice.” She insisted that Trump was really “saying to agents, ‘You better not dig too deep, you better not find anything, because I will attack you.’ 
Of course, there were no calls for criminal charges when the Clintons were denouncing a “vast right-wing conspiracy” or supported a campaign to discredit Independent Counsel Ken Starr. More importantly, such a charge would not only leave obstruction as virtually limitless in its definition but would contravene a host of constitutional principles.
Looking objectively at the year, the Trump team has lost little ground in any criminal defense. There have been four indictments or pleas. Paul Manafort and his deputy, Richard Gates, were indicted on 12 counts in what is called a “speaking indictment” — an indictment that discussed a variety of suspicious actions not actually charged. Those allegations could later be the subject of a superseding indictment but, conspicuously, did not include any reference to collusion or obstruction claims tied to Trump or his campaign. The guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, did tangentially touch on the campaign in discussing Russian contacts; however, the crime was false statements made to the FBI, not the crimes proclaimed to be clear and established throughout the year.
The plea of Michael Flynn also dealt with his false statements, not any crime committed by Trump. Of course, we are all waiting to see what Flynn offered to secure a relatively good deal from Mueller. However, the narrative filed with the court again omitted any nexus to the long-discussed crimes involving Trump. These are not the crimes that motivated the opening of the various federal and congressional investigations. 
In other words, 2018 is starting not far from where 2017 began: an investigation in search of a crime. 
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

America on the Cusp of a GOLDEN AGE

From energy to neurotechnology, America is moving forward

Unknown Artist

Peter Morici

Americans are on the cusp of a golden age. After two decades of substandard growth, many of the constraints that held back progress are receding.
In 2012, oil traded for $112 a barrel — now it’s in the $50s. America is a major producer again, and abundant natural gas and breakthroughs in wind and solar power promise to keep energy inexpensive.
China has mapped ambitious plans to replace the internal combustion engine but it won’t take a socialist edict to bring electric cars here. Free-market economics will require that those replace gasoline-powered vehicles in personal transportation and many commercial uses. That will profoundly reduce U.S. petroleum use and carbon footprint and make America a major net energy exporter.
Capital to improve and start businesses is significantly less expensive than before the financial crisis. America’s private sector — more defined by technology giants like Google and Apple and innovations in digital innovation — requires fewer funds to create more new and better products than it did during the industrial age.
Google was started with only $25 million and was worth $23 billion 5 years later. Henry Ford needed far more money and time to launch the Model T.
That’s why large corporations have more profits than they can reinvest, the Federal Reserve predicts that interest rates will not again rise to pre-financial crisis levels and most importantly, anyone with a good idea can raise the funds needed to launch a Twitter or an Airbnb.
Finally, the high cost of labor, which has been a major impediment to U.S.-based production, is about to become irrelevant as robotics and artificial intelligence automate so much of what we do.
Labor saving innovations inevitably spark new growth and employment opportunities but the challenge remains to train many more young people and displaced workers for more highly-skilled positions. Progress in medicine and neurotechnology offers a glimpse of radically improved human capability for more genuinely creative work and multitasking.
Over the last 200 years, medicine has gone from trial and error identification of roots and herbs to cope with ailments to more scientific enquiry to develop vaccines, antibiotics and reconstructive devices to mapping and leveraging the genetic codes to create treatments.
Recently, Novartis AG received approval from the FDA for a first of its kind procedure to alter the DNA of a patient’s white blood cells to combat an aggressive form of leukemia. Essentially, having mapped the genetic instructions embedded in the human machine, we are now recoding its software.
Neurotechnology connects the human brain to mechanical devices. Until now, its practical applications have focused on compensating for nerve damage — implanting devices that permit patients with severed spinal cords to use their legs — and on correcting brain disorders — treating epilepsy by repairing defects in the electronic signals the brain sends to the rest of the body.
Now it is branching into a formal union of computers and the brain to improve cognitive performance and enhance the thinking power of the human mind — put more plainly, altering the species by adding new accessories.
DARPA and Facebook are working on a brain interface that would eliminate the need for keyboards or speaking through digital assistants to instruct our laptops and smartphones. This would permit humans, simply by thinking, to access the resources of the internet in real time and delegate complex tasks to artificial intelligence programs—the brain will go from violinist to conductor of a full scale orchestra.  
DARPA is working on a neural interface much larger than used, for example, to treat epilepsy and similar disorders that would transform the brain into a programmable and improvable machine. Teaching new skills could become something akin to the scene in “The Matrix” where a character learns kung fu from a download.
The potential to open doors for ordinary and disadvantaged citizens to sophisticated and creative pursuits in finance, medicine, law, engineering, the arts and more are breathtaking and harken a new age — as profound as the Enlightenment.
About 130,000 years ago, modern man emerged and has not changed much — the species, unlike others could create tools and structures to alter its environment instead of adapting physically to changing conditions.
A new age dawns. The species will alter the human brain to accomplish more productive and satisfying lives.

• Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Classified Documents Among NEWLY RELEASED Huma Abedin Emails FOUND on Weiner’s Laptop

Huma Abedin and Anthony WeinerAP

 Bob Fredericks

The State Department Friday released a trove of emails from Huma Abedin that the feds discovered on her husband Anthony Weiner’s laptop — including at least five that were marked as “classified.”
Most of the emails were heavily redacted because they contained classified material — but one that was sent on Nov. 25 2010 was addressed to “Anthony Campaign,” an apparent address belonging to Weiner.
The message contained a list of talking points for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was prepping to make a call to Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia to warn him about sensitive documents that had been given to WikiLeaks by then-Army intelligence officer Bradley Manning.
“I deeply regret the likely upcoming WikiLeaks disclosure,” read one of the talking points.
“This appears to be the result of an illegal act in which a fully cleared intelligence officer stole information and gave it to a website. The person responsible will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law” the message continued.
“This is the kind of information we fear may be released: details of private conversations with your government on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.”
State was expected to dump roughly 2,800 emails as a result of a court case won by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.
This is a major victory,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, said in a statement.
“After years of hard work in federal court, Judicial Watch has forced the State Department to finally allow Americans to see these public documents.”
He said the discovery of the emails underscores the need for the Justice Department to investigate Clinton and Abedin’s use of a private email server to conduct classified government business.
“That these government docs were on Anthony Weiner’s laptop dramatically illustrates the need for the Justice Department to finally do a serious investigation of Hillary Clinton’s and Huma Abedin’s obvious violations of law.”
Abedin was an aide and confidant of Hillary Clinton who has been described as a second daughter to the former first lady.
Weiner, a former Democratic congressman and Big Apple mayoral candidate, began a 21-month prison sentence last month after being convicted of sexting a 15-year-old girl.