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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018



The Democrats have some problems. OK, they have a lot of problems, but let’s throw this new one into the mix — ‘cuz it’s a doozy.
“An overwhelming majority of respondents, 76 percent, said they would not vote for a ‘socialist’ political candidate, while only 24 percent of those polled said they would,” finds a July 24 poll conducted by The Hill and HarrisX.
Why, you ask, is that a problem for the Democrats? Because they have all but embraced socialism, what with their free health care and free college and free money for everyone (this last dubbed “universal basic income,” so as to sound less socialist).
Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont “independent” who got aced out of the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 by some shenanigans perpetrated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, started the whole thing off. He’s a socialist, plain and simple. During his upstart campaign, Mr. Sanders excoriated the “1 percent,” railed against those heartless corporations (you know, the ones that give Americans jobs), as he called for a $15-per-hour minimum wage and free college tuition for everyone.
He also demanded “Medicare for all,” touting the universal government handout as the solution to all health care woes. (Incidentally, a new study last week found that the cost for such a program would be nearly $33 trillion over 10 years — that’s trillion with a “T”).

In fact, the Democratic Socialists of America told The Associated Press that they have 42 candidates at the federal, state and local levels. Some are running at the upper echelon, like Maine Democratic Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein, who announced last week he’ll run as a Democratic Socialist.
Here’s where the news gets very bad for Democrats. Nearly two out of three (64 percent) of Democratic respondents in the poll said they wouldn’t vote for a socialist. “Among respondents who said they voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election, 59 percent said they would not support a self-described socialist,” the survey found.
Some top party members see the writing on the wall and are trying to squelch the rise of socialism in the party. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, for instance, said last month that she doesn’t believe socialism is spreading the ranks.
“It’s ascendant in that district perhaps,” Mrs. Pelosi said about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s district. “But I don’t accept any characterization of our party presented by the Republicans. So let me reject that right now.”
Too late. The view that the Democratic Party is moving toward socialism is already grabbing hold — and conservative leaders are all too happy to keep touting the party’s leftward move.
Like Rush Limbaugh. On Monday, he played a video of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez explaining her views during an interview on “The Daily Show,” a video that has since gone viral. Asked how the government would pay for all the “free” things Democrats are now promising, she said:
“This is an excellent, excellent question — and, in fact, there’s a lot of back-of-the-envelope stuff based on our values. So, for example, I sat down, ummm, with a Nobel Prize economist last week. I can’t believe I can say that! It’s really weird. But one of the things that we saw is, if people pay their fair share — share. If corporations and the ultrawealthy — for example, as Warren Buffett likes to say, if he paid as much as his secretary paid, 15 percent If he paid a 15 percent tax rate, if, uh, corporations paid — If, uh, we reverse the tax bill but raise our — our corporate tax rate to 28 percent which is not even as high as it was before. Um, if we — If we do those two things and also close some of those loopholes, that’s $2 trillion right there.”
Uh, ummm, OK.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, meanwhile, has called Ms. Ocasio-Cortez the “future of our party.” This week, she held an event in Southern California intended to “mobilize communities across Los Angeles in pursuit of a better, socialist future.”
So it’s true, it’s all true: The Democrats are counting on socialism to save them.
Good luck with that.

Painting of Trump Team 'Crossing the SWAMP' Touches Off Social Media FRENZY

Jon McNaughton's "Crossing the Swamp" is a riff on the classic "Washington Crossing the Delaware," but replacing George Washington's crew with members of President Trump's administration.
Jon McNaughton's "Crossing the Swamp" is a riff on the classic "Washington Crossing the Delaware," but replacing George Washington's crew with members of President Trump's administration.  (Jon McNaughton,

Brooke Singman

Maybe it's John Bolton clutching a gun. Maybe it's Mike Pompeo setting down his binoculars to stare into the distance. Maybe it's the gators. 
But a newly unveiled painting meant to depict President Trump and his team navigating the Washington "swamp" has something for everyone. 
Utah-based artist Jon McNaughton touched off a social media frenzy as he shared his painting, “Crossing the Swamp,” Tuesday on Twitter. The painting is a riff on the classic “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” only it replaces George Washington's crew with members of the Trump administration. 
“My new painting—‘Crossing the Swamp’ ‘Never give up. Never lower your light. Never stop till the swamp is dry,’” McNaughton tweeted. 
The painting shows Trump at the helm, and Vice President Pence carrying the flag by his side. 
McNaughton identifies the rest as: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson; Attorney General Jeff Sessions; first lady Melania Trump; Secretary of State Pompeo; White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders; the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump; National Security Adviser Bolton; Kellyanne Conway; and Chief of Staff John Kelly. 
McNaughton is a Trump supporter, hashtagging “MAGA” on his Twitter bio. 
“Trump endeavors to cross the ‘swamp’ of Washington DC as he carries the light of truth, hope, and prosperity. The murky water of the deep state is laced with dangerous vermin, perfectly willing to destroy American prosperity for their personal ideologies and financial gain,” McNaughton said of his latest painting on his website.
McNaughton also wrote that he hopes people will “study the paintings and try to understand the deeper meaning.” 
No matter how earnest the artist's intentions, the painting quickly became Twitter fodder as users seized on a variety of quirky aspects. 
Observations included: 
"Ben Carson appears to be rowing backwards."
"They are literally rowing in a circle." 
"Pretty sure Pruitt took the cruise line route." 
"Looks like Jr. didn’t make the boat."
Twitter can be cruel.
McNaughton has several other paintings on his website about the Trump administration. One, titled “Make America Safe,” depicts Trump standing in front of a white picket fence with an open lock, holding a key, and the American flag waving in the background. 
Another, titled “Respect the Flag,” shows Trump on a football field, hugging a ripped flag, seemingly referencing the president’s battle with the National Football League over players kneeling during the National Anthem. 

Think Tank: Medicare For All Has $32-Trillion Federal Price Tag

Would increase annual federal spending on health care by $2.5 trillion

Charles Fain Lehman

The implementation of nationwide, single-payer health care would cost the U.S. government more than $32 trillion over ten years, according to a new report from the libertarian Mercatus Center.

The paper, authored by Mercatus scholar Charles Blahous, assesses the fiscal impact of Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) Medicare for All Act. The proposal, which would see the rollout of Medicare coverage to all Americans regardless of age, was a hallmark of Sanders’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Under ideal assumptions, Blahous writes, Medicare for All would mean that federal spending on health care would rise to 12.7 percent of GDP by 2031, roughly doubling its current rate. Doubling all current income and corporate tax revenues would be insufficient to finance this massive growth in federal spending, which would itself be more than double all currently projected federal discretionary appropriations.

This enormous price tag is actually marginally less than current projected national health expenditures over the same period of time. The paper finds that under ideal conditions, national health expenditures (NHEs) would be about $90 billion less in 2022 under the Medicare for All plan, thanks in large part to a drop in administrative costs and a slight fall off in personal health spending.

NHEs are a measure of the total spending on health care by all Americans: individuals, companies, cities, states, and the federal government. The decline in NHEs under Medicare for All is a function of a massive cost redistribution. Responsibility would move from individual consumers to the federal government—which would take on an additional $2.5 trillion in annual health care costs, a bill to be footed by the taxpayer—and medical service providers like hospitals, which would almost certainly lose large sums of money under a plan that mandates they accept Medicare's extremely low payment schedule.

That assumption—that Medicare for All would mean all Americans enjoying the much lower prices Medicare commands in buying health care services—is key to the slight advantage the Sanders plan has over the current trajectory. That goes away, the paper finds, if for example we assume that payments will be made at the current average market rate—the mean of all of the private and public health care prices in the market today. If we use that number, then the ten-year cost of Medicare for All rises to $38 trillion, well-outstripping status quo projections.

Other key assumptions—all of which Blahous explicitly outlines—keep the cost of Medicare for All lower than what it would likely actually be. For example, the Sanders plan assumes that the government could successfully substitute all brand-name drugs with generics—failing to do so would make "actual savings… less than assumed under these projections." The estimate of the amount of savings that would accrue from reduced administrative costs is similarly termed "aggressive" by Blahous, and would likely be far less significant if the Medicare-using population quintupled.

In other words: Medicare for All would likely be more expense than the status quo, a cost that would be borne by taxpayers in one way or another, rather than by individual consumers.

"There should be a robust public discussion," Blahous concludes, "of whether these outcomes are desirable and practicable before M4A's enactment is seriously considered."


No END in Sight: Russia DOSSIER Investigation Enters Third Year

President Trump used a series of tweets to argue that heavily redacted documents show that FBI agents misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by using a dossier partly funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign to obtain a warrant to snoop on Carter Page. (Associated Press/File)
Photo by: Andrew Harnik

Rowan Scarborough

Two years ago on July 31, 2016, the FBI took the momentous step of opening a counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Today, it shows no signs of ending.
FBI agent Peter Strzok, who displayed an intense dislike for Mr. Trump in text messages to his lover, started the investigation based on hearsay from an Australian diplomat who shared a drink in London with Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos.
To date, after wiretaps and multiple interrogations, no Trump person has been charged for the reason the investigation started: Did the campaign coordinate with Moscow to interfere in the election?
The drink in London may have started the inquiry, but it was the Democratic Party-orchestrated dossier that would fuel it with an unsubstantiated tale of an “extensive conspiracy” between Mr. Trump and the Kremlin.
Dossier author Christopher Steele, like Mr. Strzok, privately expressed a strong dislike of Mr. Trump — so strong that the former British spy hoped his gossipy memos would end the candidacy.
Mr. Strzok’s team used the dossier to obtain a yearlong wiretap on another volunteer, Carter Page, that allowed them to spy on electronic communications during and after the campaign.
The dossier’s influence went further. It became the FBI’s template for whom to interview and what questions to ask.
Then-FBI Director James B. Comey told ABC News during his book tour: “This guy [Steele], who’s credible, says these things are true. OK. That means we should try and replicate that work to see if we can develop the same sources.”
Said J.D. Gordon, who has become an unofficial spokesman for fellow campaign workers who went through a long inquisition: “As a person who always supported law enforcement agencies 100 percent, it’s profoundly disappointing to learn how some key leaders have stealthily waged a two-year, scorched-earth campaign against political figures they dislike merely based on rumor, innuendo and erroneous media reports.”
Since that last day in July 2016, the Justice Department investigation has grown far wider and more complex than when Mr. Strzok began looking at Russian computer hacking.
A status report
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017 to pick up the Russia investigation midstream after Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey.
Mr. Mueller’s agenda goes beyond the election to look at suspected obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump, including, The New York Times says, his ubiquitous tweets that often attack the special counsel’s Democrat-heavy staff attorneys. Mr. Mueller also is looking at Russian influence during the presidential transition and inauguration.
The two indictments brought against Russian hackers and social media disruptors did not charge Trump associates.
After two years, not one of Mr. Steele’s eight major collusion charges has been proved publicly.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort goes on trial Tuesday in Alexandria, Virginia, to face federal tax and bank fraud charges.
The Manafort matter has been overseen by Mr. Mueller’s top gun, Andrew Weissmann, who gained fame going after Mafia soldiers and Enron executives. He is a Democratic Party donor who attended what was supposed to have been Hillary Clinton’s election night victory party in New York.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will oversee the Manafort trial, said in a ruling that “even a blind person” can see that Mr. Mueller is targeting Mr. Manafort as a way to force him to cough up evidence against the president.
Mr. Manafort faces separate money laundering charges in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. His troubles stem from huge amounts of money he earned while advising the pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
Mr. Trump also faces the first known accusations from an insider. Michael Cohen, his longtime legal counsel at the Trump Organization real estate empire, is dishing dirt via his new attorney, Lanny Davis, who is one of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s fiercest defenders.
Mr. Cohen turned against his former boss once he learned that he was the subject of a criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Investigators were looking into his business practices, which include taxicab ownership, real estate and consulting.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s chief legal spokesman, told Fox News on Monday that Mr. Cohen is trying to “stay out of jail” by offering evidence against his former client.
Mr. Cohen has publicized on Twitter his embrace of left-wing Trump critics such as comedian Tom Arnold and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
While the Justice Department looks at Mr. Trump, his associates, Mr. Cohen and various Russian oligarchs and intelligence officers, Congress has launched multiple investigations.
The majority Republicans of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ended their Russia investigation last spring with no finding of collusion.
Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and committee chairman, started a parallel inquiry into suspected FBI misconduct. He discovered:
⦁ The Clinton campaign and Democratic Party funded the dossier through the firm Fusion GPS.
⦁ The FBI used the dossier as the main piece of evidence to gain a wiretap on the other party.
⦁ Mr. Steele lied to the FBI about talking to the news media.
⦁ The FBI planned to pay Mr. Steele to investigate Mr. Trump after the election but instead fired him.
⦁ The FBI continued to obtain information from Mr. Steele and Fusion via a back door from Fusion to a Justice Department attorney to Mr. Strzok, the FBI agent.
⦁ Daniel Jones, a former aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, received $50 million from donors in 2017 to hire Fusion and Mr. Steele to stay on the Trump case.
‘The Witch Hunt’
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence shows no indication that it is close to finishing its Russia investigation. The panel issued an interim report backing the Obama intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow intervened to help candidate Trump.
Unlike Mr. Nunes, Senate committee Chairman Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, has offered no criticism of the FBI.
The House committees on the Judiciary and on Oversight and Government Reform are jointly investigating the FBI and the role Obama aides played in promoting the dossier behind the scenes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, offered the first hint this summer of party establishment impatience with Mr. Mueller, saying he “ought to wrap it up.”
If Democrats win control the House in the midterm elections, Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the House intelligence committee’s chairman in waiting, likely would restart the investigation and call a stream of Trump witnesses. His staff continues to interview people privately.
He is a big fan of Mr. Steele’s and read parts of his dossier into the official congressional record.
“It is … another tragic milestone for this Congress and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch,” Mr. Schiff said in March when Mr. Nunes finished his report. “By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the majority has placed the interests of protecting the president over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly.”
The dossier accused four Trump people of collusion: Mr. Steele said Mr. Trump supported the hacking of Democratic computers, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Page coordinated with Moscow, and Mr. Cohen, the president’s former attorney, participated in a cover-up.
All deny the charges as fabrications, and none to date has been charged.
“There is No Collusion!” Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday. “The Robert Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt, headed now by 17 (increased from 13, including an Obama White House lawyer) Angry Democrats, was started by a fraudulent Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC. Therefore, the Witch Hunt is an illegal Scam!”
As for George Papadopoulos, an obscure Trump campaign volunteer then living in London, he wanted to set up a grand meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He talked with a Maltese professor at a think tank. The professor said he heard that the Russians possessed thousands of Clinton emails, perhaps a reference to the ones the former secretary of state had destroyed.
Papadopoulos relayed the tale to the Australian diplomat, who eventually notified the U.S. Embassy. And the rest is history.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing of his Trump appointment to a campaign advisory board. He was not charged in any conspiracy, and there is no public evidence that he took any action related to any emails.