I’m not a big fan of CNN or any of the news networks, including Fox News for that matter.

But after the House Intelligence Committee released the memo on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants, I watched CNN because I was curious about how they would spin it. What I found in the coverage right after the memo was released was that CNN didn’t talk much about the memo and what it said. What they wanted to talk about was Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump.

The memo isn’t about Mueller’s investigation. It is about the FBI acting in a partisan fashion to affect the outcome of a presidential election. That is extremely damning. Imagine if the military used its power to try and affect the outcome of an election. That would be called an attempted coup.

Maybe this effort by the FBI doesn’t rise to that level. It certainly wasn’t successful. But the very fact that the FBI used an uncorroborated dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to spy on the Trump campaign is frightening.

If the Steele dossier was going to be used, the FBI had a duty to tell the FISA court where the information came from, and also that the FBI had not been able to corroborate most of it. The mainstream media keep claiming that it was corroborated, but that is misleading.

Some of the Steele dossier has been corroborated because it includes stuff that was already publicly known. For instance, Carter Page did make a trip to Russia; that was not a secret. What hasn’t been corroborated is that he met with the Russians that Steele said he did. Page says that he has never met the individuals.

The director of the FBI at the time, James Comey, described the Steele dossier as “salacious and unverified.” So if that was the opinion of the director of the FBI, then the judge who was being asked to take away the Fourth Amendment rights of Page should have been notified of that fact so that he or she could make a qualified decision.

The Democrats keep saying that a FISA warrant request is typically 50 or 60 pages long, so this was just one part. I’ve never seen a FISA warrant request and I have no reason to doubt the Democrats, but then you have to ask – if the FBI had enough information to get the warrant without this “salacious and unverified” document, why did they include it? And if they were going to include it, why didn’t they tell the judge that it was based on unverified information from a source paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC?

The FISA warrant application also quotes an article in Yahoo News. Why would the FBI quote a newspaper article? Newspaper articles are not vetted to the same standard that information in a warrant is supposed to be, plus the Yahoo article was based on the Steele dossier. You can’t prove something is true by quoting the same stuff from the same original source.

One would assume that most of the information in a normal FISA warrant request by the FBI is not “salacious and unverified,” but maybe it is. Maybe this is the way the FBI under Comey did business.

But the fact is that the FBI took information that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC had paid for in an attempt to defeat Trump and used it to spy on the Trump campaign in an attempt to bring Trump down.

It is wrong at every level. The people who signed off on these FISA warrants need to be investigated themselves, and they need to have a good explanation about why they allowed unverified Democratic opposition research to be used against the Republican candidate.

It is proof that all the stuff in the emails between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page, his mistress, were not inconsequential. They and others in the FBI, including former Deputy Director Andy McCabe, were trying to act on those beliefs.

The FBI is an immensely powerful government agency. It is and should be illegal for the FBI to use its investigative powers to help one candidate defeat another.

If people don’t got to jail for this then the entire FISA warrant protocol for the FBI needs to be shut down because the people running the FBI can’t be trusted to use it properly.

We cannot have free and fair elections in this country if the FBI uses its power in the election process.

*****

The entire FISA warrant debacle adds to the mounting evidence that the FBI has serious management issues.

It appears that FBI agents and attorneys thought their FBI phones were for personal use and that nobody was monitoring what messages were sent. Or maybe Strzok and Page knew that the people monitoring their text messages agreed with the anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton statements they made so they didn’t think they could cause them any harm.

It is worth noting that the FBI was also rebuked by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for sharing raw data with outside consultants, which is expressly illegal, and for allowing FBI agents who were prosecuting a case to see raw data that including communications between an attorney and his client.

So the FISC also noted that the FBI was playing fast and loose with data from FISA warrants. Now we know the FBI was playing fast and loose with the information presented to obtain those warrants and, in this case, in a highly partisan manner.

When you combine that with the texts from Strzok to Page attacking Trump and praising Hillary Clinton and the fact that Strzok was one of the agents in charge of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, the problem is obvious. Because, as we now know, the exoneration of Hillary Clinton as a result of that investigation was written before Hillary Clinton and other prime witnesses were interviewed. You have the FBI using its considerable power to cover-up the illegal activity of one candidate and at the same time using its power to spy on the other candidate. This cannot be allowed to continue.

If the FBI hadn’t believed the liberal mainstream media, they might not have been so bold. But they did and they thought that Hillary Clinton was certain to win, thus whatever they did to help her would be rewarded once she was sworn into office.

What tripped them up was that not only did Trump win, but Republicans control the oversight committees in Congress and have a different opinion of how the FBI should behave during an election.

*****

The attacks on Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that voted to release the memo, are really humorous when you look at them.

Before the memo was released, it was according to the mainstream media a terrible idea because it was going to put classified information out in the public domain. Now that the memo has been released, one criticism is that the supporting documents, which are also classified, were not released.

When Hillary Clinton was found to have sent and received classified documents on her unsecure homebrew server in violation of a number of laws, the mainstream media said it was no big deal.

When Nunes goes through the proper process to release classified information, it is a national security issue, except, according to the mainstream media, now he didn’t release enough classified information.

*****

It’s abundantly clear that it is time for a housecleaning at the FBI. Most FBI agents stay as far away from politics as possible. Their job is law enforcement, not partisan political battles. But we now know that some in the FBI sought to use their vast power to affect the outcome of a presidential election.

One could assume that these were just a couple of rogue agents who by chance rose through the ranks to some of the top spots in the agency. Andy McCabe was acting director for a while. Peter Strzok was the chief of the counter-espionage section.

Then there is Comey, who was fired by Trump – and it turns out Trump was entirely correct in his estimation of Comey, who was loyal to the Democratic presidential candidate, not the elected president of the US.

If you get involved in political battles, the rewards can be impressive. But those rewards, like being FBI director, come at a price, and the price is that you may get burned. Comey bet his career that Hillary Clinton would win. Once she was in office she would be thankful that the FBI had cleared her of wrongdoing with what could be called an exhaustive investigative effort not to find anything.

It’s as if the FBI was investigating the report of a murder, knowing that the body was in the closet but determined not to find it. So they did an exhaustive search of the rest of the house, including the basement and attic. They dug up the front and back yards and took the garage apart piece by piece, but they never opened that closet door despite the overwhelming smell that was emanating from it.

That could describe the investigation of Hillary Clinton by the FBI. They looked everywhere and at everything except where crimes were committed.

How could it possibly be legal for Hillary Clinton’s top aide and constant companion Huma Abedin to send classified emails to her husband, who at the time was facing indictment for sex crimes and is now in prison? If you ordered someone from central casting who would be susceptible to blackmail they would send you Anthony Weiner, or would have sent Weiner – they couldn’t now because he is in jail.

This was the FBI under Comey, and firing Comey was a good first step. Forcing McCabe to retire was another. But they aren’t done by a long shot. Strzok was transferred to the human resources department and he needs to be fired, along with his girlfriend Page.

In the Justice Department, Bruce Ohr, whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele, and who met with Steele while Steele was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign, has to go, as does Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who signed one of the FISA warrant extensions. Either Rosenstein knew the warrant was full of false information or he should have known.

The FBI and the Justice Department cannot continue to operate under a cloud of suspicion and it is time for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to clean house.

*****

If the Democrats are smart, they will ditch House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi before the 2018 elections. Pelosi made a terrible gamble and it’s going to come back to bite the Democrats right where it hurts – in the ballot box – if they don’t start moving away from Pelosi as quickly as possible.

Pelosi has denounced the Republican tax reform bill in every way she could, including comparing $1,000 to “crumbs.” Some aide should have told her that to a lot of hardworking Americans $1,000 is a lot of money. If she didn’t believe them, they should have played tapes of radio listeners who win $1,000 in some contest. They aren’t ho-hum about it.

According to current estimates, 91 percent of middle class Americans are going to be paying less in taxes in 2018 than they paid in 2017. This is not a big deal to Pelosi, who is one of the richest members of the House, but it is a big deal to most Americans, who are also seeing the wage stagnation that predominated during the Obama years loosen up. If along with getting an extra $1,000 in their paychecks from tax cuts, a significant number of American workers who haven’t had a raise since 2007 get a raise of any amount, then the Democrats are toast in 2018.

Politicians don’t like to admit it but economics, not policy, is the deciding factor in most elections. Presidents who run when the economy is on the upswing rarely lose. Presidents who run for reelection when the economy is taking a dip, even if it has little to do with their policies, usually lose.

According to the mainstream media, when Obama was running for reelection the economy was improving. We were told that we were too dumb to understand just how great the economy was, and enough people believed it that Obama was reelected. Of course, it was also helpful that the Republicans chose to run a candidate from the far left wing of the Republican Party – Mitt Romney, who appears to be a good man but is a terrible candidate.

*****

The mainstream media are a hoot. The whole eight years that Obama was president, the bad economic news was always blamed on President George W. Bush and Obama got credit for any favorable economic news.

After the election of Trump, the economy took off, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased by 9,000 points since his election, but the mainstream media give all the credit to Obama. It is kind of amazing that when Trump, whose view of the economy is almost the opposite of Obama’s, got elected, the stock market immediately jumped. But for some reason the credit for that according to the mainstream media belongs to Obama.

Now that the stock market has fallen about 1,000 points, is the mainstream media going to give Obama credit for that also? If they don’t, and the stock market starts rising again, they are going to get tongue tied trying to explain that when the market goes up the credit goes to Obama, but when the market goes down it’s all Trump.

*****

As a general rule I don’t believe anything I read about what Trump said in the mainstream media. If I’m interested in what he said, I watch a video of Trump. I started doing this way back during the Republican primaries after reading reports of this crazed billionaire going out and shouting all kinds of dangerous nonsense at crowds. What I discovered was that much of the stuff the media reported as crazy ravings of a madman were jokes and asides. The leftwing media doesn’t recognize the fact that sometimes people say things to be funny.

If Trump starts out, “A snake, a kangaroo and a Catholic priest walk into a bar …”, the report from the mainstream media would be that Trump didn’t know that snakes and kangaroos don’t walk and that research had shown that snakes do not drink alcohol although kangaroos being Australian do like beer.

And he would be accused of being anti-Catholic regardless of how the rest of the joke went. Trump actually says some pretty funny stuff, but the way it’s reported he’s a madman.

Watch any comedian and then take what they said seriously. If you don’t have a sense of humor, comedians are insane. Trump also makes mistakes and is careless with facts. But Trump, unlike Obama, knows how many states are in the United States. Obama is on tape saying 57, and he doesn’t correct himself, but the mainstream media thought that was OK.

*****

Kellyanne Conway gave the late night guys (there are no late night gals that I know of, which looks like discrimination to me) a couple of nights’ worth of jokes when she talked about “alternative facts.”

It wasn’t well said, but it is true. Numbers can be all over the place. Different economists come up with different projections. Is the biggest tax cut in history based on the dollar amount or on the percentage? A lot of different organizations put out economic numbers. Because you choose to quote one that the mainstream media don’t like doesn’t make you wrong and them right, but that is what the fact checkers for the mainstream media constantly claim about Republicans, and in particular Trump.

If I write that poll numbers show Trump has an approval rating of 43 percent and somebody writes that is a lie because it is only 38 percent, but we are relying on different polls, how is that a lie?

Anybody in today’s world that pays any attention to poll numbers after the last two elections has lost their minds. The poll numbers no longer reflect reality. The purpose of polls in an election year is to predict the outcome of the election. Nobody really cares who is more popular with the people who actually answer their phones and talk to pollsters. What people want to know is who is going to win, and in 2014, and again in 2016, the poll numbers were consistently wrong.

Did a single pollster predict that Trump would be president? Maybe one did somewhere, but the major polls did not. Yet we constantly read about the Republicans being in trouble in the 2018 election, and people talk about it as if the poll numbers had actual meaning. What the poll numbers consistently reflect are the opinions of the pollsters, not the opinion of the people.

*****

If Trump can make a deal for immigration reform and border security in exchange for giving Dreamers a pathway to citizenship, I think it’s a pretty good trade.

But I’m tired of people saying that children shouldn’t be held responsible – in this case punished – for the actions of their parents. All children either benefit or are harmed by the actions of their parents.

Children whose parents live in North Carolina benefit by being able to attend the state’s excellent university system at in-state rates. Children who live outside of North Carolina are punished by having to have better academic records and pay more to attend the same schools. Is that not punishing children for the actions of their parents?

Children who have one or even both parents convicted of crimes and put in prison also pay for that crime. They no longer have their parents to raise them, usually have to leave their homes and their lives are disrupted. If children are not supposed to be harmed by the actions of their parents then the parents should not be sent to jail; they should be allowed to stay home and raise their kids.

The punishment in the case of Dreamers is to be sent home along with their families to their native countries. We have been told that all countries are great places to live and it is wrong to be critical of another country. In that case, it shouldn’t be viewed as punishment to have to go home to the country where you are a citizen and have all the rights of a citizen rather than live in a country where you are not.

*****

Trump, who has a long history as a successful businessman, put his finger ever so briefly on a problem with the federal government that is rarely discussed, but usually just accepted as the status quo.

Trump asked that all of his department heads been given the authority to fire employees. What is not the least bit surprising is that the Democrats recoiled in horror at the idea that federal employees who are overwhelmingly Democrats be expected to do their jobs or be fired. For generations being hired by the federal government meant a job until retirement, regardless of how well or poorly that employee performed.

If Congress will give Trump the power to remove the deadweight from the federal payrolls, Trump might be able to balance the budget without making any other cuts.

The largest union representing federal workers has accused Trump of wanting to go back to the spoils system for federal employees.

It may not be a bad idea. Under the current system, once a person gets hired by the federal government, they are a federal government employee until they retire, resign or die. What they know is that even if they don’t do their job well or conscientiously they will not be fired. In fact, if they do a really bad job they may get promoted because it is the easiest way for their boss to get rid of them.

The system was put in place to do away with the spoils system where when a new administration from the other party came in there were wholesale firings as the friends and relatives of the old administration were fired so the friends and relatives of the new administration could take their places. For that reason federal employees knew that their job was guaranteed only as long as their party was in power.

The result of fixing that practice is the system that we have now, where reportedly it takes up to a year to fire a federal employee. In reality, because it takes so long and is so complicated, it’s extremely rare for people to be fired. They get transferred, promoted and ignored, but it’s usually easier to get someone new in to do their job than it is to fire the person who isn’t doing the job.

Maybe the spoils system is actually better. There is turnover. Instead of having people who have always been government employees and have the work ethic of people who can’t be fired, about once a decade there would be massive turnover and people from the private sector would be taking over government jobs and people in government jobs would be moving to the private sector.

If people in OSHA knew that in a couple of years they might be working for the industry they were regulating, or if the people in OSHA had just come from the industry they are regulating, then the rules enforced might make a whole lot more sense.

*****

Most of us don’t know much about FISA warrants, but they are supposed to be more difficult to obtain than a regular search warrant.

So consider if this happened in North Carolina. In the last election, imagine if then Gov. Pat McCrory had a private investigator try to find any dirt they could on now Gov. Roy Cooper, and this private investigator – paid for by the McCrory campaign – came up with all of this wild stuff about Cooper cavorting with prostitutes and making illegal business deals. Now the State Bureau of Investigation takes that investigation paid for by the McCrory campaign and goes to a judge and says, “Here is the evidence we have; we want a warrant to search the house of one of Cooper’s campaign workers, as well as his office, his cars and every other place in his possession.” They search and don’t find anything.

Do you think that when Cooper found out that it was an investigation paid for by the McCrory campaign that led to warrants that some heads wouldn’t roll?

Do you think for an instant that Cooper would put up with that and say, “Oh well, they didn’t mean anything by it”? I don’t think so, nor do I think that in that case Cooper should do that. I think as governor he would have a duty to get to the bottom of the whole mess.

Trump is in that position. He now knows that the FBI used an uncorroborated investigation paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign to do electronic surveillance on someone who worked on his campaign. It is wrong and illegal.

*****

Many folks found the State of the Union speech by Trump divisive. But it was a speech that all Americans regardless of their political beliefs should be proud of.

What that speech represented was a shift in the political direction of America by 180 degrees, and the shift was done largely without violence. The military didn’t take over the government and put a puppet in place. The cities didn’t burn. People weren’t killed in the streets for their political beliefs. There were no assassinations

The entire political direction of the USA – the most powerful nation the world has ever seen – shifted 180 degrees and it was done through the political system set up by our founding fathers some 240 years ago.

Even if you believe, as about half of Americans do, that the government is now going in the exact wrong direction, the very idea that such a shift could take place without wholesale bloodshed is remarkable.

If you look at past presidents, there was a steady move toward socialism and an economy based on the European system. The North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) was leading this continent toward a system like the European Union.

Since the end of the presidency of Ronald Reagan, that has been the path the country has been on. If you look at the policies of the Bush-Clinton-Bush presidencies, there is a consistent move toward more government control and open borders. The logical conclusion would be exactly what Hillary Clinton once said she wanted, which was open borders from Chile and Argentina to Canada for trade and immigration.

It’s the European model. Socialized government and open borders. Despite the fact that it is falling apart in Europe, it is the direction this country was headed.

The policies of Bush-Clinton-Bush represented a moderate shift toward that goal. Both President Bushes were in favor of a slower shift and President Bill Clinton was in favor of speeding up the movement, but the underlying policies were the same.

Then came President Barack Obama, who wanted to speed up the transition toward socialism and open borders enormously. Obama, perhaps unwisely, chose to put all his eggs in the nationalized healthcare insurance package. The logical next move along the Obama path was a single payer system, which meant the federal government would have total control of healthcare decisions.

If Obamacare had been successful, it is likely we would still be going down that path; but it turned out to be a step made too hastily – from the roll out to the plan itself, Obamacare had enormous problems. Obama moved too quickly with too little planning to pull it off.

But during the Obama administration, the US in effect had open borders. People who were caught crossing the border illegally were not sent back to their native countries; they were briefly held by the government and then given bus tickets, or in some cases airline tickets, to go anywhere in the country they wanted to go. It was called catch and release. But it was a step toward completely open borders.

President Obama realized that he did not have the complete support of Congress, so he added regulation upon regulation through executive orders and rule making by federal agencies – rules that have the power of law although they aren’t laws.

In 2016, the American people said no. Although the majority of Americans in the presidential race said that they wanted to continue on that path, under our form of government the states still have some sovereignty, so while Trump didn’t win the majority of the popular vote, he did win the presidency.

Republican congressional candidates in 2016 won 3 million more votes than their Democratic counterparts. This is also a crucial factor. Because it shows that in the case of representatives to Congress, the people rejected the policies of Obama and the far left wing of the Democratic Party and chose the Republican path.

Trump in his State of the Union address pledged to turn the US in the opposite direction from the course it was on; from border policies to economic policies, to foreign affairs and government regulations, Trump said we are turning around.

Obama wanted completely open borders. Trump wants a wall. Obama was adding regulations as fast as he could. Trump is removing them at the same speed. Obama wanted the government to take over health care. Trump wants it controlled by the private sector.

There is a reason why the Bush family doesn’t even pretend to support Trump, and it goes much deeper than the fact that Trump humiliated Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries. If Jeb Bush had faced off against Hillary Clinton, it would have been yet another election without a difference. The issue would have been do we run toward socialism and open borders or do we walk. Or perhaps more accurately, do we walk fast or slow toward socialism and open borders.

It would have been much like the Al Gore versus George W. Bush election, not about the direction of the country but simply who do you want to be leading the country in that direction.

In the George W. Bush-John Kerry election, the American people said, our guy is doing a pretty good job; let him stay in office. But as far as policies go the difference was not in what direction the country would go but simply how quickly it would go.

Then you had Obama versus Sen. John McCain. Obama didn’t run as the radical leftist that he was. Once again the question of the election was how fast should the country move in the same direction. McCain actually wanted Gore’s running mate, Democrat Joe Lieberman, to be his running mate. It makes no sense unless you consider what the real issue was – how fast should the country move on its present course.

Trump is turning the country around, and one reason he has nearly as much trouble with some Republicans in Congress as the Democrats is because they liked the path the country was on. Those Republicans, like McCain, disagreed with the Democrats about the speed the country should take down that path, but not on which path to take.

The election was a revolution, which is one reason there is so much turmoil in Washington and why Trump really does need to drain the swamp.

 

Parisian Promenade at Bicentennial Garden