Category Archives: Current Events

Commentary on the news of the day; both home and abroad

America – Demand Less Health Insurance, Before It’s Too Late

I have been driving a car for just over 35 years. During three and one-half decades, I have paid for automobile insurance, not only to cover me in the event of an accident, but also to cover my wife and my kids when they were licensed to drive. I’d estimate that my wife and I have spent from 35 – 40 thousand dollars on automobile insurance. We’ve also made precious few claims against that insurance – a couple of major accidents, a couple of minor incidents. The total cost of all my claims? Perhaps 18 thousand dollars (minus 5 thousand in deductibles). In other words, we invested 35 to get 13. A terrible return on investment.
Of course, I have haven’t mentioned the best and most critical element of automobile insurance. In the event of a catastrophe, my same investment of 35 could have easily become hundreds of thousands of dollars (and thank God it never was). That is the key when it comes to insurance – it is great for hedging against catastrophe.
However, it would be ridiculous to use my car insurance policy to cover routine expenses – like oil changes, new wiper blades, brake pads – or even gas. Can you imagine making an insurance claim every time your tank went empty? Getting approval to use a gas station outside your approved network? It would be cumbersome, bureaucratic, inefficient, and ultimately much more expensive than covering routine maintenance out of pocket (the old-fashioned way).
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I have been blessed with generally good health, as has my family. I am 52 and I have never broken a bone, have no diseases, no chronic conditions that are expensive to treat, and aside from some minor dental surgery I have never gone under the knife. My wife has had a similar experience (only more healthy than me) and none of my 3 kids have had any conditions requiring extensive medical care.
In other words, my health history is a lot like my driving history – aside from occasional sinus infections, or cuts needing stitches, perhaps a flu – there has been virtually no need for insurance coverage at all. Except, like protecting against the catastrophic car accident, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want catastrophic health coverage. We all want to hedge against the chronic disease, the hideous accident, or the fatal condition wiping out our life savings – or worse becoming so expensive to treat that we are forced to forego medical care. We all want to be protected against the worst case scenario – any of us could develop a disease tomorrow.
However, it is ridiculous to use insurance for routine medical care – a cholesterol check, a sinus infection, a check-up, treatment for poison ivy, etc. These are the wiper blades, oil changes, and gas station visits that make no sense to filter through the cumbersome insurance/government bureaucracy. This is what has been sold to Americans – not catastrophic insurance that we all obviously need (just as we need catastrophic auto insurance) – but an insurance that has become so all-encompassing, that if you want to get a flu shot every October it will be covered with the inefficiency of a healthcare establishment run amok.
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When I was a kid growing up in Pembroke Massachusetts, our part of town had two doctors: Young Doctor Moffrey, kind and charming and old Doctor Angley, short-tempered and tough. My Mom took us to young Doctor Moffrey. It was the 1970s, and when I had an ear infection, Dr. Moffrey looked me over and prescribed some ear drops. My mother would write a check for the office visit. Then we would go to the drug store and Mom would write a check for the medication. There was no insurance involved. My parents had a catastrophic policy with Blue Cross / Blue Shield that only got used when my brother Michael had a concussion, or broken arm, or blood clot. Most of our medical needs were met the old-fashioned way – when we needed a prescription for an illness – we paid cash. We weren’t a rich family – my dad was a grocer and my mom stayed at home with 4 kids. At no point did my parents ever say “we need more insurance” and at no point did we feel like we were going to be denied health care because the government wasn’t involved enough. We were a middle class family with plenty of access to health care.
So what changed in America?
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The American people have been lied to for more than 40 years with regard to “health care.” They have been lied to by politicians who told voters they could have “free” access to healthcare. They have been lied to by insurers who have convinced consumers that it is a good deal to have insurance cover a head cold.
The explosion of government involvement, regulation, price controls, etc. combined with all-encompassing policies pushed by insurance companies have only served to separate the consumer from the actual price of the product. You see, back in the 1970s, if Dr. Moffrey had charged too much for an office visit, my mom would have brought us to Dr. Angley no matter how salty his bedside manner. But for decades the US Government has intervened in the process, aided and abetted by insurance companies, and as a result, no one really cares what the cost of the office visit is because it will be paid for by an insurance company or the government.
Once the pricing of healthcare is isolated from the consumer’s interest you get wild inflation or product rationing. There can be no other result. Without the free market to keep everyone in line you get waste and tragedy.
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Which brings me to what Americans actually need.
I don’t doubt that some of you are thinking –“cool stories, Cheetham – but my Aunt Sally has cancer; my nephew has a severe illness; my mom has Alzheimer’s – and yes they all need insurance.”
I agree. Americans need catastrophic coverage. I think everyone should have some kind of insurance against a broken hip, or cancer, or a chronic disease that will require lifelong care. The poor should have catastrophic coverage subsidized by their neighbors. I have no objection to that.
What we do NOT need is insurance against head colds. We don’t need insurance against fevers, rashes, or acne. The goal of a sane health insurance and health care system for America should be focused on a return to the old fashioned payment for services model. Consumers will shop for the doctor who offers the best price for a sinus infection. Doctors will discount their acne treatments to get more business. Prices will go down as doctors and labs compete for cash from real people.
Don’t believe me? Look at two aspects of healthcare that are by and large not covered by insurance: laser eye surgery and plastic surgery. Outside of the control of governments and insurers it has never been cheaper to get your eyesight fixed or your breasts enlarged. Doctors constantly offer deals and discounts for these procedures – and they compete for consumer money.
We could have the same innovative and competitive pricing for head colds and sore throats. The only thing stopping that from happening is an unholy alliance between government and insurance companies. They are both ripping you off and selling you on the fake idea that allowing the government to handle all your medical issues is the way to go. The people who brought you public education and the Veterans Administration want to be in charge of all your medical needs.
Of course, we want insurance against cancer and multiple sclerosis – but when it comes to treating our toe fungus – we don’t need a lot of help from government and insurance companies.
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Tragically, this week in Washington D.C. we have a bunch of politicians most of whom know nothing about healthcare and nothing about insurance, crafting a ridiculously complicated plan for EVERY AMERICAN – all 323,407,656 of you. They know exactly what you need – and so they are going to craft a very expensive plan that covers everything from hangnails to Ebola. To make matters worse, the alternative plan is to have the government take over all of healthcare. Just think, when you have a sinus infection – do you want the efficiency of the Department of Motor Vehicles when you all you need is an antibiotic?
American healthcare so desperately needs innovation. The kind of innovation we see in laser eye surgeries and plastic surgery providers. American healthcare so desperately needs competition. The kind of competition that drives down smart phone prices every year.
Government has no interest in innovation or competition. It never has. It never will. You know who understood competition? Doctor Moffrey.

Copyright © 2017 cjcheetham

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Let’s not forget this whole Russian controversy started with a deeply flawed Intelligence report

Since December I have watched in amazement the nightly media circus surrounding claims that the Russians “hacked the presidential election.” The fevered back and forth accusations in the media will no doubt heat up again on Thursday when former FBI Director James Comey testifies under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee. We will once again be treated to loud voices on cable news networks for days following the testimony. There will be lots of volume, but will anyone in the media actually do a little bit of analysis? I highly doubt it.
Before the spin machines go nuts for the next 96 hours it might be useful to go back to the beginning.
The beginning in this case is a deeply flawed, poorly written, gruel thin intelligence report that was released by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on January 6, 2017. I have some experience working in intelligence and my assessment of the Clapper Report (Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections) is that it is the worst intelligence report I have ever read. Had my intelligence analysts produced a report so devoid of reason, not only would I not release such a report, I would question the ability of my analysts to think clearly.
There are so many glaring logical fallacies, factual errors, and couched terms in this “assessment”, I am shocked that to date no one has questioned Mr. Clapper about it. Our nation is full of 24/7 television news – and each channel has someone constantly commenting about “Trump and Russia.” Despite the avalanche of self-proclaimed experts –it appears that no one has even read the Clapper report. It has been publicly available since January and no one has analyzed Mr. Clapper’s terrible analysis!
Well, I am about to set that straight.

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10 REASONS THE JANUARY 6 2017 INTELLIGENCE REPORT IS FAKE INTELLIGENCE

1. 72% of the report has nothing to do with the 2016 presidential election. One of the first things anyone reading the DNI report will notice is that only 7 of 25 pages in the report have anything to do with the 2016 election. When I first heard that Clapper had released a 25 page intelligence report, I thought it would contain a ton of evidence, even in an unclassified document, supporting its central claims. What I actually discovered is that Clapper used a trick that my college students used to use when I gave them a writing assignment. Namely, Clapper only had 5 pages of actual information, so he added in repetitive paragraphs and 18 pages of filler that had NOTHING to do with his central claim. Like a college student adjusting margins and font sizes to turn his 3 page paper into a 6 page paper, Clapper filled his report on 2016 with blank pages and most inexplicably a lengthy annex on the 2012 election; an annex that completely undermined the central claims of the Clapper report.

2. The 17 agencies of the Intelligence Community did NOT sign off on Clapper’s report. Despite the constant drumbeat in the media that “17 intelligence agencies agree” the January 6 report is NOT signed by 17 intelligence agencies. There is no Intelligence community seal on the front of the report. Furthermore on page i, the report clearly states that only the CIA, FBI, and NSA signed off on this report. 14 other agencies remain silent – at least with regard to this report.

3. The scope of the report contradicts itself. Again, citing page i, the report states “It covers the motivation and scope of Moscow’s intentions regarding U.S. elections and Moscow’s use of cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion.” A few sentences later, the report states “we did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Did you get that? The report is focused on Russian campaign influence but did not assess Russian campaign influence. That’s like a police officer saying “I assessed the suspects drug dealing but I am not going to assess whether he actually sold drugs.” I am not sure if I should be disgusted or amused by the “scope” of the report.

4. The First Key Judgement is demonstrably false. On page ii, under the heading Key Judgements the Clapper report states: “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.” [Emphasis added] Maybe the author of this report is a 19 year old – but those of us who lived and served during the cold war know immediately that this clam is complete bunk.

A significant escalation in 2016? Let’s not forget that during the Cold War the USSR had agents, moles, the Communist Party USA, fellow travelers, Moscow funded front groups (for example peace movements) all of whom were very active. If anything, 2016 marked a de-escalation when compared to Cold War levels. Furthermore, Clappers own report, the very same January 6 report – has a 12 page annex (that is nearly 50% of the entire report) outlining in detail, Russian influence operations during the 2012 ELECTION! The report has 12 pages on 2012 and one paragraph on 2016, but still makes the dubious claim that 2016 marked an “escalation.”

5. Assessment by political appointees at CIA and FBI are not backed by Military professionals at NSA. On page 1, the report claims “we also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances…” [Italics added] At the end of that paragraph we learn that only the CIA (led by political appointee Brennan) and FBI (led by Comey) had high confidence in that judgment. The NSA (led by a military officer not a politician) had only moderate confidence. Even more revealing of the weakness of this “judgment” comes in the same report in the previous paragraph on page 1: “When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.”

Anyone who watched the presidential campaign knows that from March to Election Day – no one in America thought Trump was going to win. If the Russians stopped aspiring to help Trump get elected when they thought Mrs. Clinton would win – then that means the Russians never actually aspired to help Trump! From March to November he had no chance to win! So what really happened is that Russia used propaganda to attack America – just like they did in every election since 1948.

6. Lack of evidence and insinuation are used instead of facts and rigorous analysis. There are multiple cases of poor analysis and insinuation used by the authors. For example, on page 1 the report states “Beginning in June, Putin’s public comments about the US presidential race avoided directly praising President-elect Trump, probably because Kremlin officials thought that any praise from Putin would backfire in the United States.” [Italics added] Simply put, that statement is illogical and shoddy intelligence work. Just four paragraphs earlier the report claims Russia stopped aspiring to help Trump because they thought Clinton would win. By June it was clear who would win (Clinton). Furthermore, there is NO EVIDENCE that Putin praised Trump before June. The report offers nothing to support its claim.

Another example of the report using insinuation rather than fact-based intelligence analysis is found on the bottom of page 2: “Putin has had many positive experiences working with western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.” This paragraph has nothing to do with the 2016 election. It is a thinly veiled attempt to say, “Putin got along with a couple of Euro Businessmen in the past; Trump is a business man!” So without evidence, we are supposed to believe that Trump is like Berlusconi. That might work at CNN but hat is NOT rigorous intelligence work. It is shoddy work.

7. A significant part of the report focuses on a Russian television network that no one watches. This might be the strangest part of the January 6 DNI report. An entire page of the report (page 4) is almost exclusively dedicated to RT (the Russian propaganda television station and internet site). The reason this is strange is that no one in America watches RT or RT.com When I say no one, I am only slightly exaggerating. RT television has 100,000 daily viewers in the USA. Unless they all live in Wisconsin – exactly how do 100,000 RT television viewers influence our election? This is a network that has less influence than Al Jazeera.

Adding to my confusion is the lineup of leftwing political commentators on RT. People such as Ed Schultz, Sean Stone, and Max Keiser (a democrat candidate for congress). If we are going to do some intelligence analysis Mr. Clapper, maybe your report could explain why lifelong democrats and Hillary supporters were conspiring with Russia to defeat her?

8. The report admits the Russians interfered much more in past elections. On page 5 of the report we find these statements: “The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Directorate S officers arrested in the United States reported to Moscow about the 2008 election.” So in 2008, Russia dispatched actual spies into the United States, but in 2016 Clapper is concerned about Facebook posts by Russian Trolls? Furthermore, the report says “In the 1970s, the KGB recruited a Democratic Party activist who reported information about then-presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter’s campaign and foreign policy plans.” Again, if the Russians had paid spies in DNC circles, can someone explain how 2016 Russian efforts are unprecedented? Can someone explain how Twitter posts by trolls in 2016 are more dangerous than paid agents in the 1970’s infiltrating the Carter campaign?

9. The DNI report amazingly admits that Russian propaganda efforts supported left wing causes such as Occupy Wall Street and Anti-Fracking! Annex A of this abysmal “intelligence” report focuses exclusively on the 2012 Presidential campaign. This is strange because the DNI report is supposed to be about Russian influence in the 2016 campaign not 2012. However, it is the details in Annex A that completely contradict the key judgments of the report itself.

On page 7 we find that RT television supported Occupy Wall Street with its propaganda programming in the run-up to the 2012 election. Furthermore, on page 8 we get this gem: “RT runs anti-fracking programming.”

I believe that the CIA, FBI, and NSA have many brilliant and professional analysts. So why didn’t any of the brilliant analysts work on this report? Whoever wrote this report was so sloppy that they included evidence that the Russians support Occupy Wall Street and Anti-Fracking protestors. Both of these groups are violently opposed to President Trump. If the Russians are rational actors (they are) why would they support the most pro-fracking Presidential candidate in 2016 after supporting anti-fracking protestors for the previous 5 years? Are the authors of this report vaguely familiar with logic?

10. There is no assertion in the report that the Russians actually hacked anything. Probably the most amazing aspect of this report is that at no time does the author assert that Russia hacked anyone in the Clinton campaign. While I understand that this is an unclassified report, nothing prevents the author from saying declaratively, we have definitive proof that the Russians hacked someone – anyone – associated with Clinton. Stating you have that evidence is not classified. Attributing specific leaks of information to Russian Cyber operations certainly would help make this report credible.
The only clear statement about Russian cyber operations is the following: “Russian intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with BOTH major US political parties.” No one should believe this is new. Anyone who has followed the rise of cyber warfare knows that Russia has been conducting operations for years. Furthermore – did you catch that both? BOTH political parties were targets.

The report also alludes to Gucifer 2.0, DCLeaks and Wikileaks as organizations that the Russian used to leak material. But not a word on what material. For example, on August 12, 2016 less than 3 months before the election DCLeaks.com released 300 e-mails they obtained from the accounts of GOP Senators McCain and Graham. Was this the result of Russian operations? Who knows?

The authors of this report are intentionally vague without reason. If they had evidence that the Russians stole John Podesta’s e-mail, they could have stated that in this report without violating classification rules. The fact that his report intentionally avoids clear statements and instead relies on innuendo can only be termed poor intelligence work.
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Thursday night when you are watching the local evening news, CNN, or FOXNEWS – ask yourself a question. How is it possible, that with all these media personalities, all the pundits, all the so-called experts, the lawyers, the loudmouths, the snarky hosts, and the hysterical opinion-makers – how is it possible that no one has ever asked any tough questions about the January 6 Director of National Intelligence report on Russian Influence?
It’s a crappy report. You’d think someone on TV might actually read it and ask a few tough questions. Or maybe just one member of congress could read it and ask a few questions.

I dare you to read it.

-cjcheetham

Copyright © 2017 cjcheetham

 

Roger Goodell as Emmanuel Goldstein

I found myself watching the NFL draft this week and I have to admit, I took a lot of joy watching Commissioner Roger Goodell take a beating.  For the entire first round of the draft, fired up football fans in Philadelphia raucously booed Goodell.  Pick after pick, out walked the beleaguered commissioner to announce each team’s first round selection and the fans responded with pure venom.   You’d think even Philly fans, famous for their outright cruelty, would get bored with the ‘let’s boo the commissioner” act.  But no, the rain of boos continued for hours and I waited patiently (hopefully?) for someone wearing a Wilbert Montgomery shirt to gun a cabbage right at Roger’s head.

Let’s face it – Roger Goodell is the least likeable person associated with any sport anywhere in the world.  Not only is Goodell blessed with a perma-smug look on his face that screams to anyone near him “punch me!” but he has mismanaged almost every league controversy during his tenure.  Whether it was Ray Rice drilling his wife with an uppercut, egregious over-punishment of the New Orleans Saints (some of which was overturned), or the bizarre, unfounded Kafkaesque “trial” of Tom Brady over the fact that footballs lose air pressure on cold rainy nights – Goodell has poured gasoline on every league brush fire.

Typically, that kind of record will get a man fired. However, Roger looks plenty safe.  He’s collecting $35 million a year.  The owners are showering the man with money, while the fans are burying him with hate.  Beyond the amusing spectacle of watching the awkward, smarmy Goodell getting heaped with derision, I found myself wondering aloud:  Why?!

Why do the NFL owners, the most unified group of totalitarian oligarchs since the Soviet Politburo, trot out Roger to be pilloried by riled up, sauced-up, NFL fans every draft?  Conventional wisdom would have us believe that the owners are desperate to protect the brand of the NFL from any criticism from fans or the media.  If you’re an NFL owner couldn’t you find someone who, for a cool $35 million per year, could be a little more competent and a little less odious than Roger Goodell?  So again, I was left wondering, why?!

Then it came to me.  The NFL draft reminded me of something I’d read about years ago.

“The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”

–          1984 by George Orwell

For the same reason Orwell’s Inner Party trotted out Emmanuel Goldstein for the “two-minute hate,” the NFL sends out roger Goodell for the “first-round hate.”  When your real goal is to manipulate the proles and redirect their emotions; when you have no respect for the average fan; that’s when you create spectacles like the NFL draft broadcast.

The owners are acutely aware that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference.  Believe me, the owners deeply fear indifference.

So, you give the fans an outlet for their seething hatred – you offer them up the most hated man in sports, once a year, to be scorned.  In order to prevent a revolution, or even worse the loss of Red-Zone subscriptions and TV ratings, it is best to just let Roger take a beating.  Let the unwashed masses yell and scream – there will be no damage to the league and nothing will change.  Fanatics can huff and puff at Goodell’s multi-million dollar brick house, but rest assured the pigs are seated comfortably inside.

The owners need not worry when fans are yelling death threats at the commissioner.  Just so long as it never gets to the point where the fans do something really dangerous – like turning off the television or cutting back on fan merch purchases.

That’s the game being played here folks.  It’s a two-minute hate with Roger Goodell playing the role of Emmanuel Goldstein.  We are all being manipulated – and I am right there with the rest of you, enjoying my hatred of Roger Goodell.  As Winston Smith confessed in 1984 – once the hate-fest starts, it is impossible to avoid joining in.

Does any of this bother Roger Goodell?  Not at all.  He could care less what the fans think, because he works for the owners.  And those same owners give Roger 35 million reasons to endure public hate and discontent.

For Roger, It’s all double-plus-good.

Copyright © 2017 cjcheetham

Step-by-Step guide for using wiretaps for political dirty tricks

If you are an out-going president who wants to destroy any chance of your successor doing well while in office (country be damned!), you are probably going to want to use the full force of the intelligence community to attack your political opponents.

Before you can start the process of using the FISA courts as a smokescreen to your unethical political attacks, it is important to identify a foreign nation that you can easily get a judge to approve wiretapping operations against.  There are many potential nations you could target but the tried and true patsy – the one guaranteed to get you the authorization you need, is Russia.

Russia has a well-earned patsy-status because of its long history of spying on the United States during the Cold War.  Never mind that during the Soviet era, when Russia was an actual expansionist power hell-bent on Marxist domination of the world, the media downplayed the threat as did most political leaders in the Democrat Party.  Stick with today – and there is virtually no one today who isn’t well aware that the Russians are almost constantly spying on the United States.  They spy with covert operatives, they spy via space-based technologies, they spy via daily cyber intrusions and attacks, and of course they conduct overt spying via their ambassadorial staff, bureaucratic governmental interactions, and commercial enterprises EVERY DAY in the United States.  None of this is a secret, but it will help you in your goal to unethically spy on, and ultimately smear, American political opponents who ostensibly have constitutional rights designed to thwart your dirty tricks campaign.

Once you’ve decided on Russia as your fall-guy, it is a simple step-by-step process to engage in Nixonian attacks on your political opponents.

Step 1:

Identify key Russian players who will want to engage in talks with the next President.  This should be easy to do because you remember the transition process when you ran for President the first time.  For example, a real no brainer would be the Russian Ambassador to the United States.  Once you have a solid list of Russians who will want to meet the next American President (no matter who it is) you are ready for your next move.

Step 2:  Start leaking lots of ominous information and intelligence to friends in the media and congress regarding “Russian cyber-attacks” and “potential meddling in the upcoming election.”   Of course, you are not lying.  The Russians are collecting intelligence on a daily basis across the spectrum of intelligence disciplines.  However, you must act like you are shocked by the unprecedented “meddling” in our elections.  Continue to use the word meddle or meddling because it is almost impossible to define.  Lucky for you, the media will never ask you “what do you mean by meddling?”

Your opponent is oblivious and will probably just try to “get along with the Russians.”  Perfect!  So sit back and wait for the media to pepper your political opponent with questions about vague “ties to Russia”– yes! Now you know that it’s all coming together.

Step 3:  As Election Day gets closer, you are going to want to go to FISA court to get your wiretap set up.  Don’t over reach and ask for broad powers to tap every call to your opponent’s campaign.  That will get turned down.  But lucky for you, FISA courts are spring-loaded to approve requests to defend the nation – so go in there and say “look we have unprecedented Russian meddling in our elections.”  You know that is a whopper of a lie – but so what?  It’ll get approved because no FISA judge wants to explain the request he didn’t approve if the shit hits the fan later.  So now you are golden – you have broad wiretapping authority to listen to the Russians (who you don’t really give a rat’s ass about) and more importantly precious legal cover for pulling a Nixon and listening to your opponent’s campaign.  Could it get any better than that?  Yes, it could!  Which is why we are moving to step 4.

Step 4:  Continue to generate media excitement and anxiety over these unprecedented (not really unprecedented) Russian attacks.  Likewise, keep up with the “concerns” over “meddling.”  Now is the time for the 3 options in Step 4.

Option A:  Your party wins the election.  Congratulations!  Before you celebrate too much, store away all the juicy “intelligence” you have on political opponents aligned with your opponent’s campaign.  This could come in handy later.  For example, during a Supreme Court nominee’s hearing you may be able to destroy an opposing senator as a result of your efficient wiretapping.

Option B:  You lose the election – but you have evidence of treason by your opponent.  This is highly unlikely, because let’s face it – all your efforts have been contrived political bullshit.  You actually kind of like the Russians; certainly you like them better than the other political party.    But if by some miracle there is evidence of crimes – go nuclear with the information.

Option C:  You lose and you have no evidence of your opponent conspiring with the Russians.  Do not panic!  This should be expected and still offers great options for character assassination.  Begin by leaking that there may be intelligence “linking” your opponent to “meddling” by the Russians.  Use the New York Times and CNN because they have such low journalistic standards they will push whatever you provide.  Keep leaking a bit here and there.  Remember, by this time on the calendar there is no longer any question in public opinion as to whether the Russians “meddled” in the election.  Your media friends have seen to that.  So keep pushing the “conspiracy to meddle” angle and use cherry-picked, leaked intelligence to character assassinate anyone who objects.  Remember, even though you have corrupted a process – you can always say it was all approved by a judge.

 

At this point you are in great shape to destroy your political opponents.  Oh sure, there will be some people that may start to wise up to your abject corruption.  Just remember to stay the course.  If a politician attacks you, call for long, drawn out investigations that never will solve anything.  This helps you destroy your political opponent.  Long drawn out investigations covered by your friends in the media will actually be an opportunity to take down more opponents.  Here you should focus on minutia – it is perfect for tripping up even the most honest opponent.

If a talk show host or minor media outlet points out you look a lot like Nixon, send out your surrogates and have them say “FISA, FISA, FISA” – this incantation will placate your friends over at the NYT and CNN to shout down and drown out any criticism.  Capitalize on your momentum by asking (in hushed tones for maximum effect), “why is such-and-such Radio Talk Show Host not concerned about Russians meddling?”

If you play your cards right, you may get a FISA court to let you wiretap that radio talk show host.

-cjcheetham

Address to Veterans Day luncheon, Newark Delaware – November 11, 2014

FIRST, LET ME SAY THANK YOU FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK IN HONOR OF AMERICA’S VETERANS. I AM TRULY HUMBLED TO BE IN THE COMPANY OF THE HEROES WITH US TODAY AND COUNT IT A GREAT BLESSING THAT WE LIVE IN A NATION WHERE SO MANY HAVE SACRIFICED IN THE DEFENSE OF FREEDOM. I ALSO WANT TO SAY THANK YOU TO MAYOR SIERER FOR BEING HERE TODAY AND ALSO THANK YOU TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE PUT THIS EVENT TOGETHER.

THE FIRST VETERAN’S DAY, THEN CALLED ARMISTICE DAY WAS CELEBRATED 95 YEARS AGO TODAY. IN 1919, THEN PRESIDENT WILSON SAID, “TO US IN AMERICA, THE REFELECTIONS OF ARMISTICE DAY WILL BE FILLED WITH SOLEMN PRIDE IN THE HEROISM OF THOSE WHO DIED IN THE COUNTRY’S SERVICE AND WITH GRATITUDE FOR VICTORY, BOTH BECAUSE OF THE THING FROM WHICH IT HAS FREED US AND BECAUSE OF THE OPPORTUNITY IT HAS GIVEN AMERICA TO SHOW HER SYMPATHY WITH PEACE AND JUSTICE IN THE COUNCILS OF NATIONS.”

PRESIDENT WILSON GOT IT JUST RIGHT. VETERANS DAY IS BOTH A TIME OF REFLECTION ON THE HEROIC ACTS OF OUR ARMED FORCES AND ALSO A TIME OF HOPE. A HOPE THAT AMERICA CAN ONCE AGAIN ACHIEVE A LASTING TIME OF PEACE; FOR AS ANY VETERAN CAN TELL YOU – NO ONE WORKS HARDER FOR, HOPES MORE FOR, AND PRAYS MORE FERVERENTLY FOR PEACE THAN OUR VETERANS. FOR IT IS THE VETERAN OF WAR, THE PERSON WHO HAS SEEN THE EFFECTS OF WAR FIRST HAND – IT IS THAT AMERICAN THAT HOLDS PEACE MOST DEARLY.

THE JOURNALIST TOM BROKAW WHEN WRITING ABOUT THE WORLD WAR II GENERATION SAID, “IT IS, I BELIEVE, THE GREATEST GENERATION ANY SOCIETY HAS EVER PRODUCED.” BUT, WHILE THE WORLD WAR II GENERATION WAS INDEED GREAT – I UTTERLY REJECT THE NOTION THAT IT WAS SOMEHOW THE GREATEST AMERICA HAS SEEN; THAT IT WAS A UNIQUE GENERATION. I SAY THIS CONFIDENTLY BECAUSE NO GENERATION OF AMERICANS HAS BEEN SPARED THE RESPONSIBILITY OF DEFENDING OUR LAND. FROM VALLEY FORGE TO SAN JUAN HILL TO KHE SAHN TO BAGHDAD, AMERICAN GREATNESS HAS BEEN CONSISTENT – AND IT HAS BEEN CONSISTENT BECAUSE OF THE DEDICATION OF AMERICA’S PEOPLE; SPECIFICALLY EACH GENERATION OF AMERICAN WARRIORS HAS PERFORMED ACTS OF HEROISM AND GREATNESS. IT IS A CONTINUUM OF GREATNESS, HANDED DOWN FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION IN OUR ARMED FORCES. A BELIEF; AN IDEAL THAT STATES: AMERICA IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR AND THAT AMERICANISM IS WORTH PRESERVING.

I HAVE HAD THE PRIVILEDGE OF SERVING IN AMERICA’S ARMED FORCES FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS – FIRST AS AN ENLISTED MAN IN THE ARMY AND TODAY AS AN OFFICER IN THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE. DURING MY TIME IN THE MILITARY I HAVE HAD THE HONOR OF SERVING WITH SOME OF THE BEST PEOPLE YOU’LL EVER MEET – PEOPLE WILLING TO PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE FOR OUR FAMILIES, OUR HOMES, AND OUR WAY OF LIFE. I AM CONSISTENTLY AMAZED AT THE GREATNESS OF OUR MILITARY MEN AND WOMEN. THEY DO NOT SEEK FAME AND FORTUNE. RATHER, THEY SEEK A BETTER WORLD WHERE PEOPLE ARE FREE TO LIVE AS THEY WISH; WORSHIP AS THEY PREFER; ORGANIZE THEIR LIVES AS FREE PEOPLE WITHOUT THE THREAT OF VIOLENCE FROM THOSE WHO TRAMPLE ON THE RIGHTS OF MAN. THAT MOTIVATION TOWARD A BETTER WORLD IS BORN OF A SELFLESSNESS THAT IS INDEED A CREDO OF THE AMERICAN MILITARY. THAT IS GREATNESS – AND THAT GREATNESS DWELLS IN THE HEARTS OF THE AMERICAN MILITARY IN EVERY GENERATION.

IN LATE MAY 1991, MY ARMY UNIT WAS RETURNING FROM OUR DEPLOYMENT TO IRAQ DURING OPERATION DESERT STORM. WHEN WE LANDED AT WESTOVER AFB IN MASSACHUSETTS, A CROWD OF AMERICAN CITIZENS WAS THERE TO GREET US. AS THEN SGT CHEETHAM DEBOARDED THE PLANE AND WALKED TOWARD THE HANGAR, WE COULD ALL SEE A MASSIVE CROWD OF AMERICANS, CHEERING WILDLY, WAVING OLD GLORY AND SHOUTING OUR NAMES. IT WAS A WONDERFUL HOMECOMING. AS I ENTERED THE HANGAR (LITERALLY ON A RED CARPET) THE FIRST HANDSHAKES, THE FIRST WARM EMBRACES CAME FROM VETERANS OF THE VIETNAM WAR. THEY WERE THERE, SOME IN WHEEL CHAIRS, TO TELL US THAT WE WERE LOVED AND THAT THEY WERE PROUD OF US. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AMAZED BY THAT EVENT. THE VIETNAM GENERATION, SO UNJUSTLY VILIFIED IN THEIR OWN TIME OF WAR, THE MEN WHO HAD BEEN IGNORED OR WORSE BY THEIR COUNTRY, ROSE ABOVE THEIR OWN BITTER EXPERIENCE TO WELCOME US HOME TO AMERICA. THE VIETNAM VETERANS, HEART-BROKEN BY THEIR OWN REJECTION IN THE 1970S BUT DETERMINED TO RIGHT THAT WRONG, WERE SAYING “NOT ON OUR WATCH. WE WILL NEVER LET ANOTHER GENERATION OF VETERANS FEEL ANYTHING BUT LOVE AND RESPECT AND HONOR WHEN THEY COME HOME.” I LOVE THE VIETNAM VETERANS.

IS SOMEONE GOING TO TELL ME TODAY THAT THAT GENERATION OF VIETNAM VETERANS WAS NOT GREAT? OF COURSE THEY WERE.

THE TRUTH IS, THE AMERICAN MILITARY IS MADE UP OF SPECIAL PEOPLE. NOT SUPER HEROES…NOT PERFECT…NOT EVEN 100% VICTORIOUS IN ALL ENDEAVORS. BUT SPECIAL PEOPLE – WHO WHEN THEY SEE A WRONG – THEY WANT TO RIGHT IT. WHEN THEY SEE SUFFERING – THEY WANT TO ALLEVIATE IT. WHEN THEY SEE INJUSTICE – THEY WANT TO RECTIFY IT. THAT IS TRUE OF ALL AMERICAN VETERANS, IN ALL TIMES.

RATHER THAN ASCRIBING A GREATEST GENERATION LABEL TO OUR HEROES, CAN’T WE ALL AGREE – HERE TODAY, THAT THE AMERICAN VETERAN FROM ALL GENERATIONS DESERVES OUR LOVE, HONOR, AND RESPECT?

OFTEN IN THE COURSE OF MY DAY, I HAVE CITIZENS STOP ME AND SHAKE MY HAND; THEY SAY “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.” IT IS HUMBLING AND IT IS AWE INSPIRING. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE SO GOOD TO OUR MILITARY. LET IT ALWAYS BE SO. BUT I HAVE DEVELOPED MY OWN RESPONSE TO THOSE CITIZENS. WHEN THEY SAY “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE” I ALWAYS REPLY RIGHT BACK “THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING US. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND OUR HOME TOWNS ARE WORTH DEFENDING – IT IS AN HONOR TO SERVE A GREAT NATION.”

ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS, ARTHUR KOESTLER WROTE, “THE MOST PERSISTENT SOUND WHICH REVERBERATES THROUGH MAN’S HISTORY IS THE BEATING OF WAR DRUMS.” HOW I WISH THAT WERE NOT TRUE. WE MUST ALL WORK AND PRAY FOR PEACE. BUT THE HIGHER IDEALS OF FREEDOM, JUSTICE, AND DECENCY MUST BE PLACED ABOVE OUR DESIRE FOR PEACE; BECAUSE PEACE WITHOUT THOSE OTHER THINGS IS NO PEACE AT ALL.

IT IS THE AMERICAN VETERAN THAT DEFENDS THOSE HIGHER IDEALS. I AM BLESSED TO BE AMONG THOSE VETERANS AND I AM HONORED TO SAY TO THOSE VETERANS HERE TODAY AND ACROSS OUR NATION: “THANK YOU. YOU ARE IN WORD… AND IN DEED – THE GREATEST.”

-cjcheetham

Something Worth Remembering – Memorial Day 2014

In the fall of 2009, I was on the back of a C-17 in Kabul Afghanistan when the aircrew announced that our flight would be conducting the first leg of a “dignified transfer.” In other words, traveling with us out of Kabul that morning was an American who had died in the defense of our nation.
We all stood solemnly as the aircrew carried the flag draped coffin into the fuselage. The crew reverently strapped down the coffin; just a short distance from where I would sit on this flight. I took note of the crisp, clean and beautiful American Flag. There have been many times when I have admired the beauty of that flag, but on this day it was different. The flag seemed to be saying, “take a long look at my colors and whenever you do, remember the fallen who I symbolize.”
For that entire flight, I wondered about the American in that flag-draped coffin. He was most certainly no different from you or I. He had a childhood; he had friends, family; he had dreams for the future and plans for all he had yet to accomplish in life. That was all over. He was returning home in silence, a hero fallen in battle. I thanked God for this man and prayed for his family.
**
This past Saturday, I was in Annapolis Maryland with my family. It is a beautiful city. We spent a great deal of time in the Maryland State House. It is a tremendous building, constructed (starting) in 1772 and still home to the Maryland legislature.
Annapolis served as the temporary capital of the United States from 1783-1784, and so I found myself imagining the conversations that took place in the historic halls. Certainly, the most significant event to take place in the senate chamber was the day General George Washington stood before congress and tendered his resignation as commander of the army. The representatives, many with tears streaming down their cheeks, accepted his resignation thereby establishing the supremacy of American civilian legislatures to the American military. Washington also fought back his emotions as he resigned. After years of war, brutal war against the world’s mightiest army, Washington could finally lay down his sword. I have no doubt that as the General stood in that chamber before his countrymen, he thought of the fallen. The many who had fought and died by his side in the great war of independence.
***
Outside the State House, there is a tremendous memorial statue in honor of revolutionary war hero Johann De Kalb. The statue is large and dark; depicting De Kalb with a sword in his hand, imploring his troops to fight on at the tragic Battle of Camden.
De Kalb’s story is a great one and uniquely American. Born in Germany, De Kalb served in the French army. He was an experienced battle-hardened veteran when the government of France sent him to the American colonies in 1768. De Kalb’s mission was to determine the mood of the colonists. However, De Kalb instead developed an admiration for the American colonists desire to create a new nation, conceived in liberty and the rights of man.
By 1777, De Kalb had returned to Maryland, this time in order to fight with the colonists. De Kalb eventually was commissioned as a General in the continental army. In 1780, Washington dispatched Johann De Kalb to South Carolina. The British were having some success in Charleston and Washington needed to act. De Kalb marched the armies of Maryland and Delaware to South Carolina. On the 16th of August, 1780 De Kalb’s forces would join with General Horatio Gates (the victor at Saratoga) and do battle against British forces on a battlefield near the small town of Camden, South Carolina.
The American plan devised by Gates was deeply flawed. In essence, Gates entrusted the left flank to the untested North Carolina militia. To make matters worse, that inexperience militia would face the infamous Raiders under the command of England’s skilled General Tarelton. Not surprisingly, the colonial militia was routed and retreated at full speed. General Gates mounted the fastest horse he could find and road all the way to Charlotte North Carolina.
De Kalb, leading the Maryland and Delaware troops on the right flank was unaware that the American left flank had dissolved. In fact, De Kalb’s troops were making gains on the right flank until the militia retreated. After Gates and the militia retreated, Cornwallis was able to redirect Tarelton’s forces to attack De Kalb’s forces from his unprotected left.
The result was a disaster for the colonists. The Maryland and Delaware forces were routed. De Kalb, by all accounts including the British, fought valiantly that day. The great German urged his troops to fight against withering odds. Eventually, De Kalb had his horse shot out from under him. Refusing to quit, he continued to fight on foot until he succumbed to a swarm of enemy combatants. De Kalb was shot three times and stabbed seven times by enemy bayonets. Tarelton’s account of the battle records that de Kalb could not comprehend the defeat of General Gates.
De Kalb lay dying for some days. The British out of respect for this great soldier gave him medical attention, but De Kalb’s fate was sealed. He hung on for three days. He would never return home to Maryland nor would he ever see France or Germany again. He would never see his family again. A British officer expressed his condolences to De Kalb. De Kalb, mortally wounded and dying responded simply:
“I thank you sir for your generous sympathy, but I die the death I always prayed for: the death of a soldier fighting for the rights of man.”
****
Memorial Day is a time of remembrance. It is not a time to thank veterans but rather to remember those who never returned from the battlefield to become veterans. Every American who has fallen in battle deserves our respect and admiration. These were and are real people with real stories. When they died, it left a hole in the lives of family and friends. The dead will not return to us; therefore they must never be forgotten.
The man in that coffin, who I was honored to fly with in a C-17, wasn’t all that different from Johann De Kalb. Like De Kalb, he answered his nation’s call to battle. Both would tell you that the fight was worth it. Bless them both and all who have died in battle. I pray that Americans commit to live lives worthy of their sacrifice.
*****
Our current conflict reminds us all of the heavy cost of war. It is a brutal thing; this thing called war. Yes, but it is a necessary thing. There is so much sadness when an American serviceman dies on the field of battle. It is wrenching to think of that catastrophic loss for a family. Yet, we can take solace in this: our troops fight because they want a world in which the people of New York can go to work without the fear of some maniacs flying a plane into their building. They fight to stop despots with monstrous visions of a Thousand Year Reich. They fight so that totalitarian monsters, with half-baked ideas of global communism led by madmen hell-bent on creating the “New Soviet Man,” never achieve their goals. In short, the American military fights to protect the American ideal of freedom and rights-inalienable. It is an awesome task. There are enemies everywhere. Many have fallen in our history and sadly, many more will fall in the future.
This Memorial Day, remember the fallen. It’s okay to be sad, but try not to focus on remorse or sadness. Just remember the cost of your freedom and be very, very thankful.

“I thank you sir for your generous sympathy, but I die the death I always prayed for: the death of a soldier fighting for the rights of man.”

-cjcheetham

Cheerleading is not leadership

The problem with our Potemkin village is not that we don’t have a good enough tour guide. – Anonymous

*

From a fan’s perspective, there is nothing worse than a one-sided game, the dreaded blowout. And in the world of blowouts there is nothing worse than the High School basketball blowout.  You know what I mean, the games where the talent disparity is so high that there is no chance of the lesser team even competing, never mind winning.

I recently attended such a game.  The score at halftime was something like 51 – 6.  I was seated among the family and classmates of that losing team, and the mood was utter despair and silence.  However, during timeouts, the school’s cheerleaders trotted merrily out on the floor and implored the catatonic fan base to “fight fight fight!” or shouted rhymes about how our squad was about to win because we had heart and spirit.

At first I was amused by the juxtaposition of the basketball team being blown off the court and these cheerleaders enthusiastically jumping and shouting.  It was absurd.  Yet, as the game went on I found myself craving more cheerleading and less basketball.  It was a form of torture to deal with the reality of disheartened boys getting blown off the court; it was sweet relief when smiling cheerleaders were doing high-flying stunts. 

During the second half, as the opposing team repeatedly made easy buckets the score grew worse.  Despite the rout, whenever our boys managed to score, even a single point via free throw, the cheerleaders would jump about, shaking pom-poms and executing impressive high leg kicks.  By game’s end, the boys had lost by 71.  The team left the court confused and dejected while the cheerleaders shouted “good effort” and “nice try!”

But the boys aren’t stupid; they knew despite the shouts from cheerleaders, they just got crushed.

**

Part of a leader’s job is certainly encouragement.  A leader has to find ways to motivate his team to attack challenges and problems with confidence.  It is a good leadership trait to exhort your team to greatness.  The troops want to be rallied.  They want a leader who says “it can be done!”

However, when exhortation crosses the line and become cheerleading, you are no longer leading.  Instead you have replaced reality with fantasy.  Your team knows this; and you will end up losing your credibility as a leader. 

Once the leader compromises on honesty, he will quickly lose his credibility with the troops.  When your team is walking off the court following a 71-point blowout, resist the temptation to add insult to injury by offering up platitudes about “good effort” while shaking a pom-pom.

 

***

The military is facing another year of bad budgets and manpower cuts this year.  More than a decade of war with (at best) mixed results has been rewarded with planned deep cuts of uniformed personnel.  All branches of the military are being cut, manpower will be lost, experience will leave, and weapons systems will be eliminated or moth-balled.  Oh, and for those who remain, your retirement is on the chopping block.

It has the feeling of a high school basketball blowout.

Yet, the sloganeering and empty rhetoric of how “people are our most important resource” continues unabated.  Leaders at all levels are executing high leg kicks and shouting “we have spirit, yes we do!” 

Spirit, we may have, but do we have uniformed personnel to accomplish our mission?

There is a way for a basketball team to respond to a blowout.  First, you honestly assess how badly you played; you accept reality.  Then you get to work in practice.  The coach, as a leader, doesn’t waste a lot of time trying to find bright spots in a 71-point loss.  Instead he puts together a plan to address shortcomings and overcome failure.  The situation requires honesty.  Slogans simply aren’t going to cut it.

Cheerleaders might tell the team they are wonderful, but a cheerleader isn’t going to solve the problems of that team.  Problem solving requires a leader – a coach.  The coach is going to get back to basics.  He will focus on basic skills and the most important skills.  A back to basics approach focused on mission accomplishment.

****

The troops aren’t stupid. 

They doubt our sincerity when leaders say “our most important resource is our uniformed personnel.”  The troops have seen budget cuts gut training and readiness.  They have seen the projected troop strengths going south.  The troops see vital resources diverted to social engineering efforts and CYA programs designed to placate media firestorms.

The troops aren’t stupid.

They watched as the entire DoD went into freak-out mode when DoD civilians were furloughed for 11 days (which was eventually only 6 days) last year.  Those same troops can’t help but notice there is no similar outcry when the military announces huge cuts in uniformed personnel.  And yes, the troops see that there are approximately 750,000 civilians working for the DoD.  There are 750,000 elephants in the living room, eating peanuts, as uniformed manpower gets cut.  The troops know that 750,000 civilians in the DoD is almost the same size of the Army and Navy combined.  They also see that there is no major cut planned for civilian personnel in DoD.  The troops know that Mr. Putin isn’t concerned with civilian DoD employees as he calculates his next move in the Ukraine, yet civilian manpower in the DoD is untouchable. 

The troops aren’t stupid.  They see the stories and speeches calling for cuts in EARNED benefits to military personnel. 

****

We do have a great military.  The people who serve in our nation’s defense are great people and they do great things every day.  They need advocates and they need resources and they need leaders. 

But they don’t need cheerleaders – because they can see the score.

-cj cheetham

Copyright © 2014 cjcheetham