Sunday, February 18, 2018

Whoever Fights Corruption Should See To It He Does Not Himself Become Corrupt

In 2014 the Department of Veterans Affairs was awash in a scandal over massive wait times in its health care system, particularly at one hospital in Phoenix. In the aftermath, Congress and the White House took steps to reform the VA.
The scandal put a national spotlight on some of the financial incentives the VA used to encourage quicker and better care and how those incentives drove some VA employees to cheat the system, so they could continue getting pay bonuses even as they delivered abominable services to the men and women who have served this great nation.
When President Trump took office, he appointed a new Secretary of Veterans Affairs making accountability a major focus of VA reforms.
A scathing report has emerged which found Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin’s chief of staff attempted to cover up travel expenses incurred by Shulkin's wife, Dr. Merle Bari, by doctoring an email with false statements making it possible for Bari to travel at taxpayer expense.
The report comes as Shulkin, the only holdover from the Obama administration in President Trump’s Cabinet, is in the midst of a difficult attempt to overhaul the troubled VA and, in particular, its health care system.
An 11-member Veterans Administration delegation, including Bari and six members of Shulkin's security detail, traveled to Great Britain and Denmark last July, at a total VA cost of $122,334, according to the report. The trip included a tour of Westminster Abbey, attendance at the women's final at Wimbledon and a cruise along the Thames River.
Inspector General Michael J. Missal began his review last October after The Washington Post discovered Shulkin and his wife had spent nearly half their time on personal activities during the European trip. The VA said the two flew commercially and taxpayers covered her airfare as part of "temporary duty" travel expenses.
The audit found the trip violated a cost-saving directive that Shulkin himself had issued to the Department weeks prior to the trip to avoid unnecessary expenses.
Vivieca Wright Simpson, who had served at the Department for 32 years, had been a target of critics within the VA for what they saw as bureaucratic inaction on a host of reforms proposed by President Trump’s administration. She had previously served as Shulkin’s chief of staff at the Veterans Health Administration before he was promoted to the Department’s top post.  Simpson is the same person who in 2014 tried to get VA employees to hide evidence of the VA wait-time scandal from members of Congress.  She has since resigned.
IG Missal’s findings included (1) the Chief of Staff’s alteration of a document and misrepresentations to ethics officials caused Secretary Shulkin’s wife to be approved as an “invitational traveler,” which authorized VA to pay her travel costs (although only airfare was claimed); (2) Secretary Shulkin improperly accepted a gift of Wimbledon tickets and related hospitality; (3) a VA employee’s time was misused as a personal travel concierge to plan tourist activities exceeding that necessary for security arrangements; and (4) travelers’ documentation was inadequate to determine the trip’s full costs to VA. The OIG did not assess the value of the trip to VA or determine whether the Europe travel, as conducted, was “essential,” per VA policy.  The IG has also referred the matter to the Department of Justice for potential criminal prosecution.
Shulkin, in an appearance on Capitol Hill on February 15th, suggested her emails may have been hacked by individuals working against his leadership team.
“We act with the highest ethical character,” Shulkin said. “I relied upon my staff to do this, and in retrospect, I wish that I had asked more questions.”
According to a published report by The Daily Caller, Shulkin implied to Congress she might not have been responsible for that email; it might have been a hacker impersonating her. He insisted the department has “found there are people sending emails from her account that aren’t her.”
In that same Daily Caller report, it was noted, “An hour after he left the newsroom the Department’s website posted a statement saying it had found no evidence of any hack, either in June or on Wednesday. “We have thus far found no credible or conclusive evidence of a compromise to our email system or a user’s account.”
Some observers questioned Shulkin’s claims that someone was impersonating his chief of staff and were suspicious that his allegations coincided with the release of the IG report.
At least one lawmaker, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) an Army and Marine Corps veteran and member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, called for Shulkin’s resignation due to what he says is manipulation of evidence and the implication to legislators that there was credible reason to think the email might not be real.
“What we know now is there’s no evidence of a hack. I think he’s trying to muddy the waters on this. It’s not the issue itself, it’s the cover-up, it speaks to his lack of integrity,” he said.
For the record Shulkin has reimbursed the government the money for his wife’s unauthorized travel and intends to repay The Invictus Games for the Wimbledon tickets.
Also, The Daily Caller learned from a senior department official the Secretary has an upcoming official trip to the Vatican with his wife. The source reiterated that the trip is currently on the books, saying the pair are scheduled to travel to Vatican City from April 20 to 29 to attend the Pontifical Council for Culture.
“I am not going on any trip to the Vatican or any trip abroad. That is not happening” Shulkin responded.
The Vatican is one of the few countries in the world that does not have a military. The Council for Culture includes a show of European art and religious history.

A Walk On The Wild Side

Saturday, February 17, 2018

CNN: Dead Network Walking

Maybe CNN’s current bottom-of-the-barrel ratings will force the network to admit they are serving Russian interests with their rabid sensationalism of the “collusion” story.

UPDATE:  Welcome readers of Pirate’s Cove.  We are grateful to the Admiral ofr linking to this post.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Russia, Russia, Russia Is Just Nuthin', Nuthin', Nuthn'

Dilbert creator Scott Adams posted this on his Twitter page. He cites a study that concludes: "the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero."

The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments

Forthcoming, American Political Science Review
166 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2017 Last revised: 19 Oct 2017

Joshua Kalla

University of California, Berkeley, Students

David E. Broockman

Stanford Graduate School of Business
Date Written: September 25, 2017

Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans’ candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact 10-fold. These experiments’ average effect is also zero. In both existing and our original experiments, persuasive effects only appear to emerge in two rare circumstances. First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately — although this early persuasion decays. These findings contribute to ongoing debates about how political elites influence citizens’ judgments.

Once again the democrats and their faithful idiot servants, the media, journey into a land where form always triumphs over substance, where political suppositions ignore reality and fulsome exclamations replace honest debate.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

And The Dance Continues...

Meanwhile, at the Senate National Intelligence Soiree yesterday morning, all the Dems could do was mouth "Russia, Russia, Russia" at the nation's top intelligence officials. The Dems completely ignore the real dangers to our Beloved Nation that come from within.

The Making of Pocahontas’ 2020 Stump Speech

It’s a neat trick Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s pulled off. She leveraged her fictional Native American heritage into a plum spot at Harvard Law School. She leveraged her Harvard job to fenagle a garbage scholarship on a gullible media. And now she has leveraged all of that into a plum Senate seat and transmuted herself into a fake heroine.
No one should be blinded by Warren’s deceit.
So, this morning she made a surprise appearance at the National Congress of American Indians.  Her plan, ostensibly, was to forcefully refute President Trump’s nickname for her and focus on the issue that will never go away─her fraudulent claim of being a Native American.
“I want to start by thanking Chairwoman Andrews-Maltais for that introduction. It has been an honor to work with, to learn from, and to represent the tribes in my home state of Massachusetts, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, the Aquinnah and the Mashpee Wampanoag.”
“I also want to thank President Jefferson Keel, and everyone at the National Congress of American Indians. For over 70 years, you’ve championed the rights and dignity of First Americans and I am honored to be here with you today.”
“I’ve noticed that every time my name comes up, President Trump likes to talk about Pocahontas. So, I figured, let’s talk about Pocahontas. Not Pocahontas, the fictional character most Americans know from the movies, but Pocahontas, the Native woman who really lived, and whose real story has been passed down to so many of you through the generations.”
“But now we have a president who can’t make it through a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes without reducing Native history, Native culture, Native people to the butt of a joke.”
“The joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me.”
“I get why some people think there’s hay to be made here. You won’t find my family members on any rolls and I’m not enrolled in a tribe.”
“And I want to make something clear. I respect that distinction. I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.” 
“But I want to make something else clear too: My parents were real people.”
[Here’s where you and I are supposed to believe that out of 330 million Americans, she and she alone, suffered unimaginable hardships.] 
“By all accounts, my mother was a beauty. She was born in Eastern Oklahoma, on this exact day—Valentine’s Day—February 14, 1912. She grew up in the little town of Wetumka, the kind of girl who would sit for hours by herself, playing the piano and singing. My daddy fell head over heels in love with her.”
“But my mother’s family was part Native American. And my daddy’s parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship. So, in 1932, when Mother was 19 and Daddy had just turned 20, they eloped.”
“Together, they survived the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. They saved up to buy a home. They raised my three older brothers, and they watched as each one headed off to serve in the military. After Daddy had a heart attack and was out of work, after we lost the family station wagon and it looked like we would lose our house, and everything would come crashing down, my mother put on her best dress and walked to the Sears and got a minimum-wage job. That minimum-wage job saved our house and saved our family.”
“My parents struggled. They sacrificed. They paid off medical debts for years. My daddy ended up as a janitor. They fought, and they drank, but more than anything, they hung together. 63 years—that’s how long they were married. When my mother died, a part of my daddy slipped away too.”
“Two years later, I held his hand while cancer took him. The last thing he said was, “It’s time for me to be with your mother.” And he smiled.”
“They’re gone, but the love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built, and the story they lived will always be a part of me. And no one—not even the president of the United States—will ever take that part of me away.” 
“So, I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.”

Trey Gowdy: The Rob Porter Chronology Is Not Favorable For The White House

House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said today on CNN’s “New Day” he launched an investigation last night into how and why Rob Porter was allowed to work at the White House.
Alisyn Camerota, as you have come to expect from any CNN host, was combative with Gowdy.  He managed to shut down her flame-throwing in short order as you will see in the embedded video below.
"You can call it official. You can call it unofficial," Gowdy told CNN. "I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer. And if they don't answer them, then they're going to need to give me a really good reason."
"The chronology is not favorable for the White House," Gowdy said, adding that he can't understand how Porter, the former staff secretary who resigned last week amid domestic abuse allegations from both of his ex-wives, remained employed. 
"If you knew it in 2017, and the Bureau briefed them three times, then how in the hell was he still employed? The security clearance issue is a separate issue. How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?
"I think the really fair questions are, what were you told, by whom were you told it, did you have some reason to question what the Bureau told you and if none of that is true, why did you keep him on?" Gowdy said.
In another segment on the same morning show, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was confronted by Chris Cuomo about Porter’s security clearance.
"The White House has been clear about that," said Jordan. "I don't know what kind of access Mr. Porter had to certain information, but I think that's something that needs to be corrected moving forward, and I believe it will be with this White House."
Jordan then shifted the topic to the ongoing questions over the FBI's techniques in securing a FISA warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page, which enraged Cuomo.
"To compare it to the FBI doing what they did, taking a campaign document, dressing it all up as legitimate intelligence and presenting it to a FISA court, a secret court…"
Cuomo told him it is not fair to call the FISA court a "secret" operation, but Jordan asked if he'd ever seen a transcript from the court.
"That's why I called on Director Christopher Wray months ago. Show us the application. Show us the transcript. I'm for making everything transparent, including the Democratic memo when done with our sources and methods."

Schiff: Dems Won't Revise FISA Memo Response

"Adam came down from Mount Ego. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the FISA memo in his hand, Adam did not know that he was still bug-eyed after consulting with his puppetmaster.”

Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said yesrday panel Democrats will not make any revisions to their response to the Republican memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI and DOJ in the Russia probe.
"We are not going to make any revisions to it. The only question is what redactions will be made. Obviously, we'd like to keep those to a minimum. The White House has a different interest," Schiff added. "Their interest is in redacting anything that doesn't reflect well in the White House."
Democrats say their 10-page memo provides more context to the GOP memo, which details how the FBI and DOJ applied for warrants from the FISA court to gather information on Carter Page which the President refused to declassify citing “significant concerns for national security and law enforcement interests.
The Steele dossier was paid for by Hillary, a fact that was never disclosed in the application for the warrant, according to the Devin Nunes memo.
While the President can be overridden by parliamentary procedures in the House, it is unclear how the Democrats’ decision not to revise their memo will impact his decision to allow its release to the public.
The Democrats deliberately booby trapped it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hung Out To Dry

The White House has been dogged for days now by questions stemming from allegations of domestic abuse from two of White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said action was taken last week when officials became aware of the allegations and that the investigation was “ongoing”.
During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that his agency informed the White House as early as March 2017 about at least some of the findings of a background check on Porter as part of his security clearance application.
Responding to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) during the Committee hearing, Wray spelled out the process in which the FBI briefed the White House while Porter was operating with a temporary clearance and had access to some of America's most closely held secrets. 
“The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” Wray said, adding that “soon thereafter we received requests for follow-up inquiry, and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November.”
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday, without mentioning Porter by name, that while it can be “necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance to fill a slot, people with such temporary statuses shouldn't have the same contact with classified material as people with permanent clearances. Access has to be limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive,” Coats said.
According to The Washington Post, White House Counsel Donald McGahn knew one year ago Porter’s ex-wives were prepared to make damaging accusations about him that could threaten his security clearance but allowed him to serve as an influential gatekeeper and aide to President Trump without investigating the accusations, according to people familiar with the matter.
Emily Jashinsky, a former spokeswoman for Young America’s Foundation noted, “No matter how decent McGahn and Kelly thought Porter to be, and no matter how convincing they found his denials, pursuing the truth about someone with so much responsibility in the White House should have been a top priority, if even to dismiss the allegations and take steps to ensure he wasn't susceptible to blackmail, or wasn't a threat to any of their female staff. We need more information, but what we already know is disappointing.
The Porter story has undermined John Kelly’s credibility and reputation.  This scandal is sucking all the oxygen out of the room.
Between you and me, I don’t trust Christopher Wray. He strikes me as being a bit of a weasel, but lawdy, Maxine Waters is buying what he’s selling:

A Disturbing Charade

As President Trump laid his hand upon the Lincoln Bible at high noon on January 20, 2017, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was administering the Oath of Office.  At 12:15 PM, Obama’s National Security Administrator was busily typing an email to herself.
She was adorably concerned [I’m being factious here] about detailing her boss’ guidance at a “high-level meeting” in the Oval Office from January 5 about how “law enforcement should investigate interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.”
In attendance was The World’s Most Dangerous Community Organizer, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, “Uncle” Joe Biden, FBI Director James Comey and Rice.
In the email, Rice wrote: “On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present. President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities “by the book”. The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book. From a national security perspective, however, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia. The President asked Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team. Comey said he would.”
The “unusual” email first surfaced Monday, when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent Rice a letter asking her to further explain why she sent the email and whether it pertains to her involvement in the Trump-Russia dossier.

Sens. Grassley and Graham asked her to tell them when she first became aware of the FBI’s investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign. NOTE: The FBI reportedly began investigating links  sometime in July 2016.
They also asked whether Comey and Yates discussed the dossier in the Oval Office meeting with Obama and how Comey described the FBI’s relationship with the dossier's author, Christopher Steele.
Comey denied ever meeting Obama more than twice in his tenure; once in 2015 and again “to say good-bye in 2016”. By failing to inform the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the meeting in his June 8, 2017 testimony, Comey may have deliberately and intentionally misled Congress about his interactions with the former president, especially a meeting so close to Trump entering the White House.
Rice must reply to the letter by Feb. 22.
If Rice abused her position as National Security Adviser to unmask Trump aides as part of an effort to sabotage the Trump Administration, she committed the crime of espionage.
Question No. 5 of the Grassley/Graham letter divulges the strong suspicion they are in possession of documentation contradicting Rice’s email account of the meeting.
5. Is the account of the January 5, 2017 meeting presented in your email accurate? Did you omit any other portions of the conversation?


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