Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Peculiarities of the Fine Structure Constant

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Spacing of spectral line shifts depends on the fine structure constant. It's been found that different spectra are obtained in the lab vs. obtained from distant quasars with light passing through gas clouds.

In the table presented in my March 18th post, the fine structure constant is shown on the last line with a value of  a   =  1/ 137.035999139 or approximately, 1/ 137.   Note the value is the same irrespective of the system of measurement because this constant is a pure number - there ate no units attached- unlike the other constants I covered.  Indeed,  a    is an amalgamation of several other constants including the electron, the speed of light and the Planck constant. We can write, for example,

 a   =  1/ 4p e    { e2 / ħ c }   where:     ħ  =   h/ 2p

Physicists keep track of the fins structure constant by using quasars. Also called "QSOs" for quasi -stellar objects, these are active galactic nuclei of extremely high luminosity powered by supermassive black holes. As shown in the diagram above, on its way toward Earth the QSO's light passes through gas clouds which absorb light of particular frequencies producing gaps - also called absorption lines - in the otherwise continuous spectrum.  The typical profile of such an absorption line is shown below, this one centered at a wavelength of 5889.95 angstroms:
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As can be seen from the absorption line profile there is a variation in the line "darkness"  with the maximal degree at line center where the absorption coefficient is greatest. This then falls off in what we call the "line wings".   (Note here that  D uD  is the Doppler half-width of the line.)  The point is that the locations of these absorption lines depend on the fine structure constant. Thus, variations in the spacing of the lines in space or time might indicate the value of  a    has changed.

Is there evidence for such variations? In 2011, in a paper appearing in Physical Review Letters, John Webb of the University of New South Wales and colleagues reported the fine structure constant increases in one direction in the sky and decreases in the opposite direction. Almost if some special axis was running through the universe. Of course, no physicist would be content with such "specialness" or uniqueness. By the cosmological principle such behavior of a   ought not depend on directions. (And in this regard even Webb counts himself as a skeptic, as he should).

In fact, a compelling alternative explanation has been put forward by Michael Murphy of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.  He suggests the logical take that telescope calibration issues are to blame for the apparently changing value of a.   Using measurements free of calibration issues, the value of  stays put, as Murphy et al reported in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.   See also:


It should be noted, however, that Murphy et al's findings do not rule out actual variations in  with respect to the part of the sky observed by Webb in 2011.

Here's an interesting side thought to ponder: What if, instead of a   = 1/137 (approximately) it had been 1/ 130? Say during the birth of the universe. Then it seems clear the cosmos would have been set on a path to being barren, empty.

As an interesting historical aside, Sir Arthur Eddington arrived at a value of a   = 1/136 by taking the ratio of two "naturally occurring units of action". ('Great Ideas and Theories of Modern Cosmology', 1961, p. 178).  He chose one unit of action as the quantum for radiation, or  ħ  =   h/ 2p  and the second as the action for elementary particles, or e2 / c.   Then, taking:

{e2 / c}/  ħ  =  1/ 136

Curiously, Eddington wasn't bothered by the divergence (from a   = 1/137 )  , and just introduced a "fudge factor". This "was for obscure reasons that are difficult to understand". Perhaps, in the end, he was simply mesmerized by a kind of 'numerology' . Eddington also came up with a quadratic equation: 10x2  +    136x +  1 = 0,  linking his  fine structure result with the mass ratio of the proton to electron, i.e. in terms of the ratio of its two roots. From there, Eddington parlayed his fine structure and other pure number results into a kind of "universal theory" linking every aspect of the cosmos in a kind of romantic quest. Much like Kepler before him, with his "harmonic geometry"  in which the five Pythagorean regular polyhedra dictate the structure of the universe and reflect God's plan through geometry.

We shouldn't be too hard on Sir Arthur  (or Johannes Kepler) as he wasn't the first scientist to be taken in by numerical relationships, "harmonic" ratios, and "precision" theoretics. Nor will he likely be the last.  Even today we behold "scientists" seriously working on the so-called "anthropic principle". This  nonsense is based on the fallacy (due to a misunderstanding of physics units, dimensions) that there is an implicit "fine tuning". This in turn depends on a putative "fine precision" - but that is almost always based on the choice of units.

Thus, saying stupidity like "if the neutrino mass were 1 part in 10 35  smaller there'd be no expansion of the universe" is like saying that if Lebron James were 1 part in 10 16  shorter he'd not have been a great basketball player! 

Investors Hope For 'Correction' Cure - But It Won't Prevent the Ultimate Debt Crash

The Wall Street Journal yesterday featured a front page article, 'Stock Retreat Has Its Fans', which piqued the interest of many.  Quoting from the first two paragraphs:

"Many investors and analysts fear a postelection rally that has driven the S&P 500 up roughly 10 percent has cleaved share prices from the underlying fundamentals that tend to drive gains over time, such as interest rates and corporate earnings.

What's due now, some investors say, is a correction: a 10 % pullback from the indexes' March 1 high. They contend such a retreat would tamp down speculation, defray pockets of froth in popular investments and provide buying opportunities for those still on the sidelines."

The article goes on to state that such declines serve an important function in a market economy basically letting some of the excess 'gas' out of the balloon - which might otherwise blow up, i.e. resulting in a major crash. In this regard, the stock market is already well into bubble territory. Thus, long periods without the healthy corrections lead to market pathology and "unruly trading" - inflating the bubble further until it bursts.

Some may console themselves that a 10 percent correction or maybe even 12 percent, will ease their insecurities but alas, the crash is still on its way. What I would call a "sovereign debt crash" because it will ultimately be the recognition that most national debts can't be repaid that will be the tipping point to one of the largest crashes on record.

First, let's understand the nature of a sovereign debt crisis.,  Sovereign debt is not the same as the mortgage crisis which nearly brought down the global finance system in 2008. The latter was predicated upon the unwise purchase (mainly by banks but also by some insurers like AIG) of esoteric derivatives called “credit default swaps”. These basically represented bets on packaged mortgage securities called collateralized debt obligations.

In the case of the sovereign debt crisis, nations – not banks- are on the verge of default and are seeing their national bond ratings plummet because their debts are too high in relation to their gross domestic product (GDP).  In my March 22 post, I already noted Barbados as being deep in the maw of a sovereign debt crisis.  This followed yet another Moody's bond downgrade, down to Caaa3+, and Barbados now being on the verge of currency devaluation.

The Moody's report on the reasons for the downgrade included:

The government debt burden reached 111% of GDP at end-2016, and the authorities have accumulated a large stock of arrears to the private sector and the National Insurance Scheme,, estimated at a further 11% of GDP at end-FY2015/16. 

The National Insurance scheme is similar to Social Security in the U.S. and what the Moody's report indicates is that this program is over extended with the gov't already in arrears in what it owes (fro borrowing from the NIS) by 11 percent of GDP. In other words, the Barbados government is printing millions of dollars a month to try to keep seniors receiving their pensions.

Some may believe Barbados is an exception, but it isn't. Around the world governments are buried in debt - sovereign debt. It is this debt bomb - building up - that will ultimately roil the markets, along with serious missteps by the Trumpites in handling any future financial crises.  

But back to the sovereign debt crisis, not only is the U.S. in up to its eyeballs, with the Trumpites set to blow the debt wide open, i.e.
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That is, the federal debt as a percentage of GDP would explode through the roof - exceeding the size of the entire U.S. economy within ten years. of Trump and the GOP get their tax policy plans rammed through.

Meanwhile, Europe is printing euros like there's no tomorrow, and debt - especially in nations like Spain, Portugal and Greece, piling up to unprecedented levels.  Then there is the Bank of Japan which has printed over 13.3  trillion yen   The Fed in the U.S. has done its own form of printing money by way of "quantitative easing", purchasing over $4 trillion in the bond market.

All of these signals in tandem show the instability of the global debt crisis and no one who looks into these can remain complacent. Barbados, of course, is near and dear to my heart  - so I pay special attention to what goes on there, like I do here in the U.S. But other nations' debt issues can't be overlooked because they also impact our own financial-economic conditions. As their own sovereign debt crises have manifested the oncoming 'train wreck'  is difficult to avoid. Expect to see default after default.

What's my main worry looking at Barbados and other nations? Well, that none of their debts will ever be repaid. Those debts, including unfunded liabilities into the future (e.g. pensions to be paid) are simply too huge for repayment even in instalment. The credit agencies Standard and Poor's and Moody''s already seem to recognize the writing is on the wall in the case of Barbados, which is why the loan conditions now are so draconian there's no way the debt will be covered.

It is no 'biggie' then to foresee that the debt collapse now drowning Barbados will very soon hit Europe, then spread to Japan - and the U.S. by the end of the year.   That end point will be accompanied by falling oil prices, failure to raise the debt ceiling after a brutal partisan showdown (and Trump -GOP bravado), and then cratering bond prices.

Obviously, borrowing more money for any sovereign debt nation isn't the answer. It hasn't been for Barbados, and has only pushed it into a debt hole. The same is true for Greece, Spain, Portugal, Japan and others.  Borrowing is especially useless as the loan terms are degraded - less money on offer, accompanied by more demanding loan condition. Ask Barbados' Central Bank.

Yes, a correction will likely help in the immediate future to stabilize stocks, but not in the longer term, and Trump's own actions may precipitate whatever crash is in the works to happen much sooner.

Monday, March 27, 2017

College Physics Taught Without Problem Solving? Preposterous!

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In the most recent issue of Physics Today (March, p. 10), a 2nd year student in astrophysics at University College,  London  saw his roughly 2-page letter ('How to teach me physics: Tradition is not always a virtue') published. While  acknowledging "physics is the most exciting endeavor I can imagine", Ricardo Heras also wrote:

"The basic courses of my first two years were disappointing. They didn't really give me the opportunity to join that great adventure. Most of my lecturers followed traditional teaching approaches based heavily on solving standard problems and learning by rote, with no hint of free inquiry or discussion. They seemed to be convinced we would understand physics through that method. I was not enthusiastic. "

Mr. Heras then went on to complain that while he and fellow students "spent a lot of time and effort solving textbook-style problems" they didn't really understand physics by doing so and stated that he was "mainly trained to use problem solving techniques."  He then quoted Richard Feynman (of the Feynman lectures fame)  who wrote:

"I don't know what's the matter with people, they don't learn by understanding , they learn by some other way - by rote or something"

Let's first note that the Feynman Lectures in Physics (a  3-volume work) definitely  exemplifies the author’s unconventional approach to physics teaching. But even today most physicists I know look at it as an interesting experiment but only use the texts as  supplemental material to their undergrad courses (whether in QM, Electricity and Magnetism or Thermal Physics) but not as a standalone text.  This is understandable because Feynman drifted all over the place, and didn't follow the usual trajectory for teaching physics, e.g. mechanics, heat, wave motion, optics, electrostatics, E&M, atomic physics, and maybe some quantum physics.

Interestingly, Feynman explored some intriguing problems, such as finding how maser states vary when a maser cavity frequency is nearly - but not exactly- equal to the resonance frequency, w o (Cf. Vol. III,  Sec. 9.5 ' Transitions off resonance')  Despite numerous such examples scattered over 3 volumes, there was no supplemental problem set or booklet to accompany the lectures. Many have opined they might write such a set eventually, but co-authors Babcock and Leighton never did. .  In any case, it appeared Feynman himself didn't regard having such problems as being of paramount import, as this student Heras doesn't. Indeed, Heras even quotes David Goodstein from a Feb., 1989 Physics Today piece on Feynman:

"If his purpose in giving them was to prepare classes of adolescent boys to solve examination problems in physics, he may not have succeeded particularly well… . If, however, his purpose was to illustrate, by example, how to think and reason about physics, then, by all indications, he was brilliantly successful."

Heras' own frustrations are evident when he writes:

"The aspects of physics I have understood best so far are those I have studied for pleasure. I understood special relativity better when I derived the Lorentz transformations in a different form. This task was much more exciting than the usual assignment of calculating the length contraction of a rod."

But, of course it would be!   The key aspect as well is that when the student studies physics on his own he can apply the creativity and free inquiry he so often finds absent in the class-lecture setting. But this should not be mystifying. Check any university course catalog - even I suspect University College, London - and you will see course listings by credit hours. These give an indication of the time allocated in class for lectures each week. Also labs may be listed separately with their credit hours assigned (Often 1 cr. hr. but the student is actually in lab for 3 hrs.). The whole point is that the university schedule conforms to a specified time frame.  Administrators, for understandable reasons, want to make sure each undergrad - for example - can matriculate in 4-5 years, not take 10 or 15, which Feynman's "create and think it all out" rubric might require.

So it was easy for Feynman to write (as Heras quotes him):

"The best teaching can be done only when there is a direct individual relationship between a student and a good teacher—a situation in which the student discusses the ideas, thinks about the things, and talks about the things."

But let's face it, Feynman is talking here about one -on -one tutorials!  Of course that's the best teaching! But how the heck are you going to apply that to a class of say 300 first year calculus physics undergrads - and that's for one section sitting in an auditorium?

Let's also not fool ourselves that problem-solving in physics is not critically important and often discloses how a student is able to think his way through a problem based on using known principles (not "rote").  Conducted with the most interesting, thought absorbing problems, problem solving can be a boon to inculcating physics principles. The object then is not to move away from problems (given they are used at every stage to gauge whether the student can advance - see the end of this post) but to craft better problems!

One such problem  I've given as part of a 2- year General Physics course, is shown below:
A group of 4 astronauts lands on Mars with solar radiation collection material of total area 2000 m 2 . If the efficiency of the material is 30%, and the ambient night time temperature on Mars (for their base location at Isidis Planitia) is -40 C (10C day time), will they have adequate collecting material if the solar constant on Mars is 620 W/m2 ? (Assume insulating material with a thermal conductivity of 0.08 W/mC, and a need to keep the inside area of their domecile at least at 10 C, requiring solar radiant energy collected of at least 1,200 W per minute for an area of 10 m x 10 m.)

Estimate the thickness of insulating material they're likely to need in order to make it work. Comment on whether this expedition is even feasible given the limits of their materials, and that no more than 100 m
3  of insulating material can be taken.
The preceding problem clearly makes use of physics principles which the student needs to know to arrive to the solution.  Also, it is clear the student can't just solve the problem by "rote", or by "finding some appropriate equations, putting them together, manipulating them algebraically."  In other words, problem solving need not be mutually exclusive with free inquiry. In fact, a homework problem can afford the opportunity for such inquiry that the limits of course and class structure don't.   Hence, I usually blame physics lecturers for offering uninspired problems for homework and tests, as opposed to creative ones that force the student to go beyond the rote or plug-in paradigm.

While one can sympathize with Heras’ poignant pleas for more “creativity” in physics teaching (especially at the undergrad level), the fact remains that the entire current structure of physics education is founded on mastery of content, as reflected in tests taken at various stages. These determine whether the student is qualified for promotion and even admission to the gateway for ultimate passage (the Ph.D.) which depends on passing a series of comprehensive examination.

To modify this didactic structure in favor of creative in- class learning simply wouldn’t accomplish the goals of physics departments as they are presently structured. For one thing, the time consumed for such learning would surely be much greater  than for the current lecture-lab format. Of course, one could assign projects such as I have during my physics teaching career in the 1980s- early 90s, but this is outside of class time. Hence, it does not facilitate learning by supporting independent student creativity in class.
What I have done, to a limited degree, is allow students - such as in general physics, calculus physics or space physics classes I've taught - to design some of their own labs. The design can be presented as a kind of "thought" experiment in the first instance, and then followed up by providing the specific apparatus that would be technically needed to carry it out.

For example, consider the design of an experiment to allow the student to simulate a "subflare", for which I have used the following:

Some solar flare models are based on 'equivalent inductive circuits' in which the circuit is suddenly interrupted or broken when the switch is opened, e.g.

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 When the circuit is broken the collapsing flux through the coil tends to maintain the current  I o hence will generate a spark at the gap if the switch is opened. Suppose the current is rising in simple circuit with a coil, a source of emf, a switch and an inductance, L. Let the current in the simple circuit rise at the rate dI/dt per second. If L is the circuit inductance then the back emf is:

Eb = L (dI/ dt)

The rate at which work is done vs. the back emf is:

 Eb I = LI (dI/ dt)

How might you use this to design an actual  circuit to illustrate how a solar flare occurs via sudden "circuit breaking"? List all the components needed and the specifications.  How would you estimate the magnitude of energy released? How would you re-design the circuit to prevent sparking , i.e. original energy stored in magnetic field of coil now stored in electrostatic field of capacitor? (This latter would be analogous to a double layer in a solar coronal loop which stores excess magnetic free energy. Thus, if its capacitance is large enough  the potential difference across it - and hence across the switch - never rises high enough to cause a spark, or flare in the case of the loop circuit configuration). 

Followup problem: In your lab experiment design, suppose a 1 A current is to be broken (without sparking) in a circuit with self -inductance 1 henry. Find the maximum threshold p.d. across the capacitor, beyond, i.e. which cannot be exceeded. Thereby find the least capacitance that can effectively connected across the switch.

This exercise not only tests the student's creativity and free inquiry skills in simulating a subflare in an inductive circuit, but also how such a flare can be "stifled" under the appropriate physical conditions.  It also addresses Heras' complaint that:
"Traditional teaching methods urge us to perform standard calculations that rarely spark our creativity. Being immersed in such teaching, I feel trapped in a labyrinth whose exit can only be found by solving a ton of mostly uninteresting textbook problems."
Perhaps Heras would have been more at home being challenged in my space physics labs, where free inquiry was given plenty of leeway. In space physics the student is introduced early on to the importance of the Earth's magnetic field, and in particular as the basis for the magnetosphere - on which the aurora depends. In another variant of the earlier experiment, I will set out the following materials  for a space physics lab with no specific instructions for assembly or application: a rectangular coil of at least N = 100 turns mounted on a light wooden frame, a square wooden base 10 cm x 10 cm, two set screws, additional wire, wooden stops, other assorted screws, pins, selected apparatus including flat needle pointer.  If assembled correctly it will appear in finished form below:
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The student is then required to use aforementioned materials to construct a working ballistic galvanometer which he or she will then use to find: a) the magnetic flux φ  linking the coil of N turns, the angle of 'dip' and c) the ratio of the vertical component ( B v  ) of Earth's magnetic field to the horizontal component  ( B H ).   An illustration of the quantities in terms of the coil orientation is shown below, where d  denotes the angle of dip:
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The preceding examples are intended to illustrate that there is scope to interject inquiry and creative aspects into labs as well as homework problems. However, I believe it is unrealistic to expect entire classes to be devoted to free inquiry or creative learning via exclusively "first principles" understanding - by which I mean the student is responsible for all or most of the creative effort to learn all his physics "first hand" as it were - with zero outside input.  If we had all the time in the world, or at least more than 4 hours per week for lectures, 3 for labs, plus seven or eight years for physics students to graduate - that might be fine.

But seriously, what physics department today could even remotely entertain such a class or mode of subject delivery?  It would require vastly more time and resources, as well as a totally radical rethinking of physics pedagogy and would come up against the existing system for promotion and qualification, not to mention how we integrate students into the formal university course system. I am not saying it could never work, only that free inquiry and creativity have only limited scope as current physics departments are designed.

Perhaps the optimal time for such exclusive student pursuit of free inquiry is when Heras proceeds on to the pursuit of his Ph.D.  Then, by selecting a problem of inherent appeal, he can develop lines for  original expression of his curiosity, creativity and inquiry not readily available in standard courses. But to expect beginning physics students to do this in more than limited and controlled settings is, frankly, ludicrous.

Of course, to reach that ultimate Ph.D. inquiry point he will have to pass his Ph.D. comprehensive examinations, and that will entail solving a lot of  difficult “traditional” problems! Generally, there will be six exams in six subject areas: classical mechanics, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, mathematical physics, quantum physics, and electromagnetic theory. These will generally be four hours each.

One of the problems (of five) for the classical mechanics comp given at Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks is shown below:
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Even before crossing that threshold, he will need to get through the physics GRE subject exam, which consists of a solid 100 problems to be done in 3 hours. See e.g.


True, the problems are multiple choice (5 options) but that doesn't mean one can race through them. Consider the example shown below:

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The diagram (Fig. 1) shows a resting cylinder of weight W. The coefficient for static friction for all surfaces is 1/3.  The applied force for P = 2W
61)The distance d for which the counterclockwise motion is initiated by P is:
A) d = r/3    B) d = d/2   C) d = r/ 4  D) d = 2d/ 5   E) d = 3r/ 5

62) The vertical reaction force at point A is:

A)    0.3 W  …B)0.5W…..C) 0.8W…. D) 0.9 W…..E) 1.5W

63) The vertical reaction force at point B is:

A) 3W…..B) 2.7 W……C) 1.5 W…..D) 2.1 W….E) 2.5 W

64) The horizontal reaction force at point A is:
A) 1.5 W…..B) 2.1 W….  C) 0.9 W……D) 1.2 W……E) 1.8 W

65) The horizontal reaction force at point B is:

A) 1.5 W…..B) 02.1 W…..C)  0.9 W….D) 1.2 W…..E) 1.8 W

My point in showing the above? Problems form the core for determining physics advancement at various stages. If you don't like working problems, consider them "too traditional", or whatnot, then physics may not be the "endeavor" for you.

Final note: The Scientific American blog also discussed Heras' letter but framed it in terms of "individualists" vs. "collectivists", i.e. in terms of research bent. Thus, the "individualist" does his own research and publishes his own paper, while the "collectivist" is part of an ensemble of authors - maybe 5 to 15 - who each contribute part of the overall work. But this is the wrong emphasis. No where does Heras even mention research. His complaints are with undergrad physics education and excessive use of traditional problems. His preference is for more "free inquiry" than problem solving, not realizing they need not be mutually exclusive if the problems are designed properly.  As far as research goes, free inquiry (and problem solving) are part and parcel of the process whether one is part of a team ("collective") or on his own ("individualist"). Hence, the SciAm blog mixes apples and oranges in trying to parse Heras' complaints.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Do We Find The Best Landing Location On Mars?

Potential Martian landing sites for 'Mars 2020' Curiosity Rover will need to 27 terabytes of data including high resolution images gained from orbiters.

Much excitement is building toward the Mars 2020 mission for the Mars Curiosity Rover which seeks to build on the discoveries of previous Rovers (Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity).  The primary focus will be expanding our potential for past or present life beyond Earth.  Mars is a natural first suspect for other life given geological evidence for  once expansive oceans and a thick sheaf of atmospheric gases.

While the 2012 Curiosity Rover has already done yeoman service - advancing our Martian understanding from geochemistry to paleoclimate- the 2020 Rover will study the rocks and soil of the latest landing site allowing further insight into the planet's geological and astrobiological history. In addition, the 2020 mission will collect and store sets of rock and soil samples that conceivably can be sent back to Earth by a future mission. All of which elicits the question of how exactly one ascertains an optimum landing site, given the scarcity of resources available and that a wrong site could find those resources wasted.

Deciding how and where to land a Rover is no small enterprise. It generally requires a collaborative effort of the best and brightest scientists and engineers. For the 2020 mission, teams are now tasked with plowing through 27 terabytes of data, including high resolution digital images (from orbiters), then considering a multitude of different scenarios for the locations identified.  The most difficult part is determining which location scenario best fits the available data.

In the case of the Mars 2020 craft, the options for potential landing sites will also be expanded in real time based on what is called "terrain relative navigation". This is a technology that enables a craft to precisely identify where it is above the landing site.

Further insights can be obtained by going to the following links:


Referencing the work of Michael Meyer, whose primary research focus is micro-organisms living in extreme environments. He's also one of Mars 2020's leaders and architects



This refers to Beth Ehlmann whose specialties include environmental change, weathering processes on Mars, and assaying the compositional surface. She also served as a student collaborator for the Spirit and Opportunity missions.

The recent NatGeo series 'Mars' showed just how critical selection of a landing site on the Red Planet can be, especially for human colonists. However, landing site selection is also critical for any craft with astrobiology as a primary objective.. Hence, the supreme effort going into the 2020 mission.

Stay tuned!

TrumpCare Flops - Will The "Fuhrer's" Tax Code Effort Be Next?

Image result for brane space, Trump rage
"The Democrats are to blame for Trumpcare going down! The Democrats are to blame! BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!"

Let's admit that if I deliberately give you a 44-stone advantage  playing 'GO',  the onus is on you to win, i.e. surround my men so they've no place to move and do so pretty quickly. No excuses! Given this sort of handicap, if you still lose, then you are the one to blame.  Even with a massive piece (and position) advantage you were not competent enough to marshal your forces to best advantage and instead let victory slip through your fingers.

In like manner, if your political party enjoys a 44-seat advantage in the House of Representatives, the largest in modern history, then the onus is on your party to get its desired piece of legislation passed. It is emphatically NOT on my party to lend you its numbers or support, especially if your legislation is designed to repeal my party's original bill.   If you blame my party because your party failed - though they enjoyed a 44-seat advantage- then you are either an idiot, psychotic, stoned drug addict  or drunk.

But such was the case yesterday after Trump's (aka "Der Fuhrer's")  much ballyhooed "health care" (repeal and replace) of Obamacare came crashing down. After seven long years of vowing to kill Obamacare, and months of Trump's yapping on the campaign trail he'd do it (making it one of his main promises), e.g.

"On my first day in office I am going to ask congress to send me a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Immediately!"

The supposed vote had to be mercy -killed before it could even commence. Why? Because a quick, informal tally showed it as much as 34 votes short.   No, there were no Dem votes for it, but why should there have been?  As Rep. Joe Kennedy put it last night, to Chris Hayes on MSNBC: "The message from hundreds of thousands of Americans was 'don't do something stupid and vote on a bad bill."  Adding: "Doctors hated this bill, patients hated this bill, nurses hated this bill, hospitals hated this bill and seniors hated this bill, It was a bad piece of legislation"

And, indeed, had any Dems been stupid enough to vote for this misshapen mutation (which killed 10 health care requirements) they'd have paid dearly at the polls in the 2018 midterms.  So anyone with more than air between the ears certainly couldn't have expected them to cooperate to pass an odious bill that hurt far more than it helped. (Actually the only ones it helped were the hyper wealthy because it was actually a tax cut bill to deliver $330b in cuts on the backs of those whose ACA benefits, Medicaid were cut). Further, no sane person could expect Democratic  cooperation to kill a bill they had sacrificed to get through seven years ago! Hell, get real!  But then remember, Trump - now playing the blame game - isn't sane, but a psychotic. So he would say anything to get the monkey of loss off his back.  While President Harry Truman was the first to say "The buck stops here", Trump has now revised that to: "The buck stops with those guys there, not me!"

But what would one expect of a two-bit real estate weasel who built his "empire" on cons, bankruptcies and suspect money from Russian oligarchs.

Add in Sean Spicer's false bravado and optimism that a vote would be held, not to mention Trump's absurd  "ultimatum"  to get the Tea Baggers (Freedom Caucus) on board, and you had all the makings of a grade B drama about to unfold.  Adding to the suspense, an emergency meeting of the House Republican Caucus was called shortly before the scheduled vote. As it was announced, the House went to recess, with Democrats shouting in a taunting manner, “Vote, vote, vote”, daring Republicans to bring the bill up.  Democrats had reason to needle these Reepo miscreants as it was mainly their people - at assorted town hall meetings- who brought the shame on the Repukes as they recounted how their loved ones would be adversely affected by repeal. Did the Repukes care? Hell no!

In a short meeting that ensued, Paul Ryan announced that the bill was being pulled from the floor in a terse statement to members. What ought not have been surprising, as I noted in the previous post, is that the 'pukes ended up playing whackamole tryin to appease the Tea Baggers by adding more and more refuse to their bill. (Namely eliminating ten cornerstones of sound health care, including everything from hospitalizations, ER visits, and maternity care to prescription drugs and mental health services. )

So no wonder a losing wicket emerged with any moderates in swing districts wary of supporting the legislation, which included major cuts to Medicaid. The original bill  was estimated by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to lead to 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance over the next 10 years, and the final mutated, tortured product was even worse. So why in hell would any Dem help provide cover for these termites by adding a 'yea' vote?

The real blame for the loss, if one could be singled out, had to be the 24-odd member Freedom Caucus.  So committed were they to ideological principle and purity that they absolutely refused the opportunity to send the ACA into the annals of history, even after Paul Ryan removed all ten health requirements they asked for. They didn't want a bloody half loaf, by golly, it had to be the whole enchilada or nothing at all. The WSJ Editorial yesterday (p. A14, 'The Freedom From Reality Caucus')  put it this way:

"By insisting on the impossible over the achievable, these self-styled guardians of conservative purity could become the worst friends conservative ideas and free markets have had in decades."

Meanwhile Trump, who bragged endlessly about his ability to make this happen and his deal making, couldn't budge one single Tea Bagger. Not one. This left him bellyaching over issues of "loyalty" in the wake.  SO much for the art of the deal, but as one pundit put it last night:

"This bill isn't some abstraction. It's the entire health insurance market for a nation of 330 million people. You can't just negotiate it like you're doing a development deal in Atlantic City."

But see, with Trump the Reepos had a turkey who (unlike Obama with the ACA) didn't even keep up with the changing content of the bill or what those changes meant for individual congressional districts and their reps. One Goopr Rep even complained to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker:

"We're astonished how in over his head Trump is. He seems to neither get the politics or the policy of this."

But what would one expect of an ignorant, arrogant, psychotic asshole? Especially one with delusions of grandeur and authoritarian narcissism issues that rival those of his Onkel Adolf.

As far as Trump was concerned it was as if he was just dealing with so many below par properties to be fobbed off on gullible suckers.  Trouble was the would be victims weren't gullible, and by the end of the recent recess most of the Reepos knew it. At least those who had the balls to attend their town halls, as opposed to hiding or inventing the lamebrain excuse those gathered were "paid protesters".

Trump's other egregious claim in washing his hands of the bill, is that he would "just let Obamacare explode". Of course, he's on some kind of drug or else losing even more gray matter. There is no "explosion" as the CBO noted in its report. But, there is a danger of erosion of benefits given the Reepos did manage to nix the mandate which paid for the benefits most people value the most, such as for pre-existing conditions and keeping adult kids on parents' plans.

This is why, as Michael Moore warned last night, the Dems can't spend too much time gloating or in jubilation mode. They - we- have to get to work and ensure those provisions are made more secure.  This is especially given the final iteration of the AHCA that almost went for a vote last night was the most extreme form possible eliminating such things as emergency services, hospitalization, pregnancy and newborn care, rehabilitation services, lab services, prescription drugs, outpatient care, pediatric services and preventive services (e.g. colonoscopies, PSA testing etc)

Moore emphasized the nature of the bill on offer was that health insurance wouldn't have to provide the above services even for those with regular health insurance!  That is how sweeping the bill was and how devastating the repercussions would have been if passed: None of the listed service would have had to be covered by insurance companies. (All were put in to sweeten the bill for the Freedom Caucus assholes. )

Moore's solution is that we now need to push for a "Medicare for all"  type of healthcare, similar to what oldsters like me already have, as well as most citizens of the planet. But he isn't unrealistic concerning what would be needed, i.e.the Ds winning next year with veto-proof majorities. A long shot to be  sure, but after Trump's election it was also regarded as a long shot that the ACA would remain in place  after the first year.  Everyone on the R-side, and certainly Trump supporters, expected it to be repealed as per his campaign promise. (But given how his Mexican wall promise also fell down, i.e. getting the Mexicans to pay for the thing and not U.S. taxpayers, we ought not express too much surprise.)

At the very least, Dems need "to fix those parts of Obamacare that cost us votes last year."  Moore also advised the resistance now needs to shift focus from the congress critters to the for profit insurance companies.  So, we need to exert as much political pressure as possible on the money-grubbing bastards.

Trump, ignoramus that he is (apart from being a psycho) actually believes now he can pivot to tax reform and have better success. But I have news for him, he won't. As Rep. Karen Bass (CA) put it last night:

"If Trump thought this was tough wait until he comes to tax reform"

The same issues that divided Reepos with their foolish AHCA will also divide them on the tax reform - why?  Because they again will need the votes of the same Freedom Caucus extremists to get anything through. But, those extremists - as per their performance yesterday - will demand far greater cuts than Ryan will put up, and more centrist Reeps will tolerate.

The WSJ today ('GOP Focus Shifts To Tax Code Revamp', p. A5) also pointed out an overlooked little fact: the healthcare bill was to be the lead-in for the tax code revamp, i.e.:

"Repealing Obamacare would cut spending on health care subsidies and cut $1 trillion in taxes."

With their stupid AHCA bill having bitten the dust, most of the momentum is lost for the tax bill. As a policy strategist for Cornerstone Macro LP quoted in the piece notes:

"Defeat on healthcare is a blow that could make it harder to pass a more ambitious tax plan such as proposed by House Republicans."

Indeed. And because the Reepos are going to use budget reconciliation again (where only a simple majority is needed, so they don't have to depend on Dems) they will have to adhere to the reconciliation rules. Those "forbid any plan from increasing budget deficits beyond the current budget window."

So, not only will Ryan and Trump likely have to contend with the touchy twerp Tea Baggers....errr....'Freedom Caucus', but also the budget hawks. That lot that won't tolerate one more cent added  to the deficit.

If Ryan and Co. expect Dem cooperation for this next round they won't get it. Because the Dems are smart enough to know that any tax bill put out by Ryan & Co. will have "bombs" buried inside. As  Rep. Bass observed: "We must be on our guard because another way for them to come after health care is by cutting the taxes that pay for health care coverage."  In other words, she recognizes a party of rats when she sees it, and also that -  like rats- they will keep coming after the 'cheese' by new and varied avenues if a primary one is denied. Dems can't rest and neither can the resistance movement.

Rep. Bass may also have nailed the basis for the Republican anti-ACA campaign most accurately, noting it was probably "political rhetoric to gin up their base" and "this was really sad because it misled an awful lot of people".     As she further observed, many of the ACA problems in states were self-inflicted, because when given the chance for Medicaid expansion and federal subsidies, they demurred - tossing their citizens into the crapper.

Bass, like Moore, did leave room for the Reeps to "come back to the table" - and maybe even work with Dems to improve Obamacare.  BUT that has to be for an affirmative (not destructive) objective. Dems will never cooperate so long as the mission is to deny healthcare to millions and toss people off what they have, then use the money saved for tax cuts to give the upper 1 percent.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Put A Fork Into Trump Care (And Obamacare Repeal) - It's Dead

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"Trump is no longer a CEO sitting at the head of a board table anymore, where he can just pound his fist on a desk and make a decree. He's learning that you've got a lot of different constituencies, and people who believe certain things. In this case the Freedom Caucus, who aren't willing to move off them. This will be a learning moment for Trump and we'll see if he moves on from it. There is no question he's been damaged by it." - Willie Geist, on ''Morning Joe' today.

After all the months of shouting, hoopla, hype and braggadocio, the 'fat lady' has finally sung and it appears Paul Ryan's and Trump's monstrous (AHCA) plan to make America sicker is dead.  Mothers and their sick and disabled kids can once more find succor and solace in the imminent defeat of this terrible bill and sleep the sleep of the just each night.  This will be in contrast to the restive nights that await Paul Ryan's cabal of extremist nincompoops who believed they could rip away health care for millions and not pay a price.

How could they not after the latest iteration (thanks to pressure from the Freedom Caucus)  included nixing ten essential health care benefits. These included: hospitalization, maternity care, prescription drugs and mental health services

As one pundit described the latest mutation of this hybrid monstrosity last night:

"What is so shocking is the White House does not care what the content of the bill is. But the bill isn't some abstraction. It's the entire health insurance market for a nation of 330 million people. You can't just negotiate it like you're doing a development deal in Atlantic City....If this bill does fail and they just drop it, the cost of substantively making people's health care worst is worse than the short term political cost of failing to live up to Trump's promises - as bad as that's going to be."

What was especially hilarious yesterday was reading Karl Rove's op-ed piece in the WSJ raking the Dems over the coals for their opposition to this foolishness and "lack of governance".  But last I checked, total resistance to an opposition's bill pays huge dividends. Look how it panned out for Mitch McConnell and his gang who vowed back in 2009 they'd block every and anything from Obama.

Most people who only casually read about this Ryan -Trump creature on offer are only vaguely aware of the damage it would do, if passed, especially now that the Freedom Caucus managed to insert a few of its concessions into it. For example, it would amount to a wholesale rollback of the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act and a complete deregulation of the insurance industry coupled with massive subsidies which would be a recipe for essentially a million different 'Trump university' -style health care operations to spring up. These would offer people scam insurance even as they collected federal dollars.  That's what would transpire if this hybrid monster were to pass. But my bet is that it won't.

The beauty of the Reepos' predicament is that the seed of the Ryan-Trump health care plan's destruction was there all along. It was apparent to anyone with the eyes to see it, who understood the political dynamics at work. On the one hand a band of 24 or so extremists from the Tea Party calling themselves the "Freedom Caucus" who'd already sent Johnno Boehner back to his Ohio home with this earlier intransigence, and on the other hand the remaining Reepo moderates who inhabit states for which any level of repeal would be horrendous.

Hence, it is not amazing or astounding to see that as the concessions for the Freedom Caucus bunch have been added, the moderates have peeled away. Hence, Ryan and Trump can't keep the whole together moving toward approval. They are playing whackamole, with a moderate fleeing each time a Tea bagger comes on board.  No wonder Dems are delighting at the spectacle, as the people who would be adversely affected should be as well.

The 'pukes never understood, especially the Tea Bagger faction, that the Dems under Obama succeeded in getting their ACA through because they were willing to take very tough votes. After all, the Left was furious - as much or more so as the Freedom Caucus - when the public option got left off the table in committee., But they understood that getting 'half a loaf' was better than getting none. It was better more people would get access to health care than the number remained at the status quo. And so they sucked it up and moved on since as a party they believed in the project. The Freedom Caucus , despite all its rhetoric, has no such commitment and would rather there be zero loaves than that they abdicate their principles.

But this is why the Trump, Ryan plan has been doomed from the start.  First, because their whole project has never been affirmative, i.e. actually making the health care system better, but rather destructive, or mainly abolishing Obamacare. Second, they always harbored a band of extremists who had never been prone to compromise in the past and assuredly wouldn't do so now.  The way the WSJ editorial today (p. A14, 'The Freedom From Reality Caucus')  portrays these arch conservatives is telling:

"By insisting on the impossible over the achievable, these self-styled guardians of conservative purity could become the worst friends conservative ideas and free markets have had in decades."

Lastly, the "free market" baloney pushed as the basis of the plan was always codswallop. This is  because no one who knew free markets would be so daft as to believe they'd support affirmative health care for loads of sick people, e.g. frail elderly or those with pre-existing conditions. This isn't rocket science or astrophysics. For profit insurance companies exist - wait for it- FOR PROFIT!  That means they will not willingly insure people who are high risk, at least not without huge offsets.  That generally means a big pool including millions of healthy people to pay for the sick ones.

Hence, Mick Mulvaney's palaver this a.m.:

"We want to take Obamacare away and give people the control and options that they want, the quality they deserve, and the affordability that they need."

A snake oil salesman peddling a new brand of arsenic couldn't have done better in terms of the BS meter. But this twit did offer a "solution" to those who are worried: they can move to a different state that offers more benefits.

If that doesn't materialize the only alternative is what the Freedom Caucus zealots are offering: bare bones plans with ginormous deductibles, and not even providing basics like maternity care, cancer screening and prevention. Oh, and forget about extending coverage to kids (adult children) on a parent's plan or allowing for pre-existing conditions.

Here's the final takeaway: Even if this mutant of Trump's and Ryan's were to somehow pass the House today, it will be dead on arrival in the Senate. You can make book on it. So no Reepo or Trump lover ought to celebrate even if I am proven wrong today and this mishmash manages to get enough Reepo dopes to "walk the plank" - as Sen. Tom Cotton put it.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Devin Nunes Leaks Classified Info - Sabotages House Intel Commission - To Help Trump

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"I can't help it if I'm an untrustworthy, back stabbing asshole! I was born that way!"

Even reading and seeing the press conference accounts of Devin Nunes'  criminal actions to provide cover for Trump, boggles the mind, given he has also seriously compromised the ongoing House Intelligence Committee investigation in the process. As former Justice Dept. agent Matt Miller put it last night, "I've never seen a committee chairman come out in front of the press, pour gasoline all over himself and set it on fire, which is basically what he did

Miller added:

"If you look at what he did today; One,  he potentially leaked classified information and two, compromised the investigation his committee is supposedly conducting by briefing the president on it and three, he completely ruined his own credibility and exposed himself as a partisan shill. And it was all for no reason because the thing he came out and revealed doesn't even back up what the president said in his original tweet. So it's hard to know what he was even trying to accomplish."

Miller's posed quandary is shared by many, and now it is clear that only the politically suicidal Nunes can perhaps provide answers. This is given his political career has effectively been terminated with this latest stunt. Let me put it another way: his career at least as a sober investigator,  now has the half life of a gnat's lifespan.

TO shed more light, let's recall it was Nunes and his Repuke compadres (Trey Gowdy and Thomas Rooney) who did their level best in Monday's House Intel Committee hearing to steer the emphasis to leaked information rather than the actual undermining of the 2016 election.  They thus used their questions to FBI Director  Comey as a way to highlight only the leaks to journalists and thereby to criticize the news coverage about the Russia investigation. Nunes at one point even bellowed:

"We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice."

The sheer irony now that  Nunes has become the paramount leaker of classified files is whether he will bring himself to justice.. To quote Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee:  “Representative Nunes’s statements would appear to reveal classified information, which is a serious concern." In effect, Devin Nunes, in a desperate move to provide cover for Trump, has committed a felony in order to sabotage the commission he chairs.  Undoubtedly, to obstruct it moving forward given that after James Comey's remarks Monday, he can sense the noose tightening around his master's neck.

So, will Nunes now do us the favor of bringing himself to justice?  He ought to! That is,  if he has any sense of principle, pride or consistency. But then, since we all know the 'pukes are the biggest hypocrites on the planet, it's doubtful.  Moreover, Nunes' performance may well have been pure obstructive gamesmanship to clutter the investigative landscape and nothing more. Consider the following:

- Nunes did not release any real information, he only put up an elaborate facade or "prop"  for such which induced the media to make its own interpretations. Hence, he created a smokescreen for what he was really up to.

- Nunes hasn't shown any real information to anyone else.

- Nunes isn't even claiming he's in actual possession of real information only that he "confirmed" something about intel intercepts. Well, HOW? Where? From whom?

- Nunes isn't claiming any laws were actually broken

- While saying he's "alarmed, concerned" etc. he's not made any coherent case as to what anybody ought to be concerned about.

In the above context, perhaps the most generous characterization one can allow for Nunes's  actions is that the man himself is simply out of his depth.   Ryan & Co. have basically asked the pool guy to be the architect for a special pool -landscaped hacienda. After all, Devin clearly doesn't know the difference between actual surveillance and collection of data - a passive activity for which one doesn't need a FISA warrant. Also, one doesn't need to redact names on the intel products or reports if it's simple collection.  (This was pointed out by a FISA-surveillance specialist on MSNBC this morning.)

On the other hand, Nunes' performance  had all the hallmarks of a classic disinformation and obfuscation hit which I've seen many times before in other investigations. They usually occur just as said "noose" is tightening or when an investigation is finally coming toward a unifying resolution.  For example, just as the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978 was finally coming to a definitive conclusion for a grassy knoll head shot in the JFK assassination, based on acoustic tests by Weiss and Barger, two MIT scientists, up pops Norman Ramsey - an outlier no one ever heard of. Never mind, Ramsey's panel (with little or no experience and background compared to the MIT team) managed to muddy the waters sufficiently by their absurd interjections. The Ramsey Panel analysis was alleged to have  'refuted' the original Weiss -Barger study, but in fact only showed that the Weiss group had omitted some considerations. The Ramsey analysis certainly does not 'nullify' the Weiss/Barger analysis since up to now it has not been  reproduced, so cannot be accepted as a bona fide scientific conclusion. (Indeed, as per an email from another acoustic researcher, W. Antony Marsh, the Ramsey team even exceeded the claimed errors of the Barger team and at a more fundamental level)

The Ramsey insinuation and deliberate muddying had the effect of forcing the HSCA to now tie itself in knots - accepting enough of the MIT analysis to find for "96 percent probability of conspiracy" but not enough to shuck the idiotic WC version for the head shot (allegedly fired from the rear and the Book Depository when the rear of the skull was blown out - a physical impossibility).

Nunes'  deceptive and misleading replies at his news conferences yesterday echoed the Ramsey playbook, though the setting and context were different.  

He said he "recently confirmed" that  "on numerous occasions the intelligence community had  incidentally collected info about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition."   Did something illegal happen? Uh, sorry, can't say for sure, maybe.  Are you saying Pres. Trump's personal communications were intercepted? Uh, no, I think when we talk about intelligence products we have to be very careful. So the answer was a 'no'. as to Trump's communications being monitored.

Kasie Hunt: "So were POTUS'  communications intercepted incidentally but not specifically targeted?"

"Uh, yes, it is possible but we won't know until we get further information on Friday."

Oh and here's the kicker from Nunes: "I believe it was all done legally". No shit, Sherlock! Especially after Comey and Rogers already went through all the ins and outs of FISA 702 provisions, etc.

Nunes - like Ramsey when he tried to zero in on the "errors" made by the MIT acoustics team- then expressed  concern that Trump's name and those of his team "were not properly redacted from the reports, thus unmasking their identities."  Failing to mention or note - after running with this to Trump- the logical reason might have been because there was an intelligence basis for such.

Now, what would a normal person of even above average intelligence make of this Nunes' dog and pony show? Well, pressed to get answers - mostly black and white- he or she would tend to leave out key details, which is just what Nunes wanted.  (E.g. he wasn't referring to actual wiretaps but failures of redaction in reports.)Again, that's why I told wifey I call it "the old Norman Ramsey false recording play".   Feed accurate information then mix it with two parts PR and BS and let the little denizens of the media have at it.

Nunes most significant violation was briefing the media and the press before telling Adam Schiff the top ranking Dem Committee member. Schiff, rightfully raised “grave doubt” over the viability of the inquiry after Nunes shared information with the White House and not their committee colleagues. In effect, not only did Nunes leak classified files but he leaked it to the very subject of his committee's investigation. In essence, behaving no differently from a prosecution lawyer in a high profile criminal trial who exposes court -sealed records to the press in order to incite a mistrial.

In this case, of course, the stakes are vastly higher as we are talking about abetting and aiding an act of treason.  Should Nunes be hung? Probably not, but he should pay dearly for obstruction of justice, meaning his chairmanship of the House Committee at the very least needs to end, given all the damage he's inflicted, all of it unnecessary.  Especially given now a special investigation may certainly be justified with appointment of an independent special prosecutor. As Matt Millter asked, why would a  guy pour gasoline all over himself and light it?

Maybe the answer lies in how things went so badly for him and his R-mutts on Monday. Just when they thought and believed they'd successfully steered the hearings into leak territory, FBI Director Jim Comey blew it to smithereens.   Comey’s  acknowledgement before the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI was conducting an active investigation into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russians blew all Nunes' leak first fantasies into a cocked hat. In essence, Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said bluntly agents would pursue it “no matter how long that takes.”  Typically, only extraordinary conditions would see an FBI Director admitting this in an open hearing, and to quote Comey: "This is one of those circumstances.

By this time Nunes could only have watched the spectacle unfolding before him in sheer terror. And it went further south when Comey dismissed Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor during the campaign. Comey’s response (to Schiff's question about Trump's tweet) that "no information" was available to show any wiretapping had the analogous effect of squashing a bug with a sledgehammer.

The final blow was NSA's Mike Rogers also confirming there was no wiretap evidence, i.e. to affirm GCHQ (the Brit NSA) had assisted in any surveillance of Trump Tower. My take? Nunes quietly blew a gasket and vowed to act out, do something nuts to show he was still big man on the investigatory totem pole- oh, also Trump's little fetch doggie. (The converse idea floated by Joe Scarborough is that Trump "bullied" him into this farce. But on some reflection it is possible for both views to be valid.)

Why a fetch doggie? Because Nunes went to the White House to brief Trump, the very subject of the FBI's continuing probe, and also gave him a pseudo- basis to persist with his imbecilic wiretap claim. (Which even the otherwise reckless Nunes admitted wasn't born out by the files he released, only that certain "foreign actors were unmasked".

Never mind, the delirious Trump - like a drunk at a tavern who's downed one brewskie too many -  seized on the chairman’s comments as vindication of the Obama wiretap blather.  It also didn't help to have a brainless member of the media (CBS' Margaret Brennan) openly asking the idiot in chief if he felt "vindicated".  With this lollipop "question" tossed his way what else could Trump do but dribble all over his desk while babbling:  “I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found, I somewhat do,”   After that fiasco, Brennan ought to be put on Disneyworld animated classics duty and out of the WH scene.

In fact, the only "vindication" was that a foreign source (or sources) was picked up as sometimes occurs in NSA surveillance, especially if the sources are already persons of interest.  Even Nunes admitted the data all  “appears to be all legally collected” though in the next breath he said: "It does appear President Trump to some degree appears to be right"  when asked point blank if Trump was correct in what he tweeted- though he's not specifically right about Obama being behind  the wiretaps..    Thereby Nunes instantly catapulted his performance into an even more disreputable one than that of Norman Ramsey in his efforts to taint the 1978 MIT acoustic analysis.

Nunes by his feckless and reckless actions confirmed once and for all what many of us already believed: he is merely a Trump toady doing his master's work. After all, this turkey  served on Trump’s national security transition team, so why would he not seek to do all possible to cover for his Fuhrer? He probably figured if he got the chairmanship of the House Committee there might come a time he could blow it up, at least compromise its independence, to the point it would be next to useless.  This he did by taking the classified material he had acquired to Trump before sharing it with the committee – a decision that represented nearly a final straw for Schiff, who called for an independent commission to investigate ties between Trump and Russia.

As Schiff also put it:

"If you have a chairman who is interacting with the White House, sharing information with the White House, when the people around the White House are the subject of the investigation and doing it before sharing it with the committee, it puts a profound doubt over whether that can be done credibly."


"The chairman will need to decide whether he's the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or if he's going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both."

Even Sen. John McCain admitted being taken aback by Nunes' actions and agreed that this stunt really puts the kibosh on further House investigations. He said:

"What this now really shows is a requirement for a select committee. I believe there's a better relationship in the intelligence committee in the Senate. This just shows a tremendous chasm between the two senior members of the House intelligence committee. No longer does the congress have the credibility to handle this alone."

Joe Scarborough's take this morning may be the most percipient after replaying all of Nunes' dodgy clips back:

"It is so obvious that this guy is getting bullied by the White House. I've just never known a House intel committee chairman of either party to allow themselves to be bullied the way this guy was bullied yesterday."