Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cruising the Web

Mollie Hemingway looks
at James Comey's history of prosecuting dubious obstruction of justice claims.
Let’s begin with the case of one Frank Quattrone, a banker who Comey pursued relentlessly on banking related charges without fruition. But while he couldn’t find any wrong-doing on criminal conduct, he went after him for supposed “obstruction of justice” because of a single ambiguous email. Sound familiar?

Before he was indicted, Comey made false statements about Quattrone and his intent. The first trial ended in a hung jury but the second one got a conviction.

That conviction was overturned in 2006....

Quattrone has noted with interest the disparities in how he was treated by Comey for a single email compared to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email server scandal.
And then there was Martha Stewart.
You might remember Martha Stewart being sent to jail. You might not remember that James Comey was the man who put her there, and not because he was able to charge her for anything he began investigating her for. The original investigation was into whether Stewart had engaged in insider trading. They didn’t even try to get her on that charge. Gene Healy wrote about it in 2004, warning about federal prosecutorial overreach:
Comey didn’t charge Stewart with insider trading. Instead, he claimed that Stewart’s public protestations of innocence were designed to prop up the stock price of her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and thus constituted securities fraud. Stewart was also charged with making false statements to federal officials investigating the insider trading charge — a charge they never pursued. In essence, Stewart was prosecuted for “having misled people by denying having committed a crime with which she was not charged,” as Cato Institute Senior Fellow Alan Reynolds put it.
The pursuit was described as “vindictive” in the New York Times and “petty and vindictive” in The Daily Beast.

But she still served a five-month prison sentence.
I hadn't realized that Comey and Robert Mueller were behind the prosecution of the anthrax case and their attempt to pin the crime on Stephen Hatfill.
The FBI tried — in the media — its case against Hatfill. Their actual case ended up being thrown out by the courts:
Comey and Mueller badly bungled the biggest case they ever handled. They botched the investigation of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks that took five lives and infected 17 other people, shut down the U.S. Capitol and Washington’s mail system, solidified the Bush administration’s antipathy for Iraq, and eventually, when the facts finally came out, made the FBI look feckless, incompetent, and easily manipulated by outside political pressure.
More from Cannon, recounting how messed up the attempt to convict Steven Hatfill for a crime he didn’t commit was:
In truth, Hatfill was an implausible suspect from the outset. He was a virologist who never handled anthrax, which is a bacterium. (Ivins, by contrast, shared ownership of anthrax patents, was diagnosed as having paranoid personality disorder, and had a habit of stalking and threatening people with anonymous letters – including the woman who provided the long-ignored tip to the FBI). So what evidence did the FBI have against Hatfill? There was none, so the agency did a Hail Mary, importing two bloodhounds from California whose handlers claimed could sniff the scent of the killer on the anthrax-tainted letters. These dogs were shown to Hatfill, who promptly petted them. When the dogs responded favorably, their handlers told the FBI that they’d “alerted” on Hatfill and that he must be the killer.
When Bush administration officials were worried about the quality of the case Mueller and Comey had, the two men assured them. “Comey was ‘absolutely certain’ that it was Hatfill,” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said.
“Such certitude seems to be Comey’s default position in his professional life,” Cannon wrote. He shouldn’t have been certain in this case. After the six years the FBI spent destroying his life, they settled a $4.6 million lawsuit he filed and officially exonerated him.
As Carl Cannon had pointed out, the FBI really botched the investigation.
the FBI ignored a 2002 tip from a scientific colleague of the actual anthrax killer, who turned out to be a Fort Detrick scientist named Bruce Edwards Ivins; the reason is that they had quickly obsessed on an innocent man named Steven Hatfill; the bureau was bullied into focusing on the government scientist by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy (whose office, along with that of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, was targeted by an anthrax-laced letter) and was duped into focusing on Hatfill by two sources – a conspiracy-minded college professor with a political agenda who’d never met Hatfill and by Nicholas Kristof, who put his conspiracy theories in the paper while mocking the FBI for not arresting Hatfill.
Read more about how Mueller and Comey were so very certain that Hatfill was the culprit that they relied on that very sketchy dog evidence.
Such certitude seems to be Comey’s default position in his professional life. Mueller didn’t exactly distinguish himself with contrition, either. In 2008, after Ivins committed suicide as he was about to be apprehended for his crimes, and the Justice Department had formally exonerated Hatfill – and paid him $5.82 million in a legal settlement – Mueller could not be bothered to walk across the street to attend the press conference announcing the case’s resolution. When reporters did ask him about it, Mueller was graceless. “I do not apologize for any aspect of the investigation,” he said, adding that it would be erroneous “to say there were mistakes.”
And then there was Comey's questionable conduct of the Hillary Clinton investigation.
But there’s so much more to that case, such as upon learning that two Clinton staff members had classified information, the FBI didn’t subpoena those computers but give the employees immunity in return for giving them up. The FBI severely limited their own searches for data on the computers and then destroyed them. A technician who destroyed evidence lied to FBI investigators even after he received immunity, and Comey did nothing. And after the FBI discovered that President Obama had communicated with Clinton on the non-secure server, Obama said he didn’t think Clinton should be charged with a crime because she hadn’t intended to harm national security. As former Attorney General Michael Mukasey noted, “As indefensible as his legal reasoning may have been, his practical reasoning is apparent: If Mrs. Clinton was at criminal risk for communicating on her nonsecure system, so was he.”

Best Deals in Vitamins and Supplements

Interesting Finds at Amazon: Updated Daily

Spring Savings in Grocery and Gourmet Food

Home and Kitchen Markdowns

David Satter, an expert on Russian attempts to undermine and influence western countries and the author of The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin, has an important column in the WSJ. First, he reminds us that, naive and ignorant as Donald Trump has been about Russia, Hillary Clinton wasn't any more perspicacious or moral.
But Mrs. Clinton, as secretary of state, showed no grasp of Russian realities. She launched the “reset” policy after the murders of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence agent who had been granted asylum in Britain, and Anna Politkovskaya, Russia’s leading investigative journalist. In both cases, the regime of Vladimir Putin was directly implicated.

Instead of trying seriously to deter Russian aggression, which in Ukraine so far has claimed more than 10,000 lives, the Obama administration in 2009 created the McFaul-Surkov commission. Michael McFaul, Mr. Obama’s chief adviser on Russia, was tasked with building civil society alongside Vladislav Surkov, a Kremlin aide responsible for suppressing it.

The reset was intended to support Dmitry Medvedev, who was Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012 before Mr. Putin returned for a third term. But while Mr. Medvedev was chairman of Gazprom from 2001 to 2007, 6.4% of the state energy conglomerate’s shares—$20 billion worth—went missing.
So she was willing to shut her eyes to an awful lot in order to "reset" relations. But is that any surprise? This is, after all, the same administration that was willing to hush up any criticism of Iran's sponsorship of terrorism or violations of agreements in order to push through its misbegotten Iran deal.

Satter reminds us of how extensively Russia has aimed its hacking. Not just John Podesta had his emails hacked.
Last October my emails were stolen by Fancy Bear, the same Russia-linked group that hacked John Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chief. Citizens Lab, a University of Toronto cybersecurity project found that I was part of an operation aimed at 218 unique targets—officials, journalists and military—in at least 39 countries. Former FBI Director James Comey said during his recent testimony that since 2015 there could be more than 1,000 entities targeted by Russian hackers in the U.S. alone.
And it is now rather clear that the Russians were behind the "Trump dossier" that BuzzFeed published.
The dossier was prepared by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer. It employed standard Russian techniques of disinformation and manipulation. The dossier depicts Mr. Putin as dedicated to “Nineteenth Century ‘Great Power’ politics,” determined to prosecute “oligarchs” and “motivated by fear and hatred of Hillary Clinton.”

After the publication of the Trump dossier, Mr. Steele went into hiding, supposedly in fear for his life. On March 15, however, Michael Morell, the former acting CIA director, told NBC that Mr. Steele had paid the Russian intelligence sources who provided the information and never met with them directly. In other words, his sources were not only working for pay. Furthermore, Mr. Steele had no way to judge the veracity of their claims.

The payments are likely to have been high. So who provided the money? An April Vanity Fair article determined that the research that became the dossier was originally funded by a “Never Trump” Republican. After Mr. Trump sewed up the GOP nomination, however, “Democratic donors” kept the effort alive. Perhaps the time has come to expand the investigation into Russia’s meddling to include Mrs. Clinton’s campaign as well.
The important idea to take away from all this is that Putin is probably thrilled to see the chaos that American politics has become with all the counter-charges and accusations. He couldn't have asked for anything better. And the more our politics is immobilized over all of this, the better he likes it.
Investigating the role of Russian disinformation in the 2016 election requires understanding the layers of deception in which Russian intelligence specialize. This won’t be possible if Mr. Trump and his adversaries are more determined to destroy each other than to face the Russian threat. Americans must understand that the Putin regime wants to paralyze the U.S., but would rather have Americans do it with their own hands.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audio Books

Try Amazon Prime - 30 Day Free Trial

Join SHOWTIME Free Trial

The Washington Post has a profile of one-time Clinton Deputy Attorney General and big-time Hillary supporter, but now as a private attorney has agreed to be the lawyer for Jared and Ivanka Trump. And her friends are now furious with her for what they see as going over to the dark side. See, Democrats are all for the rights of the accused and the right to counsel, unless it is for one of their political opponents. There is this funny tidbit from the story.
In a quintessentially D.C. move, some longtime friends of Gorelick contacted for this article offered complimentary comments about her on the record, and then, after asking if they could make other remarks without attribution, bashed their colleague to smithereens. Those people will not be quoted in this article, by name or anonymously, as one tiny bulwark against outright awfulness.
Ah, the beauty of anonymous sources.

While many teachers and school groups are pulling the panic button on proposed cuts in the education budget in Trump's budget plan, a look at the efficacy of the programs being cut indicates that these are nice-sounding programs that actually produce no benefit.
Trump wants to reduce the U.S. Department of Education’s discretionary budget by $9.2 billion, from $68.3 billion to $59.1 billion. Close to two-thirds of that reduction (63%) comes from eliminating programs that are duplicative or just don’t work.

The administration is proposing a 10% cut in TRIO programs and a cut of almost a third in GEAR UP programs. GEAR UP and TRIO (which despite the name consists of nine programs) are supposed to help at-risk students who hope to go to college, but who might not make it.

At the behest of the Education Department, the Mathematica Policy Research Group studied a TRIO program and found weaknesses, which it first reported in 2004. The final report found “no detectable effects” on college-related outcomes, including enrollment and completion of bachelor’s or associate’s degrees. In a striking acknowledgement that these programs don’t hold up under scrutiny, lobbyists for the programs got Congress to ban the Education Department from setting up control-group evaluations of TRIO and GEAR UP.

Another sign of dysfunction is that — despite a demonstrable lack of success — grants to run TRIO and GEAR UP programs almost always get renewed. For example, in California, 82% of those who had grants in 2006 to manage this “no detectable effects” TRIO program still had those grants a decade later.

The K-12 programs proposed for elimination in the Trump budget are similarly ineffective.

In 1994, the Clinton administration started the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which promised to provide disadvantaged children with after-school enrichment to improve their academic performance. Nearly $18 billion spent over two decades later, there’s scant evidence of success. “It’s a $1.2 billion after-school program that doesn’t work,” according to Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution. He should know.

Dynarski worked at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration and directed the 21st Century Community Learning Centers’ national evaluation while he was a researcher at Mathematica Policy Research. The three evaluations published between 2003 and 2005 concluded that the achievement of participating students was virtually the same, but their behavior was worse, compared with their peers who weren’t in the program.

Another program deservedly put on the chopping block is the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Enacted in 2001 as part of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, this program gave poorly performing schools fistfuls of cash to turn themselves around and raise student achievement. Turned out the SIG program was more buck than bang — lots more.

Total SIG program funding under the Bush administration was less than $126 million. Regular annual appropriations skyrocketed during Obama’s presidency, starting at $526 million. They remained near or north of a half billion dollars throughout his administration, totaling more than $7 billion to date — including a one-time infusion of $3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

The Obama administration publicly revealed the SIG program’s colossal failure on Jan. 18, 2017, just hours before President Obama’s appointees departed. According to the final evaluation by the American Institutes for Research and Mathematica Policy Research for the Education Department, SIG had “no significant impacts” on math achievement, reading achievement, high school graduation, or college enrollment across school and student subgroups.
All of this money being thrown at programs with worthy goals and minimal accomplishments reminds me of my limited experience working at a middle school receiving a federal grant. In the 1990s, I worked at a public middle school in Wake County, NC. Wake County had received a $6 million grant to adjust the racial make-up of magnet schools. You need to understand that magnet schools were the method by which Wake County had achieved integration. The magnet schools were in the city in areas with large minority populations. The idea is that suburban white students would be enticed by placing special programs such as those for the academically gifted in the magnet schools. Many of the neighborhood minority students were then bused out to the suburbs to make room for these incoming white students. The goal was to get the minority percentage in magnet schools now below 40%. However, it wasn't working. So the county applied for a federal grant for magnet schools to institute even more wonderful stuff that would attract more white students and approach that magic 40% line for minority students. My school, which had a minority number closer to 50% received hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend over three years to bring that number down. We had oodles of faculty meetings discussing how we would spend that money. We basically made up a wish list of what we would like to buy and then ended up buying almost everything on the list. One of the big expenses was to set up a computer lab with Apples since the assistant principal was a big advocate of Apple. I well remember raising my hand in one faculty meeting and asking what would happen if we didn't achieve the ultimate goal of lowering the percentage of minority students. No one had an answer for that. We were just told that spending all this money would be enough.

I always thought this whole goal was quite ironic since the school district controlled school assignment and could easily have redrawn lines to bring in more suburban white kids. They were already rather blithely busing neighborhood minority kids 30-40 minutes across town to suburban schools ignoring the fact that they lived sometimes within walking distance of this supposedly wonderful magnet program we were creating. But we had too many minority students so...tough luck for those kids unfortunate enough to live in the area of the district the school board deemed necessary to send to the schools far away that didn't have enough minority students.

Well, we spent money quite happily for three years. At that time, I was teaching French and the chair of our tiny foreign languages department. We bought everything we could find in all the catalogues for teachers. We were reminded every year to be sure to spend our allotment before the fiscal year ran out. One big deal was that the leadership on the team was entranced with the then-trendy self-help program, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey. We had hours of workshops given by the Covey people about how to apply Covey's ideas to teaching. And we each received our own copy of the book. But it was no cheap paperback version. Oh, no. They bought us each a leather-bound copy that I later found on their website selling for about $80 apiece. Because teachers can't improve themselves without a leather-bound self-help book, apparently. I can't remember much from those workshops, but I do remember the cult-like fervor with which the Covey trainers enthused about the program.

And eventually our three years was over. And we hadn't moved those magic racial enrollment numbers by very much. We were still well above the 40% line. So what was our punishment? If you know anything about how federal grants work, you will probably have guessed the result. The county won another grant and we got another huge boatload of money to spend. And, as a result of this new influx of money, we took out all the Apple computers and replaced them with PCs and bought PC-based software for all the programs that we'd had Apple programs for. Why not? We had so much money. And when the three years were up, we still hadn't moved those minority numbers. The money dried up, but I heard few people questioning the whole endeavor. It seemed like a worthwhile goal so who cared if it worked or not? The motives and goals were what was important, not the results. That's why I am not at all surprised that the federal education budget is full of grants to programs with lovely-sounding goals that actually achieve very little yet get refunded year after year. I've seen how it works on the ground first hand.

Echo and Alexa Devices

Amazon Fire TV

Hot New Releases in All Categories

Oh, how lovely Denver is going to be.
The Denver City Council has voted unanimously to decriminalize a number of offenses, including defecating in public. Also, urinating in public. Camping on public or private land without permission. Panhandling. And lying across public rights-of-way, such as sidewalks.

Democrat Mayor Michael Hancock and city officials explained the new ordinances are designed to protect immigrants — legal and the other kind — from “unintended consequences.” These consequences were fines and longer jail terms, as has been customary in most places for violating the behavioral norms of civilized American society.
Andrew Malcolm makes the comparison I immediately thought of when I heard this story.
Denver might want to look up New York City’s experience with mere “quality of life” issues before Rudy Giuliani became mayor in 1994.
The real reason behind this change is to stop people who are here illegally from being deported if they're convicted of an ordinance with what there is now, a year-long penalty.
due to the soft bigotry of political correctness, assimilation to American standards is set aside as too demanding in the interests of excusing the behavior of some non-citizen illegal residents.

Why? Because the city won’t set out portable toilets? Or apparently Denver officials simply don’t think such people are capable of learning to seek and use a public restroom?

In the interests of that inclusive political correctness, Denver now expects its three million law-abiding metropolitan residents to just live with the sanitary consequences of however many illegals choose to stay there and misbehave in public. And, of course, for taxpayers to watch where they step.
Wesley J. Smith writes about Denver's decision not to prosecute "quality of life" violations.
Good grief. Public defecation is dangerous to the public’s health.

This shrugging at city-soiling actions is a mirror reversal of Rudy Giuliani’s enforcing so-called quality of life crimes that did so much to improve New York City. And the results are likely to be just as pronounced.

The point of this reduced concern–evidenced by Silverstein’s comment–is to make it okay to do these filthy things. San Francisco has pursued a similar course–and it has gotten to the point now that police don’t even bother to arrest quality of life offenders since the DAs won’t prosecute.

Having just moved from there, I can tell you that as a result, SF–which is a world class city–has become a disgrace, filthy and stinking.