Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cruising the Web

Now that FBI Director Christopher Wray has testified on Capitol Hill to a different timeline of when the FBI told the administration about the results of their investigation into White House staff secretary Rob Porter's history of domestic abuse in contrast to what the administration has claimed, is there anyone who doesn't think that the White House has been lying about who knew what when and what they did about it?
Wray, in response to questions from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), said that investigators submitted a partial report on their investigation of Porter as far back as March 2017, and that the investigation ended in July.

He said new information was also provided to the White House in November and January.

“I can’t get into the content of what was briefed; what I can tell you is the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” he said.

“Soon thereafter we received request for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November and then we administratively closed the file in January. And then earlier this month, we received additional information and we passed that on as well.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday that the White House learned the full extent of the Porter allegations last Tuesday.
It seems clear now that many in the White House not only didn't place much importance on the allegations of abuse, but they have been lying about what they did. They've betrayed such a lack of judgment and plain respect for women. They seemed to have only woken up to the seriousness of the allegations against him only when a picture was made public of his wife with a black eye. Even if they might have been inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, why did they think it was okay to have someone in such a sensitive position to operate without clearance.

If you aren't appalled by the moral hollowness of the administration's actions, then perhaps you'll be angry at how incompetent they seem to be.

However, when all is said and done, I don't want John Kelly to resign. Despite the mistakes he made with Rob Porter, he has still been imposing order on Trump's White House - something that this most disordered president sorely needs. As the WSJ writes,
Mr. Kelly has reportedly offered to resign, and that might be something of a personal relief. The General gave up a cabinet post to work for this most difficult of Presidents, and he isn’t doing it for the money. He wants to help the country, and on the evidence until the Porter mess he has.

He has imposed at least a semblance of discipline since he arrived at the West Wing last summer. He eased out chaoticians like Steve Bannon and dramarians like Omarosa. He made it hard to walk in unannounced to the Oval Office, even for daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Policy now gets developed, debated and decided. The leakers are fewer. He was in charge for the success of tax reform.

Mr. Trump remains a hard client who can hurt his own cause at any moment, but that isn’t Mr. Kelly’s fault. As a former General, Mr. Kelly has the President’s respect in a way that his likely replacements might not. Mr. Trump treated Reince Priebus, his first chief of staff, like a political valet. We don't know anyone in the White House who wants to return to the first six months of fire and fury, and this Presidency won’t benefit from more policy influence by Ivanka and Jared.

The point for Mr. Trump to keep in mind is that the people who want Mr. Kelly fired don’t want a better White House staff. They want perpetual political dysfunction.
And Donald Trump can provide endless dysfunction and distractions. Kelly's mishandling of this whole story has now provided more distractions away from what the administration would like the public to focus on. That's on Kelly. But, overall, he's the best hope Trump has going forward to keep the focus on achieving success. It's hard enough to find people willing to work for this president.

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Eric Holder is reportedly considering running for president. As Lauren DeBellis Appell writes, the ads will write themselves. He was a politically motivated Attorney General who was willing to twist the law for his ideological purposes.
Holder is the first Cabinet appointee to be held in contempt of Congress for not turning over documents relating to the Department’s Fast and Furious scandal. The scandal permitted the sale of assault weapons to drug cartels in Mexico as a way to supposedly track them.

However, it was later discovered from internal communications that it was all just a front to win political points in the gun debate. Holder thought if the Obama administration could devise a dangerous enough situation, then they would be in a position to demand more gun laws.

While they were busy trying to score political points with assault weapons, people died. People like Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed with one of the almost 2,000 guns the Justice Department sold, but then failed to keep track of through the program.

Holder’s Justice Department was also embroiled in an IRS political persecution scheme that purposely targeted conservative and Tea Party groups who applied for tax-exempt status. Their applications were stalled, sometimes for years, while IRS agents probed for additional information that was inappropriate and out of the ordinary. Last year, the IRS admitted to the wrongdoing in court and publicly apologized.

However, in 2015, the Obama Justice Department, headed by Holder until Loretta Lynch replaced him in April of that year, announced they would not prosecute anyone at the IRS for the scandal. Their reasoning? Apparently after investigating they said no evidence was uncovered “that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution.”

But of course there was no evidence, because the IRS destroyed countless hard drives containing the evidence. The apparent crime was bad enough, but Holder’s cover-up was even worse.
The corruption of Holder's DOJ goes on and on.
Also on Attorney General Holder’s watch, large companies could make settlement payouts to groups not affiliated with their cases. President Trump’s Justice Department put an end to this last year, as the payments were thought to help liberal organizations.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., released emails from the Justice Department last year which showed they had a say in who the money went to, and they may have once again discriminated against conservatives by ensuring conservative groups didn’t receive settlements.
The Republicans should be locked and loaded to expose Holder's corruption to voters. There's plenty of material there.

Eli Lake writes
to explain why we should care that Carter Page's reputation has been shredded in the media based on leaks from the counterintelligence agents and FBI. As Lake writes, Carter Page is not the most admirable person, as Lake calls him - "an incautious mediocrity." But there are larger reasons why we should be concerned about what has happened to him based on leaks from federal government officials.
It's a scandal that the public has known for more than a year that the FBI suspected Page of being a foreign agent in the first place. He has yet to be charged with a crime, but his reputation is in tatters because an element of the bureau's investigation into Russia's influence over the 2016 election has been publicly reported.
We know about him because Clinton's campaign and the DNC hired Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Trump. Fusion hired British former spy Christopher Steele who compiled the infamous dossier based on a bunch of shady Russian sources. The FBI got a FISA warrant based on that information. This was leaked to the media.
To start, this disclosure politicized the ongoing investigation into Russian influence of the 2016 election. In a hearing on the Trump campaign's contacts with the Kremlin, nine days after the Post's story appeared, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee made Page's trip to Moscow and other alleged contacts with Russian officials a key part of his opening remarks.

Second, the disclosure of the warrant placed a cloud of suspicion over a U.S. citizen without due process. The standard for obtaining a FISA surveillance warrant is much lower than, for instance, charging an American citizen as a foreign agent. There is good reason for this. Counter-intelligence investigations are usually aimed at secretly monitoring the activities of foreign spies, not building public cases against U.S. citizens. When the details of such probes are selectively disclosed, the reputational damage is immense. Unlike someone facing charges, the subject can't even really mount a defense.

In an interview Thursday, Page told me, "It’s been the most challenging things that I’ve ever dealt with in my life." And one can see why. Since Yahoo's first big story on his meetings in Moscow, Page has publicly proclaimed his innocence. No charges have been brought against him. And yet the fact that the FBI has taken an interest in him has made it nearly impossible for him to clear his name.
Lake goes on to trace the rather shady biography of Carter Page and his connections with Russian agents back in 2013 when he ended up working with the FBI to get those agents.
And this brings us back to why the FBI's use of Steele as a source was a problem -- a problem the bureau should have seen coming. Steele compiled his dossier as a piece of opposition research. His research was designed to dirty up the Trump campaign. This does not mean it was wrong. Opposition research is supposed to be effective because it's based in fact.

It did, however, mean that Steele's tips for the FBI's investigation would also be shared with journalists. In this case, leads in a sensitive, and by necessity secret, counter-intelligence investigation were also feeding press coverage of Trump at the end of the campaign and during the presidential transition. What's more, law enforcement officials were also anonymously confirming elements of their ongoing investigation to reporters.
All of these leaks should be concerning to us. And when a private individual's reputation is trashed because of those leaks is something that should make us uncomfortable. It doesn't mean that the FBI shouldn't have investigated the allegations in the dossier or that there is a problem with the Mueller investigation, but that we should spend a few minutes being troubled.

It reminds a bit of how the FBI under Mueller destroyed the reputation of Dr. Steven Hatfill in the anthrax investigation after 9/11.
The investigators hypothesized that the attacker was a lonely American who had wanted to kill people with anthrax for some undefined time period, but then became “mission oriented” following 9/11 and immediately prepared and mailed the deadly spores while pretending to be a Muslim.

Mueller’s FBI honed in on Steven Hatfill as the culprit — a “flag-waving” American, who had served in the Army, then dedicated himself to protecting America from bioterrorist threats by working in the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

There was no direct link from Hatfill to the attacks, by the FBI’s own admission, and the bureau never charged Hatfill. The FBI did however spy on, follow, and harass him non-stop for years. The Department of Justice also publicly outed Hatfill as the possible terrorist.

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The WSJ provides some needed context on who Kim Yo Jong is. She's more than an attractive face throwing side-eye at Mike Pence. As the WSJ who writes, she is one "twisted sister."
Missing from most of the media coverage was any detail about Ms. Kim’s day job in Pyongyang. In North Korea this kid sister has served under Big Brother as a deputy director of the powerful and omnipresent Propaganda and Agitation Department. She has apparently racked up a record so stellar that last year the U.S. Treasury blacklisted her as a top North Korean official tied to “notorious abuses of human rights.” Mr. Kim gave her an alternate seat on his politburo.

In blacklisting Ms. Kim, the Treasury specified that her department “controls all media in the country, which the government uses to control the public.” That’s an understatement. The Propaganda and Agitation Department’s mission is to control not only media but minds—to indoctrinate all North Koreans, at all levels, in the absolute supremacy of Kim Jong Un and his Workers’ Party.

A 2014 report by a special United Nations commission on human rights in North Korea found that “there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” That entails a pervasive normalization of evil. Any deviation is suppressed via imprisonment, torture and execution. The commission found the regime carries out crimes against humanity on a scale “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

In a detailed report published last year by the Washington -based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Robert Collins and Amanda Mortwedt Oh described the Propaganda and Agitation Department as playing “a key role in justifying Kim family rule through domestic and external propaganda.” They added that entire families may be punished if one member is suspected of dissent. The aim is to ensure the survival, glorification and total power of the Kim regime and its hereditary tyrant.

That’s the training and family tradition behind Ms. Kim’s visit to South Korea. Her delegation included plenty of backup, such as Choe Hwi, a vice director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department who has been blacklisted by the U.S. (and the U.N.) for human-rights abuses. The Treasury noted that Mr. Choe “has reportedly been responsible for maintaining ideological purity.” Currently he is chairman of North Korea’s National Sports Guidance Committee.

Ms. Kim, with her freckles and enigmatic smile, is a trained and trusted royal brainwasher for a family regime whose court is built on totalitarian lies. Her admirers in the media ought to be impressed by the professionalism with which she snookered them.

Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution writes about the dangers that extreme partisanship has done to our politics.
People want something to believe in, but in the absence of a strong ideological sensibility among Democrats, partisanship and alarmism offer ready recourse. Having an enemy is a powerful motivator, and hating Mr. Trump is entertaining to boot. Politics might otherwise return to boring discussions on how to improve health care or education, why we need more experts, or why facts are important.

The relationship between partisanship and ideology may be changing in unexpected ways. Yesterday’s centrists have become some of today’s most intense partisans. There’s nothing wrong with partisanship per se, but it’s a problem when the parties view each other as enemies and existential threats. Centrism may seem an obvious solution, but too little ideology can be as dangerous as too much.

Does this mean we need more ideologues? The word sounds like an insult, connoting inflexibility and narrow-mindedness. But politicians who are committed to a set of ideas also tend to have less to prove. They don’t need to play to the base; they can lead the base. Congress—and the country—could use more of them.

Myron Magnet, author of The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735-1817, has two essays about Clarence Thomas's Constitutional interpretation. It really is an in-depth and lovely exposition of how Thomas has been willing to confront the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on race to depart from the vision of the Founders. If you're interested at all in Constitutional thought, you will enjoy Part I and Part II of these essays. Magnate demonstrates how, as Juan Williams has said, “that Clarence Thomas is now leading the national debate on race.”
In his concurrence in Adarand v. Pena, a 1995 case involving preferences for government subcontractors employing black and Hispanic workers, Thomas wrote that there’s no moral or constitutional difference “between laws designed to subjugate a race and those that distribute benefits on the basis of race in order to foster some current notion of equality. Government cannot make us equal; it can only recognize, respect, and protect us as equal before the law.” Discrimination, whether maliciously or benignly intended, subverts the core American principle that all men are created equal. Insidiously, “positive” discrimination “teaches many that because of chronic and apparently immutable handicaps, minorities cannot compete with them without their patronizing indulgence.” How can such discrimination fail to engender hurtful feelings of superiority or resentment in the majority and dependence and a sense of entitlement among minorities?
Read the rest of these essays. You will come to understand how deeply the left misunderstands Clarence Thomas when they tried to portray him as a stupid puppet of Scalia. Or he is regarded as a traitor to his race simply he has fought all his life for blacks to be treated equally under the law, no better or now worse. And he doesn't feel that the Constitution needs to be twisted in order to achieve a desired output. He even dared to take on the reasoning in Brown v. Board of Education instead of regarding it as a sacred decision that can never be criticized.
the Court’s landmark 1954 school desegregation decision, Brown v. Board of Education, introduced an unnecessary confusion into race jurisprudence.... Brown, Thomas writes, “did not need to rely upon any psychological or social science research in order to announce the simple, yet fundamental truth that the Government cannot discriminate among its citizens on the basis of race.” However, as Thomas is too polite to say here, it did. It accepted a tissue of social-scientific hocus-pocus involving “experiments” with black and white dolls, purporting to prove that segregation generates feelings of inferiority in black students that impairs their ability to learn. But that’s neither here nor there, Thomas contends. “Segregation was not unconstitutional because it might have caused psychological feelings of inferiority,” he writes, but “because the State classified students based on their race.”

He spoke more plainly in a 1987 article: “Brown was a missed opportunity, as [are] all its progeny, whether they involve busing, affirmative action, or redistricting,” he declared. The Court should have focused on reason, justice, and freedom, not sentiment, sensitivity, and dependence. A Court that wanted to “validate the Brown decision” would replace Chief Justice Earl Warren’s decision with one more in keeping with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Thomas’s candidate would be Justice John Marshall Harlan’s ringing 1896 dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (a case that the Brown Court, respecting stare decisis, failed to overrule): “Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. . . . The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.”
Magnet concludes,
In our age of enraged shrinking violets, in which hypersensitivity to imagined slights alternates with blind rage against any nonconformity to orthodoxy, Clarence Thomas is one of a handful of honest and brave iconoclasts who love liberty, especially the freedom to think for oneself, and know how America, imperfect as all human things are imperfect, nevertheless was uniquely conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. We marvel that late-eighteenth-century America produced its band of great men who invented our republic on such revolutionary principles. It’s a marvel that there are some who’d like to restore it as the world’s beacon of individual liberty. Through a similarly lucky alchemy of character and culture that nurtured the Founders, our age has produced Justice Thomas. It remains to be seen if it has produced enough of his ilk to kindle a new birth of freedom.
If he were a liberal, Clarence Thomas would be a superstar; as a conservative he has had to endure more derision than any other Supreme Court justice that i can think of. It's nice to see Thomas receive some well-deserved and admiring consideration of his jurisprudence.

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Harvard professor Laurence Tribe has gone over the edge into full-on conspiracy-mongering. When Glenn Greenwald is the voice of reason taking on Tribe, the professor should be plenty embarrassed.
HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR Laurence Tribe did not wait even 24 hours to exploit yesterday’s tragic crash of a Russian regional jet shortly after it took off from Moscow, killing all 71 people aboard. On Twitter this morning, Tribe (pictured above in 2010 with former Vice President Joe Biden) strongly insinuated that the Russian government may have purposely sabotaged the plane, murdering all of those on board, in order to silence one of the passengers, Sergei Millian, who has been linked to a couple of figures involved in the Trump-Russia investigation.

What’s wrong with Tribe’s claims? Everything. To begin with, Millian was not on that plane. The official list of victims includes nobody with that name; as the Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern pointed out, the claim that Millian was on the plane was a simple hoax from the internet sewer, 4chan. Tribe apparently saw someone making this claim somewhere on the internet and then, without bothering to check if it was actually true, told his 289,000 followers that it was true, and then constructed a rabid, deranged conspiracy theory around it.

After dozens, if not hundreds, of people told him that what he said was false, Tribe — after more than 2,000 people retweeted it — posted a mealy-mouthed follow-up noting that he can’t “vouch” for the accuracy of the “plenty of reporting” he saw claiming this was true: “reporting” that he still has not identified.

Even if Millian had been on the plane, casually suggesting that Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, or some combination of other villains purposely murdered everyone on the plane in order to silence one witness is deranged to the point of being a clinical pathology. That sort of baseless conspiracy-mongering ought to disqualify anyone from serious company for a long time.
Come on! If Putin wanted to take out a single individual, he's shown no reluctance to just murder the guy on the street or arrest him for some trumped up crime. Putin doesn't need to take down a whole airline to do it.

The cushioning of children so that they never have to experience any setback continues.
A Utah mother is concerned after finding out her child couldn’t reject a classmate’s invitation to dance at a Valentine’s Day school party because it would be against school rules.

Natalie Richard, whose daughter is in sixth grade at Kanesville Elementary School in Weber County, told Fox 13 Salt Lake City that she was shocked to hear her child tell her she couldn’t tell a fellow student “no” if he asked her to dance at the upcoming event.

Confused, Richard told her daughter that she was “misunderstanding” the situation, because “that’s not how it is.”

The daughter’s teacher, however, confirmed to Richard that, in fact, her daughter “has to say yes” and “has to accept” such a proposal.

Still concerned, Richard took her plight to the school principal — who “basically just said they’ve had this dance set up this way for a long time and they’ve never had any concern before.”

A spokesperson for the Weber School District told the news station that in an effort to “promote kindness” the administration wants students “to say yes when someone asks you to dance.”

But Richard, who said she understands their perspective, said that forcing children to do something they don’t want to do sends the wrong message.

“There are many other ways to teach children how to be accepting than with a social dance,” Richard said. “Sends a bad message to girls that girls have to say ‘yes’; sends a bad message to boys that girls can’t say ‘no.’”

Ahead of the voluntary dance, students select five other students they want to dance with on a card, Fox 13 reported. The district said if a student is uncomfortable to one of those five people, “that’s certainly something that can be addressed with that student and parents.”
I recognize that it's painful for young kids to have to ask others to dance and risk rejection. But don't those asked have the right to not want to dance with someone? Is the lesson that the school wants to give young girls - that they have to go along when boys ask them something?