Monday, May 07, 2018

Cruising the Web

Remember when, for a few minutes, the biggest crime a person out of government could do was violate an obscure 18th century law, the Logan Act? Well, at least it was bad when it was Trump's incoming National Security Adviser talking to the Russian ambassador. Well, forget about that, because now John Kerry is actually trying to organize his own foreign policy to thwart any move the current president might make to move out of the deal with Iran. The Boston Globe reports,
John Kerry’s bid to save one of his most significant accomplishments as secretary of state took him to New York on a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago, where, more than a year after he left office, he engaged in some unusual shadow diplomacy with a top-ranking Iranian official.

He sat down at the United Nations with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to discuss ways of preserving the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration, according to a person briefed on the meetings.

With the Iran deal facing its gravest threat since it was signed in 2015, Kerry has been on an aggressive yet stealthy mission to preserve it, using his deep lists of contacts gleaned during his time as the top US diplomat to try to apply pressure on the Trump administration from the outside. President Trump, who has consistently criticized the pact and campaigned in 2016 on scuttling it, faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to continue abiding by its terms.

Kerry also met last month with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and he’s been on the phone with top European Union official Federica Mogherini, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal the private meetings. Kerry has also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in both Paris and New York, conversing over the details of sanctions and regional nuclear threats in both French and English.
If we supposedly care about people outside of office running their own independent foreign policy, isn't this an egregious example? Kerry is so dedicated to the deal that he is willing to meet with Iranians behind the backs of the current administration. And when asked about Israel's revealing of documents that Iran had preserved its plans to build a nuclear program despite what the Iranian agreement required, all Kerry had to say is that this was nothing new and that the deal is working. ANd he's behind a concerted effort to try to convince everyone that this is so.
Kerry is coordinating his push with a group of officials who were his top advisers at the State Department, and who helped craft and negotiate the Iran deal in the first place. The group, called Diplomacy Works, has an advisory council that includes lead Iran-deal negotiator Wendy Sherman, former State Department chief of staff Jon Finer, and former spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
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The group claims to be responsible for 100 news articles, 34 television and radio hits, and 37 opinion pieces on the Iran question. They do fact checks of criticisms of the agreement and blast them out to an e-mail list of nearly 4,000 policy makers and foreign policy experts.
I don't think that the Logan Act is a law that should be applied these days. I didn't think that it was an issue when Michael Flynn was talking to the Russian ambassador and I can understand Kerry marshalling his forces to save his term's main "accomplishment. I might not like it, but that is his prerogative. LEt's just recognize the hypocrisy.


Victor Davis Hanson has some fun wondering what a right-wing version of Robert Mueller might ask of President Obama. For example,
What did you mean when you were heard, by accident, on a hot mic, providing the following assurances to outgoing Russian Prime Minister Medvedev: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space . . . This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility”?

Did you and the Russian government have any private agreements to readjust Russian-American relations during your own 2012 reelection campaign? Were there other such discussions similar to your comments to Prime Minister Medvedev?

If so, do you believe such Russian collusion had any influence on the outcome of the 2012 election?

Did your subsequent reported suspension of, or reduction in, some planned missile defense programs, especially in Eastern Europe, have anything to do with the assurances that you gave to the Russian Prime Minister?

Did the subsequent Russian quietude during your 2012 reelection campaign have anything to do with your assurances of promised changes in U.S. foreign policy?

Did you adjudicate U.S. responses to Russian behavior on the basis of your own campaign re-election concerns?

More specifically, what exactly did you mean when you asked the Russian Prime Minister for “space”? And further what did you intend by suggesting that after your 2012 election you would have more “flexibility” with the Russian government?

Would you please define “flexibility” in this context?
The questions go on and on. Any president could be made to look as if he had done some very questionable things if a prosecutor had an unlimited assignment to go fishing around for wrongdoing.


Matthew Continetti has an insightful column arguing that the "media is killing the Democratic Party." They're buying in to the media obsession with Stormy Daniels and the Russia investigation and its importance to the American people. It must be important since that is what the media cover constantly. But they forget that people watch those cable shows breathlessly discussing the possibility that Trump will this time, finally be caught or impeached. And probably the people watching those shows are the ones who hated Trump to begin with. Stormy Daniels might be good for cable ratings, but not good for the Democrats' hopes of persuading people that they have the right ideas to run the country. People all know that Trump is a sleaze toward women and that he lies constantly, and doesn't lie all that well. Those of us who were disgusted by Bill Clinton's behavior and his obvious lies can also be disgusted by Trump's behavior. But all that disgust didn't stop his electoral victory. So Continette puts forth his thesis as to why Trump's poll numbers have not declined appreciably over this story or over the leaked details of the Russia investigation. It's one that the Democrats should be familiar with since it worked for them in the 1990s.
The American electorate has not changed fundamentally in the decades since the Clinton presidency, when in the words of the late Jeffrey Bell it held a "bifurcated view" that separated the man from his policies. And as long as the policies seemed to be working, the man's opponents found themselves wrapped around the axle of personal disgust, waiting in frustration for voters to recognize and repudiate defects of character that were all too plain to see.

Trump became president despite majority personal disapproval. His victory depended on a coalition between his devoted fans and more traditional Republican voters who, despite misgivings, supported him because they concluded that the alternative was worse personally and politically. Evaluations of his character are now "priced in" to the electoral market. That is why NBC News/Survey Monkey found this week that Republicans who say Trump is dishonest support him anyway. And it is why Trump's overall approval in this poll is 45 percent, "tied with the highest rate of approval recorded by the NBC News/ Survey Monkey poll since he began his presidency."

The incessant spotlight on the lawyers, on their clients and subjects and targets, not only occupies the attention of Democrats and the anti-Trump Resistance to the exclusion of other topics. It also relieves them of any responsibility to come up with a substantive message. The voters, by contrast, read the headlines with a cursory or prurient interest as they go about their lives in the real world of work, family, community, and faith. One voter told me the other day that legal terminology makes her eyes glaze over; she'd much rather browse Instagram. But such terminology is all anyone speaks in Washington nowadays—even if most pundits are not lawyers, probably couldn't get into law school, and make up for their lack of expertise and inside knowledge with hyperbole and speculation.

"In the past few months," write the authors of the Democracy Corps poll, "Democrats have appeared less focused on the economic and health care battles that most engage anti-Trump voters; at the same time, Republican base voters, especially white working class men, could finally point to a signature conservative policy achievement in the new tax cut law, where before they were grasping for news to justify their vote."

Is it any wonder that Democrats appear less focused on the issues that engage voters, when the most prominent spokesmen for the party are Adam Schiff and his mannequins on the House Intelligence Committee, and Richard Blumenthal and Ron Wyden on the Senate side? When Michael Avenatti is on television to such an extent that by the end of this process he won't just have his own show, but probably his own network?

....College-educated voters and suburban women disgusted with Trump may be enough to win the Democrats a slim House majority. But Democrats won't find themselves in a truly commanding position until they make inroads among the Rust Belt voters who abandoned Hillary Clinton for the president. The more the party focuses on Robert Mueller and Stormy Daniels, the less likely it is to recognize the appeal of Trump's economic message and to adjust accordingly. The more the party falls for the self-flattery, empty rhetoric, question begging, and maze-like complexity of media narratives—not to mention the more it succumbs to the fever-dream of impeachment—the less likely it is to recoup the power it once enjoyed.
Meanwhile the media keep on with their fascination with the money given to Stormy Daniels and her lawyer appears more on TV than the network's own reporters sometimes. But while focusing on the $130,000 to pay off the porn star, they manage to ignore other campaign finance improprieties such as the $10 million that the Clinton campaign and DNC laundered through a law firm to pay Fusion GPS to pay Christopher Steel for opposition research.
Hillary is being interviewed all over the place, complaining why she lost, but no one seems to be interested at all in the obvious collusion among her, the FBI, and the Obama administration on using the dossier as an excuse to spy on and destroy Trump.

Hillary should be asked why the Democrats had to spend over $10 million to create a fictitious document to destroy Trump. Weren't the truth and policy differences good enough? She should be asked if there was a political motivation in mind when they laundered the money to hide the purpose of creating the fake dossier – or did they just do it for fun?

The media should ask themselves why the Democrats had to resort to a fake document to try to defeat and destroy Trump.

Why haven't the law firm and Fusion been raided by the FBI to see whom all they paid and where their money comes from? Why aren't their phones monitored like Michael Cohen's?

Why hasn't the FEC investigated the obvious violations of campaign finance law when the DNC and Hillary intentionally hid the intent of these huge payments? Aren't they at all curious about what other payments were misclassified?

Why haven't the media or the FBI asked Hillary why the DNC refused to allow the FBI or intelligence agencies to examine their computers since they accused Russia of a crime?


Andrew McCarthy wonders why the public is being kept in the dark about the crime that the Mueller team suspect the President of having committed.
It has become ludicrous. The question of whether a prosecutor should be permitted to interview a president hinges on whether the president is a suspect. There is no public evidence that President Trump is. This raises the patent objection that he should not be asked to be interviewed under those circumstances. What we hear in response is, “How do you know he’s not a suspect?” But the reason we don’t know — other than the lack of evidence after two years — is that Mueller won’t deign to tell us, and Rosenstein won’t deign to comply, publicly, with regulations that required him to outline the basis for a criminal investigation.

That is not acceptable. In every other independent-prosecutor investigation in modern history — Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater/Lewinsky — the president and the public have known exactly what was alleged. The prosecutor was able to investigate with all the secrecy the law allows, but under circumstances in which we all understood what was being investigated and why the president was suspected of wrongdoing.

After two years, we are entitled to nothing less. The president should direct Rosenstein to outline, publicly and in detail, the good-faith basis for a criminal investigation arising out of Russia’s interference in the election — if there is one. If he can’t, Mueller’s criminal investigation should be terminated; if he can, Mueller should be compelled to explain (unless Rosenstein’s disclosure makes it clear) why he needs to interview President Trump in order to complete his work.

If Rosenstein and Mueller are reluctant to do that, it can only be because they’ve decided that not only their investigation but also their desire for secrecy take precedence over every other consideration, including the president’s capacity to govern domestically and conduct foreign policy in a dangerous world. But secrecy is not the nation’s top priority. It’s long past time to lay the cards on the table.


Last week NBC reported that the Mueller team had wiretapped Michael Cohen's phones and even listened in to at least one conversation with the President. Then they had to retract the story. It turned out that they just had a list of phone numbers of people he talked to, but hadn't actually listened to his calls. The first was a gobsmacking story that might have led to pretty challenging legal questions. The second was a rather ordinary tool of investigation. Allahpundit links to a column by Larry O'Connor wondering why NBC hasn't burned its source. That used to be the practice of a media outlet if a source misled them into making an embarrassing error.
As with so many of the major stories in the DC political news cycle these days, this story relied entirely on anonymous sources. Anonymous sources are really the coin of the realm. CNN just won an award at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner for merely picking up the phone when former DNI James Clapper chose them to receive a leak about President Trump getting briefed by James Comey on the political propaganda known as the Russian dossier.

Picking up that phone and repeating on the air everything James Clapper told them to say constitutes award winning journalism. Meanwhile, the American people are left wondering about the one thing CNN didn’t report to us: WHY would James Clapper do that? What was his agenda?

Now that we know NBC News was wrong with this story that relied on the veracity and expertise of their anonymous sources, don’t we deserve to know who they are? Why protect these sources? We deserve to know who lied to NBC News about this story.

Or we deserve to know that [...] Tom Winter got the facts wrong.

Why would NBC News protect a source that lied to them? Why would they protect a source that got something so terribly wrong? Why refuse to explain to their viewers HOW they got the story wrong? Is their source an incompetent or a liar? Is your reporter a liar? These things don’t just… happen. Someone screwed up.

And we, the American people, deserve to know. This is the presidency we are talking about, after all.

So far… nothing from NBC News.
It could be that the NBC reporters just misunderstood what their source said. Or it could be that they want to keep the source because they have gotten good info from him in the past. Or it's someone on their side ideologically that they don't want to embarrass. But what they shouldn't be doing is congratulating themselves on their transparency in admitting their mistakes as several media folks did on Twitter. Allahpundit comments,
That wouldn’t bug me as much if it followed a meaningful period of soul-searching and contrition by the outlet and criticism from colleagues for the mistake first. But no, increasingly this is the first stop on the “major media screw-up” train after the screw-up occurs: They acknowledged it. They notified us of the error. They’re better than Trump! Hooray for media. Watch for it on journalist Twitter the next time someone gets a story wrong. It won’t be long.
But how about telling us why they made that mistake? That they're not so interested in doing since it might make people suspicious of other stories they've breathlessly reported.


Buzzfeed has a rather revelatory look at what it is like in Baghdad these days. It's quite different from how it was even a few years ago.
“It’s different now from when I was young,” Mohamed said. “You worked or went to school and came home and that was it. Now it’s gotten better and better. There are so many 24-hour restaurants, cafes that stay open late and even late parties. We can go out until 4 a.m.”

Welcome to Partytown, Baghdad, a city of nearly 8 million that has seen a dramatic mood shift since the deadly years that followed the US invasion of 2003 and the subsequent 15 years of war, most recently including a bloody fight against ISIS.

It’s not just that restaurants and cafes are full until the early morning hours. It’s also that the streets of commercial districts are filled with cars, music blaring, kids out having fun. “Now there’s more and more activity at night,” said Muntassir Mashadani, the 29-year-old night manager at al-Faqma, a famous Iraqi ice cream chain. Since Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in December, Mashadani estimated that business at night is up 25%. “There’s been a very big change since.”

That’s not to say there are no dangers. Mashadani narrowly avoided a bomb that struck another branch of al-Faqma last year, killing 17 people. But though bombs continue to go off in the capital, including a suspected ISIS attack in January that killed 35, their frequency has decreased significantly, say security experts. Anyone visiting Baghdad who was here in 2006, at the height of the country’s sectarian civil war, or 2014, when ISIS had approached within mortar range of the city’s outskirts, would be stunned by the change in spirit, as well as the nighttime.
I bet that residents of Tehran would be envious of living like that.


The Hillary standard continues and is spread to the Justice Department.
An FBI agent found to have leaked sensitive information to witnesses, mishandled classified information and lied to investigators will not face criminal charges and appears to have retired while an inquiry into his conduct was underway, according to the Justice Department Office of Inspector General.

An investigative summary posted online by the department’s internal watchdog unit on Monday is short on details, but says investigators opened an investigation after receiving allegations that the unidentified special agent “contacted witnesses in a criminal investigation for an improper purpose.”

“The OIG found that the SA contacted individuals who he either knew were, or had reasonable belief would be witnesses in the criminal investigation and that the SA’s contacts with several individuals appeared to be designed to improperly influence their prospective testimony,” the statement said. “Accordingly, the OIG concluded that the SA’s contacts with the witnesses were improper and constituted misconduct.”

Investigators also uncovered other instances of serious misconduct by the agent, saying he “divulged law enforcement sensitive information to unauthorized individuals; misused his government issued electronic devices; provided misleading testimony during a related civil deposition; mishandled classified information; misused his position during contacts with local law enforcement officers; and provided false information to the OIG.”

The summary does not say where the agent was based, whether he was in a supervisory position or when the OIG was asked to investigate.

“Criminal prosecution of the SA was declined,” the statement from the office of Inspector General Michael Horowitz said.
See, if Hillary could get off with misusing classified information, why can anyone get prosecuted? So don't go expecting anyone who has been leaking these days about anything to get prosecuted.


As Hillary continues her excuses tour, here is a list of whom and what she's blamed for her defeat in 2016.



Ah, New Yorkers, is this what you voted for with Bill de Blasio?
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday revealed four sites where he plans to open controversial drug-injection centers — and they are near schools and in the heart of stroller-mom territory.

The proposed sites — where addicts would be allowed to inject illegal drugs under supervision — are located on the Park Slope-Boerum Hill border in Brooklyn, in Hell’s Kitchen and Washington Heights in Manhattan and in Longwood in the Bronx.

And residents are fuming.

“It’s not a good idea at all. We have kids to raise,” said Keisha Brandon, a 28-year-old mother of two from Park Slope.

“Nobody should be able to shoot up legally. That’s saying to kids that people are allowed to do it, so it’s a possibility for you.”

Even recovering addicts warned about the move.

“People will line up in the streets,” said Marg Flynn, a 72-year-old recovering addict who lives near the Hell’s Kitchen site and has been sober for 33 years.

“It’s already God-awful here on Ninth Avenue. It’s a high-pedestrian area off the Theater District, lots of restaurants. If a junkie is in need of a fix, there are plenty of opportunities to rob people, especially on weekends.”
Well, it is what you got. Enjoy.


Remember this when you hear the media pontificating on sexism. They have a history of ignoring warnings when the accused is one of their star reporters.
Incidents of sexual misconduct by Charlie Rose were far more numerous than previously known, according to a new investigation by The Washington Post, which also found three occasions over a period of 30 years in which CBS managers were warned of his conduct toward women at the network.

An additional 27 women - 14 CBS News employees and 13 who worked with him elsewhere - said Rose sexually harassed them. Concerns about Rose's behavior were flagged to managers at the network as early as 1986 and as recently as April 2017, when Rose was co-anchor of "CBS This Morning," according to multiple people with firsthand knowledge of the conversations.

Rose's response to the new allegations was delivered in a one-sentence email: "Your story is unfair and inaccurate."
So they had warnings and did nothing. Remember this when they pretend to be our moral arbiters.


When I worked in regular public schools I had very little respect for the school officials. But at least I didn't have to deal with this sort of superintendent.
The Kenilworth school superintendent charged Monday with defecating in public was caught in the act at the Holmdel High School football field and track after surveillance was set up due to human feces being found "on a daily basis," police said.

Thomas Tramaglini, 42, lives about 3 miles from Holmdel High School in neighboring Aberdeen. He was running at the track on the athletic fields at 5:50 a.m. before he was arrested.

Track coaches and staff at Holmdel High School told the district's resource officer that they found human feces on or near the football field and track daily, Holmdel police said in a statement Thursday.

School employees began monitoring the area and on Monday police arrested Tramaglini at 5:50 a.m., according to Sgt. Theodore Sigismondi.
Ah, leadership.