Tuesday, December 24, 2019

We're Number Three!















Washington DC has been named one of the rudest cities in America, ranked according to a new Business Insider survey.

New York City takes the top spot - no surprise there - and Washington DC comes in third, behind Los Angeles and ahead of Chicago.

The Seat of Government has often been in the #3 spot (see this WaPo story from 2012), and I wonder why. Is DC really all that much ruder than most other cities? Probably it's the political animus that most Americans feel toward one or the other party in power than colors their impressions.

Come now. Can't we disagree without being disagreeable?

Monday, December 23, 2019

Joint State-USAID Press Briefing Ends In Mutual Incomprehension










Or, better yet, it ended due to the very different interests of the senior officials doing the briefing and the members of the press getting briefed.

This week's 'Special Briefing' was convened to refute a report in Foreign Policy magazine that claimed USAID programs in Iraq have been drastically affected by a recent reduction of embassy personnel there. Read the FP article here: State Department Outlines Dramatic Scale-Down of U.S. Presence in Iraq.

So, State and USAID spun up a couple senior officials to refute that report with facts and figures. But when they met the members of the press in the press correspondents room on December 18, it turned out the members of the press had no idea what it was the senior official were refuting.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, good afternoon, everybody, and thank you, , for having us here to correct what [the moderator of the briefing] accurately called “wildly inaccurate” stories out there about Iraq staffing. The story is that there is no story here. We adjust our staffing levels all around the world all the time, depending on circumstances, and it’s no secret that we’ve been concerned about the security situation in Iraq for some time, especially threats from our friends the Iranians and their proxies in Iraq.

-- snip --

SENIOR USAID OFFICIAL: Yeah, let me just add to that. For USAID, we think the current staffing levels are sufficient for the administration of our programs. And if they prove not to be, then we can consider augmenting our staff in-country with TDY support or through requesting new permanent positions. There’s – no staffing level is in stone, and so we’ll be considering them as we move forward. None of our programs have suspended or ceased over the last few months; on the contrary, they continue at pace, and we’re doing a wide range of activities throughout the country. We’re working to strengthen Iraqi governance, civil society, the economy, supporting the recovery of religious and ethnic minorities in the north that were targeted for genocide by ISIS, and we’re well positioned to respond to the needs of a changing political environment in Iraq.

We focus on decentralization and accountability of the state to its citizens for service provision and the election administration. And we support the development of civil society that strengthen engagements between government authorities and Iraqi citizens.

To date, the U.S. Government has programmed over $400 million focused on assisting religious and ethnic minorities, of which USAID had programmed 354 million. And we have obligated over 217 million in FY2018 funds for that end. And I’ll just leave it at that for now.

At that point someone in the press woke up.
QUESTION: Okay. So I missed this – these – whatever it is that you guys are trying to clarify.

QUESTION: Foreign Policy.

MODERATOR: Foreign Policy, is that what you said?

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

QUESTION: I didn’t see it, so I don’t know exactly what it said.

Oh, Foreign Policy, okay, gotcha.

Once they'd woken up to the purpose of the briefing, the members of the press next reflexively denied the truth of what they'd just been told.
QUESTION: But it’s no secret, though, that as the administration contemplates troop drawdowns and things like that, that – both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the staffing levels of the embassies have gone down, right, or are you saying that that’s not true? Because it seems to me, just having been in both places and having seen what they were like when they were stood up in the Bush – both of them stood up in the Bush administration with the idea that Iraq was going to be the biggest embassy in the world. I mean, it’s nothing. It’s a shadow.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Of what?

QUESTION: The physical – the physical – the idea —

QUESTION: Of what it was and what it (inaudible).

QUESTION: The ambition to have it be the big – the biggest and the most staffed embassy in the world. I mean —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It is still the largest embassy in the Middle East, just in terms of U.S. direct hires alone, and that’s what the story was focused on. I’ll let you read the story itself, but as I said, the real story here is that we are making sure that we have got the right staff to do the work in front of them at the time. It’s not 2004, it’s not 2008. If it looked like 2008, this would be a very different staffing discussion right now. But Iraq in 2019 is very different. We had a different set of staff in 2008 compared to what we had in 2013. 2014, we cut right down to the bone as ISIS was 60 miles from the gates of Baghdad. Understandably, we had a different set of staff, again, in 2016 as ISIS was largely beaten back. And now we’ve got a different set of staff to face the challenges that we’ve got in front of us now. But it has nothing to do with military levels – and I’ll defer to DOD for the exact numbers there, but they’re not going down. Their partnership with the Iraqis is just as robust as ever. And so – and we are there, actually, largely in support of their activities as well as USAID’s activities and the things that the State Department is doing.

QUESTION: Well, so, can you give – recognizing, though, all these other circumstances, from its high point of staffing, how – what’s the decrease in the number of staff to now?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I actually don’t have that number for what it was historically at some point in the past, but what I can say now is that all the sections and agencies believe that this is what they need to get the mission done, no more, no less. And as said, if they do feel that they need more for particular changing circumstances, they go to the ambassador and they ask for TDY support, or if it looks like it’s going to be more long-term, more – filling more permanent positions, because no staffing level, as said, is set in stone anywhere in the world.

I think the difference here is that this is the first time a staffing change has been done that required a notification to Congress, because that’s a new requirement as of —

MODERATOR: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: — last year?

MODERATOR: Yeah, very recent.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So that’s what you’re reading in the Foreign Policy story.

If at first you don't succeed at denying what you were just told, word it a little differently and try again.
QUESTION: Well, I was just wondering, are you disputing the IG report that came out and said that the staffing levels was hurting the mission’s ability to create its mission – to execute its mission? And then it also made reference to having a shortage of USAID officials on the ground for $1.16 billion of aid – about six expatriates. It’s my understanding that there’s maybe been a couple more since then, but that – that was a critical assessment, and it now seems like there’s even fewer following that critical assessment.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not disputing the report. I’m disputing everybody’s understanding of the report and the lack of context in it. That statement is correct for ordered departure. Ordered departure is not meant to be enough people. It’s not meant to be enough people because you’re only at totally non-essential staff. You’re only at emergency staffing levels. So I would have appreciated it if they had said, “During this temporary ordered departure, of course there are fewer staff than what we need,” but the people who really know how many people are needed to oversee USAID programs is USAID. And even we back here aren’t the experts; it’s the people in the field. So we look to them and we always did from the beginning: “You tell us exactly what you need, and we will do our best to try to make sure that that’s what you’ve got.”

MODERATOR: Do you have anything else to add to that?

SENIOR USAID OFFICIAL: Yeah, I mean, I’d just add that USAID works in hard places around the world and in the region, right, and that’s including places where you can’t have all the people you want on the ground. And look at Libya or look at Yemen, and those are places where USAID is capable of working very, very confidently in very challenging circumstances. Iraq is one of those places, and so we’re confident that we can do what we need to do there with the staffing that we’ve put forward.

And if that doesn't work, just make stuff up.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’d just say that you mentioned that was the case under ordered departure, but under this plan that’s beyond ordered departure, it’s still actually fewer numbers

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Fewer than ordered departure?

QUESTION: — of personnel than ordered departure.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s not true. That’s not true.

QUESTION: Doesn’t it go from 256 down?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s just not true. I’m not going to talk about the numbers, but it’s not true. It is not below ordered departure at all.

Finally, one of the press got tired of the topic of the briefing and went fishing for something she could use against VP Pence.
MODERATOR: Carol, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just have a quick question on the $400 million in aid to religious minorities. Could you give us a breakdown, like how much for, say, Yezidis, how much for Christians, how much for any other groups? Could you slice and dice that a little bit for us, please?

SENIOR USAID OFFICIAL: Sure. I don’t have a full and accurate picture I can give you right here. I’d refer you to our website, and I can follow up with you as well directly with specific options. But it’s split between Yezidis, Christians, other religious and ethnic minorities (inaudible).

QUESTION: Can you just give us a general sense, though? Have you been doing more with Christians? Because that was a big push for this administration.

SENIOR USAID OFFICIAL: I’d have a hard time saying whether it’s more for one religious minority or another, and we’re not targeting specific people by religion. We’re targeting geographies.

QUESTION: So there isn’t a percentage allocated to each religion?

SENIOR USAID OFFICIAL: No, no, no, no. No, no, no, absolutely not.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, it’s geographical, if I may add, because I’ve seen a lot of these projects. And so if you’re looking in Bartella and Karemlesh and areas southwest of Erbil, you can’t say, “Well, sorry, this water can only be drunk by Christians or Yezidis and not Shabaks or anyone else.” I mean —

QUESTION: Well, why not? We used to do that here.

Annnnd, with that last remark the moderator finally banged the gong and ended the show.
MODERATOR: Oh, Jesus. All right. That’s the end. Thank you.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The SecState Has Final Discretionary Authority Over Extradition

The spokesman for Harry Dunn's family has pronounced himself dissatisfied with statements issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department and by the lawyer representing the American driver. Quoted in the UK Guardian today, Harry Dunn family condemns Anne Sacoolas lawyer:
“There are extradition proceedings under way, and whether the British authorities’ decision yesterday was helpful or not to the American government, this case will be dealt under the rule of law, which we know is just as important to Americans as it is to British people."

“To the extent that anyone in authority seeks to impede a lawful request from the British for Anne Sacoolas to be brought back to the UK, they will ultimately have to put their argument to an independent judge in court.”

Not for the first time, he is wrong.

As I posted yesterday, all you need to know about extradition to the U.S. is explained in a guide written by that same lawyer the family's spokesman condemns. The bottom line is that, by U.S. law, "the Secretary of State has final discretionary authority over whether to extradite a person found extraditable by the court."

The SecState is a guy named Mike Pompeo, and he has already refused a request from his British counterpart to waive diplomatic immunity and allow the driver to be prosecuted in the UK. The ultimate decision in any extradition case will be his alone.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Extradition in the Harry Dunn Case "would establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent.”

Where the legal immunity of USG personnel will be reduced


















The UK Crown Prosecution Service announced today that it approved the filing of criminal charges against the American driver in the Harry Dunn case, and that it will make a request for her extradition.

The other piece of news to come out today is that the Commonwealth and Foreign Office has completed its review of the bilateral agreement pertaining to U.S. personnel at RAF Croughton and found that American staff members at the base at some point in time had “pre-waived” their immunity against criminal prosecution in the UK, but that this was not done for their family members. Accordingly, the family members have more immunity than the employees do. The only certain legal consequence to come out of the accident that killed Harry Dunn is that the immunities of Croughton personnel will be limited or ended.

From the WaPo this afternoon, American diplomat’s wife is being charged with causing the death of British teen Harry Dunn:
Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat, is being formally charged with “causing death by dangerous driving” in the case of a crash on British soil that killed teenager Harry Dunn in August.

-- snip --

“Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving,” Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith said in a statement.

-- snip --

In Britain, causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and a disqualification from driving for at least two years.

“We express our deepest sympathies and offer condolences to the Dunn family for their loss,” a U.S. Department of State spokesperson said Friday. “We will continue to look for options for moving forward. We are disappointed by today’s announcement and fear that it will not bring a resolution closer. … We do not believe that the UK’s charging decision is a helpful development.”

The UK Guardian had this statement from the lawyer of the American driver, Anne Sacoolas refuses to return to face Harry Dunn charges:
A statement from the lawyer for Anne Sacoolas came after the Crown Prosecution Service announced it was bringing charges over Dunn’s death in August. Amy Jeffress said the potential 14-year sentence was “not proportionate” for what was “a terrible but unintentional accident”.

The statement said: “Anne is devastated by this tragic accident and continues to extend her deepest condolences to the family. Anne would do whatever she could to bring Harry back. She is a mother herself and cannot imagine the pain of the loss of a child. She has cooperated fully with the investigation and accepted responsibility … This was an accident, and a criminal prosecution with a potential penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment is simply not a proportionate response.”

Jeffress said they had been talking to the UK authorities about how Sacoolas could “assist with preventing accidents like this from happening in the future, as well as her desire to honour Harry’s memory … But Anne will not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident.”

-- snip --

The CPS said it had started extradition proceedings.

It said: “The Home Office is responsible for considering our request and deciding whether to formally issue this through US diplomatic channels. Our specialist extradition team will be working closely with the UK Central Authority at the Home Office to do this.”

Dunn’s father Tim added: “We set out so long ago and we believed and we believed and we believed, and we’ve done it, we’ve done it, we’ve got the charge. This is it, it’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing. Justice. Whatever happens now it doesn’t matter, we’ve got what we wanted.”

-- snip --

The Foreign Office is to remove an anomaly that helped Sacoolas leave the UK, claiming diplomatic immunity after her car crashed into Harry on 27 August, killing him and prompting a long diplomatic tug of war between the US and the UK.

-- snip --

Under arrangements agreed in 1964, US staff members at the base “pre-waived” their immunity against criminal prosecution in the UK, but this was not done for their families. The Foreign Office has rejected freedom of information requests on the terms of the 1964 agreement saying it is not in the national interest.

One option being explored is to extend this automatic waiver to family members so their degree of protection is the same as for staff.

So then, the action in the Harry Dunn case now moves on to the matter of whether the Amertican driver can be extradited to the UK. And that's where we need the counsel of a specialist in international extradition and national security law. Someone like this (who, by the way, is the lawyer representing Anne Sacoolas).

In that legal specialist's primer on extradition law and practice in the United States we learn that the final stage of an extradition request is a "certification by court and decision by the Secretary of State."
If the court ‘deems the evidence sufficient to sustain the charge under the provisions of the proper treaty or convention’, it will issue a certification of extraditability (18 USC Section 3184). The Secretary of State has final discretionary authority over whether to extradite a person found extraditable by the court (18 USC Section 3186; United States v. Kin-Hong, 110 F.3d 103, 109, 110 (1st Cir 1997)).

That's the same Secretary of State who has already refused a request for waiver of the driver's diplomatic immunity. What are the odds he will now agree to her extradition?

Today's statement by a State Department spokesman on the decision to charge the American driver ended with this: “The use of an extradition treaty to attempt to return the spouse of a former diplomat by force would establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent.” That makes the American position perfectly clear.

The driver will not return to the UK voluntarily, and the USG will certainly not agree to her extradition. That means it's all over except for the posturing. The UK police, Foreign Office, and Prime Minister will presumably do all within their power to advocate for the driver's return, but that will have no effect.

As for the family of Harry Dunn, will the criminal charges alone be the catharsis that allows them to grieve and move on with their lives? I'd like to believe the father's statement that "we’ve done it, we’ve done it, we’ve got the charge. This is it, it’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing. Justice. Whatever happens now it doesn’t matter, we’ve got what we wanted.” I'd like to believe it, but I can't, not after they've spent months of emotional investment, abetted by the tabloids, in the hope of a trial and punishment.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Harry Dunn Case: FCO Rejects Family's Claims, Will Oppose Judicial Review

Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

















The Harry Dunn case has moved forward one step. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office rejected the family's claims of misue or abuse of power, as well as their request that the FCO withdraw its advise to the police regarding the American driver's diplomatic immunity.

From the BBC yesterday:
In the letter, the FCO said it would "seek costs" for any judicial review brought and argues the family has not found "any reasonably arguable ground of legal challenge".

It said the allegation that the foreign secretary had "misused and/or abused his power" was "entirely without foundation".

The family's lawyer/spokesman, normally so voluble, has so far maintained a near-total Twitter silence on this setback.

There are further details of the FCO's letter from the Press Association:

It is understood a legal claim issued by Harry’s family on October 25 was met with strong resistance from the FCO – who said any judicial review would be “opposed” and “defended”.

The 19-year-old’s parents had requested the FCO “withdraw the advice” provided to Northamptonshire Police surrounding the granting of diplomatic immunity to the US suspect in the case Anne Sacoolas.

The family’s lawyers also offered an alternative request of “paying substantive damages” for breaching the European Convention of Human Rights.

-- snip --

The claim against the FCO issued on behalf of Mr Dunn’s parents – Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn – alleged the granting of diplomatic immunity to Mrs Sacoolas was “wrong in law”.

-- snip --

In the letter, the FCO wrote: “It is not accepted that the proposed claim for judicial review articulated on your clients’ behalf in your letter, dated October 25, identifies any reasonably arguable ground of legal challenge.

“It is not therefore accepted that you have identified any arguable basis on which to suggest that the FCO ought now either ‘to withdraw the advice provided to the police’, or to pay ‘substantive damages for the breach of Articles 2 and 6, ECHR’.

“The unparticularised allegation that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (SSFCA) has misused and/or abused his power and/or has committed misfeasance in public office is entirely without foundation.”

The response continued: “As to the alternative ground of challenge based on Articles 2 and 6 ECHR, it is not accepted that you have identified any basis under the ECHR to criticise the SSFCA’s actions.

“The SSFCA therefore declines to take the action you have invited him to take on behalf of your clients, and would oppose any application for permission to bring a claim for judicial review.

“We therefore invite you not to pursue the proposed claim. In the event that the claim is issued, it will be defended, the application for permission will be opposed, and the Secretary of State will seek his costs for doing so.”

So the FCO is willing to be the bad guy in this touchy case, defending the legality of its ruling on diplomatic immunity for the driver. Not a popular position, I don't suppose, but the facts and the law on immunity are clear.

From this point on, the family's lawyer/spokesman might as well concentrate all his bad advise on pursuing his Plan B, that promised million-dollar payday in a U.S. court (“In the U.S. you can sue for millions of dollars if someone spills some hot coffee on your hand at McDonalds”). Of course, assuming he finds a U.S. judge willing to assert jurisdiction over traffic accidents in the UK, he'll then be fighting an insurance agency, and those people care not at all for public opinion and will make the FCO seem like a toothless bulldog in comparison.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week




Hilton Head McDonald’s served man sweet tea with a side of weed - Hilton Head Island Packet

He had hope for the sweet tea and kept thinking “maybe this will get better, maybe it’s just me,” as he fidgeted with his straw and poked around the inside of his cup ... Finally, when Brown realized he was “high as a kite,” he opened up the lid only to find something he wasn’t expecting: three bags of marijuana.

“I kept being like ‘I swear, there is weed in my sweet tea!’” he said. “The officer asked me why I drank it and I was like, ‘Well, I was thirsty!’”


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

UK Police to Interview Driver in Harry Dunn Case




There was a development yesterday in what is becoming my daily post about the Harry Dunn / diplomatic immunity case. UK police will travel to the U.S. to interview the American driver, which is the last step necessary in order to complete the file that police will turn over to the Crown Prosecution Service.
“The suspect has cooperated fully with police and authorities and requested to be interviewed by British police officers under caution in the United States. She did not want to provide a pre-prepared statement, as is her right. As soon as we have the visas available officers from Northamptonshire police will be travelling to the United States.”

Of course, this does not mean that the driver can be arrested, nor even that the UK will try to extradite her from the U.S. They might, they might not.

Anything short of an immediate arrest will disappoint many people following the case from the UK. I saw one online comment today in which the writer fantasized about UK police poisoning the American during the interview, leaving her to die. Pretty par for the course for public sentiment.

We also learned a new bit of info from a report in the Telegraph:
Police interviewed and breathalysed Anne Sacoolas, wife of an American diplomat at the scene, but did not arrest her. She left the country citing diplomatic immunity and has since admitted to driving on the wrong side of the road and hitting the teenage motorcyclist.

The Telegraph went on to quote Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley, who, by the way, strikes me as the most straightforward official yet to have taken a public role in this matter, as saying:
“In any case, once the diplomatic immunity was flagged up, which it was the following day, it’s over. It ends. It finishes. The police can not move on the investigation with that suspect."

"I urge the family spokesman to exercise constraint in his commentary as the case moves forward."

"I understand the emotion and I understand the anxiety, I also understand the will and the want for answers to questions the family are asking."

"The suspect not being in the county clearly frustrates the investigation but it does not stop it."

"Lawyers have clearly stated that the suspect wants to be personally interviewed by officers from Northamptonshire Police in order for them to see her and the devastation this has caused her and her family.

She did not want to provide a pre-prepared statement which is her right to do so. We do understand from colleagues in the US that the family is utterly devastated."

So far, so good. But then the Telegraph commits a whooping untruth in its timeline of the case.
October 13

The Foreign Office writes to Mr Dunn's family saying Mrs Sacoolas does not have diplomatic immunity.

It becomes clear that her husband was an intelligence officer and not a registered diplomat in a recognised role, and therefore neither he nor his wife are entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Absolute nonsense. Look at any other post I've done labeled "Harry Dunn" to see why, or cut out the middleman and just read Articles 29, 31, and 37 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Harry Dunn Case: FCO Will Review Immunity Arrangements at RAF Croughton



Tonight, UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab addressed the House of Commons about the Harry Dunn case. The news is that he will review the bilateral arrangements that are currently in place.
Mr Raab said he had commissioned a review into immunity arrangements for US personnel and their families at the RAF Croughton annex in light of this case.

"As this case has demonstrated, I do not believe the current arrangements are right and the review will look at how we can make sure that the arrangements at Croughton cannot be used in this way again," he said.

He said the case was "now with Northamptonshire Police and Crown Prosecution Service and it is for them to consider the next steps as part of their criminal investigation".

Predictably, the family's lawyer-spokesman is sticking to his sad fantasy that the American driver really didn't have immunity at all. Oh, the UK Foreign Office thought she did, but what would they know about diplomatic business? All it needs now is for the Northamptonshire Police to track her down and slap the cuffs on her.
The Dunn family lawyer Radd Seiger told Sky News that Mr Raab's statement added insult to injury. He said that Mrs Sacoolas did not have immunity at all.

-- snip --

The Dunn family position is that she did not have diplomatic immunity because her husband was not a diplomat and no diplomatic work was taking place at RAF Croughton.

He said "nobody wants to go to the courts" but that they have lawyers ready to go "on both sides of the Atlantic" because of their frustration with the current results of their efforts.

-- snip --

Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn also say they have heard rumours that Northamptonshire officers were on the way to the US to continue their investigation and asked to find out what the purpose of the visit would be.

The family also wanted to know about the potential to charge and extradite Mrs Sacoolas back to the UK.

-- snip --

Mr Seiger continued: "We have been told that Northamptonshire Police are either in the US or are on their way from the UK - either going to the States to interview her or see Donald Trump."

I like the "nobody wants to go to the courts" line from Mr. Seiger, the classic tell of a lawyer who wouldn't be caught dead in a courtroom.

So, the next step is up to the Crown Prosecution Service: do they think they can request extradition?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Dunn Family Lawyer "Intent on Exposing" Misconduct



At the end of the Dunn family's U.S. media tour, their lawyer-spokesman doubled down on delusion today, announcing via twitter that:
(1) The family is now concerned that there has been misconduct and a cover up on both sides of the Atlantic and they are intent on exposing it with the help of their lawyers.

(2) We now expect Northants Police to take over from the work we have done and the progress we have made, charge her and begin extradition proceedings to bring her back.

(3) It is clear that the Americans are desperate to protect Mrs Sacoolas and are intent on ruthlessly and aggressively not letting her return. We are trying to find out why that is.

When reality intrudes, as it eventually will, he will see that there was no misconduct or mistake in the UK authorities recognition of the American driver's diplomatic immunity from criminal jurisdiction. And, since U.S. authorities from the Ambassador to the Secretary of State and the President himself have refused a request for waiver of immunity, there will be no extradition. Those U.S. authorities are, indeed, ruthlessly protecting the diplomatic immunity of their employees and the employees' family members, and they will continue to do so for so long as necessary to protect U.S. interests.

None of this is doing the grief-stricken family any good.

I really shouldn't blame the family lawyer too much, since he seems to be getting his misinformation from one particular source - Mark Stephens, Solicitor, an activist type who previously represented Julian Assange. Hey, maybe it's a bad idea to take advice from a lawyer whose last client hasn't seen a day of freedom in nine years.

Stephens is just BS'ing his way along on the subject of immunity. Here's a sample of his astoundingly wrong information from a press interview this week:
Mr Stephens said that by making Mrs Sacoolas a “fugitive” it was obvious US officials knew she was not entitled to immunity, as the purpose of the law is to allow diplomats to continue to work in their host country.

“It’s almost unique, in fact I think it is unique, that someone who is claiming diplomatic immunity has fled from justice and fled from scrutiny of their diplomatic status.”

Oh, sure. The purpose of immunity from criminal jurisdiction is to allow diplomats to continue to work in the receiving state whose laws they have broken with no consequence? And no one claiming immunity has ever before in history departed the receiving state, much less been thrown out, all facts to the contrary notwithstanding?

Do people pay this guy for advice like that? What a sweet deal for him.

Meanwhile, here in the real world, any diplomat violating host country laws who is not recalled by the sending state, or does not depart voluntarily, will be declared persona non grata and expelled from the receiving state as per Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. End of story.


All Right Mister DeMille, I'm Ready For My Presidential Portrait



Is that the way Hillary will end up? It's a distinct possibility, I think, after today's odd, and oddly disturbing, outburst of delusional accusations against Tulsi Gabbard:
Hillary Clinton said that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is being groomed by Moscow to run as a third-party spoiler candidate in 2020 to help President Trump win reelection.

The former secretary of state pushed the theory on Campaign HQ podcast hosted by David Plouffe, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2008.

Plouffe and Clinton discussed hurdles the Democratic nominee would face and compared the 2020 race to Clinton’s loss to Trump in 2016. Plouffe asked Clinton about the part third-party candidates, such as Jill Stein of the Green Party, played in 2016, allowing Trump to secure key states.

"They are also going to do third party again," Clinton, 71, said. "I'm not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate," Clinton said, referring to Gabbard, without mentioning the Hawaii representative by name.

"She is a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. That's assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she is also a Russian asset.

A 38 year-old Congressional Representative who challenges Hillary's world, however slightly, is a "Russian asset?" And she's not the only one. There are others!

Assuming Hillary isn't merely trying to divert attention from the latest HRC e-mail security violation news, that's enough to make you wonder about cognitive decline.

You can hear Hillary on the Campaign HQ podcast here.

Well, if that is how Hillary finally goes down, I just hope she goes full Gloria Swanson.

I can’t go on with this press conference, I’m too happy. Mr. DeMille, do you mind if I say a few words? Thank you. I just want to tell you all how happy I am to be back in the White House making policy again. You don’t know how much I’ve missed all of you. And I promise you I’ll never desert you again because after 2020 we’ll hold another election and another election. You see, this is my life. It always will be. There’s nothing else. Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful voters out there in the dark! … All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my Presidential portrait.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Harry Dunn Family Ends its U.S. Tour














At least one good thing seems to have come out of the Dunn family's meeting at the White House this week. Although they refused to meet the woman who was at fault in the crash that killed their son, it may be that they are now ready to accept the fact that they will not get her back to the UK for any kind of judicial process.

Charlotte Charles, the mother of Harry Dunn: "If I'm totally honest, I don't hold out too much hope that she's going to be returned to us."

Nevertheless, their family lawyer / spokesman is doing his best to keep false hopes raised, it seems, by relying on the extremely bad information he's getting from activist-lawyer Mark Stephens. To summarize Stephens: the driver never had diplomatic immunity because neither she nor her husband are named in the UK's Diplomatic List, and aren't "diplomatic agents;" plus, diplomatic status only applies to diplomats posted to London; and anyway, diplomatic immunity is always waived when the receiving state so requests (there is literally no case in which it isn't!); and, if all that fails, she lost her immunity when she left the country, so we can extradite her back to the UK now and put her on trial.

All bollocks.

Regarding those 'routine' waivers of immunity, you might think that a British lawyer would remember one of the most striking cases ever of diplomatic immunity, which occurred in London in 1984 - the murder of Woman Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher by someone shooting from inside the Libyan embassy. The occupants of the embassy were allowed to leave the UK unhindered, and their bags weren't even searched for the murder weapon. What happened to that waiver?

It happens not infrequently that diplomats leave the jurisdiction after causing fatal traffic accidents. Last year, a U.S. military attache left Pakistan under exactly those circumstances.

As for extradition, obviously, that will be refused. It isn't even clear whether the UK could declare the driver a fugitive and try to extradite her from a third country so long as they would be unable to prosecute her due to her immunity.

Most aggravatingly of all, the simple facts of who gets diplomatic immunity are spelled out in black and white and are perfectly clear to anyone who cares to read the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations.

Here are the key excerpts:
Article 29

The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention.

Article 31

A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.

Article 37

The members of the family of a diplomatic agent forming part of his household shall, if they are not nationals of the receiving State, enjoy the privileges and immunities specified in articles 29 to 36.

Members of the administrative and technical staff of the mission, together with members of their families forming part of their respective households, shall, if they are not nationals of or permanently resident in the receiving State, enjoy the privileges and immunities specified in articles 29 to 35, except that the immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving State specified in paragraph 1 of article 31 shall not extend to acts performed outside the course of their duties.

To recap, the American driver is - so far as I can tell from the public record - evidently the family member of a technical and administrative staffer, or else someone with equivalent immunity via special bilateral agreement, and for that reason immune from the criminal jurisdiction of the UK.

The Dunn family may have a cause for civil action, but that's all.

The family's lawyer ought to read the Vienna Convention and see if he can find a loophole. At least that would be honest labor.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Who Gets Diplomatic Immunity? (Technical and Administrative Staffs Do)

















Today, Radd Seiger, the spokesman / lawyer for the Harry Dunn family announced he will demand documents from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in an attempt to prove the American driver in the case was not entitled to diplomatic immunity.
"What Mark [Stephens] and I are going to do, is we are going to write to the FCO very shortly, explaining that we don't want to do a judicial review, but to avoid that, please let us have the following documents - all e-mails, messages and notes in relation to your advice to Northamptonshire Police that this lady had it [diplomatic immunity].

"What we don't know is whether somebody cocked up or whether they were put under pressure by the Americans to concede.

"But we want to conduct an investigation into the FCO's decision to advise Northamptonshire Police that this lady had the benefit of diplomatic immunity.

"If we're not satisfied, then we'll go to a judicial review and ask a High Court judge to review it all."

That is the argument which has been pushed all along by activist-lawyer Mark Stephens, and it consists of noting that the American driver's U.S. government employee husband is not named on a diplomatic list published by the UK. Stephens, by the way, evidently lifted that idea from retired UK Ambassador Craig Murray, as Murray explains in great and readable detail here.

Under international law there are three main categories of diplomatic personnel: (1) Diplomatic Agents, who conduct government-to-government business, (2) members of Administrative and Technical Staffs, who perform tasks critical to the working of a diplomatic establishment, and (3) members of Service Staffs who perform less critical support tasks. I'll omit the categories of Consular personnel.

Both Diplomatic Agents and members of Administrative and Technical Staffs, as well as their families, enjoy full diplomatic immunity from criminal jurisdiction in the receiving state. A and T staffs do not receive immunity from civil jurisdiction except for acts performed in their official duties, however, and that may be relevant to the Harry Dunn case.

The diplomatic list published in the UK, that smoking gun which Mr. Stephens is waving, does not include Administrative and Technical staffs. Such lists are protocol tools, and are not all-inclusive of the members of diplomatic establishments with criminal immunity. Nor do they include personnel who receive immunity via special bi-lateral agreements.

This publicly available source of information explains how international law on diplomatic immunity applies to technical and administrative staff of foreign missions in the U.S., which would be the same way it applies in the UK.
2 FAM 232.1-2 Members of Administrative and Technical Staff

a. Members of the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission perform tasks critical to support the operation of the mission. Accordingly, they enjoy immunities identical to those of diplomatic agents in respect of personal inviolability, immunity from criminal jurisdiction, and immunity from any requirement to provide evidence as witnesses. Their immunity from civil jurisdiction, however, is less extensive than that of diplomatic agents. Members of the administrative and technical staff enjoy immunity from civil jurisdiction only in connection with the performance of their official duties.

b. Like those of diplomatic agents, the recognized family members of administrative and technical staff enjoy the same inviolability and immunities from the host country's jurisdiction as their sponsors. They thus have complete immunity from criminal jurisdiction of the host State. However, since these family members perform no official duties, they enjoy no immunity from civil jurisdiction.

See this handy booklet which is provided to local police by the U.S. State Department to help them sort out who gets what immunity. It has an even handier chart on page 48.

Here's a hint to Radd Seiger: while you're asking the FCO for all those e-mails and memos, you might also ask whether they provide similar guidance or training to the Northamptonshire Police.

Monday, October 14, 2019

"Do the Right Thing" - Parents of Harry Dunn Begin U.S. Media Tour



The "right thing" in this case is now defined exclusively as the U.S. spouse returning to the UK with her diplomatic immunity waived. That is now a non-negotiable condition. Doomed to failure, I expect, but the family's hopes have now been raised to that point.

The family was interviewed on CBS News this morning, and they'll appear on other New York media before going to Washington later this week. They are being assisted by a lawyer/spokesman, an American citizen resident in the UK who is reportedly a friend of the family and therefore personally involved.

The message the family wishes to get across to the American public seems to have firmed up in the last day or two. Unfortunately, in addition to all the anguish they're experiencing, the family, aided by most of the media, is fooling itself on some key points.

The latest myth, which emerged the same day the family departed the UK, is that the American driver "no longer has immunity" and therefore she can be extradited back to the UK. That is nonsense, and seems to be based on misinterpretation of the wording of two official statements. The UK Foreign Office stated that the American driver's immunity and any question of waiver is "no longer relevant" now that she has left the country, and the U.S. State Department agreed her immunity is "no longer pertinent." I don't know when it was that the news media lost the ability to read, but those words do not mean that the driver lost or never had diplomatic immunity, or that it has been waived.

It is routinely said by the family and in news accounts that the American driver "claimed diplomatic immunity." Wrong. The USG invoked the immunity that she had under international law; that decision was not up to her. Likewise, much is made about her choosing to leave the UK. Wrong again. After immunity was invoked. she had to either leave or be expelled by the UK government.

"You cannot just walk away from that" fatal accident, the father of Harry Dunn said in this morning's news conference. I appreciate the emotional and moral weight behind that statement. Nevertheless, the hard fact is that a person with full diplomatic immunity can just walk away from that, and they do.

The family's lawyer discussed possible civil action in the U.S. against the driver. Maybe that will happen. No doubt an insurance company in either the U.S. or UK is involved, so there could be some kind of legal settlement. But, that will not compel the driver to return to the UK.

The family often expresses the hope that publicity in the U.S. will force the USG to send the driver back to face the UK justice system. But the government cannot order an employee or an employee's spouse to leave the U.S. and subject themselves to adverse legal proceedings. The UK can attempt to extradite her, but then, there's that matter of diplomatic immunity again. 

Most futile of all is the family's hope that "this is now an opportunity" to change international law on diplomatic privileges and immunities, which are merely "dusty bits of paper" that were signed way back in 1961. I'm sure there are advocates for doing that. How exactly you would go about changing an international convention is another thing altogether,

Unless something changes, those false hopes have created an absolute obstacle in the path of the grieving process the family needs to go through.
 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Privileges and Immunities Meet Social Media This Week

The crash occurred at the crest of this hill 400 meters from RAF Croughton's gate














Diplomatic immunity, who gets it and when it might be waived, is explained in this publicly available source of information. Pay close attention to 2 FAM 221.5, Waiver of Immunity. That topic will feature in the news this week and maybe for some time to come.

You've probably seen accounts of the tragic death of Harry Dunn, the 19 year-old who was killed in a wrong-way driving accident just outside the gate of a U.S. Air Force facility in the UK. The spouse of a U.S. government official was at fault. Because she was covered by full diplomatic immunity, she departed the UK after the crash and will not face the British legal system. News media in the UK have gone wild ever since.

The most sparse and unsentimental story I've seen is this one from the BBC. The UK Daily Mail has the longest and most personal story I've seen: She's the American diplomat's wife who fled after a car crash that killed a teenager. Here, the victim's family recount the full horror of their loss — and the toll it's taken on the twin so grief-stricken he couldn't leave home:
This week the family appealed to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to intervene. He told them the U.S. government had refused two requests to waive Mrs Sacoolas’ immunity. Now they believe the only way to ensure their son’s death is not ‘swept under the carpet’ is to reveal the full detail of his horrific death.

The family’s only hope now is that the court of public opinion will bring pressure to bear on President Trump.

-- snip --

The nation — indeed the world — has been shocked since news of Harry’s death broke last weekend. He was killed near RAF Croughton, a U.S. intelligence hub, in Northamptonshire on August 27. It is said that Mrs Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road when the collision happened.

Six days after Harry’s death when officers from Northampton told them they intended to charge Mrs Sacoolas with death by dangerous driving — for which, if found guilty, she would face a custodial sentence — they asked the charge to be reduced to death by careless driving.

‘They told us two of her children were in the car with her,’ says Charlotte. ‘That broke us. We were really upset for them. How on earth must those children be feeling? They must be extremely traumatised. That was shocking.

‘We were very honest with the police and said, although we obviously wanted justice for our son, as parents ourselves, we wanted to work with the police and courts to get the charge reduced and push for a suspended sentence so she could carry on being a mum.

‘Now looking back we actually curse ourselves for being so understanding.’

Charlotte cries. ‘We’re six weeks on and we’ve had nothing. It’s like Harry’s worth nothing. They’ve swept him under the carpet.’

-- snip --

Charlotte continues: ‘We’re not vengeful people but the longer this goes on and we hear nothing from her, the more the anger mounts. We have accepted this is a terrible accident from day one. I want to hear her side of the story.

She looks at Tracey. ‘We still can’t understand as mothers ourselves that she thinks it was the right thing to do to get on a plane and run away.’

Tracey agrees. ‘In our opinion diplomatic immunity is to protect a diplomat who is in danger so they can be removed from the danger. Anne Sacoolas was not in danger but Harry lost his life. We, Harry’s family, need that justice.’

Some UK news media have played up the class resentment angle, which is fed by the large fees charged by the international school the U.S. diplomat's children attended, and the coincidence that the father of Harry Dunn is a maintenance worker at the same school:
Sacoolas had been in the UK less than a month when the incident occurred, and her children were attending the expensive and prestigious Winchester House private school, where Dunn’s father Tim worked as a maintenance man.

Although the reasons for maintaining strict protections around diplomatic immunity do have some justifications, the Sacoolas case reveals the various shortcomings and hypocrisies that can be involved. In addition to being a tense point right now in British-American relations, the case brings up stark class division, with the wealthy Sacoolas family able to skate away on their privilege as the working-class Dunn family is left grieving for their dead son.

The basic matter of diplomatic immunity keeps being misunderstood - as well as resented - in part because the Dunn family's lawyer and spokesman insists on his own bizarre misinterpretation of the facts, one in which (1) the American spouse was not entitled to it, despite the Foreign Office having affirmed all along that she was, and (2) that diplomatic immunity is routinely waived.
“Our position is that she doesn’t have immunity and that waivers are always granted in these circumstances,” Radd Seiger, a spokesman for the family, told reporters.

Waivers are most certainly not always granted, or ever granted, in these circumstances. Mr. Seiger is way off base about that, but he might be sincerely misinformed. He could have done some superficial research and been confused by the many waivers that are granted on narrow technical grounds, such as when a diplomat testifies in a foreign court, or when necessary in domestic matters such as child custody and support. But in cases such as this one where there are adverse affects to the interests of the U.S. government or its employees, the USG is, indeed, "absolutely ruthless in safeguarding" the Ps and Is of its diplomats and their families, as no less than PM Boris Johnson recently told the Dunn family.

The latest twist, announced today, is that Mr. Seiger has arrived in the U.S. and been contacted by attorneys for the American spouse.
Radd Seiger, spokesman and adviser for the family, told ITV on Saturday: “I have just landed on a flight from London and had a very brief phone conversation with the legal team representing Anne Sacoolas.

“We have agreed to meet each other at the earliest possibility as soon as we can co-ordinate our diaries.”

UK outlets have now published a statement from the spouse's attorneys in which she is quoted as saying "Anne would like to meet with Mr. Dunn's parents so that she can express her deepest sympathies and apologies for this tragic accident."

So, the family of Harry Dunn will arrive in the U.S. today, and they will pursue a media-heavy strategy complete with Twitter, Facebook, and GoFundMe pages, aimed at persuading the American public to demand that their government compel the offending American spouse to return to the UK and face its justice system.

I sincerely hope there will not be a personal meeting between them; really, that would not be in anyone's interest. The spouse has been thoroughly demonized in the British press, and she is no doubt traumatized herself from the crash and its aftermath. More importantly, at this point, the Dunn family is evidently unwilling to accept anything short of the spouse returning to the UK for trial, but we may be sure that will not happen.

Given that impasse, what would be the point of a group hug?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week



Shanks [Florida] Middle School teacher got high on meth and coke before school - WCTV Eyewitness News (Quincy Florida)

A Shanks Middle School teacher was arrested after he told investigators he got high on meth and cocaine before school, then took Xanax during his lunch break ... He was discovered at the Burger King in Quincy by a police officer, who took him to the emergency room because of his behavior.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

HRC - Baby, Baby, Baby, You're Out of Time



"I mean, obviously I can beat him again.”

Oh, obviously. But then, she didn’t conduct that PBS interview from the White House, did she?

By all means, yes, beat him again. But Hillary had better hurry if she intends to beat him in 2020, since the deadlines for filing and getting on ballots will soon be here. The first Democratic primary event will take place in Iowa on February 3, 2020. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina also hold primaries in February, and Super Tuesday will be on March 3, 2020.

The much bigger problem for Hillary is that, this time, there are other Democrats already running. About 19 others as of today. All those who would have run a couple election cycles ago just for the name recognition and favor-trading needed to climb the slippery pole. Except they didn't, because ClintonWorld kept them away from challenging Hillary's manifest destiny.

What Democrats ran against Hillary for the nomination last time? In the debates she faced Bernie, a rare quasi-Democrat who did not need ClintonWorld approval because he wasn't actually a Democrat but an Independent until he filed to run, and who went back to being an Independent as soon as the primary season was over. There was Martin O’Malley, ex-Governor of Maryland and ex-Major of Baltimore, essentially forgettable. There was Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican U.S. Senator and Governor of Rhode Island, who became a Democrat only in 2013 and whose most distinctive position was to advocate for conversion to the Metric system. And there was Jim Webb, a former Reagan Navy Secretary and U.S. Senator from Virginia, who dropped out of the Democratic race even before the primaries began because he was "not comfortable" and "unhappy" with the party's political positions.

That’s not the Democrat’s A-Team. The A-team, and the B and C teams, didn’t dare get in Hillary’s way back when ClintonWorld was a powerful, and vengeful, force. But now Hillary is reduced to hawking cut-and-paste books, and no one is afraid of her or Bill.

At times like this, you need the wisdom of the Rolling Stones.



You don't know what's going on,
You've been away for far too long,
You can't come back and think you are still mine.
You're out of touch, my baby,
My poor discarded baby,
I said, baby, baby, baby, you're out of time.


It's the truth. You can't come back and be the first in line, oh no. You're obsolete, my baby, my poor old fashioned baby.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week



"Cops bust turnstile jumper heading to court with pot and a loaded gun" - New York Post

Ex-con Billy Walters, 37, allegedly slipped through an emergency subway gate at the 149th Street station without paying at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to an arrest affidavit. When a police officer stopped him, she allegedly spotted a loaded .45-caliber Sig Sauer in his waistband — at which point he rattled off the worst excuse ever, the officer said. “I didn’t pay, because I was running late to go to court. I got arrested yesterday,” Walters allegedly blabbed to her.

He sounds like a perfect audience for Chris Rock's public service announcement

"If you jump a subway turnstile, you might just get off with a warning from the police. But if you jump a turnstile carrying a loaded gun and smoking a joint, then maybe you NEED your ass kicked."

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Joe Biden Has a Doppelganger














At first, and second, sight I thought that was Joe Biden posing next to somebody's British grandmother in the above photo, which is from a celebrities-talk-politics thing that happened over the weekend.

But no, it's actually Donald Sutherland, the actor who appeared in but tragically underestimated the greatest movie of our age and who is now 84 years old compared to Biden's 76 years.

Pretty remarkable resemblance. Both he and the real Joe Biden share the same white hair, aviator shades, blue blazer with small lapel pin, and open-collar light blue shirt.
















If Sutherland had been acting the part of Joe Biden, he couldn't have come closer.



Saturday, August 31, 2019

Joe Biden's Brain, Object of Wonder and Concern

So far, it all checks out















I heard an interesting exchange on a radio call-in program this week. It was between a news guy who wondered how concerned we should be by Joe Biden's history of brain surgeries, and a millennial caller who had never heard about those long-ago events and, consequently, didn't believe that Joe had ever had a medical emergency inside his skull.

She has no knowledge of that, you see, so it must not have happened. She has her truth - her truth, her whole truth, and nothing but her truth - and no patience at all for facts that deny her truth.

That whole generational thing aside, how many American voters know that once upon a time, way back in another century, in the days before the internet itself existed and we had nothing to do for info and entertainment except read books by the light of the evening campfire, Joe Biden nearly died when a vein burst in his brain?

Well, it did. And that's just the kind of thing that usually leads to cognitive impairments later, hence the reason for concern when Joe campaigns for the Presidential nomination today.

This week, Joe's brain surgeon vouched for his mental health, although in terms that could be seen as damning with faint praise, depending upon your opinion of Joe's pre-surgery brain. Read it here: Surgeon who operated on Biden: He's better now than before brain surgery.
Joe Biden almost died after suffering an aneurysm while serving in the Senate, but the surgeon who operated on his brain says that the incident shouldn't hold him back in his pursuit of the presidency.

-- Snip --

At the time of Biden’s brush with death in 1988, his wife, Jill Biden, feared that he would never be the same. In a forthcoming autobiography, “Where the Light Enters," Jill recounts Joe's doctor telling the family that there was a significant chance he’d have permanent neurological damage, particularly after he suffered a second aneurysm, a condition in which an artery becomes weak and bulges out.

"Our doctor told us there was a 50-50 chance Joe wouldn't survive surgery," she wrote. "He also said that it was even more likely that Joe would have permanent brain damage if he survived. And if any part of his brain would be adversely affected, it would be the area that governed speech."

Initially, Joe Biden suffered an aneurysm that burst and required him to undergo emergency surgery. He was so close to death that a priest was preparing to administer the Catholic sacrament of last rites. A few months later, surgeons clipped a second aneurysm before it burst, after discovering it during a routine screening.

-- Snip --

Not everyone is as fortunate after an aneurysm as Biden was: 30,000 people have aneurysms that rupture every year, and about 40 percent of those cases are fatal. Of those who survive, 66 percent have a neurological deficit.

Should voters be concerned about a candidate in his 70s who once needed to have part of his skull removed for his own good? Are those vocal Bidenisms on the campaign trail medical symptoms or just Joe's usual charming gaffs?

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week





"‘Soccer mom’ caught on video breaking into Botox clinic with chainsaw" - Crime on Line

The clinic owner, Alonzo Perez, spoke to KTRK about the Botox heist, which reportedly came the night after another break-in. “Looks like the average soccer mom in a Mercedes trying to break into your business,” he said.



Saturday, August 10, 2019

Politics Explained in One Chart


















I can find no flaw in this analysis.

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week



"Louisiana woman reportedly told police meth found in her vagina was not hers" - WTKR Louisiana

A female correctional officer later searched Rolland and found – hidden in her vagina – $6,233 in cash and about one gram of meth. According to Fox News, Rolland denied the meth was hers.

Monday, August 5, 2019

"My Whole Life I Have Been Preparing for a Future that Currently Doesn't Exist"

https://twitter.com/aimeeterese/status/1158058614520598530


















If you want a glimpse into the motivations of the typical mass shooter, see this Op-Ed in the LA Times: we have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooters.
For two years, we’ve been studying the life histories of mass shooters in the United States for a project funded by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. We’ve built a database dating back to 1966 of every mass shooter who shot and killed four or more people in a public place, and every shooting incident at schools, workplaces, and places of worship since 1999. We’ve interviewed incarcerated perpetrators and their families, shooting survivors and first responders. We’ve read media and social media, manifestos, suicide notes, trial transcripts and medical records.

Our goal has been to find new, data-driven pathways for preventing such shootings. Although we haven’t found that mass shooters are all alike, our data do reveal four commonalities among the perpetrators of nearly all the mass shootings we studied.

First, the vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying. The trauma was often a precursor to mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.

Second, practically every mass shooter we studied had reached an identifiable crisis point in the weeks or months leading up to the shooting. They often had become angry and despondent because of a specific grievance. For workplace shooters, a change in job status was frequently the trigger. For shooters in other contexts, relationship rejection or loss often played a role. Such crises were, in many cases, communicated to others through a marked change in behavior, an expression of suicidal thoughts or plans, or specific threats of violence.

Third, most of the shooters had studied the actions of other shooters and sought validation for their motives. People in crisis have always existed. But in the age of 24-hour rolling news and social media, there are scripts to follow that promise notoriety in death. Societal fear and fascination with mass shootings partly drives the motivation to commit them. Hence, as we have seen in the last week, mass shootings tend to come in clusters. They are socially contagious. Perpetrators study other perpetrators and model their acts after previous shootings. Many are radicalized online in their search for validation from others that their will to murder is justified.

Fourth, the shooters all had the means to carry out their plans. Once someone decides life is no longer worth living and that murdering others would be a proper revenge, only means and opportunity stand in the way of another mass shooting. Is an appropriate shooting site accessible? Can the would-be shooter obtain firearms? In 80% of school shootings, perpetrators got their weapons from family members, according to our data. Workplace shooters tended to use handguns they legally owned. Other public shooters were more likely to acquire them illegally.

The authors are overly optimistic, I think, about the prevention strategies they propose. Once a 21-year old man has reached the conclusion that he has no future, and that he is willing to die in a pointless display of revenge against society at large, he'll find the opportunity and instrumentality to carry out his decision.

If you're surprised at such hopelessness, just look at the skyrocketing 'deaths of despair' in America today. There's a large economic piece to that, in that the globalized information economy has no use for what used to be called the working class. Like an aboriginal people found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country, their social betters expect them to isolate themselves in their rustbelt towns until they die or get a U-Haul. And there's a spiritual piece, too, in that the mostly nihilistic culture in which those 21 year olds were raised gives them no good reason not to do what they want.

Geezers my age can remember the last part of the 'peace and prosperity' era that began with Eisenhower. The '60s and '70s were actually awful in many ways, but you still had the first-hand knowledge that society had been better once, so it could get better again.

But if you're a 21 year old today with little or no society that isn't hostile to you, well, what exactly is the point of trying to avoid despair?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Mass Shootings and the Media Contagion Effect
















File it away under Good Advice We Probably Won't Take, but a serious case has been make that media saturation of mass shootings is a large factor in the recent increase in the frequency of those incidents, and we could reduce their frequency by reducing the media coverage.

Three years ago a paper was presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention that proposed denying mass shooters the notoriety they seek. Since, the authors said, people who commit mass shootings in America tend to share the traits of rampant depression, social isolation, and pathological narcissism, they may commit their atrocities largely for the purpose of gaining media coverage. Denying that coverage would be like denying oxygen to a fire.

Here's the paper: Mass Shootings and the Media Contagion Effect.

Quoting from a press release by the author:
“Mass shootings are on the rise and so is media coverage of them,” said Jennifer B. Johnston, PhD, of Western New Mexico University. “At this point, can we determine which came first? Is the relationship merely unidirectional: More shootings lead to more coverage? Or is it possible that more coverage leads to more shootings?

Johnston and her coauthor, Andrew Joy, BS, also of Western New Mexico University, reviewed data on mass shootings amassed by media outlets, the FBI and advocacy organizations, as well as scholarly articles, to conclude that “media contagion” is largely responsible for the increase in these often deadly outbursts. They defined mass shootings as either attempts to kill multiple people who are not relatives or those resulting in injuries or fatalities in public places.

The prevalence of these crimes has risen in relation to the mass media coverage of them and the proliferation of social media sites that tend to glorify the shooters and downplay the victims, Johnston said.

-- Snip --

“Unfortunately, we find that a cross-cutting trait among many profiles of mass shooters is desire for fame,” she said. This quest for fame among mass shooters skyrocketed since the mid-1990s “in correspondence to the emergence of widespread 24-hour news coverage on cable news programs, and the rise of the internet during the same period.”

She cited several media contagion models, most notably one proposed by Towers et al. (2015), which found the rate of mass shootings has escalated to an average of one every 12.5 days, and one school shooting on average every 31.6 days, compared to a pre-2000 level of about three events per year. “A possibility is that news of shooting is spread through social media in addition to mass media,” she said.

If the mass media and social media enthusiasts make a pact to no longer share, reproduce or retweet the names, faces, detailed histories or long-winded statements of killers, we could see a dramatic reduction in mass shootings in one to two years,” she said. “Even conservatively, if the calculations of contagion modelers are correct, we should see at least a one-third reduction in shootings if the contagion is removed.”

She said this approach could be adopted in much the same way as the media stopped reporting celebrity suicides in the mid-1990s after it was corroborated that suicide was contagious. Johnston noted that there was “a clear decline” in suicide by 1997, a couple of years after the Centers for Disease Control convened a working group of suicidologists, researchers and the media, and then made recommendations to the media.
Now, asking the news media to exercise self-restraint is probably futile, and social media by its nature is ungovernable, so I don't suppose there is much chance that we will really deny mass shooters publicity. Although, I have to admit the news media did pretty much memory-hole the attempted mass murder of Congressional Republicans two years ago by a crazed Bernie Bro. But more often, political agendas are served by rampant feeding on the red meat of mass shootings.

Incidentally, no shooting is necessary in order to commit mass murder or political terrorism. One of the very largest mass murders ever occurred three years ago using, not firearms, but a truck driven into a crowed, killing 86 persons.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week



"Mother Teresa's Former Assistant Killed In A Bar Brawl In Wales" - Newsweek

Un Verdadero Sobrino Vivo de su Tío Sam

The nationality always says "Mexican" on a Border Crossing Card;
















As you know by now, if you have any interest at all in the saga of the born-in-Dallas teenager who was held by the Border Patrol and ICE for three weeks while they figured out whose citizen he is really, he was released yesterday although may still be pending some charges.

Here's a typical story, Francisco Erwin Galicia showed officers his Texas ID, but they believed it was fake, in which we learn:
“When he was a child, Galicia's mother, who is not living in the US legally, took out a tourist visa for her son, listing his birthplace as Mexico, so he could cross the border and visit relatives, the AP reported. She was unable to get a US passport for the boy because her name didn't match how she had identified herself on his birth certificate, [his lawyer] Galan said.”

The quote is from Buzzfeed but that story, in pretty much exactly those words, has been in every account I’ve seen of this incident.

The funny thing is that story makes no sense on any level. You can’t ‘take out’ a visa for someone else. Galicia’s mother had to misrepresent facts and commit fraud in order to get her minor child a Border Crossing Card, something the USG issues only to citizens of and residents in Mexico. Moreover, she had to do it with enough expertise to fool a U.S. Consular Officer when she brought her son in for an interview and review of his - fraudulent? - documents proving he was a Mexican citizen and resident.

And there was no reason for her to get a BCC for her son in the first place. The phony name she used on his Texas birth certificate would not have prevented Galicia from getting a U.S. passport, after which he could freely go back and forth across the Mexican border all he liked. A U.S. citizen has no need for a BCC.

So the story as it's been pried loose by ICE is not likely to be the whole truth or the final word. But the one thing that’s absolutely, perfectly, crystal clear in this story is that Galicia’s mother has a piss-poor regard for U.S. law. CBP ought to let the kid go and arrest her.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Peace is Back, and This Time it's a Government Agency




So long as Marianne Williamson lasts in the Democratic primaries, we will have Peace, Love, and Understanding, just like in The Summer of Love back in the 60s. The early part anyway, like from Woodstock up to but not including Altamont. After that it got less lovely.

For now, at least, Marianne invites you to Join us to build a U.S. Department of Peace, which apparently will be located within the Department of State:
Our current administration actively cuts peace-building programs that are statistically proven to increase the incidence of peace and reduce conflict, despite their efficacy.

Our country's priorities are clearly reflected in our budget. The Defense Department has a military budget of $718 billion – almost larger than that of all other nations combined – while our State Department budget – including all peace-creation agencies – is $40 billion. The independent U.S. Institute of Peace has a budget of only $36.8 million.

This ties in to her position on National Security Peace-Building:
Internationally, I will appoint a world class humanitarian and diplomat as Secretary of State. I will increase the budget of the State Department's peace-building agencies, that these four factors — known to statistically increase the incidence of and decrease violent conflict — might become the pillars of our peace creation agenda: expanding economic opportunities for women, expanding educational opportunities for children, decreasing violence against women, and ameliorating unnecessary human suffering wherever possible.

In addition, I will increase support for the USAID, which provides international humanitarian assistance. Desperate people are more vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces, and under a Williamson administration the United States will once again be seen as a beacon of hope and possibility to the world’s most desperate people.

I'm curious about those four factors that are "known to statistically increase the incidence of [sic] and decrease violent conflict." Marianne doesn't say where we can find those statistics.

But then, she doesn't get bogged down in that kind of detail because, you see, The Issues Aren’t Always the Issue:
Life is made up of two dimensions: things on the outside and things on the inside. As people, we not only think, we also feel: we care not only about what is happening to our bodies but also what is happening to our souls.

America is not just having problems with what is happening to our economy, our environment, our educational system and so forth. We have a problem with the psychological fabric of our country, as a low level emotional civil war has begun in too many ways to rip us apart.

In order to deal with that, we must address it on the level of our internal being. We don’t normally associate politics with a deep level of our internal existence, but this is the 21st Century now and all of that needs to change.

Personally, I think politics belongs strictly on the outside, and has no business inside my mind, body, or soul, which are no one's business but my own. Nowhere does the Constitution create an office of Therapist-in-Chief.

But hey, it's the 21st Century now, so all that Founding Fathers stuff needs to go.