Monday, April 19, 2021

Harry Dunn Case Update: Civil Hearings Pushed Back to October

From the latest second-hand and unreliable internet chatter we learn that hearings in the civil case have been pushed way back to late October.

Has there really been an agreement between the parties? I find that hard to believe, in light of the Dunn family's total refusal so far to consider anything other than the driver's return to the UK. 

Consider the sole public interview given by the driver's lawyer, which was to Law in Action, BBC 4 (exclusive interview with the lawyer of Anne Sacoolas) back on 9 March. From that primary and reliable source we learned that: 

"It seems there has been no interest [on the part of the family] in moving forward short of her [the American driver] return to the United Kingdom."

I can easily believe that, since it's exactly what the family has said in each and every one of the many public comments they have ever made. 

That interview also cleared up a couple common misunderstandings about the case. 

First, there is no Interpol Red Notice for the driver and there never was. That bit of nonsense was spread by the family's ringmaster/spokesman and was immediately, publicly, refuted by the police force he had cited as his source, but it nevertheless lives on in internet perpetuity. 

Also, after the crash the driver called RAF Croughton base police and also flagged down a motorist who called local emergency services, contrary to the outrageous and slanderous contention otherwise which the family's U.S. law firm made in the civil suit. 

Finally, the driver was interviewed by police at the scene, and again days later, and later still after she returned to the U.S. The police know all there is to know about the crash and its immediate aftermath. There is nothing left to learn that requires a deposition or any other kind of face-to-face meeting.

So that's the current state of play. What are the odds there will be an agreement between the parties that settles the case before the October 28 hearing? Well, what's the closest I can get to zero while still hedging a tiny bit? Let's call it 98-to-2 against.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Incident involving stripper at job site 'entirely unacceptable'" - Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News, dateline Toronto
CBC News also obtained graphic video of the incident showing at least four men watching and two men touching the woman while she dances. Nobody in the video is wearing a mask or physically distancing, despite government rules for job sites.

There it is: the stripper was not wearing a mask, and no one was physically distancing. You can bet the stripper wasn't wearing ear and eye protection either, much less steel toe stilletos. Write that contractor up for health and safety violations.

For the love of Dr. Fauci and everything holy, I just hope this sort of misconduct does not spread to those job sites run by my good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. I hold them to a higher standard.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Fortress Embassies to be Fully Funded in the New FY

(CG Guadalajara, according to an OBO design contractor) 

I love the architect's-pastel-watercolor-rendering stage of new embassy construction. The buildings never look half as good in execution as they do in the imagination. It's practically theater of the mind stuff. 

Well, there will be more such happy architectural dreaming this year because the new international affairs budget request has been published and it did not forget my good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. They are looking at handling another year of capital security construction projects, i.e., new Fortress Embassies. 

It's on page 29 of the FY21 Congressional Budget Justification:
EMBASSY SECURITY, CONSTRUCTION, AND MAINTENANCE - The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), funded through the Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance (ESCM) appropriation, is responsible for providing U.S. diplomatic and consular missions overseas with secure, safe, and functional facilities that represent the U.S. Government to the host nation and support the Department’s staff in their work to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives. These facilities represent the best of American planning, design, engineering, construction, and facility management.
The FY 2021 Request is $1.7 billion. The work supported by this request is vital, as more than 93,000 U.S. Government employees from more than 30 agencies at over 291 locations depend on the infrastructure OBO provides and maintains. The FY 2021 Request includes the Department of State’s share of the $2.2 billion Capital Security and Maintenance Cost Sharing Programs to construct and maintain, new, secure facilities, and $100 million to address deferred maintenance for State’s non-cost shared facilities
Which lucky posts will get the next round of safe, secure, and functional new facilities? That is a carefully risk-managed decision, as is explained in this publicly available source of information:
OBO will continue to construct diplomatic facilities based on the Department's list of the most vulnerable facilities and to address other security concerns overseas consistent with available resources. This Vulnerability List, published each year by DS, ranks posts according to their vulnerability across different security threats. The process for identifying and prioritizing projects begins with a review of the Vulnerability List mandated by SECCA. The Vulnerability List is then used to establish the Top 80 list that helps OBO to prioritize facilities that need to reduce security vulnerability. In addition to new construction projects, OBO must also design and construct security upgrades to existing facilities. 
That sounds like a tricky business, but I assume whoever it is in DS who ranks overseas posts according to their vulnerability to security threats must know what he or she is doing.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Chinese zoo embarrassed after attempting to pass off golden retriever dog as an African lion" - South China Morning Post

Biden His Time On Ambassador Appointments

When you're as old as Biden, and have been in Washington as long as Biden, time becomes of very little importance, really. What difference does it make if he waits a few months before making any ambassadorial appointments? What's the rush? Those embassies and foreign capitals will still be there this summer, or next year. C'mon man!© Stop the malarkey and get off his back about it, already.

But some people are just impatient, according to CNN:

Washington (CNN) - More than two months into his term, President Joe Biden has yet to name a single ambassador to send overseas, putting him behind the pace set by his most recent predecessors and leading to early frustrations among some career State Department officials and big-time Democratic donors.

Though Biden has been presented with the names of top contenders for ambassadorships to the European Union, NATO and other high-level posts, including China and Russia, and is expected to make a decision on at least some of those positions in April, people familiar with the matter say that on the vast majority of ambassador posts, the president is still weeks away from deciding on the broader makeup of his diplomatic corps.

The slow-moving process has however been the subject of rising frustration among some top-level donors, who have been eyeing key ambassador posts since Biden won the election. The whispers have largely remained in the background, however, as top Biden advisers have made clear that campaigning for an ambassadorship is highly frowned upon.

A key gatekeeper is Katie Petrelius, who served as national finance director for the Biden campaign, and is now the special assistant to Biden for presidential personnel. She is tasked with fielding inquiries from donors, lawmakers and others who are interested in ambassador posts.

"Under President Biden, ambassadorships will be remarkably hard to come by," a top Biden donor who is familiar with the process told CNN. "That has been made perfectly clear."

The State Department has identified a number of career officials who could take on ambassador roles, said a State Department official. Without White House decisions on which political appointees will get certain posts, the department is stuck waiting.

Several prominent names are already topping the lists for some posts: former Ambassador Nick Burns for China; former Biden national security adviser Julie Smith for NATO; former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for Japan.

Biden is also keeping in mind longtime friends and allies from the Senate who were helpful to his campaign. In addition to Cindy McCain, who is seen as on track for a European post, Biden is also believed to be considering former Missouri Sen. Claire Mckaskill, former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar for posts, along with Vicki Kennedy, whose late husband Edward Kennedy served along Biden for decades.

So it looks like the widows of his old cronies are first in line for appointments, followed by big-bucks donors, followed by living ex-cronies, and then the current and former career officials can fight for what's left over.

The mere fact that Biden's campaign finance director is now his special assistant for personnel ought to tell you how the appointment priorities stack up.

Cultivate the value of patience, all you wishful career officials.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Harry Dunn Case Moves to Discovery Phase, Depositions By End of July

Upon the utterly unsurprising failure of the parties to reach a settlement, the judge in the case has now set a date for depositions. 

That means two things. First, the mother of Harry Dunn will at long last have her nemesis cornered in a little room. Will she be attended by a full staff of mediators and crisis counselors at the moment of confrontation, as she insisted on as a condition of meeting the American driver when that opportunity was offered to her in the White House a year ago? I doubt it, but who knows? And will her carnival barker of a spokesman/advisor be present? He most certainly will be if he has anything to say about it, but, he won't have anything to say about it. 

The second thing that will happen is that the Dunn family will also be deposed, since they bear the burden of proving the mental and emotional injuries which are the basis of their claim for damages. They may well be required to be examined by shrinks of the insurance company's choosing, for instance. Judging by the many interviews the mother has given since the civil suit began, I don't think she understands that depositions apply to both parties in a suit. 

From Sky News, Harry Dunn death: Parents set to hear face-to-face legal testimony from son's alleged killer:
Mrs Sacoolas, and her husband Jonathan, have now been told they will be "deposed" by 23 July - meaning they will give their account of events under oath in front of Mr Dunn's mother, Charlotte Charles, and father, Tim Dunn.
The deposition will form part of the "discovery" process in the Dunn family's civil claim, in which correspondence and documentation relevant to the case will be handed over ahead of a trial at the end of the year.
Indeed, the mother seems to not understand that a civil suit cannot force the driver to return to the UK for a criminal trial, which even today she insists is "the only resolution."
But Mrs Charles told Sky News: "She needs to come back to the UK and go through the justice system. It's not up to us, or them, to decide what penalty, if anything should be handed down."
"She wants to find resolution; the only resolution is to face the UK justice system."
"She needs to move on with her life, we need to rebuild ours, but without her going through the UK justice system that can't be done."

Nevertheless, officials in both the UK and the U.S. have made it abundantly clear that the driver will not face the UK justice system, from whose criminal jurisdiction she had immunity from the day she arrived in the UK to the day she departed, as a matter of international law. A civil suit for damages cannot change that. 

And so the stage is set for a great reckoning in a little room, sometime before July 23rd.