Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Nice Uncrowded Theater

So I eagerly went to see Sicario: Day of the Soldado at my earliest opportunity, which happened to be this morning. I saw it at my local art house-type of movie theater, a place that describes itself as "exhibiting the highest quality art, independent, and specialty film ... state-of-the-art boutique cinema." I was surprised the place was showing a film that depicts Mexican cartel gunman and corrupt police being gunned down by Gringo CIA types, not to mention torture at a black site in Africa. That surely does not appeal to their target audience.

Indeed, there was only one seat in the theater that was NOT available when I bought my ticket on line a hour or so before the movie started. After I sat down in my prime seat a few other people came in, all men under 30 or so, and not more than about 15 of them. Each one had some kind of cultural marker that said he was the type who would enjoy this movie. There was a high-and-tight haircut, lots of cargo shorts, ball caps with macho shades clamped on top, and four bros with beer bottles.

My kind of crowd, even if I'm more than twice their age.

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

A child fired a loaded gun he found in a couch at IKEA; Owner hadn't realized gun had fallen out of pants

Monday, June 25, 2018

Have A Dose of Fiscal Reality

According to Politico today, Pompeo gives U.S. diplomats 'dose of reality' after early high hopes.

They say that like it's a bad thing. But why would you not want a dose of reality?
Many employees at the department feel hoodwinked by Pompeo’s claim that he lifted a hiring freeze. Staffers are alarmed about reports that a political appointee is vetting career staffers for loyalty to President Donald Trump. And many fear that Pompeo won’t be able to fill vacant leadership slots quickly enough, or with the right people.

Pompeo’s foot soldiers haven’t given up on him — not yet. Current and former State Department officials say he’s an improvement over Tillerson. They admit, however, that that’s a low bar.

“People are still hopeful about Pompeo. But they’re getting a dose of reality,” said Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy.

Politco is saying nothing new; the same story ran more than two weeks ago here. Moreover, it was never news that the hiring freeze was lifted only within current funding levels. In other words, Trump is still President and OPM still expects its eight percent budget cut the same as they did when Tillerson was in office, SecState Pompeo's more extroverted personality notwithstanding.
The former CIA director-turned chief U.S. diplomat has sounded reassuring notes since taking the reins at Foggy Bottom. He’s told his beleaguered workforce that he wants to help them get their “swagger” back — even hashtagging that word on Twitter. Unlike the introverted Tillerson, Pompeo seems to genuinely enjoy mingling with staffers.

-- snip --

In the weeks since [the budget announcement], staffers have been told that many of the jobs cut under Tillerson will not be filled — at least not anytime soon. When POLITICO asked whether Pompeo’s hiring plans include achieving pre-Tillerson jobs numbers, a State Department spokesman said, “Not at this time.” Pompeo has to balance congressional directives, Trump’s desire to shrink the federal workforce and some Tillerson-era hiring decisions. But some staffers feel as though he misled them with his overly optimistic email; one called his announcement “a farce."

The sooner some staffers take the red pill of reality, the better off they'll be.

Another Day Without Justice For U.S. Victims of the Jerusalem Sbarro Restaurant Massacre

President Trump held a White House meeting with the King of Jordan today, and there is no indication that he brought up the matter of Jordan's refusal to extradite the mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro restaurant bombing in Jerusalem, Ahlam Ahmad Al-Tamimi, to the United States to face charges for the murder of U.S. citizens.

Here's the Department of Justice press release of March 14, 2017 in which the USG unsealed its charges against Al-Tamimi:
Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips for the District of Columbia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

“Al-Tamimi is an unrepentant terrorist who admitted to her role in a deadly terrorist bombing that injured and killed numerous innocent victims. Two Americans were killed and four injured. The charges unsealed today serve as a reminder that when terrorists target Americans anywhere in the world, we will never forget – and we will continue to seek to ensure that they are held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “I want to thank the many dedicated agents and prosecutors who have worked on this investigation.”

We have never forgotten the American and non-American victims of this awful terrorist attack,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “We will continue to remain vigilant until Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi is brought to justice.”

“Al-Tamimi is a terrorist who participated in an attack that killed United States citizens,” said Assistant Director in Charge Vale. “The bombing that she planned and assisted in carrying out on innocent people, including children, furthered the mission of a designated terrorist organization. The FBI continues to work with our international partners to combat terrorists like Al-Tamimi and hold them accountable.”

So, to recap the DOJ and FBI, we will never forget, and have never forgotten, that awful terrorist attack, and we will remain vigilant to hold Al-Tamimi accountable and bring her to justice. But evidently we will not do any of that today.

Here is the criminal complaint and arrest warrant for Al-Tamimi, the State Department Rewards for Justice offer of $5 million for her, and her FBI Most Wanted poster.

Jordan's stated reason for refusing to render Al-Tamimi is that the extradition treaty wasn't properly ratified by the Jordanian Parliament, but that is a bogus legal excuse given that Jordan has extradited another Jordanian citizen to the U.S., proving that they will do so when they are willing.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

FBI Theater

Enjoy this verbatim reenactment of some of those famous text messages between FBI Special Agent Peter P. Strzok and his former co-worker Lisa Page. This seems to be a variation of verbatim theater, that great performance genre in which actors use the actual words of court transcripts, and it's close to poetry under oath a la Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinski.

More Strzok-Page texts are being turned over to Congress, so I can look forward to future episodes of this drama. Those two exchanged over 50,000 texts!! You have to wonder if they ever actually had sex - when did they find the time?

Jordan Peterson in Five Seconds

Having recently watched a lot of Jordan Peterson on YouTube, and read a bit of his stuff, and having sons who are in his target demographic, I think I can boil his message down to those five seconds of The Godfather. Which is high praise.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dancing FBI Agent Charged in Denver

Bust a move, don't bust a cap.

Special Agent Peter P. Strzok isn't the only FBI agent having a bad week. Chase Bishop, a 29-year old agent assigned to Washington DC and vacationing in Denver last week, was charged with second-degree assault yesterday, with the possibility of more changes later depending on the results of his blood alcohol test. (And what are the odds he wasn't a drink or two over the line when he did that back flip?)

The Denver Post has the details: Dancing FBI agent charged with assault after dropping gun during backflip.

Seven Words in a 500-Page Report

CNN is right about this, How 7 words in the 500-page IG report give Donald Trump all the 'deep state' ammo he wanted:
STRZOK: "No. No he won't. We'll stop it."

- snip -

This latest revelation -- part of a tranche of previously unreleased texts between Strzok and Page -- will have the effect of pouring 20 gallons or so of lighter fluid on the fire that is already burning in Trumpworld over the Strzok-Page texts.

Trump will use that as a club to beat the FBI and DOJ until 2020.

The Only Army Older Than the Nation it Serves

Friday, June 8, 2018

Bill Clinton: #MeToo, Now Versus Then

His last official photo (see this)

So the long-ignored matter of Bill Clinton's personal misbehavior with women is finally getting some attention, however reluctantly, from the news media. See, for example, the WaPo's opinion piece this week titled Bill Clinton's #MeToo reckoning.

Good luck on holding him to any kind of a reckoning. He's always gotten a pass on his sexual abuse of female employees, and that probably won't change now.

Consider, for instance, how the sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Clinton by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones was dismissed by a federal judge in 1998. (Jones appealed the dismissal and Clinton, who had lied under oath in the discovery phase, feared going to trial so much that he settled out of court for $850,000 when Jones had sued for only $700,000 in the first place - who had the leverage in that negotiation?).

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, a Clinton-appointee, held that even if Jones' allegations were true Clinton's actions would not constitute sexual assault. Read the judge's opinion and see what you think.
Plaintiff states that upon arriving at the suite and announcing herself, the governor shook her hand, invited her in, and closed the door. ... She states that a few minutes of small talk ensued, which included the governor asking her about her job and him mentioning that Dave Harrington, plaintiff's ultimate superior within the AIDC and a Clinton appointee, was his "good friend." ... Plaintiff states that the governor then "unexpectedly reached over to (her), took her hand, and pulled her toward him, so that their bodies were close to each other." ... She states she removed her hand from his and retreated several feet, but that the governor approached her again and, while saying, "I love the way your hair flows down your back" and "I love your curves," put his hand on her leg, started sliding it toward her pelvic area, and bent down to attempt to kiss her on the neck, all without her consent. ... Plaintiff states that she exclaimed, "What are you doing?" told the governor that she was "not that kind of girl," and "escaped" from the governor's reach "by walking away from him." ... She states she was extremely upset and confused and, not knowing what to do, attempted to distract the governor by chatting about his wife. ..

Plaintiff states that she sat down at the end of the sofa nearest the door, but that the governor approached the sofa where she had taken a seat and, as he sat down, "lowered his trousers and underwear, exposed his penis (which was erect) and told (her) to 'kiss it."' ... She states that she was "horrified" by this and that she "jumped up from the couch" and told the governor that she had to go, saying something to the effect that she had to get back to the registration desk. ... Plaintiff states that the governor, "while fondling his penis," said, "Well, I don't want to make you do anything you don't want to do," and then pulled up his pants and said, "If you get in trouble for leaving work, have Dave call me immediately and I'll take care of it." ... She states that as she left the room (the door of which was not locked), the governor "detained" her momentarily, "looked sternly" at her, and said, "You are smart. Let's keep this between ourselves."

Plaintiff states that the governor's advances to her were unwelcome, that she never said or did anything to suggest to the governor that she was willing to have sex with him, and that during the time they were together in the hotel suite, she resisted his advances although she was "stunned by them and intimidated by who he was." ... She states that when the governor referred to Dave Harrington, she "understood that he was telling her that he had control over Mr. Harrington and over her job, and that he was willing to use that power." ... She states that from that point on, she was "very fearful" that her refusal to submit to the governor's advances could damage her career and even jeopardize her employment.

To recap, Jones alleged that Governor Clinton dropped his pants and took out Little Willie, asked her to orally copulate him, and when she refused he reminded her that he could intervene with her supervisor and cause her to lose her job. That sounds like both sexual assault and sexual harassment to me. But maybe the standards on that have changed, because Judge Susan Webber Wright thought otherwise back in 1998.
The Court finds plaintiff's attempt to restate her sexual assault claim in the guise of an equal protection claim to be no more meritorious now than when it was raised in the context of a due process claim. Although the governor's alleged conduct, if true, may certainly be characterized as boorish and offensive, even a most charitable reading of the record in this case fails to reveal a basis for a claim of criminal sexual assault as there is no alleged conduct that could be characterized as "forcible compulsion" or "sexual contact" for purposes of establishing a claim under the provision cited by plaintiff.

Putting aside the matter of which provision of law the plaintiff was citing, was the judge serious that Clinton's actions were merely "boorish and offensive" and not criminal sexual assault? What more would he have to have done to constitute criminal sexual assault?

Maybe Harvey Weinstein can cite that opinion in his defense today.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Saturday Night Fever Leads to a Negligent Discharge for FBI Agent

The WaPo story on Special Agent Twinkle Toes (FBI agent did a back flip in a club, dropped his gun and accidentally shot someone) gives a sketchy account of the incident, but the video shot by another bar patron really tells you what happened.

The agent was carrying a pistol tucked inside his waistband in the small-of-the-back position - he might have been using a holster, but if so I don't see it in the video - and I'll bet the pistol was a Glock, which is what the FBI issues. When he did a back flip on the dance floor the pistol fell and hit the floor. A Glock is not vulnerable to firing if dropped, but, Mister Negligent immediately snatched the pistol up, and evidently hit the trigger when he did so, firing the pistol.

That's three strikes: drinking while armed, carrying a pistol in your Mexican holster, and grabbing it with your finger on the trigger.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Science teacher feeds puppy to turtle after school in front of students

"Three former students, who asked not to be named, said they recall Crosland feeding guinea pigs to snakes and snapping turtles during classroom demonstrations."

HBO's The Final Year is Almost Too Cruel to Watch

All too cruel. Especially the part where UN Ambassador Samantha Power holds an election night party for all 37 female UN ambassadors, and her only worry is that Hillary Clinton might win so quickly that the guests won't have much time to enjoy themselves before the election is over.

Yeah, that party was a big failure.

I'm a little surprised this documentary was released, seeing that its premise was massively refuted by Trump's victory.

According to HBO The Final Year is about Obama's legacy:
The Final Year follows each of these personalities [Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and President Obama] as they travel the world over the course of 2016, attempting to solidify and "lock-in" policies that they believe will define their legacy, promote diplomacy, and fundamentally alter how the U.S. government confronts questions of war and peace – all while preparing to hand over the machinery of American power to a new administration.

Watching it now amounts to an overdose of schadenfreude. But I'm watching it anyway.