Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Keeping False Hope Alive, the Latest Update

From the the Daily Mail we learn the latest twist in the Harry Dunn story:

The Crown Prosecution Service has told Harry Dunn's parents it will continue to pursue the prosecution of their son's alleged killer, despite the High Court ruling she had diplomatic immunity.

-- snip --

Chief Crown Prosecutor for the East Midlands, Janine Smith, wrote to the 19-year-old motorcyclist's family just before the anniversary of the CPS's charging decision, to say she was 'satisfied that there remains sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.'

The family had contested the diplomatic immunity asserted on behalf of the suspect, but High Court judges accepted the Foreign Office's position that Sacoolas 'enjoyed immunity from UK criminal jurisdiction'. In Ms Smith's letter to Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn she said: 'I wanted to take the opportunity to provide an update following our consideration of the recent High Court judgment.

'Having considered the judgment, and notwithstanding the outcome in respect of diplomatic immunity, I am satisfied that there remains sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that it remains in the public interest for the prosecution to continue.

'The CPS remains of the view that Mrs Sacoolas should return to the UK to stand trial.

'I do hope this confirmation is of some small comfort to Harry's family and friends at this challenging time of the year.'

Evidently Ms. Janine Smith, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the East Midlands, believes the best way she can be of some small comfort to the Dunn family and friends at this challenging time of year is to keep alive their false hope that, someday, maybe far in the future, there will be an extradition and prosecution of the American driver despite that driver’s immunity to the criminal jurisdiction of the UK.

That is, frankly, an abomination.

If the officials of the Crown Prosecution Service for the East Midlands cannot summon up the moral courage to speak simple fact to the family – such as the fact that diplomatic immunity is an absolute bar to extradition short of a waiver by the U.S. Secretary of State, and that is something which the U.S. has never granted in such cases – then it would be better for them to say nothing.

Step back from this ill-advised servicing of the family’s sentiments, Ms. Smith. Return to your daily business of keeping the public safe from offensive tweets and such, and leave it to the family’s spokesman to do the damage.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Former Mafioso and confessed murderer of 19 (that he admits to - bada-bing!) Sammy 'The Bull' Gravono has pulled the trigger on a podcast about his life of organized crime.

Have an espresso and stir up some tomato sauce with sauted onion, garlic, and olive oil while you make your bones on this cold piece of anti-social media at: Our Thing podcast.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Watch the Sky For Secret Signals Over RAF Croughton

Well, it's finally come to this. The Dunn family's favorite charlatan is out of threats and arguments and is reduced to imagining secret signals in the sky over RAF Croughton. 

Check out this tweet:
We’ve always known that the good people of the 422nd Air Base Group at RAF Croughton have been on our side. The mast at the base lit up tonight in Kawasaki green in support of #justice4harry. Thank you so much guys from the bottom of our hearts for that lovely touch.
What is this? Have those (previously) evil Americans at RAF Croughton flashed a coded signal in the night straight from the covert heart of the U.S. military-intelligence complex to the supporters of Harry Dunn's family?

Uh, not so fast. That lovely touch is, in fact, just RAF Croughton's annual star lighting. It is done every December, and it is in support of nothing except raising “holiday cheer for the community and local village.”

Come on, man!© Just go to RAF Croughton's Facebook page if you want to know why that star is there:
The 422nd Communications Squadron Cable and Antenna Systems, “CABLE DAWGZ,” prepare the 250 ft tower at RAF Croughton for the upcoming 422 ABG official Star Lighting ceremony.
“The lighting happens annually to raise holiday cheer for the community and local village." said Tech. Sgt. Donnie Parsons, 422nd Communications Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of cable and antenna systems.
#Pathfinders Light the Way!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Adolf Hitler Wins Election in Namibia, Has No Plans for World Domination - Newsweek

Adolf Hitler Uunona has been elected with 85 percent of the vote for a seat on the regional council in the former German colony, where street names, people and places still have German names ... He told German tabloid paper Bild: "My father named me after this man. He probably didn't understand what Adolf Hitler stood for. As a child I saw it as a totally normal name. Only as a teenager did I understand that this man wanted to conquer the whole world."

He appears on the election nomination list as Adolf H. Uunona. He won the seat on the ticket of the ruling SWAPO party which has ruled Namibia since independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Harry Dunn Case Update: Demands to Meet Bo-Jo in Person After Loss at Judicial Review

Another Harry Dunn case update, just before the holiday lull sets in, which should last until late January when the family's civil suit in the U.S. has its next milestone. Anyway, the issues in that case captivate me, whereas Joe Biden does not, so it's the Dunn case again. 

Last Saturday we learned from the UK Mirror that the mother of the victim wants Boris Johnson to meet her following the dismissal of the family's judicial appeal:
The mother of tragic Harry Dunn wants Boris Johnson to meet her following a High Court ruling that his alleged killer has diplomatic immunity.
-- snip --
Charlotte said: “We still haven’t been able to meet the Prime Minister. We’ve asked him on no end of occasions to meet with us, but because he refuses, we’ve never been able to ask him questions directly and get an honest answer. Boris just will not meet us. It’s bizarre. We’ve met President Trump half-way around the world, but we still haven’t met our own Prime Minister who is an hour up the road. It makes no sense to me," she added.
You have to meet him in person in order to ask him a question? I’m not so sure that’s really necessary.

That aside, I have an idea why her own PM won’t meet with her. If you want to have private meetings with a head of state, it helps if you do not rely on a maniac ‘advisor’ to do all your reading-writing-speaking-and-listening for you, which is the role she allows him to play. 

The problem is, that guy is bad!, as the PM's staff knows, and no head of state will be caught in the same room as him. 

His recent over-the-top reaction to U.S. Embassy London's disinclination to include him in a private meeting that the mother had requested pretty much defines the word "manic." 

Speaking of that bad advisor, The Mirror's story included this latest announcement from him:
The family’s spokesman Radd Seiger has already spoken to officials from the US Embassy in London and the foreign office since Monday’s high court verdict.
“Officials.” Really? What officials are those? He did not disclose that information to The Mirror, so let me guess. It was the telephone operator at the embassy, and whichever Foreign Office duty officer got stuck with taking calls from random crackpots on Tuesday last week. 

It's hard to believe how thoroughly in thrall the family is to an obvious blowhard bullshitter, but see for yourself. Watch the video clip in which the mother - responding to that same embassy invitation which did not include her Svengali - describes how completely he interprets for her everything she sees and hears. 

Maybe someday the mother and the rest of the family will look back and see that everything he has told them about international law was wrong, that none of his assurances have ever worked out, and that none of the government agencies and officials who receive his frequent demarches care in the least about the demands he makes of them. 

"Come on, man!," to allow myself one small Bidenism. Get red-piled on that guy. Until then he’s keeping you out of discerning circles.


Further Update as of December 1

The Dunn family announced today that they have dropped their legal dream team and are going with new representation for the appeal. 

Makes sense to me. If your legal dream team had been shot down as badly as their legal dream team was shot down at the judicial review, you'd want a new team, too. 

To recap, this is what the High Court justices thought of the old dream team's arguments:
Creative though they are, the Claimants' arguments under Ground 1 [whether diplomatic immunity existed] ultimately amount to playing with language in order to address the weakness in the case arising from the lack of an express waiver. This play is easily identified: they seek to avoid the effect of the VCDR [Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations] by re-classifying the advance waiver of Mr Sacoolas' immunity as a new creature ("limited immunity") and then arguing that this limited immunity, by implication, has also silently attached to the family members (whose full immunity has never been in fact waived expressly in accordance with the mandatory language of Article 32).
For completeness we should record that there was nothing in the case law and textbooks relied upon by the Claimants in relation to the so-called "derivative" nature of a family member's immunity which affects this conclusion.

 Yeah, I'd switch horses in the middle of the stream, too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Judicial Review Decision in Harry Dunn Case Handed Down: Diplomatic Immunity Upheld

The UK High Court has ruled on the judicial review brought by the family of Harry Dunn in which they asked the court to find that the American driver did not have diplomatic immunity. The court concluded that the driver, in fact, was covered by immunity from UK criminal jurisdiction, affirming the position of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office. Read the decision here

In short, the justices found: “Our conclusion is that Mrs Sacoolas enjoyed immunity from UK criminal jurisdiction at the time of Harry’s death. We do not come to this conclusion with any enthusiasm for the result, but it is compelled by the operation of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.” 

Regarding the merits of the case brought by the family, the justices said this:
114. Creative though they are, the Claimants' arguments under Ground 1 [whether diplomatic immunity existed] ultimately amount to playing with language in order to address the weakness in the case arising from the lack of an express waiver. This play is easily identified: they seek to avoid the effect of the VCDR [Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations] by re-classifying the advance waiver of Mr Sacoolas' immunity as a new creature ("limited immunity") and then arguing that this limited immunity, by implication, has also silently attached to the family members (whose full immunity has never been in fact waived expressly in accordance with the mandatory language of Article 32).
115. For completeness we should record that there was nothing in the case law and textbooks relied upon by the Claimants in relation to the so-called "derivative" nature of a family member's immunity which affects this conclusion.
120. We grant permission to apply for judicial review in relation to Ground 1, but we dismiss that ground on the merits.
Is that the end of the matter? Of course not, because the family have refused all along to acknowledge the operation of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. Because, you know, they only listen to their ‘advisor.’ 

The mother of Harry Dunn was quoted today saying "Right from the start our team have advised us that Anne Sacoolas did not have diplomatic immunity when she killed Harry and that advice is just (as) strong now as it was at the start of our campaign.” 

And there it is. Exactly that, that right-from-the-start denial of legal and political reality on the part of her shady advisor in his encouragement of her wish fulfillment, is the cause of this tragic woman’s refusal to acknowledge the fact of diplomatic immunity. 

In the callous fantasy land that her ‘advisor’ has created for the family, there will be no grieving or acceptance until international law is overturned and diplomatic immunity denied. In other words, until they get the one thing they cannot get. 

The judicial review by the High Court was the deus ex machina wherein the family had invested all its hopes, until today. Now, the firm rejection by the High Court of the family’s weak arguments is "just a blip along the way" according to the victim’s mother. Now, they’ll appeal and make the same losing arguments to a Higher Court, where presumably they will lose again and then appeal again to the Highest Court in the UK. And after that to the Higher-than-the-Highest Court, if such a thing exists, and then to the World Court and beyond. It will never end. 

Here are the predictable further plot points in this tragedy.

January 20, 2021 – The family will now invest all its new hopes in President Joe Biden being more than happy to reverse the USG’s position and create a precedent by violating the diplomatic immunity of the spouse of an Administrative and Technical staffer. 

January 29, 2021 – The family’s civil lawsuit against the American driver will be challenged by the defendant in U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The suit was filed there under the very inventive premise that a U.S. court could have jurisdiction over a UK traffic accident. We’ll see. If not laughed out of court, a civil suit could end in a financial settlement, which is an outcome that might buy some temporary peace. However, a civil case cannot end in extradition and trial, and that is the one and only thing that will end this drama, or so the family has been convinced. 

February, 2021 – Biden’s presumptive SecState Antony Blinken will probably be asked by the UK to approve a new extradition request. My odds on that request not being approved are 99 to 1. When has the USG ever waived diplomatic immunity and allowed an employee to be tried overseas? The answer is once (here), and that was in a war-time espionage case that had profound political consequences for FDR’s 1940 reelection if the employee in question had not been locked up abroad. 

TBD, 2021 – When a new Ambassador to the UK is confirmed by the Senate, the family will have a new shuffle of the cards at Embassy London and a new clutch of long-suffering embassy people to approach with more demands for in-person meetings featuring their omnipresent ‘advisor’ in the role of stage manager, interpreter, and press release writer. 

Can we really be so sure Biden won't cave? Well, consider this Presidential statement which summed up the USG’s position on immunity during a particularly trying case in the recent past:
"We've got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is, if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country's local prosecution," Obama said in a press conference today. "We expect Pakistan, that's a signatory and recognizes Mr. Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention... I'm not going to discuss the specific exchanges that we've had [with the Pakistani government], but we've been very firm about this being a priority."
That was Obama. But now, you may wonder, will the Biden administration have the nerve, or better yet the bottle, to say “no” to emotional coercion from the Dunn family? 

I can easily see Biden's people trying to find some sneaking half-way compromise that would placate the family. But then, the family insists on all or nothing. All is not possible, short of POTUS and the SecState breaking faith with our covered employees abroad, so it will be nothing. 

Lastly, an unseen actor in this drama is the American driver, who for over a year has been subjected to a constant stream of threats, insults, harassment, and obnoxious psychoanalyzing by the British tabloids and those U.S. media that are following along. She is the target of a daily Two Minutes Hate led by the victim’s family and joined in by the kind of online spectators (some of whom live in our common Northern Virginia neighborhoods) who are always eager to take a gratuitous wallow in someone else’s misery. 

Moreover, all of that abuse is directed at her, personally, as if there were no national interests involved. But the matter of diplomatic immunity is far from personal; asserting immunity is a matter of international law and diplomatic practice between nations. It is, as Obama said, a principle that every nation in the world has adopted in their mutual interests. It is not a personal choice by the covered individuals, it cannot be surrendered by them, nor does it depend on their wishes. 

The American driver in this case is receiving all that abuse because the U.S. government, and not her personally, is upholding the principle of diplomatic immunity in our national interest. It is upholding that principle even regardless of what she may, in fact, wish. 

I’ll say this: all of you USG employees and family members who are now abroad and covered by diplomatic or consular immunity, or will be in the future, ought to hope that President Biden will hold firm to the “very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future.” 

What is happening to one family member now might well happen to any of you next, and it is more likely to do so if the incoming administration compromises on that very simple principle.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Another Former Embassy Employee Prosecuted; Limits of the Polygraph Exposed Yet Again

A former U.S. Embassy employee from Mexico City has been charged with a string of sexual predator offenses, as detailed in today's NYT story. The circumstances are highly reminiscent of a similar case from 2010, including the fact that both employees had been polygraphed multiple times without the exams detecting any criminal behavior. 

From the NYT story:
In a petition arguing that Mr. Raymond should not be held in custody, Mr. Kirby said that Mr. Raymond had taken more than 10 polygraph tests and had passed every one of them, including a recent one, which addressed the allegations against him.
So, what's the problem with the polygraph? It's almost like it doesn't work, or something. 

The polygraph was the invention of one William Marston, psychologist, lawyer, and cartoonist, who created both the polygraph and Wonder Woman - with her Golden Lasso of Truth - out of a stew of bondage fetishism, woman's suffrage, birth control, moral panic, feminism, and polyamory. 

It's a story far too strange for fiction. Please read The Secret History of Wonder Woman by the fine historian Jill Lapore, which also has a movie version. You can thank me later. 

Does Wonder Woman's Golden Lasso of Truth really work? Let us say that it works as well as the polygraph.


P.S. I'd forgotten just how good The Secret History of Wonder Woman really is, but this blurb sums it up nicely:
“Even non-comix nerds (or those too young to remember Lynda Carter) will marvel at Jill Lepore’s deep dive into the real-world origins of the Amazonian superhero with the golden lasso. The fact that a polyamory enthusiast created her partly as a tribute to the reproductive-rights pioneer Margaret Sanger is, somehow, only the fourth or fifth most interesting thing in Ms. Woman’s bizarre background.” — New York Magazine


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Harry Dunn Case: You Can't Get Elvis Without Colonel Parker

That's right, the latest twist in this sad story made me think of the disasterously bad manager of Elvis Presley, the one who dictated every step Presley made and pretty nearly destroyed his career. Parker was summed-up thusly: "The Colonel was often described as a cross between P.T. Barnum and W.C. Fields; in the King's court, he was combination court jester, Svengali and Robin Hood." 

Wow, that sure does resemble someone I've blogged about quite a bit. He even has a physical resemblance to Parker.

I'm prompted to blog about him yet again because this week he and the family of the victim have whipped themselves up into a state of outrage that looks unprecedented. The cause of it all was the refusal of the U.S. Embassy in London to include the family's spokesman/adviser/lawyer in a personal meeting the family had requested with the Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission. Compounding this alleged offense, the embassy directed its emails on the matter to the mother of the victim, the requestor of the meeting, and pointedly not to her spokesman. 

The Embassy responded today:

Here's a sample of the family spokesman's unbalanced response to this perceived slight:

"Misery upon misery ... monster ... poisonous" etc. It's enough to make me wonder why they sought a personal meeting in the first place. Such aversion to the DCM seems to have escalated all at once. 

Here's the mother citing what she believes is her legal right to have her spokesman present and managing every aspect of her engagement with the Embassy: 

Note she says "the Embassy is based in the UK ... I know my rights and I'm sticking to them." That refers to the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (the Victims' Code), which is the statutory code that sets out the minimum level of service that victims should receive from the UK criminal justice system. It does not, of course, apply to the U.S. Embassy in London, or impose any obligation on the USG to address the family through their chosen representative. 

That's the problem when you're managed by a Colonel Parkeresque pitchman whom you let dictate everything you do and say. He just isn't reliable. Only last week he was pitching a virtual trial of the American driver if she would do it from the UK Embassy in Washington because - as everyone who watches a lot of television knows - an embassy is the sovereign soil of its government. It isn't really, since the 'embassy as sovereign soil' thing is a myth. But, if only last week he believed that myth, then why doesn't he now believe that the U.S. Embassy in London is the sovereign soil of its government and therefore not bound by the UK Victims Code? 

Sovereign or not, the U.S. Embassy in London may be on borrowed time, since Colonel Parker's Twitter feed is full of calls for nothing less than a break in U.S.-UK relations. Oh, you embassy swells will rue the day you trifled with him.   

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Harry Dunn Case Update: A Civil Suit is Filed, A Bad Guy Talks a Lot, UK Government Contradicts Itself, and Virtual Nonsense Abounds

The UK authorities held a meeting with the Dunn family last week, billed as an update on what they've been doing in the months since they charged the American driver with reckless driving but were denied her extradition back to the UK by the U.S. Secretary of State. As usual, no one was satisfied with anything and we are no closer to a resolution then before. In fact, the events of last week most likely will ensure a couple more years of futile activity. The BBC reports:
Harry Dunn's family say they have been told prosecutors do not believe the woman accused of killing the teenager in a crash had diplomatic immunity.
Commenting after the meeting, Greg McGill, the CPS [Commonwealth Prosecution Service] director of legal services, said "Today we have met with the family of Harry Dunn to update them on the various steps the CPS has taken over the last 10 months to secure justice in this tragic case.
"The challenges and complexity of this case are well known, but the CPS and other partners have been working tirelessly to do all they can so that Anne Sacoolas faces the charge we have brought - causing death by dangerous driving.
"We know this is a very difficult process for the family, which is why we wanted to assure them personally that we continue to seek justice for them and for the public."
Now, since the UK Foreign Minister has repeatedly told the public and the Parliament that the accused did indeed have diplomatic immunity, a position which is apparently unchanged, the UK government is now taking two different positions on that critical matter. So far, it seems happy to live with that dissonance. 

In a side note, the family disclosed the record of an internal email from the Prime Minister's office in which some perceptive person exclaimed "this guy is bad!" in reference to the family's spokesman / grifter / Svengali / ringmaster and all-round hustler.

I like the exclamation point. Not merely "bad" but "bad!" So we know that No. 10 employs at least one staffer of discernment. 

Of course, the bad guy in question, instead of owning the bad guy label, immediately hid behind the parents, just as he did a few months back when the Northants Police called him out for misrepresenting something they told him about international notices.
“So to see that I am being referred to as a ‘bad guy’ is clearly a problem, but I do whatever the parents ask me to do, so any attack on me is an attack on these parents."
Actually, it's an attack on just him, and one that's thoroughly justified. 

Ahead of the meeting with CPS, the family announced that it has filed a civil suit for damages (here) in United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia. That will ensure time-consuming back-and-forth actions on jurisdiction, etc., before the suit can be tried, if it ever is, as well as provide a good reason to further delay cooperation with any UK court action. 

The summary of the law suit, which you can read at the above link, contains the absolutely scurrilous allegation that the American driver did not call for assistance after the accident, but rather "left Dunn to suffer" and ultimately to die. In fact, as the driver's attorneys announced in a statement released to the public this busy week, she did in fact call the RAF Croughton police, who responded right away and assisted Dunn; a passing motorist she flagged down had already called for local emergency services. If anyone left Dunn to suffer and ultimately to die, it was the ambulance service, which took 43 minutes to arrive at the scene due to a dispatching mistake, and took two hours to get him to a hospital. The American driver stayed at the scene until police told her to go home. 

The last word for this week goes to the family spokesman, always as voluble as he is ignorant of international law. A few months back he was surprised to learn that international law is not made by the United Nations. Now, he's telling the news media "Harry Dunn's alleged killer could be tried on British soil by holding virtual proceedings in the British embassy in the US, according to his family’s lawyer." 

Only if you get your information about diplomatic immunity from movies like Lethal Weapon II is a foreign embassy the 'sovereign soil' of its country. In the real world, a foreign embassy is only a diplomatic premise which the host country recognizes as having certain privileges under international law, including legal inviolability. 'Sovereign soil' is a movie and TV trope. 

Anyway, regarding that proposal of a virtual trial as a way to work around the refusal of the USG to extradite its diplomatically immune persons abroad and subject them to real trials, it's a non-starter. The same international convention that makes them immune to the criminal jurisdiction of a host country also makes them immune to having to give testimony in the court of a host country. The SecState would have to waive immunity in order to allow a trial in which the accused could give testimony, and he appears to have made his refusal to waive immunity absolutely clear. 

Next up is a protest march on the U.S. Embassy in London on Tuesday, the first anniversary of the departure from the UK of the USG family member who was subsequently charged in the case. I do not anticipate any news being released then, since all the parties involved seem to have fired all their ammo last week.


Update as of Monday, September 14. The rally-protest at the U.S. Embassy which had been planned for tomorrow is now cancelled. The family cited COVID-19 concerns as the reason.   

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Watch While Hillary Says "the Russians" Three Times in Twenty Seconds

For fans of Hillary, you can watch the full Instagram video here.

By the way, Hillary misspoke about those Congressional briefings. According to CNN, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe has informed members of Congress that "the ODNI will primarily meet its obligation to keep Congress fully and currently informed leading into the Presidential election through written finished intelligence products" instead of in-person briefings, in order to ensure the briefings are not misunderstood or politicized, or selectively leaked.

I never feel at all sorry for Bill Clinton, but if I ever were to, this would be the time. Buster Keaton knew what I'm talking about.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Hatch Act Exception for High-Ranking Officials; Too Late for Outrage

I expect that Swaggerin' Mike will slip through the the aghast & outraged mob after his remote address to the Republican convention.
"It's all just shredding the Hatch Act," a current U.S. diplomat said, referring to the federal law that prohibits government employees from political activity on the job or in their official capacities.
But, is it? Not according to the Congressional Research Service report titled Hatch Act Restrictions on Federal Employees’ Political Activities in the Digital Age (2016):
The Hatch Act provides an exception to allow certain high-ranking officials to “engage in political activity otherwise prohibited ... if the costs associated with that political activity are not paid for by money derived from the Treasury of the United States.” The exception is available to employees who hold positions with responsibilities that “continue outside normal duty hours and while away from the normal duty post,” such as presidential advisers or cabinet officers appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. In other words, these officials may engage in political activities during what would be considered official working time, as long as federal funds are not used for such activities. Any such official must reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the federal resources used in campaign activities.
You can look it up in 5 U.S.C. §7324(b)(1), and 5 U.S.C. §7324(b)(2). A SecState is, in fact, free to engage in political activities which would otherwise be prohibited to lesser officials. Quod licet Jovis, non licet bovis.

That is perfectly plain in law. Like I always wondered in school, why does no one do the reading?

Of course, there  is also the argument about long-standing traditions:  
[Pompeo is] breaking with long-standing traditions aimed at isolating American's foreign policy from partisan battles at home.
But, is he? I'd like to know when, exactly, we observed any such tradition. In recent years we've had a SecState who had just finished running for President and another who was preparing to run for President. Folks, the position is far from being isolated from domestic politics. 

Everyone knows that 'politics stops at the water's edge,' or at least that's what Senator Vandenberg said back in the 1940s, right? Considering that he was a Republican who was in office throughout five consecutive Democratic administrations, that statement always struck me as his wish rather than a description of reality. Truman and Roosevelt never expressed any such sentiment, and they were the ones in charge of foreign policy, not Vandenberg. 

It's rather too late and far too unrealistic to be aghast and outraged about domestic politics creeping into the SecState's role.

Friday, August 21, 2020

ICE, ICE, Baby

This is an example of what I so dislike about journalism today. I care very little about the substance of the story - which is that Muslim detainees at an ICE facility in Miami have been served meals for the general population instead of prepared Halal meals - but it irks me when news outlets print an advocacy group press release without making the least attempt to question the contents or to comment on the group's bias. 

If you’re at all curious about the situation in Miami, and if you read the news in a critical light, the way all news should be read, you might first note that all of this material is coming from an advocacy group. And if experience has taught us anything, it is that advocacy group press releases are always balanced, forthright, unbiased, and if anything understated. Caveat emptor

Then, you might want to hear what ICE has to say about it before you participate in a moral panic. Get a grip on yourself. Prisons and detention centers are not hotels, and prisoners can’t order the meals they want.

Recognize that the COVID-19 situation must have impacted ICE detention centers just as it has everything else, so detention center food service has gone to one-size-fits-all. No more 'plating' or unnecessary handling of food. It is unwarranted to assume this is a deliberate assault on the religious freedom of Muslim detainees, or that they are being fed nothing but pork.  

The bottom line is that Muslim (and vegetarian) detainees of ICE, or indeed of any prison or jail in the world, will have to pick out what they want to eat from that which they are served. If the solution is to give them more veggies, I'm all in favor.

You Can't Beat a Dead Horse Too Often In an Election Season

That's Quarters No. 1 at Fort Myer, which is almost certainty not where SecState Pompeo resides, but it's one of a series of General Officer's quarters there and probably gives you an idea of what his place is like.

I looked up that photo because yesterday Politico re-did a NYT story from 2018 that insinuated there was some kind of scandal surrounding Pompeo's lease of a house on Ft. Myer, although it couldn't quite say what that scandal was, exactly. I commented on that story back then and thought it failed to score any points.

Politico revisits that old matter today based on a barely-smoking gun that consists of a memo from a Navy lawyer, written two weeks after Pompeo was confirmed, and taking a poor view of options for housing him in the Navy Hill annex which is located across the street from the State Department.  The possibility of a residence on Ft. Myer had not yet been broached at that time.    

The warmed-over story still strains to achieve scandal status. Here's my favorite part:

Pompeo personally pays “fair market value” for the residence, State officials said, without giving a dollar amount. At present, according to department officials, providing housing-related security for the Pompeos costs taxpayers $1.6 million a year, roughly $413,000 less than what it cost at his previous residence, the rental house in Virginia. Pompeo’s security costs also are around $1.5 million a year lower than the more than $3 million it cost to secure the homes of former secretaries Rex Tillerson and John Kerry, officials said.

Just to clarify, this is a story that Politico thinks makes Pompeo look bad, not Kerry or Tillerson or Hillary. As a taxpayer, I don't see it that way. In fact, I hope every SecState in the future will be offered a Ft. Myer residence, and if they choose to live elsewhere, we'll send them a bill for the $1.5-ish million in residential security measures that will be needed to make their private property secure enough for them to do the job that they sought.

The distinguished former Permanent Undersecretary for Management, Patrick Kennedy, now retired but still sharp as ever, was quoted: 
Patrick Kennedy, a former undersecretary of State for management, wasn’t privy to the specific details of the Pompeos’ arrangement, but he said there is merit to the idea that the government — the military if necessary — should provide housing for a secretary of State.

The key reason? “It’s getting harder to protect the secretary of State,” he said, noting that in today’s politically charged atmosphere, even top U.S. health officials are receiving threats.

A military base not only offers more built-in security, but it’s probably easier to arrange for such needs as the construction of secure facilities where the secretary can read classified documents, Kennedy said.
He should know these practical matters better than anyone else. I'll count that as an endorsement for Swaggerin' Mike's housing arrangement.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Swaggerin' Mike Struts Over Long-Delayed Publication of OIG Report Requested by House Democrats

SecState Pompeo has something to dance about. He wants you to know that the OIG confirms no wrongdoing in emergency arms sale to counter Iran, and he's doing a victory lap today.  
In brief, back in May 2019, President Trump declared an emergency that permitted the USG to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and other partners in the region without going through Congress. As the SecState noted in his press release today, that emergency authority is explicit in the law and has been exercised by five of the last seven Presidents. Yes, even Jimmy Carter. 

As of yesterday, we found out that the OIG had determined: “[T]he Secretary’s May 2019 use of emergency authorities was executed in accordance with the requirements of Section 36 of AECA ... the Emergency Certification Was Properly Executed ... and the documentation complied with the requirements outlined in the AECA.”  

What's more, "The OIG briefed these key findings to the Department in November 2019 and March 2020 under former Inspector General Steve Linick, including the finding that the OIG found no wrongdoing. The Acting Inspector General recused himself from this review. It is unclear why the OIG required an additional 10 months to finalize the report since its key conclusions were briefed to the Department." 

Unclear? Oh, don't be coy. Tell us what you really think. 

"In June 2019, every Democratic Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee signed a letter directing the OIG to embark on this legal review, despite the fact that the Secretary exercised a specific authority granted to the Executive Branch by Congress in law ... Now that the OIG has completed its work, we hope these Members and media outlets who echoed their baseless accusations will publicly accept the findings of the report they requested from the OIG and immediately retract their statements from the past year." The press release cites a couple such statements by HFAC Chairman Engel and Ranking Member Menendez. 

Look at that timeline. Five months after the HFAC Democratic members requested that State OIG investigate this matter, the OIG reported its negative conclusions internally. After a further four months it reiterated that internal report, but still did not publish a final report, which would have publicly exonerated the SecState. 

Is it just my imagination, or is 2020 an election year? 

The Inspector General who was in charge during that slow crawl, Mr. Linick, was removed from office in May, 2020. A mere (?) three months after that, the report was finally published.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Hatch Act at Home

Did you Feds know that the Hatch Act still applies when you are working from home? It does. And that could be a problem for federally-employed people who do social media from their (home) workplaces.

In fact, I believe those Feds who work for the foreign affairs department of the Washington DC area's largest employer have been officially cautioned that while teleworking from home they are still subject to the Hatch Act’s on-duty restrictions and therefore they may not engage in otherwise permissible political activities when they are on duty at home.

And what is social media these days except political activities, however defined?

Under the Hatch Act, a Less Restricted employee, like me, "while at work" may not ... "Post a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group."

That's on top of the usual forms of political activity the Act bans from the workplace, like displaying campaign materials, wearing partisan political buttons or t-shirts, and sending or forwarding content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.

So, if I participate in a video team meeting and have a 'Vote for Smith' poster in the background, apparently I've violated the Hatch Act. Also, I like to use my bookcases as a video background, but some of my books might be triggering to some of my co-workers. If I post a warning before all team meetings that Some Scenes May Be Too Intense For Younger Viewers, would I be out of legal jepardy?

What if I take a short break from work to look at Twitter and, before I know it, retweet a message that says "Smith is a moron"? I guess I'll have violated the Hatch Act.

My only legal defense might be to claim I was not in what the Hatch Act calls "pay status" when I lost my head. But how is that status time-deliniated when we don't punch a time clock in our home offices? Must I wait eight or nine hours after I've logged on to the MS office app before I touch any blog or social media that deals with the pretty all-encompassing matter of advocating for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or group?

Will anyone be fired for home officeplace political activity in this dramtic 2020 election season? This will be a good one to watch.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Joe Biden Gets Endorsed, But He Gives Bad Advice

Joe Biden's electoral chances got a little bit better today when he scored a big endorsement, this one from Angela Davis, who is no longer a fugitive from justice.

To be fair, it was a half-hearted endorsement at best:
So I think that we’re going to have to translate some of the passion that has characterized these demonstrations into work within the electoral arena, recognizing that the electoral arena is not the best place for the expression of radical politics. But if we want to continue this work, we certainly need a person in office who will be more amenable to our mass pressure. And to me, that is the only thing that someone like a Joe Biden represents. But we have to persuade people to go out and vote to guarantee that the current occupant of the White House is forever ousted.

But Joe will take it, I'm sure.

Anyway, he and Ms. Davis have at least one thing in common. They are both big fans of the sawed-off double-barrel shotgun. That's Ms. Davis' younger brother in the above photo, and he's got a shotgun which she purchased taped to the neck of Judge Harold J. Haley as he takes the judge hostage in the Marin County, California, Courthouse in August 1970.

Judge Haley was murdered shortly after the photo was taken. Ms. Davis went on trial for murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy for her role in helping plan the hostage-taking and purchasing the guns used in it, but she was acquitted in 1972 and went on to have a fulfilling career in politics and academia.

Joe's interest in double-barrel shotguns is well known, since he enthused about that to CBS News back in 2013. Joe recommends the double-barrel because you don't need to aim it, unlike the AR15 rifle, or anyhow so he said.

Personally, I prefer the handgun. But, whatever firearm you favor, please do aim it carefully, unlike what Joe advises. And also, please don't buy it for associates who will use it to commit murder. Not everyone who conspires to commit murder will be acquitted like Angela Davis.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

If 1967 Was the Summer of Love, 1968 Was the Summer of Fire and Tear Gas

Federal troops in the Federal enclave of Washington DC, 1968

It was 52 years ago that federal troops, 11,000 of them, were used to restore order to Washington DC, after four days of rioting and arson had destroyed large parts of the city. They brought order with dispatch (note the - sheathed - bayonets on those rifles) and most of the public was glad to see it done. Most people in any kind of position of power back then, including those who ran the news media, were World War II veterans or at least were shaped by the experience of WWII, and had a whole different scale by which they measured harshness. Any crowd control measure short of shooting was easily accepted, and shooting was always an option.

I was a little kid at the time but I well remember the atmosphere. The first time I smelled tear gas was in the streets around National Airport, and I saw troops manning an M-60 machine gun at an intersection near the Capitol.

A dozen or so cities had riots that year that were at least as damaging as those in DC. One immediate political impact of that was to make some Police Chiefs run for office, such as those in Los Angeles and Philadelphia who became their city's next Mayor.

There's a lesson there. Keep your eye on the benevolent associations and collective bargaining structures of New York City's Police and Fire Departments, which could turn into very large and extremely effective political organizations overnight. Why should they not run someone against Mayor De Blasio?

One other lesson: the 1968 Democratic Party Convention turned into a shambles and its nominee, Vice President Humphrey, lost to a law'n'order Republican. Republicans went on to win four of the next five Presidential elections.

Who knows? Maybe the voters across America, and especially in the swing states, are taking the side of Antifa as they watch all the violence, but I kind of doubt it. We'll find out soon enough.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Who Will Pay For This Screw-Up in Ashgabat? The 90 to 125 Million Dollar Question

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, city of white marble and straight lines

This might be the most consequential screw-up in U.S. embassy construction since the Moscow debacle of the 1980s and 1990s. (For a summary of that long-drawn-out disaster, which nearly resulted in embassy construction responsibility being taken out of the hands of the State Department, see the embassy's website.) Anyway, that's the only other one I can recall in which we had to demolish a newly-built embassy.

If it weren’t for the COVID-19 emergency taking up all of Official Washington’s time and attention, we would surely see State getting thrashed by Congress and the White House over an OIG audit report for Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, that came out in February. No one seems to have noticed it yet, which is understandable given the pandemic health crisis. However, the report makes clear that there will be a follow-up, and quite possibly a formal notification to Congress of waste and mismanagement, so I don't see any way that my good friends in OBO will escape repercussions forever.

You can read all about it in Review of Delays Encountered Constructing the New Embassy Compound in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a pedestrian title which gives no hint of the political dynamite inside the report.

The report is unclassified and uncontrolled, put out there on the internet for all the public and Congress to see. The OIG certainly isn't hiding it. They even put it in their Twitter feed on February 27. Hey, congressional oversight committees, you're missing a good one here.

The gist of the matter is that since 2016 OBO has been building a new U.S. embassy in Ashgabat, which is a city that imposes two absolute requirements on new buildings: they must have facades of white marble and they must be set back from the street a precise distance, which is referred to as "the red line." Well, we built the main embassy office in the wrong place. And now we will have to demolish it and build it again, this time in the place where the local authorities told us all along it had to go.

From the OIG Report:
[I]n July 2016, the Government of Turkmenistan halted construction of the NOB [New Office Building] because it was being constructed in a location that violated the city’s red line. This error occurred, in part, because OBO personnel failed to follow internal procedures that guide the planning of construction projects … Moreover, they did not require the Architectural and Engineering firm that prepared the project bridging design to deliver required planning documentation that would have alerted OBO about the proper placement of the NOB. In addition, the construction contractor, Caddell, failed to obtain required construction permits from the Turkmen Government prior to initiating construction. As a result, construction of the NOB was halted after approximately $26 million had been expended to construct the facility.

-- Snip --

The operational and financial implications from the improper placement of the NOB are profound. Specifically, because construction of the NOB has not been completed, embassy operations continue to be conducted from multiple locations. According to OBO’s FY 2014 Congressional Notification for constructing the NEC, this arrangement creates security and safety risks. In addition, OBO estimates that it will cost the Department between $90 million and $125 million to rebuild a new NOB in an approved location. This amount is approximately twice what was originally budgeted to construct the NOB.

So many fingers of blame to point at so many parties! And did they say we're going to pay twice the cost that was originally budgeted in order to get this project completed? Yes, well, that will happen when first you construct a building, then you have to tear it down and construct it a second time.

Keeping track, that’s $26 million in sunk costs – construction, design, contractor mobilization, project supervision – to build the wrongly-sited and unpermitted chancery office building, plus between 90 and 125 million in future costs to re-build the chancery on the correct side of the host government’s red line.

For some background on that red line, see The City of White Marble to appreciate how very, very, particular the host country’s government and its President - Protector of the Turkmen! - are about their architecturally eccentric capital city.

Ashgabat may be the strangest city anywhere outside of North Korea. Still, all they asked of us was a white marble chancery building that respected their setback distance from the street so as to keep our new embassy in geometric harmony with every other building in the neighborhood. That’s not so much to ask.

The dramatis personae in this story of – likely – waste and mismanagement include:
  • OBO’s first project manager, now retired, who failed to ensure that the local legal assessment report was properly filed away with OBO headquarters
  • The architectural firm OBO used to prepare the planning documents that guided the eventual design and construction, which failed to press with OBO the issue of the missing local legal assessment
  • The Office of Acquisitions Management and the Office of the Legal Advisor, who must now determine whether a screw-up by the first project manager relieved OBO's construction contractor from its contractual obligations, or whether that contractor is liable for damages
  • The construction contractor, Caddell, who failed to obtain a local building permit, or to verify that one had been obtained, before plunking that new chancery down right on top of the local red line; Caddell is now on the hot seat for paying big damages to OBO, or, just maybe, to boldly charge OBO even more money to compensate for the four years it has been required to suspend work on the chancery ('equitable adjustment for the cost and time impacts'), which I bet would be quite the bargaining chip in a possible settlement negotiation
  • The U.S. Congress, who will eventually wake up to this news, if not now, then in a few more months when they may well get official notice from the OIG that it has found a case of waste and mismanagement

There are also lesser players, like the OBO Director and his headquarters staff, and the Under Secretary for Management. I foresee a judge and jury getting involved, as well.

The current U.S. Ambassador and his predecessor come off pretty well, since the OIG makes clear that they both tried to talk sense to Washington while headquarters officials dithered in the four years since Turkmenistan authorities ordered a halt to construction, refusing to bite the bullet and just demolish that offending chancery.
“By January 2019, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan informed OBO that he saw no realistic chance the Turkmen Government would allow the building to be completed in its current location, and he advised OBO that the only path forward was to demolish the NOB and rebuild it in accordance with the Turkmen Government’s red line requirement. In June 2019, the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador met with the President of Turkmenistan and again attempted to find a solution other than demolishing and rebuilding the NOB. In response, the Turkmen President reiterated that the red line is Turkmen law and must be upheld.”

But instead of accepting that Turkmen reality, OBO tried to wriggle off the hook. It proposed adding a massive fig leaf – an earthen berm – to make the chancery’s red line intrusion harder for passersby to see, but the local authorities didn’t go for that. It explored a partial demolition of the unfinished chancery, but that was not a viable option. It even asked the locals if they would be open to a cost-sharing arrangement to pay for the full demolition and reconstruction of the chancery, but no such luck.

To me, that dithering and wishful thinking is the greatest fault in this sad story. It should not have taken four years to face the facts and understand there is no way out of this dilemma other than knocking down that partially-finished chancery. The sooner you do it, the faster this will be over and the fewest dollars will have been wasted.

Now, having dragged the problem out for four years, not only does OBO still have to rebuild the chancery, but State has a major legal problem and financial exposure on its hands if it tries to fix responsibility on its construction contractor, Caddell. After all, it was Caddell that failed to obtain a construction permit for the new embassy, which is a huge oversight, to say the least. So doesn't Caddell own this 90 to 125 million dollar problem? Maybe. But what equitable adjustment does OBO owe Caddell for the four years since it ordered Caddell to stop work on the biggest part of its Ashgabat contract? The answers will depend on how a judge sees contractual orders of precedence and other matters of procurement law.

Finally, let’s not forget the staff of the U.S. Mission in Turkmenistan, who will continue to have their operations split between multiple locations, some of them highly deficient in both security and safety (in particular, seismic safety) for years to come.

More to come on this, for sure.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Police warn about fake ‘coronavirus inspector’ - (Maryland) Capital Gazette

“Residents should not open their homes to anyone claiming to be checking for the COVID-19 virus or offering to clean their home,” [Bowie MD Police Chief] Nesky’s department warned in a statement released on the scam.

Socially Isolated, But Ready to Roll

As if working from a cubicle in an office annex in Rosslyn VA wasn't already isolated enough, now I'm teleworking from home half the time.

On my in-office days, the benefits are clear: near-empty streets and a record short door-to-door commute, my local Starbucks bravely hanging in there with mobile orders and pick-up service (unlike Peets), and - best of all - being allowed to park in the office building garage. What a perk!!! Now I know how the One Percent live.

On my at-home days, telework connectivity-wise, GO has been just okay but Microsoft 365 has been great. My biggest problem on home-bound work days has been the temptation to do on-line shopping.

With time on my hands, I've started to do long put-off chores. For one, I finally disassembled the slide on my old Glock so as to clean the striker channel and firing pin assembly. A bit embarrassed to admit I'd never done that before. I've never had any kind of function glitch with that highly reliable pistol, but now it'll be just that much nearer to perfection. I'll never have to hear Michael Caine say "you failed to maintain your weapon, son."

As the weather turns warmer, I expect to do more outside chores that I've been putting off forever. With no time or daylight lost to commuting now, I can afford to spend a couple hours a day on my lawn. Hey, I might really grow some grass this year!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

U.S. Hospitals Pretty Well-Resourced Against COVID-19

Image from NPR

NPR had an alarming story today revolving around an interview about the current limits of intensive care resources for treating COVID-19 patients, in particular whether there will be enough ventilators for the most severely afflicted. But by far the most interesting info was buried when NPR linked to but otherwise ignored a research report by a society of intensive care professionals on just that very topic.

Why so little interest in that report, especially when it answered some of the questions raised in the main body of the story?

Here's the story: As The Pandemic Spreads, Will There Be Enough Ventilators?

First the gloomy main body:
Ventilators are generally a temporary bridge to recovery — many patients in critical care who need them do get better. These machines can be crucial to sustaining life in certain emergency situations. And if there is a surge in seriously ill patients, as COVID-19 spreads, ventilators could be in short supply, from hospital to hospital or nationally.

And if there's an increase in very sick patients on a scale like what happened in China, Dr. Eric Toner says, the U.S. is not prepared. Toner studies hospital preparedness for pandemics at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

"We are not prepared, nor is any place prepared for a Wuhan-like outbreak," Toner tells NPR, "and we would see the same sort of bad outcomes that they saw in Wuhan — with a very high case fatality rate, due largely to people not being able to access the needed intensive care."

Toner says all hospitals have some lifesaving ventilators, but that number is proportional to the number of hospital beds in the institution. An average-sized hospital with 150 beds, for example, might have 20 ventilators. If more were needed, hospitals that need them could rent them, he says — at least for now. But if there's a surge of need in a particular community — patients with serious pneumonia from COVID-19 or pneumonia related to flu, for example — all hospitals in the area would be competing to rent from the same place. "So that's a very finite resource" he says.

The latest study available estimates there are about 62,000 ventilators in hospitals nationwide. That figure is seven years old — so the actual number could be higher.

There are also some machines in federally stockpiled emergency supplies, though the exact number isn't public.

"There is a strategic national stockpile of ventilators, but the numbers are classified," says Toner. It's been "publicly stated," he says, that there are about 10,000 ventilators in the national stockpile. "That number might be a bit outdated, but it's probably about right," he says. Other estimates range from 4,000 to somewhat less than 10,000.

At that point NPR linked to this highly pertinent and current - it's dated yesterday - report by the Society of Critical Care Medicine, U.S. ICU Resource Availability for COVID-19, which paints a much less dark picture.

First, look at Figure 1, the comparison of U.S. critical care beds to other countries. The United States has 34.7 ICU beds per 100,000 inhabitants, significantly more per capita than anywhere else except Germany, which was second with 29.2. After that, the numbers drop off sharply. If you're in the UK or China - 6.6 and 3.6 per capita respectively - just hope you won't need a critical care bed.

The report gives comprehensive numbers for ventilators on hand and details of all aspects of employing them during an emergency, including the limits on our ability to absorb surge supplies due to the need for spare parts, disruptions in international supply lines, and the need for trained personnel to safely use ventilators.
Supply of mechanical ventilators in U.S. acute care hospitals: Based on a 2009 survey of AHA hospitals, U.S. acute care hospitals are estimated to own approximately 62,000 full-featured mechanical ventilators. Approximately 46% of these can be used to ventilate pediatric and neonatal patients. Additionally, some hospitals keep older models for emergency purposes. Older models, which are not full featured but may provide basic functions, add an additional 98,738 ventilators to the U.S. supply. The older devices include 22,976 noninvasive ventilators, 32,668 automatic resuscitators, and 8,567 continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) units.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and other ventilator sources: The SNS has an estimated 8,900 ventilators for emergency deployment. These devices are not full featured but offer basic ventilatory modes. Accessing the SNS requires hospital administrators to request that state health officials ask for access to this equipment. SNS can deliver ventilators within 24-36 hours of the federal decision to deploy them. States may have their own ventilator stockpiles as well. Respiratory therapy departments also rent ventilators from local companies, further expanding the supply. Additionally, many modern anesthesia machines are capable of ventilating patients and can be used to increase hospitals’ surge capacity.

The addition of older hospital ventilators, SNS ventilators, and anesthesia machines increases the absolute number of ventilators to possibly above 200,000 units.

I'll note that the absolute number of ventilators does not include U.S. military resources which may also be available, and which probably exceed the medical capabilities of most countries.

All in all, I was quite reassured to read that linked report.

As of today, the U.S. has had only 1,629 COVID-19 cases and 41 deaths (about half of which occurred at the same Kirkland, Washington, nursing home). That's only 5 cases per million of population. There were a little over 100,000 cases worldwide, most of them in only five countries, when WHO declared it a pandemic.

Of course, we and the rest of the world will have many more cases before the pandemic subsides. But let's not ignore the realities that the U.S. has had remarkably few cases in comparison to nearly every other country, that we are far better resourced than others to handle the most severely afflicted patients, and that our population is spread out over a large landmass that will make it feasible to surge more resources to the locations in greatest need as events dictate.

So get a grip. Stay away from large crowds, wash your hands often, and let's all hope that Tom Hanks recovers quickly.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Most Headshakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Warning: If you have recently purchased Meth, it may be contaminated with the Corona Virus." - Merrill, Wisconsin, Police Department

"Please take it to the Merrill Police Department and we will test it for free. If you're not comfortable going into an office setting, please request any officer and they'll test your Meth in the privacy of your home. Please spread the word! We are here for you!”

Help Hillary Name Her Podcast

Yes, she's doing it, starting a podcast. Here's the news from Politico yesterday:
The yet-to-be-titled show will be co-produced by audio giant iHeartMedia, which produces original content such as Will Ferrell’s “The Ron Burgundy Podcast,” and, through iHeartRadio, is also a major distributor for the biggest names in conservative talk radio. They include a who’s who of right-wing commentators who have pilloried Clinton and her family over the years: Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Ben Shapiro, and Sean Hannity. The Joe Rogan Experience, whose host recently endorsed Bernie Sanders, is one of iHeartRadio’s most popular shows.

I'll be the first to subscribe to that. But, yet to be titled? We cannot allow that to stand. I don't know if Hillary is open to suggestions from the public, but these are mine.
  • The Mellifluous Voice of Hillary Diane Rodham (and Sometimes) Clinton
  • I Have No Recollection, but I Do Have This Podcast
  • How Come No One Names Their Kid “Hillary“ Anymore?
  • Bitter BlackBerries
  • HRC Interviews Some of the People Who Should Answer For What They Did to Me
  • HRC / DC
  • Hillary Unchained (Freedom’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Lose)
  • Uncorked, Self-Medicated, and Ready To Talk and Talk and Talk
  • Straight Outta' Chappaqua
  • I Coulda’ Been a Contender
  • I Coulda' Been Somebody
  • Instead of a Bum, Which is What I Am

A podcast like that is exactly what we need in these trying times. Nothing but great info and entertainment can possibly come out of this new HRC initiative.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Stripper who broke jaw in fall from pole may never twerk again - New York Post

"The Dallas stripper who broke her jaw in a 15-foot drop from a pole will likely never grace the stage again, sources close to her told TMZ ... Genea Sky’s fall from the pole at XTC Caberet Dallas on Monday has left her “scared to death” and contemplating leaving the industry, the sources told the gossip site."

"She’s also hoping to use her viral fame to improve the lives of other exotic dancers, but she’s not sure how best to go about it, according to the report."

Harry Dunn Case Attracts New Supporters, But No New Action

(Above, opposition leader Corbyn asks Prime Minister Johnson questions about the Harry Dunn case.)

Last Sunday the British press, claiming anonymous "multiple sources in both Washington and London" dropped the surprising - or maybe not - revelation that the American driver in the case was at one time employed by a three-letter agency of the USG. Surprisingly little media buzz followed.

I will note that claiming to have a source "in Washington" implies the source was a knowledgeable American official, while in fact it could have been a British official, or a journalist, or anyone, even a drunk in a bar, who was merely located in Washington. Anonymous sources support about one half of the local economy of Washington. If you pay any attention at all to the news media you may have a jaundiced view of how reliable such sources are.

That revelation about the American driver, whether it's true or false or something in the middle, makes no difference at all to the key fact of the case. As the UK Foreign Secretary had already explained to the House of Commons, and as he explained again this week in an email to the Dunn family, the driver was notified to the UK as the family member of an employee of the Administrative and Technical Staff of the U.S. Mission, and therefore she had diplomatic immunity to the criminal jurisdiction of the UK at the time of the fatal accident. What job she may have held in the past or present has no bearing on that.

Anonymous and unreliable sources nothwithstanding, the news of last Sunday brought the Dunn family two new allies on the political left: George Galloway, who in 2003 was expelled from the Labour Party for calling on Arabs to fight British troops, not to mention the diversion of six-figure money from the humanitarian Iraqi oil for food program to his wife and to his own private charity at a time when Galloway was campaigning to end UN sanctions on Iraq, and Jeremy Corbyn, the current Labour leader, who in the 2019 general election led Labour to a net loss of 60 seats, leaving it weaker than it has been since 1935.

Maybe it's just me, but those two don't sound like they have a lot of influence on either the Boris Johnson or Donald Trump administrations.

Although, there is one lovely bit of British wackiness about Corbyn that warms even my flinty heart. He is a "gridder," that is, he admirers drains and manhole covers, which evidently is a real thing in Britain.
For years, the nation’s devoted admirers of drains and manhole covers lacked a really high-profile representative. Not any more: Jeremy Corbyn’s bold admission that he likes to photograph drain covers, despite the fact that “people think it’s little odd”, has put drains and the people who love them in the spotlight.

We need a new word to describe that kind of thing, one that means 'something that sounds exactly like the premise of an old Monty Python skit but which is, however improbable, real.' How about Ministry-of-Silly-Walks-ian? [See this]

So, you may wonder, how did the Dunn family spokesman / ringmaster respond to Sunday's anonymous and unreliable revelation of a three-letter agency connection to the case? Well, he telephoned an anonymous "senior diplomat" in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and then wrote a press release about their frank exchange of views.

From the sound of it, the conversation did not go well from the spokesman's point of view.
"You stand with the US Govt in insisting that she had diplomatic immunity and thus have no issue with her freedom to leave the country, as she chose to do. The parents to this day do not understand how their own government, meant to be representing them in this matter, are taking the position that they are.

-- Snip --

You were not able to move matters on at all from your email. You said that you are unable to comment on anyone’s status as a spy or otherwise due to protocol. I made the point that it would have been better for the parents to have found out from the Foreign Secretary rather than a Sunday newspaper. His credibility as you know in the parents’ eyes was questionable and he failed in his duty of candour to them.

You reiterated that everything that can be done is being done to ensure we get Justice 4 Harry. These words are empty and are falling on deaf ears. The time for talk is over. We need to see what is being done.

The Foreign Secretary wishes to meet with the parents again. They will happily do so when you have given disclosure of all the documentation sought through the Judicial Review and the FOIA requests. No disrespect is intended and he will understand how the parents feel. We will hopefully hear from you positively in this respect. We will happily inspect those documents in a secure setting and undertake to keep them confidential, if that will help and then meet with him afterwards.

The parents are far from satisfied with the communication from Government to them and have no visibility as to what is being done. It has been several weeks now since the extradition request was rejected. We were told that all options were being reviewed. Where are we please?

The parents now require that meeting with the Prime Minister which he has so far managed to evade. Even Donald Trump saw these parents. It is a national embarrassment that Mr Johnson does not appear to wish to do so. Would you please reiterate that request. If he will not do so, will no10 please do us the courtesy of saying why instead of just ignoring the request. The parents are entitled to hear from the leader what he intends to do to bring Anne Sacoolas back and to keep the citizens safe from harm.

We request please a timetabled action plan to secure Anne Sacoolas’s return. The parents are completely in the dark and yet again the authorities are completely in breach of the victims code. They are not being supported and are not being kept informed. That is unforgivable and must be rectified without any further delay. I have copied in Janine Smith at the CPS in csse she is able to or wishes to rectify matters at her end.

If the Government are unable to secure her return, then they need to say so. Harry’s friends as you know will not accept being sitting ducks any longer. This government appears either unable or unwilling to protect them. They will therefore have to take matters into their own hands and the bases will have to close. They have demonstrated their ability to blockade those bases and those will only increase in frequency and intensity. Biker Groups are also planning on riding to the US embassy. It is remarkable that they are having to go to these lengths while the Government stands idly by.

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We request that one single cabinet member now be appointed as our main point of contact, Andrea Leadsom having been dumped from the cabinet without a replacement point of contact for us being appointed. Geoffrey Cox, who we were told was looking at the trial in absentia and Interpol Red Notice, is also gone. Does anyone intend to update us as to what is going on?

The family spokesman is a blowhard, but he has a certain legitimate complaint. The UK government seems to have gone into duck and cover mode lately and is avoiding making statements of hard truth, with the exception of their insistence on the American driver's protected diplomatic status. On that, at least, they have all along been willing to incur the family's tabloid-enabled wrath.

But when does this dance end? The family's demands are escalating and taking on an imperious tone. They demand meetings with the Prime Minister; they demand review of official documents as a precondition for meeting with the one cabinet Minister who is wiling to meet with them; they insist on a fictitious right by private citizens to change UK official understanding of international law and practice regarding diplomatic immunity; they insist on meetings with the USAF Commander at RAF Croughton and on being present when she meets with the Chief of Northants Police. They demand more and more. I wonder if President Trump didn't create a monster when he met the family in the Oval Office.

When does the UK government bite the bullet and tell the family the real bottom line? They can provide driver education for those American scofflaws at RAF Croughton and require local driver licencing. They can limit or end any existing arrangements on diplomatic immunity that apply to USG personnel at RAF Croughton or elsewhere. They can even try the American driver in absentia, providing a judge will play along by disregarding her diplomatic immunity.

But what they cannot do is force the driver to return to the UK. Neither can they change international law on diplomatic immunity, not unless they care to withdraw from the Vienna Convention and accept the consequent loss of immunity for UK diplomats abroad.

Six months on from the fatal accident, the UK government is apparently still waiting for the time to be ripe to tell the family those hard truths, but the Dunn family still isn't willing to hear them.

Unless the UK leadership plans to surrender to the family’s demands, at some point someone in authority will have to say directly to them “I’m sorry for your loss. The government has done all it can to bring the driver to trial in the UK, but international law makes her immune to the criminal jurisdiction of the UK unless her immunity is waived by the USG. And, as you know, the USG adamantly refuses to waive her immunity or agree to her extradition. We have thus exhausted all our options for a criminal trial. As a public matter, this is now at an end. I hope you will seek help in dealing with your personal grief, and I offer you any grief counseling assistance the government can provide.”