Thursday, December 23, 2021

Harry Dunn Case $ettlement Amount: What's the Over / Under?

We know from public announcements that the two sides have reached agreement on a financial settlement of some kind, and we also know from publicly available court records that there was an initial offer that was rejected. 

We further know that when the Dunn family accepted the final offer they did not understand that their first set of American lawyers would be entitled to a slice of the settlement pie. 

But nothing has leaked out so far as to the actual amount of money on the table. 

The U.S. legal code might give us a hint about how much or how little money could be involved. 28 U.S. Code § 1332 - Diversity of citizenship; amount in controversy; costs tells us that the minimal amount is likely to be $75,000, since that is the least amount that must be involved in order for a U.S. District Court to have jurisdiction in a civil action when dispute is between citizens of different states:
(a)The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between— (1)citizens of different States;
The settlement negotiated by the American driver's insurance company was most likely a good deal more than $75,000, I'm guessing, but it must have been at least that much. 

Then, 28 U.S. Code § 1332 has some irrelevant legal mumbo-jumbo, followed by this most interesting provision:
(b)Except when express provision therefor is otherwise made in a statute of the United States, where the plaintiff who files the case originally in the Federal courts is finally adjudged to be entitled to recover less than the sum or value of $75,000, computed without regard to any setoff or counterclaim to which the defendant may be adjudged to be entitled, and exclusive of interest and costs, the district court may deny costs to the plaintiff and, in addition, may impose costs on the plaintiff.
If I read that right, it means that the Dunn family could, under the right circumstances, end up with nothing and might even be assessed costs. That would go over great with the UK public and government, I'm sure.

Recall that UK financial settlements for fatal road traffic accidents rarely reach more than about $25,000, and that this case is being adjudicated under UK laws. What's more, one and possible two sets of lawyers will have to be paid before the Dunn family sees a penny. 

My best guess is the settlement amount was around $100,000. Even if it was twice that amount, once it gets cut up three ways the Dunn could be walking away with only $75,000. If so, it would be better than they'd have gotten from a UK court, albeit they would have gotten a UK settlement two years ago.

The next court action in the case will take place on January 12 (rescheduled from December 21 due to the holidays) and will address the lawyers' claims on the settlement money.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Harry Dunn Update: Virtual Court Appearance? Not So Fast.

That breathless tweet by PA Media two days ago was repeated, word for word, by every single UK news outlet I checked with the sole exception of the BBC, which waited until there had been a public comment by the American driver's lawyers that refuted the notion she will appear in court ("While we have always been willing to discuss a virtual hearing, there is no agreement at this time"). 

PA Media's post was self-refuting, anyway. First, CPS had not said anything about this in any public forum; if "the Crown Prosecution Service said" any such thing to PA Media, it must have been anonymously. Second, the driver had immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the UK, and could not appear in court to answer charges without a waiver of that immunity approved by the Secretary of State. Therefore, the CPS can't force the driver to return to the UK, and CPS itself has already said that UK law does not permit virtual court appearances by parties who are not physically in the UK and subject to a court's jurisdiction. 

So what is the CPS playing at? One possibility is that the American driver may be negotiating a plea deal that could involve a reduction in charges and a minimal penalty which could be served in the U.S. That would make sense, especially coming on the heels of the settlement of the civil case. If that's so, then the negotiations are going on still, since evidently no such appearance has been agreed to yet. 

One other tea leaf to read here has to do with the venue for that 'CPS said' court appearance. First, why would it be set for the Westminster Magistrates' Court, which is in London, rather than in the West Midlands where the fatal traffic accident occurred? 

Well, according to Wikipedia, extradition matters are handled by the Westminster Court, and that might explain it. For another thing, I think a Magistrate's court is not one where a trial in absentia could occur, although it is one where CPS might seek a reduction in charges and any other changes that are necessitated by that sticky wicket of unwaived diplomatic immunity. 

If the Dunn family's spokesman and all-around Svengali were at all prudent and well-intended, he would hold off on doing any media victory laps until we know what's going on. But he is neither of those things, so he continues to encourage the family's false hopes. Still, if he is half the con man I think he is, he should be able to conjure up an image of "justice" that is scaled down to the paltry reality which is coming to them.


Thoughts On Listening to SecState Blinken's Playlist: May Your Enemies Always Be As Soft as Your Power

If the Chinese haven't already been sufficiently awed by the U.S. Navy's 'freedom of navigation' patrols through contested waters, then surely this Spotify play list of SecState Blinken's will finish the job of strategic deterrence. 

Ha! Just kidding. Seeing "Penny Lane" in the #1 spot will only incite Chi-Com aggression. 

I assume this terrible idea was a Public Diplomacy soft power ploy. While I have the highest regard for great propagandists - and cultural propaganda can be the most powerful kind, see for instance the paintings of Jacques-Louis David, who was basically the artistic director of the French Revolution and permanently shaped its public perception - I cannot imagine why anyone thought there would be a public interest anywhere in the contents of SecState Blinken's playlist. Much less can I imagine what goal PD thought would be furthered by publicizing that particular playlist.

For what it's worth, I can easily imagine him listening to the first two songs, but the rest of them must be what young PD whippersnappers thought would make him sound interesting.

If PD plans any more stunning musical revelations like this, I strongly recommend they add a Rolling Stones number to counter the sweetness of Penny Lane. Personally, I'd go with Sympathy for the Devil, which has the best literary-historical basis of any '60s Rock hit, hands down. I mean, it references the Hundred Years War, the murder of the Russian royal family by Bolshevik revolutionaries, the Holocaust, the Augustinian inquiry on the nature of evil ("what's puzzling you is the nature of my game"), and has lines like "'cause every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints." The whole song was inspired by a Russian novel, The Master and Margarita. It's stunning.

The Beetles, bless them, mostly have lyrics like "I wanna hold your hand, yeah, yeah, yeah." Trust me, back in the day when those songs were new, the Beetles were strictly for the girls while the Stones were every boy's favorite band. 

So the choice is yours, PD. What will impress our adversaries more? Sentimental dreck or hard-core bloody reality put to a samba rock beat? 

I know which one would make Xi Jinping think twice before invading Taiwan.         

Harry Dunn Case Update: Cutting Up the Settlement Pie

The case was settled out of court almost three months ago, as was publicly announced by the Dunn's spokesman, although the dollar ammount of the settlement is under court seal. I expect it will remain there, since that otherwise so voluable spokesman will want to keep us from learning how far short of his promised millions of dollars it fell. Also, the family is still raising donations from the public, and they wouldn't want to be seen partying in Ibeza now even if they could afford to do so. 

But what is not under seal is the argument over who gets a piece of that settlement. The first set of lawyers for the plaintiffs, Cohen Milstein, want one third of the award as per their contract to represent the Dunns on a contingency basis, and accordingly have filed a lien with the court. 

As for the defendants, they are out of the matter now and have filed for and obtained an 'interpleader' to handle the matter of divvying up the award. They may even have deposited the award with some third party. 

Meanwhile, the Dunns are contesting that claim by Cohen Milstein and are trying to claw back the one third that CM says its entitled to. In fact, the Dunns will not even consent to offered mediation between them and CM. They take the position that CM rolled the dice on a contingency contract but then quit the case before an award was negotiated, and so are entitled to nothing. Well, don't roll the dice if you can't pay the price. 

To which Cohen Milstein replies, we didn't quit the case, we were constructively terminated when “irreconcilable differences and professional considerations” arose that made continued representation of the Dunn family "untenable and unworkable." So, we'd still like that one third slice of the pie, please. 

Needless to say, the second set of lawyers who are now representing the Dunn family would like their own contractual slice of the pie, which is almost certain to be another one third. 

The case continues, with the next hearing scheduled for December 21 at 10:00 AM in Alexandria Courtroom 601 before District Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr., to hear oral arguments about attorney fees.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Harry Dunn Case Update: Court Filings Available via Internet Archive

While we wait for news of the hearing that was scheduled for today, I've discovered that the various motions which have been filed in the suit - the ones that are not sealed, anyway - are available online here for your information. Thanks, Internet Archive!

Browsing those files has confirmed the accuracy of that previously unreliable and unsourced UK Twitter gossip that I've cited occasionally. I was particularly struck by the motion filed by the Dunn family's first set of U.S. lawyers, Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll, on May 4, 2021, when they requested to withdraw as counsel for the plaintiffs.

CMST cited “irreconcilable differences and professional considerations” as the cause for the withdrawal.
Cohen Milstein Sellers Toll PLLC respectfully submits this Memorandum in support of its Motion to withdraw as counsel for the Plaintiffs in this action. Given the sensitivities of this matter, we limit our statement here to simply say irreconcilable differences and professional considerations have arisen that require termination of the representation and that Plaintiffs need retain new counsel. Situations have arisen which makes continued representation untenable and unworkable. We have brought this matter to the Court’s attention at the earliest possible time after it became apparent the relationship cannot continue.
What professional considerations would make further representation "untenable and unworkable?" And note it was plural "situations" that arose, as in, more than one situation. 

Well, three days later the defendants filed a motion of their own to express their lack of objection to the CMST motion, but also to request the judge affirm that the Joint Stipulated Protective Order in the case - which was requested by the U.S. government to limit discovery on any matter that might implicate U.S. national security interests - will apply to any new counsel who represent the plaintiffs even though they were not an original party to the order.

The defendant's motion also cited CMST's own term “professional considerations” and hinted that it may be coded language for 'legal ethics.' In other words, it may suggest that the plaintiffs wanted CMST to act contrary to their ethical obligations.

Why would the plaintiffs possibly do that, you may wonder? Well, maybe because they would like nothing better than a fishing expedition for anything of USG security interest that the family’s advisor could then pass to his favorite media outlet. It's just the sort of thing he would do. He is the very definition of a loose cannon. I can easily believe that he would be the cause of multiple "situations" for poor long-suffering CMST.  

One other matter of note, which I found in a filing of March 11, 2021, is the plaintiffs' partial voluntary dismissal of all their liability claims except those governed by the laws of England and Wales.
Plaintiffs agreed that the substantive law of England and Wales governed Defendants’ liability for all Plaintiffs’ claims.
That is big, because those laws limit liability awards in fatal accident cases to some truly cheapskate kind of money. Nothing remotely "in the region of millions of dollars, not unless about 25,000 Pounds Sterling is in that vicinity.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Harry Dunn Case: Next Hearing December 1, and the Damages $ May Be Severely Disappointing

As we last heard, a settlement of some kind was agreed to between the main parties, but the closure of the legal case has been delayed by a lien brought by the Dunn family's first set of U.S. lawyers, who would like to be compensated for their work on the case before the family gets anything. 

Exactly how much money are we talking about, you may wonder? According to unreliable and unsourced UK Twitter gossip - but which nonetheless comes from a qualified UK lawyer - the judge hearing the case in the Eastern District U.S. Federal Court, Alexandria, said during the last hearing that he will strictly apply UK law to set the amount of the monetary settlement. That is very, very, bad news for the plaintiffs, since UK law on damages in such cases is as clear as it is parsimonious. 

Under that law, the Fatal Injuries Act of 1976, families of fatal accident victims get only "reasonable funeral expenses" and a small cash payment, usually capped at £2,500. Damages for bereavement are capped at £15,000 pounds - and may be out of bounds anyway since Harry Dunn was not a minor, meaning that his parents are not permitted to make a claim - and there is no such thing as punitive damages. 

Also according to that unreliable and unsourced - but nevertheless generally accurate - UK Twitter gossip, the Dunn family is trying to pry potential lifetime earnings for their deceased son out of the U.S. driver's insurance company. That does not appear to be an option under UK law, however, it's probably the only remaining possible source for the multi-million-dollar payday that the family's horrendously bad advisor has been promising them for over two years now. 

Bear in mind that the deceased was 19, unemployed, and not in school. What kind of lifetime earnings might he have had? A UK resident has an average annual income of barely £30,000 pounds and a UK male has a life expectancy of about 82 years. You do the math. In the best case scenario, that would still fall short of the family's McDonalds-coffee-spill-lawsuit dreams. 

After all that activity in a U.S. court, will it come down to the same paltry settlement that the family could have gotten by suing in a UK court two years ago, minus whatever cut their two sets of lawyers will get? That could be the case.
If it is, the bright spot might be the long-overdue disenchantment of the Dunn family with that pied piper they have followed every day and every step of the way to this point. 

New Embassy Compound Beirut - Why Will it Take a Decade and a Billion $$$ ?

Part of me is thrilled to no end that U.S. Embassy Beirut will, sooner or later, move out of its dinky and haphazard present facilities in East Beirut and into a big, purpose-built, New Embassy Complex. That is an occasion we've been waiting for ever since the previous embassy was destroyed by a suicide truck bomb in 1983, and then the East Beirut embassy annex itself was partially destroyed by a second suicide bomber in 1984. 

1983? 1984? What a long time ago. How many current State Department employees had not yet been born in those years? That replacement embassy has been a long time coming.

Not to spoil my good mood, but what explains the insanely long time between the start of the project and its projected completion date?     


As Diplopundit noted back in 2017, the project broke ground in April 2017, after a construction contract was awarded in December 2016, with completion anticipated in 2022. The design phase of the project was initiated in 2013 when a contract was awarded to Morphosis Architects

Morphosis? The same firm that designed the roundly hated Federal building in San Francisco? The building that has been called a green nightmare? The building that came in dead last in a GSA survey of employee post-occupancy satisfaction? Yes, the same. 

I know nothing from architecture, but I can easily understand all the hate for a 15-story office building in which the elevators stop only at every third floor, where the employees can't have window shades to cut down on sun glare, where there is no heating or air conditioning (except in the manager's offices!), where there is no on-site cafe or restaurant for its 2,400 employees but there is a public plaza that attracted so much crime, trash, and drug use that it is now getting a big forbidding perimeter fence

To be fair, Morphosis' San Francisco design has also gotten some awards, however, none of them came from the poor wretches who have to work there. 

But enough said of the new embassy's architecture. I'm far more concerned about the project schedule.

Judging entirely from the embassy and Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) press releases, it appears the plan was to spend five long years in the design phase - 2013 to 2017 - followed by another five long years in the construction phase. Project delays have now pushed the anticipated completion date out yet another year into 2023. But understand this: OBO intended to spend an entire decade to get that new embassy completed.

That is outrageous. I mean no offense to my good friends in OBO - and they really are my friends, I mean that sincerely - but WHAT WERE YOU THINKING when you approved a plan to build a new embassy in Beirut that would take an entire decade to complete? I'll put aside the matter of the 1+ billion dollar cost. Whatever happened to the sense of urgency that was the entire reason for the Capital Security Construction Program? 

A plain utilitarian office and residential compound that took half as long to complete as one of Morphosis' eccentric masterpieces would have been a far better choice.

Embassy Beirut employees have been living and working in a ramshackle collection of buildings on a hastily-secured compound for 37 years and counting. Granted the security environment in Lebanon is not so acute now as it once was, but still, Hizbollah has pretty much free run of the place so speed really ought to have been a much higher priority for OBO than whatever design excellence whim-wham it is that Morphosis is bringing so very slowly.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Speaking of Plans, Does VP Harris Have One?

Was that really a phony French accent? Yes, but, I think only indirectly in that she was mimicking the dapper French-American actor Hervé Villechaize, who played the expository character of Tattoo on the fabulous 70's TV show Fantasy Island. You know his signature line, "de plane, de plane!."

So then, it was lame humor on top of an incredibly vacuous lecture on the scientific method.

But never mind that. Clearly the VP has stepped in la merde on her trip to France, because her performance was so bad that the White House had to send out late night tweets on a weekend to tell "anyone who needs to hear it" that Harris is really kind of a "vital partner" to Joe Biden. The silent part of that tweet reads 'despite what you may have gathered from watching her poor performance and the paltry portfolio of tasks Biden has assigned her.'

Speaking of plans, DC news media is starting to express very deep concern that Harris is not fit to be the Plan B for 2024 after Biden - no matter what he claims now - will not run.

The finger-pointing has begun, and it only gets worse for Harris from here on to 2024.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

A Case Study of Indifference and Immunity

Hypocrisy makes the diplomatic and political worlds go 'round, I know. But on the subject of diplomatic immunity and fatal road traffic accidents, I submit for your approval the case of a highly successful British diplomat who not only killed a local citizen when he hit a cyclist with his car, but then scarpered off without even so much as expressing the regret that we may presume he feels. 

And the UK government likewise remained silent. Nothing about the incident in any way hindered this diplomat's long and highly successful career, both in government and on corporate boards.  

Forgive me for being cynical, but when I view the endless moralizing from UK politicians over the use of diplomatic immunity in the Harry Dunn case, I am unmoved. 
It's hard to find anything about the old incident in an internet search, but here are the bare bones of the story as recalled by the diplomat himself in a British diplomatic oral history program interview (here) in 2016:

Nigel Sheinwald [BDOHP Biographical Details and Interview Index SHEINWALD, Sir Nigel Elton (born 26 June 1953) GCMG 2011 (KCMG 2001; CMG 1999)]
CM: You were in Moscow from ‘78 to ’79. Was your posting for just one year? NS: No, it should have been two years, but I had a car accident that the Russians held me responsible for, so I didn’t go back after my summer holiday. It was thought better for me not to go back. It happened in Moscow. I think it was a genuine accident, but it appeared that the person whom I hit ran into the road and was probably drunk at the time. I don’t think to this day that it was my fault, but that was their conclusion and of course it was done at a time when the overall relationship was under some pressure and there were lots of extraneous noises off, so it fell into a pattern of difficulty of that kind. The atmospherics in the relationship had been difficult in any event. There had been visa problems and everything else. It wasn’t entirely surprising that they would take advantage of that to cause a bit of minor dislocation on our side. So I stayed in London and as a result of that, because I wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise, I got involved in the Lancaster House negotiations on Rhodesia, which were starting in the autumn of ’79.

"It was thought better for me not to go back." 

Simple as that. Official indifference on the UK's part, and on Russia's part no criminal charges, extradition request, appeal for waiver of immunity, lawsuit, insurance settlement, media circus, or years of political grandstanding.


Nearly the Last Harry Dunn Update, Maybe

I see by yesterday's court docket update that the final pretrial conference is set for November 17, in the Alexandria Federal Courthouse, before the new judge in the case, Rossie Alson, Jr., who is, by the way, a Trump appointee. 

The new judge was assigned after the old one, Judge Ellis, rather mysteriously recused himself during last Friday's hearing. That hearing was in regard to a motion filed by the Dunn family to enforce the financial settlement they'd arrived at with the American driver and/or her insurance company. A simple matter, except that the Dunn family's first set of lawyers on their case - Cohen, Milstein, Sellers, and Toll - have filed their own motion demanding to be paid for their work before the Dunns and their second set of lawyers see a cent of that settlement money. 

The American driver is now out of this matter, which has become solely a case between the Dunns and their lawyers. 

I'm anxious to see how this will play out. According to unreliable and unsourced Twitter gossip from UK parties, this conflict was caused by the Dunn's horrendously bad but all-encompassing advisor, who convinced them that their first set of lawyers are owned nothing because they opted to remove themselves from the case despite spending well over a year working for the Dunns. 

I suspect he was also the reason that CMST removed themselves from the case. They had probably negotiated a nice settlement, but one that didn't meet his thoroughly unrealistic expectation of "a significant compensation claim that will be in the region of millions of dollars" and so he convinced the family to reject that offer.

So the stage is set for a battle between that grifter and two different sets of lawyers. As Henry Kissinger once said apropos of something else, it's just too bad they all can't lose.

Friday, October 22, 2021

No Biden Administration Dignitaries Attended This Dignified Transfer of Remains

The President of South Korea was there along with his spouse.
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – South Korea President Moon Jae-in reiterated his desire for a formal end to the Korean War at a ceremony Wednesday in Hawaii during which the U.S. turned over the remains of 68 South Korean soldiers who died in the conflict ... At the same time, South Korea transferred the remains of six American service members unearthed from unmarked graves in recent years, making it the first joint transfer of remains between the nations.
President Moon Jae-in and his spouse have U.S. counterparts, do they not? Yet no Bidens showed up in Hawaii for that ceremony despite it being a rather special occasion, even more so than most dignified transfers of remains. 

Who did Biden send in his place? No one, really, at least no one from his cabinet or his personal circle. Not even the DOD secretary.

What did Biden have that was more important to do that day? According to his public schedule, he had lunch with Kamala Harris, and not much else. He departed for Camp David the next day, a Friday.

I hadn't noticed that whole sorry business at the time, but the more I think about it the more it annoys me. They sometimes call Korea the Forgotten War, and apparently the name fits.


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Harry Dunn Case Update: The Settlement Becomes Unsettled (Money for Lawyers)

The laborer is worthy of his hire, it says in the Good Book. That even applies to highly political Washington law firms. 

Yesterday, Friday October 8, 2021, the first firm of attorneys to represent the Dunn family in its suit against the American driver filed a sealed motion for attorney's fees in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, as well as a sealed memo and eight sealed exhibits in support of the motion. 

The legal firm of Cohen Milstein first met with the Dunn family way back in December 2019, filed the suit in September 2020, and worked for them up until May 2021. That's a lot of billable hours for three partners at about $1,000 each per hour, plus one lesser-paid associate. 

In May, there was a mysterious falling out between Cohen Milstein and their clients which caused the firm to withdraw from the case. A second law firm took over and got the case to settlement - reportedly - one month ago. 

I say reportedly, because I notice that the Dunn family's spokesman / Svengali has referred to it only as a "resolution" whenever he has done media work, which he does a lot of for someone who insists he is 'not allowed to discuss the case.' 

Surely the Dunn family understood they would have to pay their lawyers, even the ones who had separated themselves from the case. The insurance company (and presumably it was the insurance company who covered her and not the driver personally who paid) agreed to a payout a month ago, the amount of which is undisclosed. Now, it seems the matter of how to divvy up the insurance company's payout between the Dunn family and the many lawyers who have represented them is not quite settled. Otherwise, why would Cohen Milstein see a need to file a claim for its fees?  

As best I understand the rules of these things, attorney fees are paid before client claims for damages, and the fees will be determined according to the agreement which the firm and its clients reached back when they signed a contract. Maybe they work on a contingency basis and get a percentage of the settlement payment, usually a third. 

So the old lawyers will get a slice of the settlement, the new lawyers get another one, and the family gets what's left over. I don't know how UK tax laws work, but usually money from damages is not taxed as income, so let's assume the taxman doesn't take yet another bite. 

The millions of dollars that their blowhard advisor promised the family from a U.S. lawsuit McDonalds-coffee-spill-style are melting away. There probably wasn't much of a settlement in the first place, although we don't know that since those details are confidential and have not yet been spilled.

Visions of Ibiza and Marbella may have to give way to more sensibly priced UK holiday destinations.   

Friday, October 8, 2021

Hillary Co-Wrote a Novel, Sort Of

Her first foray into fiction. 

Why does she lead with her chin like that? After 60 years in politics has she really never developed better instincts?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Unaware Biden

You have probably seen clips of this interview by now. 

The phrase "Joe Biden was unaware" is just about exactly the worst soundbite that could be stuck to him at this point, as he flails about trying to recoup something from the budget bill fiasco while his approval / disapproval numbers head underwater.

C'mon Man!©, stop this malarkey before the midterm elections stop it for you. 

That said, John Kerry does quite the Gallic shrug, n'est-cafe

Monday, September 27, 2021

Sad Outcome For a Former OBO Employee

It has happened before, but one does not get used to seeing the news that a colleague you've known for many years, even one you haven't worked with regularly, has pled guilty to a crime.

See the details behind the guilty plea at Diplopundit's post, here. The bottom line is that $60,000, which DOJ's press release described as "lucrative kickbacks," went from an OBO construction contractor to an OBO employee in exchange for insider information that gave the contractor an advantage in winning contract awards.

The guilty party in this case is someone I like and have high regard for. Her motive was financial desperation, apparently. Considered on a scale of culpability, her offense ought to be seen as somewhat less than that of the contractor who purposefully cultivated her as his inside source.

Now, as for the real villain in the piece, OBO's construction contractor Montage Inc and its CEO, I have always had as low an opinion as one could have, right from the start of its engagement with OBO and many other government clients. There was just an auru of sleeze around whatever I saw of the company.

Good riddence to that guy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Settlement Reached in Harry Dunn Civil Suit

While there is surely a non-disclosure agreement as to the amount involved, Sky News is reporting today:
The details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but Mr Seiger said a resolution in the civil claim means Harry's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, will now turn their focus to the pending criminal case.
So then, it appears that the family is able to put some things ahead of the emotional catharsis of a face-to-face meeting with the American driver, contrary to their U.S. attorney's representation last month to the judge hearing the case.

Well, it's just as easy to focus on a pending criminal case from Ibiza as from home, innit?

Is this the end of the matter, or will there be more to come? 

Oh, there will be lots more, at least if you credit the family's spokesman/advisor/lawyer/and all-around hustler, there certainly will be. But you shouldn't take him seriously, because he's obviously a grandiose malignant narcissist. 

Specifically, there are now three things on the agenda. First, a criminal trial of the driver, then an inquest, and then a parlimentary inquiry into all the ways the UK government has outraged the spokesman.
"The family feel they can now turn their attention to the criminal case and the long-awaited inquest into Harry's death which will follow the criminal case ... There will also need to be a parliamentary inquiry into this scandal in due course."
The UK High Court has already ruled out a trial. A coroner's inquest following a trial seems out of sequence to me. But I'm all for a parlimentrary inquiry. All those UK officials who have for two years played to public sentiment and refused to talk hard truths to the family deserve to be hoist by their own petard now. Or rather, "in due course."

Sunday, September 5, 2021

You Shake My Nerves And You Rattle My Brain, Things Like This Drive the Voters Insane

AP has reported the disconcerting news that "U.S. officials at intake centers in the United Arab Emirates and in Wisconsin have identified numerous incidents in which Afghan girls have been presented to authorities as the 'wives' of much older men" (see reports of child brides among Afghan refugees).

That will not come as news to those of you with access to official situation reports on the evacuation and resettlement of Afghans, but it does to your fellow citizens in places like Wisconsin. And they do not like it.

Even in 1957, the American public did not like it the least little bit when the very popular Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 year-old third cousin, and the backlash sunk his career for at least a decade. 

Joe Biden doesn't have a decade to wait out the public's anger and the political hit that his administration will take over this outrage, and rightly so. That's an irresistible story for all points on the spectrum. Everyone can hate it that the administration did not screen out the perpetrators of child marriage, whether their interest is from a legal, moral, cultural, religious, nationalist, feminist, government-hating, left-wing, or right-wing basis. 

Just last week I thought the images of government contractor working dogs left behind in Kabul would become one of those ineradicable social media disasters for Biden, but now that seems to have dropped out of the news in favor of the child 'brides' story.

C'mon Man!© Stop the child sexual abuse and visa fraud malarkey before you lose both houses in the mid-term elections.


Friday, August 20, 2021

"Tho' All the World Betrays Thee"

Thinking of the ignominious end of our doomed national effort in Afghanistan, with all its enormous humanitarian costs, I've been listening to the mournful Joe Strummer version of The Minstrel Boy:

Harry Dunn Case Update: Depositions Postponed, Possible Signal of a Settlement?

Somewhat interesting news dropped yesterday when the Dunn family's loquacious spokesman/advisor advised the UK news media that, by mutual consent of the parties, the depositions of the American driver and her husband, which had been heavily promoted in UK media for the 'Mum faces son's killer' drama, are now postponed without explaination:
Issuing a short statement about the postponement, the Dunn family's spokesman Radd Seiger told the PA news agency: 'By mutual agreement, the depositions of Mr and Mrs Sacoolas scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday have been postponed.

'The family accordingly are now remaining in the UK and in the meantime they are once again focusing their attention on securing justice in the criminal case.

'We are unable to go into any further detail at this time.'
Notice that he is unable to go into any further detail except, that is, for the further detail he had already gone into, which was that rather odd statement about how the family is now focusing on the nonexistent UK criminal case. I say nonexistent because there is no prospect of any prosecution so long as the USG continues to refuse to waive the driver's diplomatic immunity.

So, what's up with the civil suit? We know the presiding judge has remarked that the case should have been settled long ago, and we also know the plaintiff's lawyer responded to that remark by, essentially, pleading that the family's highest priority is the emotional satisfaction they would derive by going through the civil process. Would you deny the mother her long-sought opportunity to be face to face with the driver in a small room?

I would think that the last moment before the two principal characters go face to face might also be a great moment for the defendants to offer a settlement. Did the insurance company make an offer, and did the family's lawyers - meaning the real ones on this side of the Atlantic, and not that retired ambulance chaser and neighbor who the family is in thrall to - strongly advise accepting it? 

Stopping the civil process short of its emotional climax would surely go against the family's wishes, but recall that the family is now on its second set of American lawyers after a mysterious blow-up with the first set, and perhaps they decided they can't afford to reject legal advice a second time. Maybe they need to take stock of what they really want here.

Taking a payout and then turning their full time and attention to the futile pursuit of a criminal trial might be their best course.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

"All Americans Out ... Local Nationals Left Behind"

Contrast that with SecState Blinken's performance on ABC News' This Week, less than one hour ago:
'This Week' Transcript 8-15-21: Sec. Antony Blinken
KARL: Respectfully, not much about what we're seeing seems too orderly or standard operating procedure. I just -- just last month, President Biden said that under no circumstance, and that was his word -- those were his words, under no circumstance would the U.S. personnel, embassy personnel be airlifted out of Kabul in a replay of the scenes that we saw in Saigon in 1975.

So, isn't that exactly what we're seeing now? I mean, even the images are evocative of what happened in Vietnam.

BLINKEN: Let's take a step back. This is manifestly not Saigon.
Not to dispute SecState Blinken, but it is manifestly the case that in the evacuation of Saigon we did not leave (most) of the local nationals behind. 

My Vote For Most Iconic Photo of Evacuation From Kabul

The Taliban are still outside the city and talking about a transitional government, so no one is forcing that guy at gunpoint to paint over female images, but everyone knows what will be expected of them and they are already complying. 

My vote for most iconic image of the U.S. Embassy's hasty departure is the one below. Forget all the photos of choppers over the embassy, here's the final act of our evacuation: dropping helmets and body armor just before boarding the flight out.

The equivalent in Saigon '75 was the evacuees dropping their small arms into the embassy pool before getting on the chopper.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Harry Dunn Case Update: Judge Approves Protective Order Requested by USG

In the matter of Charles et al v. Sacoolas et al, the civil suit against the American driver in the Harry Dunn fatal road crash, the judge hearing the case has granted the protective order that was requested by the U.S. government.
ORDERED that the United States' motion 62 is GRANTED. Signed by District Judge T. S. Ellis, III on 08/13/2021.
The USG requested the protective order due to concern that depositions of the defendants could go into areas that would implicate national security interests. Yesterday, after hearing from both sides, the judge approved the order. 

For a little context, see this entry in PacerMonitor:
Minute Entry for proceedings held before District Judge T. S. Ellis, III: Motion Hearing held on 8/13/2021 re62 MOTION for Leave to File Motion for Protective Order and Supporting Ex Parte, In Camera Submission filed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Daren Firestone and Jay Nanavati appeared on behalf of the plaintiff. Nicholas Lawrence appeared on behalf of the defendant. Dennis Barghaan, Jr., James Powers and Anthony Coppolino appeared as Interested Party on behalf of the USA. Matter argued. Parties advised the Court depositions are set to take place on August 24, 2021 and August 25, 2021. If any disputes arise from the depositions, a Hearing is set for 8/27/2021 at 01:00 PM in Alexandria Courtroom 900 before District Judge T. S. Ellis III
The plaintiffs and their cheering circles haven't yet taken to social media to denounce this decision, which is a lapse that I attribute to the late Friday afternoon posting of the decision and the time difference between Alexandria, Virginia, and the UK. It might be Monday before they wake up to this latest adverse decision in the case.

The next scheduled actions in the case are depositions of the defendants on August 24 and 25.

Friday, August 13, 2021

An Infrequent Wind is Blowing

We're not quite to that point yet, but somebody in Kabul is probably keying up White Christmas about now.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Roofs, Choppers, and Memes

There's the photo that every lazy news media intern will pull up this week to run with stories about the evacuation of U.S. Embassy Kabul.

That building wasn't the embassy in Saigon. The photo was misidentified way back then, and, even though at least some people know better, they find that image more satisfactory than the truth. In the popular mind it is the embassy in Saigon, and that's all that matters today. So, by extension, it's every other embassy as well.  

Fans of non-fiction about the evacuation of U.S. Embassy Saigon can see this.

Getting Worked Up For No Good Reason at the Press Briefing

Yesterday's Department Press Briefing for August 11, 2021, featuring Department Spokesperson Ned Price, started with AP's Matt Lee getting worked up over Mr. Price's refusal to give him a simple answer.

Matt Lee is one of Hillary Clinton’s old "AP friendlies" so I hate to see him get frustrated or overwrought.

There is video at the link, but here's the transcript:
With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Thanks. Just before we get to what I’m sure will be Afghanistan, I just want to – on the administration’s commitment to democracy, human rights, which I think includes freedom of the press and your support for that, I just wanted to ask you really quickly about the situation with Julian Assange in London, the court hearing that was held today.

- snip -

MR PRICE: This is a matter before the Department of Justice. It’s a matter the Department of Justice is pursuing.

QUESTION: It’s not a matter before the Department of Justice. It’s a matter before the British court. But I just want to know if your position, the State Department’s position, that you represent to the Department of Justice who then represents you has changed at all.

MR. PRICE: Matt, the Department of Justice is pursuing this. I will leave it to them to pursue and to characterize the United States Government’s position on this.

QUESTION: Okay, so the State Department’s position hasn’t changed, correct?

MR. PRICE: Matt, the Department of Justice is speaking for the United States —

QUESTION: Oh, my god.

MR. PRICE: — in a law enforcement matter.

QUESTION: Why can’t you give straight answers? Yes or no, has it changed or not over the course of the last eight years?

MR. PRICE: The Department of Justice in this matter —

QUESTION: I am fully aware, Ned.

MR. PRICE: Matt, you don’t need to be combative, okay? You don’t need to be combative.


MR. PRICE: I know you like to get worked up, but please, this is —

QUESTION: I’m not trying to get worked up. I just want a straight answer. Did —

MR. PRICE: It’s a simple matter that’s before the Department of Justice.
Since Matt is upset over the legal troubles of Assange, allow me to link to my favorite WikiLeaks product, its 2016 publication of emails from Hillary’s campaign chairman, American Oligarch John Podesta, brother of lobbyist Tony Podesta.

From that story:
“And then there’s the overly docile press, who were so eager to help Clinton get elected. In one email chain discussing the upcoming release of exchanges between Clinton and writer Sidney Blumenthal, insiders noted that the Associated Press appeared to be willing to allow the Clinton campaign to plant favorable stories. “[T]hey are considering placing a story with a friendly at the AP (Matt Lee or Bradley Klapper), that would lay this out before the majority on the committee has a chance to realize what they have and distort it,” wrote Nick Merrill, the Clinton campaign’s traveling press secretary.”
Their AP friendlies obliged.

When did Matt Lee turn so unfriendly? Hey, maybe if he offered to do the Biden team some favors, Price would give Lee that straight answer he wants.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Former SecState Pompeo: Diet Coke Yes, Japanese Whiskey No

The news media is running with another Pompeo ethics scandal, or would-be scandal, not unlike the ones it ran over the non-scandal of his renting a house on Ft. Belvior as an offical residence when he was Secretary of State.

The State Department is looking into the whereabouts of a $5,800 bottle of Japanese whiskey that was gifted to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to State Department filings in the federal register.

The government of Japan gifted the whiskey to Pompeo in 2019, the document says. But it is unclear if Pompeo himself received the whiskey or if a staffer accepted it.

Pompeo said Thursday that he never received the bottle of whiskey and that he had "no idea" it was missing, nor what happened to the gift.

"I assume it wasn't ever touched. It never got to me. I have no idea how the State Department lost this thing, although I saw enormous incompetence at the State Department during my time there," the former secretary of state said during an appearance on Fox News. "Had it been a case of Diet Coke, I'd have been all over it."

- snip -

American officials are prohibited from accepting personal gifts from foreign governments. But "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government," the State Department says in the filing, so the gifts are turned over to government archives.
This latest exercise in self-pleasuring by the news media was brought on by the report of the Office of the Chief of Protocol; Gifts to Federal Employees from Foreign Government Sources Reported to Employing Agencies in Calendar Year 2019.

I love to browse that annual gift report just to see the amazing stuff that foreign magnificos think to give our traveling USG dignitaries. Like all the jewelry. I mean, how many pairs of pearl earrings can any one FLOTUS wear?

And the ridiculously expensive wristwatches! Among many examples, see page 42 wherein a CIA employee(s) was given men's and women's Rolexes valued at $8,000 apiece by a foreign government whose identity is redacted. Their disposition is recorded only as "disposed," with no hint of how that was accomplished. Another CIA employee was given a woman's Rolex valued at a much more reasonable $2,000, which he or she chose to purchase rather than turn over.

BTW, purchase is always an option with foreign gifts, although one that is rarely taken. Our Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya once purchased a ring given to her by Gaddafi.

Agency people aren't the only ones getting super high-end watches. DOD bigshots get them too, and even more ridiculously expensive ones! General Joseph M. Votel, Commanding General USCENTCOM, received a Rolex valued at a whopping $14,995 from the state of Qatar, plus a few more of somewhat lesser value from Bahrain and Afghanistan, and even a couple from foreign officials whom he couldn't recall later. 

Hey, General, every PX sells perfectly good G-Shocks starting at around 50 bucks that are plenty macho and tactical. Try sporting one of those when you meet your foreign counterparts and maybe then they wouldn't take pity on you and insist that you accept a Rolex or two.

I hope someday we find out the National Archives have been running an underground chop shop to turn all that expensive foreign jewelry into salable commodities. General Votel could maintain his effort in Afghanistan forever with the proceeds of that operation.

And then, there are always gifts of guns and knives. President Trump was gifted with a sweet CZ-75 pistol from the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, and an "Ottoman Empire rifle" - not further identified - from the Prime Minister of Bulgaria. I already own a quite wonderful CZ pistol, but the thought of an Ottoman Empire rifle has my imagination working overtime.

Finally, on page 21 of 92, we come to the smoking gun: a bottle of Japanese whisky from His Excellency Suga Yoshihide, Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, received 5/10/2019, with an estimated value $8,374 and its disposition reported only as "pending" and a footnote disclaiming that the information about disposition "is valid as of the date of receipt from the reporting agency to the Office of the Chief of Protocol."

What? Disposition of that contraband hooch has been pending ever since 2019? Cue the dramatic music, cause that's Pompeo's ass, right there. Oh, wait, that particular bottle was given to The Honorable Matthew Pottinger, Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs. Forget it.

The bottle of Japanese whiskey that went to Pompeo is recorded on page 30, and that one was received on 6/24/2019, had an estimated value of $5,800, and its disposition is recorded as "unknown" with a footnote stating that "the Department is looking into the matter and has an ongoing inquiry."

From all this I have learned that the Japanese make some super-expensive whiskey, the very best bottles of which are given to assistants to the POTUS, with Cabinet Secretaries getting a lesser product which, to quote a good movie, I'm sure is quaffable but far from transcendent.

Now, I had always been under the impression that gifts of consumables are not turned over to the Archives or GSA, but rather are disposed of pretty quickly and directly and probably by the security details that accompany our traveling dignitaries. Is that no longer true? Or should the Department direct its ongoing inquiry to the security detail that accompanied Secretary Pompeo to Japan?

Consider the delicious matter of Senator Romney's Wagyu meat, a gift of His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, with an estimated value of $500. On page 88 of the report the disposition of that gift is listed as simply "Disposition - Disposed of." No details are given, but is it hard to guess what that means? 

Surely Romney's party didn't pack the meat in a cooler and try to deposit it in the National Archives after they got back to Washington. Moreover, so far as is reported, he didn't purchase that gift either, despite its $500 value somewhat exceeding the $390 threshold at which government ethics rules about gifts kick in.

Did you pony up for that BBQ, Senator?

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Man, 76, Cops Plea For Home Castration; Floridian also once performed surgery in room at La Quinta Inn - The Smoking Gun
"An elderly Florida Man today copped a plea to felony charges in connection with his bloody, botched castration of a man he met on a eunuch website, a crime for which he will be sentenced to three years in prison, according to court records ... The man’s testicles -- removed during a procedure that took several hours -- were in a pink container atop a bedside table in the makeshift operating room."

"During the raid, investigators took possession of a wide array of medical tools, many of which were covered in blood. Along with scalpels, clamps, hypodermic needles, and forceps, cops confiscated a surgical stapler, rubber tourniquets, a soldering iron, and “an assortment of skinning and filet knives.”"
TSB Note: How was it a "botched" castration when the patient's testicles were, in fact, removed? A castration with complications, it seems, but hardly a botched one. And, what's with the soldering iron???!!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Anti-Semitic Incident at Main State

As you must know by now, yesterday the State Department announced that a crude swastika was found scratched into the wall of an elevator at Main State. 
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter said in a briefing with reporters that the graffiti, which is synonymous with the antisemitism of Hitler’s Germany and the genocide carried out against six million Jews during the country's Nazi regime, was discovered late Monday evening.

“Unfortunately, late yesterday a swastika was found carved in an elevator in our building here, at the State Department,” Porter said.

“This graffiti has been removed and the incident will be investigated," she added.

The first report by Axios included a few more details plus a photo, and some speculation - for whose accuracy I cannot vouch - that the particular elevator was chosen because it is "near the office of its special envoy to monitor and combat anti-semitism."

Vandalism with anti-Semitic elements is not so rare, although it is unusual to find it inside a DC federal building, especially a prominent one.

It may be quite some time before we know who did it, or even have a plausible suspect, so it would be prudent to check our tendency to jump to conclusions about the offender's motive. Hate crime statistics from the Justice Department are broken down by the race and ethnicity of known offenders, and perusing them suggests to me that the odds are not overwhelming that the offender was wearing a MAGA hat.

Yesterday's incident is reminiscent of another one from last March when a Capitol Hill Police Officer was suspended after he was observed reading The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, of all things, while at work at an entry control point on the South Capitol Street entrance to the Longworth Building.

(FYI, the U.S. Holocaust Museum has a good background paper on that "most notorious and widely distributed anti-Semitic publication of modern times.")

That incident happened back in mid-March. At the time, the acting Chief of the Capitol Hill Police announced that she had immediately ordered the officer to be suspended until the Office of Professional Responsibility can thoroughly investigate. So, it's now late July, and you may be wondering what was done about the officer. I don't know, because the incident dropped completely out of the news. The Office of Professional Responsibility may be investigating still. Or, possibly the officer's motive may have been of a nature that does not lend itself to easy political exploitation, and the whole thing has been dropped down the memory hole.

Antisemitism is not peculiar to any particular race, politics, or national/ethnic/religious slant. Fanatics of the left, the right, and the just plain crazy might scratch a swastika into a State Department elevator for who-knows-what reason. See Black or White, It’s the Same Old Anti-Semitic Pathology for a number of examples.

Personally, I will wait and see. And I consider it even money that we will never find out exactly who did it, just as happened with the Capitol Hill offender.

Harry Dunn Case Update: Government Files For Protective Order in Civil Suit

This week the U.S. Government entered the civil case as a party that takes no position on the issues but has interests of its own that it wishes to protect.

A small Northern Virginia news outlet had the most details I've seen so far on the wording of the protective order, and the immediate rebuttal by lawyers for the Dunn family (here):
Last Friday, lawyers for the U.S. government filed a motion in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria where the Dunn family filed a lawsuit in 2020, arguing that the details of Sacoolas' employment should not be released in the interests of "national security."

-- snip --

In their motion, U.S. Justice Department lawyers argued that the details of who Sacoolas was working for in the U.K. should play no part in the civil case because "information concerning the United States Government has little to no relevance to an adjudication of any remaining issues in this case."

"Specifically, although the United States takes no position on the ultimate disposition of this private lawsuit, it has a substantial interest in certain limited information at risk of disclosure in further proceedings in this litigation because of the effect disclosure of such information may reasonably be anticipated to have on the national security of the United States," the Justice Department said.

Lawyers for the Dunn family, in a filing with the court on Monday, argued that the Justice Department's proposed protective order "contains imprecise, broad language that could be used to exclude information that is both relevant to Plaintiffs' case and does not implicate the Government's interests."

"Contrary to the Government brief, this is not a case where Ms. Sacoolas has fully accepted responsibility simply by admitting that she was on the wrong side of the road," the Dunn family lawyers wrote.

That last paragraph is curious, since it seems to suggest there could have been some cause or reason for the road traffic accident other than the driver mistakenly driving on the wrong side of the road. Does that seem likely? And why exactly would the plaintiff's lawyers be in any position to say what information does or does not implicate the government's interests?

Those questions will be answered by the judge hearing the case, T.S. Ellis, who is a Reagan appointee with a long record of handling terrorism and espionage cases. He has been given the information that the government wishes to protect. Who knows what any judge will decide, however, if I were a betting man, I'd bet on the plaintiffs being disappointed.

Meanwhile, the protective order has excited the Dunn family's disastrous advisor / spokesman into a new surge of twitter activity and media interviews. You just know that the real lawyers over here who are doing all the work in the case have got to regard him as a loose cannon, especially at this delicate stage when he could just possibly provoke Judge Ellis into sanctioning the plaintiffs or even dismissing the case when he spills the beans on whatever information it is the USG wants to protect.

Not to mention the even bigger liability that he or the family could conceivably commit a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Judge Ellis is the kind of judge who would take a very dim view of anyone violating the IIPA.

I expect that the family's new team of U.S. lawyers are now learning why the original team dropped out of the case.

And you just know that loose cannon will spill anything he knows, or suspects, or wishes were true, or can pretend he has learned, about those USG interests. He is undoubtedly champing at the bit to feed insider tidbits to his favorite media figure, George Galloway, on the later's talk show on Radio Sputnik (yes, really, Radio Sputnik).

By the way, Radio Sputnik is the radio and website counterpart of RT (Russia Today) TV. RT is a subsidiary of TV-Novosti, an organization founded by the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti in April 2005. Its division directed at the United States, RT America, was forced to register with the United States Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

As for Galloway, he was a long-time Member of Parliament until he was expelled from the Labour Party back in 2003, so being a Russian internet shill is for him a late-life occupation.

Galloway is less well known for his brief career as a military strategist and advisor to Saddam Hussein’s regime. By his own account in I'm Not the Only One, Galloway advised Saddam Hussein's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on the best way to handle a potential American invasion:
"The only war that can be fought against a superpower is a war of movement. I brought Tariq Aziz all the writings of Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung on the arts of revolutionary war and he had them translated into Arabic. Fight a war of movement, take the uniforms off, swim among the Iraqi people and whatever their views on the regime, they will undoubtedly provide deep aquifers of support for a patriotic resistance.”
Inexplicably, Saddam didn’t take that advice, so, in all fairness, Galloway cannot be held responsible for Iraq’s subsequent defeat.

Galloway also had other, much more lucrative, conversations with the Iraqi regime, and those came back to bite him when the U.S. Senate looked into the matter of Iraqi oil allocations and under-the-table money sent his way while he was still an MP. See the United States Senate report concerning the testimony of George Galloway (here) for the details.

Well, one good grifter deserves another, and those two are as perfect a paring as I could want.

One last thought: could this civil suit have been avoided if the UK had only done the same thing the State Department did back in 1989 and required the diplomats it hosts to obtain large amounts of motor vehicle insurance and then be issued license plates exclusively through the Foreign Office? Maybe there's a lesson to be learned.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

SFRC Hearings for State Department Nominees In Progress Now

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding hearings for State Department nominations today, one of which is for Gentry Smith, the nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.

If confirmed - which is a given - he will be only the third former DS Agent to ever hold the post.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"D.C. Jail Inmate Joel Caston Wins ANC 7F07 Race" - Washington Informer

Joel Caston, an inmate at the D.C. Jail, made history Tuesday as the first from that correctional institution to be elected to a public office in the District ... Caston will serve as the advisory neighborhood commissioner (ANC) for single-member district 7F07 in Ward 7. In addition to the roughly 1,500 residents of the D.C. jail, the district includes the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter and residents of Park Kennedy, an apartment complex across the street from the jail ...Caston is believed to be the only incarcerated person to have been elected to a political office in the country at this time.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Fortress Embassy Niamey Has a Weird Facade

My good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) just cut the ribbon on yet another new Fortress Embassy, this one in Niamey, which, I can tell you, really, really, needed one. See the details here: Dedicates the New U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger.

I have one question about the design. That rust-colored thing that covers all of the exterior windows and extends a bit above the roof, what is that? Probably a sun screen, I'm guessing, which makes sense for that climate.  

But doesn't it look exactly like the new southern border fence? 

The first section of completed new border fence 

Not that I mind an artistic reference to the border fence, you understand. However, I'm surprised that feature passed through so many architectural hands, from OBO itself to its construction contractor and their design firm, without someone objecting. 


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Harry Dunn Update: No Sign Yet of Progress Down That Cleared Path

A circular path makes no progress

It's a good news / bad news situation for the Harry Dunn case, as we get ten days out from Joe Biden's visit to the UK.

The good news is "the path is clear" for something legal to happen, or at least that's what Foreign Secretary Raab told the British press ten days ago, seconded by Boris Johnson after his meeting with Biden.

The bad news is Raab's path is evidently circular, because it's been a little while and I see no evidence of any legal action progressing. Or maybe the path is a cul-de-sac, because it seems to lead nowhere.

Most of the time when politicians speak to us they're just playing chin music. We shouldn't pay much attention to the words they use, which are really lyrics and intended only to express emotion. They are poetry and not to be taken literally.

What exactly were the lyrics that Raab sang ten days ago on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme?
"The path is clear for the legal authorities in the UK to approach Anne Sacoolas's lawyers - without any problem from the US government - to see whether some kind of virtual trial or process could allow some accountability and some solace and some justice for the Dunn family … I would like to see some accountability. I think the family deserve no less."
Let's do a little close reading of that statement, the one that launched a thousand misguided headlines, and see how it holds up to a non-poetic analysis. I have many questions.

First, “the path is clear” - Who cleared it? Was an obstacle removed? If so, what was that obstacle? Do the legal authorities in the UK agree with Raab? Who speaks for them, and what does that spokesperson say? Will any UK news organization please ask the Crown Prosecution Service exactly what action it is that they will now take?

Next, “without any problems from the U.S. government” – Doesn’t the fact the USG refused a UK request to extradite the American driver constitute a major problem for any UK legal authority that wishes to prosecute her? Doesn’t the fact that the driver was immune to the criminal jurisdiction of the UK, as has been affirmed by the UK High Court, present another major problem for any UK legal authority that wishes to prosecute her? Doesn’t the fact that diplomatic immunity includes immunity against having to give testimony in court present yet another problem to any UK legal authority that wishes to prosecute her, either in absentia or virtually or in any other way?

Then, “some kind of virtual trial or process” – Is there any kind of trial or process that could be conducted given the defendant’s acknowledged immunity to criminal jurisdiction? Has the CPS now reversed its opposition to trial in absentia ("CPS has written to Anne Sacoolas' lawyers explaining the trial over a video conference idea was not possible over concerns she would not surrender to the court or accept its powers")?

Next, “some solace and some justice for the Dunn family” – Has the Dunn family ever so much as hinted that they would receive solace or justice from any outcome other than the American driver being denied diplomatic immunity and extradited to the UK for trial? If so, please show me where and when they said that.

Lastly and most importantly, “I think the family deserve no less” – Does the family deserve to be misled about the absence of real prospects for a trial? Does the family deserve to be played by weasel-worded official statements that slyly imply what they will not say outright? Rather, doesn't the family instead deserve no less than to be treated as adults and told the unwanted, even tragic, truth?

That refusal by politicians and bureaucrats to speak truth to those who don't want to hear it is where the harm is done, because the Dunn family will grasp at any straw and they take Raab's lyrics literally:
Mr Dunn's mother told LBC: 'It means that there are no hurdles to get over now.'
'We're so grateful to the politicians for clearing the path so we'll just leave it all to the CPS now and wait to hear from them as to what the next steps will be.'
That wait will be quite a while, I think. Reality will set in some day, but that day will not be anytime soon.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

ISIS Brides Do Their Little Turn On the Catwalk

Yes! I thought so. The ISIS Brides are definitely going for public acceptance via new clothes and - oddly, I think - ball caps. 

Here's a story about a newly westernized French ISIS Bride:
Emilie Konig, 36, was pictured in her new westernised garb at the al-Roj camp in northern Syria in recent days - the same camp where Begum is being held - as she tries to convince people she is no longer radicalized so she can return to France.

Gone was the heavy black niqab, gloves and abaya robe that she previously wore - even while living in France - and in its place she wore a hooded sweatshirt, sunglasses, faux leather leggings, white hi-top trainers and a shoulder bag.

Her head was covered with a Yankees baseball cap, with her hair hanging down her shoulder in a plait.

The look mirrors that of Begum, who first appeared in interviews from Syria dressed in a black hijab and abaya robe - but recently swapped them for a baseball cap, sunglasses, hoodie, white blouse, black jeans and white Converse-style trainers.

Begum, like Konig, adopted the look while trying to convince people she no longer poses a danger so she can return to Britain, which has stripped her of her citizenship because of her membership in ISIS.

Eilish O’Gara, a counter-terrorism analyst with the Henry Jackson Society, previously theorised that the outfit is 'a soft tactic' devised by Begum's lawyers designed to 'win back the hearts and minds of the British public'.
Just "a soft tactic." But, I'm telling you, it's a tactic that is likely to work.