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.

ISIS Bride Makeovers - the Latest Tactic to Gain Sympathy?

This one might work, whereas the old tactic of minimizing their complicity with the caliphate fell flat.

Check out the remarkable before and after photos of Shamima Begum, the ISIS bride who lost her British citizenship (she also had and still has Bangladeshi citizenship) and is now stranded in a camp in Syria while she pleads for the Brits to take her back.

Gone is the shapeless hijab, and on is the nicely-fitting tee shirt and jeans. Now she looks like any young woman you might see in the West right down to the lipstick and bright red nail polish. The Nike ball cap is a nice accessory, too.

Shallow and silly as it may be, this approach will make her more relatable to the British public, or I miss my guess.

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Florida man acting as own attorney screams at jurors in opening of his death penalty case" -, Hillsborough County

In addition to his courtroom demeanor, this amateur lawyer really needs to work on his cross-examination skills before he takes on any more cases:
The state’s last witness was Thomas Dirks, the case detective. During cross-examination, Oneal asked Dirks if he could say for certain if Oneal committed murder.

“Yes, that’s why I arrested you,” Dirks said.

Friday, June 11, 2021

BoJo Talks Harry Dunn Case With Biden

Again, and as always with the Harry Dunn case, we see the personal confused with the political.

President Biden met with Boris Johnson yesterday, and the later told the BBC that he found Biden 'sympathetic' over Harry Dunn case. We haven't heard anything like that from Biden, I notice.

It is wishful thinking to suppose, due to the coincidence that President Biden has himself experienced personal tragedy in a fatal traffic accident, that it will affect his decision-making on the matter of diplomatic immunity. Suggesting that it will is just tabloid bait.

The matter of diplomatic immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of host nations is a principle of international law that all nations of the world have adopted in their own interests. It will not be waived by the U.S. government in this, or any other, case, not unless President Biden and SecState Blinken suddenly decide they want to undermine our national interests, which I do not see happening.

Of course, the mother of Harry Dunn primed the British media yesterday, saying she would welcome a meeting with Biden. We haven't heard from Joe or his White House spokesperson yet on her offer, but I'm sure he'll clear his schedule for that meeting.

Here's the BBC story from this morning:
One topic that came up between the leaders of the US and UK yesterday was the ongoing issues surrounding the death of Harry Dunn.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he and President Biden are "working together" to end the row over whether Anne Sacoolas should face trial over the death of 19-year-old Harry Dunn.

Sacoolas, an American citizen, claimed diplomatic immunity after the teenager died in a collision with her car almost two years ago.

Speaking at the G7, Johnson said the president was "extremely sympathetic" and "actively engaged" in the case.

The confirmation of talks comes after Biden's predecessor Donald Trump refused to intervene.

Crucially, it will raise hopes for the Dunn family that Ms Sacoolas could still be stripped of diplomatic immunity in order to face a British court over the death.

The prime minister says his counterpart has his “own personal reasons for feeling very deeply about the issue”.

Biden lost his first wife, Neilia Hunter, and their one-year-old daughter Naomi in a car crash in 1972.
The WaPo noticed the BBC report (here) but added nothing new.

"Crucially, it will raise hopes for the Dunn family." Yes, but is that a good thing? Is it better to have false hopes than none at all?

"Working together to end the row" is an ambiguous phrase that could mean merely that Johnson wants the problem, or at least the public's interest in the problem, to go away. But you can read into it whatever other meaning you want. Henry Kissenger called that kind of thing 'constructive ambiguity.'

Regarding that tragic 1972 traffic accident, the driver of the truck involved was also named Dunn (here), oddly enough.

What's more, Biden has a close personal connection to another fatal traffic event, one that involved his younger brother and which resulted in a one million dollar damage award that his brother has never paid. I haven't seen that reported by the U.S. news media, but the UK Daily Mail is all over it:
Joe Biden's brother Frank owes dead man's family $1 MILLION for 80 mph car crash.

Frank Biden was found partially legally responsible for the death of Michael Albano in August 1999 but has never acknowledged his liability or paid any compensation - not even turning up for a single court hearing, meaning the case was a default judgment

So, if you're one of the many who want to believe that everything is personal and emotional, you can view Biden's interest in the Harry Dunn case in two differennt ways: does he feel more for the survivors of fatal traffic accidents, or more for the perpetrators of them?

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Joe Biden Hopes to "Show Some Progress" on Closing GITMO

According to NBC News today, Biden quietly moves to start closing Guantánamo ahead of 20th anniversary of 9/11:
The administration hopes to transfer a handful of the remaining terrorism suspects to foreign countries, the people familiar with the discussions said, and then persuade Congress to permit the transfer of the rest — including 9/11 suspects — to detention on the U.S. mainland. Biden hopes to close the facility by the end of his first term, the people familiar with the discussions said.
Obama made a very unquiet attempt to close GITMO, and do you remember what happened with that?
Congress, however, resisted the [Obama plan to] transfer of detainees to the U.S. The House and the Senate rejected funding for the move and also blocked the transfers, with many Democrats voting against the Obama administration's plans.
You can say that again, NBC News. Congress couldn't shut that down fast enough. Even Bernie Sanders voted to keep GITMO in Cuba. 

Finally, in the last two paras, NBC gets down to the real story.
At a minimum, people familiar with administration discussions said, the Biden White House hopes to show some progress on closing Guantánamo by the 20th anniversary of 9/11 ... "People are starting to focus on it more," a person familiar with the discussions said.
Oh, so he just wants to show progress on closing GITMO, not to be confused with making progress on closing GITMO. That makes sense.

Obama's problem was that he and his advisors evidently really believed there was some kind of consensus around closing GITMO, and he ran straight into a wall of opposition in Congress and with the public. 

Kudos to Joe for having a better grasp on that political reality.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"You Can't Throw a Baby!" - ClickOrlando
Records show stop sticks were used to puncture James’ tires and shortly thereafter he pulled into an apartment complex and bailed out of the Nissan while holding a small child ... He’s accused of running through the complex with the baby then throwing the 2-month-old boy at a deputy, who managed to catch the child.

“You can’t throw a baby at us and expect us to treat you with kid gloves,” Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers said.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Whom the Gods of the Beltway Would Destroy, They First Approve FOIA Searches On

Remember 15 days to slow the spread?

Although it’s often incorrectly attributed to Euripides, that 'whom the Gods would destroy' phrase does indeed go back to antiquity, because it has ever been thus when the powerful feel the need for a fall guy. 

And I don't mean just ancient Greeks. U.S. Presidents have been equally ruthless when they wished to separate themselves from an appointee or ally who began to draw more heat than they were worth. See, for instance, the origin of the famous Washington phrase "twisting slowly, slowly in the wind." 

Dr. Fauci is the administration official twisting in the wind today, ever since his emails escaped from the laboratory of the NIH Public Portal and were released into the wild

Are the emails all that damning? Objectively speaking, no. But the public is not in the mood for dispassionate analysis. In the same week that a second year of graduating High School students are being given lawn signs to make up for the senior year that was stolen from them, the public mood is ugly. 

Even if they are looked at objectively, there are one or two things in those emails that could make a fair-minded person want to know more. 

Such as the April 2020 message to Fauci from the Director of the National Institute of Health, Francis Collins, with the subject line "conspiracy gains momentum" and Fauci's response completely redacted. That is way too tantalizing for it to not be taken up by any of the Congressmen whom Fauci has made enemies of. 

Plus the May 2021 message in which Fauci said he is "not convinced" the virus originated naturally and expressed support for an investigation. Oh? Has Congress asked him whether he agrees with the content of this Fact Sheet: Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology which is still up on the State Department's website? 

Those seem to be legitimate questions, even for someone who is not particularly looking for a villain to blame. 

Fauci has defended himself, of course. He has said the whole email thing is "nonsense" and his message traffic is "ripe to be taken out of context," and I would agree. 

But that doesn’t matter. Merely contrasting Fauci’s private messages to his prolix public statements and Congressional testimony is more than enough to do political damage to him. Really, just the words “I do not recommend that you wear a mask” in Fauci’s email to an acquittance work just fine all by themselves as a smoking gun. 

Once public opinion is inflamed, no one has any use for nuance or context. Next will come the bumper stickers. How about Fauci lied, the economy died? 

When Vanity Fair, of all things, is publishing long articles about Chinese lab leaks and how "those who dared to push for transparency say toxic politics and hidden agendas kept us in the dark," the writing is on the wall for the man who has been the Administration's Number 1 public figure for anything COVID. 

After all, why shouldn't Fauci be forced out of his position? At age 80 he’s the highest paid employee of the Federal government ($417,608.00 as of 2019) and has been Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He's stayed too long already, if you ask me. 

Fauci started working for the USG way back in 1968. That's 19 and 68. A bad year for America, although a good one for pop culture. The Beetles released the White Album that year, the Big Mac was introduced (at 49 cents), and theaters were showing The Graduate, Planet of the Apes, and Rosemary's Baby. 

Unfair though it may be, the public needs a villain to blame for the great personal damage that's been done to them for the past year, and the Biden Administration does not need this grief.