Sunday, May 22, 2022

State-Affiliated Media is Not to be Trusted, Says Twitter


Miss Dismal would be proud. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

When Constabulary Duty's to be Done, a Dis-Info Cop's Lot is Not a Happy One

Forgive the Gilbert and Sullivan, but that line fits the sad occasion better than anything from Disney. It seems that our Mary Poppins of Disinformation has resigned. 

It's being reported on social media - so, remember, until DHS confirms it, it could just be mis-info or even dis-info sent out by malign foreign actors - that she has been feeling put upon and under-appreciated, and even mocked for all her adorable TikTok-ing. 

So she's out the door just three weeks after being appointed. 

And it's not just Director Poppins that's been made redundant. According to the WaPo today, the whole Disinformation Governance Board has been suspended. 

Will DHS now give up on the Disinformation Governance Board as a bad idea? More likely they'll keep it on pause until the mid-term elections are over. Then, depending upon which party controls Congress and the appropriations process thereafter, the DGB will either be abolished or renamed and run by someone much more discreet and lower profile than Nina Jankowicz.

Washington's Worst Authoritarian Architecture, Still an Affront to the Federal Triangle

My God, but what an ugly-ass building that is (this one)!

I'll repeat myself and say again that there is more architectural merit in one of the Justice Department's Art Deco doors than there is in the FBI's entire pile of brutalist concrete. 

And to think it was the federal government's most expensive ever new office building project when it was built in the '70s. Ugly, dysfunctional, insecure, and the most expensive! That's quite the accomplishment.

The G charged us taxpayers $128 million for that fiasco. Oh? What's that? You suppose the Pentagon must have cost more? No, that one cost only 83 million back in the busy and patriotic year of 1943.

They don't make government office building like they used to. Whichever way the current year's political battle over the disposition of that ruin turns out, they'll never build them like that again. 


Monday, May 9, 2022

State Notes the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea

Just a thought, but I'd like to see State commemorate more key battles of WWII. For example, think what they could say about Midway, which was THE turning point of the war in the Pacific. 

Before that one, the Empire of Japan had won every battle it fought, plus one draw (at the Coral Sea). After Midway the Empire of Japan lost each battle it fought until it was forced to surrender. 

Would it be completely out of the question to frame Midway as the key battle that ended the militaristic Empire and made possible the present democratic and more-or-less pacifistic Japan?? 

I'm about halfway serious.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Joe Biden is Underwater in Delaware Opinion Polls

Oh, it's bad alright. Considering Delaware kept reelecting him for, what, 50 years (?), it must hurt to be underwater in Delaware polling today. 

Not at all auspicious for Joe and the other Democrats as we creep ever closer to the midterm elections. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Congratulations to Patrick Kennedy

I miss our former Permanent Undersecretary for Management, who, though he was certainly a micro-manager, was never less than proficient. The same goes for the team he gathered around him. 

He had his detractors. One of his critics complained that you could never get the better of him or his team in a dispute on matters of management because they were always more knowledgable and better prepared than their opponents. Well, if that's the worst you can say of him, then I'm on Team Kennedy. 

The last time I saw him he was already retired but was helping out the ladies at the annual book sale of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, which I thought was very nice of him. 

Haley Jumps the Gun on 2024 Republican Nomination

[Update: It seems the above tweet has been deleted since this morning. A screen shot is below] 

The issue is an old one, as is Haley's political alignment with Israeli (see the Jerusalem Post's story from last year: Does Nikki Haley's road to the White House start in Jerusalem?), but her outrage over that reopened Palestinian Mission in Jerusalem was premature at best.

The Biden administration is merely trying to open a Jerusalem-based mission to the Palestinians, and it's not trying very hard. The idea is a non-starter anyway, because a host nation - Israel - must approve any diplomatic premise designated within its territory, and they will not approve that one. 

The administration fakes trying to open such a diplomatic mission, and Haley fakes some outrage in return. Both sides get the political bump they want. What's the harm? 

In the immortal words of George Constanza, "it's not a lie if you believe it." 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Boom in the Cannon Room

Roll Call's headline gets it right regarding the latest display of poor weapons-handling by the U.S. Capitol Police. It happened in the CANNON House Office Building. 

Fortunately, the careless officer was only mishandling a Glock, so the potential damage was limited to what could be done with a .40 caliber round. 

Yesterday's negligent discharge of a handgun inside a break room was not the first time the Capitol Police have been exposed as, ah, not very well-trained when it comes to firearms. 

That's not to detract from the superb performance of some individual USCP officers, and in particular these two who stopped a mass killing by a crazed Bernie Sanders supporter who was armed with a serious military rifle. I mean, the officer who ran out onto that Alexandria ball field to confront the shooter while holding only a subcompact Glock had balls in both hands. 
At least this time a Capitol Police officer didn't leave a Glock in the men's room, as they have done on an embarrassing number of occasions.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Karaoke Night at the Ministry of Truth

Aw, how can you not like our Mary Poppins of Disinformation? C'mon, it's like ABBA, you like it but you don't want to admit you do. 

But her lyrics are seriously disturbing, though. Especially the part about "information laundering."  

According to DHS Secretary Mayorkas's testimony to Congress this week, his Disinformation Governance Board will absolutely, positively, not infringe on the 1st Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.   
“So what [the DGB] does is it works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence, are addressed without infringing on free speech, protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the right of privacy.”
Well, I notice that his self-described Mary Poppins of Disinformation has a rather broader view of her field. 

Information-laundering is really quite ferocious, 
It’s when a huckster takes some lies and makes them sound precocious, 
by saying them in Congress or a mainstream outlet
so disinformation’s origins are slightly less atrocious

Correct me if I'm wrong - or rather, misinformed - but isn't Miss Dismal scolding persons in Congress and mainstream media outlets for engaging in free speech? Because it sounds like that's what she's saying. 

Now that Mary Poppins is in an official position to do something about those lie-launderers in Congress and the press, what will she do? 

I suppose, with typical Mary Poppins magic, she could go ahead and let them speak but then prevent anyone from hearing them. You know, outsource it to the private sector to do an end run around the 1st Amendment. Take that, lie launderers!

Whatever she does, I just hope it's musical. 

An earful of TikTok makes the censorship go down, 
the censorship go down, the censorship go down,
just an ear full of TikTok makes the censorship go down,
in a most insidious way

We don't write the algos that's for Twitter to do, 
for Google to do, for Facebook to do, 
we don't write the algos that's for those guys to do,
in a private sector way


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Miss Dismal Now Has a Name, and a Voice

The Biden administration rolled out its Disinformation Governance Board this week, in an announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas while addressing Congress on Wednesday. 

The DGB seems to not have any legal powers of its own, but will be part of the Biden administration’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, so I suppose that federal grants will be the DGB’s weapon of choice against mis-dis-and-mal information. 

Best of all, Miss Dismal now has a face, and a voice. She is Nina Jankowicz, age 33, Executive Director of the DGB and someone with a fabulous musical legacy on social media.* 

I have many questions, and none of them were answered by Secretary Mayorkas. Like, how will the DGB spot mis-dis-and-mal information and then fish it out of the endless stream of news and opinion? Does it have some kind of Dipstick of Truth for measuring the depth and trustworthiness of foreign discourse? Can social media ever be truly Sanitized For Your Protection? And, by what means will the DGB examine a statement by you, me, or anyone else and determine its bona fides? 

Well, he didn't say, so that’s where you just have to have blind faith in the power of government to know what’s best for you. 

In related news this week, the United States – which, remember, invented the Internet – launched the Declaration for the Future of the Internet.** 

According to the White House Spokesperson:
On the international front — what we’re talking about today — we have seen a trend of rising digital authoritarianism, where some states have been acting to repress freedom of expression, to censor independent news sources, to interfere with elections, promote disinformation around the world, and deny their citizens other human rights.
I’m glad my own government doesn’t repress free expression, censor news sources, or do any of that digital authoritarianism stuff. No, it just works with tech companies to do that stuff on its behalf, which is different. To quote the White House spokesperson, they are "flagging problematic posts for Facebook" and "helping to get trusted content out there," and what could be wrong with that? *** 

I mean, unless you're the kind of American who harbors untrusted information. If that's the case, then Miss Dismal and the DGB will set you straight.     

And when my government interferes with elections it does so only for the purpose of promoting Democracy.**** As is well known, Democracy can’t defend itself forever from voters who harbor “unacceptable views,” to quote our neighbor to the North, ‘Jackboots’ Justin Trudeau.***** 

In fact, my government has a long and proud history of forcing democracy upon recalcitrant foreign nations, even if we need to use military force to make them achieve their Democratic Destiny. ****** 

Nothing can possibly go wrong with this Disinformation Governance Board. At least, not unless someone such as Ron DeSantis wins the election in 2024, because he’s just the sort who would use the info-policing powers of DHS for, frankly, partisan purposes.

* Certified True Fact ™ here (among many other performances, which you may google for yourself) 

** Certified True Fact ™ here 

*** Certified True Fact ™ here 

**** Certified True Fact ™ here

***** Certified True Fact ™ here 

****** Certified True Fact ™ here 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Mark Twain, a Notorious Radical From Way Back

Good luck finding that novel in your local high school library or curriculum (here's why), and never mind what you may have once been taught about moral inversion characters in American literature. 

Hemingway once said "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called [Redacted, until I clear the rest of that sentence with Miss Dismal]," but then he is also under suspicion today, to say the least. 

As for Mark Twain, or whatever his real name may be, he was exactly the kind of irreverent and unpatriotic scoundrel that DHS would have policed right out of our marketplace of ideas. Read him on the Spanish-American War or the American Indian, for instance, or just see this

Our contemporary mis, dis, and mal information is actually kind of tame by comparison. 

Mike Tyson Takes an Intellectual Turn

Stranger things have happened. Thomas Sowell has been the economic-political gateway drug for David Mamet (here, in which Sowell is "our greatest contemporary philosopher") among many others, so why not for Mike Tyson?

Friday, April 15, 2022

Secret Service: "Stand Your Ground" Against Family Dogs (But Place Hands in Your Pockets)

A FOIA request has turned up 36 pages of Secret Service emails concerning bites inflicted on agents by First Family dogs. It turns out there were quite a few more than had been admitted by the White House Spokesperson.
At the current rate an Agent or Officer has been bitten every day this week (3/1-3/8) causing damage to attire or bruising/punctures to the skin.
I can see where that would be a problem for the White House detail. Some of the bites were serious enough to require treatment by a White House doctor.

Plus, I learned a new euphemism from those emails - "dropping code," something which dogs are known to do. 

On a serious note, don't doubt for a moment that Secret Service agents are fully prepared to defend themselves against canine attackers. Since tasers and pepper spray are out of the question in that delicate situation, here are the protective tactics they employ:
Panicking or running with [sic] only embolden animals so stand your ground and protect your hands/fingers by placing them in your pockets or behind your back.
Well, what to do with the First Family's aggressive German Sheppards? 

If they asked me, I'd deputize them as Secret Service K9 auxiliaries and make a virtue out of all that doggy energy. Problem solved, and you're welcome. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Shanghai MSGs on "Low Rations"

That headline has a kind of '55 Days at Peking' feel to it, but the low rations in this case are the result of Shanghai's city lockdown and zero-tolerance policy for movement outdoors, which has created food shortages. 

The MSGs have been reduced to MREs, which Reuters refers to as "vacuum-sealed rations."
The Marines only had vacuum-sealed rations left, the employee said in the message, seen by Reuters and verified by two people.
I'm sure the MSGs will improvise, overcome, adapt. (Question: was that ever a Marine slogan before it was said in Heartbreak Ridge? I think not, but let it go.) 

Living on MREs is unpleasant, no argument. OTOH, I'm old enough to have eaten C-Rats - combat rations, or technically the Meal, Combat, Individual - the old school field ration that the MREs replaced. Those came in cans, not vacuum sealed packs and, unlike MREs, nothing in them was dehydrated. 

In fact, one meal in every case of C-Rats contained the big prize, the golden ticket, a can of fruit salad in actual syrup. For all of their far greater nutritional value, MREs were never so good as a can of real fruit salad consumed in your bivouac position.

Pistols, Patches, and Pelican Cases = All It Takes To Cosplay as a Cop

The latest Secret Service scandal rolls on, along with conspiracy theories fueled by the Pakistan national identity card and the two passports with Iranian visas and entry/exit stamps that were found in the several apartments occupied by those two curious characters. 

But here's my favorite part of Washington's fake DHS agents scandal, the freebies those two got just for pretending to be cops:
A former representative of Crossing DC who worked at the building since the start of Taherzadeh's lease confirmed that none of the units were being paid for at any time. When asked why they were not paying rent on the units, the individual responded with one word: 'Government'.
Government?! Has that ever worked for you? I know it hasn't worked for me, but then, I admit I've never tried asking my mortgage holder if I could skip making payments because "Government."

Read the criminal complaint here and take note of the remarkably thin window dressing that was all it took to convince at least five Secret Service agents plus local Metro Police officers that those two wild and crazy guys were actually federal law enforcement officers. They carried the correct pistols for Secret Service agents, first a SIG 229 and then a Glock 19, even exchanging insider tidbits about the Glock transition course which the real Secret Service agents - AKA dupes - were taking. Sprinkle around a few shoulder patches and pose for a photo in front of a closet shelf stacked with Pelican gun cases and, why, anyone would be fooled. I mean, they would, wouldn't they?

Maybe it was giving the credulous cops free use of apartments and vehicles that overcame any doubts they may have secretly harbored. Anyway, the scam worked fine until it encountered a Postal Inspector, i.e., a law enforcement officer from one of the humbler and less romanticized federal agencies, who saw through the costumes.   

As an aside, I am kind of pleased to learn that DC city cops never questioned either the open or concealed carry of pistols by those two fraudulent feds. Despite all the gun bans in DC, it seems you may walk around armed so long as you add a little police paraphernalia to your daily wear. Hey, I have gun belts and other pieces of equipment with which to accessorize my office garb, why haven't I ever tried just adding a pistol and a couple magazines? It seems that might work.

As yet a further aside, I recall reading in G. Gordon Liddy's autobiography that when he first came to Washington as a political appointee in the Treasury Department he phonied-up a badge and credentials for himself as an excuse to - illegally - carry a pistol. Since Treasury was known to have lots of obscure law enforcement functions, he reasoned, he would be able to brazen it out should a local cop ever question his gun. Today, it's DHS that is know to have myriad obscure law enforcement functions, so its the clear choice for today's fraudsters.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

In Today's News, Phony DHS Cops Dupe Real Secret Service Agents

The Secret Service has had its fair share of scandals, and more, but a new one is shaping up today that might be particularly damning because it is the rare one that involves professional misjudgment rather than personal misbehavior.

According to the Daily Mail:
[Arian] Taherzadeh and [Haider] Ali are accused of posing as members of a fake Department of Homeland Security taskforce investigating gang violence and the January 6 Capitol riots. The pair, whose nationalities have not been revealed, are said to have driven around in an official-looking SUV equipped with flashing lights.

They are said to have successfully ingratiated themselves with Secret Service agents, who they supplied with rent-free luxury apartments, high-end electronics and policing equipment. Four members of the agency - including the first lady's bodyguard - have been placed on leave, with their identities not revealed.

In one instance, Taherzadeh allegedly offered a member of First Lady Jill Biden's security detail with a $2,000 assault rifle. He and Ali also reportedly supplied a USSS agent with a penthouse apartment valued at more than $40,000 a year.

It is unclear what they had hoped to gain from the ruse, and prosecutors say the investigation is ongoing, even as four members of the Secret Service - including the one from the first lady's security detail - have been placed on leave.
According to the WaPo (here) this genius scheme to do who-knows-what was foiled when the phony DHS agents voluntarily assisted a Postal Inspector who was investigating an assault on a mailman which they, eagled-eyed and on high alert as always for signs of terrorist activity, claimed to have witnessed.
The [Postal] inspector learned the men were in contact with several members of the Secret Service and had provided gifts to them or their families and use of the SUV, the affidavit states. The document did not explain how the inspector learned about the gifts.

The inspector informed [the real] DHS, which then informed the FBI.
Wow. Assuming the details being reported are true and even close to complete, there ought to be a lot of egg on a lot of federal law enforcement faces today.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Back to the Future With Legations and Diplomatic Agents - Yes!


Would a legation offer an alternative in future situations — North Korea, Taliban Afghanistan come to mind — where the U.S. would want to establish more than an “interests section” housed within a foreign embassy, but less than full embassy status with an ambassador?
Now, that (this, in the current Foreign Service Journal) is an exceptionally good idea. 

While some of my betters are currently sweating out a proposal for how the Department might establish smaller and more responsive diplomatic missions in odd places around the globe and do so much, much, faster than would be possible with an Inman-ish Fortress Embassy, the co-authors of FSJ's Time to Bring Back Legations Headed by Diplomatic Agents? have the answer. Legations!

Please read the whole article at the link above. 


p.s. - Don't dismiss the possibility of opening a post in North Korea. There was a time, right after the reunification of Germany when former East German embassies around the world were up for grabs (and USAID got a couple in Africa), that a team from DS and OBO surveyed Pyongyang's vacated DDR embassy for our potential use as a diplomatic post. That could happen again. 

Trump Files Civil Suit Against Hillary and a Couple Dozen Others

Filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Trump v. Hillary Clinton et al, asking for damages with a RICO kicker. 

All those defendants "orchestrated a malicious conspiracy to disseminate patently false and injurious information about Donald J. Trump and his campaign, all in the hopes of destroying his life, his political career and rigging the 2016 Presidential Election in favor of Hillary Clinton" for starters.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Twitter Likened to 1920s Paris

To freely quote Lenin, an ideology that cannot defend itself is worth nothing.

Refusing to Read the Hunter Biden Laptop Story Until Miss Dismal Approves

I'm aware of the New York Times story, of course. But as a responsible citizen I refuse to read it until I know it has been cleared by the trained information cops of Homeland Security. 

Has that information, or narrative as we are instructed to say these days, been sanitized for my protection, like those paper bands on motel toilets used to say? Because it sounds extremely interesting, but then, I remember how just a year or so ago the White House spokesperson roundly debunked and denounced that story as the work of Putin when it was first reported in the New York Post. 

I have to agree this seems just the sort of situation that might be brimming with mis, dis, and even mal information - Miss Dismal! - and therefore not at all something for common citizens, like me, to mess with. 

Hey DHS, c'mon man!©, stop the malarky and tell me whether or not it's safe to read that story.

Investigating Sensitive Matters (Too Sensitive for Rules)

Let me get this straight. The FBI's own internal auditors found out that FBI agents routinely violate the rules when conducting investigations of 'sensitive' matters? Actually, yes. 

Put on your shocked face and then read the internal 2019 audit report here.
FBI agents violated their own rules at least 747 times in 18 months while conducting investigations involving politicians, candidates, religious groups, the news media and others, according to a 2019 FBI audit obtained by The Washington Times.
This rock was turned over report was disclosed in the course of a lawsuit, naturally.

Chronic Appropriations Rider Lights Up DC Weed Advocates

The Hill reported recently on the latest dissapointment to DC wastoids.
A GOP-backed ban on weed sales in Washington, D.C., was preserved in a sprawling government funding bill passed by Congress on Thursday, despite opposition from advocates who say the provision overrides the will of the District’s residents years after they voted to legalize marijuana.

- snip -

While District residents are allowed to grow and consume their own cannabis, they cannot buy or sell it under the Harris rider. Marijuana businesses use a loophole in the law to “gift” weed to customers while bundling it with another product or service, creating a gray market that D.C. cannot tax or regulate.

With that 'gift' loophole, the law doesn't really hinder any DC resident from toking up in the privacy of his own home. 

Weed continues to be illegal for the federal government, however, which I believe accounts for much of the reluctance we see from millenials to seeking, or even accepting offer of, government employment. "I think the private sector is a better fit for me" = my roommates can smoke and it's practically legal, so why should I undergo random drug testing?

Read it here.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Miss Dismal Says Unapproved Information Is Dangerous, Read Her Comic Book To Learn More

It was a bright cold day in February and the clocks were striking thirteen when Homeland Security's latest Summary of the Terrorism Threat to the United States popped up on my telescreen.

(Forget I said that. I should cut out the 1984 references for fear that DHS will suspect me of thoughtcrime.)

So the latest threat to America's homeland comes from MDM, or Mis-Dis-and-Mal Information, and it will take trained info-cops from Homeland Security to police the marketplace of ideas for anything that might mislead, harm, or manipulate you and me.

I say, first of all, Mis-Dis-Mal needs an acronym you can pronounce, something like "Miss Dismal." Second, it needs a good judicial review because, hard as it may be to believe, there are some people who would not want federal agents and their contractors policing our public and private media for signs of MDM.

What would Thomas Jefferson say about this initiative? Or about Homeland Security itself, I wonder? But before I get on a watchlist for wondering about that, I'll stay on the safe side and let the trained info-cops of DHS explain:
Misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation make up what CISA [Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency] defines as “information activities”. When this type of content is released by foreign actors, it can be referred to as foreign influence. Definitions for each are below.
  • Misinformation is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.
  • Disinformation is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.
  • Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.
What should our corps of trained professional info-cops do about the threat posed by Miss Dismal? Naturally, it should deploy comic books – yes, comic books – to counter the influence spread by any malign 'threat actor.'
Foreign and domestic threat actors use MDM campaigns to cause chaos, confusion, and division. These malign actors are seeking to interfere with and undermine our democratic institutions and national cohesiveness. The resources provided at the bottom of this page provide examples and more information about MDM activities.

First in the series, Real Fake demonstrates how threat actors capitalize on political and social issues (especially around election cycles) to stealthily plant doubt in the minds of targeted audiences and steer their opinion.

Readers follow protagonists Rachel and Andre as they discover that a command center in Russia is using a network of troll farms to spread false narratives about elections to American voters. With the elections coming up, Rachel and Andre follow the trail of synthetic media and stop the cyber assailants from causing chaos, confusion, and division.
They're calling this comic book "Real Fake?” Really? I wonder who it was in DHS who greenlighted that term because it makes me recall the “fake but accurate” excuse that Dan Rather came up with after he was fired from CBS News for using forged documents to – come to think of it – influence an election.

Rathergate was big news once, but that was back in 2004, when most of today’s DHS employees were in grade school. See the CBS News' final word on it here: CBS Ousts Four For Bush Guard Story.

This is where things get funny, because Rathergate had a simply hilarious aspect in that Rather and his producers exposed George W. Bush’s purported misdeeds by producing four old Texas Air National Guard memos. The perfect smoking gun, right?

But, as some TV viewers noticed the very night the story was broadcast, those memos, which were dated in 1972 and ‘73, had been typed in Microsoft Word with default settings. They had proportionally spaced font, and even superscripts (as in Rathergate), things that did not become available to office workers until Steve Jobs invented the MacIntosh computer

Although Rather still keeps on defending himself all these many years later, game over, man. Those documents weren’t fake but accurate, they were just plain fake.

I don’t think DHS intended for Americans to associate their Mis-Dis-and-Mal-fighting comic books with that failed attempt to influence the 2004 election. Although, I would be totally open to a comic book series based on Rathergate.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Another Panel Reports on Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI)

The mysterious matter of anomolous health incidents - AKA Havana Syndrome - threatens to turn into an interagency pissing contest here in the National Capital Area, as shown by the public release of two competing reports by different groups of government-employed experts.

See the State Department's response to the AHI problem here. State and SecState Blinken clearly regard the syndrome as something real, serious, and possibly attributable to a foreign adversary.

Not so at the CIA, which issued a somewhat dismissive interim report whose interim conclusions a senior CIA official summarized for CBS News as "We assess that the majority of reports of [anomalous health incidents] can be reasonably explained by medical conditions or environmental and technical factors, including previously undiagnosed illnesses," meaning that they are not attributable to a foreign adversary.

Two days ago the latest report by a panel of experts was released in a redacted version, and it came down more of the State side of the matter while not contradicting the CIA side. The New York Times, which remains a good newspaper on occasion, covered this battle of the government experts here, Panel Says Some Havana Syndrome Cases May Stem From Radio Energy:
The panel, which included both government scientists and outside experts, did not try to determine who was responsible for the incidents, and officials said the conclusions did not contradict interim findings by the C.I.A. that unexplained incidents were not the result of a sustained global campaign by Russia or another adversary.

But there are tensions between the panel’s work and the C.I.A.’s conclusions. The panel’s findings could bolster the arguments of victims and lawmakers who believe a hostile foreign nation could have caused at least some of the injuries associated with Havana syndrome, perhaps by using a listening device.
You can read that panel's report in a redacted version here.

Here's a recap of the findings:
  • The signs and symptoms of AHIs are genuine and compelling. 
  • A subset of AHIs cannot be easily explained by known environmental or medical conditions and could be due to external stimuli. 
  • Pulsed electromagnetic energy, particularly in the radiofrequency range, plausibly explains the core characteristics, although information gaps exist. 
  • Ultrasound also plausibly explains the core characteristics, but only in close-access scenarios and with information gaps. 
  • Psychosocial factors alone cannot account for the core characteristics, although they may cause some other incidents or contribute to long-term symptoms. 
  • Ionizing radiation, chemical and biological agents, infrasound, audible sound, ultrasound propagated over large distances, and bulk heating from electromagnetic energy are all implausible explanations for the core characteristics in the absence of other synergistic stimuli.
The panel concluded with this sympathetic statement:
The panel was moved by the experiences of individuals affected by AHIs. They deserve the best possible care, as well as appreciation for their sacrifices. Panelists were also greatly impressed with the many members of the IC and broader US Government with whom they engaged. The panel feels fortunate to have supported their work.
Much more to come on this matter, sadly. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Harry Dunn Case Update: A Check Finally Gets Cashed

The suit against the American driver was settled in September when the Dunn family accepted the insurance company's offer. However, at that point the family's former law firm - Cohen, Milstein - filed a lien on any settlement money while they petitioned the court for 30 percent of that boodle in accordance with their contract to represent the family. As you may recall, Cohen Milstein had withdrawn from the case due to unresolvable differences with its clients before a second firm got the case to settlement.

That dispute still goes on, but last Friday the judge in the case issued an interim order requiring distribution of settlement funds not in dispute, meaning that some of the insurance money will finally flow to the Dunn family and, of course, some of that money will stick to their current set of American lawyers.

The amount of the settlement remains confidential, however, UK Twitter gossip says the amount that is not in dispute is seventy percent of the total. That would make perfect sense, since Cohen Milstein is claiming thirty percent, according to a rare unsealed motion filed with the court.

Will Cohen Milstein get that much? Depends on the judge. He might give them all of that, or some of that, or none of that.

So let's see ... thirty percent for them, and another thirty for the firm that replaced Cohen Milstein, leaves, uh, forty percent for the three Dunn family plaintiffs to share.

The family and its horrendous spokesman / advisor are keeping silent on the money as of now. After all, they're still raising donations from the public (to the tune of $213,000 so far) and might not want to do any victory laps yet.

But watch this space for whatever clues we might gather from the family's future spending. Was the settlement Land Rover kind of money, or second-hand subcompact kind of money?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Harry Dunn Update: Family Takes One Step Back From Civil Settlement Money, Criminal Hearing Cancelled

It wouldn't be another week gone by if I didn't have a post about the Harry Dunn case, would it? Well, here's what we know as of today.

The U.S. Court in Alexandria issued a denial of the plaintiff's request for prejudgement interest, and heard dueling motions on other matters.

My take, which is based on unreliable and unsourced UK Twitter gossip, is that the Dunn family is likely to lose its battle to exclude their first set of American lawyers from the insurance settlement boodle. As the firm of Cohen Milstein had already stated in an unsealed motion, their work achieved an initial settlement offer and that offer is proof of the monetary value CM brought to the plaintiffs, notwithstanding that the plaintiffs rejected that offer. So they'd like thirty percent of that amount, please.

As for the criminal case against the American driver that the Crown Prosecution Service has been impotently threatening, it hit a snag when the would-be defendant declined to go along. The CPS announced on Friday that the court hearing they'd had scheduled for next week has been cancelled. 

The BBC's Home Affairs correspondent reported:
A hearing was scheduled for Westminster Magistrates' Court on 18 January, but the CPS said this had been "vacated".

A spokesman for the CPS said: "This is to enable ongoing discussions between the CPS and Anne Sacoolas's legal representatives to continue."

Last month, Mrs Sacoolas's lawyers denied she would attend a court appearance via video link and said no such agreement had been made.

The CPS announcement was immediately spun by the Dunn family spokesman as a "postponement" of the hearing, a term that was repeated across the UK news media. Of course if it actually were a postponement, then there would be a new date for a hearing, whereas the CPS said the hearing date had been "vacated." As in, there is now no date set for a hearing on that matter.

More to come. Much more.


SecState Blinken to FSJ: A World of Risk

SecState Blinken was interviewed for this month's Foreign Service Journal, and he - meaning, really, his office and staff - showed he has been briefed on an initiative now underway to approach Congress for relief from some strictures on overseas security and risk acceptance that were imposed by legislation which was passed over twenty years ago.
FSJ: You said in the speech at FSI that you will seek authorities and policies that allow diplomats to manage risk more effectively and smartly. Can you tell us more about this new risk management platform and how it will be implemented?

Secretary Blinken: My first responsibility is to ensure the safety of our people and their families in the field. From the COVID-19 pandemic to anomalous health incidents, the risks facing U.S. diplomats overseas are as significant and complex as ever.

But we must find ways to address these threats and risks without losing the in-person diplomacy and public engagement that are at the core of our profession. That’s a message I’ve heard loud and clear from every part of our workforce, everywhere I’ve traveled, including at our highest-risk posts.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve moved many U.S. embassies, consulates and American Centers out of city centers and into more hardened facilities where they’re less accessible to the people they were created to reach. In some cases, there were good reasons for those moves. But there have also been some unintended consequences. It’s become immensely difficult to open new posts, even in low-threat environments; and it’s harder than it should be to adjust our presence to respond to crises and opportunities. Last year, China surpassed the United States in total number of diplomatic and consular posts. We make it harder to outcompete China when we are so hindered in how and where we can operate. We’ve got to fix that.

As our diplomats know, a world of zero risk is not a world in which we can deliver for the American people. We have to accept risk and manage it smartly. One way to do that is by working with Congress to update the legislation that governs our physical security requirements overseas and reforming the Accountability Review Board process. Here, too, there is bipartisan support to update our mindset and operations, focusing more on lessons learned and less on individual culpability when it comes to security incidents.

So I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to make some commonsense changes that will strengthen our diplomacy while continuing to keep our people safe.
Good on you, SecState Blinken. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you can persuade Congress to acknowledge the reality that this is, unavoidably, a world of risk.