Sunday, December 31, 2023

No Kidding, AMCITs Often Engage in 'Client Aggression' At Consular Hardline Windows

In the halcyon pre-Inman days of embassy security there were no physical barriers at all between Consular Officers and their clients, whether foreign or domestic. "Hardline" walls, doors, and especially windows started to be introduced around 1985-ish, often to furious opposition. 

Those of us who implemented the new requirements had only one reliable ally, and that was the low-level officer who had to sit behind the new windows. The bosses often railed against those windows - which, in fairness, had problems that were yet to be solved, such as poor sound transmission* - but I noticed that the poor officers who had to sit behind them were silently grateful. 

Now, as to AMCITs versus foreigners, any experienced Consular guy that you asked back then told you that the worse threat came from AMCITs. That was so true that when we didn't have the security money to install hardline glass at every consular window at a given post, we prioritized installing it in ACS sections, because those were often the only places the staff had been physical threatened and/or assaulted. 

Being a numbers guy, I researched this phenomenon with CA/EX in order to document the incidence of assaults on Consular Officers - "client aggression" was the term back then - and justify prioritizing security resources on ACS sections. It was counterintuitive maybe, but easily provable, that THAT was where the threat was.

* About that poor sound transmission, consider that office equipment located behind the hardline in those days, especially printers, was incredibly loud. Consider also that there were no privacy booths for most interviews. Add just the slightest touch of deafness on the part of the officer conducting an interview, and you got this kind of thing: "What? Eh? Tell me again, only louder, about all the personal stuff that compels you to come here today, and please disregard the rows and rows of your fellow foreigners who are sitting just feet away from you on that side of the hardline. Now proceed."

Are Self-Interested Domestic and Foreign Parties Spreading Dis-Info About You? That's A Job For Miss Dismal!

This whole mis, dis, and mal information problem just keeps spreading. Now it's the Taliban who are suffering from malicious parties spreading 'wrong' information about them. 

"Welcome to the party, pal," as they say in my favorite New Years Eve movie. [As a public service, please be aware that if you start that movie at exactly 9:58:13 tonight, you'll see Hand Gruber drop off Nakatomi Plaza and hit the ground at midnight. Better than the Times Square ball drop!]

Someone should let the Taliban know that we in the USA have developed robust countermeasures against just such wrong information. I confess to being a little unclear as to exactly who it is who defines 'wrong' from 'right' (and patriotic!) information, but once that wrong stuff is identified we have no end of mysterious and inextricable official justice that we can sic on those malicious parties, be they foreign or domestic. 

Click on the Miss Dismal link to learn more.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Harry Dunn Case Sequel Gets Off To a Slow Start But Shows Promise

It isn't the biggest international extradition case, but it's the only one we have right now, and it might yet offer a few tricky plot twists. 

Today a little bit of news came out on the matter of that American driver who left the UK before he could be charged in a traffic accident, all of it attributed to an interview with the driver's father.

Firstly, no one should ever talk to a hostile news media, any more than he should (voluntarily) talk to the authorities. I hope the father in the case will get that message. But, from what he said today we can confirm a few facts that were only hinted at weeks ago when this first became news.

The driver, Issac Calderon, is a private citizen who was working on a contract job in the UK - not further identified - which he obtained due to the security clearance he had been granted as a member of the Texas National Guard. He was released from that job after the traffic accident, leaving him unemployed in the UK. 

His former employer provided him a ticket home, possibly in accordance with whatever terms of employment he had with them. That employer is potentially a major party of interest in this case, if the accident occurred while Calderon was driving on company business, and especially if the employer owned the vehicle he was driving. If that is so, then there must be a UK insurance company involved, you might assume. 

Moreover, the driver was left indigent in the UK, having been released from his job by the time he got out of medical treatment for a concussion and other injuries. That puts a new spin on his decision to leave for home on 25 November rather than wait for a court appearance on 1 December. With no job and no money, was he supposed to live on the street while going through the UK's legal process? 

Here's the gist of the story:
The father of a US citizen who left the UK after being charged with causing a mental health nurse serious injury by dangerous driving has pleaded for donations after the FBI contacted the family about “extraditing him”.
Issac Calderon, 22, is accused of being responsible for a car crash in July which left 56-year-old Elizabeth Donowho unable to walk for six weeks.
Calderon was due to appear at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court on December 1 following the incident on the A4103 near Shucknall in Herefordshire.
He was labelled a potential “flight risk” by police, but was able to leave the UK on a commercial flight to Texas on November 25.
A fundraiser has since been set up on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe by the suspect’s father, Manuel Calderon, in which the family are asking for 15,000 US dollars (£11,760) to help with legal fees.
Calderon’s father said the suspect was able to return to the US because “the company that contracted him purchased him a ticket”.
Manuel Calderon said his son, whom he called “Isac”, had been offered a contract job in the UK “due to his security clearance with the Texas National Guard”.
-- snip --
Calderon’s father said his son still has problems with concussion and a fractured humerus following the collision.
In his plea for donations on the crowdfunding page, he said: “My son was released from the contract job shortly after and could no longer support himself in the UK.
“He reported this to the court but they were not concerned with his financial problems. “My son was able to return home because the company that contracted him purchased him a ticket.”
-- snip --
Mr Calderon continued: “My concern for my son was for his wellbeing since at that time he had no funds and still needed his injuries to be looked at.”
Here are some FAQs regarding extradition courtesy of the U.S. Justice Department. It sounds like the process can get very prolonged, what with separate judicial and executive phases to be completed before the final decision is made by the SecState. 

And that SecState has quite a bit of latitude since, according to this publicly available source of information, he "may consider issues properly raised before the extradition court or a habeas court as well as any humanitarian or other considerations for or against surrender ... [and] also will consider any written materials submitted by the fugitive, his or her counsel, or other interested parties." 

Hum. Assume for a moment that all the UK tabloid gossip about 'activities coming under the Official Secrets Act' isn't complete nonsense after all. Were the SecState to find that some U.S. national security interest would be implicated by a trial of Calderon, he would then have to weight that in the balance against the non-fatal injuries done to the British motorist, which hardly rise to the level of serious international crime, after all. 

Throw in some humanitarian concern for our unemployed and convalescing Texas National Guardsman, plus practical consideration of the UK insurance settlement that we may presume to have been made to the victim, and who knows if he might not decline extradition?

Anyway, there would be enough of an argument there to fuel a good old rousing social media circus. 

Saturday, December 23, 2023

A. Blinken's Surprisingly Direct Statement: Why Does Virtually No One Demand Hamas Surrender?

Everyone would like to see this conflict end as quickly as possible. But if it ends with Hamas remaining in place, and having the capacity and the stated intent to repeat October 7th again and again and again, that’s not in the interests of Israel, it’s not in the interests of the region, it’s not in the interests of the world. And what is striking to me is that even as, again, we hear many countries urging to end this conflict, which we would all like to see, I hear virtually no one saying, demanding, of Hamas, that it stop hiding behind civilians, that it lay down its arms, that it surrender. This is over tomorrow, if Hamas does that. This would have been over a month ago, six weeks ago, if Hamas had done that. And how can it be that there are no demands made of the aggressor, and only demands made of the victim? So it would be good if there was a strong international voice pressing Hamas to do what is necessary to end this. And, again — that could be tomorrow.

I have to say that I have strange new respect for our SecState after hearing that short statement. No equivocating there, no hedging, no 'constructive ambiguity' about his meaning.  

There's probably a story there about how that text got drafted and cleared before he delivered it. What parties in State and the White House agreed with it? Who tried to water it down? Who thought it didn't go far enough? 

That will all have to wait for his memoirs, I suppose.


Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Remake Is Never As Good As The Original (Disappointing Review For Harry Dunn Case Sequel)

You may have seen the news about another car crash in England in which an American driver injured a local citizen. Despite the UK news media's best efforts to make some drama out of it - as in, the driver is 'associated with secret services,' was on his way to visit the SAS base at Hereford, and doing work that might be covered by the Official Secrets Act - all of that is complete bollocks. There's nothing to see here, folks. It's a bland traffic accident.

The only interesting thing about the case is that the driver returned to the U.S. after he was released from hospital, resulting in an arrest warrant being issued for him when he failed to show up at his court date.  

This isn't a case of Harry Dunn redux, with all sorts of interesting matters involving diplomatic immunity, international politics, Britain's Small Man Syndrome, and the ability of social media to make people lose their minds. No, this one is just about a 22-year old private citizen in the UK on a work visa for a job of some kind (TBD) on a U.S. base of some kind (also TBD), who will in due course be rendered back to England to face criminal and civil penalties for injuring, seriously but non-fatally, a fellow motorist. 

Here's as good a news article as any with the few details that are known with any reliability, plus all the baseless speculation and heavy-breathing insinuations of deep, dark, U.S. government skullduggery that the tabloid media, aided by the Dunn family's buffoon of a spokesman, can invent. 

The latest twist in this unremarkable tale is that the UK media have tracked the driver down to the wonderfully named town of Humble, Texas. 

By the way, the original cast of the Harry Dunn Story will get together one more time for the curiously late inquest into his death, which seems to be lightly penciled in for next June. See more on that here. I'll be there with bells on.

Friday, December 1, 2023

"Secretary Anthony Lincoln" Visits Jerusalem, According to U.S. Embassy Jerusalem's Facebook

Okay, his name is "A. Blinken," and I suppose that does present opportunities for screw-ups, but that one screw-up is particularly choice. 

Abe Blinken?

'Gold Bar Bob' Menendez Switches Lawyers, Plus a Co-Defendant Eats Some Cheese

Senator Robert Menendez's legal troubles increase. From the WaPo:
Now The Post can disclose that one of Daibes’ former business partners, who was also a Menendez donor, has been cooperating with Manhattan prosecutors since February 2022, four months before the raid.
Please read the whole article, since it describes a New Jersey nest of organized crime that rivals The Sopranos

Given today's news about a rat, my least favorite corrupt public official might well be channeling Paulie Walnuts: “How much more betrayal can I take?”


Friday, November 10, 2023

From Kindergarten Plays to GoPros on Home Invaders, It's All a Performance to HAMAS

Hamas has many fewer allies these days, but at least it can still count on the western news media to play the sympathy card for them. Of course, that focuses almost exclusively on the children in Gaza. A smart decision, considering how often the adults of Gaza cannot resist the urge to be openly monstrous in front of a camera or microphone.

See, for example, these recent stories about Gaza's children by NPR, the NYT, and the BBC

But here's a question you don't hear much about those kids. Where does Hamas get adult men who will commit the most horrible atrocities imaginable against defenseless victims and even live-stream themselves in the act? A large part of the answer must be that they are the product of a society that raised them from childhood to do just that.  

Take the military summer camps, for instance. When they aren’t getting anti-Semitic classroom material in UNWRA schools, they can take in some fresh air along with instruction in small arms.   

It's never too early to start tomorrow's monsters out on the right course. Here's a video of a Gaza Kindergarten graduation skit from May, 2018, one apparently posted to the internet by a proud parent, in which those adorable tykes enact invading Israel. Note that at the end they take a hostage back to Gaza - that's a very important element of the drama.   

Those little cuties will be around ten years old now, and so – probably – are still too young to have participated in the pogrom of four weeks ago. Give it time. They are the future. 

We’re constantly told that Hamas does not represent Palestinians, despite it having gotten most of the vote in the only election Palestinians ever held, and contrary to all the data gathered by opinion polling. 

Frankly – and I say this after reflection – even the worst of Hamas' troops seem to represent its population quite well. The abominable monsters who committed those atrocities four weeks ago did not rise up out of nothing. They were the kindergarten kommandos of 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, now live-streaming it and still making their parents proud.

Maryland Wins the Race For FBI HQ, But FBI Director Calls a Foul

Director Wray is blowing his whistle for all he's worth, even sending a message to FBI employees yesterday.  

He's presenting his objection to the Greenbelt site as one to the process and transparency of GSA's decision, and, for the moment at least, not raising the practical objections to locating a new HQ some distance away from the places the FBI needs to visit daily in order to do its business.
Throughout the selection process, the FBI coordinated closely with GSA with a clear focus on what’s best for our workforce, the mission, and the American people. Paramount for us were fairness and transparency in the process. In the course of our work with GSA, however, we identified concerns about a potential conflict of interest involving the site selection authority and whether changes that individual made in the final stage of the process adhered to the site selection criteria. Despite our engagement with GSA over the last two months on these issues, our concerns about the process remain unresolved. 
-- snip -- 
Congress initiated the site selection process, so, moving forward, it will control the next steps. For our part, we will continue to be clear about our process concerns, even as we work with GSA toward the design and construction of a facility.

Note the reference to "changes that individual made" to the site selection criteria. According to news reports yesterday, the individual is a former Metro employee who is now a political appointee at GSA, and that may implicate a conflict of interest because Metro owns the Greenbelt site that GSA will now purchase. 

Or anyway, they'll now purchase it if Congress appropriates the very considerable funds necessary. Wray's veiled reference to Congress tells us where this conflict is headed next. 

Putting the new FBI HQ in Greenbelt makes no sense at all - I mean, not unless you own the site, or would collect revenue from land development there. The FBI officials who'll work at that HQ need to be close to the DOJ, relevant U.S. Courts, Congress, and the existing FBI and assorted other USG facilities they need to visit, all of which are in DC and Virginia.

And then there are the political realities, starting with the fact that the House of Representatives is normally where appropriations must begin, and the House right now is, ah, not favorably inclined toward the FBI or its Director. Furthermore, Washington is now entering an election year, and that destabilizes everything on the legislative agenda.

At best, Congress will table the FBI HQ project for another year. Or maybe the Republican majority will start another oversight investigation, this time partnering with Director Wray to tag-team the GSA and Biden Administration. It looks like they could find plenty of red meat there for a good old election year scandal, and one with the strategic advantage of turning the FBI against the White House.

Or even, and it takes an effort to control myself as I imagine this option, that Republican majority could go ahead and appropriate the millions to buy the Greenbelt site just to screw over the FBI for decades to come by saddling them with the worst site option that's on the table. 

As Robert E. Lee once said of war, it is well that partisan politics is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.   

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Kinky Friedman and One Of His Best Problematic Song Titles

The first time I heard a song by Kinky Friedman and his country band, The Texas Jewboys, it was on a college radio station. Those were the only stations that would play They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore because it contains language the FCC does not approve for airplay. In fact, it probably includes almost all the language the FCC does not approve for airplay. Look it up, if you dare. 

But the Friedman song I like most, and the one most appropriate to this occasion, is Ride 'Em Jewboy.

Talk about haunting images! "Now the smokes from camps are rising, see the helpless creatures on their way" ... "dead limbs play with ringless fingers" ... "How long will you be driven relentless around the world" ... "rounded out and made to move along." You get the point.

There is a lot more energy in his 1970s' Austin City Limits performances, which are easily found on YouTube, but that slower 2020 performance at Echo Hill really suits this song.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Force, the Last Resort of Nations (Mitigated By Good Manners If You're Lucky)

"Life-saving shipments." Okay, but let us be clear that what is coming to HAMAS in Gaza is about life taking, fundamentally, and there will be little scope for humanitarian considerations until that war is concluded.

Don't take it from me, take it from one of the finest judicial minds this country has ever produced.    
"I believe that force, mitigated as may be by good manners, is the ultima ratio, and between two groups of people who want to make inconsistent kinds of world I see no remedy except force." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Holmes knew about force and irreconcilable conflict, having served as an infantryman in the Civil War where he was wounded three times. At Antietam he was shot through the neck and left for dead on the field, one of 23,000 casualties in that single battle.

Be prepared to see Civil War-size casualty numbers once the Israeli Armed Forces really tear into HAMAS. Let the IDF mitigate that reality by abiding with the laws of war, to whatever extent those good manners may apply to a sub-state adversary, but realists should expect to see a nearly-Carthaginian peace imposed on HAMAS in Gaza.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Conflict to be Known as The GoPro War.

I like the slow roll-over that is performed at the end of this clip by the HAMAS troop who was wearing the camera, that accidental videographer of his own death. 

There are hours of these clips on the internet now, from both sides. No modern conflict has been so intensively covered by body- and helmet-worn cameras. 
It's only forerunner is Blog del Narco, that gem of citizen journalism that provides both sides of the Mexican drug wars. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Be the One Holding the Rifle

True in any kind of interpersonal violent conflict, but so much more true when it's a woman confronting HAMAS terrorists. 

That said, those HAMAS-ites don't look so dangerous when they are in ones and twos, it seems to me. Their whole terror thing might depend upon them having overwhelming numbers. Indeed, the two in the photo look quite tame and submissive. 

However poorly they may perceive women in general, they evidently respect that 5.56mm carbine when a competent troop is aiming it at them.

It's Called 'Shock and Awe' When We Do It

HAMAS' Own Clips Show How Attacks Began; @manniefabian Credit

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Nikki Haley's Old Curtains Become an Issue Again

Bottom Line Up Front, as we now say on memos: Nikki Haley was not responsible for ordering expensive curtains for the - very expensive - UN Ambassador's official residence back when she was our UN Ambassador.

The old accusation, which is based on a 2018 New York Times story that was later dialed back to remove the insinuation against Haley, came up this week to liven up the Republican candidates' debate. 

See Fight Over Expensive State Department Curtains Animates Sedate GOP Debate:
Nikki Haley and Tim Scott got into a heated exchange Wednesday during the GOP presidential debate over expensive curtains the State Department bought for the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Haley called Scott’s allegation that she bought them “bad information.” She maintained that they were already there by the time she assumed the position of U.N. ambassador under former President Donald Trump.
Haley then told Scott to “do your homework,” saying that the Obama administration was actually who bought them.
For more on the curtains and the residence, see see this 2018 post

Senator Menendez Takes Corruption to a New Level

(Photo from the indictment)

It's all fun and games with this public corruption stuff so long as it stays with gold bars and sweetheart deals for halal meat imports, but Menendez crossed the line when he compromised the security of official personnel overseas. 

See this section of the Justice Department indictment of my least-favorite corrupt public official (here):
As part of the scheme, MENENDEZ provided sensitive, non-public U.S. government information to Egyptian officials and otherwise took steps to secretly aid the Government of Egypt. For example, in or about May 2018, MENENDEZ provided Egyptian officials with non-public information regarding the number and nationality of persons serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Although this information was not classified, it was deemed highly sensitive because it could pose significant operational security concerns if disclosed to a foreign government or made public. Without telling his professional staff or the State Department that he was doing so, on or about May 7, 2018, MENENDEZ texted that sensitive, non-public embassy information to his then-girlfriend NADINE MENENDEZ, who forwarded the message to HANA, who forwarded it to an Egyptian government official. Later that same month, MENENDEZ ghost-wrote a letter on behalf of Egypt to other U.S. Senators advocating for them to release a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt. MENENDEZ sent this ghost-written letter to NADINE MENENDEZ, who forwarded it to HANA, who sent it to Egyptian officials.
Mind you, Menendez was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he sent that information to the Egyptian government. He had previously abused that position to badger an ambassador into reversing a consular officer's refusal of visas to the girlfriends of Menendez's business partner and biggest financial contributor, but hey, that's just boys being boys, amiright

Compromising the security of embassy employees is, well, what's another word for traitorous?

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Recognizing the WWII Code Girls at Arlington Hall

You State Department people employees of the foreign affairs department of the Washington DC area's largest employer might already know this, but the former women's junior college known as Arlington Hall - which was seized by the U.S. Army in World War II, then passed into State Department control in the 1980s and is currently the location of the Foreign Affairs Training Center - was the place where enemy codes were broken and their military signal traffic was read during the war, making one of the greatest contributions to victory over the Axis nations. What's more, after the war code breaking continued only now directed at the Soviet Union.

Whenever I've visited FSI over the years the lack of a plaque or memorial or historical marker of any kind to recognize those codebreakers always bothered me. Well, now at least they are being recognized by the naming of a new on-site coffee shop. 

You may have seen the Department notice that went out earlier this week:
Join us as we officially dedicate our new on-site coffee shop as the Codebreaker Café in celebration of the heroic contributions of women codebreakers, as well as other notable contributions made to protect our nation, during World War II.
On the campus of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), the Codebreaker Café provides a panoramic view of Arlington Hall, which served as the top-secret home of U.S. codebreakers during World War II. It stands as a tribute to the courageous individuals who worked in secrecy to help shorten the war, saving countless lives.

"Saving countless lives," yes. More pointedly, breaking into Axis codes saved Allied lives by enabling the destruction of Axis forces, so this wasn't exactly a peaceful enterprise. And not all the code breakers of Arlington Hall were women, but about 80 percent were, so it was predominantly a female effort.

There's a bit more local Arlington history on Arlington Hall, and a good book about the Code Girls that has a broader focus. 

Enjoy your coffee the next time you're at FSI, and spare a thought for those Rosie the Riveters who worked with pencil and paper to help win our conflicts on the battlefields of the world. 


Sunday, September 10, 2023

Alabama School Suspends Six-Year-Old Boys for Playing Cops and Robbers

Read it here: 6-year-old suspended over cops and robbers game

This news takes me back quite a few years to my PTA days. While discussing with an elementary school Principal a similarly ludicrous bit of overreaction to a boy who had draw a picture of a gun, I attempted a little reductio ad absurdum by asking whether the boy would have been guilty of having cigarettes in school if he'd drawn a pack of Marlboros instead of a gun. 

At least, I thought that was taking the question to an absurd level. However, the Principal actually took it seriously and, after thinking it over, said something like 'it would depend on the circumstances.' 

So actual adults - school administrators - told these Alabama kids, in writing no less, that they had been in possession of guns in the form of their index fingers and thumbs. Those fools were playing pretend a whole lot harder, and with much more consequence, than the two boys were.  

I blame postmodernism for this. When all is subjective and relative, when the very concept of objective truth is thrown out the window, we are all just playing games and pretending. The adults no less than the six-year-olds. 

Honesty, I'd put the children in charge of the teachers if I could. They'd be no less fanciful than most school administrators today and a whole lot less cowardly and calculating.  



Saturday, September 2, 2023

Search For Four Billion Dollar [!!!] New FBI Headquarters Near Completion (Maybe)

The three most important factors in real estate are location, location, and location equity. What? Yes, that's what the competion for a new FBI site has come down to: whether the site is close to key locations of FBI business, and how many minorities of which particular kind might end up with some bucks thrown off from that sweet, sweet, land development deal. 

That scoreboard favors Virginia over Maryland, since it has all the locations and also antes up with a heavily Asian community in its Springfield location. Maryland has the equity part but no locations. Plus, the Virginia location is already owned by the USG so its procurement would be essentially free. Even for government business, free is a very good price. 

Here's the news story from yesterday: New FBI headquarters announcement expected soon

A decision over the future FBI headquarters could be announced in coming weeks, the News4 I-Team has learned, capping off years of discussions over the fate of the dilapidated J. Edgar Hoover building in downtown D.C. 
A three-member voting panel, comprised of two General Services Administration employees and one FBI employee whose identities are secret, are evaluating three suburban sites: Greenbelt and Landover in Maryland, and Springfield, Virginia. 

"The commander in chief of our country has said that he believes that equity ought to be a part of all of these selections, including this one,” Alsobrooks told News4, pointing to President Joe Biden’s two executive orders on “advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities” through federal agencies. 

The majority Black county has two potential sites under consideration: the former Landover Mall, owned by the Lerner family that also owns the Washington Nationals baseball team, and the Greenbelt Metro. If selected, the headquarters will go in part of its parking lot. The third option is near Springfield and Franconia in Virginia, on warehouse property currently used by the GSA. 

Alsobrooks argues Fairfax County already has its fair share of federal property and said now it’s her county’s turn to benefit. 

"What we're talking about is how we use taxpayer dollars to create job centers, to also create economic opportunity,” she said. 

Fairfax County Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said the people who live near the potential Springfield site deserve that opportunity, too. 

"This community also reflects a ‘need’ community,” he told News4. “This is not Great Falls. This is not Tysons. This is not McLean. We're looking at a totally different community." Census data shows Springfield is a majority minority community with its largest minority group -- at nearly 30 percent -- identifying as Asian. It has a median household income of $109,000. 

Landover and Greenbelt are also majority minority communities, with 70% of the Landover community identifying as Black, with a median income of $64,000, and 45% of Greenbelt residents identifying as Black, with a median household income of nearly $76,000. 

Like Alsobrooks, Lusk said plenty of his constituents would benefit from a new FBI headquarters and all the ancillary businesses that could thrive around it. According to data provided by Lusk's office to News4, his Franconia district is also majority minority, with about 22 percent of the population identifying as Hispanic and 19 percent identifying as Black. The same data show about 20 percent of households there earn less than $50,000 a year. 

"We've got to try to elevate. We can try to help these residents get into positions that are going to pay them a more competitive wage and salary,” he said. “We want to move them into the middle class." 

Equity is just one of five criteria under consideration. The others include transportation, cost to acquire and build, site development flexibility and the site's proximity to places like the White House, Department of Justice and Quantico

Three of those criteria – transportation, equity and cost – are worth 20% of a location’s portfolio. The site’s development flexibility is worth 15%, and its proximity to Quantico and other “mission-related locations” is worth 25%. 

That last criteria has proved its most controversial, however, dividing lawmakers from Maryland and Virginia when the GSA first announced the location criteria was worth 35%. 

"My response was: ‘That's a fix there. There's no way Maryland can be closer to Virginia than Virginia is,’” recalled longtime Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland

In response, Maryland called a press conference that included its entire delegation. Virginia doubled down with its own presser, but to the commonwealth's disappointment, the GSA eventually lowered the percentage to a quarter. 

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine called the change a mistake. 

"I wish they hadn't done that, because I think that suggests that it's a little more political than it is on the merits,” he said. 

The government warehouses on the Springfield site would need to be torn down before the new FBI location is built – something Alsobrooks said works in her county’s favor. 

Both she and Hoyer estimated the cost of relocating those buildings to be several hundred million dollars or more. By contrast, she said, “Prince George's … is shovel ready today." 

But Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, among those pushing for his state to win the site, pushed back on that idea. 

"The idea that somehow a site that's owned by the federal government would cost more than developing a private sector site just doesn't pass the smell test,” he said. 

The new building is expected to cost upward of $4 billion. 

FBI leadership unsuccessfully lobbied for its headquarters to remain in downtown D.C. and is expected to keep a smaller office of roughly 750 to 1,000 workers in the District. 

A senior FBI official told News4 that, no matter which location is chosen for the next headquarters, the FBI is committed to “fairness and transparency” in the process.
I have never been more impressed by our elected representatives! If you check a map, you will find out Steny Hoyer is indeed correct that Maryland cannot be closer to Virginia than Virginia is. Geography is destiny, and cruel, as Napoleon could have told him.   

And Virginia's Don Beyer showed his business smarts when he pointed out a free site is cheaper that one you have to pay for. He comes from a car dealership dynasty, after all, and it shows!

So, that $4 billion project will be decided by a calculation that includes location and equity. Virginia wins if the scoring committee gives it two Ls and one E, and Maryland two Es and no Ls.

Whichever way it goes, the losing side will probably go to court. The horrendous Hoover Building will continue to be a blight on the Federal Triangle for many years to come, I'm sure. 


Friday, August 25, 2023

Senator Menendez is 'Justice-Involved' Again and Loving It

(Imagine this in Shirley Bassey's voice)
Old Swinger,
He's the man, the man with the "bribe me" touch,
a grifter's touch,
Such a U.S. Code 18 swinger,
Beckons you to forget his conflicts of 'in'trst,
and don't convict!
I'll say this for my least-favorite corrupt public official: his many money-grubbing schemes and close escapes from the law do make for colorful reading. 

The New York Post has the latest installment here, in a story that strings together a fortune in gold bars, a New Jersey IHOP, a proposal in front of the Taj Mahal, a deadlocked jury, an imprisoned Medicare swindler, the overturning of a consular officer's denial of visas for a political contributor's personal 36DD immigrant program, and a front company set up by a politician's wife who was facing foreclosure before becoming suddenly and inexplicably rich. 

I mean, it's all so ludicrous that you could almost be tempted to give the crook a pass in return for his giving us so much humor. But then, you remember he's a U.S. Senator and, really, it's not a laughing matter. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

State Owns an Italian Rifle Range? Yes, Soon to Be ConGen Milan

The current issue of State Magazine - in-house publication, but available here to all our valued taxpaying citizens - has a piece on one of State's new consulate design projects, and it's an intriguing one since that new diplomatic premise will be an adaptive reuse of Italy's former national firing range.
"Few cities match Milan’s style, sophistication, and financial clout. A world city on a par with Los Angeles or Mexico City, Greater Milan’s ten million people and its strengths in commerce, design, education, finance, and media make it a leading European Union hub. Milan was the seat of the Western Roman Empire and later ranked among the great cities of the Renaissance. Today, Milan is culture and taste, business and fashion, art and elegance."
Exactly so! Culture and taste, business and fashion, art and elegance, are just what come to my mind when I think of my good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations

Specifically, it is OBO's cultural heritage staff that are taking the lead on this one. Bene per loro!
"OBO’s Office of Cultural Heritage produced a short film about how the United States is building a consulate general in Milan that will integrate classical Italian architecture and American design in a grand act of cultural diplomacy. The film can be seen here."
Please watch the film, and be aware that an unusually intelligent thing is happening here. For once, instead of going straight to the option of building a big ol' forbidding Fortress Embassy, we are using an existing structure that is of importance to our host government and adapting it to our use. That's a win-win for ourself and our host.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Tragedy Tour of the "Non-Profit Industrial Complex"

“The tour will start at City Hall, and continue through Mid-Market, the Tenderloin, and Union Square,” the webpage for the event says. “We will view the open-air drug markets, the abandoned tech offices, the outposts of the non-profit industrial complex, and the deserted department stores.”

The non-profit industrial complex? That's a new expression, to me anyway, but I love the concept. I assume it applies to the 'harm reduction' NGOs that have instituted euthanasia with box lunches for the city's thousands of drug addicts, making them comfortable until they take their final overdose.

 I hate what's become of San Francisco, but I love the blame-fixing of that expression.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Seriously, What is Wrong With Him?

FBI = Funding Backlash Immiserates (Virginia and Maryland Pols)

So there will be no $$$ billions coming out of Congress this fiscal year to pay for a new FBI HQ, or so it seems today.

That causes me no grief at all, since it is perfectly clear - to me, anyway - that the current downtown DC location is exactly where the FBI should remain, albeit in a new building to be built on the site of the current disastrous Hoover Building. 

As for "petty politics" and "political interference," the esteemed Representatives who are wailing about that today are the first ones to use the power of government without a second thought when they are in the majority. Today it's the other side that has the whip hand, and they are using it.

If the FBI wants the Republican majority to fund their relocation, they might try not pissing that majority off, as their Director did yesterday, and see if that helps.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Have We Ever Asked for the Return of Howitzer Shells? Would We Know How?

I have read in the news media that the U.S. has already supplied Ukraine with over two million howitzer rounds, but they continue to need more at the rate of seven, or eight, or nine thousand rounds a day (numbers vary depending upon the particular source you read). 

Are they really firing that many? Are some being diverted elsewhere?  

The Ukraine howitzer business has put me in mind of a scene in a very good although overlooked movie about the early years of our involvement in Vietnam. See the whole thing here: Go Tell the Spartans

The particular scene starts at 1:12:22 and runs to 1:15:45. In it, an American Major played by Burt Lancaster makes a subtle offer to oversupply a Vietnamese Colonel with howitzer shells in return for his artillery support to an American outpost under siege. 

He pitches an immediate air supply of 500 rounds from an American depot, followed by 1,000 more to be delivered later by truck convoy. 

[Vietnamese official seeing an opportunity]
It would take four or five days for the truck convoy to bring the shells from the American depot. That could conceivably be too late for their use could it not, major?
[Burt Lancaster]
Could be.
In such a case, the American depot would desire the return of the shells, would it not?
[Lancaster, astonished]
In the whole history of the United States they've never asked for the return of anything, be it guns, money, boats, or howitzer shells. They wouldn't know how to ask for the return of anything. If they did, it would screw up the bookkeeping and everybody in Washington would have a goddamn nervous breakdown.
You tell the colonel if he gets his hands on the ammo, it's his forever.
Has anything really changed other than the sheer numbers of rounds involved?

For Your Use and Enjoyment: Howitzers 101

Not for nothing is field artillery known as the King of Battle.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

U.S. Transfer of Cluster Munitions Undermines "International Opprobrium of Their Use" - Human Rights Watch

That gets to the heart of the matter. Both Ukraine and Russia have used cluster munitions over the eight-plus years the conflict has gone on, but that doesn't make much difference to international law on the subject. What nation that has them has not used them at some time or other? We certainly have

The U.S. has not signed on to the ban treaty, but about all of our coalition partners supplying Ukraine with weapons have, The UK, for instance, is a prime supplier of 155mm howitzers, the artillery piece that can fire those cluster shells we will now send. 

If an American cluster round is fired in a UK howitzer, does that constitute a treaty violation of the UK's part? I don't know, but at the very least that situation seems certain to raise a political argument. 

Saturday, July 8, 2023

A Brief Primer on Cluster Munitions

"The devastation and destruction of [155mm cluster rounds fired by howitzer] is almost beyond belief ... That is the munition of choice on the battlefield."

So yesterday President Biden pulled the lanyard on supplying Ukraine with cluster munitions from our war reserve stocks of 155mm howitzer rounds, and much political posturing ensued. (Lanyard? That's a little arty jargon I threw in there for the dwindling number of Americans who have served in ground combat forces.)

Cluster munitions were his choice for the Ukrainian battlefield, but by no means do all Democratic politicians or Progressive voters agree with bringing quite that much devastation and destruction. Objections based on international law are the least of it, really, compared to the threats posed by dissident Representatives on, say, the House Defense Appropriations and House Armed Services Committee.  

You can read about those disagreements here: Top Dems break with Biden over sending cluster bombs to Ukraine.

Much more to come on this before the dust and shrapnel settles over there.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

You Can Double Your Money

In our latest national game of Clue, should you guess that it was Col. Hunter in the Library with the Glass Pipe that did it, and if it turns out you were right, odds-makers are offering some sweet deals.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

FBI = Forever Battling the Interstates

As you may know, the General Services Administration is trying to replace the horrendous FBI headquarters, the Hoover Building, with a new one to be located in either northern Virginia or Maryland. 

Lots of money is at stake with such a large project, and that question of site selection has set up a squalid competition between the governors and legislators of the two states to trash-talk each other while elbowing their way to the top of the trough. 

Well, there are some decisive site selection considerations which are purely objective and empirical, and first among those considerations is location, location, and location. That brings us to the latest twist in the site selection competition. 

This week the FBI released data that documents the obvious: i.e., that the various key locations FBI agents need to frequent are all located in Virginia, not Maryland. Read it here: FBI Provides Data On Trips To Quantico As GSA Considers New HQ Site.

Here's the money quote: 
The new June document, titled “New FBI Headquarters Site Selection Plan: Background Information on FBI Mission Requirement Criteria,” stated that evaluation of site proximity to FBI Quantico has been a key consideration throughout the process of choosing a new headquarters site “because the FBI’s law enforcement and national security operations will always rely on physical responses and in-person interactions.”
Distances matter when surging to a command post, responding to a WMD event, meeting to review evidence and build a case, or driving to Quantico for hands-on training or joint exercises,” the FBI said in the document. “From a time-savings and environmental perspective, it is meaningfully important to limit the need for the FBI workforce to spend several hours in a car commuting back and forth between locations.”

Maryland, give it up. Your proposed sites were never serious contenders. At this point you should drop out in the overall interests of the government and then hit GSA up for some tasty consolation prize.   

Friday, June 9, 2023

Assange Update: UK High Court Found No "Properly Arguable Point" in His Appeal of Extradition


I swear I post these Julian Assange updates more because I like the update theme song than because I care at all about the pallid Assange.

Well, according to CNN today:
A High Court judge in London has denied Julian Assange permission to appeal an order to extradite him to the United States, where he faces criminal charges under the Espionage Act.
The decision was dated Tuesday and is the latest in a years-long legal saga. His camp told CNN on Thursday that they will lodge a new appeal next week.
In a ruling dated June 6, 2023 and seen by CNN, Mr. Justice Swift said Assange’s application had been refused stating that “none of the four grounds of appeal raises any properly arguable point.”

After 12 years of more or less self-engineered confinement, first in the Ecuadorean embassy and then in his present lockup, Assange may be, at least in some theoretical sense, fractionally closer to actually being delivered to the U.S. for trial. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

"Liberals Now Love the FBI! (Some Do, Anyway)"

I just finished a great biography of J.Edgar Hoover by historian Beverly Gage. The most striking part of it was the clear continuity of Hoover's practice of waging political warfare against his social adversaries, be they Martin Luther King, Jr., or the KKK, and the practices of today's FBI as detailed in the Durham report

Here's the gist of it from an interview (here):

Gage: COINTELPRO is the most notorious program of Hoover’s tenure as FBI director, although it was not publicly known during his lifetime. COINTELPRO stands for Counterintelligence Program. And what the FBI meant by counterintelligence was not just surveillance of activist groups, but active disruption and harassment measures. The FBI would use things like threatening anonymous letters or fake press articles making fun of the Black Panthers or other groups they viewed as threats. They even had cartoonists at the FBI who would draw fake cartoons. They would get those published because they thought it would really upset people in the organizations that they didn't like. 

This part of “counterintelligence” involved disruption tactics not aimed at ever bringing anyone to court or even getting information for the files, but getting movements and organizations and leaders to fight with each other, to factionalize, to kind of collapse from within. We have famous examples of what the FBI did to Martin Luther King Jr. or to the Black Panthers. The FBI was very involved in watching and trying to create disruption in the Panthers around the time of the May Day protests in New Haven in 1970 [during the murder trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale]. They were using these tactics on student activist organizations, the New Left, and others. 

But one thing I don’t think people know is that the FBI was also doing that sort of thing to far-right organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi organizations. Not with the same energy and enthusiasm as they were always applying to the left, but they were doing it. 

From a more pointed interview with (here) we get to this large and rather obvious observation about current politics:

MICHAEL BRENES One of the more interesting aspects of your book is that you show how liberal Democrats aided Hoover’s rise and hold on power. Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Hoover to FBI director at the height of the New Deal; Bobby Kennedy disliked Hoover but still, in his own words, “deferred to him” many times; Lyndon Johnson and Hoover had a limited friendship that led to the “greatest political alliance of [Hoover’s] career,” as you write. Why did American liberals enable Hoover? What are the connections between American liberalism and the growth of the national security state? 

BEVERLY GAGE Hoover’s close relationship with liberals — and with liberalism — fascinated me as I worked on the book. Though Hoover was appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation (forerunner of the FBI) in 1924, it was really Franklin Roosevelt who gave him much of his power. 

Under Roosevelt, FBI agents expanded their role in federal law enforcement, becoming the great heroes of the New Deal’s War on Crime. During World War II, they expanded again, this time into a national domestic intelligence force. Roosevelt also taught Hoover how to sell the FBI’s work to the public. Both men believed that the work of government was not self-evident, that the American people had to be shown and taught to have faith in federal power. 

Lyndon Johnson embraced Hoover, too. In 1964, he exempted Hoover from mandatory federal retirement at the age of seventy, a key decision that allowed Hoover to stay in power throughout the critical years of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Throughout his presidency, Johnson used Hoover in a variety of ways — often to contain the Civil Rights Movement, on occasion to empower it. The most outrageous FBI operation of the 1960s, its campaign of harassment and surveillance aimed at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., took place with Johnson’s knowledge and support, even if Johnson did not necessarily know every detail of what the FBI was doing. 

We might think of Hoover’s relationships with these liberal titans as strange or anomalous, because we know Hoover best for his conservative social views. But it makes sense that figures like Roosevelt and Johnson, famous for their ambitions and their willingness to use the power of the state, would admire a skilled state-builder like Hoover. Those relationships also highlight the ways that liberals in power have often been suspicious of the Left and have supported efforts to contain and discredit left-wing groups. 

MICHAEL BRENES During the presidency of Donald Trump, we saw a curious faith in the FBI’s ability to create democratic outcomes, to deliver us from Donald Trump. Robert Mueller was treated as a savior by mainstream liberals. How do you explain the recent embrace of the FBI as an institution that can serve American democracy? After all, faith in the FBI to stop Trumpism occurred while the organization was surveilling protestors during the 2020 George Floyd protests and pondering the use of spyware to hack mobile phones — tactics that echoed back to Hoover’s era. And what does this tell us about Hoover’s legacy for American politics? 

BEVERLY GAGE Liberals now love the FBI! Some do, anyway. Polls show that Democrats on the whole are now far more supportive of the FBI than Republicans are. Most of that has to do with Trump, of course. But it’s also a reversion to an earlier period in FBI history, when liberals admired and empowered Hoover — and for some of the same reasons we see today. Though Trump is the key point of contention, defenders of the FBI now point to its designated role as an objective, nonpartisan, investigative force loyal to the facts and to the law — the most noble part of the FBI’s history and traditions. Of course, today’s liberals may be making some of the same mistakes that mid-century liberals did: In supporting the FBI, they may be ignoring possible excesses and abuses. That’s one of many areas where Hoover’s example ought to be instructive. 

Absolutely true. Liberals now - and not for the first time! - love the FBI. 

I say we ought to keep Hoover's name on any future FBI headquarters building as a reminder of how his spirit fills the institution, and apparently always will. 

And by all means carve this 2016 exchange between FBI big shots into the facade: “He's not ever going to become president, right? Right?! No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” 

Nothing better conveys what Jacobin called the left's "faith in the FBI to stop Trumpism." 

Some people who aren't paying attention found it shocking that a senior FBI official would express extreme animus for a presidential candidate and make it his official business to prevent that candidate's election. But Hoover would have approved. 

Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division Peter Strzok was simply following in the footsteps of his many predecessors who had done the same to all of their enemies from the anarchists of 1919 to the civil rights movement and the New Left of the '60s. 

'Stopping Trumpism' was in the highest traditions of J. Edgar Hoover.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

My Local Congressman Targeted in Baseball Bat Attack; Lessons Could Be Learned

The attacker was not wearing a MAGA hat, so most commentators were caught flatfooted at first. Their second reflex was to blame this on a rising tide of attacks on politicians. However, it looks like this was a more mundane incident, and not one of much political use, so I'd give it two days max before it disappears from public consciousness. 

The suspect's father gave the news media some interesting information (here) that clarifies his son's motive and mental state.
Pham’s father, Hy Pham, told the Washington Post his son was schizophrenic and had dealt with mental illness since his late teens. Hy Pham told the newspaper he had been unsuccessfully trying to arrange mental health care for his son.
In May 2022, a person whose name and community of residence matches Xuan-Kha Pham’s sued the Central Intelligence Agency in federal court. In a hand-written complaint, the plaintiff alleged the CIA had been “wrongfully imprisoning me in a lower perspective” and “brutally torturing me with a degenerating disability consistently since 1988 till the present from the fourth dimension”.
Delusions of persecution involving the CIA, or the U.S. government more generally, are quite common among schizophrenics. Way back in 1993 there was a shooting outside the CIA's entrance (here), after which there was a major security risk assessment which included research into the risk to government offices from mentally disturbed persons. 

It turns out that a very large percentage of diagnosed paranoid schizophrenics have delusions of persecution that could motivate attacks on government offices and persons. So that's a known risk, against which any government office can mitigate by keeping up a mild level of visitor screening and access control. 

Here's a hint: if a visitor at your congressman's district office door is holding a metal bat, and you are not organizing a softball fundraiser, then it would be a great idea to have a substantial door you can lock by pushing a button. 

After the Paul Pelosi attack Congress provided its members with a small budget for additional security measures. For a change, maybe they'll spend that on physical barriers like a door that will withstand a bat instead of on CCTV cameras which are useless against violence.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

National Museum of American Diplomacy Presents My Good Friends From OBO

Ben Franklin was on his own to find a place to work in Paris, and so were his fellow ambassadors until the Foreign Buildings Act of 1928 created a legal authority for State to own properties abroad. 

Now, there are so many diplomatic properties abroad - in every country but Iran and North Korea - that State has a Bureau to manage them, and a program to protect our cultural heritage in embassy art and architecture.     

If you'll be in town around noon on May 18, please consider coming to the NMAD for a presentation on the history of diplomatic architecture. 

(p.s. That funny round building is our embassy in Dublin.) 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Deadbeat Dad Goes to Court, Political Repercussions May Follow

Somebody rode on Air Force One and all I got was this lousy T-shirt 

"Email correspondence between then-Deputy Secretary of State Blinken and Hunter Biden shows that meetings were set up by Blinken using his personal email address instead of his government address." 

Oh? We haven't heard the last of that, I'm sure. From the Washington Examiner:
On May 22, 2015, Hunter Biden asked Blinken to get together to get his "advice on a couple of things," in response to which Blinken set up a meeting using an AOL address instead of his address. At the time, Hunter Biden had been working for over a year on the board of the Ukrainian energy giant Burisma. 
[Representative] Wittmann had asked Blinken in December 2020 if he was aware at the time that Joe Biden’s son was serving on Burisma’s board, and Blinken replied, “To the best of my recollection, I was not.”
Maybe those emails will refresh his memory. 

By the way, concerning the mother of that adorable four-year old, I had been under the impression - based on news accounts - that she was a stripper when she encountered the POTUS's son, but that is not correct. 

Texts retrieved from that abandoned laptop of Hunter Biden's show that she was employed by Rosemont Seneca, Hunter’s own firm, and so presumably in a capacity that required clothes. 

She might be missing a workplace harassment angle in her legal campaign to pry some of his millions loose from Hunter.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

This is Why Normal People Hate Politics

Well, there is more than one reason for that, of course. But exactly that cringey fawning beyond-embarrassment-and-maybe-even-self-awareness tone of puppy-love for a politician is alone enough to make regular people hate politics.

What does it take to make a man debase himself like that? What could possibly be in it for him that would outweigh the contempt he must feel for himself? 

Potomac Fever is a disease that strikes not just presidential candidates but also the long, long, trail of moochers and sycophants that follow in their wake. That is just sad. 


Tuesday, April 18, 2023

NJ Senator Menendez is 'Justice-Involved' Again

According to NBC News today, my least favorite elected offical, New Jersey's Senator Menendez, is under federal investigation again, for public corruption, again. 

Campaign finance records show Menendez's campaign has spent about $200,000 to pay two law firms as well as a document search company. 

Sources familiar with the matter have previously said that Menendez has been under criminal investigation in connection with a Weehawken meat company, IS EG Halal, that won an exclusive contract with the government of Egypt. Several sources have said owners of that company have given expensive gifts to the senator’s wife in the past. 

Investigators have sent out dozens of subpoenas, with sources familiar with the matter saying they are looking into whether Menendez used his position as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee – which oversees $2 billion in aid to Egypt – to help the New Jersey company get the exclusive contract.
The last time the Justice Department prosecuted him he escaped justice due to a deadlocked jury. Maybe he'll be that lucky again.

Newly Upgraded White House Fence Defeated by Infant Intruder

So, for lovers of trivia and minutia, can you guess how actual security design professionals determine how close is close enough for the spacing of pickets in a high-security fence? 

Hint: the human head is the most irreducibly small element that an intruder has to push through an opening. No matter how skinny a body may be in all other dimensions, the adult head can't get smaller.

How large is that typical adult head, and how would you know? Sample hat sizes? Conduct experiments? Survey your friends?     

Thanks to the U.S. taxpayer, none of that is necessary because the motherlode of body measurement data comes to us from the U.S. Defense Department. If you are prepared to be suitably impressed, go to page 478 at the linked report and check the head measurement known as the 'bitragion breadth.' 

That's the smallest head dimension relevant to a picket fence. An intruder must get that front width of his head through an opening if the rest of his body is to follow. 

I urge you to really appreciate the scientific legitimacy of DOD's anthropometric data. Go deep into the dork forest of sample sizes and standard deviations. 

Thanks to that good work, we can say with a high level of confidence that 5.5 inches of clear opening distance between the pickets of the White House fence is enough to stop nearly all intruders (not counting infants, of course), without being ridiculous or unaffordable. 

A tip o' my government hat to whoever worked on that project.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Biden Reaches Out to Republicans - Not That Kind!

Amid the expected gaffes and flubs of an overseas POTUS trip, Joe Biden topped himself today by posing for a selfie with Gerry Adams, the former President of Sinn Fein and someone who, while definitely not the political front man for a terrorist group, you understand, exercised quite a bit of influence with the 'hard men' of the IRA Army Council. 

The two have met and done grip-and-grin photos together a couple times before. Way back in 1993 Biden lobbied the Clinton administration to issue visas to Adams and his close colleague Martin McGuinness and allow them to visit the U.S. over protests from the UK. 

McGuinness, unlike Adams, made no bones about being the IRA's chief of staff during some of the worst of the IRA's campaign against the British. 

The IRA war may be over now and all that, but you have to wonder how our British allies see that friendly gesture.

Friday, April 7, 2023

NPR Gets Owned By Elon Musk (Our Biggest Taxpayer)

He who pays the piper calls the tune, and fewer and fewer people are listening to NPR these days whatever tune they play. 

Listenership is down from its pandemic peak of 30 million a week to the current 9 million, according to Pew Research. Digital media must be the only thing keeping NPR afloat these days, even as it cancels programs and makes major layoffs

Maybe that 'listener-supported' money will make up the $30 budget gap NPR is facing. Oh, that reminds me - This post was made possible by the Winston and Muffy Wellborn Foundation, creating a more just, diverse, and equitable world by tax-sheltering a small part of his Robber Baron great-grandfather’s trust fund bucks. I hope that helps. 

Amid all that fiscal trouble, now comes the new post-Elon Twitter labeling NPR as state-affiliated media to NPR's great dismay. So great that NPR is currently refusing to use its Twitter account. 

Maybe Twitter is just doing its part in fighting mis-dis-and mal information in social media. Homeland Security can't carry that whole load by itself, so thanks, Elon, for policing your own corner of the internet. 

The argument for calling NPR state-affiliated is the federal appropriation of $525 million in tax money that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting got this fiscal year. That's up from the usual appropriation of $490 million. 

NPR’s website says that federal money is "critical" to its radio operations, so maybe it is not entirely crazy to call NPR state-affiliated. They aren't making their way without government money, after all. The very words national and public are heavy hints at the least. 

The case against applying that label is in Twitter's published definition of state-supported, which excludes "government funded operations that exercise independent editorial control, such as the BBC (sic)." I add the "sic" because the BBC is entirely funded by its government via mandatory license fees charged to any British person or organization using any type of television equipment. The BBC is independent of its owner? Get out of here.  

That definition needs a reality check if anyone believes there can be independent editorial control when a media outlet is dependent on a government for its funding. NPR itself states “Federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public and its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR.” Critical for its continuation = dependent upon. 

NPR appears to be allergic to simply reporting that $525 million figure, since when they disclose their funding they dance around the total amount by breaking it into several categories. Nevertheless, the critical role of federal funding is clear from this NPR explainer on its financing:
Federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public and its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR.
Public radio stations receive annual grants directly from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) that make up an important part of a diverse revenue mix that includes listener support, corporate sponsorship and grants. Stations, in turn, draw on this mix of public and privately sourced revenue to pay NPR and other public radio producers for their programming.
These station programming fees comprise a significant portion of NPR's largest source of revenue. The loss of federal funding would undermine the stations' ability to pay NPR for programming, thereby weakening the institution.
Elimination of federal funding would result in fewer programs, less journalism—especially local journalism—and eventually the loss of public radio stations, particularly in rural and economically distressed communities.
After all that pleading NPR really ought to admit the state-affiliated label, and just be happy they aren't called state-owned.


Update as of 4/9/23: NPR is now labeled "government funded media." Further update: NPR still hasn't refused any government funding. 


Thursday, March 23, 2023

A Familiar Three-Act Dramatic Structure is Playing Out In Manhattan

Manhattan DA Bragg is playing his part to perfection:
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) for the first time on Thursday addressed a claim by former President Trump that he would be arrested in connection to an investigation into a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, calling it the creation of a “false expectation” (here).
You've probably seen it before.

Act 1: "We've got Trump at last! He'll never wiggle his way out of this one!" 

Act 2: Trump effortlessly wiggles his way out of this one. 

Act 3:


 This is even better than the old Roadrunner vs Wile E. Coyote cartoons.