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.