Venezuela is personal, yet distant, for me. By the time I was in boarding school my old 3rd grade teacher in the American elementary school run by Creole Petroleum Corporation, Miss Ryan, had married a tall, handsome and very bright MIT graduate, Mr. Trinkunas. He apparently was born in the Baltics or his parents were born there and his family like many in war-torn Europe in the late 40’s perhaps saw opportunity in Venezuela.

I was back on holidays in the early-to-mid 70’s and my younger brother had a new, much younger playmate who he happily bossed around on the playground facing our home on Plaza Escuela, a cute chubby kid with blonde curly hair and a beaming smile. His name was Harold and he would wander into our home from time to time to be grabbed by his mother, (Miss Ryan as we would still call her and then say: sorry Mrs. Trinkunas) and brought back home next door. What was it like growing up a gringo in an oil “camp” in the 60’s and 70’s in Venezuela? More like The Wonder Years than you would suspect, crossed with a Venezuelan Soap Opera from the 70’s or 80’s where the maid is yelling at everyone in the kitchen.

But we were a dwindling bunch by then, a few dozen families in a sort of gated community of several hundred homes for upper middle-class Venezuelan engineers, doctors, and managers. Nationalization was a year or two away and had been decided on years earlier after the Perez Jimenez regime fell a few weeks before I was born. Venezuela had taken control of its resources, become a force in OPEC, and overseen an astonishingly smooth transition, unlike the far more abrupt or even violent politics of oil in Mexico and Southern South America.

In a peaceful, sandy playground my younger brother and Harold played and invented and laughed and then our families went their ways, us up to Canada and the Trinkunas remained in the country for some more years apparently.

Moses Naim, an ex-Cabinet Minister from around 1990, has written an article for Foreign Affairs titled Venezuela’s Suicide. In it he compares the country now (a few months ago when he wrote the article in other words) with its status in the early 70’s when it was among the top 20 countries in terms of GDP per capita. Personally, I am a little doubtful of those statistics knowing full well that poverty was very much a problem even in Venezuela’s so-called golden years, but I’ll take Naim’s word for it. Naim places the blame squarely on Chavismo and its insane economic policies, but even he is forced to admit that the problem existed before Hugo Chavez’s presidency and before the two attempted coup d’état’s (or golpes de estado perhaps we should say). He writes:

“The drivers of Venezuela’s failure run deeper. Decades of gradual economic decline opened the way for Chávez, a charismatic demagogue wedded to an outdated ideology, to take power and establish a corrupt autocracy modeled on and beholden to Cuba’s dictatorship. Although the crisis preceded Chávez’s rise to power, his legacy and Cuba’s influence must be at the center of any attempt to explain it.”

But that can be a problem. It is irresistible to place all the blame on Chavez’s socialism and not think more about Venezuela’s history. Especially the country’s history before foreign capital and foreign workers arrived on the scene around WW I and transformed what had been a politically unstable, and economically impoverished nation with more than its share of political violence. The process by which that occurred, of course, has been fodder for both Latin America pan-nationalists and socialists and third-world advocates of all sorts. That’s because there have been 3 key tyrants in the 20th century history of Venezuela:

  • Juan Vicente Gomez who was from Tachira the Andean state near the Southwestern border with Colombia and who allowed in foreign oil companies in the years leading up to WW I, on terms some have criticized as too lenient and who died in 1935.
  • Marcos Perez Jimenez, who climbed to power following an overthrow of the democratically-elected Accion Democratica in 1948 and who held power until early in 1958 and presided over a period of growth and development but with a fairly brutal police and security force.
  • Hugo Chavez – the third tyrant who in a sense was a return to Venezuela’s past, (as now Dr. Trinkunas has pointed out). An elected strongman who led the country into the new century and who followed the electoral and political rules until he was able to create his own and drag Venezuela into Cuba’s orbit, winning admiration and praise from the progressive elites around the world.

The point about Venezuela isn’t that socialist policies are expensive and often lead to far greater corruption than that found under capitalism. We’ve had most of the 20th century to give us countless examples of that. It’s how Venezuela in the decades after nationalization was unable to move beyond a primary producer and was unable to solve the problems of poverty that have always troubled the country and now have reached epidemic proportions. And from whose ragged and impoverished ranks many of Chavez’s supporters came.

And Harold Trinkunas? He followed his father to MIT but apparently politics rather than engineering was his field and he is now a well-known expert in defense and security issues, especially those concerning Latin America and Venezuela, having taught at the Naval Postgraduate School, and having been resident scholar at various institutes. In Foreign Affairs he writes the following:

“The United States was correct to cooperate with the Venezuelan opposition—the Maduro regime has shown itself unwilling to negotiate in good faith with the opposition in recent years, even when external mediators such as the Vatican were involved. But Washington has chosen a risky path. By escalating with Maduro, the Trump administration has raised the possibility of misperception and misunderstanding leading to inadvertent conflict, especially given how little the U.S. and Venezuelan governments understand and respect each other.

Aggressive U.S. action will also run the risk of splitting the international coalition now backing the Venezuelan opposition and could also turn the situation into a U.S.-Venezuelan conflict rather than an effort to restore Venezuelan democracy. The latter would allow Maduro to fall back on the rhetoric of anti-imperialism and would provide an excuse for his allies—particularly Russia but perhaps also China—to continue offering their support. But even if the United States avoids this particular pitfall, Russia and China will undoubtedly see events in Venezuela as part of a new Western strategy to undermine their authoritarian allies and client states. They will develop countermeasures, and these will be unpleasant.”

With all due respect to Dr. Trinkunas, if countermeasures by China and Russia impede America from taking decisive action regarding Venezuela, we might as well hand over foreign policy in Latin America to Beijing and Moscow. Which in some ways, America already has by being unwilling – understandably of course – to escalate to the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis in response to Putin and Chavez and now Putin and Maduro’s growing military ties. Dr. Trinkuna is right that things will get unpleasant, to put it mildly, and Juan Guaidó may very well end up under house arrest, or worse. Much worse. But America had to act and take sides against Maduro, something the rest of Latin America has been loath to do precisely because of fears of being seen as siding with the United States. Maduro is playing the American-intervention card for all it’s worth, but it’s a faded and dirty little trick that even many Latin Americans are a little tired of supporting.

And so, yes, America will soon have to choose how to respond to what will almost surely be violent attacks on Guaidó and the rest of the opposition (assuming that bribes to the opposition fail) by a military narco-kleptocracy. It will not be easy choice, and an invasion would likely be the wrong course of action. But this was an unavoidable choice, albeit filled with risks. America had to face this choice one way or another.

Let us hope and pray that the growing number of Venezuelans killed by their own security forces will be kept to a minimum and that a transition is possible without full-scale civil war.

Because Maduro’s regime does not even rise to the level of hard-left socialists. They are mere criminals. Drug running, kleptocratic thugs the lot of them. But they, like everything nowadays, are also a symbol of Latin American independence. A poisonous, perverted, and corrupted symbol. Everyone in Latin America knows that, but they can’t quite admit it out loud. Maybe, just maybe, however, we’re getting closer to that moment of self-truth.

Let us hope so.

While Venezuela’s Maduro presides over a country that is collapsing into its own rubble of criminality and in which the National Assemby has declared his presidency illegitimate, and while President Trump and Speaker Pelosi duel over the State of the Union Address, it’s easy to forget about Mueller’s probe.

Byron York at the Washington Examiner once again has reminded us that the probe is still ongoing and that Democrats are signaling that if Mueller doesn’t deliver actionable results, they will launch – and are launching – probes that point directly to their goal: impeachment. Here’s Byron York:

Many Democrats are deeply, emotionally committed to resisting Trump. Sixty-six House Democrats voted to allow impeachment articles to move forward a year ago. Now, with the House in Democratic hands, and after another year of media-hyped Trump-Russia allegations, there’s no reason to believe Democrats would abandon the Russia issue regardless of what Mueller does.

It should be surprising, if not astonishing, that the reaction to the Mueller probe’s stating that the Buzzfeed article was “not accurate” was: to hell with Mueller, we’ll do our own probe. It’s not surprising in the least, of course, and just makes it plain and clear that Mueller is seen by the opposition as a method of removing Trump from the presidency. And that the opposition has always viewed his probe as such.

Opposition, not just Congressional Democrats like House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff. For example, General Michael Hayden and former Obama Solicitor General Neal Katyal penned an op-ed that states:

The recent statement by the special counsel’s office disputing the BuzzFeed article itself highlights the need for a congressional investigation. The BuzzFeed article alleges that Trump ordered Cohen to lie to Congress. Congress of course is the entity with the most at stake when it comes to such a crime. No entity is better poised to find the truth and reveal the facts to the American people.

The president and his advisers have tried already to block the government from investigating these questions. They have criticized special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as engaged in a “witch hunt” and attacked Cohen as a “rat” and a liar. Trump’s lawyers have threatened to assert executive privilege to block answers to Mueller’s questions and threatened to block release of Mueller’s report. A senator has indicated he won’t pursue the interpreter’s notes due to executive privilege. All of this points to a severe danger that, absent an investigation into impeachment, there will be no process to ferret out the truth and report it to the American people.

Note the phrase: investigation into impeachment …

This is the man once in charge of America’s intel community and the former DOJ official who represented the federal government before the Supreme Court. And they are saying that if a multi-million-dollar, multi-year investigation by a high-powered team of prosecutors with enormous latitude to subpoena witnesses and investigate any possible thing that basically strikes their fancy does not produce the outcome we wish (that is, does not lay the basis for impeachment) then Congress will have to investigate. That is, this 116th Congress with its Democrat House majority will have to investigate and produce the necessary evidence to proceed with impeachment.

Trump and all the crazies were right. The Deep State is out to get him and no one’s making up any excuses anymore. It’s plain and simple. Anything that leads to impeachment will do.

It seems that more than few commentators are not that miffed about the cancellation of the State of Union Address courtesy of Speaker Pelosi. The attitude among many conservative and libertarians seems to be: good riddance to the spectacle. Yes, I agree it’s a bit like the Oscars, if you’re one of those people (like me) who no longer watches them or only occasionally blips by them when they’re on. But I insist that the State of the Union does have a purpose and its cancellation for petty, partisan reasons is a shame and quite different from the reasons that many conservative commentators give for returning it to its Jeffersonian form of a written report delivered to Congress.

But now we have the next move in the battle of the border. And I must admit my reaction to Trump’s response upon reading the headlines was a loud laugh. Here’s how President Trump’s letter to Speaker Pelosi opens:

Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure that you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate. I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown. Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.

Look. Trump’s the guy, that without intending to, got a room full of belly laughs at the UN last September, so please forgive me if I guffawed heartily when reading about Nancy’s ruined jaunt to Europe, Egypt and to Afghanistan. Sometimes a good belly laugh is quite a healthy thing.

Yes, this is ridiculous. This is petty on a grandiose scale. This has become Gatsbyish pettiness, worthy of a great American novel. Tom Wolfe couldn’t write this. And if someone did write this, the editors would ask them if they could just please make it a little more realistic because for goodness sake, revenge in Washington doesn’t work that way.

It does now.

So, one has to ask: what sort of damage did President Trump do to the process of government and governing in America by cancelling Speaker Pelosi’s chartered flight to Europe, Egypt and Afghanistan? Aside from the fact that the latter is where America’s longest war – a war with precious little victories to show for billions in treasure and thousands in American lives – has been fought for the last 17 years, what was the purpose of the Speaker’s visit?

The Daily Beast has a piece that treats Pelosi’s trip as reverently as if it was Nixon heading to China or Reagan to Reykjavík:

For more than three weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her staff had quietly planned an international trip to Brussels and Afghanistan to check in on America’s longest war. Like most congressional delegations—“CODELs”—it was time-consuming work, involving coordination between numerous agencies, stakeholders, and international officials along with extra security briefings because of the danger of the destination.

Pelosi’s chief of staff worked with a liaison from the U.S. Air Force who was the lead in setting up travel arrangements and the itinerary for the trip. Senior officials at the Pentagon also had been read in on the speaker’s plans, especially those regarding her visit to war-torn Afghanistan, where extra security was needed for her time in Kabul. Two senior officials on the ground in Afghanistan said they received the itinerary for the trip, as they do other congressional trips, weeks in advance and held it close to the chest. Fellow members of Congress made similar accommodations as they prepared to accompany the Speaker on the CODEL.

Yes, you need to plan a little to make sure that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is safe and secure when going anywhere, especially where islamic terrorists would delight in assassinating her. But often these Congressional Delegations are undertaken to provide the soundbites for policies or positions they’ve already put in place back at home. While flustering low-level Pentagon officials might be a little rude, it is hardly a dangerous thing to do to keep the plane on the ground and Nancy at home unless she pays up for commercial.

Who can guess where this goes now? Nancy will be furious and desperate for her revenge in this increasingly personal battle (it’s been personal since Trump won the nomination, but this is on another level of animosity now) that’s about blunt hostility and polarized bases braying for blood.

But just for a moment, it was great to laugh. We now get to go back to the bickering and plotting. Oh yay.

This past Friday, the NYTimes revealed that the FBI started a probe on Trump’s possible collusion directly with the Kremlin back in 2017. Of course, no evidence of such collusion – especially of any direct links between Putin and Trump – has been found as of yet, but process crimes that are dubious at best in the case of Mike Flynn, and tax fraud by former associates/sleaze ball Paul Manafort and his second in command Rick Gates have been filed.

But consider the motivations for the FBI opening this probe (apart from the Mueller probe). In a CNN-politics piece back in December they open with this leading paragraph:

In the hectic eight days after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and top FBI officials viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment at the time.

In other words, because of Trump’s policies and his style of governing, (this occurred less than 5 months into the new administration’s term in office), he needs to be reined in. And who amongst the Resistance would in fact disagree with this? Beneath the faux astonishment at what had been normal political procedures in a transfer of power, (until Trump won the election), was the hostility and even hatred of Trump and his ideas. And this hostility was directly translated into an abuse and overstepping of any reasonable bounds of the FBI’s mission and scope of authority. What business is it of the FBI to rein in any president? The mechanisms are in place and they’re in Congress. Not in the president’s own executive branch of power. As The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway puts it:

Mueller engaged in a limitless “Russia” probe that has rung up countless Trump affiliates for process crimes unrelated to treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election, and spun off various investigations having nothing to do with Russia in any way.

The latest Times report does provide more detail than these earlier reports, however, and none of it makes the FBI look good. In fact, it provides evidence of a usurpation of constitutional authority to determine foreign policy that belongs not with a politically unaccountable FBI but with the citizens’ elected president.

The evidence of this is everywhere and they’re not even bothering to hide it anymore.

And Mueller’s probe has gone from one zealous assault to another, often inventing new crimes in the process. But that’s what prosecutorial power is like in today’s world.

Consider, Mueller officials have apparently leaked details to The Daily Beast about a breakfast meeting in late January, 2017, a few days before the new administration was to assume power. The crime? Hard to say, but because it was held at the Trump Hotel in D.C. and involved various foreign dignitaries, there seems to be an intent to resurrect the emoluments clause strategy, a dubious legal claim when it was first proposed.

And for The Daily Beast it was an opportunity to attack Devin Nunes for having the temerity of being there. They admit several paragraphs in that he is not being accused of committing any wrongdoing. But they linger on the fact that Mike Flynn was at the meeting. Yes, the new National Security Advisor generally meets with foreign dignitaries a few days before he assumes office. It’s called a transition of power.

But what we now have is the Mueller probe looking into who paid for the inaugural process. Here’s The Daily Beast:

The breakfast has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan as part of their probe into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent funds and if donors tried to buy influence in the White House. The existence of that probe was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Special Counsel’s Office is also looking at the breakfast as part of its investigation into whether foreigners contributed money to the Trump inaugural fund and PAC by possibly using American intermediaries, as first reported by The New York Times. Robert Mueller’s team has asked Flynn about the event, according to two sources familiar with the Special Counsel’s Office questioning.

The reasons for Mueller’s probe keep changing. But the target has always been President or Candidate Trump and how to ensure he didn’t reach the White House and once he reached the White House, how to try and ensure that he would be impeached. Here’s Mollie Hemingway concluding her piece in The Federalist:

In sum, the framing of this New York Times article is either poorly conceived or outright disingenuous at every turn. Using the completely lawful and constitutional firing of the bumbling Comey as pretext for opening a criminal investigation into the president is a grand abuse of power by the FBI. Attempting to overtake the authority to determine U.S. foreign policy from the lawfully determined president of the United States is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

For one of the nation’s largest newspapers to suggest that this makes the president — and not the FBI — look bad actually validates two of Trump’s biggest complaints: the media are hopelessly biased, and there really is a “deep state” out to overturn the 2016 election.

I’m not sure anything in the Mueller report will change minds on either side of the issue. And it’s a seemingly similar dynamic playing out over the Border Wall fight: what was acceptable before Trump is immoral in the case of the border wall, or treasonous in the case of the Mueller probe, if Trump’s administration is involved.

Hostility towards President Trump is fraying the constitutional order in America. Not good.

In some ways Ed Buck is your classic over-achieving baby boomer. He was reportedly born in 1954 as Edward Buckmelter in Ohio, came out as gay to his parents in 1970, worked as a fashion model and bit actor in Europe, bought and sold what appears to have been a courier company, making millions in profits, and also became a liberal political activist, making his mark in 1987 with a campaign to impeach Arizona governor Evan Mecham. He’s run for office and has since become a reasonably substantial donor to Democratic candidates or officials.

Especially in California, where he has contributed to former Governor Jerry Brown and LA mayor Ed Garcetti, along with others like Kevin De Leon and the state’s AG Xavier Becerra. You can add Ted Lieu and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer to the list along with LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey. These last two on the list are proving especially relevant in the last few days (and since the summer of 2017 as a matter of fact).

That’s because there’s another side to Ed Buck it seems that is slightly less positive to put it politely.

Dead men have been showing up at his home in Laurel Canyon. And California and LA officials have done diddly squat up until this week.

This is sordid stuff, but because men’s lives – vulnerable, impoverished, often younger, and often black men – have been lost, the details must come out. Right now what we have are sources who were close to Buck at some point or close to some of the victims telling their stories, as well as some diaries of one of the victims. So we have to be careful but what has emerged so far is appalling. As one victim’s, (Gemmel Moore who died of an overdose in 2017), supporter graphically put it:

You see somebody black going up there, you need to come outside and say ‘Don’t do it, don’t go up there.’ Because this is literally like a real life Get Out movie. Somebody’s got to warn them.

Those are the words of Jasmyne Cannick who’s apparently a community activist and has been a supporter of Gemmel Moore’s family in seeking the truth about his death. She has a lot more to say in her interviews for the Daily Beast’s piece on the deaths:

Cannick claims Buck lures men to his apartment for dangerous sexual encounters. She says she has uncovered evidence from Moore’s journal and from other men who say that Buck promises money to people and then injects them with crystal meth for his own gratification.

She then goes on to hammer California’s politicians and DA’s for their complicity in this mess:

I’m not surprised, none of us are surprised. We said that Jackie Lacey [L.A. County district attorney] is going to have blood on her hands and the sheriff’s department is going to have blood on its hands.

This man has had two dead bodies in his house and he’s still in his house. The fact that Ed Buck is a prominent Democratic donor should concern us all.

He spreads his money around to get access and influence into these powerful circles and we need our party to say no, no longer. I’m out here just as a black person I’m outraged, as a Democrat I’m outraged.

He needs to be arrested, he needs to be sent to county jail with no bail, he needs to be charged and then he needs to be convicted and sent to prison. Not just for the person who died today, but also for Gemmel Moore’s death. It wasn’t thoroughly investigated.

This is clearly a case where the lives of those men (one young the other older) clearly didn’t matter. The evidence so far is diaries and apparent conversations with other victims who survived, but they paint a picture of a dangerous sexual predator who preyed on the vulnerable and seems to have forced meth on them and perhaps other drugs as well.

California can no longer bury the dead in Ed Buck’s Laurel Avenue home. It’s clear that a thorough investigation is needed and hopefully will soon be undertaken, or is already underway. Because of Buck’s connections to major Democrats and to DA’s as well, this could get ugly. But Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean’s deaths demand no less.

Never mind that this was preventable by all accounts, had police and prosecutors listened to several complaints from Buck’s victims who survived an evening with the man.

Yes, if it had been say, a donor to Trump’s campaign, we would have black helicopters with DA’s from every blue state bearing warrants while rappelling down ropes onto the accused’s roof. But this is a handsome, apparently charming, LBGQT activist and major Democrat donor. So, silence until absolutely being forced into a corner, seems to have been the modus operandi.

But this is about more than hypocrisy. It’s about corruption in the Judiciary and how the vulnerable never have the same access to justice. The grand irony is that the vulnerable in this case are precisely those that the GOP is so often accused of ignoring or actively persecuting.

But that irony and hypocrisy is secondary. The main issue is justice for Moore and Dean and for the surviving victims as well whoever and wherever they may be.

The Washington Post’s Daily 202, penned by James Hohmann, tried today to put the focus on another Paul Manafort screw up that may perhaps indicate some sort of cooperation with Russia on polling data. Unfortunately for Hohmann, the sources he quotes actually admit that most of that data was public anyway. Here’s the Daily 202:

“A person knowledgeable about the situation” tells the Times that both Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Trump clinched the Republican nomination: “Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person. Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said.”

Anonymous sources who have at least 2 or 3 degrees of separation from whatever actually happened are telling us that perhaps some of the data was not publicly available. This sure feels like Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS still hard at work feeding pliant journalists to ensure the Mueller probe stays front and center.

Again, Paul Manafort seems to be the type of lobbyist who would do whatever he thought would bring him economic benefit short of commissioning a hit on somebody or planting bombs in apartment buildings to get elected, something Putin is suspected of having engineered back at the turn of the century. But as of yet there is hardly any real clinching evidence that Manafort was looking for Russian help to get Trump elected while at the same time hoping to pay off supposed debts owed to people in Russia.

Is it impossible? Of course not, but let’s wait for the final report.

However, Hohmann seems to have failed in his quest to get the media to maintain the Mueller probe at center stage, because all the buzz right now is about Trump walking out of a meeting with Pelosi and Schumer because of Nancy’s rigid insistence on not a penny for a wall.

The Mueller probe is already a rerun on declining ratings, slipping out of people’s consciousness unless it produces some dramatic evidence.

It’s not The Apprentice. It’s no longer even The Probe.

It’s The Wall everybody.

And the Wall is just a symbol (it’s more than that of course, it’s part of any comprehensive solution to border security but it’s mostly a symbol right now) for deep divisions over what America’s immigration policy should be. Which of course begs the question of what exactly is the Democratic Party’s position on immigration?

But the issue has been ripped out of the hands of politicians who were, on the whole, never that eager to have rigorous application of the law as well as ripped out of the hands of those in business who don’t mind paying cheaper wages. It is now in the hands of hardline activists who like any good radical will continue pushing out the envelope on what constitutes immigration and what rights a sovereign state should have over its borders until the envelope (that is the bundle of rules and regulations that control a nation’s immigration) is a shredded, flapping bit of recycled paper blown along the sidewalks of Laredo.

Trump took on the evasive and hypocritical conventional wisdom on immigration and its economic consequences and was in large part elected because of that. And now he’s facing the hard left who have a vision of borders and sovereignty that is orders of magnitude beyond anything Democrat and GOP Senators proposed a few years ago. So, this fight does truly matter and if President Trump really did mean what he said (despite the inflammatory rhetoric he loves in order to provoke) then he should keep fighting this fight.

Congress is another matter. And independents – as Byron York has pointed out – are also another matter and a key and diminished constituency that he has to convince in order to win the War of the Wall.

Did his speech do that? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fight continues regardless. And that may now mean considering using emergency powers to get the border wall funded.

Which will mean a whole new fight in the courts perhaps all the way up to SCOTUS.

That may not be a bad thing in the longer run. In the shorter run, it will get a little rough, to say the least.

Ok. Who the hell is Paul Whelan?

Yes, he’s undoubtedly a pawn in a blunt attempt by the Kremlin to get Maria Butina – whose arrest and charges are more about Mueller’s grinding, relentless bureaucratic probe than about real espionage on the part of the Russian woman who by all appearances was a lobbyist with fairly close ties to the Kremlin – exchanged for an American. But as more information dribbles in on Whelan, one has to ask once again:

Who is Paul Whelan?

Let’s summarize the information on him (which are hardly facts at this early stage) that’s in the public domain as of right now:

  • He was born in Ottawa, Ontario to British parents. That would be in Canada, last time I checked. That would mean he has Canadian citizenship by birthright.
  • He moved to Michigan as a child where he seems to have been raised, and then served as a police officer from 1988 to 2000, also in Michigan.
  • He then moved into private business, working for Kelly Services in IT and security before and after his Iraq War stint.
  • He served in Iraq from 2003 to 2008: mostly in administrative duties (as a clerk apparently) and was discharged on charges related to larceny. So, while in Iraq, he reportedly stole and was demoted from sergeant to private and discharged in 2008.
  • After returning to work for Kelly Services after being discharged from the military, he at some point began working for auto parts manufacturer BorgWarner.
  • He has built up contacts with law enforcement in various countries as a result of his work in security for Kelly Services and BorgWarner.
  • He is apparently a Russophile with a friends and contacts in Russia where he was visiting as a private citizen in order to attend a wedding when he was arrested in December.
  • He seems to have both a British passport and an Irish passport through his parents. At the risk of being pedantic, Whelan is of course an Irish surname, so his father might be Irish, and his mother English. Both the British and Irish governments have intervened on his behalf with Britain’s Foreign Secretary publicly accusing Russia of playing “diplomatic chess.”

Here’s an ex-Marine dismissed due to larceny who holds 4 passports, has a history in law enforcement and works in global security for a major auto parts company, who was in Russia and reportedly had a USB drive with a list of Russian intelligence officials on it. If this is a set-up, the FSB chose their target well.

Look, maybe Paul Whelan really is just who he says he is, and that USB drive was planted on him by ruthless FSB thugs who are acting on orders from the Kremlin to get a credible hostage to exchange for Butina.

And even if he did have a list of contacts in Russian intel, what crime did Whelan actually commit?

But on the other hand, it is now clear that Mueller’s heavy-handed arrest of Butina has come with a diplomatic cost that far outweighs any benefits Mueller’s own prosecutors thought that her testimony as a collaborating witness would yield.

Butina was arrested for failing to register as a lobbyist, but the prosecutors have framed that failure as a “conspiracy” to fail to register. Which is a case of inventing crimes as you go along in order to pressure people to try and get the results you’re hoping for. That’s bad prosecutorial practice, and even worse diplomacy.

And Paul Whelan gets to pay the price for Mueller’s prosecutors’ missteps.

Not only was Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel at the center of failed Obama-era criminal reform policies (in this case, PROMISE = Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support & Education), but the sheriff also had a far more venal reason for not taking responsibility for the police inaction leading up to, during, and after the Parkland shooting.

According to Real Clear Investigations’ Paul Sperry, Sheriff Israel’s son Brett Israel got off with a 3 day suspension for a violent sexual assault on a 14-year old student. It involved grabbing of genitals and using a baseball bat to simulate sodomy. Two seniors – one of them Brett Israel – were involved in grabbing, kicking and holding down the 14-year old. And sexually assaulting him.

That’s a felony crime, but because of the rules of Obama’s failed experiment with youth crime prevention, Brett Israel, a white privileged kid, got away with violent sexual assault. And guess who administered this travesty as the school’s on-site police officer?

Deputy Scot Peterson.

Yes, the now-retired (on a $8,700 a month pension) deputy who hid behind concrete walls outside the school as Nikolas Cruz went on his rampage killing 17 and wounding many more.

So. A 14-year old suffers a violent sexual assault in 2014 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Deputy Scot Peterson decides not to prosecute the offender for a felony and instead opts for a lesser charge which resulted in a 3-day suspension. And then in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland Shooting, Sheriff Israel allows Deputy Peterson to quickly retire despite the ongoing investigations regarding the shooting. On a full pension. Here’s RCI’s Paul Sperry:

People familiar with the case say Peterson could have referred Israel for felony charges, but reduced the crime to “simple battery,” making him eligible for a leniency program requiring no arrest. “The school district’s disciplinary matrix requires no law enforcement action required regarding the incident,” the deputy wrote.

“A child was sexually assaulted, and Peterson reduced the charges to fit a matrix and report it as information. This allowed the deputy to put it away and not do anything,” said Arreaza, who is suing both Israel and Peterson on behalf of Anthony Borges, a Stoneman Douglas student who survived the massacre, despite being shot five times.

Arreaza said that the same lax disciplinary culture meant Cruz was never expelled or sent to the juvenile justice system despite committing multiple offenses every year throughout middle and high school. Peterson was warned at least twice of the threat Cruz posed as an active shooter but failed to investigate the matter. Peterson had an office on the Stoneman Douglas campus, where he’d been posted for nine years.

Sheriff Israel is defying calls from all sides for him to resign. The Broward Sheriff’s Office Association of Deputies have filed a formal call for him to resign, for goodness sake. His own f#cking deputies want him gone. But with newly elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis about to assume office, he likely will soon be fired anyway.

Justice delayed is justice denied, but at least the sheriff will see some consequences for his appalling leadership in Broward County. Good riddance.