I remember writing about the young girl in grade school who thought her parents were sleeping and was worried about getting to school and getting her homework in to the teacher on time. Her parents weren’t sleeping of course.

They were dead of an opioid overdose.

How do you deal with that? How do you try and prevent the opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year?

It seems you DON’T do what the government has done over the past year or so. Especially the decisions that were taken by ex-AG Jeff Sessions who basically decided that the DEA would be the best qualified agency to ensure that a severe, chronic-pain sufferer’s dosages are adequate. Here’s why the former AG and the government in general have created unintended consequences as a result of their policy prescriptions for the opioid crisis.

They believed the myth that opioid abuse – the heart of the crisis – is essentially a case of patients abusing their pain medication.

It’s not. As Henry Miller and Josh Bloom write in their article in the Washington Examiner:

“True addiction in pain patients is rare. Many scholarly reviews have concluded that the addiction rate is less than one percent even in patients who have required long-term opioid medication for severe pain due to injury or illness. The current death toll from opioid use is largely the result of abuse, not medical use, of these drugs. And yet, as of last October, 33 states had instituted laws that restrict opioid prescribing in some way.”

And this misguided belief has led to true pain sufferers to be deprived of the medication that makes their lives bearable. As Miller and Bloom write:

“Enter the law of unintended consequences. Opioids, including fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone, some of our most important and potent analgesics, which are commonly used in patients with advanced cancer and for pain control after surgery, are now in shortage, according to the Food and Drug Administration. All of these drugs had their manufacturing quotas reduced by the feds
.
Thus, the feds’ actions have succeeded not in ameliorating the scourge of opioid abuse and overdoses, which results from drugs made in China and elsewhere abroad smuggled across our borders, but in unnecessarily causing several other problems. These include a shortage of critical drugs produced by legitimate manufacturers and expanding the market and boosting the street price for illegal, dangerous imports.”

The real problem is twofold:
• People who for a number of reasons are already substance abusers turning to illegally-made, smuggled opioids to get high, and often dying as a result.
• A flood of those illegally-produced and smuggled opioids entering America with China bearing much of the blame as well as both ports of entry in general and the southern border also being responsible for the crisis.

By having the DEA decide what the level of prescription opioids should be, the government is ignoring the complex nature of painkillers and how each individual patient reacts differently, not only based on weight and body mass index but also on other factors like their metabolism which affects how they absorb the painkiller. You can’t impose standardized dosages on patients. And because the DEA is effectively doing that, real pain sufferers are going without sufficient painkillers. Their lives are literally unbearable in many cases.

As Miller (a physician and molecular biologist) and Bloom (a PhD in organic chemistry) argue:

“The decades-long war on drugs, which has never succeeded in controlling abuse or addiction, has now mistakenly declared American drug companies and doctors to be the enemy. In the name of addressing a crisis, we are focusing on the wrong targets and sacrificing freedoms in a new, dangerous way. That’s a prescription for disaster.”

Yes Mr. ex-AG Sessions, there is a moral problem here that’s also a societal problem. Healthy, happy and reasonably fulfilled people don’t take opioids for the fun of it. They have a problem. But the blunt instruments you and the DEA put together don’t even target the real culprits (who are also the victims of this crisis of course). They go after honest patients trying to deal with unbearable pain and the doctors and pharmacists who help them – a few notorious over-prescribers excepted.

Sessions and the DEA mis-diagnosed the problem. But of course, they would. They’re lawyers, bureaucrats and cops. Not doctors. What do we call that?

Quacks, I seem to remember was the term.

As the House passes a resolution condemning a fought-over list of bigotries – including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy – with reportedly 23 GOP members voting no because of the inclusion of Islamophobia and white supremacy in what was originally supposed to be a Democrat-controlled response to Representative Omar’s remarks, there is an interesting idea for a further resolution.

Supreme policy wonk Mark Jacobs (who has burrowed deep and wide into the details of healthcare policy for the GOP) suggests in The Federalist that the GOP use a Motion to Recommit (a procedure whereby the minority in the House gets a final shot at amending a bill brought forward by the majority) to force a vote on the Green New Deal. This would be the flipside of the tactic used last week when the GOP used a motion to recommit to get moderate Democrats to agree to notify immigration authorities when illegals try to purchase guns. Supposedly we all want less guns because they say that means less violence, right? What’s not to like about that?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blew a gasket at a closed-door meeting, according to the Washington Post:

Ocasio-Cortez, the unquestioned media superstar of the freshman class, upped the ante, admonishing the moderates and indicating she would help liberal activists unseat them in the 2020 election. Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said she told her colleagues that Democrats who side with Republicans ‘are putting themselves on a list.’

‘She said that when activists ask her why she had to vote for a gun safety bill that also further empowers an agency that forcibly injects kids with psychotropic drugs, they’re going to want a list of names and she’s going to give it to them,’ Trent said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

So now by using a Motion to Recommit which entails a vote on the Green New Deal the GOP would be appealing to radical progressives in the Democratic Party to vote for the enormously expensive and poorly thought-out plan, and force moderate Dems to decide if they would really vote for this sort of top-down ecological Maoism.

Yes, it’s theatrics and it’s meant to prod and provoke and reveal the divisions within the Democratic Party. But the fascinating question is, how would AOC react? I have an idea it might go something like this:

If you think I’m letting a bunch of old white guys get to decide when and how we save America by banning the internal combustion engine and slaughtering farting cows and selling Amtrak to the Chinese so they can build high-speed trains where our highways once stood, you have no idea who you’re dealing with! This resolution is immoral because of who you guys are. Not because of what it contains! Don’t you guys get it?

That’s the thing about intersectionality. Hypocrisy disappears because it is now irrelevant. You see you can change an idea, or a policy stance perhaps based on evidence that has convinced you to shift your position. Or on the polls and the fact that now your party has the majority. But changing who you are is much harder (and more expensive) to do. And we the identity police will decide who you are. Not you. You don’t even have control of who you are. We do. Ha. Ha.

So, as delicious as Mark Jacob’s idea is, it won’t work. The Democrats who would actually have the decency to be uncomfortable with the blatant hypocrisy of not voting for a Motion to Recommit on the Green New Deal (which will supposedly save us from destruction) are now cowed into silence. It will be AOC and her Gang of Three who will explain why hypocrisy is gone, dead, vanished, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible.

When identity is everything, then hypocrisy is nothing.

Of course, AOC would vote against such a Motion to Recommit without a trace of guilt or discomfort. She’d in fact do it in a bout of righteous rage. It’s all about who she is and the crazed paradises she’s pointing towards, not what she says or how to get there.

It has been suggested that the Speaker of the House is not Nancy Pelosi, it’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And if you could measure the role of Speaker by the amount of words unleashed while actually speaking (or tweeting to be a little more accurate), then it ain’t even close. AOC is House Speaker, threatening moderate Democrats with primary opponents if they ever vote for a GOP measure or add-on to a bill, tweeting furiously and unapologetically and gathering up her cohorts Tlaib and Omar in a sort of Gang of Three who are absolutely and completely and self-righteously sure of the supreme truths of their radicalism.

And it’s working for AOC.

Look at the recent flap over Omar and her supposed tropes about Benjamins (that would be the smiling face of Franklin surrounded by the number 100 on a crisp green surface) and dual allegiances. They were going to have a House vote to condemn anti-Semitism and by extension Omar’s words on the matter, which are not figurative but quite literal in intention and effect.

What did Nancy do?
• Say that she didn’t think the comments were: intentionally anti-Semitic, AND
• Express her doubt that a vote on the resolution to condemn anti-Semitism would actually take place

Here’s what AOC did.

Equate ICE with racism with a tweet that said: If we’re so concerned about implied tropes, why aren’t we concerned about this one? Where was the concern last week when 26 Dems voted for a GOP amendment to expand ICE powers rooted in the racist + false trope that Latino immigrants are more dangerous than US born citizens?

Then she aimed her bazooka at white people in general: When you don’t address them as a system and attempt to pick them apart as though they are distinct and separable issues, eventually the thing that gets advanced is white supremacy + classism.

Come on Nancy, when are you going to get control of these kids? They’re leaving you in the dust of delayed resolutions and broad-tent coalitions that used to bend to your will. Not anymore it seems. When AOC, Omar, and Tlaib (AO²C + T?) go out on a limb and saw it off they don’t worry about what’s below, unlike your own rather timid soul.

You have been exposed Nancy. You are not the sweet assassin like your daughter claims you are. You’re an older (I’m being old-fashioned and polite here) out-of-touch leader who’s desperately trying to figure out how to contain the rabid base that so loves AO²C + T without driving moderates into the GOP camp.

Not an easy task with honorary Gang-of-Three’er Linda Sarsour calling you a typical white feminist upholding the patriarchy doing the dirty work of powerful white men.

Maybe you should consult the Southern Poverty Law Center for some advice. Because it will take a miracle to get AO²C + T to shut up for just long enough to convince voters in rural Pennsylvania or Ohio or moderates anywhere that you still value their views, so you might as well join them, right?

Maybe Pelosi is an assassin and will exact revenge on them. Or maybe Pelosi is becoming like President Paul von Hindenburg outmaneuvered by the Gang of Three’s furious and radical oratory, seeing that Nazi analogies are so useful to the left nowadays, and is about to effectively concede the rule of her party to that radical fringe.

If she hasn’t already.

Here’s an interesting idea put forth by The Washington Examiner’s Daily on Energy. The wild card in this second round of talks between President Trump and Kim Jung Un is coal. North Korea’s coal exports to China, in other words. Apparently, UN sanctions have worked because China has complied with America’s demand that they stop buying DPRK coal. And of course, Trump has reportedly just recently extended the deadline for the scheduled tariff increases on a wide range of Chinese imports, thereby apparently delaying a damaging trade war as negotiations with Xi’s regime continue. Here’s what Daily on Energy’s John Siciliano and Josh Siegel write:

North Korea’s economy depends on coal exports, but crippling United Nations sanctions have cut back its shipments to China — its largest buyer — to zero.

That means that Trump has the option of a concession related to coal in reaching a deal with North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

If Kim Jung Un renounces his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, he gets his coal trade back with China, and perhaps some exchange of expertise between the U.S. Energy Department and Pyongyang.

Trump could also look to patch up the country’s ailing electricity grid through this exchange, or facilitate discussions with American engineering and electricity firms to help rebuild its grid.

The Energy Department has been promoting U.S. energy expertise abroad as part of Trump’s energy dominance agenda, while also touting natural gas exports to countries throughout Asia.

As well it seems U.S. exports of coal to China have soared since the crippling sanctions kicked in, so China hasn’t had to go without the fuel for one of its main sources of electricity, coal-fired power plants. That means that places like West Virginia seem to have been eating Kim’s lunch. And now Trump has a carrot to dangle before Kim’s power-hungry eyes. You give up nuclear weapons, you get your coal exports to China back and we might even help you with your electricity grid, although one would suspect the South Koreans have wanted that piece of action for a few decades now.

The other interesting part to this speculation is how China would react to such tactics by America because if South Korea has an interest in any rebuilding of North Korea if a peace treaty is ever signed, one can imagine China’s interest is as great in maintaining North Korea as a client state and a junior member of their silk road scheme.

The odds of this working out are not overwhelming unfortunately, precisely because such a plan’s success depends on people like Kim Jong Un and President Xi, one of whom is a crazed communist autocrat, the other a ruthless communist leader. Trump – as Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review – was the one whose relentless attacks on China over the past couple of years have actually caused a real China pivot among the foreign policy establishment towards recognizing the dangers of Xi’s regime and its ambitions, even as Trump tries to improvise and keep things on a personal level, often undermining his very own political instincts on the threat China is to America and the West.

Will Trump prove to be the blunt truth-teller on North Korea? Right now, that seems a stretch, because the Kims’ regime has sunk every American and Western ambition of sealing some sort of peace deal or of neutralizing its aggressive and dangerous military projects.

Once again, Trump has the chance to prove his critics and doubters wrong on North Korea. Perhaps a tactic of using coal as a bargaining chip with both China and North Korea could work. There are plenty of reasons why it might not, however. As Democrats turn up the volume on the impeach-Trump show, it would be wise to keep an eye on the meetings in Asia this week.

He sells heroin. He’s a machinist with a vehicle he bought from his deceased father’s insurance policy back in 2012. So, he uses the vehicle – a Land Rover – to drive around and along with whatever else he does with his life, sell heroin in Indiana where he lives.

He makes the mistake of selling smack to some undercover agents and gets busted.

He’s charged and pleads guilty to one count of dealing in a controlled substance and the court metes out the following punishment:

• 1 year of home detention
• 5 years of probation
• Payment of court fees and fines totaling $1,200

The State of Indiana then decided to invoke civil forfeiture and seize his $42,000 Land Rover in order to limit his mobility and curb any attempt at recidivism on the part of the man, who happens to be called Tyson Timbs and is in his late 30’s.

A trial court in Indiana and the state’s court of appeals found the measure “grossly disproportional to the gravity” of the Timbs’ offence of dealing heroin. But apparently the Indiana Supreme Court decided that SCOTUS had never ruled that States are subject to the Constitution’s excessive fines clause. Thereby inviting a challenge on precisely those grounds as they shuffled the case back down to the lower courts.

Indiana’s Supreme Court lost.

The US Supreme Court in an opinion written by the spry Justice Ginsburg ruled that, “Protection against excessive punitive economic sanctions secured by the clause is, to repeat, both ‘fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty’ and ‘deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition.”

Here’s what Justice Ginsburg was referring to. The Eighth Amendment, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Forfeiture by the Crown’s Officers was arguably one of the key issues that drove the 13 Colonies to rebel against George III and declare their sovereign right to live freely under their own duly chosen representative government. This cuts deep into the marrow of America, its history, and its Constitution. As Justice Ginsburg emphasizes, “Our scheme of ordered liberty.”

Is Jeff Sessions cheering this outcome from his recently acquired status of: they that live outside the beltway? Not likely, nope. Because, yes, dealing in heroin is a dangerous, disruptive, destructive activity that ruins lives and kills people, and not just from overdoses.

But how do we handle a guy who deals in smack and works a machinist? What does or should society do about this? How does America, in fact, order her liberty?

Heroin was a rich man’s plaything some 100 odd years ago. Then a musician’s vice some 70 to 60 years ago. Then it was the hard edge of the hippie drug scene. As well a disruptive force in inner cities. And now it’s the curse of rural, Middle America. It has moved from group to group, like a wandering predator, and while it’s having a resurgence it still affects a relatively small percentage of the population but does so in often tragic and even horrifying ways. It is an evil drug by all accounts. And yes, prohibition claimed the same sinfulness on the part of alcohol but treating heroin like a good bourbon or craft beer to be regulated and licensed is still a bit of a stretch for more than a few voters. And rightfully so.

The problem of what to do remains.

But the issue in this case is Civil Asset Forfeiture, whatever morality may be used to justify it. Here’s Reason magazine who generally embrace a variety of libertarian perspectives:

“The increased willingness of federal judges to consider the perverse profit incentives created by asset forfeiture, together with the possibility of a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, raises a real question: Are we seeing the twilight of such programs in the United States?

During the last five years or so, more than half of states have passed some form of asset forfeiture reform, limiting what was once a free-for-all cash grab benefiting law enforcement. In places such as Mississippi the reforms were modest—new annual reporting requirements, for instance. New Mexico and Nebraska, however, now mandate criminal convictions before property is forfeited. Most states have landed somewhere in the middle, adding procedural protections for property owners and rebalancing the burden of proof in forfeiture hearings.

Until recently, a major roadblock to all these reforms was Jeff Sessions. The former U.S. attorney general rolled back Obama-era restrictions and emboldened state and local law enforcement to ramp up seizures—and bypass stricter state laws—by partnering with federal authorities. How much longer that loophole remains open depends on Congress.”

As the Washington Examiner notes, the groups cheering this SCOTUS ruling include:

• The ACLU
• The SPLC which, unusually as of late, seems to have a reasonable and legitimate stance
• The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
• The Koch Brother’s Americans For Prosperity

Reason is right. This ball has been firmly punted into Congress’ lap by SCOTUS. Let’s see if they actually pass some restrictive legislation on asset forfeiture.

I’ll do my best not to get too silly dealing with this story because at the end of the day, this involves a rather serious aspect of the behavior of some of those close to the President. Had I been writing a piece for my university paper nearly 40 years ago, the jokes that would have arisen … ok let’s stay on track.

Jeff Bezos is a few years younger than me and with a net worth over a 100 billion times my own. Ok, maybe not quite that little (from my perspective) but close. And he’s in the middle of a scandalous accusation that he himself has levelled against American Media Inc. run by David Pecker in conjunction with owner-founder Roger Altman (although because of changes in the corporate structure it’s hard to tell exactly what the role played by Altman, who has a past in politics and is a hedge-fund owner-manager, currently is).

Bezos claims that in an email from AMI deputy general counsel Jon Fine, the company demanded he agree to claim that the media group’s (National Enquirer is one of many media properties they own) coverage of Bezos’ affair with Lauren Sanchez was not politically motivated. And reportedly in another email sent this past Tuesday by AMI’s chief content officer Dylan Howard, AMI threatened that if he didn’t agree to their demands, they would publish nude or semi-nude and suggestive selfies exchanged between Bezos and Sanchez.

The selfies – thanks to the New York Post’s jumping in face-first into the muck and gleefully reporting on the actual pictures, courtesy of a story by Ruth Brown – have been described in cringe-worthy detail. They are not quite explicit, more like the pictures that sank Anthony Weiner and landed him in jail.

They are also none of our business, except now they are. And Bezos has made the right move here while AMI are left looking like some yesteryear thuggish goons. Bezos is fine with being embarrassed by what appears to be fairly moderate and rather normal by today’s standards sexting between consenting (not to mention middle-aged) adults. The more important point is the disgusting threat of blackmail by AMI.

Look, Bezos’ Washington Post has actively worked to further the cause of impeachment against an elected sitting President. An impeachment that may be and may have been part of a deliberate campaign to prevent Trump from reaching the White House, and to quickly remove him once he got there. But by doing this goon job on Bezos, AMI has done a couple of really frickin’ stupid things:

  • Turned a powerful billionaire with powerful media properties into a martyr-like champion for freedom from harassment and a brave victim of blackmail.
  • Added credence to the theory that AMI has been Trump’s dirty-tricks media operation, even though this has nothing to do with charges of Russian collusion. As a NeverTrump narrative, it is a deadly weapon. In other words, if they did this, what else have they done for Trump? Which will be the narrative coming out of this, to be gladly and widely promoted by most of the media.
  • Thrown a wrench into the Mueller and SDNY probes with unpredictable outcomes should SDNY prosecutors decide to file new charges against AMI for what clearly is an attempt at blackmail. Last December, AMI signed a cooperating agreement with SDNY prosecutors over the investigation into the payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in order to bury their kiss and tell stories. This will either feed conspiracy theories or result in some further action by prosecutors that puts AMI in an even tighter spot in order to pressure them to reveal any possible other dirt they may have on anyone possibly related to President Trump. With the objective of laying charges of campaign finance misdeeds. Maybe on members of the inaugural committee?

So, security consultant De Becker snooped on Pecker’s peeping into Bezos’ affairs. From a moral and cultural perspective, this doesn’t even rise to the level of a second-rate Mexican Soap Opera, but astonishingly, it may have ramifications that impact any future attempt to impeach or at least to thoroughly embarrass President Trump. Pecker and his thuggish lawyers seem to have gotten a great head start on that already.

AMI may end up being the ones who, in fact, do the most damage to Trump after all is done and settled a few years from now.

Idiots.

A few years ago, UK physicist and cancer researcher David Robert Grimes with a smirking mug shot at, where else, The Guardian, sneeringly dismissed the science behind those who are against abortion. He wrote, among other things:

One of the most inflammatory arguments against abortion is rooted in the assertion that the foetus can feel pain, and that termination is therefore a brutal affair. This is extremely unlikely to be true. A foetus in the early stages of development lacks the developed nervous system and brain to feel pain or even be aware of their surroundings. The neuroanatomical apparatus required for pain and sensation is not complete until about 26 weeks into pregnancy. As the upper limit worldwide for termination is 24 weeks, and the vast majority of pregnancies are terminated well before this (most in the first 9 weeks in the UK), the question of foetal pain is a complete red herring. This is reflected in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’s report on foetal pain, which concludes “… existing data suggests that cortical processing and therefore foetal perception of pain cannot occur before 24 weeks of gestation”.

His snarling dismissal of people’s concern for the pain that an unborn child can feel is now irrelevant, however. That line has been crossed, even as it is circumscribed by all the same conditionals and supposed safeguards that were originally used to describe the choice to have an abortion in the early days of Roe v. Wade.

Governor Ralph Northam – the head of the Commonwealth of Virginia and a pediatrician himself – said the following in an interview:

When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother with the consent of the physicians — more than one physician, by the way.

And then in the radio interview, he said this:

And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that is nonviable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mothers.

Which means that a child is an accessory from the moment it’s conceived, according to this worldview. And you can always return the accessory if its quality is not to your liking. It will feel pain, it may even have been delivered and be resting there on the multifunctional hospital bed that its mother is also lying on. If they decide it is deformed or wrong somehow, the baby will quickly be put to death.

Of course, Northam’s staff is already qualifying his comments and giving standard excuse that they were taken out of context. Nonsense. Should Virginia’s and New York State’s laws become the new standard around America and elsewhere, then any child will always be a potentially unwanted entity in the law’s eyes who must be granted permission to live. A fallen little angel guilty of the sin of being alive with a wizened face, awaiting for approval to remain breathing.

But Northam’s comments are not generating much airtime in most of mainstream media. We don’t talk about this, only a few nods to the crazed reactions of those of us who would support those who believe we must try to provide succor and care for the unborn or recently born.

Alongside abortion-on-demand, as euthanasia enters the customs of one country after another descending down from the aged terminally ill to depressed teens, and as pain is either medicated or the pained person eliminated, we move one more step towards a rather dreadful singularity, where human life is only valid if it is both attractive and intelligent. The sick, muddled masses who are judged ignorant and wanting are to be pruned from our society, one by one, under the banner of diversity, choice, and enlightened evolution.

God help us all.

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.

Red State’s Streiff has a fascinating article that points you (or should) towards David Reaboi’s article in securitystudies.org on Jamal Khashoggi’s relationship with Qatar’s intelligence agencies. It seems that both dead and alive, Khashoggi was first an agent and then a martyr-pawn of Qatar and Turkey in their struggle against Saudi influence in the Middle East. With Iran allied, of course, in a sort of axis with Erdogan’s Turkey. And with Putin’s Russia clearly forging links with Turkey and Iran, although Syria will make that a balancing act that the Kremlin will be sorely tested by.

This is a tale of two very different ways of dealing with conflicting spheres of influence in perhaps the world’s most volatile region:

  • one a blundering, medieval act of brutality,
  • the other a ruthless and efficient information campaign reaching into the heart of America’s and therefore the world’s media.

And Jamal Khashoggi is a key player in both tales, needless to say. As Reaboi writes at Security Studies Group’s (SSG) article:

The narrative focusing on the death of Jamal Khashoggi was to be put into the service of both Qatar and Turkey’s main interest, undermining the stability of its rival, Saudi Arabia. When complete, the successful information operation would depict Khashoggi a heroic martyr to independent journalism and freedom, while Saudi Arabia would be the embodiment of evil and callousness. It is clear now that, not only was Khashoggi transmogrified in death into a major front in Qatar’s war on its Gulf neighbors; in life, he was Qatar’s asset in that war, as well.

The effort to transform Khashoggi from the political operative he was into a journalist and martyr for freedom was an information operation waged largely in the United States. It targeted a diverse audience spanning from “echo chamber” commentators and media figures to politicians, who would then be moved to act based on the new attitude and information the campaign had inserted into the discussion. This operational aspect is of primary importance; as information operations always work to advance policy interests, in order to succeed, these perceptions must affect policymakers and cause them to alter policy.

Reaboi goes on to defend his outfit in the face of the attacks by the Obama administration former officials who helped forge the Iran Deal and their many sympathizers in the media. This is understandable, but one should remember that his outfit is also promoting a view of the Middle East where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an ally and one that can even work with Israel in helping to contain Iranian influence in the region. A view closer to historical ties of America, but a view nonetheless just like Khashoggi’s pieces in the Washington Post.

So it comes down to the following: who is a greater threat to America (and to Israel): Iran and it’s allies who openly advocate for the destruction of the Jewish State in a violent frenzied jihad of a holocaust? Or the Kingdom from where most of the 9/11 attackers came from and which financed (indirectly) their horrifying endeavors?

Qatar is key in this impossible equation in which it would seem that the stability and the deeds of the Saudi’s make them the lesser of evils compared with Iran. Qatar itself is tiny, enormously wealthy and very powerful. The Doha (Qatar’s principal city) round of the WTO trade talks has been going on since 2001. The FIFA World Cup will be ridiculously played there in 2022; likely in November because of the extreme heat of its endless summers. Al-Jazeera is based there and Qatari funds flow into the D.C. beltway as freely as any, according to the rumors at least. It is also at loggerheads with its neighboring Gulf States as well as with Saudi Arabia in part because of conflicting positions during the uprisings of the Arab Spring as well as the war in Yemen. And it is Qatari influence and money that propelled Jamal Khashoggi into a position of power and influence far beyond that of your average Washington Post columnist.

So, we now have American foreign policy dividing along partisan lines that mirror the Iran-Saudi fault lines in the Middle East. Obama’s Iran Deal on this side. Trump’s renewed approach to Saudi Arabia with its clownishly brutal Mohammed Bin Salman on the other side. This is hardly optimal.

These sorts of alliances often end up in large regional conflicts that spin out of control. Imagine World War III starting not in Ukraine’s eastern flank. Nor in the Korean peninsula. But in Syria.

No, that’s not a plea to keep the troops there. It’s exactly the opposite. Here’s David Reaboi wrapping his article:

Led by Sen. Chris Murphy and Elizabeth Warren, voices from the political left seemed to outdo each other in berating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom President Trump and members of his administration have warm relations. They are trying to use outrage over Khashoggi’s death to force a Saudi surrender in the war in Yemen; and end to arms sales, a break in US-Saudi relations, or even to depose Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman from his position in the Kingdom’s order of succession. This, of course, was the Qatari policy aim and the conclusion of a successful information operation.

I would suggest that deposing MSB is not as dangerous a move as Reboi thinks, if an agreement can be worked out with the aging sheiks of the Kingdom. Containing Iran, however, is key. And Syria is not the best place to do that. Riyadh is.

Information warfare in the 21st century is often more successful than bloody violence. Just ask Qatar and the ghost of Jamal Khashoggi.

Let’s review Senator McConnell’s words regarding the stopgap spending bill that punts the issue of funding the border wall into the next Congress. Feb 8 to be exact, six days short of Valentine’s Day. Here’s some of the Majority Leader’s wisdom:

We need the government to remain open for the American people.

No, you don’t Mitch. You need the government to remain open because you love your job and you will do nothing you calculate endangers your next re-election. Especially funding from business groups that aren’t all that worried about a porous southern border, to put it politely.

We need to wrap up our work for this year.

You didn’t wrap up your work, Mitch. You spiked the memos and headed home where the wrapping is on the presents under your tree, not on comprehensive border protection. Yes, criminal justice reform got done. Bravo. There’s lots more to do and you essentially handed “work” on the border over to Nancy Pelosi. Who will do to funding for border security what no Democrat (nor many Republicans) dare do to any government program at all – like say the National Institute of Health funding a $442,000 study of male prostitute behavior in Vietnam:

Starve the border wall to death by defunding it.

There will be important unfinished business in front of us, and we’ll owe it to the American people to finally tackle it.

Smooth, Mitch, very smooth. Words like “it” and “unfinished business” could refer to any piece of legislation lined up for Senate consideration. With a Democrat House, whether the border wall gets any additional dollars at all now remains to be seen. But President Trump remains bombastically optimistic, as he tweeted:

In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death. We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!

He’s right on money being poured down the drain. But Trump looks like he’s clearly lost another border wall battle. And perhaps lost the war as well. And that has Freedom Caucus members worried, and betrayed-by-Trump’er Ann Coulter furious as usual:

If anything, Trump’s vulgar narcissism made his vow to build a wall more believable. Respectable politicians had made similar promises over the years — and they always betrayed the voters. Maybe it took a sociopath to ignore elite opinion and keep his word.

On the basis of his self-interest alone, he must know that if he doesn’t build the wall, he has zero chance of being re-elected and a 100 percent chance of being utterly humiliated.

But when Trump is alone with Ivanka, they seem to agree that the wall has nothing to do with it. The people just love him for who he is! In a country of 320 million people, I’m sure there are some, but I have yet to meet a person who said, “Yeah, I don’t really care about immigration or trade, I just love his personality!”

Don’t stop there, Ann.

She doesn’t. After suggesting that Trump should have used the military to build the wall if Congress couldn’t get it done, she suggests there is far more support for the wall than people like McConnell realize. Or perhaps care, seeing their priorities are different. And that comes back to Trump’s persona versus Trump’s policies. This non-shutdown and border wall surrender – and that’s exactly what Schumer has called it, a retreat – may be far more damaging to Trump’s presidency than he realizes.

Does Trump indeed realize that? Or does he believe he can somehow strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy and somehow get enough of his wall built to say he delivered on a key campaign promise? Ann Coulter is suggesting that if he doesn’t get some sort of a wall built, and more than just some really, he will be seen as a blowhard. By his own supporters.

Coulter may just be right.

This changes things. Not because it necessarily alters the facts, although it does shed a different light on Michael Flynn’s perspective of the interview on January 24th, 2017 with the 2 FBI agents. And the “this” that changes things, is Judge Emmet Sullivan’s courtroom tirade. Here’s part of what he said:

You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States. Arguably this undermines everything this flag over here stands for.

And yes, the judge pointed at the Flag in the courtroom as he unleashed his accusation against Flynn. The foreign country is not Russia, however. It’s Turkey, which Flynn did indeed lobby for while failing to register as a foreign agent, before becoming Trump’s National Security Advisor. Registering as a foreign agent has been more of bureaucratic form-filling exercise until lately. It has now assumed the moral weight of a felony in Judge Sullivan’s eyes.

Is the Judge legally or even politically right?

It doesn’t matter if the question is fair, unfortunately. There are surely plenty of Democrat examples of unregistered agents who got away with it because it wasn’t something that really mattered much in Washington. Call it acceptable practice to be sloppy about registering. That has now become an untenable position to take. This means far greater transparency brought to bear on foreign lobbying in America. And theoretically, who can argue with greater transparency? So, one can see a host of foreign lobbying regulations coming around the bend or being rigorously enforced if they are already in existence.

But the real question is: did Flynn’s lack of registration mean he somehow is guilty of treason? Because that’s what Judge Emmet has implied, even if he reportedly walked back his words somewhat. It’s clearly what the judge feels. If it is somehow treason, then Washington’s foreign policy establishment should start getting worried, regardless of what side of the aisle they happen to work for.

Now, let’s consider the memo on the Flynn interview that Mueller’s team just released. It’s highly redacted but it clearly shows the agents getting into the weeds of foreign policy by asking Flynn if he talked about sanctions with Russia’s ambassador during the transition period between the election and the inauguration.

Flynn’s answers were cautiously neutral and noncommittal. What ferking business are delicate foreign policy questions for a sitting National Security Advisor (who was an incoming NSA at the time of the conversations with ambassador Kislyak) to a couple of FBI agents? In other words, was Flynn obliged to answer the FBI’s questions? Would no answer have been a lie? These are impossible legal questions. But easy political ones. Comey by his attitude in that recent interview in Manhattan which I detailed in the last blog, clearly thought it was a no-win situation that a better organized administration would have never allowed to happen without a lawyer present.

And now we have a judge lambasting Flynn over his Turkey lobbying and thus somehow giving credence to the theory that he deliberately and knowingly lied in the FBI interview. Which the Mueller team has also recently insisted on. And which Flynn now has seen fit to agree with. He has no other choice at this point, really.

But in all of this tempest, there is again no real evidence of collusion with Russia. Only a failure to register as an agent of the Turkish government. Unseemly, perhaps. A little shady? Yes, it is. But talking about sanctions with the Russian ambassador as the incoming NSA is in no way collusion. As much as Mueller’s team would like the public jury – that is, voters – to think so.

Flynn is being made the scapegoat for what were perfectly acceptable practices before Trump got elected president and the collusion story was put together in order to de-legitimize his administration. And it seems to be working. Fired Deputy Director McCabe is likely grinning ear to ear. His machinations have borne fruit.

Its not just what Christopher Steele said in early August in a defamation lawsuit brought by Russian bankers, or where he said it. It’s why he had to say it. Here’s one of the things Steele said in what seems to have been a written statement to the court:

Fusion’s immediate client was law firm Perkins Coie. It engaged Fusion to obtain information necessary for Perkins Coie LLP to provide legal advice on the potential impact of Russian involvement on the legal validity of the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election.

Based on that advice, parties such as the Democratic National Committee and HFACC Inc. (also known as ‘Hillary for America’) could consider steps they would be legally entitled to take to challenge the validity of the outcome of that election.

Perkins Coie is an old well-established Seattle law firm. It has represented much of the West Coasts tech giants. It also is apparently counsel of record for:

  • The Democratic National Committee
  • The Democratic Leadership Council
  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
  • And nearly every Democrat Member of Congress
  • As well as having represented the presidential campaigns of John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

And leading its Political Law practice is the ebullient Marc Elias, he of the outstretched palms in a joyful evangelical display of hutzpah as he congratulated Minnesota voters in managing to get Al Franken in by a whisker and a recount back in 2008/9. It’s a heart-warming photograph especially the faces of the low-level Democrat officials, turned up in a sort of gleeful stupor at Elias’ relentless, celebratory partisanship. Which when combined with a top-notch legal mind becomes a formidable weapon.

But that weapon was sheathed in November of 2016 and only unleashed this past November in what seems to have proven to be a rather less successful attempt at turning the leadership of the Senate back over to the Democrats based on a few recounts in places like Florida, or Missouri. However, Elias and Perkins Coie were locked and loaded (Yes, I’ve just mixed my military metaphors. Sorry.) and ready to be used to contest the results of the 2016 presidential election.

So, what happened?

Somebody. A few people one supposes. Maybe John Podesta and others said: slow down. We won’t do this just right now. We have to use the dossier and the intelligence community to discredit Trump. We’ll do everything we can and asap, but we have to put the pieces together. I can imagine more than a few shouting matches over tactics, but the general agreement was to put the following political and legal plan into action.

  • Use the electors. Try to somehow convince them not to certify the election. If that doesn’t work.
  • Use the intel community. It’s already been working with us since early in 2016. Have the Steele dossier brought up in a meeting Trump had with then FBI Director Comey which is looking more and more like an entrapment scheme (one of many attempts that began around March of 2016 to draw in members of Trump’s campaign on promises of dirt through Russian connections) that would provide the necessary excuse for the media to mention its existence, especially the golden showers fabrication, and hopefully for some media site to release the dossier. Which is exactly what happened.
  • Entrap Mike Flynn (with the traps laid by former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe) a former Obama intel official  who was hated by the Obama administration and especially the Iran Deal wonks at State led by Ben Rhodes from his perch in the Obama White House. Use a legitimate meeting with the Russian ambassador as a pretext for absurd speculations on using the Logan Act which is itself an absurd bit of legislation that has sat dormant and unused on the books for centuries. And nail Flynn for what seems to have been mistakes and not lies.
  • Have Sally Yates and Bruce Ohr disrupt the Trump administration’s policies at DOJ.
  • Use the Trump Comey meeting and the discussion about Flynn to set up obstruction of justice charges.
  • Set up a situation where AG Sessions has to recuse himself because of legitimate contacts with Russia.
  • When Comey is predictably but tactlessly (in the military sense of the word) fired, use Comey’s friend – Columbia Law prof Daniel Richman – to leak Comey’s memo of the meeting in order to pressure Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel.
  • If no real evidence of collusion is found by the special counsel, use obstruction of justice charges.
  • If even that doesn’t appear to be airtight, go after shady Trump associates on criminal charges that have to do with money-laundering and failing to register as lobbyists, all in order to portray a veneer of corruption around the Trump administration and lay the groundwork for impeachment.

Oh yes, and send Marc Elias back in after the 2018 midterms to see if he can work his magic again.

We wouldn’t have found about the recount plan and the closer than realized links between Perkins Coie and Steele and of course Fusion GPS if it hadn’t been for 3 Russian bankers associated with Alfa Bank (they of the supposed evil server that had a direct line to Putin’s bedside) who had the audacity to fight back in court.

And that pushback produced the documents where Steele stated the possibility, or more accurately the goal, of a recount back in November or December of 2016.

Thanks to the Washington Times for bringing this story into the open. Because mainstream media right now is all about how Cohen will drag down Trump. Which is a not impossible prediction.

But we should keep in mind that Democrats and Never-Trumpers in the intel community – in their desperation to keep Trump from the White House and now to impeach him – have effectively criminalized the transition period for all future incoming administrations. As well as made lobbying by any foreign government a much riskier proposition. This was not done for noble ends and will likely not end well down the road.

Gabriel Malor, a DC area attorney, has laid out the way the SDNY prosecutors – working out of New York’s Southern District and therefore working with one carefully calibrated degree of separation from Mueller’s team – will make the case against President Trump. And they will do so working in tandem with the Democrat House of Representatives. In a piece in The Federalist, he points out the ultimate irony for Trump.

This may be thought of as The National Enquirer Impeachment when the smoke has cleared, and the House has likely attempted to impeach and perhaps has indeed impeached President Trump.

The nuts and bolts of the case will be the payments made to Stormy Daniels and – perhaps even more so – the payments made to Playmate Karen McDougal through American Media Incorporated or AMI. That would be the owners of National Enquirer, who bought up the rights to McDougal’s life story which includes an affair with Donald Trump, of course. This was managed by Michael Cohen and his testimony may give the necessary evidence to prosecute the payments as a campaign finance violation on three counts:

  • It is unlawful, usually at least, for a corporation to make a direct payment to a campaign for a federal office. That’s why PAC’s exist. Was this a direct payment? If it was hush money to help Trump’s campaign, then yes it likely was.
  • It is unlawful to make a contribution to an election for federal office in excess of $2,700. Using a little math: $130,000 > $2,700. It’s hard to argue with that inequality. Again, as long as the payment to Stormy Daniels was for electoral and not just personal reasons, then it may very well be that Trump was an accomplice to this crime.
  • Cohen’s use of service contracts through shell companies to reportedly disguise the payments is in breach of campaign finance transparency laws.

Now here’s where Schiff the milquetoast coyote comes in. While pointing to these possible/probable crimes, he is already linking them to any possible legitimate contacts with Russia and eagerly trying to conflate the two separate cases. One is what’s looking like a campaign finance violation. The other is what is looking like little evidence so far of anything resembling true collusion with Russia.

As Malor points out, the Office of Legal Counsel has deemed that you can’t indict a sitting president, establishing this precedent during the Nixon/Watergate years. Finance campaign violations have a 5-year statute of limitations, apparently. But impeachment proceedings can start whenever the next Congress decides it wants to, which given the Cohen indictments and the possibility of Mueller wrapping up his probe, will probably be sometime in the last week of this coming January. Roughly speaking.

So that’s what Schiff is doing, trying to lay the groundwork for public support for impeachment. He’s got more than a little help on his side, unfortunately for the president. As I said in the last blog, this could have been avoided with a little more caution and a little more thought about process on the part of Trump’s campaign team. But when you hire people like Paul Manafort to run your campaign, that type of thinking is not part of the plan.

And yes, had Trump had a campaign team that was more thoughtful and cautious, he may not have won the election. What brought him to Washington may expel him from Washington as the powers that be across the administrative state, the judiciary and now a good part of Congress – never mind most of the media – have the perfect excuse to do what they’ve wanted to do since late on November 8th just over 2 years ago. Expel Trump from Washington.

If they do attempt this, and it seems certain they will, they should remember the reasons why Trump was elected and do so with a little humility and appreciation for the forgotten man and woman that brought the president to Washington D.C. But there is no humility to be seen anywhere. It died with George H.W. Bush, even if it was sometimes just an act by a very skilled politician, it was also real. And that reality is gone. So we now seem to be approaching the most climactic and (politically) bloody act of the Trump Presidency.

But even so, who can say this will be the final act? One should be very careful about assuming this will sink President Trump. Even if it will be a bloody winter in Washington.