The Nation: "Intelgate"

A serious guy writing at the left-leaning Nation declares that we need a new Church committee to get to the bottom of our intelligence community's election meddling.

Polling not going well

Whoever the PR firm was that was hired to take charge of this Trump-Russia-Election-Hacking story, I think they may owe their clients a refund.  Rasmussen reports that only 42% of likely U.S. voters can be induced to say that Russia interfered in the 2016 election more than the FBI did.  34% think the FBI did more interfering, while the other 24% aren't quite sure and are waiting to see what new admissions are contained in this weekend's data dump of whatever private texts have been forensically rescued from the FBI's records-maintenance procedures after three or four minutes concentrated attention from digital experts with some actual interest in disclosure.

"A Slight Change"

The Marine Corps Times:
In a slight change to the grueling initial stage of the 13-week Infantry Officer Course, Marines will no longer be required to pass the Combat Endurance Test to move on.

The Corps has come under criticism for what some have claimed to be unnecessarily high standards to graduate from the course. To date, only one unnamed female Marine has successfully completed the entire course.

But Marine officials at Training Command contend the changes are not an effort to water down standards.... Previously it was scored as a simple pass or fail, but now the test will no longer be used to weed Marines out. The officers will continue to take a Combat Evaluation Test, but their score will be just one of many components of the course considered for a student’s overall evaluation.
Perhaps they'll introduce a personal essay, as the colleges did when they made the same move to lower their standards on test scores and grades. I imagine there are many who cannot pass the Combat Endurance Test who could write a very moving personal essay showing how much it would mean to them to become an Infantry Officer.

A Small Additional Matter

A long-time informant for both CIA and FBI Counterintelligence testifies on Uranium One.
Campbell said Russian nuclear officials “told me at various times that they expected APCO to apply a portion of the $3 million annual lobbying fee it was receiving from the Russians to provide in-kind support for the Clinton’s Global Initiative.”

“The contract called for four payments of $750,000 over twelve months,” Campbell said in the statement. “APCO was expected to give assistance free of charge to the Clinton Global Initiative as part of their effort to create a favorable environment to ensure the Obama administration made affirmative decisions on everything from Uranium One to the US-Russia Civilian Nuclear Cooperation agreement.”

In a statement to Fox News, though, APCO called Campbell's assertion "false and unfounded."
Maybe. Maybe we'll finally get to see what really went on with that particularly scandalous transaction. Team Trump has been called treasonous for allegedly considering dropping sanctions on Russia in order to get help from Russia; Team Clinton stands accused of selling massive quantities of American uranium to the Russians in return for cash bribes. That sounds a little worse than sanctions relief, even if all the accusations against both sides were true.

The Senate has been busy

A Senate report on the need to investigate disturbing revelations in the FBI Obamagate text traffic.  You can click on a link to the 30-page PDF report, but I call your special attention to pages 13-18, which quote extensively from the messages.  There also is an interesting discussion of why the FBI could not locate a large trove of missing messages over a period of several months, but the Senate was able to retrieve them after a couple of weeks of effort once the proper investigators were given access.

A Military Parade?

I have a divided mind on this. On the one hand, as J. R. Salzman rightly points out, the main effect on the military will be having to show up at 0300 having spent a week polishing and detailing their tanks. They aren't going to appreciate the event, so it's an odd way to honor them. They'll do it, of course, because they were ordered to do it. But why impose a time-consuming and expensive detail on them that doesn't add to their war-fighting prowess?

On the other hand, I have an idea that would make it really worth doing. I would love to see the military get together with Rolling Thunder and do a combined current-service parade with veteran riders on either end of it. It would show the way that America's military serves as a thread that ties together generations, and helps to bind together our whole society.

It would still be expensive, but the detail might be counter-balanced by the opportunity to meet veterans from earlier conflicts and learn each other's stories. I think the current service personnel would value that, and would certainly benefit from the ties it would build. At the same time, such a display would make an important point about the real, deep value of military service to American civic life.

UPDATE: Sen. Rand Paul has an alternative suggestion: let's bring the troops home from Afghanistan and hold a victory parade for them.

A Mead Hall

The British National Trust has discovered a Saxon mead hall, conveniently located on property they already own.
A number of items have been found including several Roman coins, three Roman brooches, Roman pottery, a Saxon loom weight and part of a Viking stirrup mount, as well as a probable Anglo Saxon strap tag.

...And Then There Were Seven

Molly Hemingway, yesterday:
For more than year and half, the media have gone all-in on reporting every possible angle of President Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia.... But as the Russian collusion story disintegrates, another interesting story ascends. Investigations by multiple congressional committees as well as an investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Justice have shown irregularities in the handling of the most politically sensitive probes...

These investigations have resulted in the firing, demotion, and reassignment of at least six top officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice. And all of those personnel changes were made before even the first official reports and memoranda from these investigations were made public.
Emphasis added.

Today, in the Washington Post:
A Justice Department official who helped oversee the controversial probes of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and Russian interference in the 2016 election stepped down this week.

David Laufman, an experienced federal prosecutor who in 2014 became chief of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, said farewell to colleagues Wednesday. He cited personal reasons.
Probably just a meaningless coincidence.

Politics all the way down

Is there any limit to the weaponizing of federal bureaucracies under the Obama administration?  Am I naive to believe this process reached levels not experienced under previous administrations?

Zerohedge has a horrifying summary of evidence in the FBI's possession that inexplicably had no impact on the Uranium One deal or the willingness of someone, anyone, at any time, to look honestly at what the Clinton money machine might be up to.  The story mentions reporter Michael Isakoff at one point. Isakoff is the author of the Yahoo article that, in classic circular disinformation style, was used to burnish the credibility to the Clinton/Steele dossier before the Carter Page FISA court, even though the only source of the Yahoo article was the dossier itself.
Isikoff says he was "stunned" to learn that his article was cited in the FISA warrant. We "believe" him.

The Connaught Rangers

Two songs with the same name, a proud British army song and a defiant mutineers' song.

Formed in 1881 from two older regiments, the Connaught Rangers were one of eight Irish regiments in the British army. The regiment served in the Second Boer War and World War I, and it helped suppress the Easter Uprising.

However, in 1920 nearly 90 soldiers from the regiment mutinied in protest against martial law in Ireland. In 1922, after the establishment of the Irish Free State, the regiment and five others from Ireland were disbanded. Many of the soldiers from these regiments returned to Ireland and joined the new Irish army.

The Senate piles on

No criminal indictments of FBI or DOJ personnel for lying to the FISA court, but the Senate has referred Steele himself for criminal investigation for lying to the U.S. Government.  The Senate's referral implies that Sidney Blumenthal fed the dossier's contents to the Russians in the first place.

What Wrong Looks Like

Apparently it looks like 1984 plus Han Chinese racism.

In Praise of Emotion

A new book argues that we've not been giving our feelings enough credit, or a big enough role in shaping our lives. I find the thesis shocking, but the review is glowing.

Confused? Mission accomplished.

The focus over the last couple of days has become:  did the FISA application for surveillance on Carter Page adequately disclose that the Clinton campaign bought and paid for a phony Steele dossier by mentioning in footnote somewhere that there may have been a political origin of some kind to the dossier?  As an Ace commenter put it:
Without the dossier, the case for spying on Page was "some Russians tried to get close to him and didn't." Which is pretty thin gruel. The dossier spices it up to say Trump and Russia are a thing, so it is no surprise that Page and Russians are close….
Conservative Treehouse adds an argument, based on curiously lined-up background identification facts in court filings, that Carter Page was an FBI informant in Russian spy sting operations until very shortly before he became a surveillance target himself, on the heels of developing a relationship with the Trump campaign.

It stinks to high heaven.  But as another Ace commenter put it, "Confused?  Mission accomplished."

And another, assuming the nod-nod-wink-wink in the infamous footnote was duly heard and received:
FISA Applicant: Judge, Hillary Clinton would like us to open an investigation on her opponenet in the Presidential campaign.
FISA Judge: Well, what evidence of crime do you have?
FISA Applicant: We heard from a guy, who heard from Sydney Blumenethal, who heard from....
FISA Judge: OK, that's enough. Warrant granted.

Young Dubliners

... and some Irish history in the links.

'Twas England bade our Wild Geese fly
that small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Suvla's waves
or the fringe of the Great North Sea
Oh, had they died by Pearse's side
or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their names we will keep where the fenians sleep
'neath the shroud of the foggy dew

The Talmadge Bridge

If you ever go to Savannah, you will see arcing across the river a mighty bridge. This bridge, the Talmadge Bridge, is named after former Democratic governor of Georgia Eugene Talmadge.

Since long before the monuments controversy, I've been expecting them to change the name. Talmadge was an important Georgia governor, to be sure. He was a fierce opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt, these days considered a major saint by Democrats but in those days intensely opposed even by many fellow Democrats. He was a fierce opponent of labor unions, declaring martial law when necessary to break strikes. He was against civil rights for blacks, and deeply disturbed by the idea that whites and blacks might intermarry. Indeed, he ran his 1950 re-election campaign chiefly against miscegenation as a reason to favor segregation.

Yeah, it's been a while now I've been expecting people to look around and notice they have a big bridge named after him.

So anyway, the Girl Scouts of America have decided they'd like the bridge renamed after their founder, Juliette Gordon Lowe, who came from Savannah. Her house is a major tourist attraction.

I see no reason to oppose this change.

Asian Bee-Eating Hornets

Kind of a fun bit of reporting from Out East.
The bees also exploit a unique bit of insect anatomy: The hornet doesn’t have a heart—literally and I suppose kind of figuratively when you think about it....
The bees can't get through the hornet shells with their stingers, so they came up with a pretty nifty alternative.

Man Of The Hour

Rep. Adam Schiff, apparently determined to do every single thing that Trump is accused of having done wrong. Colluding with Russian spies to affect US politics? The only reason he failed is that he got pranked. Exposing sensitive sources and methods to endanger US intelligence collection for partisan purposes? Included for the sole purpose of forcing the President to make redactions.

This guy is making a clear-cut case for restoring the practice of caning Congressmen.

Which campaign deserved surveillance?

This is a good timeline of the sorry affair of the Carter Page surveillance and its background.  This part jumped out at me:
[By October 2016,] the FBI is aware that the Hillary campaign paid lawyers to give money to Fusion GPS, who gave money to a foreign agent (Christopher Steele), who got information from Russian informants. Yet, the FBI counter intelligence effort was being run on the Trump campaign not the Clinton campaign.

More Bagpipes!

The WSJ asks if that's really what bagpipe bands need. "Is there such a thing as too many bagpipes? There’s a nagging suspicion, even among bagpipers, that the answer might be yes."

However, the real answer is, "No."

Tears of joy

Fun?  I'll say.  SpaceX STUCK the landings.  Their people have been shrieking with excited joy non-stop for so many minutes, I'm amazed they have voices left.  Even the East German judge gives it a 10.0.

Falcon Heavy

If you didn't watch the live video, it went well. The landing of the sideboosters is Buck Rogers stuff. Glad to see the private space program doing well, and having fun.

"An Idealist With The Scars To Prove It"

This story has everything. Puerto Rico is struck by a hurricane, and is in desperate need of food aid. FEMA issues a contract for 30 million meals to a contractor with only one person employed there, the 'minority female' owner (who is, under contracting laws, entitled to preference points in terms of contract awards for both of those statuses). She sub-contracts to a completely inadequate set of wedding caterers, who produce 50,000 of the 18.5 million meals needed at the first deadline. These meals also are not properly assembled, lacking a self-heating mechanism like an MRE's chemical heater. These have to be shipped separately.

So naturally, she's suing the government for terminating her contract.
Ms. Brown described herself in an interview as a government contractor — “almost like a broker,” she said — who does not keep employees or specialize in any field but is able to procure subcontracted work as needed, and get a cut of the money along the way. She claims a fashion line and has several self-published books, and describes herself on Twitter as “A Diva, Mogul, Author, Idealist with scars to prove it.”

After Tribute’s failure to provide the meals became clear, FEMA formally terminated the contract for cause, citing Tribute’s late delivery of approved meals. Ms. Brown is disputing the termination. On Dec. 22, she filed an appeal, arguing that the real reason FEMA canceled her contract was because the meals were packed separately from the heating pouches, not because of their late delivery. Ms. Brown claims the agency did not specify that the meals and heaters had to be together.

She is seeking a settlement of at least $70 million.

Planned Parenthood and Fusion GPS

This report comes from a clearly biased outlet, and cites only right-wing sources. On the other hand, I suppose it would be hard to find anyone critical of Planned Parenthood in the mainstream press -- especially given the particular subject of this report. So take it with salt, but see if it fits with other things you've read.

The FBI Faked A Whole Field of Forensics

So claims this article in Slate, based on another article in the Washington Post.
"The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.... Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.”

The shameful, horrifying errors were uncovered in a massive, three-year review by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project. Following revelations published in recent years, the two groups are helping the government with the country’s largest ever post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

Chillingly, as the Post continues, “the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death.” Of these defendants, 14 have already been executed or died in prison."
The article goes on to interview an expert who says that the problem generalizes. "Nor is the problem limited to bad hair cases—much the same type of eyeballed comparison is done on bite marks, ballistics, fibers, and even fingerprints."

I begin to see why they think we should be afraid to cross these folks.

Oh, Well, Is That All?

In an article about how California is likely to race ever-further left, given the absence of hope for Republicans in the state:
That means staking out the most liberal stance on issues such as single-payer health care in California, a highly expensive initiative that failed in the legislature last year. The push is in response to the uncertainty surrounding health-care revisions in Washington, but it is estimated to cost twice the state’s annual budget.
No, of course that's not all. That's the estimate. What was the estimate on that train project?

Getting Ahead of Ourselves

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming practically every human activity: the way we make things; the way we use the resources of our planet; the way we communicate and interact with each other as humans; the way we learn; the way we work; the way we govern; and the way we do business. Its scope, speed and reach are unprecedented.

Think of it: Just 10 years ago, there was no such thing as a smartphone. Today, no one leaves home without it.
No one, that is, except that 32% of Americans didn't have smartphones in 2015, the last year for which numbers are available. That creates potential problems for models like Amazon's new checkout-free store, which requires both a smartphone and a checking account. The people who don't are of course the very people who are going to lose out in the new economy that these same companies are rushing to create.

They're aware of that, but so far their minds turn quickly to socialist solutions.
How can we secure the future of those whose jobs will be eliminated by machines? Do we need a guaranteed basic income? Should we impose taxes on software and robots? Do companies that provide global IT platforms have to comply with national rules and regulations? If so, how can they be enforced? What freedoms and rights should individuals have in the digital age?
Do you have any better answers? I'm not liking the way the discussion is shaping up. Even the list of questions sounds like a future I'd rather we could avoid.

Free Beer... Tomorrow (Or the Day After)

Bud Light is planning to offer free beer to everyone in Philadelphia during the celebratory parade on Thursday morning. Three million people are expected to attend that parade. Three million Philadelphia Eagles fans, day drinking for free on a Thursday morning.

No way that will cause problems. Good decision, everybody.

Encounters With Men

Katie Rophie has an important piece on the current moment of (especially liberal) feminine rage, which I am not going to comment on in the detail it deserves. What I am going to wonder about is how much the rage is driven by the kind of men who occupy the circles in which these women travel.

For example, Rophie cites one of the women who invited friends to an Election Night party in 2016:
While I was writing this essay, one of the anonymous emailed me a piece Donegan wrote in The New Inquiry about the devastating night of Trump’s victory. She had hosted an election gathering, and as the results came in, the men were drinking tequila out of a penis-shaped shot glass, and laughing and making jokes as the women cried and clutched one another. Instead of thinking about choosing new friends, she ends with a blanket indictment of men and a blow for the cause:
Here is what the last few days have reminded me: white men, even those on the left, are so safe, so insulated from the policies of a reactionary presidency, that many of them view politics as entertainment, a distraction without consequences, in which they get to indulge their vanity by fantasizing that they are on the side of good. . . . The morning after the election, I found the penis-shaped shot glass in my kitchen and threw it against the wall. I am not proud of this, but it felt good to destroy something a white man loved.
My first reaction to this was incredulity that any men, unless out-and-proud gay men, were drinking anything "out of a penis-shaped shot glass." No way, I thought. But I have no reason to doubt the author, who almost certainly invited people of her own political leanings. These men, 'even those on the left,' must be the sort of people who do things like that. 

I assume they aren't in fact gay, since she would then think of them as threatened by Trump rather than 'safe.'  But they aren't the sort of people who actually voted for Trump: they almost certainly were 'on the left' and voted for Clinton, or she wouldn't have invited them to her party. The point is that they're so far outside of my own culture that I find their behavior unrecognizable.

Another writer produces a piece about an unexpected and unwanted encounter with an actual Trump supporter, a self-described "redneck," for which she is deeply grateful.
"Just ask any redneck like me what you can do with zip ties — well, zip ties and duct tape. You can solve almost any car problem. You’ll get home safe," he said, turning to his teenage son standing nearby. "You can say that again," his son agreed.

The whole interaction lasted 10 minutes, tops. Katherine and I made it home safely.

Our encounter changed the day for me. While I tried to dive back into my liberal podcast, my mind kept being pulled back to the gas station. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man who called himself a "redneck" who came to our rescue. I sized him up as a Trump voter, just as he likely drew inferences from my Prius and RESIST sticker. But for a moment, we were just two people and the exchange was kindness (his) and gratitude (mine).

As I drove home, I felt the full extent to which Trump has actually diminished my own desire to be kind. He is keeping me so outraged that I hold ill will toward others on a daily basis. Trump is not just ruining our nation, he is ruining me....

[M]aybe if we treat one another with the kindness and gratitude that is so absent from our president and his policies, putting our most loving selves forward, this moment can transform into something more bearable? I want to come away from the march with that simple lesson, but it begs this question: How do we hold onto the fire fueling our resistance to the cruelty Trump unleashes, but also embrace the world with love? I wish I knew.
The second encounter turns out better for everyone. The difference is not in the women, but in the kind of men. That's an important point for those of us who, though we are on the other side of this culturally and in terms of sex, want to ensure better relations between the sexes.

Are you saying you don't trust us any more?

Politico is shocked to discover that the Republican party has conservatives in it who distrust the government, even a formerly sacrosanct entity like the FBI, which previously only Democrats were smart enough to distrust:“
The attacks on the FBI are already working,” said Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer. “Regardless of what happens next, the news has now been filled with sordid accusations and stories about corrupt FBI agents, that they will sink into the minds of many Republicans and even Democrats who are paying attention. These Republican attacks can possibly achieve the same kind of effect on law enforcement institutions, as Republican attacks on the social safety net or regulations like OSHA in the eras of Reagan and Bush. In other words, nobody or nothing in government can be trusted.”
If his goal was to deride the grounds for distrust and suspicion of the political weaponization of yet one more previously respectable federal agency, then his concluding paragraph may have gone awry:
But there are profound dangers for the Republicans, too. Unlike some other quarters of the government, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have power to strike back. After all, they know the secrets, and have been known to use them. At this moment, no one knows more about what really did or didn’t happen between the Russians and the Trump campaign than the FBI agents working on Robert Mueller’s investigation. That may make the bureau a tempting target for this White House, but it makes it a formidable adversary as well.

Four Chaplins' Day

I had not heard this story before.
It’s been 75 years since the U.S. Army Transport Dorchester was hit by German submarine U-223 while transporting 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers to Greenland. On Feb. 3, 1943. four Army chaplains on board gave their lives to save others....

The ship was hit below the water line with a torpedo, initially killing and wounding many men on board.... When they ran out of life jackets, the four chaplains removed their own and gave them away as well. As the ship sank, the chaplains could be seen, arms linked, on the deck, and heard, singing hymns and offering prayers.
Almost seven hundred men died in that one incident. We think of 'the Long War' as grinding and brutal, but as this Foreign Policy piece points out, we've had there were fewer war deaths in the first decade of the Long War than in any decade of the 20th century.

An antidote to chaos

I am loving Jordan Peterson's "12 Rules for Life:  An Antidote to Chaos," which my lovely husband bought for me.  The summary below is cropped and summarized further from an Amazon reader review  The last three are so short because I got them out of the table of contents, not having gotten that far yet.
Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back. It’s a deep instinct to size others up when looking at them to see where they fit in the social hierarchy. If you crouch forward you’re inviting more oppression from predator personalities and can get stuck in a loop that's not helping anyone.
Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. People often have self-contempt whether they realize it or not. Imagine someone you love and treat well, then treat yourself with the same respect.
Rule 3: Choose your friends carefully. Eliminate those who are hurting you. It’s not cruel, it’s sending a message that some behaviors are not to be tolerated.
Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. You only see a slice of their life, a public facet, and are blind to the problems they conceal.
Rule 5: Don't let children do things that make you dislike them. You aren't as nice as you think, and you will unconsciously take revenge on them.  Brats are like misbehaving dogs:  they never get taken off the leash to enjoy a little freedom, because they can't be trusted.
Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. Start by ceasing to do one thing, anything, that you know to be wrong.
Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. Meaning is how you protect yourself against the suffering that life entails. Meaning lets you know when you’re in the right place, midway between chaos and order. If you stay firmly ensconced within order, things you understand, then you can’t grow. If you stay within chaos, then you’re lost. Expediency is what you do to get yourself out of trouble here and now, but you're sacrificing the future for the present.
Rule 8: Tell the truth—or, at least, don't lie. Telling the truth can be hard in the sense that it’s often difficult to know the truth. However, we can know when we’re lying. Telling lies makes you weak. You can feel it, and others can sense it too. Meaning is associated with truth, and lying is the antithesis of meaning.
Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't. A good conversation consists of you coming out wiser than you went into it. Listen even to your enemies. They will lie about you, but they will also say true things about yourself that your friends won’t.
Rule 10: Be precise in your speech.  Don't cover things in a fog.  Face up to the real horrors of the world.
Rule 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.  You're not supposed to remove all dangers from your kids' lives, you're supposed to be helping them become stronger.
Rule 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street. It can't hurt, and it might make you feel better.
For another perspective on the same rules, try this.  I don't think he liked the book.