Displaying posts published in

June 2017

“The Dystopian World of James Comey” Sydney M. Williams

“I am one of the few honest people I have ever known.” Nick Carroway, The Great Gatsby
Substitute Comey for Carroway and you have a sense of the arrogance and hypocrisy embedded in the former’s testimony. James Comey is expert at navigating the obstacles that constitute Washington’s politics. The former FBI Director came across as more of a prosecutor than an investigator and public servant. Having used bait-and-switch tactics over the past year, Mr. Comey gladdened, infuriated and appeased Democrats, while he irritated, enthused and angered Republicans. Like his predecessor, J. Edgar Hoover, he thought himself invincible.

His testimony was Orwellian. Words meant what he wanted them to mean. To “leak” a memo about a private meeting with the President, via a third party, to The New York Times was okay. Yet, it was not alright to tell the press that the President was not under investigation regarding Russian interference in the election, even though he wasn’t. It was his duty, he alleged last July, to lay out the prosecutorial case against Hillary Clinton for using a private e-mail server while Secretary of State, but he felt it his responsibility to determine that no reasonable jury would convict her. Nevertheless, he felt bound, in October, to say she was still under investigation. He said he had no doubt that Russia interfered in the election, yet offered no evidence.

Mr. Comey told Senators that Mr. Trump lied as to why he (Mr. Comey) was fired, but was less direct with the President. He construed the word “hope,” as uttered by Mr. Trump regarding Michael Flynn, as implying obstruction, knowing full well it would mean his good friend, special counsel Robert Mueller, would have to investigate the allegation. (If “hope” becomes standard for obstruction of justice charges, all of Washington will be under indictment, as will most Americans.) James Comey testified that he agreed to accept (then) Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s request that the investigation into Mrs. Clinton be referred to as a “matter,” last July, knowing that to do so was wrong. Yet he did not feel obliged to disagree. His performance throughout his testimony suggested he was being either devious or he was a poltroon… or perhaps both. If he truly felt wronged, a courageous, honorable man would have resigned.

Mr. Comey has abused his position as Director of the FBI, certainly since last July. But, while he may have the ethics of a warthog, he is not stupid. For the last nine months, like Uriah Heep, the unctuous Mr. Comey bobbed and weaved around the Scylla of Washington politics and the Charybdis of ethical behavior – that is until he encountered Mr. Trump, an outsider to Washington politics, a man who had promised to “drain the swamp,” a place where he (Mr. Comey) was one of its most prominent denizens. Whether you hate him or love him, all agree that Mr. Trump is no master of subtlety. The President fired Mr. Comey unceremoniously, something unexpected by a man who felt untouchable. As one who tried to please everyone, Mr. Comey would have been well served to have re-read the story in Aesop’s Fables of “The man, the boy and the donkey” – the moral of which is, you can’t please everyone.

Once fired by Mr. Trump, Democrats forgave Mr. Comey his transgressions regarding Hillary Clinton and Loretta Lynch. Since his firing, Mr. Comey has cast his lot with those who see Mr. Trump as an illegitimate President, an autocrat, they claim, with a far-right agenda – a President who should be hastened from office, regardless of the cost to our democracy. In testimony, Mr. Comey offered the excuse that the leaking of his memo was for self-protection against a President he did not trust. He said it was justified if the consequence was the hiring of a special counsel. Since Mr. Comey was unable to bring the President down on charges of colluding with the Russians over last November’s election, he now hopes his friend Mr. Mueller will find obstruction of justice as cause for impeachment.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Trump ‘should not be subject to criminal prosecution’

Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, argued Monday that Trump should not face any criminal penalty just because he fired former FBI Director James Comey.

“The president of the United States should not be subject to criminal prosecution for merely exercising his constitutional authority,” he said on CNN.

“In the absence of any statute to the contrary, the president has the authority fire the director of the FBI, and the president has the power tell the director of the FBI who to investigate, who not to investigate,” he added.

Democrats have argued for months now that Trump fired Comey to disrupt the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election, which Democrats also say could show that Russia was colluding with Trump to bring down Clinton. Democrats admit there is no evidence of collusion so far, and recently have been arguing that Trump obstructed justice by encouraging Comey to drop the case.

But while Democrats have been saying Trump is trying to cover his tracks the way President Richard Nixon did, Dershowitz said the case is nothing like the Nixon coverup.

“This is not the Nixon case. This is the Bush case,” he said, referring to President George H.W. Bush’s pardon of former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. Weinberger was thought to have information linking Bush to the Iran-Contra affair.

“Nobody suggested obstruction of justice” in that case, Dershowitz said.

Dershowitz added it makes no sense to expand obstruction of justice to cover “constitutionally authorized” actions by the president.

Religion and Secularization In the Middle East By Herbert London President, London Center for Policy Research

Terrorism in the middle east knows no limits. The ancient monastery of St. Catherine’s in Egypt’s Sinai desert was attacked with 40 worshippers slaughtered. This is the same religious shrine that has a decree of protection issued by the Prophet Muhammed himself until the end of days.

A bus carrying Coptic Christians on a prayer vigil was attacking killing 26 people, including ten children.

As these incidents indicate the challenge for Middle East leaders is the maintenance of religious beliefs within limits imposed by modernity along with secularization that doesn’t trample religious observance.

The terrorists had clear goals in mind. One, they wanted to demonstrate that the government does not have the ability to deter terrorism. Two, the attack was a way to discourage tourism, the major source of revenue in the country. Three, by making this incident distinctly religious, it is believed this would cause defections from the secular impulse in the nation.

Religious freedom is clearly being threatened in Egypt, a condition that goes back 50 years ago to the publication of Sayyid Qutb, Islamic theorist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. This trend applies throughout the Levant where secular nationalism has had to compete with the orthodox stance of radical Islam. General Nasser walked a fine line between the two positions by evoking a sense of national pride, but when his regime descended into pan Arabism and economic collapse, secularism suffered as well.

In the Middle East, it is apparent that what is dormancy is not death. President al Sisi is a pious Muslim who cautions against the extremism within his faith. These who want to weaken him do not fully understand the political alternatives. Removing loathsome dictators as was the case in Iran, Libya and Iraq does not yield the blossoming of a new Spring, but rather extremist forms of religions far more destructive than the regimes replaced. Radical elements do understand the meaning of replacement. A pathway to an Islamized Egypt lies in the “bulls-eye” on Sisi’s back.

Western goals in the region invariably refer to Ataturk’s secularization program in Turkey. But while Ataturk’s influence was profound, President Erdogan has disinterred religious ideas imposing them in a manner that would have been unthinkable before 2002, when he was first elected. Religion may have been in a long slumber in Turkey, but it is now awakened and playing a profound role.

Sisi, to his credit, understands the need to balance religion and modernity; perhaps that explains why he is a threat to Islamists. In his case, dedication to his faith is real, but it is not a faith imposed on the Egyptian people. Surely, his critics contend the blasphemy laws are not applied fairly to non-Muslims. And this may be true. Nonetheless, the balance his government has achieved, however imperfect, is a veritable model for the region and the best hope for stabilization.

Trump’s Non-Celebrity Apprentices An electrician or plumber can make more than a college grad.

One restraint on economic growth is the increasing U.S. labor shortage, especially for jobs that require technical skills. Meanwhile, many college grads are underemployed and burdened by student debt. The Trump Administration is trying to address both problems by rethinking the government’s educational priorities.

President Trump directed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta last week to streamline regulations to make it easier for employers, industry groups and labor unions to offer apprenticeships. Many employers provide informal apprenticeships for new workers, but the Labor bureaucracy regulates and approves programs whose credentials are recognized industry-wide.

About 505,000 workers are enrolled in government-registered apprenticeships. The programs typically pair on-the-job training with educational courses that allow workers to make money while honing skills in fields like welding, plumbing, electrical engineering and various mechanical trades. While construction apprenticeships are common, training programs are growing in industries like restaurant and hotel management.

Nearly all apprentices receive jobs and the average starting salary is $60,000, according to the Labor Department. That beats the pay for most college majors outside of the hard sciences. Last year’s National Association of Colleges and Employers survey estimated the starting salary of education majors at $34,891 and humanities at $46,065.

For decades the cultural and economic assumption has been that Americans will be better off with a college degree. This is still true overall, and economic returns to education have risen. This is especially true for those with cognitive ability who acquire skills in growth industries like software design or biological sciences. Politicians have responded by subsidizing college almost as much as they do housing—with Pell grants, 529 tax subsidies and more recently debt forgiveness.

Yet the politically inconvenient reality is that not every kid is cut out for traditional college, and those who struggle in high school may be better off learning a trade. Many without academic inclination or preparation often spend years (and thousands of dollars) taking remedial classes to compensate for their lousy K-12 education.

The six-year graduation rate for four-year colleges is 60% while the three-year graduation rate at community colleges is a paltry 22%. The Obama Administration response was to push even more subsidized student debt to force feed even more kids into college. Student debt doubled in the Obama years to $1.3 trillion, which will burden workers and taxpayers for decades.

Another problem is that few colleges and high schools teach vocational skills. The Labor Department Jolts survey of national job openings found more than six million in April—the most since Jolts began tracking in 2000. The vacancies include 203,000 in construction, 359,000 in manufacturing and 1.1 million in health care. These are not jobs that can be filled by Kanye West English deconstructionists. They are also typically jobs that can’t be supplanted by lower-wage foreign competition.

While employers subsidize most apprenticeships, the President has proposed spending $200 million to promote the programs. This would still be a drop in the $26 billion bucket (not including student loans) that Washington spends on higher education each year.

Car rams police van on Champs-Elysees, armed suspect dead

A man previously known to French authorities for radicalism has rammed his car into a bus filled with police on the iconic Champs-Élysées in the heart of Paris this afternoon.

Paris (CNN)Tourists strolling along Paris’ famous Champs-Elysees on Monday afternoon watched in horror as a car rammed into a police van — and some witnessed the car burst into flames as police grabbed the man inside and put him on the ground.
The armed driver deliberately plowed into the police vehicle and later died, authorities said.

“We were waiting to cross the street and suddenly heard an explosion and the car was in flames,” said Eugenio Morcilla, who captured video after the collision. “The police acted very quickly.”
It’s the latest in a series of terror attacks this year against security forces in the French capital. The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an anti-terror investigation.

“Once again, France’s security forces have been targeted in an attempted attack on the Champs-Elysées,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters on Monday.
According to CNN affiliate BFMTV, the driver was under what is known as a “Fiche S” file, a French terror/radicalization watch list composed of thousands of names, of which some are under active surveillance. Active surveillance means that they are on law enforcement’s radar, not necessarily under rigorous surveillance.

The incident, which took place at 3:40 p.m. local time (9:40 a.m. ET), began when a police squadron drove down the Champs-Elysses and an individual hit the first vehicle of the squad.
“The car contained weapons, explosives, enough to allow him to blow up this car,” Collomb said.

The small white car caught on fire after the collision, but neither officers nor members of the public were hurt, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
Morcilla, who was in Paris on vacation with his girlfriend, took video of the aftermath of the attack.

“They got out of a police truck and tried to break the glass and take the man out, they shot and threw tear gas and they took him out by force…” he said.
Security forces were working to identify the weapons in the vehicle, and they are investigating “the individual’s past and see what motives pushed him to take action,” Collomb said.
“This shows once again that the threat level in France is extremely high,” the interior minister said.

— In March, a man holding a gun on a French female soldier at Orly Airport shouted, “I am here to die in the name of Allah … There will be deaths,” before two of the soldier’s comrades shot the attacker dead.

Scalise attack was ‘to some degree self-inflicted’ claims CBS’s Scott Pelley By Tom Blumer

Thursday evening, CBS’s Scott Pelley, who officially ended his tenure as the network’s Evening News anchor the following evening, told viewers that “It’s time to ask whether the attack on the United States Congress Wednesday was foreseeable, predictable and, to some degree, self-inflicted.”

It’s clear from Pelley’s subsequent commentary that his answers to all three elements are “Yes.” It’s equally clear from the examples he supplied as support that he sees (or wants viewers to see) the problem as predominantly about the conduct of those on the right.

Transcript below:

It’s time to ask whether the attack on the United States Congress, yesterday, was foreseeable, predictable and, to some degree, self-inflicted.

Too many leaders, and political commentators, who set an example for us to follow, have led us into an abyss of violent rhetoric which, it should be no surprise, has led to violence.

Yesterday was not the first time.

In December last year, a man with an assault rifle stormed into a Washington-area pizzeria to free child sex slaves whom Hillary Clinton was holding there — or at least that’s what political blog sites had said. He fired into a locked door to discover no children in chains.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has called the president the “most dangerous in history.” The shooter yesterday was a Sanders volunteer.

You might think that no sane person would act on political hate speech, and you’d be right. Trouble is, there are a lot of Americans who struggle with mental illness.

In February, the president tweeted that the news media were the “enemy of the American people”:

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017

Later, at a lunch for reporters, President Trump was asked whether he worried that language would incite violence. His pause indicated it had never crossed his mind. Then he said, “No, that doesn’t worry me.”

If The Left Wins Their Soft Coup, Everyone Loses – But Mostly Them by Kurt Schlichter

You have to wonder how liberals think this works. So, a manifestly conflicted special counsel leading a pack of maxed-out Democrat donors decides Donald Trump has to be kicked out of office for “obstructing justice” regarding a cynical lie about him cavorting with the Kremlin and…then what? President Pence, until they do the same thing to him? Or do we just skip right to President Felonia von Pantsuit, shrug our shoulders, and give up on our foolish dream of having a say in our own governance?

Straightforward from here is…chaos.

Because normal Americans are woke to the scam. No, the affidavits of a zillion DC/NY establishment types attesting to Robert Mueller’s impeccable integrity – ever notice how the guy trying to hose us always has the establishment’s “impeccable integrity” merit badge – are not going to make us unsee the fact that he’s carrying water for an establishment that thinks we need to just shut up and obey.

Now, pulling off the soft coup is going to be harder than they think. The establishment has not thought this out. They sort of assume that if they squelch Trump then everything somehow just goes back to them being in unchallenged control. Wrong.

Mueller can’t indict Trump – that stupid Constitution, always getting in the way! No, the goal is for Mueller and his crack team of committed liberal activist lawyers to generate some head-shaking, tsk-tsk, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger, report claiming Trump “obstructed” the probe into Hillary’s Trump/Russia collusion lie that even the liberals reluctantly acknowledge never happened.

But their problem is that impeachment is a purely political act – this isn’t going to get tried before some leftist DC judge and a 96% Democrat DC jury. No, they have to convince the Republican members of the House of Representatives to impeach and, well, have you taken a look at a political map of the US lately? It’s as red as a baseball field full of conservatives after a Bernie Bro shows up with a rifle.

Now, in the circle of jerks that is DC, congressmen are bombarded with the Trump obstruction narrative. Many neutered professional conservatives, eager to return to the old status quo where they sort-of mattered, are helping our enemies. Some of these congressmen are themselves Fredocons, weak and stupid, and are listening. Some might be swayed – except in a couple weeks they have to go home and be around normal people, and they’re going to hear something completely different.

Normal people aren’t falling for it.

Has anyone out there actually met a Trump voter who said something like this?

I supported Trump, but now I don’t because his refusal to passively sit back and let a Washington insider with an obvious conflict of interest and his Democrat staff drive him out of office on the basis of a Hillary-driven lie far outweighs Neil Gorsuch, pulling out of the climate scam, beating ISIS, and repealing Obamacare.

Tripping Up Trump #MAGA or #NeverTrump, nobody should be comfortable with how federal criminal investigations work. By Ken White

At six in the morning, a man is startled awake by an insistent pounding on his front door. He opens it to find armed government agents. One group of them begins to ransack the man’s home. Two others take him outside and put him into the back seat of a nondescript government vehicle. One of the armed government agents sits on either side of him, trapping him. As he sits, blinking and confused in his pajamas, they begin to bark questions at him. Was he at a particular meeting, on a particular date, with a political figure who is under suspicion of wrongdoing? The man, confused and afraid and thoroughly intimidated, makes a bad choice — he answers, and he lies. He says he was not at the meeting. The armed government agents smile. They already have witnesses placing the man at the meeting. They already have a recording of the man at the meeting. His lie does not deter, mislead, or even mildly inconvenience them. But now they have him, whether or not he’s done anything wrong before — now he’s lied to the government, a serious crime.

That scenario is not from some totalitarian foreign country or some fictional dystopia. It’s from America, here and now. It happened just like that to one of my clients, interrogated at dawn by the FBI. It represents the vast power of law enforcement — especially federal law enforcement — to turn investigations of crimes into schemes to produce new crimes.

Federal criminal investigative power is in the news as President Trump and his associates face an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Reports — and some ill-considered tweets by the president — suggest that Mueller’s focus may be not just Russian shenanigans but obstruction of the investigation into the same. Trump supporters are enraged; some Trump detractors are delighted. Nobody should be comfortable, unless they are at ease with vast and flexible law-enforcement power over citizens, especially controversial ones. Our system gives federal prosecutors and investigators — from locals across the country to the rare and elite like Mueller — extraordinary power to turn Americans’ lives upside down and prosecute not just prior crimes but any very common and human missteps their frightened targets make in reaction to the investigation.

Commentators are expressing shock — and in many cases pleasure — that President Trump and his associates could face criminal exposure not for original wrongdoing but for their reaction to accusations of wrongdoing. Nobody who has paid attention to American criminal justice for the last generation should be shocked. It is routine — mundane, even — for federal investigators to convict people not for the subject of the investigation but for how they reacted to it.

The London Mosque Attack: Anti-Muslim Hatred, Not ‘Islamophobia’

British police have now identified the man who plowed a van into a crowd of British Muslims exiting the Finsbury mosque in London at midnight as 47-year-old Darren Osborne. Osborne, a Welsh father of four, killed one person and injured at least ten. Media coverage of the atrocity is refreshingly — if calculatedly — free of the usual temporizing about motive: Osborne was out to mass-murder Muslims. He saw himself as a one-man retaliation squad for attacks on British crowds by radical Muslims using the same car-ramming tactic.

The good news, at least for now, is that he really does appear to have been a lone wolf. As with any of these situations, we should hesitate to draw conclusions about the perpetrator’s background and associates at this early stage of the investigation. What we can say confidently is that the leaders of the mosque appear to have performed heroically: detaining but shielding Osborne from potential retaliatory violence until the police could arrive; tending quickly to the victims.

A couple of observations.

First, this attack is being unanimously condemned, across British society and beyond. The notion that street violence is the answer to street violence is rejected, and there will be no attempt to rationalize the savagery as an excess in a righteous cause. Osborne will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The story tomorrow, just as today, will be his attempt to carry out mass-murder, not anxiety over potential “blowback” attacks against non-Muslims. Would that all terrorist attacks were regarded this way.

Second, too many people are falling into the error of echoing the claim that attack was “motivated by Islamophobia.” Not surprisingly, this allegation was instantly made by Harun Khan, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain. The MCB purports to be the face of “moderate Islam” in the U.K., notwithstanding its close ties to such sharia supremacist organizations as Jamaat-i-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood. As we’ve discussed many times, “Islamophobia” is a smear label dreamed up by the Muslim Brotherhood, designed to demagogue any legitimate concern about Islamic doctrine as irrational fear and, of course, as racism.

The man who carried out the mosque attack is not an “Islamophobe.” He is a vile specimen of anti-Muslim hatred. His hatred does not render Islamophobia real. It does not convert into hysteria our worries that a sizable percentage of Muslims — for reasons that are easily knowable if one simply reads scripture and listens to renowned sharia jurists — construes Islam to endorse violence against non-Muslims and to command the imposition of oppressive sharia.

We must be of one voice in condemning Osborne’s attack, and urging that he be swiftly tried and severely punished. But we must not allow righteous outrage over the attack to dupe us into adopting the Muslim Brotherhood’s false “Islamophobia” narrative.

A Tweet Is Just a Tweet: It Tells Us Nothing about Whether Trump Is Under Investigation By Andrew C. McCarthy

Can we all stipulate that no one ever wants to be the subject of an investigation? If you are innocent of wrongdoing, the fact that there is no meritorious criminal case is often beside the point.

There is a stigma attached to being an investigative subject. Many people who do not appreciate how politicized the legal system has become will conclude that if you are under investigation, you must have done something wrong. Some other people who know precisely how politicized the legal system has become, and like it that way, will exploit the fact that you are under investigation to stigmatize you. Public perception aside, being the subject of an investigation is also debilitating because of the time it takes to defend oneself, the financial burden of retaining lawyers (and, for a public official, retaining press agents who can deal with the media frenzy), and the anxiety that makes it difficult to focus on one’s job and other responsibilities.

President Trump is now in the grip of this situation. This weekend, it produced some of the more excruciating news coverage in recent memory as one of his lawyers, Jay Sekulow, was tendentiously grilled on the question of whether the president has conceded that he is under investigation.

Like many Trump problems, this one was caused by a Trump tweet. Foolishly allowing himself to be baited by a Washington Post report that special counsel Robert Mueller is now weighing whether the president committed an obstruction crime, Trump tweeted: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt[.]”

Clearly, Trump is exasperated over what he sees as much ado about nothing. Constitutionally, the president does not need a reason to fire the FBI director, who — like every unelected subordinate official in the executive branch — serves at the president’s pleasure. Before Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Rod Rosenstein, the Trump-appointed deputy attorney general, wrote a memorandum recommending that Comey be dismissed. In the subsequent furor over Comey’s dismissal — largely stoked by Trump’s conflicting reasons for firing the director, which first adopted but then parted company with Rosenstein’s memo — Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel. In that role, Mueller is not independent — he answers to Rosenstein (because Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, is recused). So technically, Trump is correct: The man who wrote the memo endorsing Comey’s removal has authorized an investigation that is reportedly probing whether that removal somehow constituted a felony.