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February 2018

Is There an Obstruction Case against President Trump? The justice department’s office of legal counsel should answer the question. By Andrew C. McCarthy

It has become more urgent to ask: Why is there a special counsel in the Russia investigation? At this point, that question should be put to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — in the federal government, it’s the lawyers’ lawyer. To get down to brass tacks: May the president of the United States be charged with obstruction based on non-criminal discretionary acts that are unquestionably within his constitutional authority as chief executive?

Readers of these columns may recall that I opposed the appointment of a special counsel and have argued that the appointment was illegitimate. This has nothing to do with Robert Mueller, who has had a distinguished law-enforcement career for which he is justly admired. It has to do with first principles and clear regulations. As a matter of principle, the law-enforcement arm of government must operate on a presumption of innocence. Therefore, in this country, a prosecutor should be assigned only if there is strong evidence that a crime has been committed; in the absence of such evidence, a prosecutor should never be assigned to investigate whether an American may have committed some unknown crime.

This, as we’ve repeatedly observed, is reflected in the regulations that control when the Justice Department may appoint a special counsel. The question should never come up unless there is some “criminal investigation or prosecution” that creates a conflict of interest for Justice Department leadership. A special counsel may be appointed only for purposes of this “criminal investigation or prosecution.” In the absence of strong evidence of a crime, there is no basis for a criminal investigation or prosecution.

History Lessons from Years Under Islamism by Majid Rafizadeh

My father’s generation in Iran lived in an environment in which the Islamist party of the country’s clergy cunningly depicted themselves as intending no harm, supportive of the people, and not interested in power. So, before the revolution, many Iranians did not think that Khomeini’s party would be committing the atrocities that they are committing now or that they would have such an unrelenting hunger for power. Instead, during this time, the country thought it was on a smooth path towards democracy, with no expectation of ever returning to a barbaric era. Even the then-US President Jimmy Carter viewed Khomeini as a good religious holy man.

Iranians did not just submit to these new laws; they rose up in protest. This uprising was met with torture, rape, and death. With the regime eager to wipe any who dared to resist, the people had no choice but to surrender. Everyone’s daily activities were now under the scrutiny of the Islamists.

Many will still think it is impossible for something like this to happen in their country. What they fail to understand is that Iran is an example of exactly how successful this meticulous grab for power can be. Islamists in other countries including the West are pursuing the same techniques on the path to seizing power. It is a quiet, and subtle process, until the moment you wake up with no rights, a culture of fear, and no promise that you will live in freedom or even to see the next day.

In Iran, my generation, the first after Islamism came to power, is called the Burnt Generation (Persian: Nasl-e Sukhteh). Our generation earned this name for having to endure the brutality of the Islamist and theocratic regime from the time we were born, to adulthood. This brutality included the regime’s merciless efforts, such as mass executions, to establish its power, impose its barbaric and restrictive rules, and brainwash children and indoctrinate the younger generation with its extremist ideology through various methods including elementary schools, universities, state-controlled media outlets, imams and local mosques, and promoting chants such as “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

What Can’t Be Debated on Campus Pilloried for her politically incorrect views, University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax asks if it’s still possible to have substantive arguments about divisive issues.

There is a lot of abstract talk these days on American college campuses about free speech and the values of free inquiry, with lip service paid to expansive notions of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. What I’ve learned through my recent experience of writing a controversial op-ed is that most of this talk is not worth much. It is only when people are confronted with speech they don’t like that we see whether these abstractions are real to them.

The op-ed, which I co-authored with Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego Law School, appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Aug. 9 under the headline, “Paying the Price for the Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture.” It began by listing some of the ills afflicting American society:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

We then discussed the “cultural script”—a list of behavioral norms—that was almost universally endorsed between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These norms defined a concept of adult responsibility that was, we wrote, “a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains and social coherence of that period.” The fact that the “bourgeois culture” these norms embodied has broken down since the 1960s, we argued, largely explains today’s social pathologies—and re-embracing that culture would go a long way toward addressing those pathologies.

In what became the most controversial passage, we pointed out that some cultures are less suited to preparing people to be productive citizens in a modern technological society, and we gave examples:

The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.

Review: Alone at the Summit Raised on an Idaho mountain by survivalists who kept her out of school, the author went on to earn a Ph.D. at Cambridge. Susan Wise Bauer reviews ‘Educated: A Memoir’ by Tara Westover. By Susan Wise Bauer

“Perhaps I’m simply hoping to find an answer that doesn’t exist—why some learners latch onto knowledge thirstily while others don’t; why a child with every opportunity for learning turns away in boredom, while another with nothing but an encyclopedia and the Book of Mormon catapults into the Ivy League. Without ever meaning to, “Educated” suggests something startling: Our children’s intellectual achievement may have almost nothing to do with the opportunities we provide them, and everything to do with some inborn drive that we can neither influence nor create. ”

After growing up with a bipolar survivalist father, a damaged and treacherous mother, and an unstable, abusive older brother, Tara Westover finally developed the inner resources to walk away and adopt a new life.

Raised with absolutely no schooling until age 17, Tara Westover earned a scholarship to Cambridge University and a Ph.D in intellectual history and political thought.

These two stories are interwoven throughout “Educated,” Ms. Westover’s new memoir.

The author grows up on an Idaho mountain, one of seven children given no vaccinations or schooling (four of them don’t even have birth certificates). Her father claims to be a prophet, but sinks slowly into out-and-out mental illness—stockpiling ammunition, hoarding food and awaiting imminent apocalypse. Her mother suffers a traumatic brain injury in a car accident and never returns to normal functioning: Sometimes she protects young Tara from her violent older brother Shawn; sometimes she ignores Shawn’s attacks.

An occasional voice whispers to the author that this world is not normal—one of her grandmothers; a boy she meets in the nearby small town; her brother Tyler, who leaves home when she is 10. And so she makes her first effort to step outside of her parental realm, by telling her father that she wants to go to school. His rejection of this request is simple: “In this family, we obey the commandments of the Lord. You remember Jacob and Esau?”
Educated: A Memoir

By Tara Westover

Random House, 334 pages, $28

But Tara, like Tyler and another of her brothers (Richard, who hides behind the sofa to read the encyclopedia through from beginning to end), is irresistibly drawn toward learning. Dodging her father’s rages, alternately encouraged and slapped down by her mother, she teaches herself enough math and grammar by age 18 to enroll at Brigham Young University. Championed by one of her BYU professors, she is eventually admitted to a study-abroad program at Cambridge. The professor who directs her reading there is so impressed by her abilities (“pure gold,” he calls her) that he helps her apply to graduate school after she finishes BYU; Cambridge accepts her to read for a doctorate.

Meanwhile, her family life grows more erratic and terrifying. A visit home to Idaho ends with Shawn threatening to kill Tara with a knife, and Tara fleeing in a borrowed car, leaving her belongings behind. But both parents insist, afterward, that the horrific scene never happened: CONTINUE AT SITE

The Russian Indictments Where were James Clapper and John Brennan when the Kremlin was meddling?

The Justice Department on Friday indicted three Russian companies and 13 individuals for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the man who should be most upset is Donald J. Trump. The 37-page indictment contains no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but it does show a systematic effort to discredit the result of the 2016 election. On the evidence so far, President Trump has been the biggest victim of that effort, and he ought to be furious at Vladimir Putin.

The indictment documents a broad social-media and propaganda campaign operating out of Russia and involving hundreds of people starting in 2014 that “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system.” It certainly succeeded on that score, as Democrats and the media have claimed that Mr. Trump’s election is illegitimate because he conspired with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton. The charge has roiled American politics and made governing more difficult.

The good news for Mr. Trump is that the indictment reveals no evidence of collusion. The Russians “posted derogatory information about a number of candidates,” the indictment says, and by 2016 “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump” and “disparaging Hillary Clinton.” But it adds that the Russians “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,” and it offers no claims of a conspiracy.

Readers of the indictment will be amused at the comic opera details. In or around June 2016, for example, Russians posing online as Americans “communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization.” This “real U.S. person” vouchsafed the deep political secret that the Russians “should focus their activities on ‘purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.’” Sure enough, the Russians thereafter referred to targeting “purple states.” Someone actually paid Russians to collect this insight.

Indict Hillary and Steele for Russian interference By J. Marsolo

“Hillary paid Steele to assemble a “salacious and unverified” dossier, with help from Blumenthal and Shearer, and paid Russian informants…..Indict them.”
On Friday, February 16, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted thirteen Russian nationals and several Russian companies for “interfering” with the 2016 election. Paragraph one of the indictment reads:

The United States of America, through its departments and agencies, regulates the activities of foreign individuals and entities in and affecting the United States in order to prevent, disclose, and counteract improper foreign influence on U.S. elections and on the U.S. political system. U.S. law bans foreign nationals from making certain expenditures or financial disbursements for the purpose of influencing federal elections. U.S. law also bars agents of anyforeign entity from engaging in political activities within the United States without first registering with the Attorney General. And U.S. law requires certain foreign nationals seeking entry to the United States to obtain a visa by providing truthful and accurate information to the government.

The indictment does not charge that Russians colluded or conspired with Donald Trump or the Trump campaign. The indictment does not allege that Russia affected the results of the election. The indictment does charge that Russia started its campaign in 2014, before Trump announced, so that its intent to interfere did not matter as to the candidates.

Russia denigrated Hillary, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio and generally favored Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump.

The main thrust of the indictment is that the Russians “failed to register as foreign agents carrying out political activities within the United States, and obtaining visas through statements.” Had the Russians registered and stated so in their visa applications, then presumably there would be no violations, except for stealing the identities of Americans.



On Thursday, February 1, the National Association of Scholars launched our newest report, Charting Academic Freedom: 103 Years of Debate. Academic freedom is a hot topic of discussion on nearly every American college campus, but until now, no single source documents and analyzes the most prominent, published statements on academic freedom to put all the details in perspective.

In addition to serving as a digest of the principles that underlie intellectual freedom, Charting Academic Freedom also allows us to see and understand the bigger picture so that we take appropriate action. For instance, our report makes it clear that the current threat to academic freedom no longer comes from sources outside the university. The new threats to academic freedom come from the faculty and their indoctrinated students, and that means that to protect and advance academic freedom, these statements must be updated to reflect the new reality.

Charting Academic Freedom is available as a free download from the NAS website. It is intended as a resource for anyone who would like to better understand the debate about academic freedom and what it means for our society; it is for faculty, students, journalists, administrators, parents, concerned citizens, and more. Please share the report with anyone you think would benefit from it.

The Latest Round Of Big Military Moves In The Middle East Shoshana Bryen

There are lessons to be learned from Iran firing a drone into Israeli air space and Israel’s destruction of about half of Syria’s air defense capabilities in response:

Iran is testing not only its capabilities abroad, but the reactions of its enemies and its security on the home front
Israel is testing as well
Russia’s appears unwilling to take on any more military activity than absolutely necessary and is unwilling to confront Iran.
The US will stand by Israel, but may not be willing to push Iran out of Syria.


Iran’s goal is to operate militarily across Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon – north of its adversaries Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel. To this end, Iran “helped” move not only ISIS fighters, but tens of thousands of Sunni Arabs, from its westward path. Iran controls militias of more than 80,000 fighters in Syria. Israeli sources say there are 3,000 members of Iran’s IRGC commanding 9,000 Hizb’allah, and 10,000 “violent Shia militias recruited from across the Mideast, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The rest are Syrian.

Iran’s problem right now is at home. The government was surprised and more than a little bit worried about the rolling demonstrations across the country in January. The protests were broad-based, widespread and deliberately provocative. The image of an elderly Iranian woman climbing on a wall (with some difficulty) to remove and wave her hijab couldn’t have made the mullahs feel secure. And when a government has to look over its shoulder at its restive population, its room to maneuver abroad is constrained.

It was necessary, then, for the mullahs to have a victory, so they claimed one.

Just in time for the 39th-anniversary celebration of the Iranian revolution, Iran showed a variety of homemade, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, claiming the missiles can hit Israel from Iranian territory. As for the drone – Iran denied its existence and simply cheered its Syrian ally’s air defenses, claiming that Israel had lost its military edge in the region. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told Russian TV, “Reports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran’s involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous… Iran only provides military advice to Syria.”

Cornell Professor: The American Dream Is a ‘Hallucination’ By Tom Knighton see note please

Room, board, tuition and other fees cost $65,495.00 at Cornell. The average salary for professors there is $285,000. rsk

Cornell University’s Prof. Eric Cheyfitz isn’t a fan of the American Dream, it seems. The problem isn’t that he thinks it’s bad — it seems he believes the American Dream isn’t reality.

The Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters spoke at an event hosted by the Institute for Comparative Modernities on Tuesday. During the talk, he referred to his latest book, The Disinformation Age: The Collapse of Liberal Democracy in the United States. In it, he takes aim at the White House.

Yet, oddly enough, it’s not the Trump administration he focused on:

Obama’s speeches, he said, are classic examples of what Cheyfitz defines as “disinformation,” or the “rupture of political rhetoric from political reality with fatal results.”

In other words, Trump and our current political situation are not, contrary to what many people may think, the causes of disinformation.

“Trump is not the problem — he is the latest symptom of the problem,” Cheyfitz explained. Rather, the country’s major issue is the overlapping, “imbricated pair of income inequality and climate change.”

Cheyfitz also said:

If I were to sum up the book in one sentence, I would say it is a historical explanation about how and why the United States is still trying to live a narrative, American exceptionalism, that fails to rationalize the state any longer.

“This story has always confused capitalism with democracy when in fact the two systems are fundamentally at odds.”

This nonsense isn’t surprising coming from an academic. CONTINUE AT SITE

An Understanding of Islamic Supremacism Must Drive U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy By Ben Weingarten

The Trump administration’s new National Vetting Center, housed within the Department of Homeland Security, could provide a needed boost to our defenses if it streamlines and coordinates the information collection and sharing processes between relevant immigration and national security agencies, rather than adding to the bureaucratic thicket.

While it is critical to get the mechanism for keeping harmful actors such as jihadists out of the U.S. right, equally if not more important is that we get right the vetting process itself. On this, the executive memorandum is silent.

What does the administration believe about vetting? The first iteration of President Trump’s terror entry executive order, inaccurately maligned as a “travel ban,” sheds light on his thinking.

The purpose of that executive order was to

…ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

The executive order echoed a statement President Trump made while on the stump in a pivotal August 2016 speech on fighting Islamic terrorism. Emphasizing the ideological nature of this struggle, then-candidate Trump stated:

In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.

In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law.

Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country.

In that same speech, the president declared that one of his first acts if elected would be to establish a “Commission on Radical Islam,” the express purpose of which would be two-fold: (i) To “identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization;” and (ii) To “develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners.”

The lack of such a top-down analysis has plagued America since before 9/11. One wonders, how could our national security and foreign policy apparatus not study what President Obama himself termed the “one organizing principle” among the jihadist enemies facing us, of Islam? Moreover, how could U.S. government officials, notably including former FBI Director Robert Mueller, possibly purge the lexicon intrinsic to and trainers steeped in the theopolitical, Sharia-based threat doctrine motivating Islamic supremacists? You must understand your enemy’s animating ideology if you wish to defeat him. Conducting an honest study of Islamic supremacism, and the goals, tactics and strategies of its adherents would seem to be the essential first step to developing a strategy to comprehensively counter them.

When it comes to vetting to prevent Islamic supremacists from entering the homeland, third-party analyses based in such an understanding of the enemy – dishonest and determined though he may be — provide promising recommendations for keeping us safe.

The Trump National Security Strategy itself rightfully recognizes the importance of understanding Sharia supremacism in fighting jihad. CONTINUE AT SITE