January 2, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


'Somebody Should Go to the Slammer for This': Legal Experts Shocked and Appalled by DOJ's Ukraine Redactions (Colin Kalmbacher, January 2nd, 2020, Law & Crime)

News of those significant redactions broke early Thursday morning and Law&Crime has a lengthy write-up of the overall story here. The amount of information released, however, is somewhat dizzying and part of an increasingly complex story line. We turned to the experts for the upshot of this groundbreaking release.

Federal defense attorney and computer law expert Tor Ekeland was appalled.

In an email, Ekeland rubbished DOJ's decision-making:

This is a mess. Did they provide a redaction log listing the basis for their redactions, e.g., privilege or word product or what not? You just don't get to redact things willy nilly because you don't want information that looks bad coming to public view. There might be cognizable privilege claims for redaction here, but when you try to ascertain what, you quickly get mired in the confusion and chaos of this administration. In order to claim privilege for redactions, you first need to be clear on who is claiming the privilege, and what privilege is being claimed. It's not immediately clear from this romper room mess.

Just Security's co-editor-in-chief and former Department of Defense special counsel Ryan Goodman explained several key aspects of the release in a thread on Twitter Thursday morning.

"The emails appear to contradict OMB General Counsel [Mark] Paoletta's letter to Congress (which set forth new rationale for hold on Ukraine aid on eve of HJC vote on impeachment articles)," he said. Goodman cited the following sentence from that letter as an intentionally false statement:

In fact, at no point during the pause in obligations did DOD OGC indicate to OMB that, as a matter of law, the apportionments would prevent DOD from being able to obligate the funds before the end of the fiscal year.

"When Politico broke the news of Ukraine hold in August, what did OMB General Counsel Paoletta do?" Goodman continued. "He circulated false Talking Points. The Deputy Under Secretary of Defense in an email said that Paoletta's talking point was 'just not accurate' and that OMB knew it to be false."

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


'What the hell were you thinking?': Trump berated White House staff for not telling him Putin was trying to call him (David Choi, 1/02/20, Business Insider)

On January 27, 2017, weeks after winning the presidency, Trump had his first official visit from a foreign leader at the White House, with British Prime Minister Theresa May. During lunch, May asked Trump if he had talked to Putin, according to Bergen.

"No, I haven't," Trump replied.

Flynn, a former three-star US Army general, was nearby and leaned in to tell Trump: "Sir, we're arranging that call now. President Putin called several days ago, but we haven't been able to get it on your calendar yet."

Trump, upset by the response, lambasted Flynn.

"Are you kidding me? Vladimir Putin tried to call me, and you didn't put him through? What the hell were you thinking?" Trump said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Trump spent his holidays retweeting QAnon and Pizzagate accounts (Aaron Rupar, Jan 2, 2020, Vox)

Trump amplifying conspiracy theories is not new. A New York Times investigation published in November found that since he took office, Trump retweeted 145 accounts that "pushed conspiracy or extremist content," including at least one run by Russian intelligence. And Trump has previously on occasion retweeted QAnon accounts.

But stewing about impeachment from the Mar-a-Lago club he still owns and profits from over the holidays, the president took things up a notch.

In addition to retweeting a QAnon and Pizzagate accounts, Trump retweeted a post that described his fans as a cult (#Cult45). One of his first tweets of the new year was a quote-tweet of @heatherjones333, an account that has promoted Pizzagate and QAnon that he also retweeted on New Year's Eve.

Perhaps even more troubling, Trump also retweeted a post containing the alleged name of the government whistleblower who first sounded the alarm about his dealings with Ukraine. That tweet originated from an account that used a stock photo as an avatar and had previously pushed conspiracy theories about Obama being a secret Muslim and accused the Clintons of murdering Jeffrey Epstein.

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Explosive new documents reveal the lengths to which the Justice Department went to conceal the Pentagon's concerns about Trump's Ukraine aid freeze (Sonam Sheth and Grace Panetta, 1/02/20, Business Insider)

For weeks, officials at the Office of Management and Budget ignored warnings from the Department of Defense that placing a hold on a congressionally-appropriated $391 million aid package to Ukraine violated the law, according to new unredacted emails obtained and published by Just Security.

The emails between DOD and OMB officials were secured through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) launched by the Center for Public Integrity. In December, a court ordered the federal government to turn over 300 pages of emails, many of which were heavily redacted in their initial release. 

The emails newly published by Just Security reveal that between June and September -- when the aid was ultimately released following an anonymous whistleblower's complaint -- the DOD repeatedly asked OMB about why the military aid was being held up.

Crucially, the DOD warned several times that continuing to withhold the aid violated the Impoundment Control Act, which stipulates that if the federal funds are not spent towards their designated purpose within a certain period of time, they will be taken, or impounded, by the US Treasury Department.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Emails Reveal "Clear Direction From POTUS" on Ukraine Scandal (Dan Friedman, 1/02/20, MoJo)

Newly revealed communications between White House staffers and officials at the Pentagon are shedding additional light on the Ukraine Scandal--even as the Senate prepares for President Donald Trump's trial following his impeachment by the House of Representatives last month. Just Security reported Thursday that Michael Duffey, a political appointee who oversees defense spending at the White House Office of Management and Budget, told Pentagon Comptroller Elaine McCusker in an August 30 email that he had "clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold" vital military aid that was supposed to be sent to Ukraine. That statement was one of a number of redacted lines in 300 pages of emails the administration released last month to the Center for Public Integrity after a court order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Posted by orrinj at 11:30 AM



More American adults believe the U.S. Senate should remove President Donald Trump from office than those who think it should not, according to a poll.

The Economist/YouGov survey found that 45 percent of people think the Senate should remove Trump from office against 41 percent who said it should not. 14 percent were not sure.

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Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


MC Beaton, multimillion-selling author of Agatha Raisin novels, dies aged 83 (Alison Flood, 2 Jan 2020, The Guardian)

Beaton, a pseudonym for Marion Chesney Gibbons, was widely known as the queen of cosy crime, selling more than 21m copies of her books around the world and regularly being named the most borrowed adult author from UK libraries. But the novelist, who was born in Glasgow, was not a fan of the "cosy" moniker.

"It is patronising and implies that my books, which are easy to read, must be easy to write. Nobody calls Agatha Christie cosy," she told the Crime Hub in 2019. "To keep writing in clear well-balanced sentences takes a lot of hard work and if anyone doesn't want a Glasgow kiss, swallow that opinion and put it where the sun don't shine."

Beaton started out in bookselling, moving into journalism as the theatre critic for the Scottish Daily Mail before becoming a reporter for the Daily Express. She and her husband, Harry Scott Gibbons, moved to the US after the birth of their son. Marion turned to writing Regency romances in order to spend more time with her young son, and had written almost 100 before she began to write detective stories under the MC Beaton pseudonym.

Her Hamish Macbeth stories, about a quick-witted but unambitious Highland village policeman, were inspired by a fishing holiday in Scotland, with the first published in 1985 and later televised with great success.

Hamish is available on Amazon Prime.

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Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Civility and Its Critics: Some self-righteous writers believe that their goodness--and their opponents' badness--justifies incivility. (ANDY SMARICK  JANUARY 2, 2020, The Bulwark)

[F]ree societies tend to evolve a variety of norms around public morality. Citizens are taught that although we are often tempted to do rash, unkind, unhealthy things, and although constitutional and legal protections give us license to do many of them, we ought not to. Hence the social value of inculcating such virtues as honesty, prudence, charity, humility, forgiveness, abstemiousness, accommodation, and self-discipline.

This is the glory and genius of liberal communities that have had the opportunity to learn and adapt: Through trial and error over generations, they develop remarkable social tools that allow human beings to live well together.

One of these indispensable tools is political civility.

We have the right to offend, badger, prevaricate, provoke, bloviate, and exaggerate. And often our gut tells us to do just that. But the wisdom of experience advises us that doing so is hazardous. It's hard to have productive discussions when facts are in doubt, when someone monopolizes the floor, or when participants drown out others' sound arguments by turning up their own volume.

But civility is even more important because it creates an environment in which people are able to have meaningful conversations on the most difficult matters. Incivility infuriates opponents, making them want to respond in kind. Incivility makes opponents feel under assault and vulnerable, causing them to lash out. Incivility turns a discussion about a policy matter into a personal fight between combatants.

We can disagree passionately with our opponents' positions. We can even dislike them personally. But civility is the common currency of conversation--it organizes the public's business and allows the market of ideas to function. Civility is a shrewd social creation that enables the combustible combination of base human impulses, liberty, and democracy to still produce positive results.

Tragically, some American commentators are attempting to normalize incivility, or even frame it as a virtue. Their argument usually goes like this: This moment is so significant, or these particular issues are of such gravity, that we cannot be shackled by rules of decorum.

The problem, of course, is that some number of people will always believe that the current moment is of the utmost importance. 

If our times are ordinary then our lives are and that thought is intolerable to many of us.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Day 9: God's Dilemma (Walter Russell Mead, January 2, 2020, Providence)

[A]t the end of the day, for Christians, the heart of the matter is this: God is love. Love doesn't just describe God's relationship to the creation; it describes God's essence--His inner life and being. This, as we have seen, is the origin of the Christian idea of the Trinity: love is so intrinsic to the divine nature that we cannot conceive of His unity as solitude.

From a Christian perspective, God's act of creation is an expression of love. God made the world because He wants an abundance of beings and sensibilities to love, to be with, to share life with, and to make happy. [...]

All this means that human beings present God with an extraordinary problem.

On the one hand, God finds us irresistibly lovable, beautiful, and, where God's love is concerned, needy. How could we not be? Beings made by love out of love are inescapably drawn to the perfect love from which they come. No matter how grizzled and grumpy we become with the passing years, or how pimpled and snarky we turn in our adolescence, God looks at us with the kind of tender solicitude and hopeful anxiety with which we look at small children.

Yet at the same time, like many angelic-looking children, we can be a fairly nasty bunch of characters, more Lord of the Flies than Little Lord Fauntleroy. Just pick up a newspaper or go to your favorite news site: genocides, starvation, sexual tyranny and exploitation, vast contrasts of poverty and wealth; terror, arms races, environmental destruction; the rich and the poor cheating and stealing from one another, with the rich generally doing best because they've got more power to abuse; nations nursing ancient wounds as hatreds fester.

Or back off from these entrenched historical evils and look at what goes on in families, neighborhoods, and among friends. Abused children grow up to repeat the cycle. Children of alcoholics and addicts grow up with psychological wounds that predispose them to repeat the same sad behavior. Widespread epidemics of cheating in school, cheating on taxes, cheating on expense accounts, cheating on spouses. It's a bit like the national debt; each generation gets the bill for its parents' shortcomings--and passes that bill with some additional charges down to their own heirs.

Christians talk about this situation under the heading of "original sin," saying that our species has been a dysfunctional family since the dawn of time, and that each of us repeats and adds to that cycle of abuse and betrayal in our own way, even as we suffer from the damage done by those who came before. Other religions object to the kind of metaphysical structure that Christians give to the concept, but virtually everyone intuitively gets this picture of a human race somehow at war with itself and fundamentally out of whack.

This flawed race, trapped in a cycle of cascading pain and wrong, is what and who God is bound and determined to love; the question is, How can He do it? [...]

To hold everyone to a strict standard is to condemn the whole world, but to wink at the real evil that people do is to give up on the moral standard of true justice, and to leave people trapped in a cycle of evil and pain. Christians believe that God refused to choose between His love and His justice. He refused to overlook the evil of the world and say things were OK when they weren't, but He also refused to walk away from the whole ugly mess.

Instead, God chose to engage. He would draw closer to us, but not in a way that took evil lightly. Specifically, God chose to become a human being, to live with us, and ultimately to do for the human race what we could never have done for ourselves. The baby in the manger wasn't just there to look cute and beam rays of benevolence to shepherds and kings. He was born to suffer rejection and injustice, to be tortured and scourged, humiliated and mocked, to face an unjust trial before an oppressive foreign ruler, to feel the full weight of the wrath of God due to all the evil in the world, and to die a cruel death while being ridiculed and mocked by those He came to serve.

God resolved the dilemma between love and justice by taking them both all the way. The Creator of the world took the hit we had coming. The anger, the condemnation, the judgment all fell on Jesus, who bore it all out of love. That, for Christians, is what makes Christmas such a special time of year. God really knows us; He knows the worst things about us and isn't fooled by our rationalizations and evasions. And He still loves us enough to be born among us and to pay the price for all we have done.

Jesus came to deal with the flaws, the weakness, and the twisted selfishness that stand between us and God. He came to deal with the reality that no matter how much we might wish to live the right way--we haven't and don't.

Finding Himself alone and unloved on the Cross, he finally became fully Man:  "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" 

Forgive us, Father, we know not what we do.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM