June 1, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


The Humiliation of John Durham: Hired by Bill Barr to investigate the Trump investigators, the prosecutor had little to show for his work even before his defeat in court yesterday. (DENNIS AFTERGUT, JUNE 1, 2022, The Bulwark)

The moment he let Barr recruit him, Durham, a former U.S. attorney in Connecticut, risked ruining his once-strong professional reputation. That reputation is now in tatters. Durham first knifed it in December 2019, when he joined Barr in an unprecedented attack on the department's own nonpartisan inspector general. The IG had just issued a 478-page report concluding that the Trump-Russia investigation began properly. Barr and Durham's actions were widely criticized as inappropriate. William Webster, the revered former Republican director of the FBI and CIA, lambasted Barr's conduct, saying it risked "inflicting enduring damage" on the FBI. Durham should have known better than to be used in that attack.

Then, in September 2020, Nora Dannehy, Durham's respected and loyal aide, resigned from his team. She expressed concern about, in the words of the Hartford Courant, "pressure from Barr . . . to produce results before the election."

Durham could have departed then, too, and saved himself further embarrassment. After all, the month before, Durham had obtained his one and only conviction, a guilty plea from then-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for lying to investigators in June 2017.

Still, a low-level FBI agent's lie, nearly a year after the Trump-Russia investigation began, did nothing to prove that the FBI had launched the investigation illegitimately.

Fast-forward to September 16, 2021, when Durham indicted Sussmann, days before the five-year statute of limitations ran out. As some commentators noted, the indictment reeked of non-prosecutorial goals: It seemed that Durham was trying to justify the public money he'd wasted boosting Trump's false narrative that it was the big, bad Clinton campaign behind the Trump-Russia investigation.

The supposed lie for which Durham indicted Sussmann occurred in mid-September 2016--again, after the Trump-Russia investigation started on July 31. Sussmann went to a friend in the FBI--the bureau's general counsel, James Baker--with a tip, allegedly saying that he was not offering the information "on behalf of any client."

The tip was that a secret communication channel appeared to exist between the Trump Organization and a server of Russia's Alfa Bank. (Whether such a back channel actually existed is in doubt, though it has never been definitively disproven.) In charging Sussmann under 18 U.S.C. ยง1001, Durham's team alleged that Sussmann lied to Baker--not about the substance of the tip but because Sussmann was working for the Clinton campaign.

He was. But as Sussmann's lawyer argued, "There is a difference between having a client, and doing something on their behalf."

Per Sussmann's defense, he approached the FBI purely at his own behest to help keep Baker and the FBI from being caught unawares when the story imminently appeared in the press.

It's tough to disprove a private motivation. To do so "beyond a reasonable doubt," you'd better have airtight evidence.

Durham didn't.

In fact, Baker, the prosecution's own witness, bolstered the defense. He testified that Sussmann helped him identify the reporter working on the Alfa Bank story so that the FBI could try to stop it. (Premature publicity jeopardizes investigations.)

Durham's own theory of the case alleges no crime, just as his star witness exonerated the defendant.  Sublime. 
Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Don't listen to the Jubilee grumblers - if anything, Britain needs more pomp and pageantry (Henry Hill, 5/31/22, CapX)

The United Kingdom doesn't have nearly enough pageantry. This might be hard to believe on the eve of a Royal Jubilee which will likely see an awful lot of pageantry indeed, but it is true nonetheless.

Yes, we can still put on a splendid show when we have the mind. The state opening of Parliament is a grand occasion, and the Trooping of the Colour always popular. But neither of those is really a national event, is it? The Platinum Jubilee, on the other hand, certainly will be - which means we're going to be subject to an awful lot of very tedious grumbling by people ostentatiously disapproving or uninterested. One need not look far on Twitter to find people describing the 'horror' of their neighbours preparing harmless street parties.

Slightly more serious commentators, such as George Monbiot, lift their hats to Her Majesty but attack the pomp and circumstance of the whole occasion. 'Pomp and pageantry are the enemies of reason', he thunders.

That's the point. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Physicists Rewrite the Fundamental Law That Leads to Disorder (Philip Ball, May 26, 2022, Quanta)

In all of physical law, there's arguably no principle more sacrosanct than the second law of thermodynamics -- the notion that entropy, a measure of disorder, will always stay the same or increase. "If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations -- then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations," wrote the British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington in his 1928 book The Nature of the Physical World. "If it is found to be contradicted by observation -- well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation." No violation of this law has ever been observed, nor is any expected.

But something about the second law troubles physicists. Some are not convinced that we understand it properly or that its foundations are firm. Although it's called a law, it's usually regarded as merely probabilistic: It stipulates that the outcome of any process will be the most probable one (which effectively means the outcome is inevitable given the numbers involved).

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Hansel Kicks Off NH-02 Campaign With Sununu Endorsement (Damien Fisher, 5/31/22, NH Journal)

Hansel's electoral success as a Republican in one of the Granite State's most liberal cities has surprised many and has marked him as a rising star in the party. State GOP insiders have been speculating for weeks that he might enter the race, particularly after Sununu favorite Jeff Cozzens dropped out in April.

Hansel said he's running on his record of fiscal responsibility in the face of growing economic uncertainty and crippling inflation that is hurting New Hampshire families.

"Inflation is really starting to erode our quality of life. I can't stand by while Granite State families continue to fall behind through no fault of their own," Hansel said. "Gas prices are surging, groceries are going up, our retirement savings are going down. Reckless federal spending has been bailing out big urban centers and it's been raising costs for the rest of us."

Hansel's team sees an opportunity to unseat Rep. Annie Kuster, D-Hopkinton, the five-term incumbent they say has been AWOL during much of the current economic crisis. The campaign feels it has a real opportunity to win, especially given the support from Sununu.

Hansel said New Hampshire families are dealing with Washington's inaction and economic malpractice.

"This winter, I can't even imagine, families are going to be sitting around their kitchen tables and they're gonna be opening the heating bills and figuring out how to get by," he said. "They are going to have to make heartbreaking decisions between investing in the future of their children and just heating their homes."