Patterico's Pontifications

10/31/2017

Man In Truck Yells “Allahu Akbar” As He Plows Onto Bike Path In New York, Killing Eight

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:35 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Horrible news out of New York:

At least six people were killed Tuesday afternoon when a speeding Home Depot truck plowed along a Lower Manhattan bike path, running down helpless riders from behind, sources said.

Eyewitnesses told police the driver yelled “Allahu Akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great!” — after leaving the mangled bodies scattered behind his rental truck.

The Middle Eastern man was arrested after police shot him in the rear end. Sources said he was waving a pair of guns when cops reached the scene.

Fifteen people have been reported injured.

The incident is being investigated as a terrorist attack.

Also, according to NBC News:

Suspect is male in mid 30s. Three law enforcement officials directly briefed in the investigation describe him as ‘middle eastern’

Officials have not released the name of the suspect, who was carrying a Florida ID.

Sadly, this:

The man crashed into a school bus carrying three children during the rampage, and police say that he’d deliberately targeted that bus. Witnesses told police they saw the driver swerve the truck to target the school bus.

Mayor de Blasio just spoke at a news conference:

Based on the information we have at this moment, this was act of terror.”

He also updated the number killed to eight.

Of course, everything is subject to updates as the investigation proceeds. Prayers and comfort for the families of those who were killed. What horrible shock they must be experiencing now.

–Dana

SHUT UP! Bergdahl May Get A Lower Sentence…Thanks To Trump

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

The Yammerer in Chief has pulled another doozy. On October 16, after a campaign in which he suggested that Bowe Bergdahl should be executed or returned to the Taliban, President Trump said: “I think people have heard my comments in the past.” The New York Times reports that Trump’s running his stupid mouth may have earned Bergdahl a lower sentence, as the judge will treat it as “mitigating” evidence:

President Trump’s harsh criticism of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his Army post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban, will weigh in favor of a lighter sentence for the sergeant, a military judge said on Monday.

“I will consider the president’s comments as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence,” the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance of the Army, said during a hearing at Fort Bragg. The judge is expected to sentence Sergeant Bergdahl in the next few weeks.

The judge rejected a request that he dismiss the case or cap the length of the sentence on the grounds that the president’s comments had precluded a fair hearing. The judge said he had not been influenced by the remarks and that the public’s confidence in the military justice system had not been undermined.

If you don’t already see the problem, the judge’s remarks may seem confusing. How could he say he “had not been influenced by the remarks” and yet say that he “will consider the president’s comments as mitigation evidence”? Once you do see the problem, these remarks make perfect sense together. This is not some judge trying to make Trump look bad. This is a judge doing his best to react to the terrible position that Trump put him in.

Andrew C. McCarthy explained this a week ago, in a post that presciently predicted that Trump’s comments would cause a problem for the Bergdahl prosecution. McCarthy’s post was titled On Bergdahl, Maybe Trump Could Try Saying ‘No Comment’:

I have explained why presidential commentary can compromise criminal investigations to the great advantage of the guilty. The president is the head of the executive branch. Federal prosecutors are his subordinates, as are federal investigators. When he spouts that someone should be prosecuted or sent to jail, the courts do not slough off such commentary as mere opinion or political hyperbole — even if, as in Trump’s case, the president is a non-lawyer. If charges are eventually brought against the person subjected to a presidential outburst, that defendant will move to have the case dismissed on due-process grounds. . . .

. . . .

The problems posed by presidential commentary are considerably worse in military prosecutions. . . [M]ilitary justice is a unilateral executive-branch system. Even the appellate courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, lack structural independence. No matter how scrupulously the military courts conduct the proceedings, there can still be a perception that a conviction was rigged. Furthermore, while the U.S. Supreme Court — the Constitution’s ultimate, independent judicial authority — has the power to review military cases, its jurisdiction is discretionary. It need not review any military cases and only rarely accepts such appeals.

You might figure this means that a soldier targeted by presidential commentary is sure to be railroaded. In reality, the tendency runs in the opposite direction. The military takes great pride in its first-rate justice system. In word and deed, that system communicates to those who enlist in our armed forces that an American soldier’s rights will be zealously safeguarded. Military courts bend over backwards to refute any notions that their proceedings have been infected by improper influence from the upper ranks.

I have bolded certain parts of McCarthy’s excellent writing to emphasize the parts that best explain the judge’s comments. When someone who wants to be seen as neutral is accused of favoring one side, that person will often bend over backwards to favor the other side. Here, the judge is saying: the President’s comments don’t affect me . . . why, if anything, I’ll use them in Bergdahl’s favor, not against him.

McCarthy explains that this is especially irresponsible of Trump because the judge had already indicated displeasure with Trump’s campaign comments — but had said he would not be influenced by them because Trump was not yet President when he made them. So Trump was on notice that the judge would react badly to further Trump comments made as President. Yet the occupant of the Oval Office just had to open his mouth again as Commander in Chief. As always, it’s all about him, and not the country he claims to serve.

Diehard Trump supporters like to say that critics should look at what Trump does, not what he says. Indeed, I recently wrote about the distinction myself, in a post titled What Trump Says Vs. What Trump Does. While I concluded that Trump’s actions have mostly been OK, and his words often harmless distractions, I also reminded readers that words coming from the Oval Office have consequences, saying: “Here’s the thing, Trumpers. Words do matter.” Sometimes what a President says has real-life consequences. I focused on the possible damage to foreign policy, while McCarthy’s focus is the enforcement of criminal law:

Ardent Trump fans find their man’s shoot-from-the-hip style to be a refreshing break with politics as we know (knew?) it, confirmation of the real-estate mogul’s authenticity as the voice of the everyman. Those who suggest the president might try being more, well, presidential, quickly find themselves the target of Trumpist venom.

Yet it is a stubborn fact that when the president of the United States says something, it matters. Assuming he thinks about them at all, Donald Trump may intend his more provocative digs and tweets to be mere campaign-style red meat to keep the flock energized. But he is President Trump now. Especially in the legal arena, his mindless and occasionally obnoxious banter is significant. It can undermine the enforcement efforts of the police, prosecutors, military, and border-patrol agents whom he so enthusiastically champions.

Now, it may undermine the court-martial of Bowe Bergdahl.

Trump was warned. But he didn’t listen. Now, a deserter whose actions likely caused the deaths of several of his comrades may very well get off lighter than he otherwise would — just because Donald J. Trump couldn’t keep his damned mouth shut.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

10/30/2017

Why Americans Distrust Big Media: INCREDIBLE Spin on New Kevin Spacey Pedophilia Accusations

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:30 am

Last night, the world learned that actor Anthony Rapp is accusing Kevin Spacey of making a sexual advance on Rapp when Rapp was only 14 years old. The revelation is one of the more strange and disappointing allegations to emerge in the avalance of post-Weinstein stories of harassment and sexual assault by men in Hollywood and media. BuzzFeed reported:

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Rapp is publicly alleging for the first time that in 1986, Spacey befriended Rapp while they both performed on Broadway shows, invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. According to public records, Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.

Spacey put out an eye-opening statement of apology, seeming to acknowledge that he had indeed probably done what Rapp accused him of:

Quite remarkable — especially the line that reads: “But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” It’s not quite a confession, but the non-denial is striking. After all, most people would be able to deny without reservation trying to have sex with a 14-year-old boy. I don’t know what the statute of limitations is in New York on attempted sexual intercourse with a minor that young, but Spacey’s apparent acknowledgment of Rapp’s allegation could possibly even open him up to prosecution. At a minimum, it is a potentially career-ending admission.

And yet, much of Big Media portrayed the Real Story as being . . . Spacey’s admission that he is gay. No, seriously. One media organization after another ran headlines with variants of the theme: “Kevin Spacey Says He Is Gay.” Some of them changed their headlines after the fact, and others may still, so I will use screenshots to prove my point. Here’s ABC:

ABC Spacey

And here’s Reuters:

Reuters Spacey

Not to be outdone, here is the New York Daily News:

NYDN Spacey

Here’s Gabriel Malor with a similar screenshot from U.S News and World Report:

Um, that’s not the story, guys. It’s not even news. I have assumed Spacey was gay or bisexual for years. I was surprised to read that he hadn’t openly acknowledged it.

But I was a lot more surprised to read that he had allegedly tried to have sex with a 14-year-old.

Come on, Big Media. When America sees you doing stuff like this, right in front of our eyes, we don’t get fooled any more. We just get increasingly disgusted with you, and your transparent efforts to soft-pedal a story on behalf of one of your own.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

It’s Manafort

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:40 am

My prediction last night:

I tend to think the indictment will be to a Trump-related person and not a Dem. But it probably will have zilch to do with Russia collusion and everything to do with financial shenanigans (probably Russia-related) and/or lying to the feds.

Always trust content from Patterico! The New York Times reports:

Paul Manafort and his former business associate were indicted on Monday on money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying charges, a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over President Trump’s first year in office.

Mr. Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, and his longtime associate Rick Gates, surrendered to the FBI on Monday. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said Mr. Manafort laundered more than $18 million to buy properties and services.

“Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States without paying taxes on that income,” the indictment reads.

Mr. Gates is accused of transferring more than $3 million from offshore accounts. The two are also charged with making false statements.

Well, it didn’t take a genius to see this coming.

My initial impression is that Trump can spin this as a nothingburger without straining too hard. From what I can tell from the early reports, nothing about this says “Russia collusion.” And Trump will say, not without justification, that his dealings with Manafort show he acted correctly when he learned Manafort was dirty. Deeeeeep in the New York Times article we get this reminder:

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Manafort just months later, after reports that he received more than $12 million in undisclosed payments from Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a pro-Russia politician. Mr. Manafort spent years as a political consultant for Mr. Yanukovych.

At most, today’s story is a reminder that Donald Trump sometimes shows very poor judgment in the people he surrounds himself with.

Otherwise, this is kind of a yawner, to be honest.

UPDATE: Unlike the Manafort indictment, this could end up being a problem for Trump:

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

10/29/2017

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 139

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General — Patterico @ 8:38 am

Composed for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity, the title of the cantata is “Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott” which translates as “Happy is the man, who to his God.”

The text is here. The cantata is based on a hymn by Johann Christoph Rube, sung to a tune written by Johann Hermann Schein called “Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt.” Here is the unadorned melody of the hymn:

The Gospel reading for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity is Matthew 22: 15-22, with a famous quote you have heard before.

Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

I tend to prefer more updated translations of the Bible, but used the King James Version here because I like the way they translate the penultimate verse.

Commenter kishnevi recommends this box set of Bach’s cantatas, if anyone is interested.

Happy listening!

UPDATE: I wrote two posts last night about Bach cantatas and accidentally published the wrong one. I had intended to publish a post embedding the cantata written for the 20th Sunday after Trinity, but instead accidentally published a different post I had already written, embedding the cantata for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity. I am now annoyed at myself.

If you are interested in the post for the correct date, I have published it at RedState.

UPDATE x2: The readings are taken from this Web site about Bach’s cantatas. As best as I can tell, the readings are those that would have been used in Bach’s day.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

10/28/2017

What Does All This New Russia News Mean?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:30 pm

Two big stories out on Russia in the past day. Let’s recap and briefly analyze.

First, as Caleb Howe discussed here, Robert Mueller has filed his first charges. Behind Door #1: Paul Manafort. Behind Door #2: Michael Flynn. Behind Door #3: A goat. (Scapegoat?) If a door is opened and it does not contain the indicted person or animal, should you switch your guess? I don’t know, since Monty is no longer here to tell us. I do know that Adam Steinbaugh had the Tweet of the Day with this:

Second story: what many of us strongly suspected is now crystal clear: Natalia Veselnitskaya was acting as a Kremlin cutout when she met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and The Man Behind Door Number 1. Susan Wright discussed this yesterday, and the article can be found in the #FAKENEWSNEWYORKTIMES!!1!:

Natalia V. Veselnitskaya arrived at a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 hoping to interest top Trump campaign officials in the contents of a memo she believed contained information damaging to the Democratic Party and, by extension, Hillary Clinton. The material was the fruit of her research as a private lawyer, she has repeatedly said, and any suggestion that she was acting at the Kremlin’s behest that day is anti-Russia “hysteria.”

But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.

The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya’s account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman.

It also suggests that emails from an intermediary to the younger Mr. Trump promising that Ms. Veselnitskaya would arrive with information from Russian prosecutors were rooted at least partly in fact — not mere “puffery,” as the president’s son later said.

If you didn’t care that Trump Jr. was going to the meeting explicitly to get dirt on Hillary that he believed to be sourced from a high-level Russian prosecutor, then you won’t care that the dirt was indeed coming from the Kremlin.

Also, you’re probably a partisan hack who would have screamed to high heaven if Hillary’s troops had done the same.

What does it all mean? That partisans are gonna partisan.

Have we gotten to coordination yet, as to Hillary or Trump? No. Do we have utterly nasty politics being played, by the Hillary side and the Trump side? Yes. Will Democrats care about only one half of this? Yes. Will Republicans care only about the other half? Yes.

Any other questions?

P.S. If you’re not a hack, and you’re interested in facts about the Magnitsky Act, Veselnitskaya, and her relationship to the Kremlin, check out my six-part series on that topic.

In Part One, I introduced the series. In Part Two, I began setting forth the background of the aggressive tax fraud scheme that Sergei Magnitsky discovered, as set out in Browder’s book Red Notice. In Part Three, I discussed what Magnitsky did when he uncovered the scheme — and the terrible price he paid as a result. In Part Four, I discussed the reaction of the Russian government to the Magnitsky Act, and why they hate it so much. In Part Five, I discussed the connections between Natalia Veselnitskaya and the thieves behind the tax fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky. And in Part Six, I concluded by discussing Veselnitskaya’s relentless propaganda effort against Bill Browder, Sergei Magnitsky, and the Magnitsky Act.

Read that, and you’ll have a much better sense of why recent stories might matter.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Spanish Government Signals Harsh Response to Catalan Independence Declaration

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:07 pm

Yesterday, after the regional parliament of Catalonia voted to declare independence, the Spanish government said: allow me to retort.

Basically, the Spanish government asked the regional government: does Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy look like a b*tch?

Madrid reacted to the Catalan parliament’s unilateral declaration of independence on Friday by firing the regional government and dismissing the head of the local police force.

Puigdemont and his cabinet were formally removed from their posts, and their powers and responsibilities taken over by central government in notices posted to the official state bulletin on Saturday morning.

It’s escalating further than that, with threats of rebellion charges:

Spain’s top prosecutor will seek rebellion charges for those responsible for a vote in favor of declaring an independent Catalan republic, an official spokesman said.

The spokesman said the prosecutor is looking to determine if the charges should be limited to the Catalan cabinet, including President Carles Puigdemont and Vice President Oriol Junqueras, or if they should also include members of the parliament’s governing board and lawmakers.

The official, who spoke under condition of anonymity in line with internal rules, said the charges could be brought as early as Monday.

Puigdemont is responding with a message of peaceful defiance:

The Catalan leader has issued a defiant response to Madrid’s decision to take direct control of Catalonia, calling for “democratic opposition” to the takeover.

In a brief video message issued on Saturday afternoon, Carles Puigdemont vowed to continue working to build “a free country”.

“We must do so resisting repression and threats, without ever abandoning, at any time, civic and peaceful conduct,” he said, adding that his government did not have or want “the argument of force”.

I don’t think that is going to work. Whoever commands the most men with guns is going to win this fight, at least in the near term. And right now, that looks like the Spanish government.

Complicating the way all good people should view all this is the fact that what the Catalan public wants is a lot more mixed than it might appear on the surface. The vote in the Catalan parliament yesterday was 70-10. But the 10 votes were a symbolic number left behind by a much larger group. More than 50 members of parliament who opposed secession had left in protest before the vote. They were going to lose, but not by much.

This provides a parallel to the referendum. While voters cast ballots overwhelmingly in favor of independence, virtually all voters who favored continuing the union stayed home, agreeing with the Spanish government that the vote itself was unconstitutional. Only 43% of eligible voters actually voted.

The EU rejects the Catalonian declaration of independence and refuses to recognize Catalonian independence. Scotland, which had held its own independence referendum, was a lonely voice stating a willingness to take the declaration at face value.

It’s all a thorny mess, and it’s likely to get resolved with violence.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

10/27/2017

Hmm…Rafael Cruz In Texas To, Uh, “Watch The World Series”

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:40 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Probably just a coincidence….

Untitled

And now a word from the President:

Untitled

[All scolds, loosen up, it’s Friday night!]

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Catalonian Parliament Declares Independence, Setting Up Possible Showdown

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:30 am

BBC:

The Catalan regional parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain, just as the Spanish government appears set to impose direct rule.

The move was backed 70-10 in a ballot boycotted by opposition MPs.

Since the initial independence vote, which was marked by violence as police shot voters with rubber bullets, the situation has been escalating and appears to be headed for a crisis. Earlier today, the prime minister sought authority to invoke an article of the Spanish constitution that calls for “direct rule.” The New York Times reports:

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged the Spanish Senate to invoke Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, allowing him to impose direct rule on Catalonia, as the country’s careened into its greatest constitutional crisis since it embraced democracy in 1978.

In his address to the Senate, Mr. Rajoy said there was “no alternative” because the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, and his separatist cabinet had pursued an illegal and unilateral path that was “contrary to the normal behavior in any democratic country like ours.”

“Direct rule” means the Spanish government will claim that the regional government has no authority. They will send in police and possibly the military to enforce that order, arresting the members of the regional government if necessary. I’ve seen no indication that the regional government plans (or has any real ability) to respond with its own show of force; its leaders have spent recent days seeking dialogue with the Spanish government. For its part, the Spanish government has been demanding, as a condition to any talks, a clear statement from the regional government that independence is off the table. Today’s action shows that the parliament has decided instead to further escalate.

Clashes between a central government and a subset seeking independence can get violent. Parallel to the Catalonian independence movement, there was an independence referendum in Kurdistan, where the Kurds held a largely symbolic vote overwhelmingly in favor of independence. The Iraqi government moved into the oil-rich area of Kirkuk with considerable force. At least 11 civilians were killed and 30,000 Kurds displaced. The Kurdish referendum is now widely considered to be a miscalculation, simply because of the violent Iraqi reprisal. (It is the world’s way to consider the use of guns to “settle” political questions. I often hear Americans say that the Civil War “settled” the issue of whether a U.S. state may secede.)

The Kurdish and Catalonian situations are obviously separate and unique, but there is a common thread: the desire of a smaller and relatively homogeneous population to rule themselves. I’m concerned that there may soon be another parallel: men with guns taking the lives of innocent people.

I support the concept of self-rule. But both sides need to take a deep breath and take a step back, and talk about the matter, rather than bringing out the firearms. I’m worried that a lot of people are going to die “settling” this question.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

10/26/2017

Motorist Attacked by Pro-Immigration Protesters — And Who Gets Arrested???

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:09 pm

Go watch the video at the L.A. Times Web site and tell me what you think.

I’m appalled that the motorist was arrested. (Although maybe the cops didn’t see the whole thing, so I can’t necessarily blame them.) I think the woman who leapt onto his car should have been arrested — probably with a few of her fellow protesters. Yet this guy is booked on assault with a deadly weapon? You’ve gotta be kidding me.

I hope the case is re-evaluated now that the video is available.

I’m on jury duty next week. Bring a case like this to me and I’ll vote to acquit and then lecture the prosecutor.

Outrageous.

[As with all posts, this post is written in my private capacity. I do not speak for my office, and never do on this site.]

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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