The Jury Talks Back

1/16/2020

GAO: Trump Administration Violated the Law by Withholding Ukraine Funds

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:46 am

#FAKENEWSBEZOSPOST:

The White House violated federal law in its hold on security aid to Ukraine last year, according to a decision by a congressional watchdog released on Thursday and reviewed by The Washington Post.

The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress, found the Trump administration violated a law that governs how the White House disburses money approved by Congress.

The GAO decision comes as the Senate prepares for the impeachment trial of President Trump, a process set to begin Thursday.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the decision states. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”

Saying the withholding was done for a “policy reason” is not really true, but if you read the GAO’s memorandum you see they are just taking OMB at its word.

Meanwhile, a bunch of new documents have emerged from the House Intelligence Committee, suggesting that Rudy Giuliani’s henchmen might have had the Ukranian ambassador they hated so much (because they are corrupt and she opposed corruption) under surveillance. (Cue Twilight Zone music.) The documents also further undermine the Trump administration claim that Giuliani was acting as some sort of official emissary conducting the business of the United States. Quotable, from a letter penned by Giuliani to Zelensky: “Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States.” Uh, yeah.

So the case is getting stronger and stronger, even as the impartial jurors prepare to disregard all evidence.

1/15/2020

Nancy Pelosi Names Impeachment Managers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 9:40 am

[guest post by Dana]

Here we go:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday named two House chairmen who led President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry as prosecutors for Trump’s Senate trial…Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who led the probe, and Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose committee approved the impeachment articles, as among the managers of the prosecution…Schiff and Nadler will lead the seven member team that includes a diverse selection of lawmakers, particularly those with courtroom experience…include Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, Val Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Zoe Lofgren of California.

President Trump tweeted this during Pelosi’s announcement:

More from Pelosi:

“Time has been our friend in all of this, because it has yielded incriminating evidence, more truth into the public domain…Earlier, she spoke out about newly-released documents linking Trump directly to his attorney Rudy Giuliani’s political digging in Ukraine, saying they highlighted the need for witness testimony at the impeachment trial…”There can be no full & fair trial in the Senate if Leader McConnell blocks the Senate from hearing witnesses and obtaining documents President Trump is covering up.”…“The President has fought tooth-and-nail to keep thousands of documents away from the public…And no wonder — each time new pieces come out, they show President Trump right at the center of the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.”

Interesting note: The documents — part of the evidence turned over to House impeachment investigators by lawyers for Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who is awaiting trial on campaign finance charges — include a letter from Giuliani requesting a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, then the president-elect of Ukraine, with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.”

The letter, written on Giuliani’s letterhead, was dated May 10, 2018.

–Dana

CNN Debate Moderator Shamefully Takes Sides In Warren-Sanders Feud

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 8:31 am

[guest post by Dana]

I just wanted to follow-up on a particular moment during last night’s Democratic debate wherein CNN debate moderator Abby Phillip assumed that Bernie Sanders was lying when he emphatically denied telling Elizabeth Warren that a woman couldn’t win in a general election. From the actual transcript:

PHILLIP: Let’s now turn to — let’s now turn to an issue that’s come up in the last 48 hours. Sen. Sanders, CNN reported yesterday that — and Sen. Sanders, Sen. Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?

SANDERS: Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it. And I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want. Anybody knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States.

Go to YouTube today. There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States. In 2015, I deferred, in fact, to Sen. Warren. There was a movement to draft Sen. Warren to run for president. And you know what, I said — stayed back. Sen. Warren decided not to run, and I then — I did run afterwards.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States? And let me be very clear. If any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination, I hope that’s not the case, I hope it’s me.

(LAUGHTER)

But if they do, I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are elected in order to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country.

(APPLAUSE)

PHILLIP: So Sen. Sanders — Sen. Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Sen. Warren that a woman could not win the election?

SANDERS: That is correct.

PHILLIP: Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?

(LAUGHTER)

WARREN: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on.

And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump?

Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections.

(LAUGHTER)

The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women…

(APPLAUSE)

… Amy and me.

After the debates, Warren rebuffed Sanders when he attempted to shake her hand:

Look, either Elizabeth Warren is lying or Bernie Sanders is lying. And moderator Abby Phillip, to her discredit and without any evidence, made it clear by the framing of her question to Warren, that she believed Sanders was not telling the truth. Not only did she openly confirm that she believed Sanders was untruthful, she gave Warren a convenient opportunity to pivot from confronting Sanders to move on to the broader picture of women and elections. This morning, I noticed that CNN’s Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza somehow completely missed his colleague’s act of “media malpractice” in his analysis of the interaction. Perhaps it has something to do with this, eh?

CNN contributor Jess McIntosh suggested later that Phillips had taken her stance because of the network’s reporting: “This was a reported-out story that CNN was part of breaking.”

Abby Phillip discredited herself with her clear and obvious bias, and Elizabeth Warren discredited herself by not directly confronting Bernie Sanders about his sexist remark. Her decision to choose party unity over standing up for herself and standing against an act of alleged sexism came off as weak. On behalf of women everywhere, it’s not an impressive look for a Democratic woman contending for the presidency of the United States to pass on an open opportunity to condemn sexism, especially when it has allegedly coming from a powerful, white male seeking the presidency.

–Dana

1/14/2020

Democratic Presidential Debate – Open Thread

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 4:41 pm

[guest post by Dana]

So while the last debate before the Iowa caucuses happens tonight, there is already the potential for some real drama to happen as contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders finally took the gloves off this week.

But first, on stage tonight at Drake University in Des Moines will be an all-white group of Democratic millionaires (excepting Buttigieg) and one billionaire: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have had an interesting week, to say the least. First, the Sanders camp allegedly instructed campaign workers to push a claim to voters that Warren would be weak in a general election because her appeal is limited to wealthy, well-educated Americans:

[T]he script instructs volunteers to tell voters leaning toward the Massachusetts senator that “I like Elizabeth Warren. [optional] In fact, she’s my second choice. But here’s my concern about her.”

It goes on to instruct volunteers to say “people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what” and that “[s]he’s bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party”…

Warren pushed back against the accusation. And then, being a true politician, fundraised off the kerfuffle:

“I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me… Bernie knows me and has known me for a long time, he knows who I am, where I come from, what I have worked on and fought for, and the coalition and grassroots movement we’re trying to build. Democrats want to win in 2020, we all saw the impact of the factionalism in 2016 and we can’t have a repeat of that.”

Sanders denied knowing anything about the talking points:

Asked if he personally approved of such talking points, Sanders gave a straightforward answer.”

“No, of course I did not,” the senator said.

It is now being reported that said Sanders’ camp talking points have been pulled, due to “sloppy wording”.

Next, one day before the Democratic debate, Warren alleged that in 2018 Sanders told her during a private meeting that a woman could not win the presidency:

The two agreed that if they ultimately faced each other as presidential candidates, they should remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement. They also discussed how to best take on President Donald Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters.

Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.

The description of that meeting is based on the accounts of four people: two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter, and two people familiar with the meeting.

Sanders poo-pooed Warren’s claims:

“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders said. “It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

Warren was compelled to then release a specific statement about the encounter with Sanders:

Untitled

[Ed. What a girl: Lob the missile, hit the target, and then say you don’t want to talk about it anymore.]

I’ll just leave you with Democracy for America’s plea for Gran and Gramps to stop this fighting:

“Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, you both are progressive champions and our movement needs to see you working together to defeat your corporate Democratic opponents – not attack each other,” the statement said. “Progressives will win in 2020, but only if we don’t let the corporate wing or [President] Trump divide us.”

Should be a fun night!

–Dana

1/13/2020

Stating the Obvious: U.S. Press Does Not Face Same Dangers and Risk As Their Iranian Counterparts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 4:08 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Yet again demonstrating the insular bubble of delusional preciousness in which some professional journalists cocoon themselves:

Haberman, who presumably is allowed to continue to roam free in order to work, is unfortunately representative of so many Big Media outlet writers who perceive themselves as society’s desperately needed intellectual saviors of the unwashed, ignorant masses. Thus the compulsion to equate their struggle with Trump, who does not hold the press in any regard (unless they say nice things about him), as on a par with the struggle Iranian journalists face with their government if they report accurately about the anti-government sentiment happening on the ground.

Haberman seems to assume that because Trump blathers on about the American press being an “enemy of the people,” that he obviously wants to see it abolished. The thing is, while Trump has certainly attacked the press here for actual and perceived slights, honest and dishonest assessments, and accurate and inaccurate reporting, the media has, unarguably, made inaccurate claims and reports about the President. The President’s relationship with the American press has been defined by a palpable, mutual loathing and tension that has only increased during his tenure. Who struck the first blow? I am disgusted with both the press and its history of anti-conservatism, as well as with Trump and his corruption and dishonesty. So let me point you to this great analysis by Charles C.W. Cooke:

Our national press is a national joke. Vain, languid, excitable, morbid, duplicitous, cheap, insular, mawkish, and possessed of a chronic self-obsession that would have made Dorian Gray blush, it rambles around the United States in neon pants, demanding congratulation for its travails. Not since Florence Foster Jenkins have Americans been treated to such an excruciating example of self-delusion. The most vocal among the press corps’ ranks cast themselves openly as “firefighters” when, at worst, they are pyromaniacs and, at best, they are obsequious asbestos salesmen. “You never get it right, do you?” Sybil Fawlty told Basil in Fawlty Towers. “You’re either crawling all over them licking their boots or spitting poison at them like some Benzedrine puff adder.” There is a great deal of space between apologist and bête noire. In the newsrooms of America, that space is empty.

It’s getting worse. Despite presenting an opportunity for sobriety and excellence, the election of President Donald Trump has been an unmitigated disaster for the political media, which have never reckoned with their role in Trump’s elevation and eventual selection, and which have subsequently treated his presidency as a rolling opportunity for high-octane drama, smug self-aggrandizement, and habitual sloth. I did not go to journalism school, but I find it hard to believe that even the least prestigious among those institutions teaches that the correct way to respond to explosive, unsourced reports that just happen to match your political priors is to shout “Boom” or “Bombshell” or “Big if true” and then to set about spreading those reports around the world without so much as a cursory investigation into the details. And yet, in the Trump era, this has become the modus operandi of all but the hardest-nosed scribblers.

[…]

The greatest service that Donald Trump has rendered these United States is to have exposed the many ailments of which he is a symptom but not a cause. We had political division and cultural alienation before him. We had overbearing government and an imperial executive branch before him. We had media that were arrogant, parochial, and impenitent before him, too. Alas, they have grown yet worse since he arrived.

Anyway, that Trump can be hostile toward the American press is simply not the same as wanting to shut down the press altogether, or to use the heavy hand of government to imprison, torture, or have non-compliant reporters killed.

And it’s just ridiculous to have to say this, but quite clearly, American journalists are not under a remotely similar yoke of oppression or facing the same mortal danger as are their Iranian counterparts. Not by any stretch of an overactive imagination.

President Rouhani threatens Iranian journalists:

In a tweet on Thursday Hesameddin Ashena who is President Hassan Rouhani’s media advisor warned “the Iranian agents of Persian-language media [abroad] not to participate in the psychological warfare regarding the Ukrainian airliner [crash] and stop cooperating with those who are at war with Iran”.

The long arm of persecution:

The Iranian intelligence has threatened to kidnap journalists working for the London-based Iran International TV and take them back to Iran. It has also pressured their families back in Iran to persuade their relatives to leave the channel, it was revealed on Monday.

“Since about a month ago, after the unrest in Iran and our extensive coverage of it, they started calling several high-profile journalists, mostly anchors. They phoned them repeatedly and threatened to snatch them off the streets of London unless they quit working here”, an Iran International journalist told Radio Farda.

“Some families have also been contacted and summoned in Iran, threatened about their own safety and ordered to persuade the journalists to stop working for Iran International,” he added.

The State controlled media response to recent gas protests:

While Iran is still reeling from the recent protests that have left scores injured, more than a hundred dead, and thousands arrested, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned that two main government ministries have silenced the domestic media by issuing directives dictating coverage of the unrest, in a blatant violation of freedom of the press. Intelligence ministry officials have also threatened journalists that they will be charged with “crimes” if their reporting of events does not hew to the official narrative of events.

[…]

Another journalist who spoke to CHRI added that during the last week, after the start of protests on Friday, November 15 and the shut down of the internet on the 16th to prevent the sharing of images and information, at least eight journalists had been summoned to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence for questioning and that the Ministry of the Culture and Islamic Guidance contacted a number of journalists to warn them about the consequences of their articles and social media posts.

He said some journalists have been forced to sign a pledge that they would not report on the internet blackout, the people’s protests or the increase in the price of gasoline on social media.

“They have also been told not to write about these things in their media outlets and warned that any negative reporting will be seen as aiding the enemy and will be considered a crime,” said the source.

–Dana

Trump’s Claim that Soleimani Was Planning to Attack Four Embassies Is Unevidenced

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

Trump recently said: “Soleimani was actively planning new attacks, and he was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad.”

His Defense Secretary says they all believe it. They just, um, don’t have any evidence of it.

ESPER: Well, what the president said was he believed that it probably and could have been attacks against additional embassies. I shared that view. I know other members of national security team shared that view. That’s why I deployed thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites throughout the region.

MARGARET BRENNAN: “Probably” and “could have been.” That is — that sounds more like an assessment than a specific, tangible threat with a decisive piece of intelligence.

ESPER: Well, the president didn’t say there was a tangible — he didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably — he believed, could have been —

BRENNAN: Are you saying there wasn’t one?

ESPER: I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies. What I’m saying is, I share the president’s view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies.

Again: one need not conclude that the attack on Soleimani was unjustified, or believe that a planned attack on four embassies was a prerequisite to taking him out, to question Trump’s credibility.

Soleimani was a bad guy. Killing him was legally justified.

But without independent evidence from a separate source I trust, I don’t believe a word these people say.

And I’m not alone.

1/12/2020

Iranians Direct Their Anger At Supreme Leader On Second Day of Protests

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 4:03 pm

[guest post by Dana]

In the aftermath of Iran admitting that they were responsible for the downing of the Ukrainian airplane in which 82 of the 176 passengers killed were Iranians, scores of angry Iranians are in the second day of protests at universities in Tehran and throughout the city as they demand that the Ayatolla and officials step down. The protesters are taking a substantial risk in voicing their demands as just two months ago, the regime killed more than 1,500 protesters.

Demonstrators are calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted.

“Khamenei have shame. Leave the country,” chanted protesters in the capital, Tehran, in footage posted on social media.

Protests have now spread to other cities, including Shiraz, Esfahan, Hamedan and Orumiyeh, Reuters reported.

There are also reports that protesters have a made a point to avoid stepping on flags of Israel and the U.S. that are painted on the ground, with protesters chanting: “They are lying that our enemy is America; our enemy is right here”:

This seems huge: Iranian media is also coming out against the supreme leader:

Newspapers called for resignations and sackings over the handling of the air disaster.

Sazandegi, a moderate conservative publication, also apologized to its readers for having trusted official sources on the matter.

“Apologize, resign,” said the main headline of the reformist Etemad daily.

“Unforgivable,” said government newspaper Iran, which published all the names of those who died in the air disaster on the image of black plane tail.

State media was compelled to push back:

Kayhan, a hardline daily, led on the supreme leader’s “strict orders” to follow up on the “painful incident of the plane crash”.

As public anger grew, state television aired interviews with people who it said “have not forgotten everything the Guards have done for the country.”

In response to the protests, President Trump first tweeted out his unwavering support for the protesters yesterday, both in English and Farsi:

Today, he directed his comments to the leadership of Iran, and exhorted them to stop killing their own people, while reminding them that the world was watching:

Here is some incredible video coming out of Iran posted by Masih Alinejad, who is the founder of My Stealthy Freedom, a group about which I’ve written here:

In addition, take time to read Yashar Ali’s thread on the Iranian situation here. In part:

This AM I woke up to dozens of messages from family/friends in Iran. Right now, Iran is a tinderbox internally. As some of you know, there are protests mostly around the anger that Iranians feel towards the gov after they admitted IRGC shot down the Ukraine Airlines aircraft

Iranians who are protesting and all the family/friends I spoke to (who live in different parts of Iran) are furious that they were lied to for three days about the cause of the plane crash. The Iranian government lied left and right about where the plane was headed

Iranians are in the street calling for prosecutions, saying Soleimani is a murderer. Telling leadership of the Iranian government to resign and saying that Trump isn’t the problem, that the Iranian government is.

And we are reminded that it’s easy to fill the streets with millions of Iranians for Qasem Soleimani’s funeral because there was no risk involved. However, to publicly protest and take to the streets demanding that the Supreme Leader step down and defy officials in this way, comes at an an enormous risk to the individual:

It looks like the worst is yet to come:

God bless these brave men and women.

–Dana

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 7

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:16 am

It is the first Sunday after the Epiphany. Today’s Bach cantata is “Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam: (Christ our Lord came to the Jordan):

Today’s Gospel reading is Matthew 3:13-17:

The Baptism of Jesus

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

Christ our Lord came to the Jordan
according to His Father’s will,
He received baptism from Saint John,
to fulfill his work and destiny;
thus He wishes to draw us a bath,
to cleanse us from sin,
to drown bitter death as well
through His own blood and wounds;
it permitted a new life.

. . . .

This God has clearly
provided with words and with pictures,
at the Jordan the Father allowed openly
Christ to hear his voice during baptism;
He said: this is My beloved Son,
with Whom I am well pleased,
He is, from the high throne of heaven
for the world’s sake
come in lowly form,
and has taken on the flesh and blood
of humanity;
now take Him as your Savior
and listen to His valuable teachings!

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.

1/11/2020

RIP Neil Peart

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 11:17 am

The most endangered species: the honest man
Will still survive annihilation.

— Neil Peart, 1952-2020

Growing up, one of the central things that my closest friends and I shared was a love of the band Rush. We went to several Rush concerts together and spent countless hours discussing the relative merits of the various albums, songs, and time periods of the band.

Most people who are aware of Rush are either huge Rush fans or disdainful of the band. If you’re a huge fan, you know why. There’s simply no other band that is as interesting to listen to. And arguably the main reason for that was Neil Peart.

Neil was the band’s drummer, and I firmly believe he is the best drummer rock music has ever seen and arguably the greatest drummer that has ever lived. He could take what might otherwise be a repetitive passage and completely transform it into something that was alive and new each time you listened to it. I spent a good chunk of yesterday evening listening to tracks that isolate the drums (or in some cases drums and bass) from a Rush song, and “Red Barchetta” is one of the standout examples:

Listening to that, you get a real sense of how integral the drums are to the exciting increase in the song’s intensity as it progresses, culminating in an orgy of rhythmic excitement. Here’s the original song if you don’t know it, for comparison:

But Neil wasn’t just an incredible drummer. He was also the band’s lyricist, and in that capacity wrote some of the most thoughtful and inspiring lyrics in rock history. Speaking as someone who doesn’t generally pay much attention to lyrics, Rush was the exception. I lost interest in Rush’s albums in their final years, when the songs started to sound the same to me — but at least up to a certain point in their work, I knew every word to every song. The words were moving, and powerful, and always suited the song. Again, an example will make the point clear:

The dancer slows her frantic pace
In pain and desperation
Her aching limbs and downcast face
Aglow with perspiration

Stiff as wire, her lungs on fire
With just the briefest pause
The flooding through her memory
The echoes of old applause

She limps across the floor
And closes her bedroom door

The writer stares with glassy eyes
Defies the empty page
His beard is white, his face is lined
And streaked with tears of rage

Thirty years ago, how the words would flow
With passion and precision
But now his mind is dark and dulled
By sickness and indecision

And he stares out the kitchen door
Where the sun will rise no more

I listened to this song again last night and it brought tears to my eyes. Neil died on Tuesday, January 7, at the age of 67, after fighting a private three-year battle with brain cancer. He was universally known as kind. He was private. He was a reader. He suffered great tragedy in his life, losing his daughter and wife within months of each other in the late 1990s. He reacted to these adversities by taking a long motorcycle trip through the United States and reading. He came back to the band about four years later, remarried, and had another daughter.

Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we’d like to be

Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it
For you, the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee

For Neil Peart, the sun will rise no more. But he lived out his greatest fantasy: to be a principled artist who never gave in to commercial pressures, and always stood up to the powers that be. He was a very important influence in my life, and in the lives of countless others. His voice and his musicianship, and his influence on so many people, will live on. Cancer can’t take that away from him.

Godspeed, Neil.

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 9:34 am

[guest post by Dana]

Feel free to talk about anything you think is newsworthy or might interest readers.

I’ll start.

First news item: Yes, we did it:

Iran has admitted it unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane hours after launching ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops, blaming “human error” for the “great tragedy” that killed all 176 people aboard.

“Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter.

As if they didn’t already know this. Further, Iran couldn’t just own it – they also had to point the finger at the U.S.:

Based on a preliminary conclusion by the armed forces, “human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif tweeted

Second news item: One of three Republicans in House who voted against the war powers now being shunned:

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) vote in favor of the ‘War Powers Resolution’ on Thursday, meant to curb Trump’s authority in armed conflict with Iran, has reportedly prompted the president to complain about him and led to the White House icing him out. According to The Washington Post, a senior White House official said the administration would not be returning Gaetz’s communications, “smoke signals or his kneelings in the snow” after his “super uncool” and “quite unwise” push for other Republicans to reclaim “Congressional power” as the “Constitutional conservative position” in an email. “The Trump administration was disappointed in the congressman’s vote and is hopeful that as the president’s foreign policy continues to unfold, he will reconsider his points of view,” head of legislative affairs for the White House, Eric Ueland, told the Post. Gaetz and his spokesman have not spoken publicly on the matter.

Third news item: About “Megxit,” “Brand Sussex,” or whatever you want to call it:

This is not about Harry and Meghan going quietly into the night; what they want is a ‘progressive new role within this institution’. In other words, they want to be able to give their leftist views using the royal platform. They don’t want to be traditional members of the royal family; they want to be royal celebrities and use their royal connections to push a leftist agenda. Harry is going to make the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson, look like a model son and Royal.

We certainly know what Meghan and Harry don’t want: the dull protocol, the service to the public, the boring plaque-unveiling events in the North of England. Most of all they don’t want the burden of duty and tradition.

Fourth news item: Four U.S. embassies???:

Confronted by persistent questions about his military action in the Middle East, President Donald Trump and his top officials offered a string of fresh explanations Friday, with Trump now contending Iranian militants had planned major attacks on four U.S. embassies.

Just hours earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the U.S. didn’t know when or where attacks might occur. Trump and other officials insisted anew that Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani had posed an imminent threat to the U.S., but they rebuffed repeated attempts to explain what they meant by “imminent.”

Hmm…:

President Trump’s claim of bomb threats to embassies is falling apart.

1. No threat to an embassy in intelligence briefings to Congress

2. Two senior administration officials appear to be admitting to WaPo that Trump’s claim is false

Two senior officials “said they were only aware of vague intelligence about a plot against the embassy in Baghdad and that the information did not suggest a fully formed plot. Neither official said there were threats against multiple embassies.”

Telltale sign: No warning to embassy in Baghdad

“The embassy in Baghdad did not receive an alert commensurate to the threat Trump described….When the U.S. government has specific information about threats to embassies, warnings or alerts are often sent to embassy personnel”

Telltale sign: No travel advisories for Americans

Brett Holmgren, former CIA, DOD, NSC:

“it would’ve been routine for the Departments of State or Defense to issue a travel or threat warning to American citizens or US military personnel in the region”

Holmgren also adds:

“An imminent threat of attack should have triggered the Intelligence Community’s Duty to Warn obligations or the State Department’s No Double Standard Policy and resulted in some type of public alert.”

Fifth news item: AOC defends not paying her fair share:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Friday defended her decision not to pay dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), saying she would instead seek to funnel money directly to Democrats in tough races.

Asked by The Hill if she intended to pay dues to the House Democratic campaign arm this cycle, Ocasio-Cortez replied, “I don’t think so.”

[…]

Ocasio-Cortez has spoken critically of the DCCC in the past, particularly after it began sidelining vendors who work with candidates seeking to challenge incumbent Democrats in primaries.

She said that instead of paying the DCCC dues — about $250,000 for the 2019-2020 election cycle — she would seek to give directly to Democratic candidates.

“We are trying to raise the equivalent of my dues directly to other members,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Hill. She said the money she has raised has so far gone to backing House Democrats, as well as nonincumbent candidates.

Have a great weekend.

–Dana

1/10/2020

Iran Denies Downing Ukrainian Plane: We Can Say With Certainty That There Were No Missiles

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 1:10 pm

[guest post by Dana]

From the AP:

Iran on Friday denied Western allegations that one of its own missiles downed a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed outside Tehran, and called on the U.S. and Canada to share any information they have on the crash, which killed all 176 people on board.

Western leaders said the plane appeared to have been unintentionally hit by a surface-to-air missile just hours after Iran launched around a dozen ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq to avenge the killing of its top general in an American airstrike last week.

“What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s national aviation department, told a press conference.

Further, there are now concerns being raised about the integrity of Iran’s investigation into the crash:

The site of a crashed Ukrainian airliner near Iran’s capital Tehran has been cleared of all large pieces of debris and locals are trawling over the remaining wreckage, as calls grow for a full and transparent investigation into the disaster.

The lack of security at the scene has raised concerns over the inquiry’s credibility, just a day after western intelligence officials said Iran shot down the jet with surface-to-air missiles. Iran has denied any hostile act, calling the assessment a “big lie.”

An eyewitness at the crash site told CNN that looters and “garbage men” were “wandering around,” picking up debris, objects made of aluminum and anything else deemed valuable, as police and Revolutionary Guard Corps tried to disperse them.

[…]

The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority Ali Abedzadeh told CNN on Friday that fragments of the plane had been taken to a hangar off-site to “reconstruct” it for “investigating the cause of the crash,” and that the remains of victims had been sent to a forensic lab for DNA testing.

Note: CBS News visited the crash site on Friday and found that it had already been scrubbed of virtually all debris.

Graham Braithwaite, professor of safety and accident investigation at Cranfield University explains just how critical the actual crash site is when black boxes are damaged, as Iran has claimed they are:

Where you have flight recorders that tell you what has happened you can move quickly to clearing the site. But if the recorders are damaged…then all you have is the forensic evidence at the site to tell you the story.

Here is video making the rounds that appears to be the missile hitting the plane:

https://youtu.be/pXy6wBV647s

Researchers with the online investigative group Bellingcat were able to pinpoint the location from which the video was shot, in the town of Parand. “There is a construction site with a few very distinct buildings,” says Aric Toler, the group’s lead researcher on Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The camera appears to be pointing in the correct direction, showing the missile coming from the north or west, the direction of some of the sensitive Iranian facilities, and what is likely the aircraft coming from the south or east, where the airport is located.

Toler says the time it takes the sound of the blast to reach the viewer also provides a clue. “If you’re watching a storm, you can count how far away the lightning is, based on how long the thunder takes,” he says. “It’s the same thing with a missile explosion.”

The delay between flash and boom shows the explosion took place some 3.3 kilometers (2 miles) from the viewer, a good match for where the flight was expected to be. “It is exactly the right distance and path to where the flight path was,” Toler says.

It is now being reported that Iran intends to announce what caused the downing of the Ukrainian jetplane tomorrow.

–Dana

Credibility Matters, Including in Foreign Policy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:03 am

Let’s review.

1. Donald Trump recently said:

The language used was “any U.S. person or target.” Shortly thereafter, Iran hit two U.S. bases with missiles. Presumably those were targets. Trump did nothing in response, despite having promised to do so.

Personally, I’m glad Trump did not respond as he threatened.

But I’m not glad he made a threat that turned out to have no credibility.

2. Mike Pompeo has been going around telling everyone that Iran was threatening an “imminent” attack. Yesterday we learned what he meant by that:

The definition of “imminent” is “ready to take place” or “happening soon.” It is a word that implies a time element. But Pompeo admits he doesn’t know the time element, even as he asserts that the time element was soon.

Personally, I think the killing of Soleimani was probably legal. I doubt it had to be “imminent” as long as there was a valid pre-emptive rationale — especially given that we had a right to be in Iraq (whether you agree with our mission or not, we had a right to be there), and Soleimani had planned and carried out attacks against us there before.

But I’m not glad that Pompeo is making claims about “imminence” that he reveals in the next breath he can’t back up.

Look: the idea that the Trump administration lacks credibility is hardly a new concept. Everyone knows it. But the fact that it doesn’t surprise you that they have no credibility doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter that they have no credibility.

And no matter what you think of the attack on Soleimani, the way the administration has handled the explanations shows that they had no coherent strategy and that their attitude is that you had better not debate what Trump does or else. I’ll leave you with Mike Lee channeling my response to that:

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