The Jury Talks Back


There Is No Collusion! OK, Maybe a Bit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:13 am

This column by Michael Gerson, highlighted by Allahpundit on Twitter, has a nice summary of some of the latest collusion evidence:

In the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, there are at least three offenses that could lead to indictment or impeachment. There is obstruction of justice — which Trump seems to attempt persistently, publicly and shamelessly. There is possible financial corruption concerning Russia on the part of Trump and the imperial family — about which the recent plea deal with Michael Cohen hints. This is likely to be interesting reading in Mueller’s report. And there is the initial matter of collusion with a hostile foreign power to influence a presidential election. This is hardly a fanciful charge, given that Trump, while a candidate, publicly invited Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails as a way to influence a presidential election.

What else do we know related to this charge? We know that Trump adviser Roger Stone allegedly told associates he was in contact with WikiLeaks, the conduit for emails hacked by Russian intelligence. (Stone denies this.) We know that Stone contacted conservative author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, encouraging him to gather information on hacked Clinton emails. We know that Corsi responded to Stone: “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps . . . Impact planned to be very damaging.” (The “friend” in this email — amazingly and disgustingly — appears to be the anti-American cybercriminal Julian Assange.) We know that Stone issued the tweet, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel,” six weeks before WikiLeaks began releasing 50,000 emails that Russian agents had reportedly stolen from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. And we know, from Corsi himself, that he and Stone conspired to lie about the motivation of this tweet.

Trump is left to claim — which he has now apparently done in written testimony — that he never discussed these matters with Stone or Corsi. This would have required candidate Trump to adopt a strategy of plausible deniability — in this case, encouraging Russian hacking in public but carefully avoiding the topic in private conversations with Stone.

Gerson goes on to discuss how unlikely the prospect is that Trump avoided personal involvement in this matter, given how personally involved he was in the Stormy Daniels payoff, and given that he publicly called for Russia to “find” missing Hillary Clinton emails (I never agreed that he invited Russia to “hack” Hillary, but he did invite them to meddle in the election). Why would he stay personally removed from this nasty work, when he personally involved himself in the Stormy Daniels nasty work? Answer: he wouldn’t.

A disinterested observer, initially inclined to dismiss accusations of collusion, increasingly finds them plausible.


Cohen Pleads Guilty to Lying to Congress About Trump Tower Moscow Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 6:31 pm

Michael Cohen appeared to have been protecting Trump with his lies, which included covering up how long the Trump Tower Moscow project was discussed with Russians (deep into the general election season) and plans to have Trump travel to Russia to discuss the deal with Russian leaders. New York Times:

Donald J. Trump was more involved in discussions over a potential Russian business deal during the presidential campaign than previously known, his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen said Thursday in pleading guilty to lying to Congress. Mr. Trump’s associates pursued the project as the Kremlin was escalating its election sabotage effort meant to help him win the presidency.

Mr. Trump’s participation in discussions about building a grand skyscraper in Moscow showed how the interests of his business empire were enmeshed with his political ambitions as he was closing in on the Republican nomination for president. During the early months of 2016, when the business discussions were taking place, he was publicly pressing for warmer relations between the United States and Russia and an end to economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, policy positions that might have benefited his family business.

Court documents made public by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, detailed new accusations against Mr. Cohen, the president’s former fixer, who already pleaded guilty this year to committing campaign finance violations and financial crimes. Mr. Cohen was the point person at Trump Organization for negotiating a deal for the Moscow project, and on Thursday he admitted lying to congressional investigators about the duration of the negotiations and the extent of the involvement of Mr. Trump — who is identified in the court documents as “Individual 1.”

. . . .

Mr. Cohen said on Thursday that he discussed the status of the project with Mr. Trump on more than the three occasions he had previously acknowledged and briefed Mr. Trump’s family members about it. Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen discussed Mr. Trump himself traveling to Russia after the Republican National Convention, though that trip never materialized.

You can read Michael Cohen’s unsealed plea agreement and (more interesting) the information against him here. The information charges that Cohen lied to Congress when he represented that the Trump Tower Moscow deal was over by January 2016 and that it was not discussed extensively with others in the Trump Organization. The information also alleges that Cohen lied when he said that he never agreed to travel to Russia to follow up on the project, and never considered asking Donald Trump (called “Individual 1″ in the information) to travel for the project. The fact that Cohen has entered a plea agreement states that Cohen will agree to the truth of the allegations in the information as part of his cooperation.

Remember what I said here on March 29:

There’s really no scenario in which this plays out well for Cohen. We know that Robert Mueller is looking at some of Cohen’s involvement in Russia-related activities like Trump Tower Moscow. Mueller seems like a thorough guy, and if he runs across illegal activity by Cohen of any kind in the course of his investigation, he can at a minimum refer those matters to the Justice Department, and conceivably take them on himself.

Disbarment might be the least of Cohen’s worries at this point.

On August 29, I passed along the news that Michael Cohen had emailed Putin lieutenant and Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov about Trump Tower Moscow. Peskov initially denied responding, but in a statement issued today he is telling a different story, and says the Russians did reply after all:

Oddly enough, and I feel weird saying this, but a BuzzFeed story from May 17, 2018 co-authored by (shudder) Jason Leopold appears to have gotten a lot of this right before anyone else did — in particular the extent to which Cohen had continued to push the Trump Tower Moscow deal months after January 2018, when (according to what Cohen had told Congress) the deal had supposedly been dead. Here is an interesting passage from that article:

[I]n a statement he released a week before he was scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee last September, Cohen said the Trump Moscow effort “was terminated in January of 2016,” which Cohen noted was “before the Iowa caucus and months before the very first primary.”

But the venture did not end in January.

. . . .

Sater told BuzzFeed News that he and Cohen had a conversation about setting up Cohen’s trip to Moscow to reignite the tower project. The next day, May 4 [2016], they discussed when in the presidential campaign Trump should take the extraordinary step of flying to a country at odds with the United States in order to negotiate a major business deal. Sater texted Cohen: “I had a chat with Moscow. ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention. I said I believe, but don’t know for sure, that it’s probably after the convention. Obviously the pre-meeting trip (only you) can happen anytime you want but the 2 big guys were the question.”

Cohen wrote back that day: “MY trip before Cleveland. Trump once he becomes the nominee after the convention.”

Sater: “Got it. I’m on it.”

The following day, Sater told Cohen that Peskov — the press officer whom Cohen had written to in January — “would like to invite you as his guest” to an economic forum in Russia. The country’s top government and finance officials would gather at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Sater said, and Peskov “wants to meet there with you and possibly introduce you to either Putin or Medvedev.”

“The entire business class of Russia will be there as well. He said anything you want to discuss, including dates and subjects, are on the table.” He concluded, “Please confirm that works for you.”

“Works for me,” Cohen said.

Now the same reporters have a story today claiming that the Trump Organization planned to give Putin a pricey condo in the tower:

President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

I find it very difficult to believe that Donald Trump did not know that Michael Cohen lied to Congress about all of this. Ken White, writing in The Atlantic, agrees:

The third remarkable thing about Cohen’s plea was its substance. The president of the United States’ personal lawyer admitted to lying to Congress about the president’s business activities with a hostile foreign power, in order to support the president’s story. In any rational era, that would be earthshaking. Now it’s barely a blip. Over the past two years, we’ve become accustomed to headlines like “President’s Campaign Manager Convicted of Fraud” and “President’s Personal Lawyer Paid for Adult Actress’s Silence.” We’re numb to it all. But these are the sorts of developments that would, under normal circumstances, end a presidency.

They still might. Cohen admitted that he lied to Congress to support President Trump’s version of events. He notably did not claim that he did so at Trump’s request, or that Trump knew he would do it. But if Cohen’s telling the truth this time, then this conclusion, at least, is inescapable: The president, who has followed this drama obsessively, knew that his personal lawyer was lying to Congress about his business activities, and stood by while it happened.

Those are Ken’s italics.


If they truly delve into Trump’s business or his taxes, I suspect they will find criminality.

[UPDATE: A clarification courtesy of commenter nk:

A source told the Sun-Times the raids were in response to new allegations, and not prompted by any past controversies that have swirled around Burke. That means, for now, the investigation isn’t focused on Burke’s property-tax-appeal work for President Donald Trump, or Burke’s oversight of a city workers’ compensation fund, among other matters.

Thanks for that, nk.]

What was it I said this morning? “The Trump presidency: a constant exercise in seeing whether the last bizarre stunt can be topped. So far, the answer is always ‘yes.’ How long can that go on?”

The answer is: another day, at least.

The Strange Case of Paul Manafort’s Cooperation … with Donald Trump

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:17 am

Paul Manafort got a deal to be a cooperator — but as the New York Times revealed the night before last, his cooperation was not with Robert Mueller, but Donald Trump:

A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.

The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office.

Prosecutors have now accused Manafort of repeatedly lying to them, and one wonders why someone in such dire circumstances would lie. I’m joking of course. The motive is clear. It rhymes with “harden” and begins with a “p.”

Manafort and Trump had operated under a joint defense agreement, but any privilege under that agreement could not exist once Manafort was facially cooperating, and Mueller can now seek to discover the substance of the conversations between Manafort’s and Trump’s lawyers.

Trump seems to be taking this all in stride, retweeting this delightful meme:

This is the calm and unflappable Donald Trump we’ve all come to know and love. Note the presence of Rod Rosenstein in the picture. If you think Trump didn’t notice this, think again:

It was no accident that President Trump Wednesday retweeted an image of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein locked up.

When asked during an interview with The Post: “Why do you think he belongs behind bars?” Trump responded: “He should have never picked a Special Counsel.”

The Trump presidency: a constant exercise in seeing whether the last bizarre stunt can be topped. So far, the answer is always “yes.” How long can that go on?


Using Empathy for a Reasonable Purpose: Ending U.S. Support for the War in Yemen

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:43 am

Yemeni Girl Starving

This photo prompted Facebook to remove posts containing the picture. I’m going to go link this post on Facebook right now, and include this picture.

The tale of Jamal Khashoggi might be more well known to most Americans than the war in Yemen, which has killed tens of thousands of people, both directly (as when Saudi Arabia killed 40 children on a school bus with a U.S.-manufactured bomb) and indirectly (as with the starvation and disease-caused deaths of as many as 85,000 children under the age of 5).

But the single death of Khashoggi may be the key to stopping the misery in Yemen. In a crucial vote that will take place today on U.S. support for the Yemen war, several Senators may be changing their vote — and the Mohammed bin Salman-ordered murder of Khashoggi may be the decisive factor in their changed position:

OPPONENTS OF THE war in Yemen have picked up momentum heading into a critical Senate vote on Wednesday on whether to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee has said that he would support the measure. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, also on the Foreign Relations Committee, has told colleagues that he supports the effort as well, Democratic aides told The Intercept.

Both senators voted to table the effort — which was introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy — the last time it arrived on the Senate floor in March. Menendez is one of the more hawkish Democrats in the chamber, and his support for the resolution is a sign that the party is coalescing around opposition to the war.

. . . .

Four Democratic aides told The Intercept that in the wake of Khashoggi’s killing, many of the Democrats who voted against the measure in March are likely to flip. In addition to Menendez and Coons, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, and others are considering a vote in support of the measure. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday that he was undecided and would wait until after a Trump administration briefing Wednesday morning to decide how he would vote.

As I have pointed out before in discussing the death of Khashoggi, the war in Yemen is far worse than the death of a single journalist or dissident, but the psychological effect of a single death holds the attention better:

Khashoggi is hardly the first innocent person Mohammed bin Salman has had killed. We’re sending weapons to a regime that created a humanitarian crisis in Yemen and conducted an air strike on a school bus. But, to paraphrase Stalin, if only one man dies of torture and is cut up with a bone saw, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.

Paul Bloom, a psychologist, Yale professor, and famous opponent of empathy, has elaborated on the way in which empathy for a single person can outweigh statistical expressions of misery:

The key to engaging empathy is what has been called “the identifiable victim effect.” As the economist Thomas Schelling, writing forty-five years ago, mordantly observed, “Let a six-year-old girl with brown hair need thousands of dollars for an operation that will prolong her life until Christmas, and the post office will be swamped with nickels and dimes to save her. But let it be reported that without a sales tax the hospital facilities of Massachusetts will deteriorate and cause a barely perceptible increase in preventable deaths—not many will drop a tear or reach for their checkbooks.”

You can see the effect in the lab. The psychologists Tehila Kogut and Ilana Ritov asked some subjects how much money they would give to help develop a drug that would save the life of one child, and asked others how much they would give to save eight children. The answers were about the same. But when Kogut and Ritov told a third group a child’s name and age, and showed her picture, the donations shot up—now there were far more to the one than to the eight.

The number of victims hardly matters—there is little psychological difference between hearing about the suffering of five thousand and that of five hundred thousand. Imagine reading that two thousand people just died in an earthquake in a remote country, and then discovering that the actual number of deaths was twenty thousand. Do you now feel ten times worse? To the extent that we can recognize the numbers as significant, it’s because of reason, not empathy.

As Bloom explained in his book Just Babies (affiliate link), the effect is even more stark than this. After all, the effect just described could be attributed to the difference between one scenario which personalizes a tragedy and another which doesn’t. But psychologists have shown that if you personalize a tragedy by showing the misery of one child, you actually decrease the amount of donations by adding a phrase like: “and there are thousands more just like her.” It’s not just the personalization of a single child that stirs the heart. It is the thought that this is the only person so situated — so if you cure this child’s problem, the problem is cured. The knowledge that this child’s problem is representative of the suffering of many … all that knowledge does is harden people’s hearts and deaden empathy.

Which is why reason is a better way to make decisions. But it’s not the way most human brains work.

So let’s take advantage of the empathy that Senators are feeling over the brutal murder of a single person, Jamal Khashoggi, and put it to use while Senators’ emotions are still manipulable. The Yemen war is arguably the worst thing in the world that the United States is supporting right now. If it keeps up, millions could starve in a widespread famine. Those are real people, not just statistics. So let’s hope the Senate votes against that war today.


The Weaponization of Children in Immigration Battles

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:18 am

The Washington Post yesterday ran a piece about the confrontation at the border, with a picture of a crying girl and a headline that focused on the suffering of children:

Crying Girl at Border

But making decisions about immigration based on sobbing children leads to disastrous results.

In July 2015, Angela Merkel confronted a sobbing Palestinian girl who wanted to study in Germany. Merkel said girls like her could not stay in Germany. There were too many people who wanted to stay, and Germany could not handle it:

The incident made international headlines. The phrase #MerkelStreichelt (Merkel strokes) trended on Twitter. Merkel was criticized in all parts of the globe. Just weeks later, Merkel announced that Germany could handle a huge influx of immigrants, with the famous line “Wir schaffen das” (“we can manage that” or “we can do this”). I need not belabor how disastrous that declaration was.

Few (if any) seem to have noticed how directly Merkel’s three-word declaration derived from her confrontation with the young Palestinian girl. Here is a transcript of the key moment when Merkel said the words that caused the tears to flow:

und wenn wir jetzt sagen „Ihr könnt alle kommen und ihr könnt alle aus Afrika kommen und ihr könnt alle kommen“, das, das können wir auch nicht schaffen.

Which roughly translates as:

“if we now say, ‘you can all come here and you from Africa you can all come and you can all come’, we cannot manage that.”

Do you see the parallel there? Merkel told the little girl “das können wir auch nicht schaffen” (we can’t manage that) and, after being pilloried by the international community, changed it to “Wir schaffen das” (we can manage that). The Wikipedia entry for “Wir schaffen das” does not mention the connection. This POLITICO article about the phrase does not mention the parallel. But it’s clear. All you have to do is look.

I hate having Donald Trump as president. I think he is corrupt and criminal and moronic. I could go on. But …

… but at times like these, the silver lining of his presidency becomes clear: that he can be seemingly impervious to the criticism of Big Media, and their attempts to emotionally manipulate the public through images of children being harmed.

Well, except for the bombing of Syria.

Although he emphasised he was not part of the White House administration, Eric Trump said he could tell his father was “deeply affected” by the images of injured children in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack, in Idlib province, north-east Syria.

“I stay out of politics and I stay out of the administration but you can tell he was deeply affected by those images of the children,” he said.

But, you know, other than that.


Jesse Kelly Banned from Twitter: Is This Tweet Really the Reason?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:53 pm

Twitchy reports that a fella named Jesse Kelly has been permanently banned from Twitter. No explanation has been given.

Instapundit says this is the final straw, and has deactivated his Twitter account in protest.

Although Twitchy doesn’t know what the reason for the ban is, they cite a lot of replies from lefties about a tweet concerning the confederacy. A friend passes along the tweet. Is this tweet why he was banned?

You don’t have to agree with that opinion to believe that it doesn’t justify a permanent ban from Twitter.

It’s almost like there’s actually something to conservatives’ complaints about a bias on the part of the lefties who run the thing.

Illegals Storm Border South of San Diego, Throw Projectiles at Agents

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:37 pm

There was a confrontation at the border south of San Diego today, as 500 “migrants” stormed the port of entry at San Ysidro. This is the beginning of the drama of the “caravan” that Democrats said would take months to arrive. If you buy CNN’s spin (I don’t), authorities fired tear gas at the “migrants” — to “disperse” them:

US authorities fire tear gas to disperse migrants at border

A major US-Mexico border crossing in San Diego was closed for hours on Sunday after a group of migrants on the Mexican side rushed the border area, leading US Border Patrol agents to fire tear gas at the group.

About 500 migrants on the Mexican side of the border overwhelmed police blockades near the San Ysidro Port of Entry Sunday afternoon, two journalists at the scene in Tijuana told CNN.
A migrant family runs from tear gas released by US border patrol agents near the fence between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego.

A migrant family runs from tear gas released by US border patrol agents near the fence between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego.

As the migrants tried to cross the border, authorities on the US side used tear gas to disperse them, the journalists said. Video of the scene showed a cloud of tear gas that sent people running and screaming, including families with young children.

But if you keep reading the story, or if you are active on Twitter, you see a different story:

US Customs and Border Protection said the migrants threw projectiles that struck several agents.

“Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety,” the agency said on Twitter.

Here is the tweet:

More pictures:

The Tweeter in Chief has not directly referenced the story, although a complaint about a 60 Minutes story seems to allude to it:

Illegal aliens cannot be allowed to overrun our border. Period.

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 117

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:01 am

It is the twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut” (Praise and honour be to the highest good).

Today’s Gospel reading is John 18:33-37:

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

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

The host of heaven gives You thanks,
o Sovereign of all kingdoms,
and those in earth, air, and sea
who live in Your shadow
praise Your creative power,
which has held them all in its consideration.
Give honor to our God!

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.


Bejing: Government To Judge Individual Behavior In New Reward and Punishment System

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 4:44 pm

[guest post by Dana]

During this Thanksgiving season, most of us take a moment to give thanks for the gracious plenty that is ours. Whether in our personal lives or our country at large, there remain innumerable blessings that enrich our existence here. I would guess that for most readers here, at the top of the list is the freedom to express ourselves with very few limitations. Also treasured, and perhaps overlooked, is our freedom of movement. Traveling by automobile throughout our nation does not require a presentation of identification, nor does it require us to notify any governmental agency of our comings and goings. The freedom to worship how we choose, where we choose, and to whom we choose is right up there as well. And, to varying degrees, we still have opportunities in life to choose the path we want to walk, the profession we hope to become a part of, and the person we will commit our lives to. There are exceptions, of course. This broad-brush painting is not intended to ignore the consequences of having been found guilty of a crime, nor does it ignore the twists and turns, and trial and tribulation that befall us all, in one shape or another. Nor does it ignore the limitations, or even re-mapping of our path that might later become necessary because of circumstances beyond our control. Our lives, even at their finest moments, are messy. But it’s our mess, for better or worse. And if it’s a mess from our making, we can clean it up, or remain stuck in it as we please. And while there are consequences to our every decisions, for the most part, they remain free of governmental interference, whether the choices made were moral or immoral, just or unjust, fair or unfair. In other words, we remain free to make a complete and utter mess of our lives, without retaliation from the government. Of course, family, friends, and employers are a different story… (Please note the exceptions already mentioned. Also included in these exceptions would be the historical governmental mistreatment of American Indians, the internment and detainment of Japanese-Americans and other groups of Americans during WWI and WWII, as well as the mistreatment of groups considered less than equal. And I do not ignore the fact that virtually all levels of government are inclined to infringe upon our rights and interfere in our lives.)

In stark contrast, it appears that the authoritarian regime in China continues apace with grossly oppressive and dystopian-like plans for their people:

China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident.

According to the report, this will be a punishment and reward system based on an individual’s actions and reputation:

The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.

The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan. Xinhua reported on the proposal Tuesday, while the report posted on the municipal government’s website is dated July 18.

China has long experimented with systems that grade its citizens, rewarding good behavior with streamlined services while punishing bad actions with restrictions and penalties. Critics say such moves are fraught with risks and could lead to systems that reduce humans to little more than a report card.


The final version of China’s national social credit system remains uncertain. But as rules forcing social networks and internet providers to remove anonymity get increasingly enforced and facial recognition systems become more popular with policing bodies, authorities are likely to find everyone from internet dissenters to train-fare skippers easier to catch — and punish — than ever before.

Not even Winnie the Pooh is safe from China’s crackdown.

Coincidentally, in reading about the subject, I saw that Bill Kristol is advocating that the U.S. should be in the business of changing the government in China:

“Shouldn’t an important U.S. foreign policy goal of the next couple of decades be regime change in China?” The question implies that I think the right answer is Yes.

I’ll put my position simply. The case for regime change shouldn’t really be controversial. The U.S. at its best has always stood for the proposition that all people everywhere deserve to be free.

Now it goes without saying there are practical limits to what we can and should do to make this happen. Much of what we do is simply to serve as an example. We use diplomacy, public and private, to persuade other nations to move toward freedom. We help civil society abroad.

We sometimes use political or economic pressure. We rarely use and should rarely use military force. And of course we realize that in the real world prudence requires that we be allied with oppressive regimes, sometimes terrible regimes (the Soviet Union), and sometimes for a long time (Saudi Arabia). But surely our ultimate goal, after preserving and securing our and freedom, is to be a force for freedom in the world. And this means changing un-free regimes to free ones, or freer ones. This means regime change, sometimes gradual, sometimes, in the way the world works, sudden. I do think a relatively open embrace of freedom as our goal, and a relatively candid debate over means, would serve the nation well. Such a debate will resolve very few of the particular choices facing us.

Those choices will always depend on the weighing of particular circumstances. This will often be difficult and controversial. But having the goal in mind would, I think, clarify and elevate our view. It would be a north star to help guide our reactions to diverse circumstances. We can always recall “the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God,” or by the dictates of History or Science.

The people of China deserve to be free. The people of Saudi Arabia deserve to be free. This means, ultimately, regime change. How to help different peoples achieve freedom is a complicated question. The conditions of freedom and the paths to freedom are challenging.

Freedom isn’t our only goal. But it is our key political goal. And it is the goal of freedom not just for us but for all people everywhere, the goal of freedom with its noble simplicity and even quiet grandeur, that gives meaning and elevation to the American experiment.

Request: Let’s try to elevate the level of discourse to something more than than “Bill Kristol is a neocon!”



Happy Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 9:36 am

[guest post by Dana]

Today is a particularly good day to focus on Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw’s wise words:

Good rule in life: I try hard not to offend; I try harder not to be offended.

Above all else, be thankful.

Wishing you all a lovely day with family and friends.



Chipotle Offers to Reinstate Manager Unfairly Fired Due to Food Thief’s Viral Video

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:41 pm

Chipotle Manager

For once, the mob may not have won. Entirely.

Karen Zamora at the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune reports:

Chipotle on Monday offered a manager her job back after she was fired for not serving five black men last week, an incident captured in a video thread that went viral.

Dominique Moran, the manager at the Grand Avenue Chipotle in St. Paul, said she had her team’s best interest in mind when she repeatedly refused service to the group of men Thursday night. She was surprised that Chipotle initially fired her and hasn’t decided if she will return to her job with the store.

“I was obviously trying to do the right thing,” Moran said Monday. “I told Chipotle to tell the boys I say sorry. … I didn’t think I would lose my job, I thought I did something good by standing up for my people.”

Chipotle fired her Friday, saying she did not follow company policy, which says employees should not ask customers to pay for their food before they order it.

On Monday, the day it reversed course, Chipotle said it spent several days reviewing the available evidence.

“While our normal protocol was not followed serving these customers, we publicly apologize to our manager for being put in this position,” the statement said. “We will work to continue to ensure that we support a respectful workplace for our employees and our customers alike.”

Whether Ms. Moran wants to continue to work for such a company is another question entirely. But at least, now, it’s up to her.

I do not attribute this outcome to myself, but I did contribute to the pushback that achieved this result. I’ll describe what I did as a blueprint for how to deal with these situations.

First, on Sunday morning, I sent an email to Karen Zamora, the reporter at the Star Tribune who wrote the original story about the kerfuffle as well as the story linked above, and brought to her attention the evidence suggesting that the “customers” were in fact repeat food thieves.

Second, I tweeted at Chipotle’s corporate Twitter account:

This is one of the few ways to actually get results these days, because the poor schlubs running these corporate accounts have the idea that any criticism is a crisis that has to be headed off. To be sure, that attitude contributed to Ms. Moran’s immediate firing — but good-hearted people can take advantage of that mindset to use Twitter to effectively push back against the mob. In this case, Chipotle’s response to me was their first indication on Twitter that they were having second thoughts about the decision:

I kept pushing back:

Third, I wrote a post about the issue. And some people put it on the Twitters and the Facebooks. Which, God love ’em.

Which reminds me: at the urging of a former blogging colleague, I have added some shiny new social media buttons for each post, thus bringing the blog current with 2011 blogging standards. People have been asking for them for a while but I got motivated last night. I think they work quite nicely. You’ll find them at the top of this post. Give them a spin!

And always, always push back against the mob. It can work.


Chipotle Fires Manager for Refusing to Serve a Food Thief Whose Phony Racism Claim Went Viral

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 1:09 pm

This tweet has gone viral. Chipotle wants the black guys to pay before their food is made. The white guy gets to have his food made before paying. Clear and convincing racism, right? Mob them, right?

The company has done what companies do in this situation: cave to the viral mob and fire the offending employee:

A manager at a St. Paul Chipotle was fired this week after a video went viral of employees refusing to serve five black men and asking them to prove they could pay before taking their order.

Masud Ali, 21, said he and friends were told they couldn’t be served Thursday night at the eatery on Grand Avenue and were accused of being customers from an earlier night who weren’t able to pay for their meal.

“It sounded really racist — the way she said it was racist,” Ali said Friday. “She asked for proof of income as if I’m getting a loan.”

In a statement, Chipotle said it conducted a “thorough investigation,” and talked with police officers who were called to the restaurant, as well as employees.

“Regarding what happened at the St. Paul restaurant, the manager thought these gentlemen were the same customers from Tuesday night who weren’t able to pay for their meal. Regardless, this is not how we treat our customers and as a result, the manager has been terminated and the restaurant [staff] has been retrained to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again,” the statement said.

The video, which includes language some may find objectionable, was posted to Twitter, and has been retweeted more than 20,000 times.

On Saturday, Chipotle clarified its policy and explained why it fired the manager: “We don’t ask customers to pay for their meals prior to making them in our restaurants. The manager should have made their food and withheld giving it to them until they paid for it.”

Just one problem: the manager was almost certainly right. The fella is a convicted thief with a history of boasting on Twitter about “dining and dashing”:

Hours after the video went viral, Twitter users began to scour Masud’s Twitter page, and posted photos of some of his previous tweets.

“Dine and dash is forever interesting,” Masud posted in 2015. He has since deleted the posts.

Masud Ali 1

Masud Ali 2

Another post read: “Guys we’re borrowing food… that’s it. And if the lady tries to stop you at the door don’t hesitate to truck the sh– out of that bi—.”

Masud, who records show is on probation for theft, declined to comment to the Miami Herald on Sunday.

Masud Ali 3

I don’t know enough about employment law to know if the fired manager has a case, but if so, I hope the manager sues Chipotle and recovers big. I hope Ali is prosecuted. And I hope people reading this story consider other establishments besides Chipotle, and let Chipotle know why.

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