Saturday, May 19, 2018

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Feds Spend $333,210 Studying Bars Along Mexico Border:
The National Institutes of Health is spending over $300,000 to study bars along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation is heading the project. Among the study's aims are to examine whether bars in border towns like Mexicali have "more dancing" and "louder music."

The study, "Mexican American Drinking Contexts On and Away From the U.S.-Mexico Border," involves researchers going into bars for "unobtrusive systematic observations."

"The U.S./Mexico border is a unique macro context for drinking, with increased alcohol availability due to the lower minimum legal drinking age in Mexico of 18 years and an increased number of venues for on premise consumption of alcohol (bars, clubs, restaurants)," according to the grant for the project. "Previous research has shown that the border population is more at risk for unsafe drinking (binge) and drinking-related problems than the population off the border."

Thursday, May 17, 2018

No Antagonism Please, We're English

"If there is hope, wrote Winston, it lies in the proles" - George Orwell, 1984

In a new low for the nanny state, British police are cautioning English football fans not to be joyously patriotic when they go to Russia for the World Cup matches. St George flags are too ‘imperialistic’ for World Cup, say police:
Police have warned England fans not to display the flag of St George at the World Cup in Russia next month because it risks being seen as “imperialistic” and “antagonistic”.

-- snip --

[Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council] will lead a team of officers to Russia to work with local police and security services to protect up to 10,000 travelling England fans. The supporters traditionally gather in city centres before international tournaments and display hundreds of flags.

Up to 10,000 England fans are expected to travel to Russia next month, along with a small force of UK police to help keep them safe.

The head of football policing Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts argued the St George’s Crosses were seen as the top trophies for rival fans and ultras, as well as appearing to link them to the history of the British Empire.

“I think people need to be really careful with flags. It can come across as almost imperialistic … and can cause antagonism,” he told The Times.

“We really urge some caution about people putting flags out and waving them about in public, there is a bit of risk when people draw attention to themselves and people need to be aware of that.

A bit of risk is just the kind of thing the English people used to like, at least it was back before the age of mollycoddling began. Football fans, being lower-class types who still feel surges of national pride and Anglo-Saxon rowdyism, might be the last holdouts against the suffocating nannyism of today.

If an English football fan can't get piss drunk, rip off his shirt, and wave his St. George flag at those Russian wankers, why even bother to go to the game?

Say, doesn't the Russian Federation once more use the old Imperial double eagle coats of arms, and doesn't that coat of arms include an image of St. George slaying a dragon? So, then, why wouldn't flag-waiving England fans be warmly welcomed by the Russians in a fraternal western civilization sort of way? Maybe Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts is worried over nothing.

Town Hall Message: "Carry That Diplomatic Swagger to the Ends of the Earth"

Mick shows us how to swagger like a pro

So yesterday we had the first town hall meeting with the new SecState, and he spent a bit of it teaching the troops about swagger. See the AP account here: Pompeo extols ‘America’s essential rightness’ at State Dept.
“Swagger is not arrogance; it is not boastfulness, it is not ego,” Pompeo said, according to the [town hall transcript] excerpts. “No, swagger is confidence; in one’s self, in one’s ideas. In our case, it is America’s essential rightness. And it is aggressiveness born of the righteous knowledge that our cause is just, special, and built upon America’s core principles.”

“Our task is to preserve our civilization of human dignity, individual liberty, democracy, national sovereignty, and the rule of law, and to challenge anyone seeking to take it down,” he said. “We should be proud and confident in America and her values — we should carry that diplomatic swagger to the ends of the earth; humbly, nobly and with the skill and courage I know you all possess.”

Left unsaid is the essential implication of all this swaggerin' talk to the State Department workforce - i.e., the idea that the new SecState will somehow, perhaps through the sheer force of his personality, reverse the Trump administration's announced plans for budget cuts and staff reductions. Count me as essentially distrustful of that.


On a different matter, does it bother anyone else that AP's diplomatic correspondent, Matthew Lee, is one of Hillary's AP "friendlies," that is, one of the "overly docile press" who were happy to do the HRC campaign's bidding during the 2016 election? You can read the e-mail chains here. I think he should have to wear a Team Hilllary tee shirt or something to announce his affiliation when he sits in on press briefings all santimonious-like.

And then there’s the overly docile press, who were so eager to help Clinton get elected. In one email chain discussing the upcoming release of exchanges between Clinton and writer Sidney Blumenthal, insiders noted that the Associated Press appeared to be willing to allow the Clinton campaign to plant favorable stories. “[T]hey are considering placing a story with a friendly at the AP (Matt Lee or Bradley Klapper), that would lay this out before the majority on the committee has a chance to realize what they have and distort it,” wrote Nick Merrill, the Clinton campaign’s traveling press secretary.

Matt Lee published the planted story the next day. Friends like that are good to have.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Palestinians destroy Gaza's only facility for receiving fuel and cargo delivers from Israel:
Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Saturday that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has approved closing the Kerem Shalom humanitarian border crossing in Gaza from tomorrow (Sunday) until further notice, due to Friday’s destruction of gas pipelines and the security fence at the crossing.

For the second week in a row, protesters damaged gas pipes at the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Friday, which are responsible for transporting gas into Gaza.

The following is a list of destruction done to the humanitarian crossing according to the IDF:

- The fuel terminal has been rendered totally unusable.

- Gas pipelines – Damage was caused to connection stations. The main gas line is not functioning at all.

- Fuel pipes – The fueling site sustained fire and fracture damages.

- Aggregate conveyor belt - Not suitable for operation at all. Significant damage was caused to the entire structure.

- Grain conveyors, food and livestock - Damage was caused to electricity infrastructure.

- Security infrastructure of the humanitarian crossing - Damage was caused to fences, light poles and cameras.

Friday, May 11, 2018

We Have the Best Site, the Biggest Setback

At his rally yesterday in Elkhart, Indiana, President Trump gave an impressionistic account of how my good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations fitted out "a big, beautiful corner" of the consular annex building in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem to serve as an interim office for the Ambassador, and did so at a reasonable cost.

Notice the sustained applause when Trump mentions how the best site in the city has setback distance.
"It’s set back. Which is good for safety ... It’s a big site, big setback – they want setback for safety, makes sense."

Three cheers for setback! It's about time it got some recognition.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Logan's Run of Luck (That No One Has Ever Been Prosecuted)

According to this informative administrative timeline of the Department of State by the Office of the Historian, one of the earliest laws the Congress passed concerning the State Department was the Logan Act.
January 30, 1799:

“An act for the punishment of certain crimes therein specified” (the Logan Act, 1 Stat. 613) conferred upon the Department of State the exclusive right to engage in negotiations with foreign governments.

The Act was passed following the unauthorized peace negotiations of one George Logan, a Pennsylvania state legislator and Quaker, with France.

The Logan Act was last updated in 1994, so I assume it's not just a quaint relic of the 18th Century, and violation of the Act is a felony. But, so far as I can tell, no one has ever been prosecuted for violating it. John Kerry probably won't be the first. Probably.

Justice Department Declined to Prosecute Sexual Assault by Financial Attaché

I hadn't seen this news before, but the UK Daily Mail has the U.S. Treasury Department's OIG report of investigation into the incident, which they obtained via a FOIA request. From the report it appears that DSS agents substantiated the victim's accusation based upon a preponderance of the evidence, and the Treasury Department OIG "determined that it is more likely than not that (the woman’s) version of the event is more accurate and that the sexual act was not consensual ... Also it is likely that (the woman) was too intimidated and scared to forcefully resist (the attaché’s) advances."

Despite that determination, "the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, declined to prosecute the case, citing the ‘exacting standard of proof’ in criminal court." The lesser standard used in civil litigation should be met, I would think, so a lawsuit or two might be coming.

The redacted OIG investigation report is included in the Daily Mail story: EXCLUSIVE: US Government is protecting identity of an American diplomat who forced a 22-year-old woman to perform oral sex at a party at his residence.

The former Attaché's name and the post at which this occurred are both being withheld. We know only that he was a GS-13, and the incident happened in a Western Hemisphere post on January 1, 2014.