FBI Director Comey’s Testimony Before the House Oversight Committee Live Feed

Here’s the live feed. Scroll back to the beginning for the whole thing:



Chilcot Drops

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This is something I hope Adam will take up in earnest, but we should probably have a thread for the Chilcot report on Tony Blair and the British rush to war in Iraq.  Here’s a link to the Guardian’s coverage.

In brief, and in my reading of the press reports only, it looks like Sir John Chilcot has produced a devastating body of work that effectively condemns both Blair and Bush — and by extension the many more who enabled them in their catastrophic rush to war.

That’s obviously going to hurt, and we’ve already got a taste of the derp to come in David Frum’s claptrap, discussed below.  We’ll see a lot more ass-covering, excuse-bandying, and outright bullshit from all the usual suspects over the next few days.

But what struck me most in the immediate reaction to Chilcot’s report was one snippet from the few minutes of Tony Blair’s press conference that I managed to catch.

There, he admitted the failure to plan for what to do after an initial military victory (you think?) — but he said he stood by his decision to go to war and would make the same decision now, given the intelligence at the time.  He admitted that the intelligence was faulty, but noted that leaders have to decide based on what they know at any given time, which is certainly true.

The problem with that pivot to “bad intelligence” is that it is bullshit.

Those in a position to know understood at the edge of war that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction as generally understood.  I give you a speech that should be much better known than it is, Robin Cook’s personal address to the House of Commons to explain his resignation from Tony Blair’s government:

 

Here’s a text version.

Our leaders knew that the stated reason for war in Iraq was false.  They did it anyway.  There’s plenty of blame to go round — and while it’s not clear how much individual members of Congress or Parliament knew, compared to the heads of government and the cabinets in both the US and the UK, some of that responsibilty certainly accrues to those legislators who went along to get along.

But the central villains of this piece are the leaders who made the choice to cajole and coerce their colleagues and their countries into war.

One last thought:  the upcoming election is between someone who’s learned from the Iraq disaster, and someone who just yesterday hearts him some murderous Saddam.

Image:  A. Y. Jackson, A Copse, Evening 1918, 1918



Got to kill em to civilize em

Or asshole of the week award nomination:

Hmm, isn’t he supposed to be a conservative with a respect for institutions that work even if they don’t work well and a healthy suscipian of outsider experts smashing a system and imposing externally solutions that don’t have internal stakeholder buy-in.

Nope, just Col. Blimp at work.



Through the Looking Glass: Hope is Not a Strategy

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The short course for strategy and policy is really quite quick and simple. To make policy one determines what your ideal objectives are, establish how much risk you are willing to assume to achieve them, and then either decide to attempt to achieve those objectives or a less than ideal, but still perfectly acceptable, but less risky alternative. Once this is done, in order to further minimize that risk and to ensure the maximum likelihood of success, you determine what ways and means you have, what additional ways and means you may need, how to bridge the gap between the two, and then you execute: applying your ways and means to achieve your ends. Finally, personalities matter and relationships matter. Congratulations! You now know more about strategy and policy than any elected or appointed official pushing for the Leave position that I saw on the BBC News coverage of the Brexit vote from 8 PM EDT last night to 3 AM EDT this morning.

It didn’t matter if the official was from the Conservative Party or from the Labor Party or from the UK Independence Party. They knew what the ends they wanted to achieve – leave the EU on terms negotiated to be the most favorable to Britain, but that was it. None of them expressed any real idea of how to achieve this beyond Vote for Leave, Article 50 now or later, return of sovereignty, and a better future for Britain. I don’t mean to make light of what happened or what anyone tuning in witnessed. A number of these ladies and gentlemen were quite articulate, had a clear grasp of how the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty process worked, and in some cases actually were quite aware that the real issues were poor outcomes for average, and often rural/small town/village British people that resulted from the failures of British government and governance, not because of anything specifically involving the EU.

What we have watched today is emblematic of this failure of strategic vision, clarity, and understanding. Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, made it very clear that former Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Conservative MP and Leave Leader Michael Gove’s assertions about investing the money that will not be sent to Brussels into the National Health Service is unlikely. He also said that he 1) never said it and 2) had he had any official capacity in the Leave Campaign he would not have said it. This was one of, if not the, central themes of the Leave Campaign.

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(Mayor Johnson speaking adjacent to one of the central Leave Campaign Themes**)

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(Mayor Johnson and MP Stuart speaking in front of the official Leave Campaign bus)***

Farage disparaging his more conventional fellow travelers, and being brutally honest about their false promises was a ray of sunshine compared to what we heard from the formal leaders. Johnson, MP Gove, and EU immigrant to Britain MP Gisela Stuart**** are all now calling for calm, patience, time, and space arguing there is no need, nor rush to invoke Article 50 and begin the exit immediately. While this mirrors remarks made by some of the elected officials in the Leave camp that appeared on the BBC last night, others argued that the separation must begin immediately. What no one seems to have prepared for, what no one seems to have considered, is that the EU itself gets a vote. EU officials weighed in this morning by immediately calling for Britain’s invocation of Article 50 to prevent a dragged out process, uncertainty, and the possibility that the nationalist fervor could fully take hold in other parts of the EU.

What Johnson, Gove, Stuart, and their fellow Leave supporters also failed to consider was what would happen if the United Kingdom was not united in the referendum. On the BBC last night, Former Scottish First Minister and Scottish National Party MP Alex Salmond explained to the panel that this concern was brought up to Prime Minister Cameron before the referendum was set. And that the recommendation was that it should require not just a popular vote win for Leave, but a win for Leave in all four constituent portions of the United Kingdom to trigger the Brexit. Salmond explained, with a fair degree of amusement, that Cameron didn’t think that would be necessary, rejected the recommendation, and was probably now regretting doing so. Regardless, and despite Johnson’s call for calm, unity, and no need to or worry that this might lead to the dissolution of the the United Kingdom, that reality has already begun. Scotland is preparing itself for a second independence referendum as they wish to stay in the EU. Republican officials in Northern Ireland have raised the possibility of a referendum to leave the UK and unite with the Republic of Ireland. And Gibraltar’s status is unclear, with Spanish officials calling for shared sovereignty. It is not clear that Labour’s Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has any better strategy for dealing with what the Leave vote has wrought, and a motion of no confidence in his leadership was quickly submitted this morning. It is also not clear that anyone else could successfully lead the currently internally divided Labour Party any better or effectively challenge for a Parliamentary majority.

Despite planning by the Bank of England in case things went wrong, the Vote Leave Campaign leadership, official and unofficial alike, did not seem to have a plan for the effect of victory on the British, European, and global economies. The pro Brexit vote demonstrates the failure of elected and appointed officials who do not have a firm grasp of policy, strategy, and their potential effects – positive and negative. It is quite ironic that a successful referendum campaign partially based on anger at elites, notables, and experts to run things effectively has shown that the elites, notables, and experts running the Vote Leave movement and campaign do indeed not have the foggiest idea of how to run things effectively. Nothing says “I understand and empathize” like a Vote Leave Tory Member of Parliament, who graduated from public school and the Oxbridge system and has been an MP for his entire professional career, explaining to BBC anchors that the average British person is fed up with the failures of the elites and the experts running Britain and that is why the country must leave the EU.

The chaos seen today clearly demonstrates the failure of strategy and policy among the Vote Leave campaign leadership. We can clearly see that they don’t really have any ways and means to achieve their stated end: a negotiated departure from the EU that provides Britain with the best possible terms. Nor do they have any idea what they should be. They have destroyed their relationships with the EU leadership who want the separation done immediately and are in no mood to bargain, let alone allow Britain off the hook easy. And they have no leverage with the EU as a result. Johnson, Gove, Stuart, Farage, and others are now the dog that caught the Vauxhall. Unfortunately they clearly have no idea what to do with it.

* Image from here.

** Image from here.

*** Image from here.

**** Stuart is now under formal inquiry/investigation for failing to disclose a financial interest in a company that has promoted financial planning as a result of the Leave campaign winning.



The Politicization of Policy

Earlier today the Supreme Court, in a 4-4 deadlocked ruling pertaining to President Obama’s Executive Order pertaining to the status of the parents of American citizens or legal residents who are in the country illegally, issued the following ruling: “The judgement is affirmed by an equally divided Court.” In the short term this means that the original District Court ruling, affirmed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, stands. It is unclear whether this means that the President will seek to enforce his executive order to not deport the parents of American citizens or legal residents outside of the 5th Circuit or not. The ruling is partially the result of Texas and 25 other states shopping for a sympathetic District Court Judge, which is why they filed it in Brownsville, not Austin the state capitol. It demonstrates both the challenges of a divided Supreme Court and the politicization of policy.

While Speaker Ryan has issued a statement lauding the decision and claiming it as a victory for the Constitution and Congress, specifically under Article 1, this is simply part of the politicization of this particular policy. And that comes at a price. Both in lives affected and in dollars spent. The reality that no one wants to mention when discussing the President’s DAPA and expanded DACA order to defer deportations for specific, low risk classes of undocumented people in the US, and which demonstrates why Speaker Ryan’s claiming victory for Article 1 and the Congress’s power to write the Law, not the Executive Branch, misses the point is that Congress did write the Law. Congress made it a misdemeanor to improperly enter the US; specifically entering in an undocumented capacity without papers while avoiding immigration control. Unlawful presence, overstaying one’s visa or not leaving the US and returning to one’s home country when one is supposed to is not actually a crime at all. The Executive Branch, however, has to administer (execute) this law. But here’s where the rubber of making Law hits the road of enforcing it: Congress also has to provide the ways and means.

Currently Congress only appropriates enough money for the Department of Homeland Security to deport approximately 450,000 undocumented immigrants that have illegally entered or overstayed their visas. This is not something new. Congress never appropriates enough money to deport everyone who has entered illegally or overstayed their visas. The cost for trying to identify, round up, and deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented people – both improper entry and unlawful presence – in the US right now is estimated at no less than a $100 billion and up to $600 billion. As a result every Presidential Administration has had to prioritize who to focus on. The focus is always on those who have been arrested and/or previously convicted of engaging in violent crimes or who are tied to human or drug trafficking or terrorist/extremist organizations. And this makes sense from a domestic, public policy standpoint: focus on those who present the greatest potential threat to the US, American citizens, legal residents, and those visiting the US. What Speaker Ryan, Governor Abbot of Texas and his 25 colleagues from when he was the Texas Attorney General, Federal District Court Judge Hanen, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the four Supreme Court Justices that voted to uphold the lower court rulings against the Administration’s Executive Orders have chosen to ignore is that tomorrow the Obama Administration still only has enough Congressionally appropriated funding to deport 450,000 people in the US illegally. And tomorrow the Department of Homeland Security is still going to have to prioritize who they focus on – the parents of an American citizen who other than the Federal misdemeanor of improper entry or the not an actual crime at all of unlawful presence are otherwise law abiding or the guy trafficking women for the sex trade.

We’ve reached this moment of policy and juridicial stupidity because both the President and those opposing his policy of prioritization politicized the issue. The President publicly announced the policy of placing the parents of US citizens and legal residents on the low priority list for deportation, which provided them with an effective exemption. President Obama did this as part of a strategic communication strategy to signal to an important constituency that he, and the Democratic Party, were not going to forget them even if Congress was unable or unwilling to act. The House GOP majority, as well as twenty-six Republican controlled states, responded by also strategically communicating to their constituencies that they would sue the President to overturn his Executive Order to ensure that the Law was administered and that only Congress, as Article 1 states, can write Law. The issue, which was already politicized, was dialed up to 11.

There is no way of knowing if, had the President not publicly announced what he was doing, the GOP House Majority or one or more of these 26 Republican governed states would have still objected as vehemently or opposed the President’s actions through a lawsuit. Moreover, there isn’t equal guilt for politicization on both sides. Until or unless Congress appropriates more funds for deportations, which they do not seem to be inclined to do, the Obama Administration, and any subsequent administrations, will only have the funding – the means – to identify, arrest, detain, and deport 450,000 undocumented people per year. No matter what Judge Hanen, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court rules, tomorrow the Department of Homeland Security, part of the Obama Administration’s Executive Branch, will still have to prioritize who to deport. I fully expect that they will continue to prioritize their efforts on those accused of and/or convicted of violent crimes, as well as those suspected to be trafficking drugs and people or of being affiliated with extremist or terrorist organizations. Focusing on less dangerous cohorts among the undocumented would create an actual threat to the safety and security of the US, its citizenry, its legal residents, and those visiting for work, school, or enjoyment.



Unifying the party through jobs

From this morning’s Politico:

Hillary Clinton’s team is moving to shore up an area where she urgently needs help — the campaign has hired Bernie Sanders’ director of student organizing to serve as her national campus and student organizing director, a Clinton official confirmed to POLITICO.

Kunoor Ojha is the Clinton campaign’s first major hire from the Sanders campaign, and her move to a role where she will work with the state teams to mobilize young voters represents a significant step in the former secretary of state’s outreach to the Vermont senator’s most ardent backers.

The party unifies when a bunch of people who were doing a good job on the Sanders campaign get good jobs on the Clinton campaign.

I remember in 2008 as the Democratic primary was winding down that a bunch of Clinton operatives got jobs on the Obama team.

I remember in 2004 that the digital/internet/blog outreach folks from the Dean and Clark campaigns got scooped up by the Kerry/Edwards team.

Echoing Doug, just chill……

 

 



Long (Noir) Read: “I know who killed the Black Dahlia: my own father”

A retired LA detective talks to the Guardian‘s Alexis Sobel Fitts:

Shortly after receiving the news of his death, Steve Hodel found himself sorting through his father’s belongings. Though Steve’s father, George Hodel, loomed large throughout his early childhood, their relationship had always been strained. George was a grandiose doctor with a distant personality who abandoned the family shortly after Steve’s ninth birthday, eventually moving far away to the Philippines.

As he went through his father’s possessions, Steve found a photo album tucked away in a box. It was small enough to fit in his palm and bound in wood. Feeling like a voyeur, he perused it. It was filled with the usual pictures – his mom, dad and brothers – as well as portraits of the family taken by the world-famous surrealist artist Man Ray, a family friend.

But towards the back, something caught his eye: two pictures of a young woman, her eyes cast downward, with curly, deep-black hair. Steve still doesn’t know why he had the idea, but as he looked at the images, he thought to himself: “My God, that looks like the Black Dahlia.”…

The personal connection between Short and George Hodel suggested by the album photos seemed outrageous. Hers was one of the most brutal murders in American history, and, after the Zodiac killer’s shooting spree in San Francisco, perhaps the most famous unsolved crime in California. But from this moment on, Steve was hooked…

Cataloguing evidence has been Steve’s life for the last 15 years, during which the quest to connect his father to Short’s murder consumed his life. It brought him back to Los Angeles, where he now spends his days in a modest apartment, documenting his father’s supposed criminal past in a snowballing body of work including four books, a play and a frequently updated blog. And though his first book, Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story, is little more than hundreds of pages of evidence, listed chronologically like a cop’s case log, it made the New York Times bestseller list after it was released in 2003.

This research has won him fans. It has also made many people uncomfortable given his tone, which blurs the line between obsession and admiration, and his conveniently gripping narrative: a homicide detective, raised in the heart of gritty Los Angeles, finds his father guilty of the city’s most notorious unsolved murder…