Today, the Berlin Wall, which stood for 10,316 days, has been down for… 10,316 days.
Many thanks to Jeff Mayer and Marshall Mayer for telling me about the date.
Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ After indications that Syria’s Assad might use chemical weapons again, Trump warns he will pay “a heavy price” for “mass murder” (New York Times)
Comment: As with most deterrent threats, it is hard to know whether it will work.
What we do know is that it is could work because it is credible.
That is, the target (Syria, in this case) has good reasons to believe we will do what we threaten if he acts.
After Pres. Obama’s failed “red line” and other missteps, our threats were heavily discounted.
It is worth noting, then, that Trump has managed to reestablish America’s deterrent threat quickly after 8 years of neglect and decline.
◆ CNN has made several major errors in reporting the Trump-Russia investigation, all adverse to the Administration.
After the retractions, three CNN journalists are going to spend more time with their families. Story here (Washington Post)
Comment: My sense is that CNN’s main viewership is airport passengers delayed in boarding.
◆ Amazing story, if further proof emerges. Circa reports that the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn began after he intervened to help a (purported) victim of FBI sexual discrimination. Circa’s John Solomon and Sara Carter have done first-rate reporting on scandals, so their coverage should be taken seriously. The key here is that the person accused of discrimination is very high-ranking. Indeed, he was acting head of the agency after Comey stepped down.
The FBI launched a criminal probe against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn two years after the retired Army general roiled the bureau’s leadership by intervening on behalf of a decorated counterterrorism agent who accused now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination, according to documents and interviews.
Flynn’s intervention on behalf of Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was highly unusual, and included a letter in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case and an offer to testify on her behalf. His offer put him as a hostile witness in a case against McCabe, who was soaring through the bureau’s leadership ranks.
There is more than simple correlation here, according to Solomon and Carter.
McCabe eventually became the bureau’s No. 2 executive and emerged as a central player in the FBI’s Russia election tampering investigation, putting him in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn.
Three FBI employees told Circa they personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.
Comment: The report is stunning and looks like corruption, in the form of personal animus.
The weak part of the Circa allegation (so far) is that the Russia investigation began fully two years after the contretemps.
The strong part is that McCabe seemed to have a personal grievance against someone he was investigating. That cannot be acceptable within any neutral investigative agency.
This alleged corruption must be part of Mueller’s investigation.
◆ California regulators are moving to require Roundup weed killer to come with a “cancer-causing” label. They say the main ingredient, glyphosate, is the problem. Monsanto, which makes the product, disputes the claim. Story here (ABC News)
◆ That attempted mass assassination of Republican lawmakers? The one by the rabid Bernie Sanders supporter?
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the No. 2 official in the Democratic National Committee, blames . . . go ahead, guess. You are correct. Trump.
Comment: Check the man for rabies.
♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Tom Elia for the Circa story on the FBI
◆ Sam Stubbs for the CNN story.
Sam reported it correctly, unlike CNN
Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ American Otto Warmbier dies after being imprisoned in North Korea. Pres. Trump condemns it as “a brutal regime” and adds “we’ll be able to handle it.” (Fox News)
Sec. of State Rex Tillerson referred to Warmbier’s “unjust imprisonment” and called for the release of 3 other Americans held there.
Comment: The brutality of the North Korean regime is well known. The question is how to constrain the danger they pose to South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
◆ Russia Warns Washington after US fighter downs a Syrian Warplane. (New York Times)
Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.
The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.
The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April. –New York Times
That’s not the only major development.
The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war. –New York Times
Comment: With so many factions fighting in close proximity, there is a huge risk of unintended engagement among the states backing different groups. That, of course, could lead to escalation.
Theresa May’s weakness casts shadow over Brexit negotiations (Financial Times)
Britain began the long process of leaving Europe on Monday, but many Conservative MPs are privately speculating whether Theresa May can make it as prime minister through the next few months. –Financial Times
Comment: May is now deeply unpopular–she’s been called a “dead woman walking”–and leading Tories are trying to find a consensus candidate to replace her as Prime Minister.
As far as Brexit goes, the PM has also replaced many of the negotiators; the new ones are in disarray. No one knows what Britain’s goal in the negotiations really are.
◆ Today in European terror: A car with an armed terrorist (he was on France’s watch list) rammed a police car on the Champs-Élysée in Paris. The terrorist’s car burst into flames on the busy street and he later died. (CNN story here)
Police found a Kalashnikov rifle, handguns and gas bottles in the car.
“Security forces have been targeted in France once again,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said, calling it an “attempted attack”. –BBC
Comment: This problem goes beyond police and intelligence work, although it certainly calls for that. As long as Europe is filled large numbers of unassimilated Muslims, attracted to extreme ideologies, this problem will continue. The key is to work on assimilation, restrictions on new immigration, and more intense intel work.
◆ Well, at least she didn’t waste the money she stole Report: Stolen city funds paid for her ‘Brazilian butt lift’ (Gainesville Sun)
Natwaina Clark’s 177 bogus purchases — totaling more than $93,000 — included cosmetic surgery, SunPass and PayPal.
An investigative report released Wednesday shows a former city of Gainesville employee, accused of stealing more than $93,000 from the city, spent some of it on a Brazilian butt lift. –Gainesville Sun
The vast crimes of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime are well known.
Still, it is shocking to see the new depths of their depravity.
Today, the US State Department released a statement and surveillance photographs showing that Assad’s regime has built a crematorium to incinerate the prisoners they have murdered. (Fox News) The victims come from a prison Amnesty International has already called a “slaughterhouse.
Surveillance pictures show a building the State Dept. believes to be a crematorium.
The Syrian regime is using a site outside Damascus to cremate the bodies of thousands of prisoners it has abducted, jailed and murdered during the country’s long-running civil war, the U.S. State Department alleged Monday.
Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones showed surveillance photos that — combined with intelligence assessments and other reports — officials believe show Bashar Assad’s government is complicit in covering up evidence of mass killings at the Sednaya Prison. Located near Damascus, the prison previously has been called a “human slaughterhouse” by Amnesty International. –Fox News
The State Department added that these atrocities are being carried out “with unconditional support” from Iran and Russia.
Comment: The thought of a crematorium for political enemies after the Holocaust . . .
Astounding and disgusting.
He not only wanted to set a lower age than the legislature, he wanted a “religious” exemption.
He wouldn’t say which religion.
Comment: I’m completely stumped about the religion. I’m guessing Episcopal, but I could be wrong.
Also, waiting to hear from progressive feminists on this quintessential women’s issue. Crickets.
“Intersectional feminists”? Dead crickets.
The story is here. It begins with Gen. Mattis finding the body of a tortured Iraqi prisoner, says Mattis was furious about it, and moved immediately to stop such treatment.
Colleagues say the general’s handling of the episode reflects his firmly held views against torture and prisoner mistreatment.
In 2006, General Mattis supported Gen. David H. Petraeus of the Army and other military leaders in the development of a new counterinsurgency field manual that highlighted limits on interrogation tactics. “Torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is never a morally permissible option, even if lives depend on gaining information,” the manual said. “Lose moral legitimacy, lose the war.”–NYT
Political Implications: The legal waiver, which Mattis needs to become Sec. of Defense, will go through smoothly. There was already little opposition to the waiver and this report strengthens his position still further.
It also weakens President-elect Trump’s willingness to reintroduce torture of suspected terrorists, something he advocated during the campaign. He would be overriding the considered judgment of experienced and highly-respected military leaders, Mattis and Petraeus.
Mattis will, of course, be questioned seriously in confirmation hearings about US defense posture and strategy, as he should be. But he nomination will sail through.
⇒Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Intel Committee of US House issues a heavily-redacted report showing Edward Snowden was a habitually-unhappy worker whose stolen information harmed US security and has been used by the Russians. (NY Times) Snowden tweets his contempt for the report.
◆ Chicago: Arrests down, murders up in 2016 (Chicago Sun-Times)
◆ Barclay’s Bank is diverging from its peers, which settled with the US Government over bad mortgage loans. “If you want our money,” Barclay’s says, “then sue us.”
Barclay’s own consultants called some of the loans “craptacular,” but the bank says the USG has overreached. Bloomberg has the story here.
◆ And finally, a tweet of real note and a perfect one for today, Dec. 25.