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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for May, 2018

A Politicized FBI

Monday, May 28th, 2018

A Powerful, Erudite Paper That Helps Shed Light On What Might Be Serious, Unconstitutional Actions By The FBI On The Trump Presidential Campaign

National Review

Spy Name Games

by Andrew C. McCarthy

May 26, 2018

The Obama administration blatantly politicized the government’s intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus.

‘Isn’t it a fact that you’re a scumbag?”

Our contretemps over the nomenclature of government informants has me unable to shake this arresting moment from my memory. In Manhattan, about 30 years ago, I was among the spectators basking in the majesty of Foley Square’s federal courthouse when we were suddenly jarred by this, shall we say, rhetorical question. The sniper was a mob lawyer in a big RICO case; the target was the prosecution’s main witness, the informant.

Until this week, I’d always thought the most noteworthy thing about this obnoxious bit of theater was the reaction of the judge, a very fine, very wry trial lawyer in his own right.

The prosecutors, of course, screamed, “Objection!”

The judge calmly shrugged his shoulders and ruled: “He can answer if he knows.”

Did he know? I don’t remember. I was laughing too hard to hear any response.

The court’s deadpan was not just hilarious. In its way, it was trenchant.

The judge was not insouciant. He was a realist. The witness had done what covert informants do: He pretended to be someone he wasn’t, he wheedled his way into the trust — in some instances, into the affections — of people suspected of wrongdoing. And then he betrayed them. But that’s the job: to pry away secrets — get the bad actors to admit what they did, how they did it, and with whom they did it, until the agents and prosecutors decide there is enough evidence to convict the lot of them.

The judge understood that. For all the melodrama, whether the informant was a hero or a villain hinged on how one felt not about him but about the worthiness of the investigation.

And just as the mob lawyer served his case, the government lawyers served theirs, portraying the informant as noble — or at least as noble as you can be when your job is to deceive people into confessing things they shouldn’t. Alas, whether we’re talking about criminal investigations or intelligence operations, the search for truth is a study in contrasting hyperbole and euphemism.

In the courtroom, the prosecutors are referred to as “the government,” but they swell with pride — I know I did — at any opportunity to tell you they actually represent “the People of the United States of America.” The defense can have its vaunted presumption of innocence; the unstated presumption in a criminal trial is that the prosecutor is the guy in the white hat. He’s the earnest public servant, just trying to show what really happened — he’s not there to sow doubt, to trick you like those sharks over at the defense table. And if, by reputation and manner, he manages to convince the judge and the jury of his probity and competence, the prosecutor gets to set the narrative.

The ability to set the narrative is the biggest advantage in any public controversy. And prosecutors are not alone in exploiting it. It is the métier of government officials. As progressivism has magnified the administrative state, the self-image of federal bureaucrats has become technocratic altruism: Let us explain what’s going on; after all, we’re just selflessly looking out for you, calling agenda-free balls and strikes. Think of Barack Obama, dyed-in-the-wool leftist, insisting he’s just a pragmatic, non-ideological problem-solver.

Is this bureaucracy “the deep state”? That’s an exaggeration — try, say, China or Turkey if you want to see what a real deep state looks like. Nevertheless, our modern form of government does make technocrats a force to be reckoned with, and they abide supervision and oversight only by other progressives. When a constitutionalist has the temerity to observe that technocrats are subordinate to executive political leadership and must answer to the legislature that created and funds their agencies, they brood about their “independence.” In their minds, they are an unaccountable fourth branch of government — at least until their fellow non-ideological pragmatists return to power.

For this species of arrogance, setting the narrative is a jealously guarded prerogative. We are to understand the bureaucracy’s work as unimpeachably noble and that so, therefore, are its tactics. Consequently, the government’s “cooperator” is never to be called a spy. He’s a “confidential informant” or, as the FBI’s former Director James Comey put it in a tweet this week, a “confidential human source.”

These are not neutral terms. The implication is that these operatives are always benign, even vital. A “source” is that most treasured of intelligence assets, to be protected at all costs — even the need for accountability when power is abused must give way to the confidentiality of intelligence “methods and sources.” “Source” connotes a well-placed asset who has bored into the inner sanctum of jihadists or gangsters — an “informant” whose information saves lives.

But there is another side of the story.

By and large, “confidential informants” do not emerge from the womb with a passion to protect the United States. Quite often, they become informants because they’ve gotten themselves jammed up with the police. Some are sociopaths: shrewd enough to know that the only way out of either a long prison term or a short life expectancy is to become the government’s eyes and ears; self-aware enough to know that, in undercover work, bad character, mendacity, and survival instincts are tools of the trade. Not many Mother Teresas can infiltrate hostile foreign powers, drug cartels, and organized-crime networks.

According to the government, these effective but unsavory operatives are “confidential human sources,” too. To the rest of us, spy may be too nice a word for them. The printable labels are more like “snitch,” “rat,” “Judas,” etc. “Isn’t it a fact that you’re a scumbag?” Yeah, it’s a fact — and yeah, he probably knows.

I realize this is oversimplification. “Spy” is not always a pejorative — Ian Fleming’s James Bond is a British icon, and who was more lovable than Maxwell Smart? (Here you go, kids.) In all seriousness, many spies are real heroes. The CIA’s operations directorate performs the most commendable feats of valor — the kind that can never be celebrated, or even spoken of; the kind that are memorialized at Langley only by stars carved into a cold marble wall — now, 125 of them. Where would we be without FBI and DEA agents who bravely accept undercover assignments, at great strain on their families and their well-being, to take down society’s worst predators? And many informants, though they may not risk their lives the same way, patriotically serve their country by volunteering critical intelligence they come upon through their professions and their travels.

Still, in this week’s controversy over name games, we should understand: Whether we come to see an informant as an indispensable “confidential human source” or as a treacherous “spy” has little to do with his subjective virtue or malevolence. In the end, it is not about who the spies are. It is about why they were spying.

In the Trump–Russia affair, officials of the Obama-era intelligence agencies suggest that there are grounds to believe that the Trump campaign was in a traitorous conspiracy with the Kremlin. What grounds? They’d rather not say. You’ll just have to trust them as well-meaning, non-partisan pros who (all together now) can’t be expected to divulge methods and sources.

Countering that are not only Trump fans but growing ranks of security-state skeptics. The Obama administration blatantly politicized the government’s intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus. Their Chicken Little shrieks that public disclosure of FISA warrants and texts between FBI agents would imperil security have proven overblown at best (and, in some instances, to be cynical attempts to hide embarrassing facts). “Trust us” is not cutting it anymore.

In the end, it is not about who the spies are. It is about why they were spying. In our democratic republic, there is an important norm against an incumbent administration’s use of government’s enormous intelligence-gathering capabilities to — if we may borrow a phrase — interfere in an election. To justify disregarding that norm would require strong evidence of egregious wrongdoing. Enough bobbing and weaving, and enough dueling tweets. Let’s see the evidence.

Andrew C. McCarthy — Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review. @AndrewCMcCarthy

 

PhiladelphiaLocalGovernment/A Secular/Anti-Religious Entity

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Severe, despicable, tyranny by Philadelphia local Government. How to badly hurt innocent, vulnerable children.

 Foster Children can no longer be placed by Catholic Social Services unless they renounce traditional Catholic teaching.

Christianity of any traditional kind is a target in any jurisdiction ruled by progressives. If foster children are hurt by this intolerant policy, that’s just a necessary sacrifice.

Progressives have transformed civil government from a way for people to live in the same society even though they have different beliefs into an overarching church with a creed. Everyone who won’t affirm that creed will sooner or later be targeted for marginalization.

The Federalist reports, “While Kids Wait For Homes, Philadelphia Bars Catholic Social Services From Serving Foster Children.”

Ever since the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, we’ve been seeing myriad broader implications from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell. From wedding cake bakers to event planners, if you dissented from the new regime you could have your livelihood taken from you. Now, the inexorable logic of Obergefell is bearing down on religious organizations that do social welfare work, as conservatives predicted.

Last week, a group of foster families in Philadelphia asked a federal court to end a new municipal policy that prevents Catholic Social Services from placing children in foster homes. Catholic Social Services is one of the largest and highest-rated foster agencies in Philadelphia, but because it adheres to Catholic teaching on homosexuality and does not place foster children in same-sex households, the City of Philadelphia is cutting them off.

City officials are doing this despite a massive shortage of foster families in Philadelphia. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the foster families, issued this summary of the case last week:

“In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia put out an urgent call for 300 new foster families. Despite the desperate need for homes for the 6,000 children in Philadelphia’s foster care system, the City then abruptly barred Catholic Social Services, one of the most successful foster agencies in the city, from placing any children. The City’s actions mean that foster homes are sitting empty and loving foster parents are unable to serve at-risk children, simply because the City disagrees with Catholic Social Services’ longstanding beliefs about marriage.”

Philadelphia will terminate its contract with Catholic Social Services at the end of June unless the agency abandons the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage. Never mind that no same-sex couple has ever complained about Catholic Social Services, or that the agency refers couples with whom it cannot work to one of 26 other agencies in the region.

Robert Frost/Poet

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Today, May 26, 2018, is the natal day of American poet Robert Frost (1874) . People assume Frost was a native New Englander, since many of his poems are set there and evoke wintry landscapes and long, leafy walks, but he was born in San Francisco, where his father was a journalist for the San Francisco Bulletin. When he was 11, his father died and his mother packed up Frost and moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts.

 

His first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy,” was published in the New York Independent in 1894. Frost was paid $15.00 for his poem, about $415.00 today, but mostly he received rejections, like one from the Atlantic Monthly, which simply said, “We regret The Atlantic has no place for your vigorous verse.”

He was so excited by his first publication that he proposed to his high school sweetheart. She said yes.

 

Dejected at having no further luck in America with his poetry, Frost and his wife pulled up stakes and moved to England in 1912. There, he found a champion in poet Ezra Pound, who helped get Frost’s first two books, A Boy’s Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914), published. Pound liked to tease Frost. He once showed him jujitsu in a restaurant and threw him over his head. About England, Robert Frost once said, “I went over there to be poor for a while, nothing else.” When he returned to the U.S., it was as a successful poet, a position he held until his death.

 

Robert Frost bought a farm in in Franconia, New Hampshire, for $1,000.00 and set about writing about farmers and day laborers, though he himself wasn’t much of farmer. He mostly got up at noon and sat on the fence outside. He liked to use a writing board to compose his poems, not a table, and once claimed to have written poems on the soles of his shoes. He traveled the country giving lectures and visiting schools.

 

Once, during a train trip with poet Wallace Stevens, Stevens turned to Frost and said, “The trouble with your poetry, Frost, is that it has subjects,” to which Frost retorted, “You write about bric-a-brac.”

Robert Frost’s collections of poetry include A Further Range (1937), A Witness Tree (1942), Come In, and Other Poems (1943), You Come Too (1964).

Garrison Keillor’s/Writers Almanac, May, 2017

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great 20th Century Writer

Monday, May 28th, 2018

On May 26 in 1920, a 23-year-old unknown author named F. Scott Fitzgerald published his debut novel, This Side of Paradise, to wide acclaim.This Side of Paradise is a love story inspired by Fitzgerald’s romance with Zelda Sayre . The summer before the book’s publication, Zelda had broken up with him. Fitzgerald returned to his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, hoping that writing a successful novel would win her back. He transformed an older unpublished book from his desk, The Romantic Egotist, into This Side of Paradise. 

 The book’s protagonist, Amory Blaine, enrolls in Princeton as a Midwest native, engages in a failed relationship with a wealthy young woman, joins the Army, and then returns to begin a relationship with a different debutante, much like Scott Fitzgerald himself. The novel was extraordinarily successful, selling out within three days of its first print.

 Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald were married in New York a week after the book’s publication.

Garrison Keillor’s/Writers Almanac, May, 2017

Martin Luther/The Reformation

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

It was on May 25, in 1521, that German priest and theologian Martin Luther was declared an outlaw and his writings were banned by the Edict of Worms. The edict made Luther more of a hero than he already was, and it’s a big reason that Protestantism caught on so quickly.

Luther decided to become a priest after getting caught out in a thunderstorm one night. He swore to God that if he survived he would enter the religious life. He did survive, and he went on to study theology, become ordained, and get a job as a professor in Wittenberg. As he became more and more involved in the church, he began to grow disgusted with some of its practices. He was especially angry about the church’s sales of indulgences, which were said to decrease the time a person had to spend in purgatory.

On the eve of All Saints’ Day in 1517, Luther nailed to the door of his church 95 theses attacking the sale of indulgences and other excesses of the church. They were originally written in Latin, but they became so popular that people demanded they be translated into German, and so they were. Hundreds of copies were printed up on a printing press, which was still a fairly recent invention, and Luther’s message spread throughout Germany and Europe.

Religious leaders and politicians began to realize how dangerous he was becoming to the traditional church, and in April of 1521, a group of Roman princes pressured Emperor Charles V into forming an assembly in the city of Worms to try to get Luther to reject his writings.

On his trip to Worms, Luther was celebrated as a hero at most of the towns he passed through. He refused to recant and went back to Wittenberg to start the reformation.

Garrison Keillor’s/ Writers Almanac, May, 2017


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