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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

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.

Machiavelli

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

May 3, is the birthday of the man who wrote, “A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise”: Niccolò Machiavelli , born in Florence (1469). He had an early career in politics when Italy wasn’t a unified country, but rather a collection of allied city-states. It was an unstable time, and he lost his post when the government was overthrown by the Medici family. He wrote The Prince in 1513 as an instruction manual on obtaining and holding onto power, in hopes that he could impress the powerful Medicis and earn a political position. In his treatise, he wrote that morality was irrelevant when it came to running a state. He didn’t advocate evil for its own sake, and believed rulers should stick to the good whenever possible. But he also said they should be willing to perform evil acts when it became necessary to hold onto their power and maintain the security of the state.

Machiavelli’s attempt to impress the Medicis backfired, and they may never have even read The Prince until after his death. His name became associated with cutthroat tactics and violence, and he never held another government job.

Garrison Keillor’s/Writers Almanac, May, 2o17

THE MUELLER PROBE FROM A VERY DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

This is a most interesting article, especially so, coming from a Democrat. Had I written this as a novel, say 5 or 6 years ago, I’m certain it would have been dismissed, as too improbable, even as fiction.

The HILL
Comey, Mueller and the Poisen Tree
By Mark Penn, opinion contributor — 04/26/2018 

It is a strange and curious America that fêtes a former FBI director who was fired from his job after exceeding his authority in ways that two presidential campaigns condemned, and who then leaked confidential memos about a president he clearly despises.

But that is the circus our media, politics and legal system has become. Indeed, on one channel, James Comey is one step from jail and, on another channel, he is the spear that will bring down the presidency. On one network the Russia collusion theory is done and, on another network, it’s just a matter of time before Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, flips on the president.

In the latest Harvard Caps-Harris Poll, nearly 70% say that special counsel Robert Mueller and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein should not be fired. But 72% also say that a second special prosecutor needs to be appointed, and the actions of Comey and fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe should be criminally investigated.

The more we learn about how these massive investigations were started, the more they look so corrupted that this entire investigation now could now qualify as the fruits of a poisonous tree, a doctrine first adopted by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter as the only way to prevent government agents from abusing the rights of citizens and benefitting from those actions. The government cannot violate people’s rights with impunity and then just say “oops.”

The investigation was polluted from the beginning. Former British spy Christopher Steele was a government contractor when he illegally leaked the dossier and lied about it. Mueller team members and FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok operated with such open hatred for Trump that they were removed from the investigation after managing key parts of it. The heads of the FBI and CIA participated in spreading and vouching for a Trump dossier they never verified and yet used to spy on Americans.

The yarn leaked to the press about the start of the investigation does not add up. They say it started because Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos said in a bar to an Australian diplomat that he heard from a Maltese professor that the Russians had some emails damaging to Hillary Clinton. But the source turns out to be a diplomat who happened to have shepherded a $25 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation. The report did not come through the official channels but likely through a Democratic operative who worked for the Clinton Foundation.

Perhaps most puzzlingly, Rod Rosenstein wrote a critical memo supporting the Comey firing and then appointed a special counsel after the firing. By doing this, combined with the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rosenstein set up a government within the government, with a super broad charter and practical immunity from being removed. The Mueller investigation then operated without any independent supervision from outside the agency, review by any elected officials or contemporaneous judicial review.

With this kind of freedom, it is no surprise the treatment of their early targets involved guns-drawn searches, threats to prosecute family members and plea bargains for dubious process crimes even for those who did no actual underlying wrongdoing. Only one of the early targets, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, is even in a position to challenge the special counsel, and he has been all but denied bail, had his assets frozen and even placed under a highly unusual gag order

Mueller knew he may have had an obligation to set aside all of the work of Page and Strzok when he removed them from the case. Instead he simply ignored congressional demands for information on why they were fired until months later, when the Justice Department’s inspector general Michael Horowitz forced release of their text messages.

The FBI’s stonewalling of the document starting the Russia investigation engenders similar suspicions, especially since House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has seen it, has reported it has no intelligence from official channels. The farther the investigators get from all this initial wrongdoing, the more they believe that their work product and witness interviews are free from being thrown out as fruits of a tree of illegal actions, which explains the endless foot-dragging.

In typical cases, much of what the prosecutors gathered might be exempt from the rule. But if runaway investigations are going to be corralled, then it will take judges who hold special counsels to the strictest possible standards in all their actions and limit any exemptions because such prosecutors have vast, largely unsupervised and unchecked power along with unlimited budgets.

The best way to end all this is not to fire Mueller and Rosenstein or wait for them to wrap it up, but to challenge this entire process in court as irretrievably tainted. If Mueller does not agree to end the investigation in exchange for presidential interrogatories, then it may be time to try to block the whole thing in court, with full discovery into whether its foundation was so corrupted — and the stonewalling actions so blatant — that the doctrine of the fruits of a poisonous tree can be invoked to stop this national distraction.

Mark Penn served as pollster and adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during his impeachment. He is chairman of the Harris Poll and author of the recently released book, “Microtrends Squared.”

The Rapid Decay and Slow Death Of Major Cities In “Blue” States.

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

A scathing report on life in major cities run by Democrat administrations. If the Democrats win nationally, state wise, and locally in 2018 and 2020, look out! All our major cities will look the same.

 The Hill

The Great Exodus Out of America’s Blue Cities

Kristin Tate

4/24/18

 

Am I the only one in my spinning class at Equinox in Manhattan who’s fed up paying $200 every month for a gym with clean showers, $3,000 in rent every month for an apartment without cockroaches and $8 every morning for a cup of coffee? Am I the only one moving through the greater part of New York City boroughs and seeing an inexorable march of urban decay matched with the discomfort of crowding and inexplicable costs? I know I am not.

 

New York is the most expensive city in America. Its lower-cost neighborhoods are riddled with crime and homelessness. Its public schools, some of which are among the worst in the nation, look more like prisons than places of learning.

 

With between up to 50 percent of their paycheck going to a combination of federal, local and city taxes, not including other consumer taxes baked into every aspect of their consumer practices, residents don’t even have the comfort of knowing that their tax expenditures are going to the improvement of their lives in the city. New York infamously misuses the hard-earned tax revenues of its citizens in ways that scarcely benefit them.

 

Eventually, city and state taxes, fees, and regulations become so burdensome that people and corporations jump ship. More people are currently fleeing New York than any other metropolitan area in the nation. More than 1 million people have moved out of the New York City metro area since 2010 in search of greener pastures, which amounts to a negative net migration rate of 4.4 percent.

 

The recently passed tax bill, which repeals the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, will only speed up the exodus. Thanks to the bill’s passage, many New York taxpayers will save little or nothing despite a cut in the federal rate. The state’s highest earners — who have been footing an outsized share of the bill — will pay tens of thousands of dollars more in income taxes in 2018. In New York alone, loss of the SALT deduction will remove $72 billion a year in tax deductions and affect 3.4 million residents.

 

And make no mistake: What’s happening in the Big Apple is a microcosm of what’s happening in the nation’s blue states, cities and towns. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — the places where power and capital have traditionally congregated — have become so over-regulated, so overpriced and mismanaged, and so morally bankrupt and soft on crime that people are leaving in droves. Of course, these high-tax cities are the same places hit hardest by the removal of the SALT deduction.

 

The cost of popular moving truck services, like U-Haul, is largely created through the ironclad rules of supply and demand. Turns out, there is much higher demand for trucks leaving high-tax blue states heading to low-tax red states than vice versa.

 

A route from California to Texas, for example, is more than twice as expensive as a route from Texas to California. Want to go from Los Angeles to Dallas? $2,558. Returning back? $1,232. Texas is the No. 1 state people move trucks to, with states like Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Colorado rounding out the top 10. The states people are fleeing? New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois — and at the top, California.

 

These facts are not coincidences. In fact, in 2016 the Golden State lost almost 143,000 net residents to other states — that figure is an 11 percent increase from 2015. Between 2005 and 2015, Los Angeles and San Francisco alone lost 250,000 residents. The largest socioeconomic segment moving from California is the upper-middle class. The state is home to some of the most burdensome taxes and regulations in the nation. Meanwhile, its social engineering — from green energy to wealth redistribution — have made many working families poorer. As California begins its long decline, the influx outward is picking up in earnest.

 

The only way to slow the great exodus out of America’s blue meccas is to make these areas more affordable for middle-class families; the most significant way to do that is to lower state and city income taxes. And if residents don’t want to be “double taxed” following the removal of SALT deductions, the solution is simple: remove state and city income taxes altogether.

 

Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city and is able to operate, while funding massive infrastructure projects to support its population, without income tax revenue. When residents keep more of their hard-earned money, they are more incentivized to spend that money in ways that make their community a better place.

 

This is a lesson high-tax states and cities need to learn if they want to avoid transforming into ghost towns.

 

Kristin Tate is author of the new book How Do I Tax Thee?: The Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved