Comments On The House Intelligence Committee Memo

Finally, after a long wait, we have the House Intelligence Committee memo detailing abuse by the FBI and Justice Department of the FISA process to spy on the campaign for President of the candidate of the opposing political party.  You will find the full text of the memo at this link.

Before getting to the memo itself, let's go back to March 4, 2017.  That's the day when new President Donald Trump issued a few of his most famous tweets, notably this one at 4:02 AM:

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

The New York Times immediately reacted with outrage, in an article posted later that same morning with the headline "Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones":

President Trump on Saturday accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his phones at Trump Tower the month before the election, leveling the explosive allegation without offering any evidence.

Oops -- looks like Trump has now been proved right, and the New York Times wrong.  The March 4 Times article also includes this Clintonesque non-denial denial from an Obama spokesman:

A spokesman for Mr. Obama said any suggestion that the former president had ordered such surveillance was “simply false.”

Were you fooled by that one?  Of course Obama didn't "order" the surveillance.  That's not even a relevant question.  Did Henry II "order" the murder of Thomas Becket?  ("Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?")  Try asking something relevant:  Did the people who signed off on the initial FISA application (FBI Director Comey and Deputy AG Sally Yates, according to the memo) at least run this by their boss (AG Loretta Lynch)?  Of course they did.  You would never, never get to that level of authority in life if you weren't smart enough to run something of this obvious significance and risk by your boss.  And did one or more of those three similarly run this by the big boss, Obama?  Same comment.  The chance of that having happened is one hundred thousand percent.  It will be strenuously denied until the day when one or all of Comey, Yates and Lynch are under criminal investigation.

One more thing before we get to the memo itself.  Just prior to release of the memo the FBI issued a statement opposing the release, the key line of which is "we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."  Note that there is no mention that they dispute any of the facts actually contained in the memo; instead the concern is supposedly over "omissions" of additional facts, which may or may not provide context.  More on that later.  Meanwhile, news reports about FBI maneuvering prior to the release further indicated that the Bureau was mainly trying to get the White House to redact the names of various officials that appear in the document.  Whoa!  A couple of points:

  • In any private business a subordinate who set about to undermine the boss on a matter that is the boss's decision to make, and of this importance, and in this kind of hugely public way, would last about 1.47 nanoseconds before getting fired.  Whatever you might think of the importance of FBI "independence" -- and even if you think that the FBI has some kind of right to seize the prosecutorial discretion function from the President in defiance of the Constitution -- it can't be OK for these subordinate officials to stab the boss in the back like this and think there should be no consequences.  It's not the FBI's decision whether a document should or should not be declassified, and indeed they have no explicit role in declassification at all.  It is the President's decision and his alone.  If they have a view of the matter, there is only one right thing to do, which is to make your case to the boss.  And then abide by his decision.  And if you don't like his decision, quit.  You have no right to your job, and you don't have to work for the President if you don't like him.  But as long as you work at the FBI, you work for the President, whether you like it or not.
  • And then look at the list of names that they wanted redacted.  No little guys here.  It's all the very top brass of Justice and the FBI from the late Obama administration (excepting Lynch, whose name does not appear).  You already know all the names except for maybe one:  Comey and McCabe from the FBI (I guess we now know why McCabe suddenly disappeared); then-DAG Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and last-but-not-least Rod Rosenstein.  Who do these people think they are to try to conceal their involvement in this from the public?

Now to the memo itself.  We've basically known since CNN reported it last April that the Clinton/DNC-financed Steele Dossier was used as at least part of the application for a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign.  That is now confirmed.  But now there's considerably more detail.  To me, the most important new points are (1) the very senior DOJ and FBI officials knew that the Steele Dossier was paid for by the DNC and Clinton, but did not disclose that in the FISA application that they signed, (2) Steele's main contact at DOJ was Associate DAG Bruce Ohr, whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, but these facts were also concealed in the FISA applications, and (3) the head of the FBI's counter-intelligence division admitted to the Committee that the verification of the Dossier was in its "infancy" at the time of the initial FISA application.  So the top Obama-appointed brass all knew that they were getting a FISA warrant to spy on the opposition political campaign in a presidential election in its final weeks based on unverified information paid for as opposition research by their side.  Does anybody see any problem with that?

OK, back to you, FBI.  What facts could possibly be out there that would be "material omissions" that would "fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy"?  For example, maybe it's possible that there could be other information that was in the FISA application and was also part of the basis on which the warrant was obtained.  So?  If the Steele Dossier was not necessary to the application, it would not have been included.  Therefore, it must have been viewed as necessary by the people making the application -- Comey and Yates in the first instance.

And how about the endless cries for prosecution of President Trump for "obstruction" over the firing of Comey?  Now we know that Comey was the guy who signed the improper and deceptive initial FISA application.  If that isn't grounds to fire him, I can't think of what would be.

And finally, how about Rod Rosenstein?  The depth of his implication in the improper conduct at issue is not clear from this memo.  The inference would be that he signed off not on the initial application, but on a subsequent renewal that must have occurred after the campaign was over, and probably after Trump was President.  But, was Rosenstein in on the initial application in any way?  And even if he wasn't, did he make the corrections to the renewal application he signed to inform the FISA court of the provenance of the Steele Dossier and of its lack of verification by the FBI?  Obviously, these questions are highly relevant, with Rosenstein now purporting to be "overseeing" an investigation by Mueller of the President himself, involving this very same subject matter.

According to Axios earlier today, President Trump was asked in light of the memo "if he still had confidence in Rosenstein."  Trump responded, "You figure that one out."  I think I have figured it out.  What do you think?  Would you have confidence in him? 

Completely Taken In By The Poverty Fraud

In a post last month titled "The Malicious UN Addresses 'Poverty' In The United States,"  I recounted how the UN's "special rapporteur" on poverty had just issued a big report excoriating the U.S. for the persistence of poverty within its borders.  The only problem was, the "rapporteur," one Philip Alston, combined extreme malice against the U.S. and everything it stands for with complete ignorance of the subject matter on which he was "rapporting."  From all you could tell from his "rapport," he knew nothing of the arbitrary "cash income" limitations of the U.S. measure of "poverty," and nothing of the annual trillion dollars or so of in-kind benefits handed out to the "poor" that are systematically not counted in measuring their "poverty."  And then, in the malice category, Alston took the occasion of his "rapport" to deliver a self-righteous lecture to the U.S. on every issue from tax policy to the criminal justice system to income inequality to environmentalism to alleged racism.  I concluded:

Alston excoriates the U.S. for not adopting massive socialist-model "solutions" to ameliorate non-existent poverty, while seemingly remaining completely unaware that the socialist model, foisted on the world by the UN, is what keeps the real poor of the world poor.

It took a month, but it won't surprise you that the New York Times and some of its commenters and letter writers have now picked up on World Bank notions of "poverty" in the U.S., and on the Alston "rapport," and have swallowed these things hook, line and sinker.  This began with a January 24 op-ed by Princeton economics professor Angus Deaton (headline: "The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem"), followed by two letters in the January 28 edition.  There are also some 1102 comments (and counting), but I'll spare you from those.

Deaton proves once again that the way to get a fancy appointment as an economics professor at Princeton is to know nothing of what you are talking about.  (See, e.g., Krugman.)  Here's his lede:

You might think that the kind of extreme poverty that would concern a global organization like the United Nations has long vanished in this country. Yet the special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, recently made and reported on an investigative tour of the United States. . . .  The World Bank decided in October to include high-income countries in its global estimates of people living in poverty. We can now make direct comparisons between the United States and poor countries.

So, Angus, how many people are in this "extreme poverty" in the U.S., and how do you make that determination?  

According to the World Bank, 769 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013; they are the world’s very poorest. Of these, 3.2 million live in the United States. . . .   [And then, adjusting for cost of living issues,] when we compare absolute poverty in the United States with absolute poverty in India, or other poor countries, we should be using $4 in the United States and $1.90 in India.  Once we do this, there are 5.3 million Americans who are absolutely poor by global standards.

Who are these 5.3 million people in the U.S. supposedly living in "extreme poverty"?  Deaton of course tells us nothing about the methodology that came up with these numbers.  Does he know anything about the methodology?  Unlikely.  Spending some real time today trying to get some information on how they do this, I find this October 2017 "global poverty update from the World Bank," which contains a very inadequate description of some of the methodology.  Although never stated explicitly, it becomes clear that they have sent out some kind of a survey, and compiled the answers.  Then this:

We . . . include observations reporting zero incomes in these [wealthy] countries . . . .  These observations should not be interpreted as corresponding to zero consumption. This is a long-standing issue concerning the comparability of poverty statistics across consumption and income distributions. It has not been resolved, and further work is clearly needed, but data users interpreting poverty numbers for rich countries should bear it in mind.

How many of these "zero income" responses are there?  They don't say, but it's obviously enough to affect the results or they wouldn't mention it at all.  Do they do any follow up at all to determine if these "zero income" responses are real?  Again, they don't explicitly say, but the statements that this is a "long-standing issue" that "has not been resolved," and "further work is clearly needed" strongly imply that they don't.  (Note that on this very subject several years ago I interviewed the head of poverty statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau, and she admitted to me that as to "income" the Census Bureau takes whatever answer a respondent gives on the survey form without any kind of follow up or double check.)

In other words, these "zero income" responses could perfectly well be people who just don't want to reveal their income to someone they don't know and therefore they put down a zero.  Or they could be in one of many perfectly legitimate and not small categories of people who really do have zero "income" (by the arbitrary definitions of that term) and yet are not anything you would ever consider "poor":  disabled people living on full government support in a group home; students on scholarship; retirees living off savings or a reverse mortgage; young people living with family support while looking for a job, etc., etc.  So how many of the World Bank's and Deaton's 5.3 million Americans are in which of these categories?  The fact is, they have no idea.  And yet they treat the 5.3 million figure as some kind of legitimate indicator of a level of suffering.  

Meanwhile, to the extent that there actually are people who are striving in life but aren't earning anything meaningful right now and have no other resources to draw on, there is that $1 trillion of annual government "anti-poverty" spending.  Somehow Deaton completely omits to mention that spending.  Just for starters, any such very-low-income person would immediately be entitled to a federal food stamp subsidy of $192 per month, which is already well more than the $120 per month of this World Bank "extreme poverty" standard -- and food stamp spending is only about 7% of "anti-poverty" spending in the U.S.  Note that neither food stamps nor almost any other government "anti-poverty" effort counts as "income."  This goes for everything from public housing to Medicaid to clothing and energy assistance to multiple other food and nutrition programs.

And the World Bank specifically warns people using their numbers about the "long-standing issue" of these "zero income" reports, and to "bear [that] in mind" when using the data.  But even those explicit warnings do not stop the likes of fancy schmancy Princeton economics professor Deaton, wanting to play on our sympathies, grasping onto this very dubious data to claim that the U.S. "can no longer hide from its deep poverty problem."

Deaton then of course makes the usual call for collective response to the looming crisis (although he doesn't advocate for any particular government program in this op-ed):

[T]he social contract with our fellow citizens at home brings unique rights and responsibilities that must sometimes take precedence [over our obligations to the poor in other nations], especially when they are as destitute as the world’s poorest people.

The Times letter-writers step in to fix Deaton's failure to make the obligatory call for more government spending and programs.  For example, there is this from letter-writer Peter Singer (sometime Times ethics columnist):

My Princeton colleague Angus Deaton has done us all a service by pointing to the existence of extreme poverty in the United States, and especially the failure of this affluent society to provide adequate shelter for homeless people. There is no doubt that governments at all levels should be doing more to meet this need. 

OK Angus and Pete:  If $1 trillion of annual spending still leaves 5.3 million people in "extreme poverty" because next-to-none of the spending counts as relieving the poverty, what is the "more" that the government should be doing that could possibly make any difference?

The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time -- Part XVIII

Regular readers here will recognize that the "Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time" is the world temperature data tampering fraud, by which the guardians of the world surface thermometer temperature records seek to convince you that dangerous global warming is occurring by making downward "adjustments" to earlier year temperatures and hoping you won't notice.  To read Parts I to XVII of the series, go to this link, where you will find the prior 17 posts arranged in reverse chronological order.

The last post in the series was August 14, 2017.  There's a reason for the hiatus from then until now.  It's because after a big El Niño and high temperatures in 2016, the El Niño dissipated, and temperatures came down somewhat in 2017.  With temperatures failing to hit anything that could be plausibly characterized as records, NASA and NOAA took a break from their monthly breathless press releases proclaiming the current month or quarter or whatever to be the "hottest ever."  However, the year ended on December 31, and at that point they had to say something.  Here's the NOAA Global Climate Report -- Annual 2017.  I would describe it as rather energetically spinning:

The monthly global land and ocean temperatures at the start of 2017 were extremely warm, with the first four months each ranking as the second warmest for their respective months, behind the record year 2016. Of particular note, the global land and ocean temperature for the month of March 2017 was 1.03°C (1.9°F) above the 20th century average—this marked the first time the monthly temperature departure from average surpasses 1.0°C (1.8°F) in the absence of an El Niño episode in the tropical Pacific Ocean. 

And even that energetic spin is rank amateurism compared to what we find at Bloomberg news in a January 18 article titled "Earth’s Relentless Warming Sets a Brutal New Record in 2017."   "Relentless warming" and a "brutal new record"?  Wait a minute, I thought the temperature went down from 2016?  And indeed it did.  Read on, and you will learn that, despite the headline, what they mean by a "brutal new record" is a record "in the absence of El Niño":

2017 [was] the third-hottest on record. The only years to exceed it—2015 and 2016—occurred amid a powerful El Niño weather pattern that ripped heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. In the absence of El Niño, the swelter of 2017 was unprecedented.

Do you think, as I do, that when these people tell you something like "there was an absence of an El Niño in 2017," that you would be wise to check?  Here is the NOAA page that records monthly what is called the "MEI":  Multivariate ENSO Index.  "ENSO" is the "El Niño Southern Oscillation."  This is the most comprehensive measure of whether there is or is not an El Niño at a given point in time.  Zero is neutral, and the index varies between about +3 (very strong El Niño) and -3 (very strong La Niña).  The peak of the MEI in the very strong El Niño year of 2016 was +2.227 in January.  In 2017, the MEI started out very slightly negative at -.055 in January through -.08 in March, and then suddenly had a powerful spike to +1.455 in May and +1.049 in June.  Only after September did it turn modestly negative at -.449, reaching -.576 in December.  Sure looks like 2017 was at least a modest El Niño year, although not as strong as 2016; an El Niño, but no record temperatures.  

Now let's look at the latest news on the subject of downward adjustment of early-year temperatures.  Remember that the (highly accurate) satellite temperature records only extend back to 1979.  When NOAA and NASA talk about "hottest year ever" they are referring not to these highly accurate records, but rather to records from a network of surface thermometers, extending back into the 1880s or so.  But those are the records that they have been "adjusting" to make the past cooler, and thus make the recent temperatures appear to be warmer.

Neither NOAA nor NASA has even provided sufficient information to enable outsiders to replicate what they are doing in "adjusting" the earlier temperatures downward.  However, they have from time to time offered purported explanations.  One of those explanations is that at certain stations they have changed the "time of observation," and therefore the earlier temperatures at these stations need to be adjusted so that they are comparable with more recent observations made at a different time of the day.  It sounds plausible on its face -- but can they give us actual examples where the specific adjustment they have made can be justified?

One of the diligent independent investigators who has called NOAA out on many previous occasions is Paul Homewood of the website Not a Lot of People Know That.  Homewood has once again caught NOAA red-handed in a completely unjustifiable temperature adjustment, this time from Ithaca, New York -- home of Cornell University.  What's more, the Ithaca records from 1949 to date specifically state that they are made at 8:00 AM.  Thus, no possibility that the adjustments could be justified by change of time of observation.  

Here is Homewood's January 26 post titled "TOBS [Time of Observation] at Ithaca."   The annual average temperature for the year 1949 was 49.5 deg F.  Here's a screenshot of the raw data captured by Homewood:

Ithaca temperatures.png

The 49.5 deg F for Ithaca for 1949 is way in the lower right.  For 2016, NOAA's annual average temperature for the same Ithaca station read at the same time of day was 48.0 deg F.   This is a link to NOAA's 2016 data.  You'll have to scroll down a way to find Ithaca temperature data.  But anyway, 48.0 deg F is a full 1.5 deg F lower than the 49.5 deg F of 1949.  The temperature has gone down, not up -- at least if you compare the original readings for 1949 to the data currently reported for 2016.

But what about the data for this area that make their way into the surface temperature records that support those "hottest year ever" claims that NOAA and NASA regularly release?  Those data have of course been subject to large "adjustments."  Here is a link to NOAA's "Climate at a Glance" information, with surface temperature data going from the late 1800s to 2017.  They don't break these data down to an individual small town like Ithaca, but you can get the small region in which Ithaca is included, namely "New York State, CD10, Central Lakes," that is, the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.  And the answer is, for that small region, the 1949 annual average temperature was 48.6 deg F, and for 2016 it was 48.7 deg F.  Instead of going down by 1.5 deg F, the temperature went up by 0.1 deg F!  How could that possibly have happened?

Perhaps you might think, this must just be a quirk of the Ithaca station, and the other stations in the small region must have had temperature increases that outweighed the Ithaca decline when the region average was calculated.  Homewood has the answer for that as well.  His post includes temperature graphs for other main stations in the region -- Auburn, Geneva, and Hemlock -- including "unadjusted" and "adjusted" GHCN data in each case.  All of these stations show massive downward adjustments of the temperatures in the earlier years, generally in the range of about 1 deg C (which would be 1.8 deg F), or even more.  For example, here is the graph for Geneva:

Geneva temperature graph.png

By the way, 1 deg C, or 1.8 deg F, is approximately the entire amount of the claimed warming of the past century that is regularly trotted out to support the narrative that "the earth is warming."  Go through the prior seventeen posts in this series, and you will find dozens of other examples of downward adjustments of earlier year temperatures in approximately the same magnitude.  No one who has looked into this can find any significant examples of adjustments going in the other direction.

There is more on region CD10 at another recent (January 25) post by Homewood, titled "New York’s Temperature Record Massively Altered By NOAA."   This post contains extensive data for all the stations in that region, both unadjusted and adjusted.  Homewood decides to compare January temperatures in two particular years, 1943 and 2014.  Key quote:

On average the mean temperatures in Jan 2014 were 2.7F less than in 1943. Yet, according to NOAA, the difference was only 0.9F.  Somehow, NOAA has adjusted past temperatures down, relatively, by 1.8F.

No one get any kind of satisfactory explanation out of NOAA or NASA as to what is going on.  In Part II of this series back in July 2014, I reported on comparable early-year downward temperature adjustments discovered in the state of Texas by Homewood, in Kansas by Anthony Watts of the Watts Up With That website, and in Maine by Joseph D'Aleo of the ICECAP website.  Those reports led Politifact to put some questions in writing to NOAA.  They received a response, the gist of which was "our algorithm is working as designed" -- without any information as to how or why the specific adjustments were made, nor any access to code or methods to enable the adjustments to be replicated.  

At this point it is becoming an embarrassment to the Trump administration that they have not gotten anyone in place at NOAA or NASA who has started to get to the bottom of this.

Obama: The Most Corrupt President In American History?

During the years of the Obama presidency, do you recall members of his administration and his media echo chamber constantly crowing that this administration was the most "scandal free" in history?  To give you a tiny reminder, here is an article from The Hill on January 15, 2017, just a few days before Obama stepped down, quoting then Chief of Staff Denis McDonough talking to Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union:

“I will say that the thing I’m most proud of, Jake, is an administration now acknowledging that we will have 6 days left or 5 days left, that has been historically free of scandal.”

Well, here we are just over a year later, and suddenly things are coming out about the prior administration that are not only a "scandal," but seem to take corruption to a whole new level in American experience.  Perhaps it is time for a review of President Obama to see where he ranks on the corruption scale.

At the outset, I will make a distinction between two forms of political corruption, both bad, but one far, far worse than the other.  The first, less bad sort is the common political corruption of our experience, namely the pol on the take.  The pol takes payments (bribes) from a member of the public, and in return provides political favors to the briber in betrayal of the taxpayers' trust.  OK, that's pretty bad.  But in my view, far, far worse is corruption in the form of use by an elected official of the powers of the government to advantage one side of the political divide (his or her own, of course) over the other, and thus to perpetuate the power of the pol and his friends and supporters.  This form of corruption goes to the very integrity of our democracy -- to those things that distinguish us from a Banana Republic.  

I don't have much to criticize Obama about as to corruption type one.  Perhaps he was smart enough to realize that an ex-President in today's world can immediately step out of the job and earn tens of millions of dollars by selling vapid ghost-written books or giving speeches at $500,000 a pop.  Why take the risk of accepting bribes?

But let's consider the case of Obama and corruption type two.  I'll do a small roundup:

  • New Black Panther Party.  During the prior Bush ("W") administration, career and line prosecutors at the Department of Justice had prepared a prosecution of a group called the New Black Panther Party for crimes including voter intimidation.  (Perhaps you can recall the pictures of the NBBP members with rifles standing outside voting places in Philadelphia.)  On assuming office, Obama and his new AG Eric Holder promptly shut down the case.  The Civil Rights Commission investigated, and in 2011 issued a scathing report.  Jennifer Rubin summarized the findings in the Washington Post (quoted at PowerLine): "1) the New Black Panther Party case brought by career Justice Department employees was meritorious on the law and the facts; 2) there is voluminous evidence of the Obama administration’s political interference in the prosecution of the New Black Panther Party case; 3) there is ample evidence that the Obama administration directed Justice Department employees not to bring cases against minority defendants who violated voting rights laws or to enforce a provision requiring that states and localities clean up their voting rolls to prevent fraud . . . .  "  By the way, I think this was a valid exercise of the "prosecutorial discretion" function of the executive, and therefore not a crime.  That doesn't mean that it was not deeply corrupt.
  • IRS.  In the run-up to the 2012 election, the IRS delayed the granting of tax-exempt status to pro-life and Tea Party groups, with the clear purpose and effect of suppressing the ability of those groups to participate in the political discussion relating to a presidential election.  From this collection of Obama-era scandals: "[P]ro-life and Tea Party groups were deliberately targeted for extra scrutiny, their tax exemption applications outrageously delayed until after the 2012 election without actually being refused. . . .  [I]n the follow-up scandal, . . .  IRS officials brazenly lied about having backups of relevant computer data. The American people were expected to believe that multiple state-of-the-art hard drives failed, and were instantly shredded instead of being subjected to data recovery procedures. . . .  [S]candal kingpin Lois Lerner got to enjoy her taxpayer-funded retirement after taking the Fifth to thwart lawful congressional investigation."  This one clearly did involve crimes.
  • Phony prosecutions of big banks followed by illegal, unconstitutional transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars to Democratic Party-supporting groups.  This one has been the subject of extensive coverage at Manhattan Contrarian, collected under my Phony Prosecutions tag, and in my view was the biggest political scandal in American history prior to the current FBI disaster.  The Obama/Holder/Lynch Justice Department pursued dozens of "prosecutions" of the biggest banks, mostly on the thinnest of charges, with complete confidence that the banks would never take a case to trial.  The correct word for the process was "shakedowns."  Something like $100 billion was collected in total.  (Read the articles at the tag for many, many examples, including quotes from the "charges"; but, as just a such few examples: "[A] settlement by Citi with Fannie and Freddie for $968 million for losses in the financial crisis, even though it was F&F that had set the terms of the loans; and another settlement by BofA for $2.8 billion for essentially the same thing; and a settlement of those two plus five other banks for $8.5 billion with OCC for alleged improper documenting of mortgages ("robosigning"); and then ten settlements by JPMC with various federal agencies between 2011 and 2013, all of them over $50 million (and some over a billion).  In September 2013 it was a $920 million settlement with JPMC over trading losses that should have been none of the government's business.  In August 2014 it was a settlement with BofA of $17 billion (!) for, supposedly, 'failing to have third party loan level due diligence' as to loans going into securitization deals.")  Then they put provisions into the settlement agreements allowing the settling banks to get credit on their settlements by "contributing" large amounts of money to a favored list of Democrat-supporting groups.  From Kimberley Strassel in the Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2015: "The [Justice] department is in the process of funneling more than half-a-billion dollars to liberal activist groups, at least some of which will actively support Democrats in the coming election.  It works likes this: The Justice Department prosecutes cases against supposed corporate bad actors. Those companies agree to settlements that include financial penalties. Then Justice mandates that at least some of that penalty money be paid in the form of “donations” to nonprofits that supposedly aid consumers and bolster neighborhoods.  The Justice Department maintains a list of government-approved nonprofit beneficiaries. And surprise, surprise: Many of them are liberal activist groups. The National Council of La Raza. The National Urban League. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition. NeighborWorks America . . . . "   The transfer, at the behest of the "Justice Department," of this vast amount of money belonging to the taxpayers to Democrat-supporting groups was in clear violation -- actually, outright defiance -- of the provision of the Constitution stating that "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law. . . . "  It was this situation that caused me to lose all remaining faith or confidence in the Justice Department, well before the current round of scandals.

All of the above matters involve decisions made by top members of the Obama administration, highly likely with the specific approval of Obama himself in each instance.

And now we are on to the current FBI scandal, much of it involving matters occurring during the last year of the Obama administration.  

Writing in National Review on Tuesday this week, Andrew McCarthy makes a compelling case that President Obama had to have been personally involved in making the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for misuse of classified information.  It seems that some of Hillary's transmission of classified information over non-secure lines went right to Obama himself at his own secret personal email account:

Obama, using a pseudonymous email account, had repeatedly communicated with Secretary Clinton over her private, non-secure email account. These emails must have involved some classified information. . . .  If classified information was mishandled, it was necessarily mishandled on both ends of these email exchanges. If Clinton had been charged, Obama’s culpable involvement would have been patent. In any prosecution of Clinton, the Clinton–Obama emails would have been in the spotlight. For the prosecution, they would be more proof of willful (or, if you prefer, grossly negligent) mishandling of intelligence. More significantly, for Clinton’s defense, they would show that Obama was complicit in Clinton’s conduct yet faced no criminal charges. That is why such an indictment of Hillary Clinton was never going to happen.  

And finally, was Obama personally involved in the use of the Trump/Russia Dossier to seek a FISA warrant to surveil the Trump campaign?  We await the definitive proof.  But:  Do you think that the Clappers and McCabes and Comeys and Lynches of this world would have done such a thing without at least a nod from the boss?  And, given all of the above, do you think that Obama would have hesitated to give that nod?  

Prior to the Obama administration, the biggest corruption in U.S. history of the "type two" variety that I am aware of was the Watergate burglary, and its subsequent coverup (which did directly involve President Nixon).  That incident does not remotely approach in scope or significance the "type two" corruption of Obama and his administration. 


Another Candidate For Stupidest Litigation In The Country

Last month I wrote a post on the "Stupidest Litigation In The Country," which I identified as the litigation brought in Oregon by a group of minor children seeking a nationwide injunction forcing the phase-out of all use of fossil fuels in the United States.  Admittedly it was a brash move on my part, picking this one case as the very stupidest out of many thousands without having actually reviewed all of the others.  But I did ask readers to ponder whether it was "even remotely possible that there could be any case even stupider."   

Unfortunately, shortly after that post I became aware of a group of cases filed by California municipalities in state courts out there, blaming the major oil companies (BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell) for some collection of speculative future calamities supposedly related to "climate change."  Those lawsuits could definitely be candidates for the title of "stupidest," but I had no way to check because I don't have access to whatever filing system they may have.  Then, on January 9, New York City decided to pile on to this bandwagon by filing its own case against the same group of oil companies, this one brought in the federal court in New York.  In this case I have come up with a link to a copy of the Complaint that is not behind a pay wall.  So we can all now read this new complaint and form our own judgments.  Is this case a bona fide candidate for stupidest litigation in the country?  Yes!  

I should note at the outset that the lawyer at the New York City Law Department who signed the Complaint, one Susan Amron, is one of my former associates!  I taught her everything she knows -- not!!!  Also named as among plaintiff's counsel is ubiquitous environmental activist attorney Matthew Pawa.  (I also understand that Pawa is the eminence grise behind the California municipality lawsuits.)

In evaluating this new case, the first question you might ask is, what exactly are they trying to accomplish here?  In a civil litigation, the only things you can hope to get at the end are (1) money damages, or (2) an injunction of some sort.  If you read the Complaint, it certainly looks like money is the principal thing they are after.  ("[T]he City respectfully requests a judgment against all Defendants awarding the City: . . . 2. Compensatory damages in an amount according to proof, of the costs of actions the City is currently taking and needs to take to protect City infrastructure and property, and to protect the public health, safety, and property of its residents from the impacts of climate change.")  But then, if you have a skeptical mind, you might ask, if it's money they're after, why don't they just impose a tax on gasoline (and any other products made from oil) in an amount sufficient to generate the money they are looking for?  Oh, wait a minute, they already have that.  Well, they could double it!

If damages aren't the real goal, how about an injunction?  The Oregon children's lawsuit explicitly asks for an injunction doing away with all use of fossil fuels in the U.S.  How about demanding that, New York City, at least as to your own residents?  Don't worry, New Yorkers will never miss the light, heat, air conditioning, refrigeration, transportation, computers, etc., etc., etc.  You won't be surprised to learn that the City has stopped short of demanding that relief.  They do ask for an injunction, but only "to abate the public nuisance and trespass that would not be effective unless Defendants fail to pay the court-determined damages for the past and permanent injuries inflicted" (whatever that means).

In other words, this lawsuit makes no sense whatsoever on its own terms.  Another theory of what this lawsuit may be about was advanced by Exxon in the Petition it filed in Fort Worth, Texas state court on January 8, and which I reported on in this post on January 10.  Here is Exxon's theory:

A collection of special interests and opportunistic politicians are abusing law enforcement authority and legal process to impose their viewpoint on climate change. This conspiracy emerged out of frustration in New York, Massachusetts, and California with voters in other parts of the country and with the federal government for failing to adopt their preferred policies on climate change. But rather than focusing their efforts in the marketplace of ideas and adopting a strategy of persuasion, the members of this conspiracy chose to advance their political objectives by imposing unlawful burdens on perceived political opponents.      

It may be difficult for you to believe that your own government officials could engage in such a level of abuse of the legal process, but then, try to come up with any other explanation for what is going on here that makes any sense.

Anyway, suppose that is the explanation.  As abusive and improper as it may be, does it really qualify as "stupid"?  Maybe not by itself.  But then, look at what passes for the supposed scientific basis for what is said in this Complaint to be a claim for "nuisance" against these oil companies.  There's way too much to cover in a short blog post, but let me give you a couple of examples:

  • From paragraph 40 of the Complaint: "According to the NPCC, the expert committee convened by the City to provide scientific advice, guidance, and projections on climate change and relied upon by the City in its sustainability and resiliency efforts, climate change is already affecting New York City. The average annual temperature in New York City has increased at a rate of 0.79°F per decade over the last 30 years."  0.79 deg F per decade!  Wow!  That sounds like a lot!  But wait a minute -- they don't cite any source, or mention that there have been tremendous downward adjustments to older temperatures, nowhere more dramatic than in New York City itself.  Are they even aware of the definitive 17-part Manhattan Contrarian series, The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time?  If they had read Part XVI of that series (July 19, 2017), they would know that for the very prominent measuring site at Belvedere Castle in Central Park, the official temperature records for the period 1950 to 1999 have been "adjusted" downward by a uniform 6 deg F; and then the adjustments become smaller and smaller in the more recent years to create an artificial warming trend.  Oh, wait, divide the 6 deg F downward adjustment by the 6.8 decade period and you get just about exactly the 0.79 deg F per decade that they are claiming as "warming" and trying to blame on oil companies!
  • There could not be any more discredited piece of work in climate science than the Michael Mann "hockey stick" of 1998.  They wouldn't really try to rely on that as proof of global warming, would they?  Absolutely!  There it is prominently featured in paragraph 36.  Hey, it's from "peer reviewed literature."  Is there any mention here that no one has been able to reproduce Mann's work without access to his data and code, which have never been produced in 20 years?  Any mention that Mann has refused multiple times to produce the data and code underlying this paleoclimate reconstruction, and currently is being held in contempt by a Canadian court for failing to produce same in defiance of a court order?  Any mention of the mathematical flaws in the methodology uncovered by Canadian auditors McIntyre and McKitrick? Any mention that the reconstruction relies for critical periods almost entirely on a couple of tree ring cores from trees that have been demonstrated not to reflect actual temperatures in recent years?  Of course not.  This is pseudoscience of the most transparent, and only intended for the most uninformed and gullible as its audience.

Do they mention that the world is in the process of building some 1600 new coal power plants to provide electricity to those who have previously not had it?  Do they mention that the emissions from those coal power plants will swamp any possible reductions in emissions from oil that might conceivably be achieved in our lifetimes?  Do they mention that New York State is in the process of closing down the nuclear power plant that supplies some 25% of the power to New York City, with nothing on the horizon other than fossil fuels that could possibly replace that source?  No, no and no.  Really, it's embarrassing.

Yes, definitely a strong candidate for the stupidest litigation in the country. 

What Would Happen To You If You "Lose" 50,000 Emails You Should Have Kept?

It seems that our moral betters at the FBI have now "lost" some 50,000 or so Strzok/Page texts and/or emails sent in the period of December 2016 to May 2017.  The mysterious disappearance follows a series of other well-known such disappearances, including the Lois Lerner/IRS emails and the Hillary Clinton/Benghazi emails, let alone the entire Hillary Clinton private email server said to have contained some 30,000 documents.  The Wall Street Journal yesterday quotes the FBI as attributing its latest "loss" to "misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades.”  Sure.  At this point, does anyone on the planet believe a word they say?

Meanwhile, Lois Lerner retired with a full taxpayer-funded pension, Hillary is off making speeches and selling books, and Strzok continues to work for the FBI in the Human Resources Department. Prosecution?  What's that?  But perhaps you are wondering, what would happen to a non-Washington-insider like you if you had suffered a similar "loss" of emails or texts that were obviously of the highest interest to government or Congressional investigators?

For guidance, you could look to the famous story of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm.  Andersen had been the auditor for Enron.  In 2001 Enron revealed various financial problems that led to its collapse.  At a time when no subpoenas or document requests were outstanding, Andersen employees were then alleged to have shredded documents relating to the Enron audits (these were hard copy documents back in those ancient days).  Then Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson was quoted as saying "At the time [the documents were destroyed], Andersen knew full well that these documents were relevant."  In 2002 Andersen was indicted for obstruction of justice for the document destruction.  Almost immediately the firm collapsed.  About 85,000 people -- nearly all of whom had nothing to do with the Enron audit or document shredding -- lost their jobs.  Andersen was then convicted of obstruction for the document destruction.  In 2005 the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, but by that time it was irrelevant -- the firm was long gone.

Or consider the case of Frank Quattrone.  During the time of the "dot com bubble" at the beginning of the millennium, he was the highest-flying investment banker on Wall Street -- the guy who took public!  Obviously he was a guy with a target on his back for ambitious federal prosecutors.  Here is a comprehensive write-up of the Quattrone prosecution from the Atlas Society in 2004 (sympathetic to Quattrone).  The case arose out of events in late 2000, when the "dot com" stock bubble was just starting to burst.  Federal prosecutors had begun an investigation of so-called stock "allocation" practices in the securities industry (that is, which firm gets to sell how much of a hot IPO), a subject that involved Quattrone little if at all.  Certainly, he was never charged with any substantive wrongdoing for anything relating to "allocation" practices.  But at this time, Quattrone was alleged to have authorized a colleague to send an email to his team encouraging them to use the end-of-year slow period to purge files on closed deals of things like "notes,  . . . drafts, . . . valuation analysis, . . . copies of the roadshow, . . . markups, . . . selling memos, . . . IBC or EVC memos, . . . [and] internal memos."   The specific context of the prospective file purge was not the federal investigation, but rather anticipated private lawsuits arising out of the stock price declines, none of which had in fact been commenced.  Quattrone was indicted for obstruction of justice.  His first trial ended in a hung jury, but at a second trial he was convicted, and sentenced to 18 months in jail.  However, again the Supreme Court ultimately reversed.  Needless to say, all of this threw a monkey wrench into Quattrone's previously high-flying career.

Then there's the case of Morgan Stanley.  In September 2001, its headquarters was in the World Trade Center.  When the towers collapsed, it lost large amounts of its hard-copy files, which were much more important then than today.  That's about as legitimate a reason for losing documents as you could come up with!  But not to petty and vindictive regulators.  When many litigants with claims against MS complained that MS was not producing documents, the financial industry regulator FINRA investigated.  It ultimately found that MS had substantial amounts of the missing documents on "back-up tapes" (possible to search, but only with great difficulty and expense) and imposed a fine of $12.5 million on MS

You might wonder why I'm reaching back to the early 2000s to come up with these examples.  I have looked for some more recent instances, but haven't found them.  I think that's because, in today's era, emails just don't disappear, even if you try to make them disappear.  That's certainly how my email accounts work.  Nor are major corporations, and particularly banks and securities firms, about to take any chances with this.  The default has become that everything is kept, which can be done at almost no cost, and handled by the outside providers like Google or Apple or Samsung or Verizon or AT&T or maybe all of them at the same time.  The old rule that you are allowed to destroy documents as long as they are not subject to a subpoena or document demand is long, long gone.  For a private entity -- such as you -- everything will be found, even if you have tried very hard to obliterate it.  

But the applicable rules sure do seem to be different for the government insiders, don't they?  Somehow, every time there's some collection of emails or texts of a government agency like the IRS or State Department or FBI that the public really, really would like to see, they have been "lost" through some quirk or accident.  If you believe them.  

And, by the way, for these purposes, neither President Donald Trump nor any high-ranking member of his administration should be considered a "government insider."  That designation is reserved for those who follow the official Washington, D.C. political groupthink.