Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Magical Thinking Underlying #MeToo Feminism

Christopher DeGroot, "The Delusion of Sexual Empowerment" from Taki's Magazine
A few weeks ago, Aly Raisman came to public attention for doing a brave and noble thing: testifying in court against Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who, over two decades, had sexually abused her and more than 160 other girls and women. Thanks in part to Raisman’s testimony, Nassar has been sentenced to 175 years in prison. The public may feel grateful to the young woman.

Now we are hearing about Raisman again, although it is for a very different reason: She has chosen to appear naked in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Raisman was in the 2017 issue, but then she wore a bikini, while now she wants to show us that she is “empowered.” With phrases such as “trust yourself,” “live for you,” and “abuse is never okay” inked on her flesh, the 23-year-old former USA gymnast serves as a symbol of delusional third-wave feminism. Says Raisman: “I hope that we can one day get to a point where everyone realizes that women do not have to be modest to be respected. We are free to draw confidence and happiness in our own way, and it is never for someone else to choose for us or to even judge us for that matter.”

The problem for a literal-minded millennial like Raisman is that there is an entire world outside herself: the minds of other people. That world is full of rich symbolic meanings, which cannot be altogether determined by the self—not even when you are the object of others’ perceptions and beliefs. Therefore, despite Raisman’s intention, the impression her naked appearance makes will be this: a mostly male audience will lust after her flesh, while paying only passing attention (if any) to “her message.””

Besides, a modest appearance, in formal contexts, simply means one in which the body is not an egregious distraction. There is no reason why, in a boardroom, or a doctor’s office, or a school, a breast, or a penis, or a vagina should be on display in such a manner as to receive attention from persons who have quite other business to attend to. The expectation of a modest appearance, found all over the world, is not “sexist” but simply adult behavior. Of course, the need for it is much greater in women, but that corresponds to the reality that women have much greater sexual power than men do.

A modest appearance has always been essential to the public-private distinction and to professional seriousness. A female lawyer or male lawyer who shows up half-naked to discuss a case with his or her colleagues would immediately prompt the following reaction: “Why is your body on such prominent display? What does it have to do with the business at hand?” Whatever might be the person’s strange motive, the body would of course have nothing to do with the case, so the lawyer would necessarily lose the respect of his or her colleagues. I once worked at a law firm where, for symbolic reasons, I and the others took care to appear professional (read: modest; conservative) indeed. When people are spending money, and their well-being is at stake, they do not equate, say, bursting cleavage with someone whom they can trust. For such a distinctly sexual thing is associated with the private sphere. Mixing the public with the private will suggest that something may be wrong with you. You are an amateur, or immature. You are acting on interests that are, as it were, irrelevant to why you were hired.

In the background of Raisman’s thinking, one detects the influence of recent feminist thought. While it is true that “abuse is never okay,” there is much more to protecting one’s self from abuse than such naïveté as “We are free to draw confidence and happiness in our own way, and it is never for someone else to choose for us or to even judge us for that matter.” A little while back, a female academic acquaintance of mine who was preparing to give a few lectures in Saudi Arabia told me that female colleagues had been informing her of precisely what not to wear while in that country, because Muslim men might spit on her (or worse) if she failed to comply with local clothing customs. Feminists have led American women to believe that they themselves should be able to determine how they behave at all times. But such a way of thinking, whether you are male or female, is unrealistic and asking for trouble. Our appearance, and actions, and words, have meanings that are far beyond our own ability to determine and control. That has always been so, and it is foolish to expect that to change.

Take the young woman who showed up at the actor Aziz Ansari’s apartment to begin their notoriously bad date. While that unusual action did not, of course, give the man the right to do whatever he wanted with the woman’s body, it wasn’t long ago that going to a man’s home, especially to begin a date, would have been universally interpreted as a sign of intimacy, of presumed romantic interest. While in the past it was understood that certain actions have inescapable symbolic meanings, today the truth of things is to be decided only by the self’s feelings. It is little wonder, for instance, that Ansari made a move on the young woman. Given how the date began, and the fact that she went home with him afterwards, nearly all men would have thought she was interested in them. Presumably, however, she wanted something more than mere sex. In other words, the date should have followed an old-fashioned model.

Like Ansari’s naive date, Raisman thinks that her own choices and judgments should be absolutely sovereign; the external world must conform to them, not vice versa. Meanwhile, her actions betray the impossibility of her words. If Raisman draws some “confidence and happiness” from appearing naked in a magazine, it is not because no one has “judged her.” On the contrary, the woman has been judged as sufficiently attractive to appear alongside the other models. Like other beauties, Raisman’s relationship with those who admire her is symbiotic: She needs their regard, even as their lust needs her for an object. It is not, then, that Raisman does not want to be judged. Rather, she wants to be judged on her own terms. She wants to dress however she pleases, while never being thought inappropriate for doing so, or suffering worse consequences. At bottom, this is a familiar fantasy: absolute individual autonomy, without any pesky negative effects.

I do not mean to be unfair to Raisman or insensitive to what she has been through. As she says, she is a survivor who wants to help other women to overcome sexual abuse. But she also seems to be a vehicle for the worst aspect of feminism: the self as some kind of magical being, with the ability to transcend perceptions and beliefs about one that do not issue from one’s self. Although nobody will ever have such a power, that vain hope can set many women up for trouble, and given what Raisman suffered at the hands of Nassar, there is a terrible irony in her being a voice for that popular delusion, the absolutely autonomous self.

No doubt Raisman got a pretty penny for taking her clothes off for Sports Illustrated, and perhaps down the road she may be able to use that appearance to gain in other ways. But in any case, there seems to be something rather sad about the matter. The assumption is that, by appearing naked in a magazine, Raisman is now “an even bigger hero.” Yet this just reveals how saturated our culture is with sex. Women do not want to be reduced to sex objects, but somehow female sexuality can be attached to any issue whatever, on the view that to be half-naked or naked is to be empowered by definition. This is bizarre, and suggests that, in their own hearts, women think that there is nothing to themselves but their bodies. In fact, however, they are probably just bored. Given the poverty of American culture, and the nagging dullness of their jobs, many women turn to the body for welcome relief from the monotony of their own consciousness. You are on display, so at least you are not bored.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

How a New Generation of Global Economists Turned Us All into Communists thru the Invention of a New Economic Productivity Term Called "Aggregate Efficiency"

How do you grow an economy when your businesses are plugging into a Second Industrial Revolution platform that has matured in 1990 and which hasn’t moved since then?

When we think about the term productivity we tend to think in terms of ‘more output per input’ which translates to ‘more capital for better machines and better workers’. According to Rifkin this represents only 40% of what productivity really is. The rest of productivity occurs as a result of aggregate efficiency, i.e. the ratio of potential work to the actual useful work you get out of a conversion. For example: when a lion devours an antilope, only 10% to 20% of its total energy gets converged into energy that is useful for the lion. All the rest gets lost into the conversion.

The second industrial revolution in the US started in 1903 with a 3% aggregate efficiency. This means that for every conversion along the value chain (extracting, storing, transporting, producing, consuming, recycling) about 97% of the energy was lost. By 1990, the US got up to about 13%, Germany got to 18,5% and Japan up to 20% aggregate efficiency. Since then, nothing changed in that ratio. Labor reforms, market reforms, fiscal reforms or new kinds of incentives or even the best technologies will not help that aggregate efficiency to go up as long as we are operating on the platform of the Second Industrial Revolution. We will never get above the ceiling of 20% aggregate efficiency, which makes up the biggest part of productivity.
- Jeremy Rifkin, "The Third Industrial Revolution and a Zero Marginal Cost Society"

Anybody who would put 60% of a "productivity" calculation (used to decide where to invest capital) into the hands of government bureaucrats is an IDIOT!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Time to Disband the Baltimore Police Department?

from the Baltimore Sun
After this week’s conclusion of a federal corruption trial that convicted two Baltimore police officers, a Maryland lawmaker floated a radical proposal: Disband the Baltimore Police Department.

Del. Bilal Ali, a Baltimore Democrat, proposed the idea in a memo to Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and her newly appointed police commissioner after a federal jury convicted two Baltimore detectives for their roles in one of the city’s biggest police corruption scandals. Six other officers pleaded guilty in the case.

The idea quickly generated reaction among politicians Tuesday — from one calling it “nonsense” to others saying Ali should not be dismissed. Pugh said the idea was going nowhere.

“I’m not disbanding the police department,” she said at her Wednesday news conference.

To support his argument, Ali cited the example of Camden, N.J., which disbanded its troubled police force in 2013 and rebuilt the agency in ways that some say have led to a reduction in violent crime. Others criticize the move as a union-busting tactic to save money.

“I write today to ask that Baltimore City’s leadership seriously evaluate Camden’s approach, and begin consideration on whether to disband and reconstitute BPD from the ground up,” Ali wrote. “There is a blueprint for success, empirical data to guide us, and a light at the end of the tunnel. Our only choice now is whether we will begin to walk toward it.”

Ali asked Pugh and acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa to seriously consider rebuilding the 165-year-old department, whose $497 million budget accounts for nearly a fifth of the city’s $2.8 billion operating budget.

“I am well aware of the enormity of this action, and that its scale may give you reason to pause,” Ali wrote. But he encouraged them to “engage” the public about the idea.

It is unlikely that the delegate’s letter will lead to the dissolution of a department that has faced three dismal years since the 2015 riots spurred by Freddie Gray’s death from injuries suffered in police custody. Last year alone, the U.S. Department of Justice and the agency entered into a consent decree to reform discriminatory and unconstitutional policing; 342 people were killed, a per-capita record; and federal prosecutors began revealing details of a criminal enterprise masterminded by the elite Gun Trace Task Force.

Ali, 66, is an Annapolis newcomer. He’s a freshman delegate who was appointed to his 41st District seat by the Democratic State Central Committee to replace Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks when Oaks was elevated to the Senate. Ali also does not sit on the committee that oversees criminal justice issues.

Some lawmakers quickly dismissed Ali’s proposal.

“That’s nonsense,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. “You can’t throw out the good with the bad.”

Other city lawmakers — including Oaks, Sen. Joan Carter Conway and Del. Cheryl D. Glenn — said they support De Sousa’s and Pugh’s efforts to enforce reforms.

“I completely support the new commissioner and I’m excited we finally have someone who grew up through the ranks,” said Glenn, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus.

Conway questioned Ali’s understanding of the police department, which is a state agency whose commissioner is hired by the mayor. Nearly all of the department’s budget is funded by the city. Conway said she opposes Ali’s idea but is willing to discuss solutions.

“I think Delegate Ali may have some issues like most of us do, but that is definitely not the answer,” she said. “I don’t think he fully understands what he’s saying but I will definitely talk to Del. Ali.”

Other city lawmakers were not as dismissive.

Lester Davis, spokesman for City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said the concept is worth discussing given the recent corruption exposed.

“It’s something people will need to consider carefully,” Davis said. “Given what has come out of the trial, it’s not something that can be easily dismissed.”

“I don’t think anything is off the table,” said Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat.

“We have to be thoughtful and practical in our approach because community safety is the single most important function of government,” Ferguson said. “There’s no way we can go back to business as usual.”

Ali’s idea is based on Camden, N.J., the once crime-plagued city of 75,000 across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. In 2012, the city’s 67 homicides put it fifth in the nation in per-capita killings.

The following year, facing a budget crisis and pressure from New Jersey officials, the city disbanded its police force and rebuilt it with a new name: the Camden County Police Department. The new entity offered lower pay but was able to pick city officers it wanted to retain. The department also transformed its crime-fighting strategy to focus on “community policing.”

Lou Cappelli, the Camden County elected official who led the effort to rebuild the department, said the 400-officer force has focused on putting more officers on the streets and has required them to go door to door to introduce themselves, walk beats and ride bicycles. In 2015, then-President Barack Obama called the shift a national model.

“Residents used to be afraid of the police, they didn’t trust the police,” Cappelli told The Baltimore Sun. “That has changed dramatically.”

Homicides declined by 60 percent from 2013 through last year. And violent crime declined by a quarter.

Their experience since then has been terrific,” said Gary Cordner, a criminal justice professor at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.

But Cordner said he’s not aware of any cities that have followed Camden’s lead. He noted that Camden also was on the brink of financial collapse and was under pressure from the state to take action.

“It seems to me it was a relatively unique situation,” Cordner said. “The stars must have aligned.”

Camden is also much smaller than Baltimore and part of its surrounding county’s governance structure, he said.

Cordner said disbanding Camden’s force was also seen as a form of “union-busting” — something police labor groups in Maryland would likely oppose.

Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said there is little proof that disbanding Camden’s department helped reduce crime. The move was a way to eliminate a dysfunctional agency, shifting to a cheaper model by firing officers and rehiring them at lower pay, he said.

Maria Haberfeld, another John Jay professor, said the best way forward for Baltimore “is about creating new standards and adhering to them.”

“You have to follow up and make sure you hire the right people, supervise them correctly and discipline them properly,” Haberfeld said.

Pugh said the consent decree mandates reforms that she is confident will change the police department’s culture and practices. The jobs of the decree’s federal monitor and community oversight panel are to assure those reforms are “fully implemented in a way that ultimately renews the trust and confidence of our citizens,” a Pugh spokesman said in an email.

Ali did not back down from his idea.

“We have to put all the options on the table,” Ali said. “I don’t buy into that ‘just a few bad apples’ theory.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Criminalizing Love - A Valentine from the Left

-Slavoj Zizek, "Sex and ’68: Liberal movement revolutionized ‘sexuality’ but at what cost?"
This year marks half a century since the May 1968 events in Paris (and elsewhere) which launched a youth-driven liberal movement that changed the world.

Thus, now is a good time to reflect upon the similarities and differences between the sexual liberation and feminism of the 1960’s and the protest campaigns that flourish today, from LGBT+ to #MeToo.

In the aftermath of ‘68, the French “progressive” press published a whole series of petitions demanding the decriminalization of paedophilia, claiming that in this way the artificial and oppressive culturally-constricted frontier that separated children from adults could be abolished and the right to freely use one’s body be extended also to children. They claimed that only dark forces of “reaction” and “oppression” could oppose this measure and among the signatories were iconic cultural figures such as Sartre, de Beauvoir, Derrida, Barthes, Foucault, Aragon, Guattari, Deleuze and Lyotard.

Today, however, paedophilia is perceived as one of the worst crimes imaginable and, instead of fighting for it in the name of anti-Catholic progress, it is mostly associated with the dark side of the Catholic Church itself. Which means that fighting against paedophilia is today a progressive task directed at the forces of reaction.

And the funniest victim of this shift was the politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, still living in the old spirit of the 60’s, who recently described, in an interview, how while in his younger years, when he worked in a kindergarten, he regularly played masturbatory games with young girls.

Subsequently, to his surprise, he faced a brutal backlash, with many voices demanding his removal from the European parliament and legal prosecution.

Changing Mores

The gap separating the ’68 sexual liberation from today’s struggle for sexual emancipation is clearly discernible in a recent polemical exchange between Germaine Greer and some feminists who critically reacted to her negative remarks concerning #MeToo. Their main point was how, while Greer’s main thesis – that women should sexually liberate themselves from male domination and assume active sexual lives without any recourse to victimhood – was valid in the sexual-liberation movement of the 1960s, today the situation is different.

And what has happened, in between, is that the sexual emancipation of women (i.e. their ability to freely assume a social life as active sexual) was itself commodified. While it’s true to say women are no longer perceived as passive objects of male desire, it’s also the case that their active sexuality itself now equates (in male eyes) to their permanent availability and readiness to engage in sexual interaction.

In these new circumstances, forcefully saying NO isn’t considered mere self-victimization since it implies the rejection of this new form of sexual subjectivization of women, and demands women not only passively submit to male sexual domination but act as if they actively want it.

Who’s to Blame?

While there is a strong element of truth in this line of argument, one should nonetheless also admit how problematic it is to anchor one’s political demands to status of victimhood. Is the basic characteristic of today’s subjectivity not the weird combination of the free subject who believes themselves ultimately responsible for their own fate and the subject who bases their argument on their status as a victim of circumstances beyond their own control? Every contact with another human being is experienced as a potential threat – if the other smokes, if he casts a covetous glance at me, he already hurts me; this logic of victimization is today universalized, reaching well beyond the standard cases of sexual or racist harassment.

For instance, think of the growing financial industry around paying damage claims. This notion of the subject as an irresponsible victim involves the extreme Narcissistic perspective: every encounter with the Other appears as a potential threat to the subject's precarious balance. The paradox is that, in today's predominant form of individuality, the self-centred assertion of the psychological subject paradoxically overlaps with the perception of oneself as a victim of circumstances.

Billionaire ‘Leftists’

One cannot shed the suspicion that the Politically Correct cultural Left is getting so fanatical about advocating “progress,” and fighting new battles against cultural and sexist “apartheids,” to cover up its own full immersion into global capitalism. This is the space where LGBT+ and #MeToo meet Tim Cook and Bill Gates.

How did we come to this? As many conservatives have noticed (and they are right here), our time is marked by the progressive disintegration of a shared network of customs which ground what George Orwell approvingly referred to as “common decency.”

Today, these standards are dismissed as a yoke that subordinates individual freedom to some proto-Fascist, organic social forms. In such a situation, the liberal vision of minimalist laws (which should not regulate social life too much but just prevent individuals encroaching upon - or “harassing” - each other) reverts into an explosion of legal and moral rules, and into an endless process of legal argument and moralization, which is labelled as “the fight against all forms of discrimination.”

If there are no shared mores that are allowed to influence the law, only the fact of “harassing” other subjects, then a new question arises. Who – in the absence of such mores – will decide what counts as “harassment”?

After all, in France we see associations of obese people which demand that all public campaigns against obesity and for healthy eating habits be stopped, since they hurt the self-esteem of obese persons. Meanwhile, the militants of “Veggie Pride” condemn the “specieism” of meat-eaters (who discriminate against animals, privileging humans – for them, a particularly disgusting form of “fascism”) and demand that “vegetophobia” should be treated as a kind of xenophobia and proclaimed a crime. And so on and so forth, until perhaps one day the debate reaches things like incest-marriage, consensual murder and cannibalism.

Free-For-All

The problem here IS the obvious arbitrariness of the ever shifting rules. Let us take child sexuality: one can argue that its criminalization is an unwarranted discrimination, but one can also argue that children should be protected from sexual molestation by adults.

And we could go on here: the same people who advocate the legalization of soft drugs usually support the prohibition of smoking in public places; and the same folk who protest against the patriarchal abuse of small children in our societies, worry when someone condemns members of foreign cultures who live among us for doing exactly this (say, the Roma people preventing children from attending public schools), claiming that this is a case of meddling with other “ways of life.”

It is thus for necessary structural reasons that this “fight against discrimination” is an endless process endlessly postponing its final point, a society freed of all moral prejudices which, as Jean-Claude Michea put it, “would be on this very account a society condemned to see crimes everywhere.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Swamp Drainage Plan

from RealClear Investigations
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes next plans to investigate the role former CIA Director John Brennan and other Obama intelligence officials played in promoting the salacious and unverified Steele dossier on Donald Trump -- including whether Brennan perjured himself in public testimony about it.
In his May 2017 testimony before the intelligence panel, Brennan emphatically denied the dossier factored into the intelligence community’s publicly released conclusion last year that Russia meddled in the 2016 election "to help Trump’s chances of victory.”

Brennan also swore that he did not know who commissioned the anti-Trump research document, even though senior national security and counterintelligence officials at the Justice Department and FBI knew the previous year that the dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Last week, Nunes (R-Calif.) released a declassified memo exposing surveillance “abuses” by the Obama DOJ and FBI in their investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia. It said the agencies relied heavily on the uncorroborated dossier to take out a warrant to secretly surveil a Trump adviser in the heat of the 2016 presidential election, even though they were aware the underlying “intelligence" supporting the wiretap order was political opposition research funded by Clinton allies — a material fact they concealed from FISA court judges in four separate applications.
Nunes plans to soon release a separate report detailing the Obama State Department’s role in creating and disseminating the dossier -- which has emerged as the foundation of the Obama administration's Russia “collusion” investigation. Among other things, the report will identify Obama-appointed diplomats who worked with partisan operatives close to Hillary Clinton to help ex-British spy Christopher Steele compile the dossier, sources say.

“Those are the first two phases” of Nunes' multipart inquiry, a senior investigator said. “In phase three, the involvement of the intelligence community will come into sharper focus.”

The aide, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said Nunes will focus on Brennan as well as President Obama’s first CIA director, Leon Panetta, along with the former president’s intelligence czar, James Clapper, and national security adviser, Susan Rice, and security adviser-turned U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, among other intelligence officials.

“John Brennan did more than anyone to promulgate the dirty dossier,” the investigator said. “He politicized and effectively weaponized what was false intelligence against Trump.”

Attempts to reach Brennan for comment were unsuccessful.

Several Capitol Hill sources say Brennan, a fiercely loyal Obama appointee, talked up the dossier to Democratic leaders, as well as the press, during the campaign. They say he also fed allegations about Trump-Russia contacts directly to the FBI, while pressuring the bureau to conduct an investigation of several Trump campaign figures starting in the summer of 2016.

Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort was wiretapped in addition to Trump adviser Carter Page during the campaign. (Page has not been charged with a crime. Manafort was recently indicted for financial crimes unrelated to the Moscow “collusion” activities alleged in the dossier.)

On Aug. 25, 2016, for example, the CIA chief gave an unusual private briefing to then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in which he told Reid the Russians were backing Trump and that the FBI would have to take the lead in an investigation because the FBI is the federal agency in charge of domestic intelligence and, unlike the CIA, can spy on U.S. citizens.

Two days after Brennan’s special briefing, Reid fired off a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey demanding he open an investigation targeting “individuals tied to Trump” to determine if they coordinated with the Russian government “to influence our election.”

“The Trump campaign has employed a number of individuals with significant and disturbing ties to Russia and the Kremlin,” the then-top Democrat in the Senate added in his two-page letter.

Reid then alluded to Page as one of those compromised individuals and repeated an unproven charge from the dossier that Page had met with two Kremlin officials in Moscow in July 2016 to discuss removing U.S. sanctions on Russia. Page has repeatedly denied the allegation under oath, swearing he never even met the Russian officials named in the dossier.

“Any such meetings should be investigated,” Reid asserted.

Less than two months later, Comey signed an application for a surveillance warrant to monitor Page’s emails, text messages, phone conversations and residence.
Unsatisfied with the progress of Comey’s investigation, Reid released an open letter to the FBI chief in late October 2016 accusing him of sitting on evidence. Reid told Comey that from his communications with “other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity.”

Congressional investigators say that the "explosive information” Reid referred to was the false or unverified claims in the Clinton-funded dossier -- which the sources say were passed along by Brennan. They add that Brennan gave more than one briefing.

After Trump won the election, sources say, the CIA director sought to "weaponize" the dossier’s wild accusations against the president-elect.

In early January, just weeks before Trump was inaugurated, investigators say Brennan saw to it that the contents from the dossier were attached to an official daily intelligence briefing for Obama. The special classified briefing was then leaked to the major Washington media, allowing them to use the presidential briefing to justify the publication of claims they had up to that point not been able to substantiate and had been reluctant to run.

CNN broke the news that the dossier — described as “classified documents” — had been attached to the briefing report by the CIA, and had been given to the president. The top-level credence that the government was placing in the dossier gave prominent newspapers, including the Washington Post and New York Times, justification to follow suit.

In addition, BuzzFeed published 35 pages of the dossier in full. (The Internet news outlet was recently sued by Trump campaign lawyer Michael Cohen, whom the dossier accused of conspiring with the Kremlin to pay Russian hackers to steal Clinton campaign emails. It's one of several libel and defamation lawsuits tied to the dossier.)

At the time, the Washington Post was assured by Obama intelligence officials that "the sources involved in the [dossier's] reporting were credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified [presidential] report.” Months later in public testimony, however, Brennan said the dossier and its sources were not credible enough to incorporate the information in a separate January 2017 intelligence report on Russian election interference publicly released by the administration. The published unclassified version of the report nonetheless echoes the dossier’s central assertion that Moscow meddled in the election to help Trump.

Brennan later swore the dossier did not “in any way” factor into the CIA's assessment that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump. However, congressional investigators suggest a still-classified version of the January 2017 intelligence report contradicts his claim. Also in his May 2017 testimony, Brennan swore he had no idea who commissioned the dossier.

CIA veterans say Brennan was the most politicized director in the agency’s history and was responsible for much of the anti-Trump bias from the intelligence community during the campaign and transition period.

Former CIA field operations officer Gene Coyle, a 30-year agency veteran who served under Brennan, said he was "known as the greatest sycophant in the history of the CIA, and a supporter of Hillary Clinton before the election.”

"I find it hard to put any real credence in anything that the man says,” he added.

Coyle noted that Brennan broke with his predecessors who stayed out of elections. Several weeks before the vote, he said, “Brennan made it very clear that he was a supporter of candidate Clinton, hoping he would be rewarded with being kept on in her administration.” (Brennan is a liberal Democrat. In fact, at the height of the Cold War in 1976, he voted for a Communist Party candidate for president.)

What’s more, his former deputy at the CIA, Mike Morell, who formed a consulting firm with longtime Clinton aide and campaign adviser Philippe Reines, even came out in early August 2016 and publicly endorsed her in the New York Times, while claiming Trump was an “unwitting agent” of Moscow.
“In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” he claimed. “My training as an intelligence officer taught me to call it as I see it. This is what I did for the CIA. This is what I am doing now. Our nation will be much safer with Hillary Clinton as president.”

Reid repeated Morell’s allegation against Trump in his August 2016 letter to Comey.

Career U.S. intelligence officials say Morell, like Brennan, was personally invested in a Clinton victory.

Morell “had aspirations of being CIA director if she had won,” said former FBI counterintelligence official I.C. Smith, whose service overlapped with Brennan’s.

Investigators are trying to learn if the Clinton campaign shared, through Reines, the early memos on the dossier it was paying for with Morrell before he wrote his Times op-ed.

Morell could not be reached for comment. But he pushed back hard last week against Nunes releasing his memo exposing the FBI’s reliance on the dossier for Trump wiretaps, which he argued "did not have to happen. It undermines the credibility of the FBI in the public's eyes, and with no justification in my view."

“What happened here underscores the partisanship and the dysfunction of a very important committee in Congress, and that does not serve Congress well. It doesn't serve the intelligence community, and it doesn't serve the country well,” Morell continued earlier this week in an interview with CBS News, where he now works as a “senior national security contributor."

Sources say Brennan is aware that the House Intelligence Committee is targeting him in its wide-ranging investigation of the dossier and investigative and intelligence abuses related to it, and that Nunes plans to call him and other former Obama administration officials before the panel to question them based on newly obtained documents and information.

Last week, perhaps not coincidentally, Brennan signed a contract with NBC News and MSNBC to be their “senior national security and intelligence analyst.”

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Brennan laced into Nunes for releasing the memo revealing FBI surveillance abuses related to the dossier, claiming the head of the intelligence panel has “abused the office of the chairmanship.”

“It really underscores just how partisan Mr. Nunes has been,” Brennan charged.

In the interview, Brennan claimed he first learned of the existence of the dossier “in late summer of 2016, when there were some individuals from the various U.S. news outlets who asked me about my familiarity with it. And I had heard just snippets about it.”

He further contended that he had neither seen nor read the dossier until a month after the election.

“I did not know what was in there,” Brennan said. "I did not see it until later in that year, I think it was in December.”

Brennan also insisted he did not know who was pulling the strings on the research that went into the dossier.

"I was unaware of the provenance of it as well as what was in it,” he said, and he reasserted that "it did not play any role whatsoever in the intelligence community assessment that was done.”

Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, is also coming under scrutiny for his role in the dossier.

He joined Brennan in giving Obama a two-page summary of the dossier memos during the presidential briefing in January 2017. Days later, Clapper expressed "profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press,” and misleadingly referred to the dossier as a “private security company document.”
The intelligence committee plans to press Clapper to find out if he knew at the time that, in fact, the document was political opposition research underwritten by the Clinton campaign, and whether any of the leaks to the media came from his office.

“I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC [intelligence community],” he maintained at the time, adding that “we did not rely upon [the dossier] in any way for our conclusion” on Russian interference.

In October 2016, during the heat of the campaign, Clapper issued a public report declaring that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime directed the cyberattacks on Clinton campaign emails, echoing memos Steele was delivering at the time to the Clinton campaign.

A year later, after it was finally revealed in the national media that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded the research that went into the notorious dossier, Clapper insisted it "doesn't matter who paid for it.”

"It's what the dossier said and the extent to which it was -- it's corroborated or not. We had some concerns about it from the standpoint of its sourcing, which we couldn't corroborate,” Clapper added last October in an interview with CNN.

He went on to strongly suggest that the intelligence assessment report he issued with Brennan, which concluded the Kremlin not only hacked the Democratic campaign but did so specifically to put Trump in the White House, was based on “some of the substantive content of the dossier.”

"But at the same time, some of the substantive content, not all of it, but some of the substantive content of the dossier, we were able to corroborate in our Intelligence Community Assessment from other sources, which we had very high confidence of,” Clapper said.

Investigators say Nunes intends to drill down on exactly who those “other sources” are now that his committee has learned that top officials at both the FBI and Justice Department relied on a Yahoo! News article as their additional sourcing to corroborate the dossier allegations they cited to obtain Trump campaign wiretap warrants -- even though it turns out the main source for the Yahoo! story was merely the dossier’s author, Steele, who was disguised as “a Western intelligence source."

Clapper, who recently signed his own media deal, joining CNN as a paid “contributor,” bashed Nunes on the network and suggested the release of future reports could endanger the intelligence community’s mission. He said his release of the FBI memo was “political” and an “egregious” betrayal of "others in the intelligence community who have a lot at stake here with the whole FISA [surveillance] process.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Baltimore Ceasefire

from the Baltimore Sun
Baltimore is at more than 10 days and counting without a homicide.

The streak is the longest since the 2015 unrest that saw a sharp and sustained spike in violence. And it coincides with the start of a 72-hour community-led “ceasefire” that kicked off Feb. 2.

“I am losing my mind thrilled,” said Baltimore Ceasefire organizer Erricka Bridgeford. For days, she said she’s been staying up until midnight, to see if the city has made it through another day without a killing.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “Baltimore deserves this boost of love.”

Bridgeford doesn’t give the ceasefire all the credit for the peace — she sees murder as a public health issue, with many causes — but rather it’s brought by “everything that everyone is doing,” she said. “Everything … is paying off.”

Still, she’s cautious: She said her stepson called earlier to say he’d run from bullets in West Baltimore.

“I’m praying that nobody dead,” she said.

There have been five nonfatal shootings during the span without a homicide, including three on Saturday.

The longest streak in Baltimore without a homicide that I could find came in March 2014, when the city went about 17 days without a homicide. That month saw just seven killings, tied for the fewest in a month since 1970.

Since the unrest, the longest period of consecutive days without a homicide was almost eight days from February 28 to March 8 in 2017.

This year started with 11 killings in the first 12 days, followed by more than six days without a homicide. Mayor Catherine E. Pugh fired Commissioner Kevin Davis, citing impatience with violence, and replaced him with Darryl De Sousa. The next 13 days saw 15 killings, followed by the current streak.

The most recent victim this year was Jerrell Brice, a 27-year-old who was fatally shot on Feb. 1 at around 1:20 p.m. in East Baltimore and who police said died two days later. The case is unsolved. Anyone with information should call police at 410-396-2100.