PowerLine -> The Week in Pictures: Int’l Women’s Day Edition – Trump’s 2013 letter to Putin
PowerLine -> The Week in Pictures: Int’l Women’s Day Edition – Trump’s 2013 letter to Putin
- Trump’s 2013 letter to Putin
- California’s Suicide Attempt, Pt. 4: High Speed to Nowhere
- Jane Mayer’s Dossiad (4)
- Tragedy at the Pathway Home
- The Week in Pictures: Int’l Women’s Day Edition
|Trump’s 2013 letter to Putin
Posted: 10 Mar 2018 04:45 PM PST
(Paul Mirengoff)A front-page story in the Washington Post informs us that, in 2013, Donald Trump wrote a note to Vladimir Putin inviting him to attend the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. As the Post puts it, “Donald Trump was so eager to have Vladimir Putin attend the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that he wrote a personal letter to the Russian president inviting him to the event, according to multiple people familiar with the document.” In a line it must relish, the Post adds “at the bottom of the typed letter, Trump scrawled a post script adding that he looked forward to seeing ‘beautiful’ women during his trip.”
At one level, this is a non-story. Of course, the sponsor of a major event in a foreign country wanted the high-profile leader of that country to attend.
But why did Trump hold his event in Moscow? The answer, according to the Post, is that he wanted to “expand his brand to Russia.”
There was nothing illegal in this. And given Trump’s lack of a moral compass, I’m confident he saw nothing wrong with expanding his brand to one of America’s main adversaries — a nation whose immoral conduct poses a threat to peace and world order.
Five years later, I see a measure of poetic justice in the fact that Trump’s desire to cozy up to Putin’s Russia has come back to bite him. However, the size of the bite exceeds the gravity of the offense, and it is America, not just Trump, that is suffering from it.
|California’s Suicide Attempt, Pt. 4: High Speed to Nowhere
Posted: 10 Mar 2018 04:40 PM PST
(Steven Hayward)Really, the situation in California requires very little commentary or analysis. Just reporting the news does all the work for you.
By the way, if you never saw any of the videos of the homeless encampment they’re talking about, here’s one YouTub video, about 10 minutes long, that you can dip into or fast forward through to get a sense of things.
I drive by a small homeless encampment in the border of Oakland and Berkeley when I drive to campus that features its own solar power array, and I see people charging up their smartphones and tablets every time I go by. But let’s keep going:
Why not hang out a sign that says: “Robbers welcome, since we hate cops.” Here’s the complete statement the coffee shop posted on Instagram:
Finally, what story about California would be complete without an update on Jerry’s Folly: the high-speed train to nowhere:
You know, I’ll bet for a fraction of that $77 billion price tag, you could build pretty nice shelters for California’s growing homeless population. Or maybe I’ve missed something and the high-speed rail will double as a homeless shelter since it is a sure bet that encampments will spring up under the high-speed bridges.
|Jane Mayer’s Dossiad (4)
Posted: 10 Mar 2018 07:01 AM PST
(Scott Johnson)Jane Mayer’s 15,000-word New Yorker profile of Christopher Steele is a sort of mash note to the man Mayer views as an intergalactic hero. One doesn’t need to be a sophisticated reader to see that she has fallen for the guy big time or that she reveals herself to be an unreliable narrator.
For reasons I suggested yesterday in part 3, I think Steele made himself a willing dupe of Russian disinformation. I think it highly unlikely that the Steele Dossier constitutes good intelligence on Vladimir Putin’s intentions, operations, and the related matters taken up in the dossier. One would have to be something of a sap to believe that it does. From the evidence of Mayer’s text, Mayer is such a sap. In this installment of my series, I would like only to pluck a few quotes illustrating the peculiar qualities of Mayer’s profile.
Mayer seeks to build up Steele based on his past service as an agent of Britain’s MI-6. Mayer turns to a former CIA guy to vouch for MI-6: “Steve Hall, a former chief of the C.I.A.’s Central Eurasia Division, which includes Russia, the former Soviet states, and the Balkans, told me, ‘M.I.6 is second only perhaps to the U.S. in its ability to collect intelligence from Russia.’ He added, ‘We’ve always coördinated closely with them because they did such a great job. We’re playing in the Yankee Stadium of espionage here. This isn’t Guatemala.’” Impressive, no?
But Steele left MI-6 in 2008. Mayer tells us that Steele left on good terms with the service, but Mayer cites no source for the proposition. I take it Steele told her that. Other than Mayer’s boundless love for the man, why should we believe him? I can tell you that we shouldn’t believe her because of her obvious investment in him.
The question is whether Steele’s purported Sources A, B, C, D, E, F, and G provided him bona fide intelligence, unverified gossip, or Russian disinformation. Mayer isn’t much help in sorting it out. In the story recounted by Mayer, however, no reasonable reader would conclude the stuff bona fide intelligence.
And to reiterate a point, Mayer asserts that Steele didn’t know the identity of his ultimate client when he went to work on Trump. Super spy that he is, however, he figured it out “several months” into his work (“[s]everal months after Steele signed the deal” with GPS Fusion, as Mayer puts it). One might reasonably observe that in “the Yankee Stadium of espionage,” the players know what team they’re playing for. If one takes Mayer’s account at face value, Steele and Orbis are playing in “Guatemala” — not in the major league of espionage.
Mayer’s treatment of the referral of Steele for possible criminal prosecution by Senators Grassley and Graham is full of indignation. According to Mayer, the referral derives from Graham and Grassley’s rank partisanship. I hear the clock beginning to strike 13.
One would never get from Mayer’s profile any sense of the substance of the referral. In the world according to Mayer, the referral itself is evidence of Grassley’s and Graham’s partisanship. To prove this point, Mayer cites — the Democrats! Why the referral enraged Democrat Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein said that Grassley’s and Graham’s goals were “undermining the F.B.I. and Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation” and “deflecting attention” from it. Mayer also notes that Feinstein said that the referral provided no evidence that Steele had lied and, according to Feinstein, “not a single revelation in the Steele dossier has been refuted.”
Mayer treats the sayings of Democrats like Feinstein as gospel. It is sufficient for her purposes that Feinstein said something to prove the point. But this is yet another matter with respect to which the interested reader must review the relevant documents with his eyes. I am reposting the less-redacted version of the referral at the bottom of this post.
The referral is based on Steele’s misrepresentations to the FBI. Steele told the FBI he was not meeting with the press about his dossier and the related FBI investigation. In reality, Steele was meeting with Michael Isikoff, David Corn, Jane Mayer and others. It has been widely reported that the FBI terminated its relationship with Steele as a result of his misrepresentations.
Mayer (again) channels Steele and quibbles on his behalf. Mayer writes: “The F.B.I., which had hoped to protect its ongoing probe from public view, was furious. Nunes, in his memo, claimed that Steele was ‘suspended and then terminated’ as a source. In reality, the break was mutual, precipitated by Steele’s act of conscience” (i.e., going to the press).
Mayer turns the scene into a classic comedy. Her Steele tells the FBI at the climactic moment: You can’t fire me, I quit! As I say, you don’t have to be a sophisticated reader to see that Mayer is an unreliable narrator. It’s what Steele told her and that’s good enough for her. She turns it into another sign and token of his heroism (an “act of conscience”). This is enough to make me question Mayer’s (i.e., Steele’s) account of Steele’s voluntary departure from MI-6.
|Tragedy at the Pathway Home
Posted: 10 Mar 2018 05:50 AM PST
(Scott Johnson)Yesterday a vet and former patient at the Pathway Home at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville in northern California took a hostage and then murdered the program’s executive director, Christine Loeber, Dr. Jen Golick, the program’s clinical director, and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales, a psychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs in San Francisco. The Pathway Home lost two-thirds of its leadership team yesterday. Only the director of development and communications remains. The murderer was a vet who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder; he had recently been expelled from the Pathway Home.
The principal Chronicle story states that the Pathway Home “was a setting of the 2017 fictional movie Thank You for Your Service, about a Marine platoon leader with PTSD.” I count three errors in that sentence. I don’t think the Pathway Home is a setting of the film (here I am writing from memory), the film isn’t exactly fictional, and platoon leader Adam Schumann, accepted for treatment at Pathway Home in the film’s conclusion, is an Army vet. Otherwise perfect. (Stars and Stripes profiled Schumann in connection with the film here.)
The Chronicle sidebar on Pathway Home comes closer to the mark: “The center was featured in the nonfiction book Thank You For Your Service, which told of a soldier returning from the Middle East who was treated for debilitating emotional trauma suffered on the battlefield. A subsequent film was released last year, starring Miles Teller.” (Teller played Adam Schumann, to devastating effect.) The Chronicle sidebar includes a video about the Pathway Home featuring Christine Loeber, one of the three victims murdered yesterday.
Christian Toto is the proprietor of Hollywood in Toto. He posted his year-end 10-best list this past December. Christian had Thank You For Your Service leading the parade. Of the movies I saw in 2017, Thank You For Service was the only one that moved me, shook me up, taught me something I didn’t know and made me want to learn more, all while increasing my understanding of the service to which we pay tribute in the stock slogan that gives the movie its title.
Christian wrote: “The film’s depiction of soldiers adjusting to civilian life proved brutal. We all need to see a movie like Service to understand the pressures they face once the shooting stops. Writer/director Jason Hall, who wrote American Sniper, expertly captured the emotions of the soldier re-integrating back into society.”
What a movie. “And yet,” he notes, “the movie tanked at the box office, topping out at a sad $9 million in U.S. sales.” It was a commercial flop.
I found Phillip Carter’s detailed review of the film for Slate true to what I saw in it: “Thank You offers a window into lives that most Americans never see, providing an almost visceral sense for what it was like to fight in Iraq and then come home to your afterwar.”
The film is based on Washington Post editor David Finkel’s book of the same title. It’s the second of two books Finkel wrote about the soldiers he met while embedded with the 2-16 Infantry Battalion during the surge; the first is The Good Soldiers.
I finished reading Thank You For Your Service this morning. It is an utterly brilliant book, taking readers inside the lives of a few of the returning soldiers with whom Finkel had embedded during the surge for his first book. Finkel all but effaces himself from the incredibly intimate and powerful scenes to which he gives witness.
The most haunting elements of the film are drawn from the book. I think the adaptation of the book into a feature film is ingenious. The screenplay, incidentally, is posted online here. By my lights, it was the best adaptation of a book into a film in 2017.
For dramatic purposes, the film depicts the Army as a villain in denial about the disorders with which the vets struggle to come to terms. While seeking VA benefits in one scene, for example, one of the film’s protagonists is instructed by an officer that he shouldn’t be claiming disability because other soldiers might see his example and crack too. I didn’t believe it and found it annoying. The veterans’ difficulty finding prompt and adequate medical care through the VA (featured in the film) is nevertheless a familiar plight.
Reading Finkel’s book, one sees in the person of Army vice chief of staff Peter Chiarelli (now retired) how the Army itself has struggled to come to terms with the stress disorders that the film memorably brings to life. One leaves the film wanting to learn more and do right by those whom we formulaically thank for their service. It has been my intention to learn more about the Pathway Home and support it when I finished the book.
The Pathway Home figures prominently in the film as the locus of the dream for treatment of the demons with which Schumann contends. According to the book, Schumann’s several months in residence at the Pathway Home helped him. Schumann’s graduation from the program toward the end of the book after four months in residential treatment is full of pain and hope.
Reading the New York Times review of the film version of Thank You, I learned of the documentary Of Men and War (reviewed briefly here), which takes place almost entirely at the Pathway Home. At the moment it is posted on YouTube and otherwise available. This morning I wanted to revisit the book, the feature film, and the documentary in light of yesterday’s horror.
|The Week in Pictures: Int’l Women’s Day Edition
Posted: 10 Mar 2018 03:41 AM PST
(Steven Hayward)Thursday was International Women’s Day, which sounds like something Austin Powers, the International Man of Mystery, would have thought up. What—just one day? Blacks get an entire history month. This sounds like the beginning of a bad Jewish mother joke that ends: “Never mind, I’ll just settle for one day.” And I have a further confusion: if gender is a social construct, isn’t having a “Women’s Day” problematic? Whatever, the obvious Trumpian response is to have a National Women’s Day. And by the way, today is Chuck Norris’s birthday, so you can already guess who our gun guy for the week is going to be.
Headlines of the week:
Happy birthday Mr. Norris:
And finally. . .