Day: February 6, 2018

When Federal Prosecutors Go Bad


Life can become a nightmare for those targeted by federal prosecutors in search of scalps. Ask General Michael Hayden.  After reading two excellent books on federal prosecutors who have been willing to cross the line into misbehavior, I am having nightmares, too.

Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice (2014) is written by Sidney Powell, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds target the innocent (2011 is by Harvey Silverglate, campus rights activist, attorney and prolific author.  Both tell you the dark side of the US Law enforcement system, at the DOJ and FBI, and among career prosecutors and investigators who become miscreants and hacks. 

Powell and Silverglate write about the horror faced by regular, even prominent citizens whom the FBI and DOJ destroyed, or tried to destroy, using their  unlimited resources and the trust of the courts and the public.  From the very beginning of the prosecution when the affidavits for charges are submitted to the court, the honesty and fairness of the prosecutors is tested, and all too often, ambitious and aggressive prosecutors betray that trust. 

Most of all, these books warn that the character and virtue of prosecutors are the critical factor in the proper conduct of a prosecution, the choice of target, the charge made, and the conduct of the discovery and the trial.  Prosecutors have all the cards, and if they don’t conduct an honest and fair prosecution, innocent people are harmed, destroyed by their striving for conviction at any cost, even by cheating or by abuse of the process.

With Robert Mueller on a general warrant fishing expedition to take down a president, its time to face the menace, the monster of mendacious and malicious prosecutors on the hunt with the resources of the government and the advantage of the assumption by the courts that they are reliable and honest, dedicated to justice. 

Some of the prosecutors featured in the two books are people whom Robert Mueller hired for his special counsel office.  The poster boy for abusive prosecutors is Andrew Weissmann, Mueller’s number one boy, a longtime ally who was in charge of the Enron prosecutions and the Arthur Anderson debacle that resulted in multiple appellate court reversals of convictions. Unfortunately, Weissmann had already destroyed the large accounting firm and damaged the lives and fortunes its more than 10,000 employees.

Powell discusses others in the DOJ who were arrayed against her in the Enron and Arthur Anderson matters, who ended up in prestigious positions in the private sector or promoted with the DOJ after the dishonest and predatory prosecutions and other stunts.  Senator Ted Stephens lost his political career to a corrupt prosecutiobn that was eventually nullified.

Harvey Silverglate relates his own experience of Mueller attempting to entrap him into suborning perjury when he was defending a Mueller target.  As Silverglate said in an interview  for WGBH (Boston TV) news, he wouldn’t trust Mueller, who has the attitude of a Grand Inquisitor, not the choirboy Marine portrayed by his leftist allies in the press.  Mueller has an uneven, sometimes incompetent record — for example his Anthrax Letters investigation, the failure to convict Hell’s Angels on drug trafficking and his role during the Eric Holder time as Attorney General.

Prosecutors in the American system are charged to be exemplary in their role — they are not mercenary destroyers, but rather represent the government and are tasked to be fair and judicious in their decisions to prosecute. They are also supposed to be guarantors of a fair trial; but unfortunately the incentives make some prosecutors unethical and low down mean, malignant, and mendacious in their practices and tactics.

Ms. Powell quotes The Center for Prosecutor Integrity list of misconduct that can terrorize targets of government prosecution, even if they are innocent:

Charging with more offenses and more serious offenses than warranted.

Withholding or delaying the release of exculpatory evidence.

Deliberately mishandling, mistreating or destroying evidence.

Allowing witnesses they know are not truthful to testify.

Pressuring defense witnesses not to testify.

Relying on fraudulent forensic experts.

During plea negotiations, overstating the strength of the evidence.

Making statements to the media that are designed to arouse public indignation.

Making improper or misleading statements to the jury.

 Failing to report prosecutor misconduct when it is discovered.  

In the real world of imperfect humans prosecutors are subject to a variety of pressures that make them forget their special status in the legal system as guarantors of justice.  Incentives such as gratitude of victims, favorable media coverage, career promotions for successful prosecutions, appointments to judgeships or election to high office can tempt stepping over these lines.

These two books narrate in relentless and compelling detail the misconduct by hack prosecutors, and the low down “sharp” tactics used to get convictions. Too often, the FBI and DOJ cheating that was apparent and even asserted to the court by the defense, subject to some inquiry, was allowed by a acquiescent court, sometimes motivated, it appears, by political pressure to allow a rogue prosecution.  That was clearly a factor in the Enron cases, but if politics enters, it can impact all kinds of cases and judges would only hope to be impartial are partisans. 

Ms. Powell and Mr. Silverglate detail many cases of FBI and DOJ cheating on investigations and prosecutions, for example misrepresentations of affidavits to charge crimes and investigative interview summaries, called 302 reports, to the court.  I was most alarmed to see that judges are not inclined to properly supervise and test the claims of prosecutors, even after their deceptions were pointed out.   Courts offer great leniency to miscreant and dissembling government prosecutors for various reasons.  

Mr. Silverglate’s book focuses on the problem of vague statutes that ensnared innocent people in prosecutions that were wretched examples of government prosecutor misconduct.  His examples come out of the panoply of federal statutes that are so vague that prosecutors and courts can invent crimes out of whole cloth.  You probably never heard of the despicable statute that creates a crime based on loss of honest services, There are wire fraud and drug regulations cases that result in prosecutions of business and professional people engaged in what should be considered normal activities. Silverglate relates stories of physicians, businessmen, and politicians conducting normal activities or routine affairs who were accused under arcane and tortured interpretations of fraud and corruption laws that were poorly written. 

Both Powell and Silverglate narrate with wrenching and horrific details in multiple cases.  I recommend that you read these riveting and revolting stories of prosecutor and law enforcement misconduct, purely evil stuff that ruined people’s lives.  But look under the bed and keep a light on.

John Dale Dunn MD JD is an emergency physician, inactive attorney, Policy Advisor to the American Council on Science and Health of NYC and the Heartland Institute of Illinois.      

Life can become a nightmare for those targeted by federal prosecutors in search of scalps. Ask General Michael Hayden.  After reading two excellent books on federal prosecutors who have been willing to cross the line into misbehavior, I am having nightmares, too.

Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice (2014) is written by Sidney Powell, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds target the innocent (2011 is by Harvey Silverglate, campus rights activist, attorney and prolific author.  Both tell you the dark side of the US Law enforcement system, at the DOJ and FBI, and among career prosecutors and investigators who become miscreants and hacks. 

Powell and Silverglate write about the horror faced by regular, even prominent citizens whom the FBI and DOJ destroyed, or tried to destroy, using their  unlimited resources and the trust of the courts and the public.  From the very beginning of the prosecution when the affidavits for charges are submitted to the court, the honesty and fairness of the prosecutors is tested, and all too often, ambitious and aggressive prosecutors betray that trust. 

Most of all, these books warn that the character and virtue of prosecutors are the critical factor in the proper conduct of a prosecution, the choice of target, the charge made, and the conduct of the discovery and the trial.  Prosecutors have all the cards, and if they don’t conduct an honest and fair prosecution, innocent people are harmed, destroyed by their striving for conviction at any cost, even by cheating or by abuse of the process.

With Robert Mueller on a general warrant fishing expedition to take down a president, its time to face the menace, the monster of mendacious and malicious prosecutors on the hunt with the resources of the government and the advantage of the assumption by the courts that they are reliable and honest, dedicated to justice. 

Some of the prosecutors featured in the two books are people whom Robert Mueller hired for his special counsel office.  The poster boy for abusive prosecutors is Andrew Weissmann, Mueller’s number one boy, a longtime ally who was in charge of the Enron prosecutions and the Arthur Anderson debacle that resulted in multiple appellate court reversals of convictions. Unfortunately, Weissmann had already destroyed the large accounting firm and damaged the lives and fortunes its more than 10,000 employees.

Powell discusses others in the DOJ who were arrayed against her in the Enron and Arthur Anderson matters, who ended up in prestigious positions in the private sector or promoted with the DOJ after the dishonest and predatory prosecutions and other stunts.  Senator Ted Stephens lost his political career to a corrupt prosecutiobn that was eventually nullified.

Harvey Silverglate relates his own experience of Mueller attempting to entrap him into suborning perjury when he was defending a Mueller target.  As Silverglate said in an interview  for WGBH (Boston TV) news, he wouldn’t trust Mueller, who has the attitude of a Grand Inquisitor, not the choirboy Marine portrayed by his leftist allies in the press.  Mueller has an uneven, sometimes incompetent record — for example his Anthrax Letters investigation, the failure to convict Hell’s Angels on drug trafficking and his role during the Eric Holder time as Attorney General.

Prosecutors in the American system are charged to be exemplary in their role — they are not mercenary destroyers, but rather represent the government and are tasked to be fair and judicious in their decisions to prosecute. They are also supposed to be guarantors of a fair trial; but unfortunately the incentives make some prosecutors unethical and low down mean, malignant, and mendacious in their practices and tactics.

Ms. Powell quotes The Center for Prosecutor Integrity list of misconduct that can terrorize targets of government prosecution, even if they are innocent:

Charging with more offenses and more serious offenses than warranted.

Withholding or delaying the release of exculpatory evidence.

Deliberately mishandling, mistreating or destroying evidence.

Allowing witnesses they know are not truthful to testify.

Pressuring defense witnesses not to testify.

Relying on fraudulent forensic experts.

During plea negotiations, overstating the strength of the evidence.

Making statements to the media that are designed to arouse public indignation.

Making improper or misleading statements to the jury.

 Failing to report prosecutor misconduct when it is discovered.  

In the real world of imperfect humans prosecutors are subject to a variety of pressures that make them forget their special status in the legal system as guarantors of justice.  Incentives such as gratitude of victims, favorable media coverage, career promotions for successful prosecutions, appointments to judgeships or election to high office can tempt stepping over these lines.

These two books narrate in relentless and compelling detail the misconduct by hack prosecutors, and the low down “sharp” tactics used to get convictions. Too often, the FBI and DOJ cheating that was apparent and even asserted to the court by the defense, subject to some inquiry, was allowed by a acquiescent court, sometimes motivated, it appears, by political pressure to allow a rogue prosecution.  That was clearly a factor in the Enron cases, but if politics enters, it can impact all kinds of cases and judges would only hope to be impartial are partisans. 

Ms. Powell and Mr. Silverglate detail many cases of FBI and DOJ cheating on investigations and prosecutions, for example misrepresentations of affidavits to charge crimes and investigative interview summaries, called 302 reports, to the court.  I was most alarmed to see that judges are not inclined to properly supervise and test the claims of prosecutors, even after their deceptions were pointed out.   Courts offer great leniency to miscreant and dissembling government prosecutors for various reasons.  

Mr. Silverglate’s book focuses on the problem of vague statutes that ensnared innocent people in prosecutions that were wretched examples of government prosecutor misconduct.  His examples come out of the panoply of federal statutes that are so vague that prosecutors and courts can invent crimes out of whole cloth.  You probably never heard of the despicable statute that creates a crime based on loss of honest services, There are wire fraud and drug regulations cases that result in prosecutions of business and professional people engaged in what should be considered normal activities. Silverglate relates stories of physicians, businessmen, and politicians conducting normal activities or routine affairs who were accused under arcane and tortured interpretations of fraud and corruption laws that were poorly written. 

Both Powell and Silverglate narrate with wrenching and horrific details in multiple cases.  I recommend that you read these riveting and revolting stories of prosecutor and law enforcement misconduct, purely evil stuff that ruined people’s lives.  But look under the bed and keep a light on.

John Dale Dunn MD JD is an emergency physician, inactive attorney, Policy Advisor to the American Council on Science and Health of NYC and the Heartland Institute of Illinois.      



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The ‘Real’ Russia Collusion: Oil


Russian collusion is indeed a major issue threatening the well-being of our country. It’s just not the Russia collusion that’s been bandied about in the news for over a year. No, it’s Russia colluding with OPEC to intentionally raise world crude oil prices. That is a real threat to our economy and living standards, unlike that other, totally imaginary Russia collusion.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, crude oil prices have been on an upward tear for the better part of the last two years. From a low in the high-20’s/barrel range in February of 2016, WTI (West Texas Intermediate) closed at $65.45 on Friday Feb 2nd. Goldman Sachs goes so far as to say that North Sea Brent crude oil (the other benchmark oil besides WTI) will likely top $80 within six months.

WTI generally runs about 5% lower, so look for WTI to be around $76/bbl by the summer of 2018.

Before we look at why this is happening, it’s a good idea for a quick refresher on the four main drivers of crude oil/retail gasoline pricing. Why is oil and gasoline rising? What’s happened?  First, let’s dispense with any simplistic “the oil companies are conspiring to raise prices” nonsense.  That’s not what’s happening. Oil is a commodity, traded on the world market like any other commodity, such as gold, copper, natural gas, diamonds, etc. Oil is subject to market forces like every other commodity is.

There are four main factors that influence the price of crude oil-retail gasoline on the world market:

  1. World supply/demand
  2. Exploration/extraction activity and technology
  3. Refining/delivery capacity
  4. Geopolitical influences (Iran, North Korea, terrorism, etc.)

(There’s also a 5th factor: currency value, or the “exchange rate,” since oil is traded in dollars. However, this is normally a peripheral factor that only shades oil pricing a little bit one way or the other.)

Today’s situation is primarily one of tightening supply coupled with greater demand as the worldwide economy, led by the U.S., continues to improve. See #1 above. When the world was awash with overabundant oil in 2015-6, with loaded tankers sitting by the dozens offshore, unable to unload their cargo for lack of empty storage facilities, it seemed as if low-priced crude oil and $1.899/gallon gasoline was a permanent fixture on the U.S. economic landscape. Never again would we be beholden to the arbitrary whims and evil manipulations of greedy, anti-American, anti-Semitic Arab oil sheiks.

The oversupply of oil was primarily because of the shale oil boom (fracking) in the U.S. With newly-developed exploration and extraction techniques, America was finally able to tap the previously unreachable mother lode of crude oil trapped in the huge shale rock deposits in the western and southern parts of the continental U.S. With a huge influx of additional oil being delivered to the world market, supply exceeded demand and world pricing plummeted.

At first, OPEC was unsure how to respond. Initially, Saudi Arabia actually increased their oil production in an effort to lower world pricing even more and drive the U.S. shale producers out of business (since shale oil has a far higher cost of production than Saudi oil, which is easy to extract).

That didn’t work. Shale extraction technology got better and better and the Saudis were never able to force pricing down far enough to permanently hurt the American frackers.

So, they resorted to the tried-and-true economic dictum of supply and demand. Led by the Saudis, OPEC instituted strict oil production quotas to limit the amount of oil that they would supply to the market. Restricting supply would rebalance the market and bring world oil demand and supply back into equilibrium, thus raising prices as market forces began to have their normal effect.

However, Saudi Arabia is only one of the top three oil producers in the world. Although the combined oil output of the 14 OPEC member countries is certainly significant (over 40%), the other two top three countries are the U.S. and Russia, each of whose oil output is roughly equal to that of Saudi Arabia (OPEC’s largest member). The Saudis convinced Russia to voluntarily join them in their production quota. With all of OPEC now joined by another top-three producer – Russia — the world’s oil supply has come down considerably, much faster than anticipated. Pricing is on pace to more than triple from its 2016 low and the impact on our economy and spending sentiment will be significant.

Note that the recent rise in pricing has essentially nothing to do with reason #4 — terrorism and geopolitical tension. As of right now, there are no hostilities with North Kores to rattle the world commodity markets, Israel is not at war with anyone and since the institution of the Iranian nuclear deal a few years ago, Iran is once again supplying oil to the world market without any problem. So the terrorism front is quiet right now.

The rise in price is all pretty much #1 — supply and demand, with supply being restricted by the OPEC-Russia agreement. That fact points out the truth that even though total U.S. oil production exceeds 10m bpd, the U.S. alone can’t determine the ultimate price of oil on the world market. We can be an influential factor — larger now, to be sure, than 20 years ago before the shale boom — but the U.S. can’t control oil pricing by itself.

Nor does the potential of future alternative fuels have much influence on today’s pricing. Some industry observers have opined that EVs (electric vehicles) will reduce worldwide oil demand by the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s entire current oil production by 2040. But that, in reality, is just a random individual guess and such statements have no actual impact on today’s pricing.

Applying the rough approximate numerical multiplier of 4x to WTI crude to get U.S retail gasoline pricing, that means that U.S retail gasoline will be above the psychologically-important $3.00 mark (4 x 76 = $3.04) by this summer. People see the price of gasoline on the corner gas station every day as they leave the house. It’s like a daily “scoreboard” telling them whether they’re winning or losing their personal economic game. When Joe/Jane middle-class sees $2.27, they feel like they’re winning, like they can spend a little more somewhere else, like things are going in the right direction.

When they see gasoline rise very quickly, seemingly for no good reason, to $3.04 — especially after a prolonged period well under $2.20 — it’s a very negative sign. Maybe things are getting worse and I haven’t been paying attention. Maybe I should play things safe for a while, keep things close to the vest. Let’s cut down on dinners out and tell Johnny, sorry, no new sneakers just yet. Yeah, I know my brother Bill finally got a job again after two years, but let’s not get too carried away.

Rising oil pricing impacts everything at retail, in the construction and agriculture sectors and in manufacturing, because everything is delivered from the factory to the seller and from the seller to the end user by a transportation device that uses an oil-derived fuel. Milk, sushi, iPhones, lumber, and fertilizer are all made and delivered with the assistance of oil-based products. Rising oil pricing also negatively impacts business and domestic heating and utility pricing. It’s like a tax that takes billions and billions of dollars out of the economy, wrecks an exuberant business outlook and shreds consumer confidence. Rapidly-rising oil pricing is a five-run uprising in the 9th inning of a game you were leading 8-1 after eight innings. Now you’ll just be happy to hang on for the win.

Consumer and business sentiment is central to the spending that drives our economy, the very backbone that supports it. Anything that puts a damper on that sentiment will drag down spending and hence drag down economic growth along with it.

Russian “collusion” is indeed a big threat to our country’s well-being: It’s the collusion between OPEC and Russia to restrict the world’s oil supply and drive up pricing. It’s working and the tangible, undeniable, clear-as-day proof is posted in big numbers on every street corner. Maybe the media should pay some attention to that.

Russian collusion is indeed a major issue threatening the well-being of our country. It’s just not the Russia collusion that’s been bandied about in the news for over a year. No, it’s Russia colluding with OPEC to intentionally raise world crude oil prices. That is a real threat to our economy and living standards, unlike that other, totally imaginary Russia collusion.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, crude oil prices have been on an upward tear for the better part of the last two years. From a low in the high-20’s/barrel range in February of 2016, WTI (West Texas Intermediate) closed at $65.45 on Friday Feb 2nd. Goldman Sachs goes so far as to say that North Sea Brent crude oil (the other benchmark oil besides WTI) will likely top $80 within six months.

WTI generally runs about 5% lower, so look for WTI to be around $76/bbl by the summer of 2018.

Before we look at why this is happening, it’s a good idea for a quick refresher on the four main drivers of crude oil/retail gasoline pricing. Why is oil and gasoline rising? What’s happened?  First, let’s dispense with any simplistic “the oil companies are conspiring to raise prices” nonsense.  That’s not what’s happening. Oil is a commodity, traded on the world market like any other commodity, such as gold, copper, natural gas, diamonds, etc. Oil is subject to market forces like every other commodity is.

There are four main factors that influence the price of crude oil-retail gasoline on the world market:

  1. World supply/demand
  2. Exploration/extraction activity and technology
  3. Refining/delivery capacity
  4. Geopolitical influences (Iran, North Korea, terrorism, etc.)

(There’s also a 5th factor: currency value, or the “exchange rate,” since oil is traded in dollars. However, this is normally a peripheral factor that only shades oil pricing a little bit one way or the other.)

Today’s situation is primarily one of tightening supply coupled with greater demand as the worldwide economy, led by the U.S., continues to improve. See #1 above. When the world was awash with overabundant oil in 2015-6, with loaded tankers sitting by the dozens offshore, unable to unload their cargo for lack of empty storage facilities, it seemed as if low-priced crude oil and $1.899/gallon gasoline was a permanent fixture on the U.S. economic landscape. Never again would we be beholden to the arbitrary whims and evil manipulations of greedy, anti-American, anti-Semitic Arab oil sheiks.

The oversupply of oil was primarily because of the shale oil boom (fracking) in the U.S. With newly-developed exploration and extraction techniques, America was finally able to tap the previously unreachable mother lode of crude oil trapped in the huge shale rock deposits in the western and southern parts of the continental U.S. With a huge influx of additional oil being delivered to the world market, supply exceeded demand and world pricing plummeted.

At first, OPEC was unsure how to respond. Initially, Saudi Arabia actually increased their oil production in an effort to lower world pricing even more and drive the U.S. shale producers out of business (since shale oil has a far higher cost of production than Saudi oil, which is easy to extract).

That didn’t work. Shale extraction technology got better and better and the Saudis were never able to force pricing down far enough to permanently hurt the American frackers.

So, they resorted to the tried-and-true economic dictum of supply and demand. Led by the Saudis, OPEC instituted strict oil production quotas to limit the amount of oil that they would supply to the market. Restricting supply would rebalance the market and bring world oil demand and supply back into equilibrium, thus raising prices as market forces began to have their normal effect.

However, Saudi Arabia is only one of the top three oil producers in the world. Although the combined oil output of the 14 OPEC member countries is certainly significant (over 40%), the other two top three countries are the U.S. and Russia, each of whose oil output is roughly equal to that of Saudi Arabia (OPEC’s largest member). The Saudis convinced Russia to voluntarily join them in their production quota. With all of OPEC now joined by another top-three producer – Russia — the world’s oil supply has come down considerably, much faster than anticipated. Pricing is on pace to more than triple from its 2016 low and the impact on our economy and spending sentiment will be significant.

Note that the recent rise in pricing has essentially nothing to do with reason #4 — terrorism and geopolitical tension. As of right now, there are no hostilities with North Kores to rattle the world commodity markets, Israel is not at war with anyone and since the institution of the Iranian nuclear deal a few years ago, Iran is once again supplying oil to the world market without any problem. So the terrorism front is quiet right now.

The rise in price is all pretty much #1 — supply and demand, with supply being restricted by the OPEC-Russia agreement. That fact points out the truth that even though total U.S. oil production exceeds 10m bpd, the U.S. alone can’t determine the ultimate price of oil on the world market. We can be an influential factor — larger now, to be sure, than 20 years ago before the shale boom — but the U.S. can’t control oil pricing by itself.

Nor does the potential of future alternative fuels have much influence on today’s pricing. Some industry observers have opined that EVs (electric vehicles) will reduce worldwide oil demand by the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s entire current oil production by 2040. But that, in reality, is just a random individual guess and such statements have no actual impact on today’s pricing.

Applying the rough approximate numerical multiplier of 4x to WTI crude to get U.S retail gasoline pricing, that means that U.S retail gasoline will be above the psychologically-important $3.00 mark (4 x 76 = $3.04) by this summer. People see the price of gasoline on the corner gas station every day as they leave the house. It’s like a daily “scoreboard” telling them whether they’re winning or losing their personal economic game. When Joe/Jane middle-class sees $2.27, they feel like they’re winning, like they can spend a little more somewhere else, like things are going in the right direction.

When they see gasoline rise very quickly, seemingly for no good reason, to $3.04 — especially after a prolonged period well under $2.20 — it’s a very negative sign. Maybe things are getting worse and I haven’t been paying attention. Maybe I should play things safe for a while, keep things close to the vest. Let’s cut down on dinners out and tell Johnny, sorry, no new sneakers just yet. Yeah, I know my brother Bill finally got a job again after two years, but let’s not get too carried away.

Rising oil pricing impacts everything at retail, in the construction and agriculture sectors and in manufacturing, because everything is delivered from the factory to the seller and from the seller to the end user by a transportation device that uses an oil-derived fuel. Milk, sushi, iPhones, lumber, and fertilizer are all made and delivered with the assistance of oil-based products. Rising oil pricing also negatively impacts business and domestic heating and utility pricing. It’s like a tax that takes billions and billions of dollars out of the economy, wrecks an exuberant business outlook and shreds consumer confidence. Rapidly-rising oil pricing is a five-run uprising in the 9th inning of a game you were leading 8-1 after eight innings. Now you’ll just be happy to hang on for the win.

Consumer and business sentiment is central to the spending that drives our economy, the very backbone that supports it. Anything that puts a damper on that sentiment will drag down spending and hence drag down economic growth along with it.

Russian “collusion” is indeed a big threat to our country’s well-being: It’s the collusion between OPEC and Russia to restrict the world’s oil supply and drive up pricing. It’s working and the tangible, undeniable, clear-as-day proof is posted in big numbers on every street corner. Maybe the media should pay some attention to that.



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The Usual Idiots that Gave Us the FISA Mess


Okay, so now the Nunes FISA Memo is out and it shows that the Justice Department and the FBI were used to wiretap the Trump campaign on behalf of the Democratic Party.

I doubt that this game of using the FBI and the DOJ and the FISA court to assist the Democratic Party in its vital national work of spying on the opposition started with the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. I’ll bet you a nickel that “they” have been doing this for a while. That’s because the facts as they have come out do not suggest at all that the opposition surveillance team was doing it for the first time, or worrying that “we could do this, but it would be wrong.”

So here is my question. How long has this political use of the FISA court to wiretap the opposition been going on? Hello, investigative journalists! Now is your chance! Liberals need not apply.

My question is: who started this? And how long has it been going on?

My guess is that it has been going on at least back into the first Obama administration. And my guess is that it started with the need to know what the 2012 Romney campaign knew about the IRS anti-Tea Party shenanigans or the Benghazi train-wreck. What your average political crook needs to know is: what do the other guys have on us?

We know this about the Obama political operation: that, going back to Obama’s senate campaigns, Obama’s operation has used illegal methods to dig up dirt on the opposing candidate and win elections. They made their bones getting information about the opposing candidates’ sealed divorce records. Somehow the campaign used its local “deep state” contacts to unseal sealed and confidential court records. Hey, why stop now?

A campaign with people willing to break the letter and the spirit of the law will inevitably staff its administration with similar folk.

And then Shakespeare kicks in with “oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” That’s what happens when you have an administration headed by an idiot who got there by cheating. Once you start cheating you find that you can’t stop.

I am coming to believe that the best way to understand politics and war is to assume that the principals are idiots. Let’s apply the principle to U.S. presidents since World War II.

Truman and Eisenhower: not idiots. They set up the Cold War to contain the evil Soviet Union and restored the U.S. economy after World War II.

Lyndon Johnson: idiot. He stumbled and bumbled in Vietnam and created the Medicare and Medicaid and the Great Society that ate the U.S. budget.

Richard Nixon: half idiot. He may have wound down the Vietnam War and created an opening to China. But he wounded the U.S. economy by playing along with idiotic Keynesian economics.

Jimmy Carter: idiot. He took the Nixon economic mistakes and made them worse. And bollixed up foreign policy with his “inordinate fear of communism” notion and his abandonment of the Shah of Iran.

Ronald Reagan: not idiot. He restored the U.S. economy with supply-side economics and won the Cold War “without firing a shot.” Some amiable dunce.

George H.W. Bush: idiot. Gave away the gains of the Reagan years by appeasing the Democrats on the budget and taxes.

Bill Clinton: half idiot. Allowed his foolish wife to advance a government takeover of health care, but allowed a Republican Congress to repair the federal budget, just a little.

George W. Bush: idiot. Rallied the nation after 9/11 but stirred the Middle East into a hornet’s nest and allowed a real-estate boom to escalate into a bubble and a once-in-a-generation financial panic.

Barack Obama: idiot. Burdened the U.S. economy with new spending and regulations just when it needed to lighten its burden to recover from the Crash of 2008. Got into foreign policy stupidities from Cairo to Benghazi and Syrian civil war. Encouraged divisive identity politics. And spied on the opposition.

I was watching Season 2 of Victoria last night and Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s beloved “Lord M,” the British prime minister who shepherded her through the first years of her reign and the guy that steals the show, is made to say that “any damn fool” can be prime minister. Not quite, Lord M.

Any damn fool can make a mess of running a government, and he usually does, partnered in folly by his damn assistant fools. That makes it all the more remarkable when a guy that all the cool kids call a damn fool manages to rise above the conventional wisdom — and even the chicanery of deceit and partisan trickery — so that people look back in amazement and realize he was not an idiot, like all the others.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.

Okay, so now the Nunes FISA Memo is out and it shows that the Justice Department and the FBI were used to wiretap the Trump campaign on behalf of the Democratic Party.

I doubt that this game of using the FBI and the DOJ and the FISA court to assist the Democratic Party in its vital national work of spying on the opposition started with the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. I’ll bet you a nickel that “they” have been doing this for a while. That’s because the facts as they have come out do not suggest at all that the opposition surveillance team was doing it for the first time, or worrying that “we could do this, but it would be wrong.”

So here is my question. How long has this political use of the FISA court to wiretap the opposition been going on? Hello, investigative journalists! Now is your chance! Liberals need not apply.

My question is: who started this? And how long has it been going on?

My guess is that it has been going on at least back into the first Obama administration. And my guess is that it started with the need to know what the 2012 Romney campaign knew about the IRS anti-Tea Party shenanigans or the Benghazi train-wreck. What your average political crook needs to know is: what do the other guys have on us?

We know this about the Obama political operation: that, going back to Obama’s senate campaigns, Obama’s operation has used illegal methods to dig up dirt on the opposing candidate and win elections. They made their bones getting information about the opposing candidates’ sealed divorce records. Somehow the campaign used its local “deep state” contacts to unseal sealed and confidential court records. Hey, why stop now?

A campaign with people willing to break the letter and the spirit of the law will inevitably staff its administration with similar folk.

And then Shakespeare kicks in with “oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” That’s what happens when you have an administration headed by an idiot who got there by cheating. Once you start cheating you find that you can’t stop.

I am coming to believe that the best way to understand politics and war is to assume that the principals are idiots. Let’s apply the principle to U.S. presidents since World War II.

Truman and Eisenhower: not idiots. They set up the Cold War to contain the evil Soviet Union and restored the U.S. economy after World War II.

Lyndon Johnson: idiot. He stumbled and bumbled in Vietnam and created the Medicare and Medicaid and the Great Society that ate the U.S. budget.

Richard Nixon: half idiot. He may have wound down the Vietnam War and created an opening to China. But he wounded the U.S. economy by playing along with idiotic Keynesian economics.

Jimmy Carter: idiot. He took the Nixon economic mistakes and made them worse. And bollixed up foreign policy with his “inordinate fear of communism” notion and his abandonment of the Shah of Iran.

Ronald Reagan: not idiot. He restored the U.S. economy with supply-side economics and won the Cold War “without firing a shot.” Some amiable dunce.

George H.W. Bush: idiot. Gave away the gains of the Reagan years by appeasing the Democrats on the budget and taxes.

Bill Clinton: half idiot. Allowed his foolish wife to advance a government takeover of health care, but allowed a Republican Congress to repair the federal budget, just a little.

George W. Bush: idiot. Rallied the nation after 9/11 but stirred the Middle East into a hornet’s nest and allowed a real-estate boom to escalate into a bubble and a once-in-a-generation financial panic.

Barack Obama: idiot. Burdened the U.S. economy with new spending and regulations just when it needed to lighten its burden to recover from the Crash of 2008. Got into foreign policy stupidities from Cairo to Benghazi and Syrian civil war. Encouraged divisive identity politics. And spied on the opposition.

I was watching Season 2 of Victoria last night and Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s beloved “Lord M,” the British prime minister who shepherded her through the first years of her reign and the guy that steals the show, is made to say that “any damn fool” can be prime minister. Not quite, Lord M.

Any damn fool can make a mess of running a government, and he usually does, partnered in folly by his damn assistant fools. That makes it all the more remarkable when a guy that all the cool kids call a damn fool manages to rise above the conventional wisdom — and even the chicanery of deceit and partisan trickery — so that people look back in amazement and realize he was not an idiot, like all the others.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.



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