This is a very historic day in Israel, as the US finally makes good on its long-overdue promise to move its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in recognition of the 3,000-year-old fact that Jerusalem is the Jewish capital. A 250-member US delegation is in Israel for the ceremony, including President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. Here is the live stream of the event. I assume that once it’s over, you’ll be able to watch from the beginning here. If not, I’ll post an updated link.

The threatened violent protests had mostly been less than anticipated, but as the day drew near, hostilities ramped up, with thousands of Palestinian protesters massing along the Gaza security fence. Monday was the deadliest day so far, with 37 Palestinians killed in the clashes and over 900 wounded. But if they are trying to prove that they deserve a homeland that will take its place among civilized nations, reacting to Israel's right to choose its own capital with mass violence is hardly making their case.

Mueller's "McGuffin"

May 14, 2018

Many of us have long suspected that “Russian collusion” was the Mueller investigation’s version of the “McGuffin.” That was Alfred Hitchcock’s term for a plot device that was meaningless in itself, but it kept the narrative rolling, like a “secret formula” or “hidden treasure” that all the characters were fighting over. Close observers long ago started to suspect that the “Russian collusion” claims were about as genuine as the Maltese Falcon, but they provided a McGuffin to distract Trump’s attention, hinder his agenda and entrap his staffers into unrelated charges. Many Democrats are still hoping that they will bring down the big guy before the end credits finally roll.

That kind of suspension of disbelief might work for a two-hour movie, but Mueller’s probe is well into year two, and the plot twists are getting silly enough to make Michael Bay roll his eyes. For instance, in an attempt to keep audience interest from waning (and to prove that “Russian collusion” wasn’t a total McGuffin), Mueller issued indictments against some Russian individuals and three Russian companies for conspiring to meddle in the 2016 election.

He must’ve thought this was a safe move, since there was no way the defendants would ever come to America to face the charges. Except one of the companies, Concord Management and Consulting, did demand its day in court. That threw Mueller’s team for a loop: they probably assumed that a press conference was all the prosecuting they’d ever have to do. The company’s attorneys showed up in court, demanding their right of discovery, to see all the evidence Mueller had allegedly compiled (which, if he actually has any, might expose valuable intelligence sources to a Russian-owned company – and who’d be helping out Russia then, hmm?)

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Mueller’s team scrambled for any cover, requesting a delay on the laughable grounds that the defendants hadn’t been properly served. The judge saw through that: the defendant’s attorneys were right there in front of him, ready to start trial; why delay weeks while they were served with papers to come to court? But if you thought that was as laughably unprofessional as this investigation could get, oh, ye of little faith.

Last week, the judge asked one of Concord’s attorneys if they also represented a third company listed in Mueller’s indictment: Concord Catering. He replied no, because during the period when the government claims that company was part of a Russian conspiracy, it didn’t even exist yet. He said if anyone can prove it did exist at the time, then they’d probably represent them; but it appeared that the charges were an example of the proverbial prosecutor who has so much unchecked power that he could indict a ham sandwich.

But it goes even beyond that. Mueller managed to indict a catering company before it came into existence and was even able to make the ham sandwich.

If this were a movie, I would have walked out of it a long time ago. Could someone in Congress or the Justice Department please take mercy on the audience and yell, “Cut”?



Mark Harris Wins

May 14, 2018

In all the analysis of Tuesday’s Senate primary races, one interesting development got overlooked: in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district, former megachurch pastor Mark Harris defeated incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger for the Republican nomination.

MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace apologized for asking a White House reporter how he resists “the temptation to run up and wring her neck,” referring to the President’s press secretary, who (full disclosure) is also my daughter. I will take Ms Wallace at her word that her apology was sincere, but I’m not letting her off the hook so easily until we examine the mindset that gives rise to such casual violent rhetoric and force her, and others in the media, to do a little more self-examination and, as the old bumper sticker read, to make sure their brains are engaged before putting their mouths in gear.

First of all, if anyone would be justified in wanting to wring a few necks in that room, it’s not the reporters. They don’t have to go out every day and face nasty, badgering, often frankly idiotic questions, many times repeated endlessly even after they’ve already received an answer or a reason why they can’t be answered at that time. They don’t have to try to show respect for people who pose as guardians of the First Amendment and bastions of journalistic integrity when we all know they spent eight years as lapdogs to the last Administration; that many openly renounced even the semblance of fairness and objectivity during the last election; and that some of the biggest names in the room have embarrassed themselves repeatedly by running poorly-sourced rumors and leaks that they later had to retract, all because any story that’s anti-Trump gets them too excited to think, like waving a piece of bacon at a Chihuahua.

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Second, consider that this incitement of violence against my daughter came because Ms. Wallace was incensed at an (again) anonymously-sourced leak of an alleged callous comment about John McCain. She was incensed that Sarah said she wouldn't validate an as-yet unconfirmed leak by commenting on it before it was verified to have happened. I guess MSNBC reporters are used to trashing people’s reputations by commenting at length on unverified rumors that might not even be true – it’s sort of their job description these days – but that’s not Sarah’s job.

Third, this is hardly the first time members of this Administration have been the targets of violent rhetoric from the same liberal pack that smeared Sarah Palin as an accessory to attempted murder because her PAC ran some ads with target graphics on Congressional districts they were targeting. Yet once Trump took office, it somehow became acceptable to openly promote assault or assassination, and for former comedians to wave around facsimiles of the President’s bloody severed head. Why all the hateful, violent rhetoric? Well, Trump has it coming because he’s created an “atmosphere of incivility.” Seriously, do they not see the cloud of hypocrisy enveloping them that the rest of us see, as thick as London fog? Their threatening, slanderous and sometimes profane attacks on people they accuse of not being civil reminds me of an old cartoon from the ‘60s of a protester carrying a sign that read, “Kill the intolerant!”

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Fourth, as this story shows, this is actually one of the milder nasty attacks Sarah has endured. She and her colleagues have been compared to all sorts of vile propagandists and liars by the same press corps that couldn’t muster a peep of protest when the point man for Obama’s Iran nuclear deal arrogantly admitted that he’d played the press like a cheap fiddle to sell that bill of goods to America, creating an echo chamber in which he bilked young, ignorant reporters into repeating whatever nonsense he fed them. Did they feel like wringing his neck? Funny, I don’t recall them ever saying so.

Well, I could go on, but I’ve given them a lot to reflect on, and it is a holiday weekend, so I’ll be merciful and let it go at that. But I will add one final word of advice: If I were they, I would not ever try running up and trying to attack Sarah. She knows how to take care of herself, and if the Secret Service doesn’t put you on the ground in a world of hurt, she will. The fact that the “comedian” hired for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was able to leave under her own power is testament to the fact that my daughter was perhaps the only one in that entire room who understood what civility and self-control are.