February 29, 2020 / by 

 

Super Bowl LIV: Who Will Party With The Lombardi

Super Bowl Sunday this year is a special day? How so you ask?

How’s this for a calendrical trifecta: Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. And it’s Groundhog Day. And it’s a rare eight-digit palindrome when written as 02/02/2020 — the only one of its kind this century.

A palindrome, as you might know, is a sequence that reads the same forward as it does backward.

Apparently the only palindrome in recent memory. But also Groundhog Day too (when will that inanity give way)? If you want to add some other calendar stuff on, 2020 is also a leap year.

We will get to the last NFL game of the season in a minute, but first a couple of quick things.

First, in the middle of the night last night, there was a stunning Women’s Final in the Australian Open. Barely 21 year old American Sophia Kenin, who slayed media darling Coco Gauff in the fourth round, and then world number one Ash Barty in the semi-finals, in straight sets, was also victorious over two time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza. And she did it with quite a bit of aplomb. Lost the first set, and then took over. Kenin may be around a while, get used to the name. And, if you can catch a replay of the match, do it. The announcers universally thought a star was being born, and they might well be right. It was something.

While Kenin was a breath of fresh air early this morning (the Aussies are in a far different time zone), last night was the first Lakers game after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and Payton Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan. The Staples Center was purple and blue, and, given the obvious emotional difficulty, it was all beautiful. LA and the Lakers got it right. The videos are out there, take a look. The tributes, music, and sometimes combination (the cello guy during the video tribute was spectacular).

Okay, on to the Super Bowl we go. There are, as always, a lot of weird “proposition bets”. I don’t really get into that, but here are a bunch of, um, interesting ones. The current overall Vegas line is vacillating between 1 – 1.5 points, with that historically slim line in favor of Kansas City.

So, what’s the deal? Lol, I dunno. But, in the long run, balance and defense wins. KC has the more explosive offense, but that is partially because they have had to rely on it, and Mahomes, so often to climb out of holes. On the other hand, they have been able to do so, and especially impressively so in the playoffs. The 49ers are different though. The SF defense starts with that they basically only rush the front four to create the havoc they do. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead are relentless and really good. and with Richard Sherman and Mosely patrolling the secondary, the Niners are extremely solid.

The Chefs, however, while having a winning defense are nowhere near as consistently solid as SF. Frank Clark is not a beloved character in the NFL, but he is extremely good as a pressure point. Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu are first team all pro worthy types in the secondary. Honeybadger was here in Arizona his first few years and, when healthy, which he is now, he is a big play game changer of special talent. And as good of a player as he really is, he has grown up to be an even better person. This is a great piece in the WaPo on Tyrann:

For all the new plans and pieces, Kansas City’s defensive transformation began with the player teammates still love to call the Honey Badger. Mathieu is a storm of calculated mayhem, a worker bee who wakes up at 5:45 each morning and a heat-seeking missile who can line up or strike from anywhere on the field. He has changed the Chiefs in elemental ways with his all-pro performance and his mere presence.

“He’s a special person,” Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach said. “It’s really hard to explain the power someone like that has unless you’re actually in the building. . . . You have to get talent. You have to build a deep roster. You need corners, and you need rushers. Until you get a catalyst, it’s hard. You need that one guy that will make everything go. He’s certainly that guy. To have him on our team has meant everything to us.”

Again, what do I think? First off, what I think is beyond irrelevant anywhere but here. Secondly, I am a dope. So, given those caveats, here we go. Honeybadger can sit and snipe on Jimmy G enough, or the Niners O-Line gives Jimmy G the time that San Francisco’s D-Line does not afford Mahomes. I have no real idea, but with betting no real money, I think….think….The balance on the Niners is better and wins. No, I do not feel good ab out that pick.

As a parting note, today’s music is Heart playing Stairway To Heaven at the Kennedy Center for the remaining members of Zep, assorted dignitaries and President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. To say it is stunning is a gigantic understatement. I had never seen it before last night, when I stumbled on it by accident. WOW. Shared it with numerous friends and the universal reaction was still WOW. It is that good, especially when the choir/chorale kicks in. It is soooo good. Check it out. I was almost lifetime tired of Stairway to Heaven before I saw this, and was immediately mesmerized. Yeah, it is that incredible. And if you want full screen, just click to embiggen it.

Rock and roll, and enjoy the Super Bowl!


RIP Kobe

You probably know by now that Kobe Bryant has died in a tragic helicopter crash. Even more sadly, it appears his teen daughter did as well and they were on the way to some kind of basketball event with another parent and daughter, and, of course, the pilot. All are dead.

The facts are young, and the reportage heavy. Bryant has long had a personal Sikorsky helicopter, a fairly stable platform as to airworthiness, and it is apparently confirmed it was indeed a Sikorsky S-76 involved. We shall see what the longer term NTSA investigation produces. There was apparently bad weather, but not so much that flight was prohibited, and where it occurred is within a tightly terminal controlled airspace, so it was perceived to be okay.

Here is the thing. Most of you, I guess, were not here when we started this here gig. There was a precursor blog known as The Next Hurrah, but it then morphed into the “Emptywheel” blog you now know and enjoy. But Emptywheel, as you know it, started out as a part at a group blog known as Firedoglake, operated by Jane Hamsher.

The “Lake” was the Lakers, the “Dog” was Jane’s giant poodle “Kobe” and the “Fire” was by the TV she watched the Lakers on religiously. I may not have all of that perfect, but close enough.

Whether you love him or hate him, Kobe was one of the greatest players in the history of sports, and one of the fiercest competitors ever. And he was on a path to doing significant good after his retirement. The loss of his teenage daughter, thirteen years old, Gianna, is even more tragic. She was the next generation that will never get the opportunity to blossom.

This is a sad day for sports, and a sad day for the history of this blog. RIP.


Championship Sunday Trash Talk

Last Sunday of football before the Super Bowl, so only two games today. We’ll get to those in a minute, but since there are only two, I thought I’d throw a couple of other topics out for discussion too.

You’d think the Trump impeachment would be the biggest news for the weekend, but it got a serious run for its money from the Royal split-up. Harry and Meghan are out, and not out in some kind of hybrid duty arrangement, but just out. They will still be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but no longer possess any “Royal Highness designations (seems kind of like a distinction without difference, but the Brits seem to take it seriously), and will do no more official work at all for the queen. They will no longer get money from the Royal Trust or whatever, but that was very little of their funding anyway and will still get from whatever personal trust Prince Charles doles out, which is apparently a lot. And will earn some of their own too, how is unclear. And they will maintain possession of their UK home Frogmoor Cottage (apparently one hell of a “cottage” but will have to repay some money that went to renovation of it recently. And, maybe most notable, they intend to spend a lot of time in North America, sounds like British Columbia is the likely place for that, which also puts them in easy reach of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. I don’t really have too much interest in all this, but a stunning amount of people do it turns out.

Second is, of course, impeachment. The House Impeachment Managers filed their brief yesterday afternoon, and it is here. It is over 100 pages and is extremely well done, supported and argued. That is the House’s main trial brief. Team Trump made a filing yesterday as well, but it is only a six page boatload of stupid that veers into ludicrous and awful. It is here, and reads like Trump himself authored a lot of it. And it is really only an answer to the impeachment articles summons. The Trump trial brief will be much longer, and is due tomorrow, so yesterday’s filing is NOT their final word before the proceedings begin.

Okay you can also talk about anything else you want of course, but enough of the other stuff, let’s get to the football.

First up is the Titans at Chefs. The Titans are simply a better team than people think, and they caught lightning down the last half of the regular season and playoffs. Derrick Henry is just a beast, but I expect KC’s defense to try and contain him and make Ryan Tannehill beat them. Tannehill has played well enough in their first two playoff games, throwing for TD’s, but not throwing often, and not for many yards (as in 160 yards combined over this two wins). He is going to have to do a lot more today, because Pat Mahomes looks back to full speed and Jesus can he and KC’s offense put up a lot of points in a hurry. Odds started out plus 10 in favor of the Chiefs, but are down to 7 now. Sounds about right.

The second game is the rejuvenated Packers at Santa Clara to visit the 49ers. Green Bay is a lot better team than the one that got absolutely smoked 37-8 there earlier in the year. I think the Pack defense can do some things against Jimmy Garropolo and the Niners, but they better watch out for those quick hitters in the middle, and that is not the best part of the GB defense. That is a problem. Packers offense is much improved as of late, especially with Devante Adams back at full speed. But the rest of the receiving core is not exactly going to light anybody up with the possible exception of Aaron Jones out of the backfield. And that is a problem. Rookie Nick Bosa is just a freak for the Niners’ defense, he is seriously good, and Dee Ford is back from injury and a handful too. And then there is always Richard Sherman in the secondary, and he always comes to play in big games. Packers O-Line has been playing fairly well, but they are fragile as to in game injuries. They will have to be great today. Current line favors the Niners by 7.5, and that sounds about right too. If this game was at Lambeau on the Frozen Tundra, I would be very tempted to take them in an upset. But not in the Niners’ crib.

Since the Royals are all over the news, today’s music is The Royal Scam by Steely Dan. Tilt a pint or two and have some fun.


College Football Championship Monday

Monday is the fun day this extended football week. I intentionally did not put this in the Division Weekend post. Oh, and as to that, as usual, my off the cuff picks were not, shall we say, exactly right. You get what you pay for. Niners won as expected. Cool! But the Titans totally clocked the Quoth the Ravens. Did not see that coming! Chefs looked moribund and cooked, and then went on a roll like I have never seen before. Goofy, but got that right. I really thought the Squawks would upset the Pack. But Lambeau and Rodgers held on. That was my upset special, and, boy, was I wrong.

Enough of those bygones, tonight is the, at long last, college championship. LSU and Clemson. Both 14-0. Hard to see how either could be more impressive at this point. Clemson has not lost a game in two years. That would be 29 games in a row. That is stupid good. And they are not only defending champions, Clemson has won it all two of the last three years. And did so on the back of Nick Saban and the winners of the world (thanks Steely Dan!) Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide.

So, coming in undefeated, after an undefeated championship year last year, makes the Clemson Tigers the absolute favorite, right? Nope. The “other” Tigers, the ones from LSU are unquestionably the favorite. LSU’s QB, Joe Burrow, won the Heisman Trophy. And he deserved it and by the biggest margin in history, which he got. If both came out for this spring’s draft, who goes first? A year ago it would have been unconscionable to say anybody but Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Not now, the Bengals will be taking Joe Burrow at number one.

So, what’s up tonight? Yeah, I dunno. Some of the newer people here seem to be slow learning that my picks are nominally common sense and mostly follow standard logic and odds. And that I rarely gamble with my own money. I still have a house, because I have never bet it.

Sooooo…….Tonight! The Tim McGraw song ESPN opened their coverage with was pretty damn good. As a red blooded gut, nowhere near his wife, Faith Hill’s, SNF opener. Sorry folks, that one from nearly ten years ago seriously rocked.

As to the game. The right two teams are clearly playing. LSU seems, qualitatively, the much better team. But how Ohio State ever got seeded ahead of undefeated defending champs Clemson is seriously insane. To the point of being a joke. People like to make fun of the diminished relevance of the PAC-12, but the Big-10 has been overrated bullshit since I was a kid and any random 7-3 PAC champion regularly kicked Bo and Woody’s ass in the Rose Bowl. But, wait, I digress….

Tonight LSU is favored, and they should be. Joe Burrow is the real deal. Trevor Lawrence is too, but, wow, Burrow has been insanely good. Both can throw. Both can run too. Both defenses are really good. Dabo Swinney has the hardware. But how can you not simply lover the Ragin Cajun Ed Oregon?

I have no prediction, just hope for a game that can live up to the moment as potentially one of the best ever.

It all rolls in Nola, and let there be good times rolling. So, some gumbo music from an old friend Janiva Magness (one of the finest blues singers you have never heard of) playing zydeco with her Louisiana pal Tab Benoit (who is fucking great by the way).


NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend

The wildcards have been played, and resulted in a couple of surprises. The Vikes took out the heavily favored Saints in Nawlins, and the Titans took out the Pats in Foxborough. The latter less shocking given how well the Titans played closing out the regular season and how poorly the Pats did.

But now we head into the Divisional rounds. I found this from PFT kind of interesting:

In 1990, the NFL expanded the playoff field from 10 to 12 teams, resulting in four (not two) teams earning a bye. More often than not, the home team that has had a week off wins. But the road teams still have a chance to get lucky.

For the 29 postseasons since the change was made, the home teams have swept the divisional round eight times. That’s 27.5 percent of the years utilizing the 12-team format. So in 72.5 percent of the years since the current formula was adopted, at least one road team has won in the divisional round.

Specifically, 13 times the home teams have gone 3-1 in the divisional round. Seven times, there has been a split. Once, in 2008, the visiting teams won three of the four games.

In the 10 seasons from 2005 through 2014, the road teams had a remarkably good stretch, winning 16 of 40 games (40 percent). Over the past four postseasons, however, the home teams have gone 13-3 collectively.

All four home teams are favored to win this weekend, as they usually are. In the 30th year of the current format, chances are at least one will lose. One of these years, all four will.

Regardless, the home teams are more likely to feel the pressure. Some could be feeling a little rusty. And one lucky punch early in the contest could turn a potential blowout into a close game, and if the game stays close into the fourth quarter, anything can happen.

If there is an upset of a home team, which game or games will it be in?

The first game up today is Minnesota at San Francisco. Obviously the Niners have the top seed in addition to home field today. The Vikes looked extremely good against the Saints. Their defense is really solid, and Kirk Cousins playing very well. Dalvin Cook gives them a well balanced offense, and SF is likely to focus on Cookand make Cousins try to beat them. Can they do that? It may be easier said than done given that Minnesota’s O-Line is good. There is certainly upset potential here, and there is history from the 1988 game where the Vikings bounced the heavily favored 13-3 Niners in SF in the Divisional round. It could happen again, but not betting on it.

The second Saturday game is Tennessee at Baltimore. The Titans are on a pretty solid roll ever since they switched from Mariotta to Ryan Tannehill at QB. They are a good team, especially when Derrick Henry gets untracked. But not predicting an upset of the Ravens today.

First up Sunday is Houston at the KC Chefs. Up to six inches of snow is expected in KC today, although should be well over by tomorrow’s kickoff. Ground crew gonna be busy, and there are heating coils under the field, so they should be good to go. Frankly, I have a hard time seeing the Houston offense keep up with Pat Mahomes and the Chefs. And with Honey Badger Mathieu now on the Chiefs instead of the Texans, decent bet he has given some advice to KC as to how to defend Deshaun Watson.

The final game of the weekend is the Squawks at the Cheeser’s. The Pack is my favorite team going back to childhood, and my trusty cheesehead that Phred gave me is out and ready to roll. The Packers’ defense is sneaky good, with free agent pickups Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith really anchoring the D-Line, with the always good secondary still there. Seattle is no longer really the Legion of Boom it once was, but they are still very solid. So the outcome probably turns on who has the better offense, and who plays better, Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. The Frozen Tundra is going to be cold as ice, and the Packers have already put out a call for people to show up at 6 am Sunday to help shoveling out the stadium. This is the kind of game Beast Mode is made for, and Russ Wilson too. As much as I hate to say it, I fear this is the real upset special of the weekend, and I think the Squawks likely do just that.

Okay, rock and roll, and have a great weekend full of great football. Speaking of rock and roll, this weekend’s music is a fantastic little piece, Slippin and Sliding, by John Lennon. People forget how good Lennon really was at rockers. Give it a listen, and crank it up.


A Few Thoughts On Carter Page Warrants, Franks v. Delaware and Michael Horowitz

Marcy Wheeler did a giant post on the Page warrants and the Horowitz report, one she just updated significantly this morning. I did a comment on there, but since this is pretty much my hobby horse from long before the Horowitz IG Report was released, I decided it needed at least a short standalone post.

This concerns the Franks v. Delaware standards for warrant affidavit review, how it should apply to Carter Page’s series of four warrants signed by four different experienced and sober judges, and the complete ignoring of said standards by the typically Michael Horowitz’s usual attempt to validate his own work and time.

First, there are two types of identifiable errors in warrant affidavits for Franks v. Delaware challenge purposes. The first is what I call the error of commission, i.e. affirmatively inserting materially false information, and the second is error of omission, i.e. leaving out materially critical information. Courts are generally much more loathe to grant relief on omission claims than commission claims. This is important as to the caterwauling about Page having talked to the CIA (long ago as Marcy notes) claim. Sorry, that is so old, stale and meaningless as to be completely irrelevant for these purposes. Nobody would ever get dinged for that nonsense. It is not like the IC was running Page as a asset, this is just nonsense. But that is what uninformed howlers like Page, Nunes and Chuck Ross roll with.

Secondly, when Marcy says “Franks challenges require the defendant to prove that false statements in a warrant application are false, were knowing, intentional, or reckless false statements, and were necessary to the finding of probable cause”, that is true. But it has to be established that the actual affiant knew that as opposed to some diffuse other government agent or person may have known. And the actual affiant gets every benefit in the world of “good faith” in this regard. Always. Darn near impossible to overcome. So, that isn’t going to work either for the reasons Marcy lays out.

Third. It is infuriating that Horowitz did not address one lick of any of this. In 435 pages of his “report” Horowitz could not find just a few to address the actual standards he should have been reviewing under. Not once. Couldn’t even be bothered to mention it in passing. And it has not entered many, if at all, other post hoc discussions, either, short of at this blog. That is just laziness.

Lastly, for now, I would suggest the law review article Marcy linked to above, specifically pps. 443-449. It is not the most complex dissertation of Franks v. Delaware law and review standards, but it is one easily understandable by the lay person, especially if you read the footnotes carefully too.

I have been successful on a couple of Franks attacks in days gone by….out of a LOT attempted. Very few defense attorneys can claim even that. I cannot possibly tell you how difficult it is. But I can, without any reservation, tell you I think there is about little to no chance that the Page affidavits would not stand up with sufficient probable cause if subjected to such a review. Since Page would have never gotten there, it was derelict of Horowitz to have not done so.

It is not that Horowitz did not identify some error, whether of commission or omission, in the Page applications, he did. But he very much overplayed how significant they are under extant warrant law. Now, the argument that FBI, and other law enforcement entities, ought to tighten up their policies for submission of affidavits, whether under FISA or Title III, is well taken. They should. All defendants and surveillance targets deserve that. But under the applicable law at the time, the thought that the Page affidavits would not stand up under the mere ex-parte probable cause standard is ridiculous. Of course they would have.


The Joker Is Wildcard Weekend

The college football championship between Clemson and LSU is still over a week away. And, after all, those are truly the two best teams that should be playing, so it will be as is should. Never sleep on Clemson, but LSU seems currently on a different level.

Beyond that, it is the Wildcard Weekend. And how that is going to go is a far better question. And that is the trash for this fine weekend.

First up is Buffalo at Houston. Both come in 10-6. In a way, they are almost mirror images even beyond their records. How much can JJ Watt contribute? Josh Allen and Deshaun Watson were both early first round picks expected to get their teams here, and they have. Watson has the flair to date, but don’t sleep on Allen, he is growing into a very good QB, something the Wagon Circlers have not had since Jim Kelly. The game is in Houston, and home field is always a plus, especially in the playoffs, except the last World Series in baseball. But this is the NFL, and home field counts. Will Fuller seems to be out for the Texans, which means the Bills can pay more attention to DeAndre Hopkins, which limits Watson and O’Brien’s offense. Probably gonna regret this, but I think that gives the Bills the edge.

Next, of course, is the Titans at Foxborough and the Pats. Chance of rain and 46º by what is reported. Home field, again, and the weather favor the Pats. But the Titans have, despite their record compared to the Pats, looked like a far better team down the stretch. Ryan Tannehill has been fantastic for them, and Derrick Henry beyond that. Tennessee is really good. There is not a chance in hell I will bet real money against Bill Bel and Brady, but if I were up in Vegas, I just might. This will be a really interesting game, and likely the most interesting and consequential one of the weekend.

On to Sunday. Early game is Minnesota at Nawlins. That miracle reception is not going to happen again. Drew is going to breeze this one. In the month of December, after coming back from injury, Brees threw for 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. That is pretty good. Kirk Cousins has always been better than people let on, but hard to see it here against a Saints’ defense that is as good as it has been in a very long time.

Last up is Squawks at Eagles. Carson Went is good. And he is healthy. No reason not to think he will get the Iggles back to the Super Bowl that Nick Foles got them to, and won. Philly has solid coaching, and know how it is done. But…..the Squawks are mad. They think they should have won that last game against the Niners, and they may not be wrong about that. Seattle’s running attack is basically a rookie named Travis Homer, who is out of the U and actually is pretty promising, and a couple of scrubs picked up a week ago off the street. But one of those scrubs is Beast Mode, and he is back, and has unfinished business. The Squawk’s running game may be a tad patchwork, but, hey, Beast Mode had a warmup week and is ready to roll. Also, too, they have Russell Wilson. Went and the Eagles will be back in the playoffs, just maybe not next week.

So there is your wildcard weekend. Music by Steve Miller, because Rosalind. But the even older Sinatra cut had to be included too. Welcome to the New Year folks, thank you for being here, and let’s have a good one.


Eli Is Leaving, and Bowl Season For Real Trash Talk

There has been a joke here at Emptywheel from longer than you can imagine. Good Eli versus Bad Eli. There has been so much of both. But Easy Eli Manning is, arguably, going into arguably his last game as a Giant, if not in the NFL, an incredibly important player in the NFL.

It seems there ought be a bit more reflection on that. Eli Manning was controversial when he entered the league. He will be as he leaves. The better question is whether he is a Hall of Famer, or not.

Easy Eli won Super Bowl victories, and Super Bowl MVP awards, over the GOAT, Tom Brady. Eli did that, and deserves credit for it. But, let us put things in perspective. Eli never played for Bill Bel. So, it is hard to compare him with Brady. Fun, but very hard.

But Eli, whether good or bad, has been a staple here. If this is Easy Eli’s last game in the NFL, I, for one, will miss him.

Add them all up, and the Manning brothers still have two fewer rings than Tom Brady. But they have been ubiquitous seemingly forever. And remember that Eli’s two rings came over no less than Brady, Bill Bel and the Pats themselves.

People have been discussing whether Eli gets in the HOF for a while already. Honestly, I’d say no, except than when he made it to the biggest stage in sports, twice, the Super Bowl, Eli Manning showed up in style, and then some. And flat pulled wild things out of his butt both times. If it was just once, then it would be hard to make the case. But twice, and the way he did it? I dunno, there is a case to be made there.

Easy Eli may have never been the flashiest QB, not even the flashiest Manning QB, what with Peyton and Archie, but he had himself quite a career. And he did it all with a large dollop of quiet grace. In New York of all places. The time has come for the Giants to move on, but I have a feeling they are about to realize what good fortune and stability they enjoyed with Easy Eli for all those years.

Two titles, 210 straight starts, one Eli: How Manning conquered New York is a great piece from ESPN:

Eli Manning always drank beer on the team bus. It was a Broadway Joe kind of thing to do, and a fact that might run counter to an image Manning spent absolutely no time crafting. But win, lose or draw, Manning would find someone on the road to buy him a six-pack or 12-pack that he would carry to the back of the bus, on ice, and share with some veterans as they discussed the game on the ride to the airport.

Even then, Manning’s consistency stunned his New York Giants teammates. “It was unbelievable,” said Lawrence Tynes, the kicker who won two championships with the quarterback. “He had a guy in every f—ing stadium in the league to get him that beer.”

Should Eli Manning make the Hall of Fame? As NFL experts putatively cast their votes,
Manning will miss those bus rides as much as he will miss anything else after he dresses Sunday for the final time as a Giant, and likely for the final time as an NFL player. Easy Eli. Say what you will, but the man made 15 years in the hot bed of NYC look, well, …..easy. That is something.

He will not miss the constant dissection of his public personality, or lack thereof, and the fascination with what has been a near-perfect marriage between the world’s loudest marketplace and a quiet child of the South who spent his career projecting that oblivious vibe he wore as clearly as his jersey No. 10.

Eli is leaving. Adios Easy Eli. He made it easy living when it it was almost impossible to do so.

Ahem, the two BCS games are tonight. There are all kinds of “bowl” games on the last few days, mostly because ESPN demands content. But, tonight, the real deal starts. First, Oklahoma takes on LSU in the Peach Bowl in Hot Lanta. The Boomer Sooners are pretty good. Have a hard time seeing them overcoming the Tiger’s defense, much less the offense run by Joe Burrow. And that is not to sell Linc Riley short, he is young, hot on market and really good. Riley has coached the Sooners up, and they are really good.

But the second is right here in Phoenix in the Fiesta Bowl, and that is Clemson versus Ohio State. Thought about going, but it is a seriously long haul from here to the stadium. So, the TV will have to suffice. Both teams are undefeated at 13-0, and it is not easy to say which is greater or lesser. But Clemson is the reigning national champ, and has still gone undefeated so far this year. The Tigers also beat OSU in a similar CFB semi-final game in the Fiesta Bowl in 2016. Think tonight’s game will be far closer, but sleep on Clemson at your own risk.

In the Pros, few games are overly exciting. Jets at Buffalo looks boring, but the Jets Jets Jets, once they got Sam Darnold back have been better than you think. I’ll still take the Wagon Circlers, but expect a good game. Scribe’s Steelers at the Ravens, who are sitting all their key players, is another one to watch. Not sure how far the Stillers can go with Duck Duck Go Hodges, but would very much like to see. Titans at Texans is a huge game. Against better judgment, think BOB, the Texans, and Watson are on a real roll, so there you go. Similarly difficult call, but think the Iggles roll the Giants. The Rams are toast. The Cardinals still playing to show that they have a promising future. Right now, the Rams still have a clearly better team. Does it translate to a win at the end of the season? That is a lot better question, and I have no clue, and thus rate it a curious tossup.

There you go folks. Say goodbye to Easy Eli. And enjoy the college semi-finals and the last week of the NFL.

Happy Holidays, and Happy New year, from all of us here at Emptywheel. We truly truly love you, and thank you.


Christmas Eve Remembrances

Yeargh, I bollixed this up. Meant to post this several hours ago, and told Marcy I was going to, but instead had a giant nap on the couch with an overly large puppy right beside.

We deal with a lot of hard subjects here on this blog, and do so daily, if not sometimes hourly. The people, you, are what makes it worth it. Thank you. Every year we are separated from some. Sometimes we know, sometimes we only know because they are conspicuously no longer around.

This year, one we know is gone is John Casper (early on known as Boo
Radley). Another soul we knew from not just Emptywheel, but even before. There are undoubtedly others that we are not so aware of, but who have filled our comments with intellect and passion over time.

So, on this Christmas Eve, thank you to all here, from not just me, but Marcy, Jim White, Rayne, Ed Walker, Roving Reporter Rosalind and Quinn Norton. And thank you to those that have been here and left us. There are too many of the latter. This time of remembrance started in 2011 with our fellow contributor, Mary Beth Perdue, who literally passed on a long ago Christmas Eve. It has kind of been a tradition to go back to that as an honorarium to all friends gone, and so here we go:

…………………………………………………………….

Here we are, heading into Christmas. Everybody is slowing down and heading into the holidays. We all are. Things often get a tad scarce this time of year, but we would like to say Hi, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Mele Kalikimaka and any other greeting applicable. Thank you for being here with us.

It has been a couple of years…I think…since we have done the remembrance section at this time of year. Many of you are old-timers going back to when we were at TNH, even before the FDL years, but so many are new and really do not know the history. We have been at this a good long while now. The years float by, but the people are what stick.

In that regard, I want to return to thanking those that contributed much, but are now gone. If you are new here, you never would have known the names of Mary, Bob Schacht, Mad Dog, Free Patriot, Skdadl and a host of others that were not only our blog friends, but that we often met and knew in real life too.

They are gone, but not forgotten heading into this Christmas Eve. But this always, at least for me, Marcy too, comes back into focus on this date because of our friend and beloved colleague, Mary Perdue. Mary passed away on Christmas Eve 2011. She, like all the others, was the best of what this blog had, and has, to offer. So, in memory of all who are gone, but never forgotten, here is the original in memorium for Mary.

You all, each and every one, rock. Thank you for being here and supporting us. Happy Holidays everyone:

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The internet is a strange and wonderful thing. Just about everyone and everything in the world is on it, even though it is nothing but data in the form of binary computer code traversing by random electrons. Yet thought is crystalized, and friendships born and nurtured, through commonality of interest and purpose. And so it is here at Emptywheel, where many of us have been together since the days at The Next Hurrah, through years at Firedoglake, and now at our new home. Just because it germinates via the net does nothing to detract from the sense of community, friendship and admiration for each other gained over time.

With profound sadness, I report we have lost a true friend, and one of our longest tenured contributors, Mary. Mary Beth Perdue left us on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2011.

Mary Beth Perdue, 52, of Robards, KY, formally of Newburgh, passed away at her home.

She graduated Order of Coif from University of Kentucky Law School and from University of Evansville with an accounting degree. She was a member of the Indiana Bar Association. She was in house counsel at Mid-Central Land Services, Inc. and served as an attorney for firms in Indiana and Kentucky. She owned and operated the Horse and Hound (a pet supply store) in Newburgh. Mary was a lover of all animals with a special place in her heart for horses, dogs and cats. She was involved in numerous equestrian sports and organizations.

Here at Emptywheel, she was just Mary; and she was so much more than a simple obituary can convey. She was funny, kind, and, most of all, razor sharp in analysis of extremely complex issues surrounding torture, indefinite detention, international human rights, illegal wiretapping and executive branch overreach. Mary had a steel trap index in her mind for even obscure torture and rendition cases and facts. To the day she died, Mary was one of the very few people commenting in America that remembered, and would never miss a chance to point out, how the children and extended families of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Aafia Siddiqui were used and/or disappeared by the US as pawns in our immoral torture in the name of the so called “war on terror”. Mary’s dissection of Jack Goldsmith terrorist detention policy, complete with with a comparison to the Ox Bow Incident, was a thing of passion and beauty.

One of Mary’s favorite, and most important, hobby horses was the seminal case of Ex Parte Milligan, on which she beat the drum loudly long before the critical 2008 decision in Boumediene v. Bush and the 2009 release of the torture memos. She was, as usual, right. Here she is taking John Yoo apart at the seams over his intellectual duplicity regarding Ex Parte Milligan. And then there was Mary’s three part opus on the history and meaning of Ex Parte Milligan (Parts One, Two and Three), which is one of the best primers anywhere on the case that has finally come back into renewed significance in the critical issues of the war on terror. Mary played a part in keeping that significance alive, and in the discussion mix, until it took hold again.

Mary did not talk much about her real life family and work, and as another still practicing attorney, I can fully understand the maintenance of that separation. It is quite likely, like me, that her friends and family had little idea of the true depth and importance of her knowledge and dedication to the interests she expressed here, both in front page posts authored, and in her consistent critical contribution in the discussion comments. But, make no mistake, Mary was not just an invaluable contributor, and affected not just me and Marcy, but key players in the larger discussion. I know for a fact, because I talk to the different people and discussed it with them; Mary’s posts and comments were seen and known by actors from the ACLU, to EFF, to other think tanks and attorneys in the field. She left a mark.

As I said at the start of this post, the internet is a curious, if compelling and wonderful place; in all the furiously teeming milieu of people and issues, it is easy for one voice to not be missed for a brief time. All of us take time away every now and then, and Mary was no exception; often being scarce for a period due to pressing duties with work and her beloved horses and land.

I had not talked to Mary since a few days before Christmas. With the rush of the holidays, and a busy work schedule for me in January I have been a tad scarce myself and I had not particularly noticed Mary’s absence. A little over a week ago, I emailed her some irresistibly cute pictures of the one of a kind racehorse Rachel Alexandra and her new foal. Mary loved Rachel Alexandra. Realizing she had not responded to that catnip, I checked yesterday and found the terrible news. There are a lot of things Mary might be too busy with real life to respond to, but not that. And so life became a little less full and enjoyable. Mary’s family has indicated:

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to a local humane society or other animal rescue.

And that would indeed be Mary, and fit her, to a tee. Here is a secure link to do so for the national Humane Society; but by all means, if so inclined, give to your local chapter and let them know it is for Mary.

Emptywheel will not be the same without Mary Beth Perdue, but her work and memory will live in our hearts, minds and archives as a testament to who and what she was and stood for. We shall close with the picture Mary never got the opportunity to see, but would have been the epitome of the horses, animals and children which she truly loved, Rachel Alexandra and foal.

Vaya con dios Mary, you will be missed.

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Cheers to all, and to all a good night and wonderful Christmas Day.


Crossfire Hurricane Glossary

Even before it went live yesterday, I was looking through Marcy’s incredibly awesome timeline on Crossfire Hurricane. It is a stunningly important and good thing, not only for those here, but those everywhere. I read things day and night, and have seen many timelines on this subject, but none that approach that which Marcy has produced. That said, if even I have to do double takes on what some of the names and acronyms are, I thought a guide was in order.

So, I thought an enduring glossary would help not even now, but going forward. What follows will be what appears appropriate now, and this post may be supplemented lated as necessary. I hope it helps. Maybe at some point I’ll come back an make it alphabetical, but for now I am just going from front to back in order of appearance.

Some are patently obvious and need no explanation, e.g. “CIA” for instance. As to the rest though, away we go:

ASAC: Assistant Agent In Charge, typically of an FBI Field Office.

Zainab Ahmad: Is a seriously kick ass former member of DOJ. Ahmad was a prosecutor with the DOJ who long specialized in investigating and prosecuting terrorism. She served as an AUSA in the Eastern District of New York until 2017, successfully prosecuting several high-profile terrorism cases. In 2017, she was reassigned to the Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice team. After Mueller closed up shop, Zainab landed as a white collar and cyber security specialist at the NY office of Gibson Dunn.

Evgeny Burykov: A convicted Russian spy. He was arrested on January 26, 2015, charged with, and pleading guilty to, spying on the United States for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Buryakov was a New York-based Deputy Representative of Vnesheconombank, Russia’s state-owned national development bank.

CHS-3: In addition to Steele (CHS-1) and Halper (CHS-2) there was another FBI informant who spoken on a number of occasions with George Papadopoulos. The person’s identity is unknown. Papadopoulos told him a version of the Joseph Mifsud in fall 2016.

Anne Conway: Conway is a GHW Bush nominated judge to the Middle District of Florida, and who serves on the FISC, since being do designated by John Roberts in 2016. Judge Conway approved a 2017 FISA Court warrant for Carter Page, a former adviser to the 2016 Trump Campaign.

Raymond Dearie: Is a well respected Senior United States District Court Judge from EDNY originally nominated by Reagan, and served on FISX between July 2012 and July 2019, after appointment by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Oleg Deripaska (Oligarch 1): Paul Manafort’s one-time paymaster, and also the client of a lawyer employing Christopher Steele in 2016. In that role, Steele repeatedly offered to broker a meeting at which Deripaska could provide derogatory information on Manafort. FBI belatedly considered whether Deripaska was a source of disinformation for the dossier.

Alexander Downer: Former Australian High Commissioner (ambassador) to the UK (2014-18), former leader of the Australian Liberal Party (1994-95), and former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs (1996-2007). Definitely not a coffee boy, but met with one over a few drinks in London.

For bmaz, I note that he is a fan of V8 motor racing and has a CMAS racing license. (h/t EH)

Stu Evans: Stuart Evans, deputy assistant attorney general of DOJ’s National Security Division. He’s the person who insisted on adding a footnote alerting the FISC of Steele’s potential bias.

FIFA: The international governing body of soccer. A body Chris Steele gave work and information on to not just US authorities but worldwide ones too.

Michael Gaeta (Handling Agent 1): An FBI agent, previously an attache in Rome and one time handler of Christopher Steele. A specialist in Eastern European organized crime including in the Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine.

Taushina Gauhar: Is a (former) Deputy Assistant Attorney General (DAAG) in the Department of Justice National Security Division (NSD) and FISA lawyer specialist.

JD Gordan: Gordan is an American communications and foreign policy advisor, who served as a Pentagon spokesman during the Bush Administration and later a National Security Advisor to Donald Trump. He is also a crackpot gadabout on forums such as One America News Network, Fox News, Sky News, The Daily Caller, The Hill, and The Washington Times. He’s the guy who ensured that the Republican platform did not incorporate lethal aid to Ukraine.

Stefan Halper (Source 2): Ooof, this could go on even longer, but per Wiki, Halper is an American foreign policy spy and Senior Fellow at the University of Cambridge where he is a Life Fellow at Magdalene College. He served as a White House official in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations, and was reportedly in charge of the spying operation by the 1980 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign that became known as “Debategate”. Through his decades of work for the CIA, Halper has had extensive ties to the Bush family. Through his work with Sir Richard Dearlove he also has ties to the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6. For purposes here, Halper acted as an FBI informant for its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.

Kathleen Kavalec: Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who met with Chris Steele in October 2016.

Mary McCord: McCord was the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2016 to 2017 and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division from 2014 to 2016. She now teaches at Georgetown and contributes at Lawfare.

Sergei Millian (Person 1): A Belarus born businessman knee deep in everything Russia and a putative source for Chris Steele. He was also the subject of a counterintelligence investigation during 2016-17. Much still not necessarily clear about Millian.

NYFO: New York Field Office of the FBI.

OGC: Office Of General Counsel at the Department of Justice.

OI: The Office of Intelligence at DOJ. They’re in charge of writing FISA applications.

Bruce and Nellie Ohr: Bruce Ohr is a United States Department of Justice official. A former Associate Deputy Attorney General and former director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). He is an expert on transnational organized crime and has spent most of his career overseeing gang and racketeering-related prosecutions, including Russian organized crime. Nellie is Bruce’s wife, and a longtime expert on all things Russian. She worked at one point for Fusion GPS as a contractor between October 2015 and September 2016.

Victor Podobnyy: An Russian SVR (foreign intelligence) officer worked under the cover as a banker who was recruiting Carter Page in 2013.

SSA: Supervisory Special Agent.

Scott Schools: Scott Schools was the “highest-ranking career civil servant at the United States Department of Justice”, serving as Associate Deputy Attorney General. For those who have been around long enough, he was, for a while, the “new” David Margolis. Schools, a putatively decent chap, is gone now, having been replaces by a Jeff Sessions designated mope named Bradley Weinsheimer.

Glenn Simpson: Former journalist for the Wall Street Journal and co-founder of Fusion GPS.

Paul Singer: An American billionaire hedge fund manager, activist, investor, vulture capitalist, and philanthropist. A hard line Republican promoter and shill, but also a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights.

Bruce Swartz: Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International Affairs. Key to the story because of a purported effort by Kurt Volker to get Swartz to officially ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. He would have been in the loop in any normal requests between the US and Ukraine. Still a lot of questions open as to Swartz.

UCE: An FBI employee working undercover. A woman working under the pseudonym Azra Turk accompanied Stefan Halper on his interviews with George Papadopoulos.

Sally Yates: Former US Attorney for Northern District of Georgia, Deputy Attorney General, and Acting AG.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/author/bmaz/