June 6, 2020 / by 

 

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 typical Michael Horowitz’s 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:

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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.


Yakety Yak Trash

Okay, I have another project I need to get back to, so this will be yet another truncated trash talk. There is not a lot on the college bowl calendar today. Boise State and Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl looks interesting. It is apparently Chris Peterson’s last game as coach of the Huskies, and he was previously the head coach at Boise State. So there is a dynamic thing going on there that really makes it interesting. The Broncos have quietly had a very good 12-1 year and come in ranked number 19, while the Huskies are unranked and 7-5. Game is on ABC broadcast. The other fun looking game is Appalachian State and UAB in the New Orleans Bowl, which is the late game on ESPN. The Mountaineers are always fun to watch, and come in, like Boise State, with a quietly great 12-1 record and a number 20 ranking.

In the Pros, there was no Thursday Night game because there is a late season Saturday slate. First up is Houston at Tampa Bay. The Texans are clear favorites, but the Bucs have been different lately. Winston is still a one man turnover machine, but the team is playing a lot better. Bruce Arians may seem like like your friendly, even is found mouthed grandfather, but the dude can seriously coach them up. Houston better pay attention today.

Next up is Buffalo at the Pats. Brady and the boys just cannot get untracked on offense this year. Brady is finally starting to age, and other than Edelman, he does not trust his receivers. The O-Line has been okay, but not great yet. And I think people did not understand what a loss James Develin really was. The Bills are not flashy on offense but have been getting the job done all year. Both teams have excellent defenses and know how to play ill the cold. This thing is in Foxborough, but still seems like a tossup to me. The Bills have come a long way, and you have to like what they are doing. The last game of the day is Rams at Niners. The Rams have been truly flaky recently. No way to know which team will show up for them, but I will take the Niners at home.

On Sunday, Nawlins at Tennessee seems important. The Saints have clinched a solid playoff spot, the Titans are still fighting. The obvious biggest game is Dallas at Philly. The winner will likely wing the moribund NFC East and move into the playoffs, the loser likely goes home. Both teams are 7-7, and both teams can lay eggs at any given moment. I dunno, but the game is in Philly so I will give the Iggles a slight nod. That said, Dan Prescott has been arguable more consistent than Carson Went this year.

If you don’t live in either Phoenix or Seattle, you probably don’t know that the Cardinals have given the Squawks hell in Seattle, one of the toughest stadiums to play in in the league. You’d be crazy to pick against Seattle tomorrows, but Kyler Murray versus Russell Wilson could be a hell of lot of fun. Packers at Vikes is the MNF game, and that looks be be fantastic. Pack are 11-3, Vikes 10-4 and at home. For all the early grousing about him, Kirk Cousins has had a seriously good year. Aaron Rodgers a decent one….unless your name is Aaron Rodgers. This is a total tossup, and I cannot wait for it.

Okay, todays music is by Boots Randolph, and yeah, it is the famous Yakety Sax. More people may recognize this from Benny Hill and other comedy skits, but it is a real thing, and the sax work really incredible. Happy holidays to one and all.


The Black Hole

The only college game that counts today is Army/Navy. It is an age old tradition, and for good reason. Also, it annually takes place in the land of cheesesteaks, so that is fun too. Kind of hilariously, CNN is hyping it as hard, if not more, than CBS who is actually carrying the game. Today is the 120th matchup.

It is an interesting year. Last year, Navy had a horrible year, and Army finished 11-2 with their third straight win over Navy. 2019 was an about face though, as Navy comes into today at 9-2 while Army has struggled to a 5-7 record. Of course in a rivalry game like this, none of that matters, they play for pride. Navy is the clear favorite, and looks good to me. GO NAVY! I’d talk about the Heisman announcement, but if Joe Burrow is not the unanimous choice, it will be a travesty.

Sunday, however, will bring down the curtain on a different tradition. The Black Hole. Long before the Patriots of Bob Kraft and Bill Bel became the most hated and arrogant team in the NFL, there was the Just Win Baby Oakland Raiders. It would be fitting if the Pats were in Oakland tomorrow to close out the joint, instead it will be the mustached Minshew and the Jags. It is sad. And, I don’t care how shiny the new and expensive Las Vegas football venue is, it will never feel right.

The Raiders are Oakland, and were even when temporarily in LA. There is not enough space here to tell all the stories of Al Davis and the Raiders. But he had fantastic glasses, always, and huge balls. Davis not only took the NFL head on when they were still thought invincible, he had the guts to appoint the first woman to be an NFL CEO, Amy Trask, who served in that position from 1997 to 2013 after, literally, starting as an intern with the team. There is simply still no analog to that courage, short of Greg Popovich making Becky Hammon a key assistant coach on the Spurs.

So, here we are at the death knell of the Black Hole. This Dana Jacobson piece, with Trask, almost perfectly encapsulates the Black Hole. The denizens there are fucking nuts, and have been beautifully so. There will be a beautiful shiny new stadium in Las Vegas. A lot of the fans will still show up there. But it will never have the pure grit of Al Davis and Oakland. That will be gone forever by tomorrow night. Vaya con dios Raiders of Oakland and The Black Hole.

The rest of the NFL schedule seems rather vanilla for one of the last weeks of the regular season. Bears at the Frozen Tundra to visit the Cheeser’s is interesting, as it always is. The Bills in Pittsburgh should be as well. Arguably the best game is Houston at Tennessee. Both the Texans and Titans are 8-5, but the Titans are on a serious roll with Ryan Tannehill as QB. Never saw that coming at the start of the season, and I will take the Titans at home on this one.

Raiders music by Metallica. Because that is perfect. Soak up the last rumble in the Black Hole.


Will Rogers Was Right About The Democrats

Here are a couple of quotes from the inestimable Will Rogers. They were made so long ago, and are still so spot on correct:

“I’m not a member of any organized political party…. I’m a Democrat.”

“Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they’d be Republicans.”

Both are still so evidently true. Watching this morning’s “impeachment hearing” makes me want to puke. It is one of the most incompetent shit shows in history. The House Democrats, as led by Nancy Pelosi, and in this case Jerry Nadler too, could not legally litigate or argue their way out of a thin and wet paper sack. It is seriously pathetic and embarrassing.

Daniel Goldman is a tad better than Nadler and Barry Berke were, but the format is still ludicrous.

Probably we should talk about Hunter Biden more. Because members of corporate boards are NEVER hired for their names as opposed to expertise. Maybe cross-reference Theranos, but whatever.

Pelosi and Nadler have turned impeachment into such a craven shit and clown show that it is unbearable.


NCAA Conference Championship Weekend Trash Talk

In the Pros and Joes discussion, this weekend features the Joes. It is the conference championship weekend, and the final action before the Final Football Four are selected. So, let’s start there.

Utah was well on its way to a potential Championship final four appearance for the Pac-12. Nope. The Oregon Quackers made the Utes Duck. Bigly. Oregon undoubtedly goes to the Rose Bowl, and who knows about Utah. Their extremely good defense was shredded by the Ducks. Ouch. There are five more critical games on the schedule today, and Cincinnati and Memphis for the AAC is the lesser of them, though it may well be a fantastic game. It is in Memphis at Liberty Bowl stadium, so I will roll with the Tigers at their home.

With the Utah fail, that means Baylor versus Oklahoma (shoutout to our departed friend Freepatriot, who loved the Sooners), may well mean a final four berth. It is a neutral site. Something smells of a Baylor upset, but the Sooners are now coached by Line Riley as opposed to Bob Stoops, so I don’t think so. Sooners. The B1G Championship is played in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Would be a fantastic story if Wisconsin could beat the Bucks, but that is a bad bet. Virginia may get Cavalier and upset Trevor Lawrence and Clemson, but it would be shocking. Clemson and Lawrence started a little slow this year, but are undefeated and are averaging 50 points a game since mid-October.

That leaves the big one, i.e. the SEC championship, played in HotLanta. Georgia, the current numbers 4, versus the Tigers of LSU, the current number 2. Without much question the most anticipated game of the day. Frankly, it is hard to see how Ohio State ever jumped above LSU, in fact by the record as of now, it is a joke. LSU has the likely Heisman winner, Joe Burrow, at QB, and he has been lighting people up. Georgia is really good. The defenses are both great, but the offenses, and specifically the QB’s will likely determine this. Burrow just looks a lot better than Jake Fromm, I’ll take the Bayou Tigers.

So that leaves the Pros. Da Bears already beat the Cowboys, which likely makes Scribe smile wildly. Dallas just does not look good, and Garrett has to be gone at the end of the season. Baltimore is at Buffalo, and the Ravens seem a good bet. But every time people write the Wagon Circlers off this year, they surprise. I’ll take Jackson and the Ravens, but don’t sleep on the Buffalo defense, they might contain him. Would not be surprised if the Broncos upset the Texans in Houston, but that is also not a good bet. The Steelers are here at the Cardinals. The Cards are improving, but still not that good. Duck Duck should go go against them, even in the Bird’s Nest. The Rams are resurgent, and are hosting the Squawks, and that could be a great game.

There are two truly great games. The first is the Chefs of KC visiting Foxborough to see Bill Bel and the boys. Frankly, the Pats offense has looked old and bad lately, and are putting so much pressure on their excellent defense that the D is starting to falter. My bet is that Pat Mahomes engineers more points than Brady, and that is that. The second is Niners at Saints. Both teams are 10-2, and this game is almost certainly for home field in the NFC. Wow, this should be a game! Stars everywhere. Jimmy G is not up to Drew Brees’ level yet, but he has established himself as a frontline QB in the NFL, and his tight end, George Kittle is the new Gronk. On offense, the nod has to go to Brees with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. The SF defense, with rookie stud Nick Bosa and veteran Arik Armstead up front, is really good though. The Saints are hosting in the Superdome, and for that reason only, they get the call. Who dat?

Our colleague Peter has suggested this article on ESPN be discussed. It involves traumatic brain injury, more commonly known as CTE, but this time in hockey players.

A Minnesota judge on Wednesday ordered that a former member of the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic team should be committed to a secure treatment facility, saying the hockey star is mentally ill and dangerous.

Mark Pavelich, 61, of Lutsen, was charged with felony assault in August for allegedly beating a friend with a metal pole, breaking several bones.

According to Cuzzo’s order, one psychologist found Pavelich had delusions and paranoia, including a delusion that those closest to him were trying to poison him. Another psychologist found he suffered from a mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury, likely related to repeated head injuries.

Pavelich’s family members have said they believe he suffers from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, after repeated concussions from his time in the NHL. They said they started seeing changes in him a few years ago and he has refused help.

As sad as this is, it is really important. It is also something that is starting to be covered. One of the ones who has been on this story from the start is Sheila Dingus, who runs a great spot known as Advocacy For Fairness In Sports. Here is some of her writings on the NHL concussion litigation.

Music today by Pink Floyd. Enjoy the weekend folks.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/author/bmaz/page/3/