December 12, 2018

The Inherent Limitations of the Kavanaugh Probe

“AS THE FBI explores whether Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted women while in high school and college, elected officials and others have suggested that federal agents can authoritatively get to the bottom of an alleged attack said to have occurred three decades ago.

The FBI’s only impediment, these people allege, is possible meddling by the White House to limit the investigation’s scope. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican whose last-minute show of leverage forced the new FBI inquiry, has told the White House and the FBI that he expects “a fulsome” investigation. Newspaper editorial boards have warned that the Trump administration’s interference in the investigation would taint the FBI’s findings.

“FBI agents are experts at interviewing people and quickly dispatching leads to their colleagues around the world to follow with additional interviews,” former FBI Director James Comey assured Americans in a New York Times op-ed. “Unless limited in some way by the Trump administration, they can speak to scores of people in a few days, if necessary.”

But these arguments leave out the inherent limitations of FBI investigations in cases such as this.

The FBI agents probing whether Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were both in high school lack something that most serious government investigations require: subpoena power.

Unlike agents tasked with investigating a crime, the FBI must rely on witnesses to cooperate voluntarily with its investigation. A possible witness approached by the FBI may simply slam the door in agents’ faces with no repercussions. At any time, witnesses who choose to cooperate can refuse to answer a specific question, and they won’t have to provide any explanation for their refusal.”

Read more

JJ Best Of The Web

"Like many Western analyses of the Middle East, they reduce Iraq’s complex internal conflicts to catchall explainers of ‘sectarianism’ and ‘tribalism’ – presuming that some groups of people are intrinsically primed for antagonism."

" he's a loser in the precise sense that his singular accomplishment in American public life has been to lose a Senate race to the stupendously unpopular Republican Ted Cruz."

"While applauding the social impetus, Israelis are divided in opinions on an American-based initiative and question its grammatical integrity."

A look at the networks that churn out nonstop, formulaic Christmas movies; the actors who star in all of them; and the fans who can't stop watching.

"The Department of Homeland Security wants to use credit scores to determine immigration cases. That sets a dangerous precedent."

"Traffic. Congestion. Pollution. Hours-long commutes. What if you could leave it all behind and trade it in for an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient personal copter—all without a pilot’s license?"

"“But Qutb saw something else. The dancers in front of him were tragic lost souls. They believed they were free, but in reality they were trapped by their own selfish and greedy desires.”"

Cliches can be used as a political tool. "Prefabricated language helps everybody from prime ministers to CEOs disguise what they really want to say."

"Santa is nothing but stress for families who don’t believe in him. Trying to keep other kids from finding out the truth can cause a holiday-season-long headache."

"Umami is hard to describe in words. In the New Yorker, Hannah Goldfield defines it as “that deep, dark, meaty intensity that distinguishes seared beef, soy sauce, ripe tomato, Parmesan cheese, anchovies, and mushrooms..."

"The designer babies have thus been called the “future-we-should-not-want” for each new reproductive technology or intervention. But the babies never came and are nowhere close. I am not surprised."

"Thousands of secular Israelis became newly observant and joined Haredi communities in the 1970s and ’80s. Now, their children and grandchildren are searching for a place of their own."