“Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser for international economics, National Security Council, White House: We thought we had quelled his appetite for territory by meeting him in Geneva and trying to address some of the strategic concerns he’d been raising, but then here we were again, with an even larger force.”
“Gen. Mark Milley: It’s 30 days after the exit from Afghanistan. Some people said that the invasion of Ukraine was a result of the withdrawal. I don’t agree. It’s obvious the invasion was planned before the fall of Afghanistan.”
“Bill Burns: [While I was in Moscow,] I was talking to [Putin] on a secure phone. It was a strange conversation. He was in Sochi — this was the height of yet another wave of Covid, Moscow itself was under a curfew — so he was isolating himself. The conversation was pretty straightforward. I laid out what the president had asked me to lay out to him. His response was a lot of what I had heard before from him about his convictions about Ukraine, and in many ways, his cockiness about Russia’s ability to enforce its will on Ukraine. His senior advisers were pretty consistent as well. Not all of them were intimately familiar with his own decision-making, so at least one or two of them were a little bit surprised with what I laid out to them because the circle of advisers had gotten so small.”
“Bill Burns: My own impression, based on interactions with him over the years, was a lot of this had to do with his own fixation on controlling Ukraine. He was convincing himself that strategically the window was closing on his opportunity to control Ukraine.”
“Bill Burns: His conviction was that without controlling Ukraine and its choices, it’s not possible for Russia to be a great power and have this sphere of influence that he believes is essential. And it’s not possible for him to be a great Russian leader without accomplishing that.”
“Wally Adeyemo: The diplomacy between the president and the secretary getting people aligned on sanctions before Russia invaded was probably the biggest difference between this time and Crimea in terms of our ability to act quickly and effectively — things that we were unable to do back then.”
“Gen. Paul Nakasone: We sent a [U.S. Cyber Command] team forward, and they land in Kyiv on the fourth of December. Within a day or two, the leader calls back, and she tells my Cyber National Mission Force commander, her boss, “We’re not coming home for a while. In fact, send more people.” We sent our largest “hunt forward” package into Kyiv. That stays there for a little over 70 days. What is a “hunt forward” operation? A hunt forward operation is focused at the partner’s request to look at a series of networks — we identify malware, tradecraft and anomalous behavior in those networks that point us to adversaries and allow the partner — in this case, Ukraine — to strengthen those networks.
The interesting thing that she — the team leader — said: “They’re really serious about this.” This is the third time that we had been back in Ukraine, and there was just a different feeling in terms of how Ukraine was approaching it. When we provided information, they were moving on it, correcting the vulnerability, and looking for more.”
“Amb. Michael Carpenter: We thought, “OK, if there’s a crisis of European security, then let’s talk about it. Let’s identify the Russian concerns and see if there’s a way that we can address them through diplomacy.” Poland assumed the chairperson-ship of the OSCE on January 1, 2022, and so I immediately went to go visit with the Polish Foreign Minister to talk about the diplomatic angle. He was very receptive, and subsequently launched a process called the renewed European Security Dialogue. Russia basically refused to engage, and that’s when it became increasingly clear the Kremlin really had no interest in diplomacy all along. It was bent on war.
All of its alleged concerns — everything that it was putting out there in the public domain — was really a smokescreen. They turned their backs completely on the diplomacy that we were proposing at the OSCE, the diplomacy that was being proposed on behalf of NATO and then also bilaterally what we were discussing with the Russians. There was nothing to offer them, because they didn’t even want to talk.”
“Bill Burns: I saw Zelenskyy in the middle of January to lay out the most recent intelligence we had about Russian planning for the invasion, which by that point had sharpened its focus to come straight across the Belarus frontier — just a relatively short drive from Kyiv — to take Kyiv, decapitate the regime and establish a pro-Russian government there. With some fair amount of detail, including, for example, the Russian intent to seize an airport northwest of Kyiv called Hostomel, and use that as a platform to bring in airborne forces as well to accelerate the seizure of Kyiv.”
“Antony Blinken: I saw Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva in late January, the 21st, because we were determined to exhaust every diplomatic avenue. It was incredibly blustery in Geneva — I’ve never seen Lake Geneva more agitated in my life, like an ocean with a major storm setting in. I alluded to that and said, “You know, we have a responsibility to see if we can calm the seas — calm the lake.” Lavrov was uncharacteristically focused on his talking points, and there wasn’t much extemporaneous give and take, which is not usually the case with him.
I wanted to see if there was some final way of breaking through and suggested we spend some time alone after the meeting with our teams. We sat in chairs about a foot from each other. I asked him, “Tell me, what are you trying to do? What is actually going on here? Is this really about your purported security concerns? Or is this about something theological, which is Putin’s conviction that Ukraine is not an independent state and has to be subsumed into Russia? If it’s the former, if this is genuinely from your perspective about security concerns that Russia has, well we owe it to try to talk about those and our own profound security concerns about what Russia is doing, because we need to avert a war. But if it’s about the latter, if this is about this profoundly misplaced view that Ukraine is not its own country, and you’re determined to subsume it into Russia, well, there’s nothing to talk about.” He couldn’t or wouldn’t give me a straight answer.”
“Emily Horne: We decided Jake was going to go out to the podium with [White House spokesperson] Jen [Psaki] the next day and do a couple of things: One, was going to make very, very clear that any American or dual nationals in Ukraine needed to get out immediately and that the calvary would not come to rescue Americans after an invasion has begun. That was certainly a lesson learned from Afghanistan: You can’t over-message that, and you have to be extremely clear, even at the risk of causing a little bit of panic. The Ukrainians were not terribly happy about that message, but we absolutely did not have a choice, given what we were seeing. The new phrase that Jake deployed on that February 11 press conference was “We are in a window where an invasion could begin at any time.””
“Gen. Mark Milley: I know that was a huge lot of diplomacy. There’s a lot of effort being done by Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, Jake Sullivan, myself, the president himself, to try to dissuade Russia from doing this and to warn them if they did it these will be likely consequences.
Derek Chollet: There have been multiple attempts — not just by us. There were other countries, the French, the Germans, others were engaging Putin. No one was getting anywhere.”
“Antony Blinken: The invasion didn’t take place for another week, precisely because we were able to call Putin out publicly. The fact that we were able to continue to declassify information, call him out at the Security Council, have the president use the ultimate bully pulpit to call him out — that put them a little bit off the timeline that we had seen.”
“Jake Sullivan: This was uncharted territory — the idea that there would be a major land war in Europe, with all of the ripple effects that that could cause, that felt like an enormous weight on me, on the whole team, most especially on the president. It was extremely hard to sleep.”
“Gen. Mark Milley: The Ukrainians, at the very end — probably about two weeks prior — really begin to mobilize their country into a nation at arms. They really got into full swing, where you started seeing all the men — and a lot of the women — learning how to use weapons, mines, hand grenades, explosives and all that stuff. Then you also saw a significant mobilization of Ukrainian people into the army — reservists — and you saw the disposition of the Ukrainian forces to begin to change into their wartime locations.
There was a large evacuation of civilians out of what was expected to be the frontline areas, a real flurry of diplomatic activity, and then also decisions made by the international community — most countries pulled out their embassies out of Kyiv. That’s a big, big decision. When you start seeing stuff like that happening, you start realizing that war is getting close.”
“Matthew Miller: There is sometimes this unrealistic sense that America can wave a magic wand and control the world. That’s just not true. We don’t have magic wands.”
“Colin Kahl: Sometimes people say, “Well, if you were going to give them this stuff, why didn’t you give them all at the beginning?” And the reality is, as a matter of dollars and logistics, we couldn’t. We’ve given $27 billion of security assistance. We didn’t have $27 billion at the beginning of the war. As a matter of actual and bureaucratic physics, you have to prioritize. What the secretary has been ruthless about is, “What does Ukraine need right now for the fight?” In the initial phases of the conflict, that was anti-armor, man-portable and short-range air defense systems, and artillery and ammunition for their Soviet legacy systems, and more Soviet legacy air defense systems. We poured in the Javelins and the Stingers and scoured our own stocks from the Cold War for Soviet era ammunition and stuff we swept up around the globe.”
“Gen. Mark Milley: People don’t think about war — even today. When I say to people, “There have been 35,000 or 40,000 innocent Ukrainians killed in this war, a third of their economy has been destroyed, an estimated 7 million internally-displaced persons, and another 7 million refugees out of a pre-war population of 45 million — you’re looking at 30 to 40 percent of that country displaced out of houses.” People sit there and go: “Oh?””
“The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is a government agency that coordinates medical care and social well-being in the Beaver State. During the pandemic, OHA was responsible for coordinating Oregon’s vaccination drive and disseminating information about COVID-19—both vital tasks.
The agency’s office for equity and inclusion, however, prefers not to rush the business of government. In fact, the office’s program manager delayed a meeting with partner organizations on the stated grounds that “urgency is a white supremacy value.”
Government employees who are unprepared for meetings should not cite white supremacy as their excuse.”
“as CNN pointed out not long ago, oil companies used to respond like other businesses to rising prices by increasing supply. Burying their industry in red tape and choking off access to capital has been a very effective signal to rethink their entire business strategy. Oil industry insiders may coast along and enjoy the profits from existing capacity, but they’re unlikely to invest in facilities to meet demand for gasoline, and offset soaring prices, until they’re certain their industry will be allowed a future.”
“After ten years of hard work to try and promote innovation and consumer welfare, the European Union has revealed its bold plan: to force device manufacturers to use a single charging standard.
The Eurocrats are now hard at work patting themselves on the back for this glorious outcome of the decade-long “trilogue on the common charger.” By 2024, wired devices sold in the EU must use the USB-C charging port and will not be sold with a charger by default. This is intended to “curb e-waste” and give consumers “more choice.” Can you feel the innovation? Never say the EU does not dream big.
Unless you are one of the 56 million or so Europeans who use iPhones, not much will change. Private companies have converged on common standards for years. Most, if not all, of your devices might already use the nifty USB-C charger, which in addition to being small and symmetrical, allows fast charging to boot.
And some Apple products, like my own MacBook Air, use the USB-C standard too. It is nice to be able to seamlessly charge my phone and my laptop without hassling with extensions.
The problem is the iProducts. Most, but not all, of these famously (or infamously) use Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector, which is incompatible with other companies’ devices. iPhones, iPads, and iPods usually use Lightning connectors, which means people need to have a separate charger for these specific products.
The Lightning charger has few fans today. It’s proprietary, it doesn’t always allow fast charging, and you’ll pay a lot for the privilege. Haters—and there are many—will be tempted to applaud this move by the EU.
But as usual, the EU’s meddling will almost certainly have the opposite effect that it is intending. Instead of “limiting e-waste,” this ban will create millions of useless chargers that will soon head to a landfill.”
“Although that rat’s nest of old chargers in your bedside table is aesthetically salient (and awful), it’s apparently not a big contributor to this ballyhooed e-waste problem. According to the 2020 Global E-Waste Monitor, chargers represent some 0.1 percent of the 53.6 million metric tons of tech garbage produced each year.
As usual, the EU is spending a lot of time and effort on something that is not that big of a problem in the grand scheme of things.”
“Apple is not a big fan of the rules, having argued that the prohibition on non-USB-C chargers will limit the kinds of innovations they can offer their customers. This might not convince the well-sized anti-Lightning community, but it is a little rich that professional bureaucrats who have not so much as opened a business in their lives would deign to tell some of the world’s most successful technology companies how to design their products.”
“We’re up to about 3,600 known cases of monkeypox in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s more than double the number of cases from just two weeks ago.
As the federal government struggles to distribute vaccines where they’re needed, The Washington Post reports that the White House is thinking of declaring a public health emergency and naming a “White House coordinator” to oversee the response.
The public response should be: Please don’t. Please just get the vaccines to local public health agencies and let them deal with it. Because right now, that’s about half the problem that’s causing monkeypox to spread.
Red tape from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC left more than a million monkeypox vaccine doses stuck in storage in Denmark, and then another roll of red tape made it incredibly difficult for doctors to prescribe an alternative monkeypox treatment because it’s still in clinical trials.
As a result, local health agencies have had to carefully portion out vaccines to the highest-risk citizens—and they’re still running out. In Los Angeles, the county Public Health Department will only administer to people who are infected, people who have had high-risk contact (typically sex) with somebody who is infected, and then gay or bisexual men or trans people who fit in one of the [certain] categories”
“Fortunately, monkeypox’s spread has still remained pretty limited even as it has grown. The percentage of growth seems huge because we’re dealing with a fairly low baseline. And though monkeypox is not technically a sexually transmitted disease—it is spread through contact with the rashes and lesions created by the virus as well as through saliva—this particular version of monkeypox has been pretty resistant so far to being spread through methods other than sexual contact.”
“The federal government sent billions in unemployment aid to ineligible beneficiaries and outright fraudsters during the pandemic, according to a new watchdog report. At least $78 billion in jobless benefits, and potentially much more, were misspent during fiscal year 2021, according to a Tuesday report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“Not only is the system falling short in meeting the needs of workers and the broader economy, but the potential for huge financial losses could undermine public confidence in the stewardship of government funds,” said GAO head Gene Dorado in a press release yesterday, who called the report’s findings “extremely troubling.”
The Congressional watchdog agency has rated the unemployment insurance system as “high risk” for waste, fraud, and abuse and called on lawmakers and the administration to undertake immediate reforms.
The federal government’s unemployment insurance system—jointly administered by the Department of Labor and a patchwork of state agencies—has long struggled with making improper payments. This problem only got worse during the pandemic, when Congress dumped billions more into an expanded number of unemployment assistance programs.
The GAO found that the improper payment rate jumped from 9 percent in the pre-pandemic fiscal year 2020 to 18.9 percent the next year. That means nearly one in five unemployment insurance dollars went to an ineligible or overpaid beneficiary.
There are multiple reasons for this sharp rise in improper payments.
The GAO reports that some states’ legacy 40- and 50-year-old information technology systems used to administer benefits weren’t up to the task of identifying potential fraud or overpayments. These same systems also struggled to handle totally new benefit programs covering self-employed workers like rideshare drivers, who typically aren’t covered by unemployment insurance.
Federal rules on who was eligible to receive benefits were also “untimely and unclear,” according to the GAO report. Some state officials told the agency they’d already set up programs and started sending money out the door by the time Labor Department guidance came down.
The massive increase in available unemployment funds also increased the rate of improper payments. Federal funding for unemployment benefits jumped from $86.9 billion in fiscal year 2020 to $410 billion in fiscal year 2021.
States often struggled to hire enough people to administer these new benefits. The staff they did hire were often undertrained.
The huge increase in unemployment benefits also became a target for fraudsters. The GAO reports that 146 people have pleaded guilty to federal charges of defrauding unemployment systems. In California, for instance, the state paid an estimated $400 million on fraudulent claims made in the name of state prison inmates.”
“there’s little evidence that DHS has any interest or ability when it comes to admitting and correcting its flaws. Even the people specifically assigned to keep an eye on DHS seem more concerned with shielding the department from consequences for bad behavior than with tempering its malignancy.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general and his top aides directed staff members to remove damaging findings from investigative reports on domestic violence and sexual misconduct by officers in the department’s law enforcement agencies,” Chris Cameron of The New York Times reported earlier this month. Among the information suppressed were descriptions of cash payouts to settle sexual harassment claims without going through formal procedures. “The inspector general, Joseph V. Cuffari, also directed his staff to remove parts of another draft report showing internal investigations had found that dozens of officers working at the agencies had committed domestic violence, but that they had received ‘little to no discipline.'”
The documents were obtained and published by the Project on Government Oversight. Their existence was subsequently acknowledged by Mayorkas in an internal DHS memo. If history is any guide, don’t hold your breath waiting for big reforms. Charles K. Edwards, a former DHS acting inspector general, was charged with stealing proprietary software and confidential databases from the federal government. He pleaded guilty in January of this year.
Don’t harbor too much hope that DHS will improve its respect for people’s rights. A federal agency whose official watchdog hides details of abusive conduct by its employees against their colleagues and family members when it’s not pilfering property can’t be trusted to be diligent about addressing civil liberties violations against the general public. That’s especially true when those violations are seemingly a baked-in part of how the agency justifies its existence. To repeat the Brennan Center’s warning, DHS suffers from “a dangerous combination of broad authorities, weak safeguards, and insufficient oversight,” and it’s not at all obvious how to fix what’s so profoundly broken.”
“Now the West Virginia plaintiffs raise several different legal arguments against the nonexistent Clean Power Plan, several of which could permanently hobble the federal government’s power to regulate if adopted by the Court.
A brief filed by several senior red-state officials, for example, rests heavily on the “major questions” doctrine, a legal doctrine that is currently fashionable among Republican judges but that was also invented entirely by judges and has no basis in any statute or provision of the Constitution.
The major questions doctrine claims that there are fairly strict limits on federal agencies’ power to hand down particularly impactful regulations. As the Court most recently stated in NFIB v. OSHA (2022), “we expect Congress to speak clearly when authorizing an agency to exercise powers of vast economic and political significance.” And several of the plaintiffs in West Virginia argue that the Clean Air Act isn’t sufficiently clear to justify a regulation like the Clean Power Plan.
One problem with this major questions doctrine is that it is vague. The Court has never explained what constitutes a matter of “vast economic and political significance,” or just how “clearly” Congress must “speak” to permit an agency to issue significant regulations. So, in practice, the major questions doctrine largely just functions as a veto power, allowing judges to justify blocking nearly any regulation they do not like. If a judge doesn’t like a particular regulation, they can just claim that it is too big.”
“Other briefs in the West Virginia case suggest that the Clean Power Plan violates the “nondelegation doctrine,” another judge-created doctrine that limits Congress’s power to delegate the power to issue binding regulations to federal agencies. This doctrine is even more vague than the major questions doctrine, and even more capable of being applied selectively to strike down regulations that a particular panel of judges do not like.
As Justice Neil Gorsuch described nondelegation in 2019, a federal law authorizing an agency to regulate must be “‘sufficiently definite and precise to enable Congress, the courts, and the public to ascertain whether Congress’s guidance has been followed.” How “precise” must the law be? That’s up to judges to decide.
Notably because this doctrine outright forbids Congress from delegating certain powers to an agency, a Supreme Court decision that struck down the Clean Power Plan on nondelegation grounds could permanently strip Congress of its power to authorize the EPA to issue major regulations in the future. Indeed, depending on how broadly the Supreme Court worded such a decision, it could impose drastic new limits on every single federal agency.”
“the issues at stake in West Virginia can be summarized fairly concisely. It is a case about a regulation that does not exist, that never took effect, and that would have imposed obligations on the energy industry that it would have met anyway. It also involves two legal doctrines that are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, and that have no basis in any federal statute.
And yet, West Virginia could wind up permanently hobbling the government’s ability to fight climate change.”
“While the specific cases in [this] lawsuit are unfortunate, they point to broader systemic issues in the American immigration apparatus. As Reason’s Eric Boehm reported in September, “one of the major drivers of the immigration system’s mounting caseloads,” which involves “a backlog of nearly 7 million applications and petitions,” comes down to “the government’s own, recently beefed-up immigration bureaucracy.”
The Application for Employment Authorization—the document at the heart of these plaintiffs’ woes and USCIS’s processing issues—”was expanded from one page and 18 questions to seven pages and 61 questions,” writes Boehm. Immigration restrictionists often say that hopeful migrants should come here “the legal way,” but the legal way is becoming more and more difficult to navigate. Immigrants who are already here and employed legally are finding themselves unable to continue working.
Unfortunately, the plaintiffs’ struggle is a reminder that the byzantine legal immigration system doesn’t just harm the migrants tangled in red tape—it also harms the native-born Americans who could benefit from their skills and services in tough times.”