Yes, yes, I know that by the time you read this there will be a far-bigger banner headline story in the news on Indictment Day. But I'm writing this well-ahead of that, so one shouldn't expect up-to-date timing.
Actually, it's as much a companion to a piece I wrote last week about the "Un-Scandal," as anything. That previous article was about how the GOP is trying to make a non-existent scandal out of who funded the completely legal "Trump Dossier" which was basic opposition research. This here today is about yet another "Un-Scandal" -- the GOP trying to make a non-existent scandal over the sale the Canadian company Uranium One and further bizarrely somehow trying to tying it to Hillary (who, as best as I can tell, Republicans apparently believe mistakenly is the President of the United States and want to impeach her).
In addition to both being non-scandals, what the stories additionally have in common is they each want to distract everyone from the Special Counsel's Russia investigation, never recognizing that the only people who matter are the Special Counsel's team who is doing the actual investigating and does not tend to distracted by tweets, let alone news stories.
As for the Uranium One non-scandal, the conspiracy tale and its refutations are convoluted and often hard to follow. But from all I had read before the weekend about the Uranium One deal is that it was a ZERO story. No story, no scandal, no problem, and had all been discredited many months ago. Old and dead news. The more I've since read, however, the even-more pathetic the cries of "scandal" are. The more obvious that there's absolutely nothing to the fevered charges, and it's ludicrous.
I say that because I read a couple of articles over the weekend on the story, and they mentioned two incredibly important facts that I wasn't aware of despite having read quite a bit on it -- which shows how convoluted this all is, since the two new, important facts are probably the easiest of all things to understand. They just fell the convoluted cracks.
The first is that the quality of the uranium sold was actually so low-grade that it can't even be used for nuclear weapons! It only would work in power plants. So, any fear that this fake uranium scandal would result in Russian nuclear bombs (!) and national security that puts us all at risk is absolutely non-existent. No, this uranium is too low-grade for that. Power facilities only
And the second is -- the low-grade uranium can only be sold and used...in the United States!! This isn't a case of America giving up it's valuable uranium to Russia which will use it against it. It not only is staying in the United States, by law it has to stay in the United States. To sell uranium outside the country, a specific license is required, and Russia (which bought the company) doesn't have that necessary Nuclear Regulatory Commission export license. So, they can't export it. Can't. The uranium, which is low-grade to begin with, can only be sold and used here. In the United States.
Other basic issues demonstrate further how this is not even remotely a scandal, but those two top the list. So much so that another fact I discovered over the weekend that admittedly had passed me by would have been a good one itself, but pales in comparison. It's the reality that the United States gets most of our uranium from outside the country. So, this isn't even a story of us giving away our precious resources that have to be protected for national security.
So many of the other refutations are just as meaningful, but far-more convoluted, which is why it's so easy to get lost in the weeds. Like that the board which approved the sale has nine members and Hillary Clinton had an associate sit on it in her place and wasn't even involved and the vote to approve the sale has to be unanimous, nine to zero, and the vote was unanimous. And it then had to be approved by Barack Obama. And that same board today has said that if they had to vote on the very same sale today but under a different administration, they'd still vote for it, again...unanimously. But I'll leave all the convoluted charges and refutations to those who want to dive into such things.
For those such folk who do want to dive in, one excellent, simple-to-follow article is from FactCheck.org, which you can read here. It covers the story well and easily.
But another excellent which you might enjoy even more is in Forbes -- made all the better because of how (intentionally) funny it is. Something you don't expect for a story on uranium, and most especially expect from Forbes...on anything. But it is hilariously dripping in sarcasm. Yes, really, Forbes. Sarcastic. On uranium.
For example, here's a passage from near the top of the article --
"In a 2015 book, Breitbart News editor Peter Schweizer claimed that donations to the Clinton Foundation were behind the Obama administration’s approval of the 2010 sale of a Canadian mining company to a Russian state-controlled firm. The sale gave Russia control of a large swath of American uranium interests.
"And by large, we really mean small."
I must admit, I love that, and love it all the more for it being in Forbes. The article, written by nuclear expert Dr. James Conca, is that kind of snarky, not always in its jokes, but definitely in its bluntness. At heart it's a serious article, to be sure, but because the author is an expert and does take uranium and nuclear production so seriously, he takes foolishness on the subject so scathingly. There is another, very similar passage further down in the piece, for instance. And what I most-like about it is how intentionally ludicrous it is, which is clearly the point when trying to ridicule the charges of scandal being made here. The author writes --
"Obama and Clinton colluding to hand over 20% America’s strategic uranium to the Russians? On cue, Fox News gabber Sean Hannity said this could be 'the biggest scandal' in American history.
"But here's the thing -- by 20%, we really mean almost zero."
(By the way, to clarify what Dr. Conca is referring to her, his point gets back to what I mentioned earlier, that most of our uranium comes from outside the United States, and this sale was insignificant.)
But articles aside, for anyone who wants to have a short, two-minute primer on why this is not just a non-scandal, but a non-story, as well, here is a clip from a recent segment of the show A.M. Joy on MSNBC with host Joy Ann Reid. It's highly worth watching for another reason, however. It's a superb example of a journalist being prepared and questioning her guests for them to support the statements they're making, not just accepting a guest's words as a given.
How nice it would be if this was the standard.
(Incidentally, it's worth noting that what is equally stunning about the clip is how the guest actually lets Reid ask her questions, then answers specifically what was asked, doesn't change the subject, and also doesn't try to talk over the host to divert focus. What a breathtaking concept. As good as Joy Ann Reid is here, and she's exceedingly good, without the guest -- a Hillary Clinton conspiratorialist -- agreeing to play fair, it would have all fallen apart.)
So, all-in-all, this is pretty stunning. And you get a two-minute primer on Uranium One and why it is not even remotely a scandal, to boot!
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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