Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Road Show

Fearless Maria and I are in St. Louis today, looking at colleges. I will be on the road all week, so I imagine blogging will be pretty light this week.

I'm mostly bored with the news anyway; the Dems seem more interested in doing half-assed HUAC imitations than anything useful. Hard to write about that anyway.

The only local story that caught my attention was the announcement that Tina Flint Smith is not running for governor in 2018. I hope the DFL makes the clear choice and nominates Alondra Cano instead.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Xavier 73, Prescott 47

Your Wisconsin State Champions in D3 (middle sized schools). 28-0. You can't do much better than that. First state title for the Hawks in the WIAA; the Hawks won two titles in the old private schools tournament. And the top three scorers from this team are juniors.

It's the gold ball
Really a tremendous season.

RIP, Chuck Berry

The man who created the grammar of rock and roll. He made it to 90. And everything that happened in rock and roll music flows from his influence.

Working a little blue on this one:

And a clear-eyed view of the place that he called home:

A genius, and often a difficult man, but there was no one else like him. RIP.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Xavier 81, Ripon 74

March Madness, Wisconsin style. My beloved Hawks are in the state championship game for the third consecutive year, handing #1 Ripon an 81-74 loss in Madison. The Hawks like the 3-ball and in this picture, Henry Egan lets fly as his teammates watch:

Let it fly, young fella
The Hawks look to take the gold basketball on Saturday against Prescott.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sand in the gears again

There are over 3,000 federal judges. A motivated group can usually find one who will be amenable to issuing a favorable ruling. Groups that oppose President Trump are always motivated. And here we are:
A federal judge in Maryland Thursday morning temporarily blocked the 90-day ban on immigration for citizens of six countries in President Donald Trump's executive order, dealing another blow to the President's revised travel ban.

Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order nationwide over the ban, hours before it was set to go into effect.

In a 43-page ruling, US District Court Judge Derrick Watson, who presides in Hawaii, concluded in no uncertain terms that the new executive order failed to pass legal muster at this stage and the state had established "a strong likelihood of success" on their claims of religious discrimination.
This is the same game we saw in Wisconsin earlier in the decade, where district court judges in Dane County took turns attempting to thwart the agenda of Scott Walker. It's an elaborate dance and eventually the matter will have to go to the Supreme Court. Writing for Powerline, John Hinderaker is aghast:
What we are seeing here is a coup: a coup by the New Class; by the Democratic Party; by far leftists embedded in the bureaucracy and the federal judiciary. Our duly elected president has issued an order that is plainly within his constitutional powers, and leftists have conspired to abuse legal processes to block it. They are doing so in order to serve the interests of the Democratic Party and the far-left movement. This is the most fundamental challenge to democracy in our lifetimes.
I don't know if we can call it a coup, but it's clearly a problem for Trump. I'm uneasy about executive power generally, but Hinderaker is right on the main point. The lesson for Trump should be simple -- there's really no point in compromising with the Left. You can't make a deal with people who will do anything to keep their position. Trump is capable of learning. Let 's see what he learns this time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rachel, Rachel, I've Been Thinking

Thinking you've been had:
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow spent hours touting a massive scoop: She — or more accurately, veteran investigative reporter David Cay Johnston — had gotten her hands on President Trump's 2005 federal tax return.

That return, the political universe speculated, might hold the key to unlocking the single biggest mystery surrounding Trump: His financial affairs. After all, this is a president who broke with decades of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns — any of them — during the 2016 campaign, insisting that he was under audit.

The return wasn't the key. Not even close.
That's the opinion of Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post. And he's right. It's not close. More Cillizza:
Trump has repeatedly said that he did everything he could to pay as little tax as possible — a position, he insisted, that not only made him smart but also one that lots and lots of voters seemed to agree with. “I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible,” Trump told ABC in May 2016.

And because of Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, there has long been speculation that he may not have paid any taxes from the mid-1990s — when we know he reported more than $900 million in losses on his tax returns — until the mid-2000s. (For much more on that, check this out.)

The 2005 tax return shows that the latter supposition is simply not true. Trump paid $38 million in taxes, not $0. And the return also suggests that Trump, as he said, did what he could to lower his tax burden. He paid an effective tax rate of 25 percent, far below the top tax bracket — 35 percent — for individuals at that time.

In short: We didn't learn anything we don't already know about Trump. Yes, he is very wealthy. Yes, he — like virtually all very wealthy people — looks for holes in the tax code to lower his overall taxable income. (Sidebar: As a non-wealthy person, I do the same thing.)
Almost no one pays the top rate, of course. Everyone takes as many deductions as possible. Anyone with Trump's wherewithal has a battalion of accountants at the ready. So by hyping an available document, Maddow actually calls in an airstrike on her own position.

Our pal Gino cuts to the chase, in his own inimitable style:
Part of [Trump's] success throughout this righteous crusade has been his ability to troll the press/opposition (same thing).

He's good at it.

The more unhinged and dishonest the journalism community appears, the better it is for Trump.

Obama was a good troll, too. He enjoyed setting off the whack jobs of the Right. It was easy to do, and provided him the brush to paint all of his opposition in the same vein.

Trump has taken it to a higher level.

Alex Jones (who nobody takes seriously to but the Left), has been replaced in this role by respected, mainstream reporters/journalists/shills (same thing)... and once again, they shat their shorts.
I've not spent a lot of time watching Maddow's show, for the same reason I don't hit myself in the head with a ball peen hammer, so my sample size is limited. Based on what I have seen, she is a textbook example of a person who is  intelligent in form but not in fact. If you don't have a story, you ought not run with a story. She did, anyway, and she ends up looking like an upmarket Geraldo Rivera. Perhaps there is another Trump tax return with more aroma, but his returns from 2005 indicate nothing untoward at all. And the term Gino uses, unhinged, seems more apt by the day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Head down and mouth shut

We're starting another round of college visits, this time for my daughter. We were at St. Olaf yesterday for an event. The St. Olaf campus was positively glistening under the coat of cosmetic snow that had fallen overnight. The campus itself is a remarkable setting, high on a hilltop overlooking Northfield, with tremendous views of the town and the surrounding farmland. The presentations we attended showcased intelligent, well-spoken people saying intelligent things. The student who led our tour was especially impressive. It was an exciting day.

Yet it appears St. Olaf has the same issue that seems so prevalent on college campuses -- tolerance in form, but not in fact:
“My parents, before I came, said ‘keep your head down and don’t talk about politics,’” Josh Larson ’20 said about his first year at St. Olaf as a conservative student. He’s taken his parents’ advice to heart, and so have many of his conservative peers. Of the 12 students interviewed by the Manitou Messenger, several have been violently threatened because of their political beliefs, and almost all of them feel as though they can’t speak up about politics on campus – in class, online or with their friends.
So begins the story, from the Manitou Messenger, the St. Olaf student newspaper. And there's more:
The 2016 general election and following inauguration brought politics to the forefront of student conversations. The St. Olaf College Republicans never endorsed Trump – the club’s window display explaining its position was torn down three times last spring – but club president Emily Schaller ’17 received pushback from both pro-Trump and anti-Trump groups. A Gustavus student on the board for Minnesota College Republicans pressured the group to canvass and phone bank for Trump throughout last summer and into fall. In late September, Schaller filed a no-contact order against the student.

Many conservative students felt that the campus became more hostile during election season, and some students received violent threats. On the night of the election, a student in the Pause threatened to beat up Schaller, calling her a “f***ing moron.” Over the next couple of days, she overheard multiple students threaten to hurt the next conservative or Republican they saw. Vice President of St. Olaf College Republicans Kathryn Hinderaker ’19 had a similar experience.

“I think one of the hardest things was, the second day, I went into Buntrock and someone yelled from the bottom, ‘if you voted for Trump, you better be f***ing scared.’ Everyone clapped and applauded,” Hinderaker said. “Obviously, it didn’t feel super safe.” 
If the Hinderaker name seems familiar, it is because she is the daughter of John Hinderaker, the well known Powerline blogger who now helms the Center of the American Experiment. But what is most chilling -- once you are identified, you stay identified. Back to the Messenger article, detailing the experience of a student named Katie Ivance:
“People were saying [things] like ‘F-you’ and ‘I wish you were dead,’” she said. Ivance isn’t the only one who has faced harassment online due to political beliefs. On Feb. 18, a student posted an unsolicited photo of a group of students that supposedly included Trump supporters and encouraged fellow students to “remember their faces.”

Ivance transferred to the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities after the fall semester, citing harassment as her primary reason for transferring.

“I didn’t want to keep myself in that situation,” she said. “I didn’t know how long it would last.”
The personal is political, we are told. Apparently so. We will be visiting more campuses as the year goes on. I would not be surprised if the situation is similar elsewhere.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Events are in the saddle

Very, very busy time right now. No time for blogging today. But there's always time for an open thread. So have at it!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Fake news

When is a non-story a story? When you put enough helium in it to participate in the Macy's Parade. And we had that this morning in the Star Tribune:
Andrew Luger, who as U.S. attorney prosecuted the nation's largest terrorism recruitment case and helped solve the 27-year-old mystery of Jacob Wetterling's disappearance, was one of 46 remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama asked to resign Friday.
Standard operating procedure. When Barack Obama came into office, he ashcanned the sitting U.S. attorney, Frank Magill. Everyone expected it and barely a word was said about it. Then-President Obama named Todd Jones to the position. Luger then replaced Jones in 2014. All standard operating procedure. In every instance, the changes were President Obama's call and he made it.

Apparently the same prerogatives no long apply:
The request shocked many in the Minnesota legal community. A law enforcement official said state and federal authorities had lobbied for Luger to keep his position. Luger spent Thursday evening at a community meeting on countering extremism and was to provide an update next week at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center on hate crime investigations.
Shocked in this sense, I imagine:

Let's call this what it is -- fake news. I don't have any brief against Luger, who actually kept his grandstanding to a low roar, which is unusual for a U.S. attorney. While he's a lefty, he's not as partisan as his patrons:
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she will campaign for Luger to be renominated and has already spoken to Sessions and his deputy attorney general about Luger's work. "His professionalism is so much bigger than any partisan decision," she said.
Klobuchar always covers her sharp elbows in marshmallow fluff. I have no reason to believe Andy Luger is any more a repository of professionalism than Frank Magill was, but Klobuchar had nothing to say about Magill losing his job. And, of course, we heard from the man who loves Jeff Sessions most of all:
U.S. Sen. Al Franken called Luger "a dedicated public servant who has served the people of Minnesota with distinction" and also vowed to "strongly urge the new administration to renominate him to this post."
High minded, no? And complete nonsense. This isn't about Luger at all. It's about the right of a president to staff his team with his own people. Elections have consequences.

Friday, March 10, 2017

That's Great. Now Prove It

Students and professors at Middlebury College were ashamed and embarrassed after an explosive protest Thursday night that has forced the school to reconsider what it means to embrace free speech.

The normally peaceful campus of Middlebury College, with its mountain backdrop and elite reputation, was shaken last week after violent student protesters shut down a talk by controversial conservative social scientist Charles Murray and injured a Middlebury professor who was with him.

Many on campus, including the college president and leaders of the student organization who invited him, disagree vehemently with Murray’s views on social welfare programs and race, but on Saturday they said the campus failed in its duty to exemplify how to debate unpopular ideas with civility.
Depending on the criteria, Middlebury usually pops up in the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country in most of the ubiquitous surveys of college rankings and reputations. Having a reputation for being a mountain redoubt of close-minded leftist thuggery doesn't help the ol' U.S. News score, though. And in response, two professors at Middlebury have released a "Statement of Principle" that ran in the Wall Street Journal. Given the paywall issues with WSJ, I cannot guarantee this link will work, but the entire statement is here. Meanwhile, the nut of the message:
The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.

The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.

Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.

Students have the right to challenge and even to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.

A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.

No group of professors or students has the right to act as final arbiter of the opinions that students may entertain.

No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.

The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.

The purpose of education is not the promotion of any particular political or social agenda.

The primary purpose of higher education is the cultivation of the mind, thus allowing for intelligence to do the hard work of assimilating and sorting information and drawing rational conclusions.
This is 100% spot-on. So do you believe it actually has any meaning on the Middlebury campus? Or would it have any meaning on the campuses of other similar colleges? It's often difficult to believe there's any commitment to free speech in academe. This database, compiled by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, details the state of play quite clearly.

Middlebury has a chance to prove their commitment to principle is more than a public relations move -- they should invite Murray back to campus and let him make the presentation he planned to deliver on March 2. Better yet, they ought to invite him to speak at their commencement. It might be the only time most Middlebury students actually get an incongruent message in their four years at the institution.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Getting busy

We're about to enter an incredibly busy stretch around here. I'll be going to Galesburg on the weekend to retrieve the Benster for spring break, and then the following week we'll be headed out with Fearless Maria on college visits. We'll have a lot of windshield time.

The college visits are important, yet at the same time I'm not sure how to feel about it. Higher education has been problematic for a long time and things are not getting better. I'm a believer in the value of a liberal arts education, but these days many places that specialize in the liberal arts are rather illiberal in their approach to the world. By most measures, Middlebury College is one of the better small liberal arts colleges in the country. It sure didn't look that way when an amalgam of students, faculty and others started a riot and ran Charles Murray off their campus, not allowing him to speak. Fearless Maria is a brilliant student and will have some excellent options, at least on paper. Will the paper she receives at the end of this process have any value? Place your bets.