Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Intermittent Vigilance

We've all talked a fair amount about the predations of Lois Lerner and her efforts to use the apparatus of the State to keep those untidy Tea Party miscreants in line. Not surprisingly, she apparently took a more lenient view of other players in the political arena:
In 2006, the year leading up to Lerner’s email, the national headquarters for the AFL-CIO reported no direct or indirect political expenditures with the IRS on their 990 form, leaving the line 81a blank. That same year, the AFL-CIO reported $29,585,661 in political activities with the Department of Labor.

Also in 2006 the Teamsters Union reported no political expenditures with the IRS while at the same time reporting $7,081,965 with the Labor Department.

Again in 2006, Unite-Here reported no political activity with the IRS and $1,451,002 with the Labor Department.

In 2005, the National Education Association also reported no political expenditures with the IRS while at the same time reporting $24,985,250 with the Labor Department.
The reason for the discrepancy, and why it didn't concern Lerner very much?
Lerner acknowledged in the 2007 email, “The definition of political campaign activity required to be reported on Form LM2 coincides with the definition of political campaign activity expenditures required to be reported on Form 990.”

But she did offer some possible reasons for the discrepancies. “The Form LM-2 does not separate this reporting from the reporting of lobbying expenditures,” she wrote. “Furthermore, even if section 501(c)(5) labor organizations were required to report their lobbying expenditures, the amount required to be reported on Form LM-2 includes activity, such as attempting to influence regulations, that is not required to be reported as lobbying, as the IRS limitations apply to legislative lobbying.”

Lerner conceded, “Having said that, we did see some instances that raised concerns and we referred that information to our Dallas office to determine whether examination is warranted.” It does not appear any further investigation was conducted.
The Dallas office apparently was less vigilant the Cincinnati office was with the Tea Party folks. Or something. More at the link.

The world someone else wants

Joel Kotkin makes a point that should be obvious, but apparently isn't:
[C]urrent conventional wisdom embraces density, sky-high scrapers, vastly expanded mass transit and ever-smaller apartments. It reflects a desire to create an ideal locale for hipsters and older, sophisticated urban dwellers. It’s city as adult Disneyland or “entertainment machine,” chock-a-block with chic restaurants, shops and festivals.

Overlooked, or even disdained, is what most middle-class residents of the metropolis actually want: home ownership, rapid access to employment throughout the metropolitan area, good schools and “human scale” neighborhoods.

A vast majority of people — roughly 8o percent — prefer a single-family home, whether in the city or surrounding communities. And they may not get “creative” gigs at ad agencies or writers collectives, but look instead for decent-paying opportunities in fields such as construction, manufacturing or logistics. Over the past decade, these jobs have been declining rapidly in “luxury cities” like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
We're trying to build two luxury cities here, as both Minneapolis and St. Paul want to reinvent their downtowns and transform into such places. We're spending billions to do it, too. There's a lot more at the link and it's definitely worth your time.

Friday, August 29, 2014

New Hope, No Hope, Jihad

Shootin' hoops and dying on battlefields half a world a way. New Hope to No Hope. Seriously, what's going on? The Strib reports on a friendship that somehow turned into jihad:
The two high school buddies loved to shoot hoops and crack jokes with their friends. They both converted to Islam in early adulthood. And both were recruited by terror groups to leave the United States and die for jihadist causes.

It wasn't immediately clear how Douglas McAuthur McCain and Troy Kastigar were drawn into radicalism after their initial conversion to the Muslim faith or whether they might have influenced one another along the way. But the two best friends went down similar paths and met the same end.

Both young men attended Robbinsdale Cooper High School in the Minneapolis suburb of New Hope. Kastigar was in the class of 1999, though he left school in February of that year without a diploma, according to school records. McCain went to Robbinsdale from 1997 to 1999, before transferring to nearby Armstrong High School. He did not graduate either.
It doesn't make much sense, really. Most of the kids who go to Cooper come from middle class backgrounds and while the Robbinsdale school district isn't nearly as wealthy as neighboring Wayzata, it's mostly a stable place, hardly the milieu you'd expect to produce jihadis.

Then again, maybe it's precisely the place. I've referenced Eric Hoffer's brilliant book The True Believer many times before and in this instance it's as spot-on as ever. When you see jihadis beheading infidels, you are seeing something that Hoffer explains quite well:
Passionate hatreds can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. These people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.
Radical Islam is, more than anything, a mass movement, promising glory and greater meaning than one can find in a middle-class suburb. If you don't find meaning in your life, the call of jihad might be powerful. You are part of something larger and more glorious than shooting hoops on the playground and joking around. Jihad can give meaning to a life that seems bereft of it. Back to Hoffer:
Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.
It's not particularly surprising that the jihadis find potential converts in places like New Hope, Minnesota. If you have time on your hands but no particular purpose in your life, jihad can fill your days. If you're truly poor, in most instances you don't have time to dwell on your circumstances, because your focus and your energies go to staying alive. Kastigar's mother sums up the motivation well:
Kastigar's mother, Julie, did not come to the door when visited Wednesday by an Associated Press reporter, and she declined to comment on Thursday. In an interview with the New York Daily News, she described both young men as "sort of searching."

"I think both of them had a really strong desire to be needed and (be) of value," the paper quoted her as saying.
We all want to be needed, to be of value. If you don't sense you have value in the community you call home, there will always be those who are happy to enlist you into their cause.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The rot in Rotherham

An awful story in the north of England:
What happened in the town of Rotherham, South Yorkshire is almost beyond belief.  It’s also the most absolute and horrifying failure of the same multiculturalist ideology that holds sway over much of U.S. government.  To put it bluntly, pedophile gangs went on a 16-year rampage that claimed over 1400 victims, and the government strenuously resisted noticing, because most of the perpetrators were Pakistani Muslims, and officials didn’t want to appear insensitive.
Someone should tell Jeff Anderson about this. So why would this happen? Ask an expert:
Disgraced former Labour politician Denis MacShane has admitted that he shied away from investigating allegations of a child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham because he is a 'true Guardian reader' and did not want to 'rock the multi-cultural boat'.

Mr McShane said: 'I think probably [I didn’t do as much as I could]. I think that I should have burrowed into it.

'Perhaps yes, as a true Guardian reader, and liberal leftie, I suppose I didn’t want to raise that too hard.'

He also told the BBC: 'I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multi-cultural community boat if I may put it like that.'
All the news you need to know.

The eternal problem of cause and effect

Mark Dayton is hopping mad that the railroads are shipping so much oil from North Dakota, instead of Minnesota grain and is demanding accountability:
In a letter sent Wednesday to the chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, Dayton said the study explains “the dire circumstances that Minnesota farmers face and the need for increased accountability and clarity from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and the Canadian Pacific (CP) railroads.”

Dayton wants the railroads to provide more information about why they cannot move more agricultural products from state farms and grain elevators to markets. The governor asked that the transportation board discuss the study in a Sept. 11 meeting scheduled in Minnesota. He suggested that BNSF and CP have not adequately explained why they cannot get more grain cars on the state’s tracks.
It's interesting that Alaska doesn't have these problems with the oil that is produced there. Wonder why that is. Oh, wait -- here's a website that explains:
Since pipeline startup in 1977, Alyeska Pipeline - TAPS' operator - has successfully transported more than 16 billion barrels of oil and loaded more than 19,000 tankers at the Valdez Marine Terminal. More than half of the pipeline runs above ground – an engineering decision due to Alaska’s prevalent permafrost terrain. TAPS’ visibility as it crosses Alaska’s remarkable terrain has made it one of the world’s most photographed pipelines.
I hear there's been some talk about building a pipeline that would serve the oil fields in North Dakota. I wonder which political party has been opposing it, don't you?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One of us

Meanwhile, in Syria, comes word of a hometown fellow who has become famous, but perhaps not in the way he intended:
A former Minnesotan who graduated from Robbinsdale Cooper High School was killed in Syria last weekend, the first American to die fighting for the terror group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIL).

Douglas McAuthur McCain’s death is one of the first clues that U.S. officials have as they try to identify the Americans who have joined a group that has vowed to remake the Middle East. And his death is evidence that ISIL is willing to use Americans on the battlefield.
Why is that? As always, the go-to observer is Eric Hoffer, who sums it up quite well:
“For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and the potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking. Experience is a handicap.” 
There are millions in the West who fit this description -- they are not struggling, necessarily, to make ends meet, but they aren't satisfied with their lot in life and are looking for a cause that will make them great. ISIL, or ISIS, or whatever they are calling themselves this week, offers a greater meaning and a mission. And they need cannon fodder. McCain might be the first story we hear, but we'll certainly hear more.

Go figure

Wait a minute -- could it be that the IRS has been, well, a little less than forthcoming about the existence of Lois Lerner's emails? John Hayward examines the evidence:
Make sure you’re comfortably seated before reading the shocking news that the Obama Administration has been lying about the destruction of IRS scandal kingpin Lois Lerner’s emails.  According to a Justice Department attorney, the emails have been captured by a government backup system, but the government just doesn’t feel like digging them up, because it would be “too onerous.” 
But we'd heard from John Koskinen that the emails were gone. Perhaps he'd like to revise and extend his remarks a bit before the House.

Of course, the whole point of the exercise is to extend out the scandal as long as possible so that any revelation can have the moniker "old news." Not everyone is buying, though, including the tenacious Sharyl Attkisson:
Should a special counsel take over the Justice Department probe of lost IRS emails and the targeting of conservative tax-exempt groups?

Attorney General Eric Holder says there’s no need: his Justice Department is conducting a thorough and fair investigation.

But can the Justice Department be impartial in IRS probe of “lost” documents while, at the same time, defending the IRS in civil litigation over the lapse?
That's an outstanding question. Meanwhile, there's more -- back to Hayward:
We’ve also learned from filings in federal court that the IRS destroyed Lois Lerner’s Blackberry after the congressional inquiry had begun, and after the “hard drive crash” story was floated.  Naturally, no effort was made to recover subpoena-sensitive emails from her phone before it went to Blackberry Heaven.
After the inquiry had begun. That's beautiful. Remember when the President of the United States said this?
President Obama in a pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News said that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” behind the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups.

“There were some boneheaded decisions,” he said. “Not even mass corruption. Not even a smidgen of corruption.”
The president was right. Not a smidgen. The correct phrase would be ongoing, systematic corruption.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Vacation

Writing for Politico, Bill Burton expresses regret, sort of, for past misdeeds that he might have committed:
I don’t remember, but I assume that I was one of the many Democrats who gleefully took shots at President George W. Bush for the time he spent at Crawford—and if so I regret it. Presidents are better for having time out of Washington, even better for time away with their families.

Whether you’re a partisan or a cynical reporter who has been making the same critique about presidential vacations for decades, I assume you probably agree that human beings function better when they get a little time away. I wouldn’t want my surgeon to be some woman who hasn’t had a break in 4 years. I wouldn’t want to share the road with a truck driver who hasn’t had enough sleep. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is; you will do your job better if you recharge your batteries. And even though the president is never really on vacation, giving him at least a little downtime is good for all of us.
Three observations:

  • Bill Burton regrets nothing. And he remembers. But he needs to protect his president from those meanies.
  • One reason the press bagged on Bush going to Crawford was that Crawford was boring. Martha's Vineyard in the summer is certainly more appealing than Crawford, Texas. Media members like their creature comforts and a ranch in Texas doesn't provide too many of those.
  • I'd like some evidence that the current president has ever been good at his job. He's outstanding at campaigning, and he seems to groove on the ceremonial, head of state duties of the office, but the governing thing has always been a secondary consideration. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Go to the mirror


Trying to keep focus isn't always easy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bye, bye Love

Finally, Kevin Love is going to be gone, the Star Tribune says:
Cleveland is allowed by NBA rules to trade newly signed No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins on Saturday, when the following will be completed, according to a person with knowledge of the trade: 
•  It will be a three-team deal involving the Wolves, Cleveland and Philadelphia. 
• The Wolves will receive Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, 76ers forward Thaddeus Young and a trade exception believed to be worth at least $4 million that they can use to acquire a player in the next year without being strapped by salary-cap rules 
• The Cavaliers will get Love to team with superstar LeBron James and guard Kyrie Irving. 
• Philadelphia will receive Miami’s 2015 first-round pick that the Cavaliers own as well as the expiring contracts of Wolves players Luc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved. Like 76ers lottery pick Joel Embiid, Mbah a Moute is from Cameroon and has mentored the gifted but injured center chosen third in the June draft. The Sixers expect Mbah a Moute’s presence to ease Embiid’s NBA transition.
So what this likely means is that you'll see the following guys on the floor:

Point guard:  Ricky Rubio
Off guard:  Andrew Wiggins
Small forward:  Anthony Bennett
Power forward:  Thaddeus Young
Center:  Nikola Pekovic
Bench guys:  Zach Lavine, Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, J. J. Barea

On paper, it looks like a good trade. The Wolves never really used Mbah a Moute last year and Shved was buried on the bench, so they won't be missed. With the notable, glaring exception of Pekovic, all the top guys can really run and jump. I don't know how well the Wolves will mesh, but they at least have some guys who might show up on the ESPN highlights.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

100% Correct

Sonny Burch, writing for the Washington Free Beacon, makes a great, great, great point:
In the place of comedy to criticize the powerful, you have comedy to comfort the powerful. You have John Oliver and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert DESTROYING and EVISCERATING straw men, but the DESTRUCTION and the EVISCERATION is kind of beside the point. It’s comedy designed to remind the smart set that it believes the right things, holds the right views, supports the right pols, vouches for the right laws. “Look at how dumb The Other is,” these shows scream. “We are smarter. We are better. We are good.”
Dobie Gray, take it away:

Read the whole thing.

The state Supremes get one right

There is a lot of trouble in the world right now, so it's gratifying to have a victory or two. The Minnesota Supreme Court delivered one yesterday:
In two unanimous rulings, the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday curbed law enforcers’ ability to search and seize personal possessions.

The more significant ruling, written by Justice Christopher Dietzen, extended U.S. constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure to Minnesota civil, not just criminal, matters.

The second ruling determined that police had illegally impounded and searched a properly parked vehicle.
The seizure laws in Minnesota are ridiculous, particularly where forfeiture is concerned. If you have a child who gets popped for a DWI while driving your car, the police could take your car. As the Star Tribune article explains, this creates a hell of an incentive for police to become privateers:
The ACLU of Minnesota had supported Garcia-Mendoza’s argument that the rule should apply in civil cases as a balance to “perverse incentives” for law enforcers when a profit motive is injected into police seizure of private property. It referenced the notorious case of the Metro Gang Strike Force, which repeatedly abused its forfeiture authority and cashed in on the proceeds from 2005 to 2009.
If you've forgotten the Metro Gang Strike Force, this handy timeline serves as a reminder of how this group operated. Local police still use similar tactics, or least they have been. No matter what you think of the events in Ferguson, it's long been clear that police departments often have the wrong incentives in pursuing their job. If the job responsibilities of a constable do not include revenue generation, you're going to see a very different approach toward policing.


Ahem

I am delighted that Mick Tingelhoff is the senior committee nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for 2015. I'm old enough to remember Tingelhoff and he was a great player, the first of a long line of high-quality centers who have played for the Minnesota Vikings, a distinguished group that also includes Kirk Lowdermilk and, more recently, Matt Birk.

It's been a long, significant omission that Tingelhoff is not enshrined at Canton. Having said that, the continuing omission of Jerry Kramer remains an even greater anomaly. Beyond Kramer's unquestioned resume on the field, the books he produced in collaboration with Dick Schaap are a significant part of the history and mythology of the National Football League. For some reason, Kramer continues to be denied. It's long past time to change that. When they gather in Canton a year from now, football fans should all be happy that Tingelhoff is highly likely to be on the stage. But we should also ask why Kramer continues to be on the outside, too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Doing the work, so you don't have to!

My friend Brad Carlson saves me the trouble of dealing with the matter of Lavender Sharpton, a/k/a Warcraft, a/k/a the Sparklepunter. Go read it here.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you
-- Kipling, "If"

You can find the snuff video on the internet if you want. I won't post it. But it's out there. James Foley, a freelance journalist who was captured in 2012, was beheaded by some guy in a black hood, a guy who wanted to send a message.

We've got the message, pal.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire—

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
-- Kipling, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings"

Not much changes, really.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A mug's game

Rick Perry's mugshot:

Come and get me, coppper

Rosemary Lehmberg's mugshot:

The camera loves me
Draw your own conclusions.

They say that Jeff is a bad mother/Shut Your Mouth!/I'm just takin' about Jeff

It didn't take long. It never does. The Alida for a Better Minnesota has declared that Jeff Johnson is Emmanuel Goldstein:
The liberal group Alliance for a Better Minnesota has volleyed its first televised attack at Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson.

The ad, which focuses on Johnson’s spending record, argues that the Hennepin County commissioner is too conservative for the state — a primary theme in ABM’s campaign against him.

“Tea Party Republican Jeff Johnson voted to cut education so he could give millions in tax breaks to corporations,” the ad states. “Johnson’s Tea Party agenda would put Minnesota families at risk.”
Of course, that's misleading. Don't take my word for it, though -- even the "PoliGraph" folks at Minnesota Public Radio wouldn't accept that particular conflation:
The ABM spot focuses on Johnson’s tenure in the Minnesota House from 2001 to 2006. Specifically, the group says Johnson voted for an education bill in 2003 that cut school funding when compared to projected spending in the coming fiscal year. (Johnson’s campaign argues that the bill actually increased funding from the prior biennium.)

ABM links Johnson’s vote on a 2003 education funding bill to a completely unrelated amendment Johnson voted against in 2005.

That amendment would have cut corporate tax loopholes and used the money for property tax relief. Eighty-one legislators, including a handful of Democrats, voted it down.
Emphasis mine, in all cases. PoliGraph's verdict?
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota’s ad is accurate in the sense that it correctly characterizes the positions Johnson took in 2003 and 2005 on an education bill and an amendment to rollback corporate tax breaks.

But the ad misses the mark is by linking the two votes. The ad makes it sound as if Johnson voted for a bill that trimmed education funding to expand or sustain corporate tax breaks.

In fact, the two votes are unrelated. As a result, the ad is misleading.
Misleading is a polite way of saying "crap."

A question that won't get asked

Bill Glahn is quickly becoming one of the most indispensable bloggers around, because he notices things. For example, he saw the following blithe assertions in the Strib:
The Dayton campaign has also gotten an assist from Minnesotans United, the political action committee that grew out of the successful effort to defeat the 2012 gay marriage ban and then pass the 2013 law that made same-sex marriage legal. Minnesotans United assembled one of the most sophisticated grass roots operations the state has seen in years, and has vowed to protect allies like Dayton, who signed the gay marriage bill.

“We encourage our volunteers to volunteer on behalf of the governor,” said Richard Carlbom, the strategist who ran Minnesotans United. The group has shared its lengthy donor list with the DFL.
Emphasis mine. Did you catch that? Glahn did:
So, with whom, exactly was this list shared?  Which list was shared (the ballot fund’s or the much smaller PAC’s list)?  Did the list include the ballot fund’s for-profit corporate donors?  And who, exactly, are included under the term “our volunteers”?

I imagine that the Star Tribune reporters included this detail as evidence of the sophistication of the Dayton campaign:  partnering with a big operation engaged in fighting for a noble cause.

However, in my mind, it raises dozens of questions regarding the coordination between a ballot fund, a nonprofit, a political fund, a candidate fund, and political party units all of whom operate under different rules for disclosure, donors, dollar limits, and donations.
Coordination of this sort is a no-no, particularly if you're a Republican. It would appear that the DFL and its allies can do pretty much what they please, however. Why is that? Well, back to Glahn:
What are the odds these questions will ever be asked, much less answered?
You don't need to consult with Bovada or Zombie Jimmy the Greek to know those odds. More, much more, at the link.