Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ahem

In re Colin Kapernick:

  • If he doesn't want to stand for the national anthem, that's fine. It's a free country.
  • While it's difficult to suss out exactly what he's trying to say, he's not entirely wrong about police being, at times, too violent.
  • Having said that, I suspect he's more concerned about these things now because he sees his career slipping away and being a jock SJW would be a good gig.
  • Maybe we could get him and Tim Tebow out on a new-fangled muscular Chautauqua circuit, since neither of them are likely to play much football anytime soon.

The worst day of the year, 26th anniversary edition

I've told this story before, but I hope you'll indulge me.

August 30, 1990, was a beautiful late summer day, sunny and a bit hot, but comfortable enough. My father had been transferred to Theda Clark from St. Elizabeth's in Appleton following quadruple bypass surgery. He had a heart attack two weeks prior and was not really getting better even after the surgery. The doctors explained the dilemma: since Dad had not been able to get up and around, he was in danger of suffering from a pulmonary embolism. While drugs were available to break the clots, they might jeopardize healing from the surgery he'd recently undertaken. Dad was caught between Scylla and Charybdis, as the Police once sang.

We were now there, all six of us. I, the eldest, newly engaged, had been the last to arrive. Two of the siblings were still in high school. And we waited. The doctors and nurses would come and go, bringing periodic reports, decidedly non-committal in tone. My dad's best friend, himself a doctor, came by and told us that he didn't like what he'd seen. The longer we waited, the better it might be, but a pulmonary embolism is a serious problem and it could happen at any time.

As night fell, we left the hospital to get something to eat. We headed to the Appleton outpost of George Webb, the legendary greasy spoon that was a Wisconsin tradition, with locations seemingly on every street corner in Milwaukee. We tucked into massive plates of grease and tried to forget, if only for a moment. With visiting hours over, we headed home, hopeful that the silence was golden and that maybe, just maybe, things would turn out. One of my brothers returned to his home in Milwaukee, hoping that maybe he'd not need to return that night.

Around 10:20, the phone rang at our house. I picked up the call. The nurse said that Dad wasn't doing too well and that we should come back to the hospital. "We're on the way," I replied, without inflection. We piled into a few cars and headed back to Theda Clark. Once we got there, the news was grim. A clot had formed and had traveled to Dad's lungs - a pulmonary embolism. The only hope was surgery, and the odds weren't good. Could someone give us permission to perform it? My stepmother said, yes, yes, please perform the surgery.

We headed for the chapel and prayed. Meanwhile, my brother sped back from Milwaukee, hoping to arrive in time to provide his support and prayers. But the odds were against us and eventually the news was bad. At 11:50 p.m., Dad was gone.

So many things have happened since that day, 26 long years ago. I married my fiancee the next year and we've had a wonderful marriage that has produced two beautiful children. My siblings have long since entered adulthood and two of them are now parents as well. We've had tremendous fun and more than a few heartaches since that day. We lost our stepmother 8 years later and our mother two years after that, both victims of their 40+ year addictions to cigarettes. Those days were horribly sad, too, but likely inevitable.

The sense I've always had was that Dad wasn't ready to go. On his deathbed, he was gripping the railings, as if fighting to keep himself from leaving. He knew, I'm guessing, that he was leaving way too soon, and he fought like hell to stay, even if Heaven beckoned. I can only hope that they have wonderful windows in Heaven, because I'd want him to know how wonderful his grandchildren are, that the young lady he admired has turned out to be a fantastic wife, mother and daughter-in-law, and that his boy is proud to be his son. Twenty-six years on, even as I shed a tear or two, I trust he does know these things.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lightning Round -- 082916

Things keep rolling:

  • Not much new to report on the slam dunk ruling against the City of New Brighton. The only things I've heard are second- or third-hand reports and I'm not comfortable with saying anything more until I know more. My sense is the folks responsible for the debacle have to go through their own Kubler-Ross process. I will continue to watch events, however.
  • An alert reader pointed me to this story involving the city council of Lake Elmo. In this case, a city council member was censured twice for calling public attention to an $11 million shortfall, because in doing so he brought a spotlight on the performance of the city finance director. The situation in Lake Elmo is, if anything, even more dire than what's been happening here in New Brighton. It may not mean anything, but the reader noticed something interesting that relates to the New Brighton matter -- the city attorney of  Lake Elmo and the new city attorney of New Brighton are both the same individual, Sarah Sonsalla. As I said, it may not mean anything, but it's an odd coincidence.
  • On the national scene, not much seems to change. Every day brings new evidence of corruption from the Clintons, but it doesn't seem to matter very much to the electorate, or at least those who are being polled. It's no surprise that local governments assume they can get away with anything they desire -- if corruption isn't an issue on the national level, how worked up are you allowed to be on what happens locally?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The New Brighton Kangaroo Court Meets a Real Court -- Part Three, The Strib Takes Notice

The Star Tribune takes note of events in New Brighton:
City elections in New Brighton this fall have been called off.

A judge has decided that the city’s decision last year to switch to even-year elections, changing the terms of council members, was invalid under state law.

Ramsey County District Court Judge Lezlie Ott Marek also ruled Thursday that the city’s denial of City Council Member Gina Bauman’s petition challenging the switch — on the grounds that it didn’t follow the law — was wrong. Marek said the petition did follow the law.
That's the only reasonable conclusion. But the mayor doesn't seem to get it:
Mayor Valerie Johnson said she was “disappointed in the ruling, but I have to say that I believe the city did everything properly.”
How do we put this politely? That's delusional. Strib reporter David Peterson outlines the sequence of events nicely:
The dispute stems from the City Council’s decision on Nov. 10, 2015 — a week after the last election — to switch from odd- to even-year voting, lengthen the mayor’s term by a year and reduce the terms of other council members by a year.

Bauman dissented, saying the council didn’t have the right to overrule voters on terms of office and that the question should have been put to the people.

In May, Bauman formally petitioned for a referendum. The city denied it, saying she hadn’t followed required technicalities. The judge this week disagreed, saying that she had “complied with all of the requirements.”
And let's not forget how the city council chose to handle Bauman's concerns about the change:
A dispute on the issue led last spring to Bauman’s censure by the council and the resignation of City Attorney Troy Gilchrist, whom Bauman had consulted about the petition.
Let's review what happened. The city council made a change in elections that was invalid under state law. And when they were challenged on it, they censured the council member who was challenging the rule. They subsequently denied a petition seeking redress. And when the matter was brought to the district court, the city government got slapped down, big time and the ordinance was thrown out entirely.  But Mayor Johnson thinks the city did everything properly. Perhaps delusional isn't a strong enough term.

There's more at the link. It's worth your time.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The New Brighton Kangaroo Court Meets a Real Court -- Part Two

Part one of this series is here.

We pick up the story of the New Brighton City Council's move to change the municipal election cycle, and the tactics they used to change the law. Council member Gina Bauman, who opposed the measure and who had a petition rejected by the others on the council, filed a lawsuit in the Ramsey County District Court, after advising the rest of the council that she and co-petitioner Susan Erickson, a resident of New Brighton, had planned to do so. So what happened in the Ramsey County District Court? The easiest way to see what happened is to look at the order that was entered. It's five pages long and is written in such a way that you do not need any specific legal training to understand the findings of the court. Since the order is a matter of public record, I have taken the liberty of reproducing it below.






You will rarely see an order that is such a slam dunk. While the order speaks for itself, some commentary is in order.

  • I find it astonishing that the New Brighton City Council members who hatched this plan in the first place did not understand the statutes involved. Either they were too lazy to undertake even the most rudimentary search for the relevant statute, or they were too corrupt to care. The statute is clear -- you cannot entertain an election change for 2016 unless you start the process before June 1, 2015. The now-stricken ordinance was passed on November 10, 2015. The ordinance they passed was doomed from the outset.
  • As the findings of fact in the order demonstrate, state statutes are equally clear on the matter of how to handle a petition. By rejecting the petition out of hand and not allowing an opportunity for the petitioners to correct the presumed defects, the council members involved were reckless at best. And one can safely surmise that if the city got legal advice from the new city attorney, they got very bad advice, indeed.
  • Given the recklessness of the city council members who voted for the ordinance, it's outrageous that this same group would censure the one member of the council who raised an objection to an ordinance that was, as a matter of law, dead on arrival. As a practical matter, Bauman is a whistleblower and she was retaliated against for blowing the whistle. The three members of the New Brighton City Council who voted to censure Bauman, along with the current mayor, are the ones who merit censure or some other form of condemnation for their misconduct in office.
  • I am not close enough to the matter to know for sure, but based on what I have heard, it would also be useful to determine what role the city manager played in this particular episode. While the mayor and city council set policy for the city, the manager is responsible for implementation of the policies and has a significant say in how such matters are approached. As a resident of New Brighton, I would have expected the senior member of the city's administrative staff to have considered and addressed the issues at hand, including the potential statutory requirements involved, in such a momentous change. Perhaps he did, but it doesn't seem likely.
Most of all, the whole episode demonstrates our local government officials are not serving us well in New Brighton. Wise leadership is always what we want, but at a minimum we should have competent leadership. I don't believe we have wise or competent leadership in New Brighton.

The New Brighton Kangaroo Court Meets a Real Court -- Part One

You might remember the noxious behavior of the New Brighton city government in recent months, especially concerning they way it dealt with a disagreement among its members. Following is a quick recap:

  • New Brighton held municipal elections in November, 2015, as per usual. In that election, the sitting mayor, Dave Jacobsen, was defeated in a three-way contest by a newcomer, Val Johnson. Two city council members, Mary Burg and Paul Jacobsen (no relation to the outgoing mayor), were reelected to office. Two other city council members, Gina Bauman and Brian Strub, were not up for election.
  • Under the city laws in place at the time, Johnson earned a two-year term as mayor, while Burg and Paul Jacobsen earned four year terms. Bauman and Strub, who were elected in 2013, would continue in position until 2017.
  • Bauman, who had unsuccessfully run for mayor in 2015, has generally disagreed with her fellow council members over policy approaches. She has generally supported keeping taxes low and municipal spending to a minimum. The other members of the council like to spend money.
  • At the regularly scheduled city council meeting in November, council member Strub introduced a new ordinance that would change the election cycle from the odd-number year cycle it has been on to an even-numbered year cycle, to coincide with state and national elections. The effective import of the change was to shorten the four year terms of Bauman and Strub to three years, and to extend the term of incoming mayor Johnson's term to three years, meaning elections that would have taken place in 2017 would now take place in 2016. The ordinance, which had received no public notice before Strub introduced it, was passed 3-2, with Bauman and outgoing mayor Dave Jacobsen in opposition.
Fast forward to April. Bauman, who continued to oppose the change, asked the city attorney of New Brighton to research whether a petition could be brought forth to put the election change to a referendum. The other members of the council, working in concert with City Manager, Dean Lotter, voted to censure Bauman for her impertinence in questioning their wisdom. They then went even further, removing Bauman from the local government commissions she served on as part of her city council duties. They also forced the city attorney to resign for taking Bauman's call.

Bauman, undeterred, then subsequently submitted the petition to the council at their May meeting, which the rest of the council summarily rejected, claiming it did not conform to state statute. More importantly, they did not allow Bauman to correct the error they claimed the petition had, thus killing the petition. The municipal government then went on its merry way and began work on putting the election for Bauman and Strub's seats on the ballot for this year.

The issue went to court and a Ramsey County judge ruled on the matter this week. We'll discuss what happened in greater detail tomorrow, but let's just say this -- it didn't go well for the City Council.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nothing to see here, move along

I've been told that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats hate money in politics. I'm thinking it's more love/hate:
If there were a moment in this presidential race when Hillary Clinton could act on her stated outrage over the obscene amount of money in politics, it is probably now, having eclipsed her rival Donald Trump in terms of cash in the bank and blocked off his most direct paths to victory.

But Clinton isn’t tapping the brakes. She is instead on an extended tour through the nation’s elite enclaves — from Laguna Beach to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard to Magic Johnson’s house in Los Angeles – in an unrestrained fundraising blitz that makes even some supporters chafe.

The price of entry at several of the stops, such as Monday’s dinner at the Beverly Hills home of entertainment mogul Haim Saban, is $50,000 per person. On the Vineyard on Saturday, Clinton netted roughly $2 million at a single cocktail party, then darted off to a small dinner event at a billionaire’s home that generated another $1 million.
The linked article from the Los Angeles Times tells you a lot, including the hypocrisy involved:
Over-the-top fundraising can also make for poor optics as the Democratic nominee struggles to overcome voter anxiety about her trustworthiness and decades of donor controversies involving the Clintons, from the selling of overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom during her husband’s administration to six-figure payments for secretive speaking engagements with Wall Street investment firms.

Sixty percent of voters in a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month said they do not see her as honest. The immense cash infusions are now coming to a candidate who regularly says some variation of what she did at a community college round table in Iowa recently: “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all.” 
Not until the Clintons have all of it, though. Meanwhile, don't you worry your pretty little heads about anything. All that money the Clintons are sloshing around in, it's none of your concern, citizen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Good news for Roseville, St. Louis Park, Richfield. . .

We will soon find out whether Minneapolis values its businesses:
A Hennepin County judge on Monday overruled the Minneapolis City Council's decision to block a $15 minimum wage charter amendment, ordering that the issue be placed on the November ballot.

Judge Susan Robiner issued her decision more than a week after she heard arguments from advocates who gathered enough signatures to send the issue to voters. The City Council, following the legal opinion of City Attorney Susan Segal, previously had voted to prevent the proposal from reaching the ballot. A majority of council members said they believed the issue was not a proper subject for a charter amendment, the only type of action allowed to be put to a direct vote.
And the folks who think they'll be getting rich are mobilized:
Barring a higher court reversal, the judge's decision means supporters of the higher wage, including the groups 15 Now Minnesota, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, will have just over two months to convince voters that Minneapolis' minimum wage should be among the highest in the nation. Only a handful of other cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, have approved a $15 minimum wage.

Advocates said Monday that they are optimistic. They pointed to poll results they released last week that showed 68 percent of 400 voters surveyed said they'd vote in favor of a $15 minimum wage.
As the economists say, there's no such thing as a free lucha. We'll find out soon if the citizenry figures it out, or whether they get the H. L. Mencken treatment.

Toll booth

The expressway to Hillary Clinton has a toll booth:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.
The linked report from the Associated Press contains some excellent reporting, although it goes out of its way to make it sound as though nothing untoward is happening. An example:
In another case, Clinton was host at a September 2009 breakfast meeting at the New York Stock Exchange that listed Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman as one of the attendees. Schwarzman's firm is a major Clinton Foundation donor, but he personally donates heavily to GOP candidates and causes. One day after the breakfast, according to Clinton emails, the State Department was working on a visa issue at Schwarzman's request. In December that same year, Schwarzman's wife, Christine, sat at Clinton's table during the Kennedy Center Honors. Clinton also introduced Schwarzman, then chairman of the Kennedy Center, before he spoke.

Blackstone donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Eight Blackstone executives also gave between $375,000 and $800,000 to the foundation. And Blackstone's charitable arm has pledged millions of dollars in commitments to three Clinton Global aid projects ranging from the U.S. to the Mideast. Blackstone officials did not make Schwarzman available for comment.
Schwarzman is a major donor to Republicans, but he pays to play and Blackstone is a major player, much to the chagrin of many of Hillary's pals on the Left. And his top deputy at Blackstone, Hamilton James, is a big donor to Democrats. At the level these guys operate, you have to pay to play, and they do.

And then there's this guy:
[. . .] Claudio Osorio. He’s a Clinton Foundation donor who leveraged his “generosity” to get $10 million from the government with help from the Clinton State Department. Osorio is now serving a 12-year prison sentence after scamming the government out of millions and cheating his investsors.
Osorio was supposed to be building houses in Haiti. Didn't happen. Why did he get hep from State?
Why might Hillary Clinton be willing to steer resources to this crook’s project? For one thing, Osorio had hosted a fundraiser for Hillary at his Star Island mansion.

For another, Osorio was a Clinton Foundation donor, contributing between $10,000 and $50,000 to the organization, according to Goodman. In addition, he had hired Clinton’s 2008 finance director Jonathan Mantz to lobby OPIC for the loan request.

Less than 24 hours after Tabernacki, the OPIC official, wrote her memo citing Osorio’s Clinton connections, OPIC approved a $10 million loan. It approved the loan just two weeks after the company proposed the project. Officials told Goodman that the process usually takes months or years.

But not when you have friends in very high places.
With 15,000 more emails to catalog, we'll learn more. A lot more. Whether we'll learn it before November 8 is the question.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Puzzling

Our government doesn't pay ransom, we are told. If that is true, why would the government be issuing this warning?
The State Department issued a warning on Monday urging U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Iran, which has made the detention of Americans a priority.

The latest travel advisory, which emphasizes Iran’s desire to capture U.S. citizens, comes on the heels of a growing scandal over the Obama administration’s decision to pay Iran $400 million in cash on the same day that it freed several U.S. hostages.
No, that can't be right. We don't pay ransom, remember?
The payment has been cast by lawmakers and others as a ransom payment and prompted concern among U.S. officials that Iran is making arresting Americans a priority.

The travel warning is meant to “highlight the risk of arrest and detention of U.S. citizens, particularly dual national Iranian-Americans,” according to a State Department announcement on Monday. “Foreigners, in particular dual nationals of Iran and Western countries including the United States, continue to be detained or prevented from leaving Iran.”

“U.S. citizens traveling to Iran should very carefully weigh the risks of travel and consider postponing their travel,” the warning adds. “U.S. citizens residing in Iran should closely follow media reports, monitor local conditions, and evaluate the risks of remaining in the country.”
Why would there be any risk? We don't pay ransom.
The Obama administration expressed particular concern about commercial airlines doing business with Iran. This warning comes as American companies such as Boeing continue to pursue million-dollar business deals with the Islamic Republic.

“The U.S. government is concerned about the risks to civil aircraft operating into, out of, within, or over Iran due to hazards from military activity associated with the conflicts in Iraq and Syria,” the warning states. “The FAA has advised U.S. civil aviation to exercise caution when flying into, out of, within, or over the airspace over Iran.”

The warning emphasizes that “the U.S. government’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Iran in the event of an emergency is extremely limited.”
It's not surprising. You try to get a pallet o' euros going some time.

Email is forever

A judge ordered the U.S. State Department on Monday to review for possible release 14,900 of Hillary Clinton's emails and attachments that the FBI found when investigating her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

The judge also scheduled a Sept. 23 hearing on when to release the emails, a deadline that raises the possibility some will become public before the Nov. 8 presidential election between Democrat Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump.
It's going to come out one way or another.
Questions about her email practices as secretary of state have dogged Clinton's White House run and triggered a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe that found she was "extremely careless" with sensitive information by using a private server but recommended against bringing charges.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters it was still reviewing the 14,900 documents and it was unclear how many were personal or work-related. He also said it was unclear how many may duplicate those already released but that there were "likely to be quite a few" not previously disclosed.
Well now. I don't doubt there will be "quite a few" emails and that quite a lot of them will be embarrassing. The question will be whether there's a smoking gun. It doesn't really matter how the bureaucratic turf war between State and Justice is resolved, because it's the other actors on the stage, who aren't part of the government, who will decide what we know and when we know it.

Meanwhile, what we know is embarrassing enough:
When Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested a meeting with Clinton, he was forced to go through the Clinton Foundation for an appointment. Abedin advised Band that when she went through “normal channels” at State, Clinton declined to meet. After Band intervened, however, the meeting was set up within 48 hours. According to the Clinton Foundation website, in 2005, Salman committed to establishing the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program for the Clinton Global Initiative. And by 2010, it had contributed $32 million to CGI. The Kingdom of Bahrain reportedly gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. And Bahrain Petroleum also gave an additional $25,000 to $50,000.
That's a lot of palms to grease. But there were others:
Another email exchange between Abedin and Clinton shows a special favor for a top donor: a 15-minute meeting with Clinton, who delayed a plane to accommodate the big contributor.

“Danny abraham called this morning. He is in dc today and tomorrow and asked for 15 min with you. Do u want me to try and fit him in tomorrow?” Abedin wrote in a May 4, 2009, email to Hillary Clinton.

“Will the plane wait if I can’t get there before 7-8?” Clinton asked Abedin.

“Yes of course,” she replied.

Abraham, the Slimfast billionaire, donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.
That's a lot of Slimfast. It's going to be an interesting few months.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hole in the news cycle

It was pretty quiet over the weekend. We rarely see Hillary Clinton these days and other than the Donald's supporters getting attacked in Minneapolis on Friday, not much seemed to happen over the weekend.

August is like that -- the summer is quickly drawing to a conclusion and a lot of people are on vacation, so there's not necessarily a lot of news to report. Based on my social media feed, it appears that a few dozen friends of mine were at the Metallica concert on Saturday at the People's Stadium, but metal's not my thing. We'll check out the acoustics in about six weeks when Fearless Maria and her might Irondale High School Marching Knights compete at the Youth in Music event in the stadium.

So we have a hole to fill. That means an open thread. What's on your mind?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Charm offensive

So The Donald came to town last night. And he got a yuge, classy response:
The New York businessman made his first visit to the state as the Republican presidential candidate for a private nighttime fundraiser at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Dozens of protesters gathered out front ahead of the event and marched around the large building. Later in the ­evening, a smaller contingent grew unruly. Some fundraiser attendees were pushed and jostled, spit on and verbally harassed as they left the ­convention center.
And these protesters were justifiably proud of their behavior:
The demonstrators who harassed donors were not present earlier on, when the protest was peaceful. Many in the later group hid their faces behind scarves.
When you hide your face, that's always a sign that your side is correct.

You are under no obligation to like Donald Trump, or to believe he should be the next president. I agree with that sentiment. At the same time, I harbor no illusions concerning many people who "protest" Trump. It's going to get uglier and uglier, especially now that Trump finally seems to be pivoting to a more traditional approach to campaigning.

And example -- before Trump came to Minneapolis last night, he was in Louisiana handing out toys and supplies  to victims of the massive flooding that's been going on down there. You can question whether such moves are strictly p.r. or something else, but given the beating George W. Bush took 11 years ago for his response to Katrina, and his successor's complete lack of interest in interrupting his vacation, it was a good move.

If I were to bet, I would assume Hillary Clinton is going to win this election. It's going to get closer, however, and if Trump starts to gain momentum, we're going to see some horrible things before November.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A mirror in the HuffPo

Does this sound familiar?
Although many African-Americans have made incredible strides in educational attainment we are still lagging behind in key indicators of success such as net worth, poverty rates, high incarceration rates and, as such, have some of the highest unemployment numbers. In addition we seem to be victims of a disproportionate amount violence. All of these issues are some of the most serious problems we face as a people and our culture of political correctness and liberalism has not only not solved them, but I believe has made them worse. I know many liberals who do incredible work to make the world around them better, and that’s not who I am talking about. I’m talking about the cocktail party liberals, the elites, who wear the cloak of liberalism to protect themselves from criticism and so they can keep a clear conscious.
That's Nikki Johnson-Huston, writing in the Huffington Post, ground zero for cocktail party liberals everywhere. And she has even more to say:
White liberals posting on Facebook about #blacklivesmatter, white privilege and supremacy are not cleansed of their hypocrisy and elitism because they use the right hash tags. I would urge these same people to get off their iPhones and look around to see the issues they ignore in their own lives. If you’re one of these people, before you cry out in offense, ask yourself where you chose to live and how many of your neighbors, that you know, are people of color. Where do your kids go to school? Who are your friends and colleagues? Who do you see next to you while you’re in your meeting at work? What have you done to change those inequalities? Have you recommended a black friend for a job at your company, or told them about a house for sale in your neighborhood or recommended a talented black child go to your child’s school? Answer these questions honestly and you’ll realize that you might not be who you think you are when it comes to racial issues in this country. Are you are part of the group I’m referring to as smug white liberals and you don’t even know it?
There's more, a whole lot more, at the link. Give it a look.

For the record

Yes, the Obama administration does pay ransom:
The State Department admitted Thursday that the United States handed over $400 million in cash to Iran only after Tehran released four American hostages — two weeks after President Obama insisted the payment was not a “ransom.”

State Department spokesman John Kirby was asked at a press briefing: “In basic English, you’re saying you wouldn’t give them $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?”

“That’s correct,” he replied.
You might recall this, from the Leader of the Free World:


I have been scolded recently for using the term "Leader of the Free World" in a derisive manner. One longtime commenter told me he would no longer read this feature because of my lack of respect for the President of the United States. I would argue the Commander in Chief gets about as much respect in this feature as he deserves.