Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby and RFRA

If you want to understand what the Hobby Lobby ruling today is really about, you have to look back at the law that the Roberts Court essentially upheld today, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The upshot of the law is this:
Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
Is requiring a closely held company to pay for abortifacients a "compelling governmental interest?" If so, the case should have been decided the other way. If you're prepared to make that argument, you have to believe that it's well-nigh impossible for the employees of a closely held company to find abortifacients without the government's involvement, and that it's such a compelling interest of the government that it is necessary to compel Hobby Lobby and its fellow plaintiffs to pony up the money.

Now, if you want to get rid of the RFRA, you can certainly ask your congresscritters to do so. I'm guessing Obama would sign a law repealing it. Go for it. See what happens.

From what I can tell, the reaction to this ruling is so over the top that most of the people who are making the arguments actually know it, but they've decided to go full Bork on it. Consider this gem from my Facebook feed:

C'mon, forget yer boss. Al's yer boss


Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, Al? For what it's worth, I think that the other case decided today, Harris v. Quinn, will be significantly more important in the long run. And we'll talk about that anon.

Brand Management

Hmmm.....
President Barack Obama is selecting former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald as his choice to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.

McDonald, 61, is a native of Gary, Ind., who grew up in Chicago. He was at the helm of Proctor and Gamble from July 2009 to July 2013.
It's an interesting choice. P&G specializes in consumer goods, with a particular strength in brand management. It maintains a wide portfolio of consumer brands and does an excellent job of managing the reputation of its brands. If there were ever a brand in need of repair, it's the VA.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Watch the Supremes tomorrow

It could be a big day at the Supreme Court tomorrow. While you saw significant attention to the rulings that came down last week, especially the ruling on recess appointments, the two big ones are due tomorrow. The one that most people are watching is the Hobby Lobby case, which concerns whether companies can object to provisions of Obamacare, especially the birth control mandate, on religious grounds. That's huge, but I'm more interested in the other case, Harris v. Quinn.

Here's how the SCOTUSblog characterizes the case:
Issue: (1) Whether a state may, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, compel personal care providers to accept and financially support a private organization as their exclusive representative to petition the state for greater reimbursements from its Medicaid programs; and (2) whether the lower court erred in holding that the claims of providers in the Home Based Support Services Program are not ripe for judicial review.
You might recall that Gov. Dayton wanted to force independent day care providers to pay dues to unions for their self-imposed agency as negotiators for gubmint fees. That didn't work, but the DFL lege passed a law authorizing a union and Dayton signed it, both last year. All that may go bye-bye tomorrow. What's more interesting is what the larger implications might be for public sector unionism generally. Writing for Mother Jones, Andy Kroll explains why:
In the 2012 case Knox v. SEIU, Alito essentially invited labor's foes to challenge the basic model of public-employee unionism, in which non-union employees can be made to pay dues to a union for bargaining on their behalf, representing them in grievance issues, etc. Harris makes such a challenge; it's what Alito asked for.

Unions like to call those non-member payments "fair share" dues. If it's the union's job, they reason, to represent all members and nonmembers in a unionized workplace, then all those workers should pay their fair share for that representation. Conservatives—and Alito—say fair-share fees violate the First Amendment rights of non-union workers.

The outcome in Harris could cut a number of ways. The Supreme Court could uphold the lower court's decision dismissing the suit—a big union victory. It could strike down fair share fees—the equivalent of Congress passing a national right-to-work bill. (Right-to-work laws ban unions from collecting those fair-share fees from non-members.) Public-employee unions would survive that decision, but it would be a blow. The court could also effectively enact right-to-work nationwide and kneecap a union's ability to exclusively represent employees in a unionized workplace. That would be catastrophic for public-employee unions.
Kroll references Alito because, up to this point, he hasn't written a majority opinion yet in this term. Depending on how thing shake out, if Alito is writing the majority opinion, it won't go well for AFSCME and SEIU, among others. And if you want to know why, consider this evidence from the Wisconsin State Journal (via Ann Althouse):
A 2011 state law that ended most collective bargaining for most state employees went a step further at UW Hospital, where the law known as Act 10 is eliminating union representation for about 5,000 workers.

The first big impact will come Monday, when a contract ends for about 2,000 nurses and therapists represented by the Service Employees International Union chapter SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin.
The State Journal is being deliberately misleading, since Act 10 did not eliminate collective bargaining. Workers remain free to be in a union, but they have to recertify with a vote and it appears that SEIU can't get 51% of the workers to vote in favor of being in the union. What Act 10 did was stop the practice of compelling workers to pay SEIU for their services, even if they weren't members. This is the "fair share" in practice. Since SEIU and AFSCME spend more money on politicking than on collective bargaining, this has been a tough thing for both the unions and the Democratic Party, which receives nearly all union largesse these days.

If I were to guess, you're going to have a majority opinion that stops the practice of compelling day care providers to pay the middleman, but stops short of wiping out the fair share rules. If the Supremes take the extra step, it will completely change the game.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Putting a finger on it

Star Tribune reporter Baird Helgeson is nothing if not loyal, but give him credit for this much -- he finally did get around to mentioning a detail about the stagecraft involved in President Obama's highly scripted sojourn in the Twin Cities: 
Obama came to Minnesota after Twin Cities wife and mother Rebekah Erler wrote to him about the hardships of raising a family coming out of the Great Recession.

Obama ate cheeseburgers with Erler on Thursday and sprinkled anecdotes of her life throughout his visit, including in his speech at Lake Harriet.

“It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to,” she wrote in her letter to the president. “We’re a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

Obama used Erler’s story to make a larger point about the country.

“That describes the American people,” he said. “We, too, are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

Republicans criticized Obama for highlighting Erler’s story, noting that she was a Democratic field organizer in Washington state.
Emphasis mine. Okay, it was paragaph 28 of a 30-paragraph story, but at least Helgeson got around to mentioning it. The point of the presidential visit to our region was to highlight how the Leader of the Free World is listening to the concerns of citizens, which he demonstrated by attending a $10,000 a plate fundraising dinner after he was done noshing with Ms. Erler and sampling the fare at the Grand Ole Creamery, tying up traffic during the rush hour in the process.

Do you really believe that our President is really listening to people? There's ample evidence that he's not listening. I'd have been impressed if he'd come to Minneapolis and spent an hour with someone from the opposing party. Usually, when he's asked to listen to someone who might disagree with him, you get something like this:

The value of nonverbal communication
If you think I'm not being fair, or that the image is ambiguous, try this one:

Let me be clear
Or this one:

In dreams, I walk with you
Or this one:

Okay, maybe he's popping a zit on this one
And the larger message we get from the Obama administration is more like this:

Love means never having to say you're sorry
The Leader of the Free World is under no obligation to listen to an old mossback like me. He's got plenty of people who surround him who are always willing to confirm his worldview and to adore him. And he'll always have Baird Helgeson, and Dana Milbank, and E. J. Dionne, and the various editorial staffs of major American newspapers, who are always willing to extol the One's many virtues. Never mind that the Middle East is ablaze or that the economy is in reverse. Never mind everything else. It's all good. He's listening. He just told you.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A question no one is asking any more

I wrote below about Johnnie Walters, the I.R.S. commissioner who refused to do Nixon's bidding during his corrupt presidency, who passed away yesterday. He wasn't the only Watergate-era figure who died yesterday, though. Howard Baker, the Republican Tennessee senator who was a key figure in the select committee on Watergate, also died yesterday. Baker was a defender of Nixon and his party, but only up to a point. He did ask the question that framed the Watergate story:


Baker asked about Nixon:  "what did the president know, and when did he know it?" At one point, that used to be a legitimate question to ask. Again, I miss those days. RIP, Mr. Baker.

Long time gone

Johnnie Walters died yesterday at the age of 94. Interesting story, actually:
[Richard] Nixon had fired his first I.R.S. commissioner, Randolph W. Thrower, for resisting White House pressure to punish political opponents. Mr. Thrower, who served from 1969 to 1971, died at 100 in March.
This gave Johnnie Walters a chance to head the I.R.S. Soon, Nixon's men came calling:
Mr. Walters had not been told of Nixon’s other job requirements, as revealed in a White House conversation recorded on May 13, 1971. “I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what he’s told, that every income-tax return I want to see I see, that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends,” the president said.

Mr. Walters failed to follow this script — which was unknown to him — when John W. Dean III, the White House counsel, summoned him to his office on Sept. 11, 1972. Mr. Dean handed him the “enemies list” of 200 people, most prominent Democrats, whom he wanted investigated.

“I was shocked,” Mr. Walters said in a 1997 interview with The Washington Post. “John, do you realize what you’re doing?” he remembered saying. “If I did what you asked, it’d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic.”

But Mr. Dean was emphatic, he recalled, saying, “The man I work for doesn’t like somebody to say ‘no.’ ”
Walters wouldn't do it. Instead, he did this:
Mr. Walters gave the list to Laurence N. Woodworth, chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. He wrote in his 2011 book, “Our Journey,” that this was the most important thing he did, “because then we could say with absolute certainty that I.R.S. never began any audit or investigation of any name on that list because of the list.”

Mr. Walters testified to various committees investigating alleged Nixon misdeeds. He left office in April 1973.
In 1973, we had dedicated public servants like Johnnie Walters, who refused to use the power of taxation to wage war on political enemies. I miss those days. RIP, Mr. Walters.

Potemkin all the way down

There's going to be a certain amount of stagecraft involved in any presidency -- certainly that was the reason why Ronald Reagan had Michael Deaver in his employ -- but it's useful to note things that aren't being accurately reported.

The news, both local and national, are filled with the touching human interest story of President Obama's heartfelt meeting with an average citizen, Rebekah Erler of St. Anthony. They met for Jucy Lucys at Matt's Bar in south Minneapolis after Obama met with the struggling working mother who is laboring to pay her mortgage and keep up with the bills, apparently.

A lot of that going around, of course. It would be pretty cool if the president were willing to talk to anyone. He's not, of course. And while you won't read about it in the Pioneer Press or the Star Tribune this morning, the internet is a big ol' place and Reuters has a little nugget that's worth mentioning:
Erler, whose LinkedIn profile shows she was once a field organizer for Democratic Senator Patty Murray, wrote to Obama earlier this year to express her frustrations about the economy.
Somehow, the headline "Obama Comes to Minneapolis to Meet with Democratic Party Operative" doesn't quite have the same effect. Of course, Ms. Erler did a great job of addressing the citizenry when she introduced Obama at the invitation-only "town hall" meeting he had later on. No word on whether Erler was able to participate in the $10,000 a plate fundraiser Obama attended later in the evening. He is a man of the people.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Clarification

The Leader of the Free World is coming to town and he'll be shutting down major roads and parks while he's here, because, well, he's the Leader of the Free World. I do want to correct one item on his agenda, though, as explained by John Croman of KARE:
President Obama will hold a Town Hall Meeting outdoors at Minnehaha Park, home of Minnehaha Falls, on Thursday. It's open to invited guests and news media only.
Uh, John? A town hall meeting isn't an invitation only event, unless your town is a Potemkin village. Of course, when it comes to politics our town(s) fit that description quite nicely.

On the down Lois

Since the dog (presumably Cerberus) supposedly ate all of Lois Lerner's emails involved in the crucial moments of the IRS scandal, it's actually pretty amazing what we're learning about this dedicated civil servant. The House Ways and Means Committee released some correspondence Lerner had that concerns Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is the dictionary definition of crusty. The link is a PDF, but I'll give you a screen shot to illustrate the way our dedicated civil servant thinks.

First, the background -- it appears that Lerner and Grassley were both invited to participate in an event in Washington, but that the invitations were mixed up and that Lerner received Grassley's invitation. The event organizers offered to pay for Grassley's wife to attend the event as well, which seemed to trigger Lerner's Spidey Sense:

Since it's the IRS, it's likely a rectal exam
At this point, her underling has to remind Lerner that for a violation to be investigated, you might actually have to wait for a violation to take place:

Probable cause being he's a #@%! Republican, of course
Which leads to this utterly charming response:

I'm sure Grassley feels the same way
So what are we to make of this? Well, first of all, it's not exactly reassuring that the IRS official who is in charge of enforcing compliance with tax law doesn't seem to understand the law itself. More importantly, it's even more disturbing that she was apparently eager to drop the hammer on Grassley without any evidence that wrongdoing had taken place. Civil servants aren't supposed to act as Lord High Executioner, but Lerner was apparently quite comfortable with that role.

I don't know what the endgame is in this investigation, but one thing seems clear enough -- it's long past time to give the IRS a thorough housecleaning. And it's equally clear that John Koskinen is not the guy to do that job.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Southbound Suarez

From my brother-in-law:

Back story here.

The moment is arriving -- part two

While the media would prefer to ignore the IRS scandal story, it's getting out and people are starting to notice:
The consensus is: it’s no accident. More than three-quarters of voters -- 76 percent -- think the emails missing from the account of Lois Lerner, the ex-IRS official at the center of the scandal over targeting of conservative groups, were deliberately destroyed.

That’s according to a new Fox News poll.

That suspicion is shared across party lines, albeit to varying degrees. An overwhelming 90 percent of Republicans think the emails were intentionally destroyed, as do 74 percent of independents and 63 percent of Democrats.
The question is this -- will we learn anything more in the coming days?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

City of the Big Brother

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.

-- Carl Sandburg, Chicago

That was then, this is now. If a farm boy is hanging out near the streetlamps these days, someone other than Carl Sandburg will know:
The curled metal fixtures set to go up on a handful of Michigan Avenue light poles later this summer may look like delicate pieces of sculpture, but researchers say they'll provide a big step forward in the way Chicago understands itself by observing the city's people and surroundings.

The smooth, perforated sheaths of metal are decorative, but their job is to protect and conceal a system of data-collection sensors that will measure air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation and wind. The sensors will also count people by measuring wireless signals on mobile devices.
Great. The folks collecting the information say it will be used for good, not evil, of course:
City officials don't have firm expectations about what the data may yield but share researchers' desire to push "Chicago as a test bed of urban analytical research," said Brenna Berman, the city's commissioner of information and technology. "Part of why this is so exciting is a lot of the analytics we do is targeted to a specific problem, and this is more general."

Berman said the investment from the city will be minimal: Between $215 and $425 in city electrician wages to install each box and then an estimated $15 a year for electricity to power each box.

Berman's office had a say in picking the initial sensor lineup, and she said the list was limited to "nonpersonal" data because the city is still working on a privacy and security policy to govern the protection and confidentiality of any data that the system may collect in the future. Berman expects she and Emanuel will agree on a final version of the document by the end of July.

"We've been extremely sensitive to the security and the privacy of residents' data," Berman said.

The city will have the last say on what kind of personal data is gathered by the system, "because they're installed on city property," Berman said.

"Nothing else can be deployed without the city's say-so," she said.
Nothing gets deployed in Chicago with the city's say-so.

The moment is arriving

I'm old enough to remember Watergate; my dad had a strong interest in politics and we were faithful watchers of the evening news and maintained a subscription to the local newspaper, so we stayed up on things to the extent one could 40 years ago. The key thing about Watergate was that the news media in this country were following and sharing the developments every day, so Watergate was a constant presence, a drumbeat in the distance that was continually getting louder.

Forty years on, if you want to hear the drums, you need to check with London first:
Republicans dropped a hammer on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a testy hearing covering the disappearance of emails tied to the agency's tea party targeting scandal.

The emails, covering the period January 2009 to April 2011, belonged to embattled former official Lois Lerner and could shed light on whether an expansive scheme to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny was guided by members of Congress or administration officials outside the IRS.

'The committee requested all of Lois Lerner’s emails over a year ago,' said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa. 'And we subpoenaed the emails in August 2013 and again in February 2014. ... You worked to cover up the fact they were missing and only came forward to fess up on a Friday afternoon after you had been caught red-handed.'

'You personally did not cause the targeting,' he told Koskinen, referring to the tea party scandal. 'You personally did not destroy the emails. But by your actions and your deception, you now own this scandal.'
'We have a problem with you,' Issa sniped at the front end of a three-hour, 36-minute ordeal, 'and you have a problem maintaining your credibility.'
That is the reportage from the Daily Mail, the sometimes salacious London newspaper which has been dominating the coverage of the various machinations of this scandal. The Washington Post, which led the way in covering Watergate, is devoting some coverage of the event, but you need to scroll down their website a fair amount before you find anything about it this morning. Here's a screen shot:


Scroll down a bit and you do get there, eventually:


Nothing on what happened last night, yet, but you do get dueling opinion columns, with Michael Gerson decrying the IRS and noted praetorian guard Dana Milbank decrying the investigations of the IRS. Scroll down a bit more, and you finally see this:


The takeaway? The leading watchdog in Washington would prefer not to cover this unpleasantness, which they'll happily leave to the tab with the Page 3 girls. Still, the coverage of the salacious tab is useful, because it does remind us that Congress is going to push this matter and that eventually the courts are going to get involved. The drumbeat might be hard to hear, but it's out there.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

He's a witch! Burn him!

If you think Scott Walker is in trouble, you need to read this quick and tidy summation from Gabriel Malor of the actual facts of the case. The key points:

This is a true story: in 2012, Democratic district attorneys in Wisconsin launched a secret probe known as a John Doe investigation with the goal of proving that conservative groups illegally coordinated activities during Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election. They issued more than 100 subpoenas, demanded the private information of conservatives and conservative groups, and actually conducted secret raids. And under state law, individuals who were targeted or witness to the investigation were forbidden from making knowledge of it public.

Fortunately, judges saw right through this partisan abuse of power. Early this year, a state judge, ruling in a secret proceeding, quashed the subpoenas and all but ended the investigation. According to the judge, “the subpoenas do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws.” This started the unraveling of the John Doe investigation that had many conservatives fearing they would be targeted for subpoenas and raids next.

In February, a conservative activist and group filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the partisan district attorneys who had pursued the John Doe probe. In short order, a federal district court judge held that the plaintiffs “are likely to succeed on their claim that the defendants‘ investigation violates their rights under the First Amendment, such that the investigation was commenced and conducted ―without a reasonable expectation of obtaining a valid conviction.” In other words, at this early stage of the civil rights litigation, it looks to the judge as if the Democratic district attorneys abused their power and chilled conservatives’ free speech rights. Accordingly, the federal judge ordered that the John Doe probe must cease, all the seized property be returned, and all copies of materials be destroyed.

After a short trip to a federal appeals court, the federal judge reissued his order that the John Doe probe cease. Most recently, that appeals court has ordered some of the previously secret probe documents disclosed to the public, including an unsuccessful defense that the John Doe investigators made to one of their secret subpoenas. In their attempt to get a subpoena, which was rejected by a judge for lacking probable cause, the partisan investigators claimed that Walker was involved in the so-called conservative conspiracy.
There's more at the link and you should read it. What the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the rest of the MSM did on Thursday was disgraceful, but at this point they are beyond shame. Scott Walker must be destroyed.

The truth really doesn't matter much. The narrative is all that really matters. Prosecutors can allege that Scott Walker is really Jeffrey Dahmer, but that doesn't make it so. As it stands, there's an excellent chance that the prosecutors doing the alleging are going to be the ones who end up in the dock for abusing their power. That's a significantly more interesting development, but it doesn't advance the narrative, so you'll not hear anything about it.

We live in a very mendacious time. Eventually, we will emerge from it, but it's going to remain very unpleasant for a very long time. Our betters are growing impatient with us because we aren't getting with the program.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our back pages

So after Superstorm Sandy hit and Obama and Chris Christie got together and had a nice moment on the beach, it was all good, right? Maybe not so much:
Seventeen months after Congress authorized up to $16 billion to fix homes wrecked by superstorm Sandy, tens of thousands of people still are living in damaged houses or paying rent on top of a mortgage as they wait for rebuilding help.

About 15,000 New York City residents are seeking aid, but city officials say only 352 have so far received a check or city-provided home construction.
But how could that be? The nice moment and all. Remember when the Leader of the Free World said this?
The day after the storm, for instance, President Barack Obama said, "My message to the federal government: No bureaucracy, no red tape."
No aid, either, apparently:
Allison Galdorisi and Claire Watson are trying to hold on. Their bungalow in Staten Island's New Dorp Beach neighborhood was inundated. They need $173,000 to repair and elevate the home.

They applied for aid in June, but their case was held up until November by paperwork issues. In December, they learned they had been placed in the second tier of New York City's three-tier distribution system, behind people with lower incomes whose homes might have been less damaged.

They don't know when reconstruction will begin and are paying for both a mortgage and a rental home. "I'm going to be using all of my insurance money to pay rent and expenses," said Ms. Galdorisi, a 49-year-old real-estate appraiser.
Huh. Go figure. The invaluable Walter Russell Mead noticed something else, too:
Stories like this used to get a lot of ink when George W. Bush was in the White House and the press couldn’t say enough about the botched recovery after Katrina. But now that the greatest President since Lincoln occupies the Oval Office, trivial stories like agonizingly slow hurricane recoveries bore our enlightened press corps to tears.

There is a clear message here: if you hate bad news, vote the straight Democratic ticket. True, bad things will still happen, but instead of rubbing your nose in them day after day, the press will say as little about them as is humanly possible. 
Hey, we have much more important topics to discuss.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Clarity

They don't give a damn what you think.

Point one

Point two

Just so you know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mark Dayton, Lifelong Learner

I'm a firm believer in the idea of lifelong learning. There's application for the idea for individuals at all levels of society. If you doubt that, consider the man currently serving as governor of our fair state. Yes, he's taken it to heart, because the advantage of being Mark Dayton is that you are always learning new things:
Two months after triumphantly signing a major hike in Minnesota's minimum wage into law, Gov. Mark Dayton told a newspaper: "It may be that we have to fine-tune it."
So why is that, Governor?
According to the Rochester Post Bulletin, the DFL governor said that his restaurant-owning sons made the case that tipped employees should be treated differently than other hourly employees. 
"I understand my sons' frustration with the tip credit issue. They make a very articulate case," Dayton said in a meeting with the newspaper's editorial board last week, according to a report.
Glad someone in the family is capable of making an articulate case, but we'll leave that aside. Does anyone remember this?
A trial lawyer by trade, GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer encountered one tough jury Wednesday: a packed room of servers who feared that he wants to cut their wages.

An hour later, he walked out after a bag of 2,000 pennies was dumped inches from his face by a man exclaiming, "I have a tip for you too, Emmer!" as cascading pennies bounced in every direction and the crowd at a Roseville restaurant erupted into chaos.
Any bets that Nick Espinosa  would reprise this stunt at a Dayton appearance?

If you'll recall, even the idea of mentioning a tip credit was clearly a reason to read Tom Emmer out of polite society:
"I am absolutely horrified by the statements I have seen you make," said Ann Potter, 30, a server in downtown Minneapolis. "We work so hard. Most of us don't have any health insurance or benefits or any financial cushion."
It might be a good idea for an enterprising reporter to see if Ms. Potter, now 34, is similarly horrified by the statements of the man who has brought us all a Greater Minnesota.

Winning!

You saw it coming (or maybe you didn't) right up, ahem, University Avenue:
Green Line riders expressed a range of emotions Monday as the new light-rail line connecting the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis started taking paying customers on its first weekday in operation.

Late Monday evening, a Green Line train hit a car that turned in front of the train near the intersection of Hampden and University Avenues in St. Paul, but there were no injuries, Metro Transit officials said.
Actually, the Metro Transit people are pleased with the acceptable level of mayhem thus far:
Operator error contributed to the train slowdown, along with a couple broken traffic poles that measure pedestrian crossings and were hit by automobiles over the weekend.

The most serious crime report was an aggravated robbery late Sunday at the Dale Street Station. A large group got off the train, assaulted a young man and stole his phone and a friend’s, Siqveland said.
Meanwhile, out in Bottineau land:
A proposal to widen Broadway Avenue in Brooklyn Park will have to wait another year, after the City Council voted to put it into pause mode for a year.

"There is nothing that says it has to be done this year or next," Mayor Jeff Lunde told colleagues.

"We as a city need to decide yes or no, and we can only get to yes or no when we have all the information."

The Council adopted Lunde's motion to put the proposed project on hold, prompting applause from a large contingent of residents who came to Brooklyn Park City Hall holding "Save Our Homes" signs.

The right-of-way for the Hennepin County road project would claim at least a dozen homes, and possibly twice that many. Adding to the angst for some neighbors is that the plan calls for an extra wide median to accommodate the Bottineau Transitway, which may one day become the Twin Cities' fourth light rail line.
We're going to be talking about these trains for a long time.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Irish Sweepstakes

“There was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go away. You could do nothing in Dublin.” 

― James Joyce, Dubliners

That was then. This is now:
Medtronic Inc. announced Sunday night that it will pay $42.9 billion to acquire the Irish surgical device maker Covidien. As a result of the deal, Medtronic will move its executive headquarters to ­Ireland to take advantage of substantial tax benefits.
What sorts of benefits?
[Medtronic CEO Omar] Ishrak explained that the combination will create financial flexibility with the capital generated through the profitability of the combined companies, unlike the current situation when avoiding tax expense has meant that profits earned abroad have not been repatriated and invested in the United States.

Ishrak cited Sunday’s $10 billion commitment to fund investments in the U.S. over the next ten years as an example of what will be enabled by greater financial flexibility.

“The only thing we get is the cash flow that is generated by the Covidien legacy company,” he said. “Medtronic can use this cash flow to invest in the U.S.”
Will the investment take place in Minnesota? Well, maybe. But not necessarily. If you don't think that Rick Perry has Ishrak on his speed dial, you're not paying attention. For his part, Ishrak is making all the right noises about Minnesota:
Ishrak repeated the jobs pledge Sunday night, explaining that the Medtronic headquarters in Minnesota “will get even more of a focus” after the merger is completed. 
“The current operating headquarters of Covidien in Boston will, in effect, be integrated into Medtronic in Minnesota,” he said.
Inasmuch as corporate taxes are higher in Minnesota than they are in Massachusetts, that's somewhat surprising, but as always things change. As you'll recall, Northwest Airlines made a lot of promises to the state that its successor, Delta Airlines, hasn't felt especially compelled to keep.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Get Your Sirica On

I try not to work blue in this feature, but sometimes it can't be helped, because this is clearly bullshit:
The Internal Revenue Service has lost two years worth of emails to and from embattled former tax official Lois Lerner, the agency told congressional investigators on Friday.

The IRS promised on May 8 to turn over all her emails but now blames a computer crash for huge tranches of missing documents.

Lerner is under investigation for allegedly orchestrating a years-long program that targeted tea party groups and other conservative organizations for unusually intrusive scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status beginning in the year before the 2010 congressional midterm elections.

The House Ways and Means Committee, one of two bodies probing the case, said Friday that the IRS says that for the period of January 2009 through April 2011, the only Lerner emails it can find are those that were sent to or from other IRS employees.

Emails whose sender or recipient was outside the government, or inside other agencies, have mysteriously disappeared.

Those include the White House, the Justice and Treasury Departments, the Federal Elections Commission and Democratic congressional offices.
I bolded the last two paragraphs because those are the crucial ones -- if Lerner was communicating her actions, which we don't particularly understand well, with the White House, we're looking at Nixon-level corruption.

The next move is to subpoena any White House email traffic with the IRS in the relevant time period. Fearless prediction -- such a subpoena will be met with a claim of "executive privilege." We're going to need a modern day Judge Sirica before this is over. At this point, the man sitting in Sirica's old chair is Richard Roberts, a Clinton appointee. For what it's worth, Sirica was an Eisenhower appointee. Not that any of that should matter, but....

Of course, the IRS scandal is just one of many. Is it more important than Benghazi? Or the VA scandal? Or what's happening in Iraq right now? Or the ongoing failure that is Obamacare? Or the brightly flashing warning signals in the economy? Or Solyndra? Or Fast and Furious? Or the NSA spying on journalists? Or the Bergdahl mess?

Frankly, the incompetence and corruption of this administration is so complete that it's difficult to figure out what to talk about next -- it's astonishingly comprehensive. But back to the topic du jour -- did you know this?
In one case Lerner, then in charge of the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division, personally signed the approval granting tax-exempt status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a charity headed by the president’s half-brother.

That approval was granted in less than a month, and back-dated – a highly unusual move – to allow the charity to avoid paying taxes on money it had raised prior to applying.
That's some pretty good constituent service. Meanwhile, Lerner has sent a suitable surrogate to testify on her behalf:

Reflections in the table are intentional
And in the interest of being civic-minded, and being part of the solution, let's offer our best guess as to what happened to the missing emails:

What do you think really happened to Lois Lerner's "lost" emails? (Multiple answers allowed)
  
pollcode.com free polls 
Vote early, vote often!

UPDATE: it's too late the change the poll, but I have another theory -- Sandy Berger stuffed them down his pants. If you want to vote for that, put a note in the comments.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Treacherous as a friend

Americans don't like to think about it very much, but we have been an imperial power for well over a century. It's difficult to get an accurate measurement of how many military bases the United States has overseas, or even the number of countries where the U.S. has a military presence. One site shows 25, another says 150. Either way, you're talking about the reach and behavior of an empire, even if it we are diffident about acknowledging the existence of the empire itself.

One place where we don't have a military presence is Iraq, which coincidentally is going to hell right now. We were there for quite a while; I'm sure you read all about it, because it was in the papers. We left, though, and what we left behind is problematic -- lots and lots of weaponry that the feckless Iraqi army is abandoning in the field. What seems to be happening is that the Iraqi soldiers are taking off their uniforms and trying to blend in with the general population, even as the ISIS forces sweep through and capture places like Mosul and Tikrit. It's difficult to know if this is a surrender or a strategic move that will usher in a guerrilla-style civil war. Either way, it's not a happy turn of events.

The president was quite pleased that he had ended the war in Iraq, but he didn't end the war. Wars don't end until one side is defeated and while we aren't fighting in Iraq at the moment, the repercussions of what is happening there are going to be a problem for him, and for us, for a long time now. John Hinderaker at Powerline created this graphic that sums things up quite well:

Your results may vary

The great scholar Bernard Lewis made the following observation about the United States way back in aftermath of our first Iraq foray, 1991 -- America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend. No country understands that better than Iraq, where we've come and left twice in the past 23 years. It's quite possible that we'll be back again, although I can't imagine why anyone in Iraq would want us back.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Disraeli Gears, Churning as Always

You might remember the good ol' days, when we were told that Super Bowl Sunday was the most violent day of the year and that more women were victims of domestic abuse on that day than any other. It was crap, of course, which was obvious if you were willing to spend even a little time researching the matter.

Same thing seems to be true (or should I say, false) about the 74 school shootings map that has been getting a lot of play this week. Click on the link and check it out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Down Goes Cantor

A big stick goes boom:
In an upset for the ages, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-most powerful man in the House, was dethroned Tuesday by a little-known, tea party-backed Republican primary challenger carried to victory on a wave of public anger over calls for looser immigration laws.
I suspect immigration had rather a lot to do with it, but that wasn't all. Take it away, Mickey Kaus:
You’ll also hear that “Cantor’s loss only tells us about the views of the right-wing faction of the right-wing party in a heavily right-wing district.” But the comprehensivists and their MSM tools have been trying for two years to convince us that Republicans — even Tea Partiers – -were really OK with legalization, even a “path to citizenship.” Only yesterday the NYT was pitching this case, without bothering to mention any skeptics. Turns out it’s BS. The more difficult point is that while the public may be roughly, inconclusively split on amnesty, the anti-amnesty voters have all the intensity while pro-amnesty voters tend to consider the issue not all that much of a priority. In a democracy, ties go to intensity. (Although the Senate’s Gang of 8 monstrosity wouldn’t survive a plebiscite either — it would be quickly picked apart.)
I think that's correct. Most people understand that you can't just deport everyone who has come here illegally, but you don't have to encourage more people to come, either. Still, I think another issue is that Cantor became part of the Washington establishment and forgot why he was sent there in the first place.  There was a time, not that long ago, when Cantor was seen as a reformer. Those days ended a long time ago. Reforming Washington is tough because the institutional heft of the place makes reform very difficult and it's easy to get caught up in the blandishments of higher office. It's far more likely that Washington will change a politician than that a politician can change Washington. Assuming that the victorious David Brat goes there, it would not surprise me very much if I were to end up writing a similar piece about his career in a decade's time.

Totally Fly

It's an argument that Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, makes fairly regularly -- I'll believe that something is a crisis when the people proclaiming the crisis change their behavior to fit their prophecies. It's always amused/galled me when global warming climate change types issue jeremiads about the evils of carbon footprints after they've jetted over to Rio, or Kyoto, or Copenhagen, or Durban.

Mother Jones makes the relevant point with this nifty graphic (h/t Althouse)

Think globally, act locally, but don't miss your flight

And in a totally non-surprising development MJ writer Christie Aschwanden notes the following:
 A recent study by Stewart Barr, a geographer at the UK's University of Exeter, found that people who identified as committed environmentalists actually flew more than those who didn't. Some of these "bleeding-heart jet setters" insisted they'd earned their flights through green behavior at home. "People tell themselves they can justify a flight of 5,000 miles because they've recycled all year," Barr told me.
Carbon credits are indulgences. If the IPCC starts conducting their business via Skype, maybe you can believe them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Angry Raisin Farmer Strikes Again

Victor Davis Hanson on faith-based initiatives. Guaranteed to annoy certain readers.

Get Off Their Lawn

When is a park not a park?
A proposed park next to the new Minnesota Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis may not be as public as some had envisioned.

Several sports interests have already carved out long chunks of time to use “The Yard,” billed as a major public amenity anchoring a revitalized Downtown East.

A February agreement gives the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority up to 80 days in a typical year to use the nearly two-block park to be built on land where the Star Tribune now sits. In extreme scenarios, that number could grow beyond 100 days a year if the Vikings bring a professional soccer team to the new stadium — depending on how long workers spend setting up for events.

Disputes over the park’s ownership and who will pay to operate it remain unsettled, which some fear could jeopardize the project’s completion in time for the stadium’s 2016 debut.
I'm guessing you can use it in January. Meanwhile, some members of the Minneapolis City Council are bumming on the fine print:
“It’s kind of like a bait and switch, it seems to me,” said Council Member Cam Gordon, adding that he was already uncomfortable with an earlier, vaguer agreement, which he voted for, that appeared to give away closer to 60 days. Among the changes he noted is that teams will have 72 hours to arrange and take down tents for games, meaning “no longer is it a game day, it’s a game weekend.”

For legal reasons, the park is expected to be owned by the Minneapolis Park Board rather than the city, although Mayor Betsy Hodges and others are recommending operations and maintenance of the park be farmed out to a third party.

Arlene Fried, co-founder of the watchdog group Park Watch, said the priority booking means The Yard won’t be a public park.

“That’s just not the way public parks work,” she said.
Amusement parks work that way, but I don't have to pay for Valleyfair unless I choose to go there.

Dreams

Take a dream on a Sunday
Take a life, take a holiday
Take a lie, take a dreamer
dream, dream, dream, dream, dream along...

-- "Dreamer," Supertramp

Is this a dream?
About 700 unaccompanied minors mostly from Central America were sleeping on plastic boards at a Border Patrol warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, this weekend, the vast majority flown from South Texas. It is the latest illustration of how a wave of immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala has overwhelmed U.S. border authorities. 
Are they enjoying their stay?
A federal official said that mattresses, portable toilets and showers were brought in Saturday for 700 of the youthful migrants who spent the night sleeping on plastic cots inside the Nogales area center.

The Homeland Security official told The Associated Press that about 2,000 mattresses had been ordered for the center — a warehouse that has not been used to shelter people in years.

With the center lacking some of the basics, federal officials have asked Arizona to immediately ship medical supplies, Gov. Jan Brewer’s spokesman Andrew Wilder said.

Tony Banegas, consul of Honduras to Arizona, tells KPHO-TV that the children have been complaining about the food they have been getting at the shelter.

“This morning they switched to burritos, but they complained the eggs were cold,” Banegas told KPHO. “They couldn’t eat them and even made them sick. They complained they had a burrito but had to throw it in the trash.”
Why are they here?
This crisis is a direct and predictable result of the President’s sustained and deliberate campaign to dismantle immigration enforcement. His administration has announced to the world that our nation’s immigration laws will not be enforced and that, in particular, they will not be applied to foreign youth.

The world has heard and heeded the President’s message. A wave of illegal immigration has overwhelmed authorities, producing a completely preventable humanitarian crisis—and further diminishing the integrity of our national borders. And there is but one way for the crisis to end: for the President of the United States to declare to the world: "Do not attempt to come here illegally. Our border is no longer open. Our laws will be enforced."

A local TV station in Texas recently issued a telling report. They revealed that information is being disseminated in Central America urging people to make the life-threatening trek north in pursuit of amnesty: "A mother and child told Channel 5 News that the message being disseminated in their country is, 'go to America with your child, you won't be turned away.'"

The New York Times reported last week that an illegal immigrant youth said: “If you make it, they take you to a shelter and take care of you and let you have permission to stay… When you appeal your case, if you say you want to study, they support you.”
What is the response?
The Obama administration announced a program late last week that would provide attorneys for the young illegal immigrant children crossing in waves over the U.S.-Mexico border, saying they want to make sure the unaccompanied minors are getting fair legal representation.

The joint project between the Justice Department and AmeriCorps, the government’s national service organization, aims to recruit 100 lawyers and paralegals to shepherd the children through the immigration system, making sure they are treated properly and can make claims for legal status or protection if they are eligible.
What is your response?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Horses and courses

I will give the owner of California Chrome credit for speaking his mind:


I'm not so sure he's right about things, though. And it's not fair to call the owners of the horses "cowards." There's an argument to be made that Tonalist, the horse that ended up winning the Belmont, might have been a formidable contender had he run in the earlier races. He couldn't, though:
Obviously Coburn is referring to Tonalist, who ran in the Belmont but not the Derby and Preakness. There were extenuating circumstances, however. First off, Tonalist was on the Derby trail before a lung infection kept him from the Grade I Wood Memorial, a Derby tune-up. Tonalist then ran and won the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes May 10, which made an attempt at the Preakness just a week later impossible.
It's now been 36 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown, way back in 1978. It was a scintillating duel:


Since then, we've had some close calls -- Smarty Jones getting edged at the wire in 2004:


And in the true heartbreaker, Real Quiet losing by a nose, if that, in 1998:


By contrast, California Chrome wasn't that close, finishing in a tie for 4th. So what do we make of Steve Coburn's rant? Does he have a point?

Technically, he doesn't. One of the reasons winning the Triple Crown is such an amazing accomplishment is that it's just tremendously difficult to do. Also, if Coburn's suggestion were true, you'd likely end up with 30 horses running in the Derby, because if that were the only way to compete every eligible horse would enter that race. As it is, you often have 20 horses and strange things happen as a result. You had a 50-1 longshot named Giacomo win the Derby in 2005. The horse that finished third in that race, Afleet Alex, was a far superior horse and proved it by blowing away the rest of the field in the Preakness and the Belmont. If you think I'm overstating that, watch how Afleet Alex dominates down the stretch:


Now, having said all that, I will grant Coburn this much -- he's probably right that we won't see another Triple Crown winner for a long time, because it's asking a lot to win all three races. It takes a great horse and great luck. The other potentially great horse in the modern era, Barbaro, got injured in the Preakness and never had a chance to prove the greatness many people believed he had. You could change the rules, or push the Belmont back a week to give the racers more time to rest, but it's not necessarily in the best interest of the sport.

But only this time, I'm sure

The International Monetary Fund has rather a lot to say about what happens in the world economy. Much of what it says is wrong. Don't believe me? Ask an expert:
The International Monetary Fund underestimated the strength of the U.K. economy when warning against the government’s austerity program, Managing Director Christine Lagarde said.

“We got it wrong,” Lagarde told the “Andrew Marr Show” on BBC Television yesterday. “We acknowledged it. Clearly the confidence building that has resulted from the economic policies adopted by the government has surprised many of us.”

A year after the IMF’s chief economist, Oliver Blanchard, said U.K. budget cutting risked “playing with fire,” the Washington-based lender said in April the U.K. economy will grow 2.9 percent this year, the fastest pace among the Group of Seven nations.
Wait, budget cutting worked in the U.K.? Wonder if that's got any application elsewhere....

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Gay marriage in Wisconsin

By fiat, not ballot:
 A federal judge in Madison on Friday overturned Wisconsin's gay marriage ban, striking down an amendment to the state constitution approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2006 and prompting an emergency action by the state to halt the scores of weddings that began in the state's two largest cities.
Pretty simple, really. A few observations:

  • We've decided that marriage isn't about the desirability of heterosexual couples to form stable environments for the upbringing of children. Instead, marriage is now about personal self-fulfillment and "love," apparently. In that case, there's no reason to oppose gay marriage. However, the larger issues about the instability of marriage and its effect on the upbringing of children, which predate the gay marriage issue by a half century or more, aren't going away.
  • We have gay marriage in Minnesota, but we have it because the legislature passed it and the governor signed it into law. That's a lot better scenario. One year on, the sky hasn't fallen, and unless I miss my guess, it won't be a major issue in this election.
  • At this point, gay marriage advocates had better hope that Anthony Kennedy wakes up on their side the day the matter gets to the Supreme Court. Kennedy's previous rulings on the matter are the basis for the ruling the judge in Wisconsin made. Do you trust Anthony Kennedy? I wouldn't be so sure.
  • If you trust your freedom to the federal judiciary, you're making a big mistake. If you doubt me, I'd suggest that you study the Kelo decision in particular. 




Friday, June 06, 2014

A potential explanation

As is often the case, you need to read the papers in the U.K. to find out what's happening in the U.S.:
The Obama administration passed up multiple opportunities to rescue Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl because the president was dead-set on finding a reason to begin emptying Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a Pentagon official.

'JSOC went to the White House with several specific rescue-op scenarios,' the official with knowledge of interagency negotiations underway since at least November 2013 told MailOnline, referring to the Joint Special Operations Command. 'But no one ever got traction.'

'What we learned along the way was that the president wanted a diplomatic scenario that would establish a precedent for repatriating detainees from Gitmo,' he said.

The official said a State Department liaison described the lay of the land to him in February, shortly after the Taliban sent the U.S. government a month-old video of Bergdahl in January, looking sickly and haggard, in an effort to create a sense of urgency about his health and effect a quick prisoner trade.

'He basically told me that no matter what JSOC put on the table, it was never going to fly because the president isn't going to leave office with Gitmo intact, and this was the best opportunity to see that through.'
This is tiresome. Obama can close Gitmo tomorrow, if he's willing to face the political ramifications of doing so. He's not. So instead, we get this half-assed kabuki theater. Enjoy it, kids.


Cause and effect

Austin, Texas, is the home of the University of Texas, one of the largest institutions of higher learning in the world. It's also the home of this individual:
“I’m at the breaking point,” said Gretchen Gardner, an Austin artist who bought a 1930s bungalow in the Bouldin neighborhood just south of downtown in 1991 and has watched her property tax bill soar to $8,500 this year.

“It’s not because I don’t like paying taxes,” said Gardner, who attended both meetings. “I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ll protest my appraisal notice, but that’s not enough. Someone needs to step in and address the big picture.”
The big picture is that Ms. Gardner would like someone else to pay for all these amenities. The problem is that Texas doesn't have a state income tax, so there's no easy way to make someone in Galveston or Lubbock pay for Ms. Gardner's light rail line. Of course, we don't have such problems here, where we all get to pay for the light rail line. I'm sure we have some 1930s bungalows available here, too.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Country's in the Very Best of Hands

While we were talking about Bowe Bergdahl, other things happen, too:
A government document provided to The Associated Press indicates that at least 2 million people enrolled for taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance have data discrepancies in their applications that, if unresolved, could affect what they pay for coverage, or even their legal right to benefits.

The final number affected could well be higher. According to the administration the 2 million figure reflects only consumers who signed up through the federally administered HealthCare.gov website and call centers. The government signed up about 5.4 million people, while state-run websites signed up another 2.6 million.
Remember when the Obama administration was crowing about the great success they'd had in enrolling 8 million individuals in a compulsory program? Especially when the customer satisfaction rates look like this?
The poll asked those who bought Obamacare-compliant insurance to list the reasons why they bought it, offering 15 potential responses.  The first and third most-common responses were (first) “It’s the law” (36 percent) and (third) “I didn’t want to pay the fine” (34 percent).  Comparatively, only 23 percent picked “I wanted insurance for my family,” and only 19 percent picked “I could afford a plan.”
The invaluable John Hayward makes the connection:
When forty percent of the participants say they wouldn’t have enrolled unless they were forced to do so, you’re not talking about a “success” for Barack Obama – you’re describing a defeat of the American people.  We shouldn’t be losing battles against a government that should be subordinate to its citizens.  We shouldn’t be using government power to beat each other into submission, instead of carefully safeguarding universal rights.  And it’s ridiculous to describe ObamaCare with the language of “rights,” when so many of its participants fervently wish for the right to escape from it.
At bottom, government is force. And force in the hands of the incompetent and the corrupt is dangerous. It's long been clear that the Obama administration is both incompetent and corrupt. I think most people understand this, but there are many who would rather not think about the implications. We can avoid thinking about the implications for a little while longer, but the window is closing.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

From the Inigo Montoya file

Star Tribune reporter Baird Helgeson keeps saying that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means:
The emerging portrait of Dayton since he assumed office reveals a more nuanced leader with a strong libertarian strain pulsing in his political blood line.
And then, not more than two paragraphs later, Helgeson harshes his own narrative:
When he needs to, Dayton has proved willing to sidestep the legislative process, as when he signed an executive order calling for a unionization vote for in-home child-care workers. A judge later ruled that Dayton made an unconstitutional end-run around a then GOP-controlled Legislature.
Here's a hint -- libertarians are skeptical of much of what government does, but they especially dislike unconstitutional executive orders. They also don't like $2 billion tax increases.

The portrait of Dayton as libertarian looks a lot like this:

 I could give you my word as a Spaniard


Feel the love

The idea, it would appear, was to get the VA scandal off the front pages. Mission accomplished:
The furious parents of an officer who they claim was killed while searching for freed Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl today said that they have been lied to as part of a ‘cover up just like Benghazi’.

The mother and father of Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews are angry that they have been told different stories about how their son died.

First his commanders said that their son was blown up while hunting a Taliban commander - but only now that Bergdahl has been freed after five years in captivity are they learning the truth.
So what's the story?
During the months-long hunt for him vital resources were re-deployed to help with the hunt and scarce surveillance drones and helicopters were assigned to the task instead of other duties.

Former colleagues of Bergdahl claim that this put them at risk - and led to lives being lost.

What is undisputed is that Lt Andrews, who was from Dallas, Texas, died at the age of 34 on September 4, 2009 while serving with the 25th Infantry Division on his second tour of Afghanistan.

At the time his family say they were told that his men were hunting a Taliban commander and that the truck at the front of their group ended in a hole after being hit by an Improvised Explosive Device.

As the men got out to try and move the truck, a Taliban fighter with a rocket propelled grenade emerged and fired at them.

Lt Andrews was the only one to see it and tackled three of his men to prevent them being hit. He took a direct hit and died.
A few thoughts:

  • If it turns out that Bergdahl was indeed a deserter, he needs to be punished.
  • We do, of course, pay rapt attention to what the parents of those killed in action say. At least for a while, that is. The parents of Lt. Andrews might consider camping in a ditch in Crawford, Texas, if their story doesn't get any traction.
  • It appears that up to six soldiers lost their lives trying to find Bergdahl. When you add the price of five senior Taliban leaders as ransom, he's an expensive individual. 
  • The other issue -- did the president break the law in making the deal without consulting Congress? At least one fairly prominent law professor thinks so. To be fair, however, I'm willing to give the president some slack on this, because a number of the laws that Congress has passed on these issues strike me as a usurpation and dubious in the context of separation of powers. You can't have 536 commanders in chief.
Having said that, Jonathan Turley's larger point is hugely important:
I don't think the White House is seriously arguing they're not violating federal law. To make matters worse, this is a long series of violations of federal law this president has been accused of. I testified twice in Congress about this record of the president in suspending or ignoring federal laws. This is going to add to that pile. I don't think there's much debate that they're in violation of the law. What's fascinating, Carol, is when this law went to the president, he used a signing statement which, if you recall as a senator, he opposed, and ran against for president. But he actually used one in this circumstance and said, 'I'm going to sign this, but I actually think that notice requirement is unconstitutional.' 
We can assume that the apologies to George W. Bush are in the mail.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Just so you know

Congress, and federalism, are both irrelevant:
The Environmental Protection Agency will propose a draft rule on Monday seeking a 30% reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2030 from existing power plants based on emission levels from 2005, according to two people who have been briefed on the rule, setting in motion the main piece of President Barack Obama's climate-change agenda.

The rule, scheduled to be completed one year from now, will give flexibility to the states, which must implement the rules and submit compliance plans to EPA by June 2016. States can decide how to meet the reductions, including joining or creating new cap-and-trade programs, deploying more renewable energy or ramping up energy-efficiency technologies.
Kneel before Zod, flexible states. Should Congress have a role here? One might ordinarily think so, but fughedaboutit.

On another note:
“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Berghdal’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” said House Armed Services Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and Senate Armed Services Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., in a joint statement.
Of course, maybe Obama is gonna drone those five Taliban dudes now. Or something.


Sunday, June 01, 2014

The View of Rochester from a Dining Room Table in New Brighton

As I mentioned, I didn't go see the fun at the state Republican convention, because we've got other things to do here as the Benster's graduation approaches. However, I do have a working internet connection and follow a few people on the ol' Twitter who know stuff, so it was easy enough to get a flavor of things. So what do we have after all the sturm und drang in Rochester? A few thoughts:

  • While I'm a little surprised that Mike McFadden actually won the endorsement for Senate, it's easy to see why it eventually happened over 10 ballots. Al Franken has already begun carpet bombing Minnesota with advertising and it's highly unlikely that anyone other than the Republican candidate will be willing to talk about his record, so having a candidate who (a) has money in the bank and (b) can get on the airwaves makes sense. To me, the best thing about McFadden is that he's been involved for a long time with Cristo Rey, a remarkable success story in the Twin Cities that doesn't get a lot of attention because it's a rebuke to so many things that the bien pensants in our midst hold dear. It's evident what the attack line will be against McFadden -- he's our Mitt Romney or somesuch. That's a devastating argument in the addled blue precincts of the state, but it's not necessarily gonna fly elsewhere. And picking on investment bankers would work better if his opponent's prior occupation were more lofty. On balance, would you rather trust an investment banker or a comedian, especially one who isn't particularly funny?
  • The other reason McFadden was going to win had it gone to a primary is because the other senate candidates weren't particularly strong. Julianne Ortman might have been able to swing an endorsement from Sarah Palin, but she hasn't been an especially compelling figure in St. Paul. Jim "En" Abeler, best known for sandbagging Tim Pawlenty back in the day, wasn't going to pass muster, either. While Chris Dahlberg had a plausible theory to his candidacy -- a conservative from the Range who's actually an elected official! -- he had no money and no prospects of getting sufficient funds to battle the avalanche of gauzy imagery that Franken is gonna put down in the next 5+ months. The job is to beat Franken and while McFadden has some work to do, he'll have enough resources to put out his own narrative. That counts for a lot. While Franken has to be considered the favorite, he's not a beloved figure in the state by any means, so McFadden will have a chance.
  • Meanwhile, the gubernatorial endorsement process turned out to be a hot mess. I preferred Dave Thompson over Jeff Johnson, but my preference wasn't particularly strong. Jeff has done good work on the Hennepin County Board and he's whip smart and personable. The problem he has now is that he has a gantlet to run in the form of three candidates. I personally haven't taken Kurt Zellers seriously, because while he had a very high profile a few years back, he didn't do enough to establish himself as a viable leader. The other candidates, Marty Seifert and Scott Honour, are more formidable challengers, but for different reasons. Seifert pursued the endorsement, but when it became clear that he wasn't going to get it, essentially took his ball and went home, greatly angering many of the delegates in the process. Seifert is frustrating that way -- he probably has more native intelligence than other politician I've ever met, yet he's got a passive-aggressive petulance about him that drives people crazy. He can run in the primary, but if he were somehow to prevail, he'd have a hell of a time mending the fences with the party regulars. It's not a formula for success. As for Honour, he's got two things going for him -- he's rich, and he's rich. Like McFadden, he's made a huge pile in the financial industry. Honour made a smart pick for his running mate in Karin Housley, a rising star in the GOP who also happens to be the wife of the great hockey star Phil Housley. I suspect he'll be a formidable challenger for Johnson.
  • My guess? I think Johnson will prevail, barely, because the party regulars are more likely to vote in the primary. I would not be surprised at all if Honour wins, though. I continue to believe that what Marty Seifert ought to do is run against Collin Peterson for the House, because I think he could win that race and begin his political rehabilitation there. He's still a very young man -- although it seems like he's been in politics forever, he's only 42. He has time to mend fences, but he needs to get on that task now. Seifert has no future in Minnesota politics if he continues on the current path. In some important ways, he's becoming a Nixonian figure -- not because he's corrupt, but because he's let his ego and petulance get the better of him. And as we all know, Nixon didn't do so well in Minnesota.