Thursday, August 17, 2017

Great, but. . . .

Carol T. Christ, UC Berkeley’s 11th chancellor and the first woman to lead the nation’s top public research university, unveiled plans Tuesday for a “Free Speech Year” as right-wing speakers prepare to come to campus.

Christ said the campus would hold “point-counterpoint” panels to demonstrate how to exchange opposing views in a respectful manner. Other events will explore constitutional questions, the history of Berkeley’s free speech movement and how that movement inspired acclaimed chef Alice Waters to create her Chez Panisse restaurant.

“Now what public speech is about is shouting, screaming your point of view in a public space rather than really thoughtfully engaging someone with a different point of view,” Christ said in an interview. “We have to build a deeper and richer shared public understanding.”
The article further details upcoming visits from Milo Yiannopolous, whose earlier foray into the cradle of the Free Speech Movement was met with violence, and Ben Shapiro, among others.

So it's Free Speech Year. Great. What happens next year?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who is more likely to put a boot on your throat, if given the opportunity?

These people?

Deplorables
Or these people?

Is that a hardwood dowel, or are you just happy to see me?
Does it make a difference? I'm being told it does.

UPDATE: Apparently we have the wrong view of Antifa, so Andy Marlette sets us straight:

The dude with the dowel is really G. I. Joe
Make sure you have your mind right.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Submitted without further comment


The statue was getting wobbly

. . . and had a great fall:
A protest in downtown Durham on Monday night left a statue of a Confederate soldier erected nearly a century ago crumpled on the ground.

Sheriff’s deputies recorded the event but did not intervene as a protester climbed a ladder and slipped a yellow, bungie-like cord around the soldier’s head and arm and a group pulled the cord.

The statue did a somersault, collapsing against the stone pedestal in front of the old county courthouse on East Main Street.

Protesters cheered and started to kick the crumpled mass.
So who were the "protesters?" Bet you recognize some of the names:
Groups at the rally included members of the Triangle People’s Assembly, Workers World Party, Industrial Workers of the World, Democratic Socialists of America and the antifa movement.
You know, the people who loved the people who ran the gulags. And they're taking names, brother:
“This is a really an opportunity, this moment of Charlottesville to see what side of history we are choosing to side with,” [Eva] Panjwani said. “This is not a call to make someone to feel guilty or ashamed. This is a call to say this is an ask from people of color to say which side are you on.”
Eva Panjwani is on the right in this picture, holding the megaphone. I'll bet her side is a lot of fun:

Alles klar, fraulein commissar

So what happens if you're a person of color and you're on the wrong side? That question does not get asked. Of course, these worthies will tell you:
Some of the protesters started to yell at sheriff’s officials standing on the steps of the old courthouse recording, and then Durham police officers blocking the street.

Pierre Faulkner waved a sign in front of them that said “cops and clan go hand in hand” on one side and “Black Lives Matter smash white supremacy” on the other.

“If y’all aren’t going to help us, we are going to help each other,” said Faulkner, 27, a student at Durham Technical Community College. “You understand that. Do you understand that? You look like you voted for Donald Trump.”
It would be great if the mouth breathers of the alt-right crawled back under their rocks and stayed there. Really, it would. Lucky Pierre and his pals are no better, though. Faulkner wasn't done:
“The message that they are trying to explain to these police is it doesn’t matter about your skin color. Everybody is one person. Everybody should be treated equally,” he said. “They’re standing out here with guns and bullet proof vests. We have no weapons. This is a peaceful protest. All we want is our voice to be heard.”
That's crap, of course. Peaceful people don't vandalize and don't go around smashing anything. Pierre wants his voice to be heard, but anyone else's voice is less important. Pierre's problem is simple -- we've heard what he's had to say. He's not saying anything different than the Wobblies had on offer a century ago. And when the Left gains control, the people aren't empowered, but the self-appointed leaders eventually have excellent bankrolls elsewhere.

We should have no illusions. None of this is about justice, or making the world a better place. It's all about power. If you want angry people with megaphones to run the world, by all means run to their banner. Just know they don't give a shit about you.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville

Anyone who claims to be a Nazi in 2017 is contemptible. There's no future in it, only the lingering stench of evil. It's a path to ruin in this world and perdition in the next.

The Nazis came to Charlottesville this past weekend. It did not go well:
Brittany Caine-Conley, a minister in training at Sojourners United Church of Christ, arrived in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday morning expecting that there might be violence. She did not expect things to get out of hand so quickly.

But what began as a rally of white nationalists in a city park soon spun out of control, resulting in melees in the streets and the death of a 32-year-old woman after a car rammed a group of counterprotesters. The police have charged a 20-year-old Ohio man described as a Nazi sympathizer, accusing him of intentionally driving his car into the crowd.
The police didn't do much to stop the violence, it appears. More from the New York Times:
But if Charlottesville was grieving on Sunday, it was also questioning. Governor McAuliffe fiercely defended the police in an impromptu sidewalk interview, noting that many of the demonstrators were armed, and saying the officers had done “great work” in a “very delicate situation.” And he said Ms. Heyer’s death, which he called “car terrorism,” could not have been prevented.

“You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon,” Governor McAuliffe said. “He is a terrorist.”

But others, including Mr. Kessler and Ms. Caine-Conley, openly wondered if the violence could have been prevented.

“There was no police presence,” Ms. Caine-Conley said. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”
It got ugly:
As the white nationalists massed in the park, Ms. Caine-Conley and other members of the clergy locked arms in the street. Behind them were hundreds of protesters, including black-clad, helmet-wearing members of the far left known as antifa.

Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, was watching the events from a command post on the sixth floor of a Wells Fargo bank on the downtown mall. There were sporadic fights. “I compare it to hockey,” he said. “Often in hockey there are sporadic fights, and then they separate.”

Suddenly, people were throwing water bottles, some filled with urine. Some used pepper spray; from his perch on the sixth floor, Mr. Moran saw smoke bombs being thrown. People started clubbing one another. The clergy retreated to a “safe house” — a restaurant nearby.

But according to many witnesses, the police waited to intervene. Ms. Caine-Conley called it “fascinating and appalling.”
Fascinating and appalling is an apt description of this entire moment. Look at the faces of two people who have been involved in hurting or killing others in the name of their ideology: first the accused driver of the car in Charlottesville, James Alex Fields:


Then, Linwood Kaine, a son of Sen. Tim Kaine who was arrested for his role in attacks of Trump supporters at the Capitol in Saint Paul earlier this year:


The dazed yet baleful expressions are the same. The only obvious difference is tonsorial. Is one young man more worthy than the other? It's easier to predict their fates. Fields will be going to prison, and maybe death row. Kaine won't. Fields may not have had a great future before he drove his car into a crowd, but he has no future now. Kaine will have the opportunity to leave his past behind.

It must be said again. Fields is not a victim; he's chosen perdition. Still, the sound of John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" blends in with the stench of Fields. Even as we make a point of condemning Fields and his ilk, we ought to remember he's hardly the only combatant in this war.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Wiring

As in how you're wired. Megan McArdle, explaining why she left the tech field early in her career:
No, the reason I left is that I came into work one Monday morning and joined the guys at our work table, and one of them said “What did you do this weekend?”

I was in the throes of a brief, doomed romance. I had attended a concert that Saturday night. I answered the question with an account of both. The guys stared blankly. Then silence. Then one of them said: “I built a fiber-channel network in my basement,” and our co-workers fell all over themselves asking him to describe every step in loving detail.

At that moment I realized that fundamentally, these are not my people. I liked the work. But I was never going to like it enough to blow a weekend doing more of it for free. Which meant that I was never going to be as good at that job as the guys around me.
McArdle is now a successful writer for Bloomberg. And good for her. She found her people and she has prospered.

The current contretemps involving Google and its highly public firing of one of its workers, James Damore, because he shared his opinion a little too freely, is an example of trying to force a culture that would otherwise happen organically. You can read the memo that got Damore fired here.

It's always seemed common sense to me -- do what you love and, if you can get paid for it, even better. My day job involves writing, but it's supervisory and in the main, I spend much of my day trying to remove obstacles from the path of the other writers on my team. I'd prefer to write more, but it turns out I'm good at managing the work of other writers. So that's what I do. It's how I'm wired.

Google's corporate culture is currently going through a period where they are trying to rewire their people. It will not end well.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Subject for further research

File this one under "huge if true":
Time stamps in the metadata provide further evidence of what happened on July 5. The stamps recording the download indicate that it occurred in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone at approximately 6:45 pm. This confirms that the person entering the DNC system was working somewhere on the East Coast of the United States. In theory the operation could have been conducted from Bangor or Miami or anywhere in between—but not Russia, Romania, or anywhere else outside the EDT zone. Combined with Forensicator’s findings on the transfer rate, the time stamps constitute more evidence that the download was conducted locally, since delivery overheads—conversion of data into packets, addressing, sequencing times, error checks, and the like—degrade all data transfers conducted via the Internet, more or less according to the distance involved.
If the hack of the DNC server didn't take place remotely, who did it? There's a ton to read at the link, and I'll be getting back to it later, but if the Russians didn't hack the DNC server, much of what has happened in Washington since Donald Trump was inaugurated is based on a lie.

I hope they've stopped beating their wives

I don't write about the Second Amendment all that often. We have a number of excellent organizations in Minnesota who are dedicated to ensuring that those who would render the Second Amendment a dead letter are held in check. And the most prolific blogger in Minnesota, my friend Mitch Berg, is eternally vigilant on the matter.

We also have feckless and dishonest organizations in Minnesota who would disarm the population if they could. Among these organizations is Protect Minnesota, the latest iteration of a long series of groups under the same general umbrella. These folks have a tendency to periodically rebrand themselves, because they are, in the main, feckless and dishonest.

Protect Minnesota had an astonishingly dishonest post out there on Facebook yesterday, which they subsequently changed. Fortunately, Facebook allows users to see the edit history of a post, so check out what they originally posted, versus what appears now:

Slander
In the original post, Protect Minnesota insinuates that Second Amendment defenders would have knowledge of whoever was responsible for bombing a mosque in Bloomington, and an affirmative responsibility to share what they know with the FBI. Let's think about this. Why would Protect Minnesota assume that GOCRA, to use one example, would know about the bomber? Are Second Amendment protectors known for bombing mosques? Is there any evidence that GOCRA has abetted bombings, anywhere? Is it because GOCRA members are fearful and violent? What evidence does Protect Minnesota have to back up that assertion?

We don't know much about what actually happened in Bloomington over the weekend, but it's clear that local and federal law enforcement will devote ample resources to find out and the individual (or individuals) responsible will be called to account. What we do know is Protect Minnesota is willing to issue baseless attacks to further its agenda. Why anyone takes them seriously is quite another matter.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Glen Campbell, RIP

His heyday was long ago, but he left a lot of wonderful music in his wake, especially in the late 60s. A taste:


He also played on some big hits as a session guitarist, including this:


And this:


And this:


A tremendous career. RIP.

You Dropped the Guam on Me

Getting all bellicose up in here:
North Korea and the United States traded escalating threats, with President Donald Trump threatening Pyongyang "with fire and fury like the world has never seen" and the North's military claiming Wednesday it was examining its plans for attacking Guam.

The comments follow reports that North Korea has mastered a crucial technology needed to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.

Despite regular North Korean threats against Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers) from the Korean Peninsula, it is extremely unlikely that Pyongyang would risk the assured annihilation of its revered leadership with a pre-emptive attack on U.S. citizens.
Two things about that last statement. First, I suspect the Norks don't have a death wish, so a pre-emptive strike is unlikely. Second, reverence toward the the leadership isn't necessarily a given. I'm not worried. Yet.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Odd headline of the week

I have heard many writers complain about the headline a publication chooses for their article. This headline from the Star Tribune might be the worst one I've seen in a while:

So what does this mean?
If people in one place feel unsafe, no one else gets to feel safe? Is that what this means? We don't yet know who attacked a mosque in Bloomington over the weekend. I wish people wouldn't attack mosques, or synagogues, or churches of any sort. It happens, though. Being a member of a faith community means you have faith. I'm not sure the headline writers at the Star Tribune understand that.

The Crony

It's good to be Elon Musk:
A study published two years ago by The Los Angeles Times revealed that just three of Musk’s ventures – SolarCity Corp. (which manufactured and installed solar energy systems before its 2016 merger with Tesla Motors Inc.), Tesla Motors Inc. (which manufactures electric vehicles), and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX (which builds rocket ships) – had received $4.9 billion in government subsidies to that point in time. By now, Musk’s various ventures have sucked well over $5 billion from government coffers.
So do you want your tax dollars used to subsidize this guy? Or do you want the federal government to subsidize the purchase of an electric car by providing a $7500 rebate? Set aside the relative merits of electric cars, especially since a lot of electricity comes from fossil fuels, especially coal. Does it seem smart to subsidize the enterprises of one guy with that much money?

Milestone

There are now 5,501 posts on this blog, counting this one. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 07, 2017

So much for that

City officials in Baltimore vowed this past weekend would be free of murders. Didn't happen:
Two fatal shootings on Saturday put an end to a weekend cease-fire in Baltimore, NBC News reported.

Police said a 24-year-old man and a 37-year-old man were shot and killed in separate incidents.
The need to get things under control is real:
Although it has less than a tenth of New York City's population, Baltimore has suffered 48 more homicides in 2017, according to police statistics.

The Maryland city's murder rate is also on the rise, 20 percent higher compared to the same period last year.
A lot of people don't trust cops in Baltimore. The Freddie Gray incident a few years back is a huge consideration, and brutality is only one issue:
A number of criminal cases in Baltimore have gone up in smoke over the past two weeks after two Baltimore police body-camera videos have allegedly shown officers planting drugs on residents of the city.

The most recent video, released Tuesday by Baltimore defense attorney Josh Insley, has led the Baltimore City States Attorney’s Office to refer two officers to Internal Affairs and postpone all cases involving the officers.

Five cases have also been dismissed — including Insley’s client, Shamere Collins, 35, whose car appears in the newly released video.
You can't get trust back quickly. And because Batimoreans don't trust their government, they are at risk for other predators. Human life is either precious, or it isn't.

The new bridge

I traveled over the new bridge over the St. Croix river on Saturday. It's an impressive structure and it will make life easier for people in western Wisconsin to get to Minnesota, but unless current conditions change, it may not have a huge impact on travel in the region. On either side of the bridge, the infrastructure to match it does not currently exist.

The amount of development on the south edge of Stillwater, on the approach to the bridge, means you need to go through multiple stoplights, which will back traffic up substantially. On the Wisconsin side, drivers encounter a series of roundabouts that impede traffic even further. If you want to head south from the new bridge to get to Hudson, prepare to go through three roundabouts and then slog down an underdeveloped 2-lane highway into town.

The I-94 bridge over the St. Croix is 10 lanes wide and is built for a lot of traffic. The effect of the new bridge on the I-94 crossing may be less than people imagine.

Friday, August 04, 2017

It's a coup

Call it what it is:
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry will likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Joshua Stueve, declined to comment. Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”
It's not a witch hunt, Mr. President. It's a coup. How Trump responds in the coming days will determine his fate. The people trying to take Le Grand Orange down are talented, ruthless, and motivated. They don't care what Trump's supporters think about any of it, nor are they particularly concerned about the long-term ramifications of what they are doing. They just want to win and they assume they will.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Bridges in the news

This week we remembered the day, 10 years back, when the 35W bridge collapsed. This feature was in operation at the time and here is what I said about it then:
The images, now ubiquitous, are horrifying. The twisted green metal superstructure, tangled and jutting out at bizarre angles, providing a reminder of the incredible force unleashed. The slab of concrete blocks the river flow, with equally large slabs jutting out from the shoreline below, pointing toward the hazy, August sky. The cars, buses and trucks are scattered throughout the site, with unknown numbers of late model vehicles submerged under tons of steel and concrete.

It’s a horrifying thing, the collapse of a major bridge. The rumble of death will reverberate here for a long time. This is the stuff of disaster movies, a Jerry Bruckheimer image writ large and real. We’ll live with the consequences of August 1, 2007 for many years.

Physics

We are 10 years on and for most of us, the consequences faded a long time ago. A new bridge came on line in little more than a year. I cross it every day. Each crossing is utterly uneventful. It's a much better bridge, too, with five lanes in each direction; the traffic often bottlenecks on either side of the bridge, but it flows smoothly across the span.

The fear we had then was real:
We were far away from the event as it happened, fetching the weekly groceries. We had no idea what had happened and had turned on WCCO radio, more because we noted a line of storms on the western horizon and were looking for a weather update. As we drove home from the store on 35W, about 10 miles north of the site, it became clear that something horrific had happened. The answering machine was already filling with concerned calls from my relatives in Wisconsin. I have crossed the 35W bridge thousands of times in the 15 years I’ve lived in Minnesota and my relatives knew that. It is quite possible that when the list of victims becomes known, I will know someone who was on that bridge at the fateful moment; many of my friends and neighbors use this bridge each day. I hope not, but all of us who live and work in the northern suburbs must prepare for the possibility. All the victims, whether we know them or not, will need our prayers and support. 
As it turned out, no one I knew personally was on the bridge at the time, although I've since met people who were. In the end, 13 people died and many other suffered life-altering injuries, but as a community we absorbed the blow surprisingly well. The prayers and support did come through and while the pain is still real, this community responded well. Ten years on, I'm not certainly we would do as well.

Meanwhile, about 25 miles to the east, another bridge opened yesterday:
Hundreds of cars lined up on Minnesota 36 in Oak Park Heights on Wednesday night to cross the new St. Croix River bridge.

But the honor of being the first to cross appeared to go to Phil and Terry Crampton of Lake Elmo, who pulled up on the highway shoulder about 7:30 p.m on their Honda Gold Wing motorcycle.

“We’ve been circling around for a while,” Phil Crampton said. “We went down to Bayport and had dinner. We’re trying to time it just right.”

They faced stiff competition from a sporty blue Mini Cooper, driven by Mike Burton of Stillwater. Burton joked that he and his wife, Lynn, were going to get the first speeding ticket on the new bridge.

“We’re excited about it,” Lynn Burton said. “We live right in downtown, so it will be nice to get the traffic out of there.”

Minnesota Department of Transportation workers removed the barricade blocking entrance to the new bridge at exactly 8 p.m. Within seconds, the long line of cars began to cross the river into Wisconsin with horns honking and cellphone videos rolling.
The new bridge replaces the ancient Stillwater lift bridge, which dated to 1931. The new bridge is impressive:


The changes we'll see in the area are going to be fascinating to observe. I may take a drive over it this weekend, as I have business in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Get to it

Victor Davis Hanson, with a call to action. The whole piece is brilliant. Two excerpts:
The Republicans should announce far more forcefully to the media that Vladimir Putin may have been funneling via shady third-parties millions of dollars to anti-fracking groups. Such collusion, if proven through investigation, really is treasonous—given that the crashing price of oil, brought about solely due to North American frackers, is about the only check on Putin’s ambitions that the West enjoys. So, to take one example, did the San Francisco-based, family-controlled, and hedge-funded Sea Change Foundation receive laundered Russian money to help enhance its anti-fracking messaging? If so, when, how, and who?
Did you know that? It seems important. One more:
Fourthly, what an Orwellian world it is when progressives allege “obstruction of justice” (which  Mueller’s burgeoning team of lawyers is apparently investigating) in the case of Donald Trump’s sloppy, off-handed, and out-loud wishes to FBI Director James Comey that he hoped “good guy” Michael Flynn did not get ruined by a loose investigation.

Yet obstruction is not much pursued even when no one seems to deny that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch met stealthily for private discussions with the spouse of a suspect of a current Justice investigation (subsequently dropped), and when she unapologetically seems to have directed the self-described moralist, Director Comey again, to alter the nomenclature of his ongoing investigation of fellow Democrat and presidential candidate Clinton (and Comey shamelessly acceded to Lynch’s detailed requests).
All told, Hanson identifies six ripe scandals worthy of investigation and exposure. He doesn't even need to go back further, into the perfidy of Lois Lerner and the IRS, or Solyndra, or Fast and Furious, all of which were effectively buried earlier.

And Hanson also identifies the reason this perfidy isn't getting the full airing it deserves:
[I]n contemporary Republican La-La Land, the party in power with control over all three branches of government allows its minority-status opponents to dictate the rules of special investigations and inquiry—a Jeff Sessions recused, a Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) excused from his investigations of unmasking and leaking, a Robert Mueller appointed as special counsel, friend of to-be-investigated James Comey, and employer of partisan attorneys.

Is naiveté the cause of such laxity? Do Republicans unilaterally follow Munich rules because they hope such protocols will create a new “civility” and “bipartisan cooperation” in Washington?

Or is the culprit civil dissension among the ranks, as the congressional leadership secretly has no real incentive to help the despised outsider Trump? When Republicans get re-elected on repealing and replacing Obamacare during the assured Obama veto-presidency, and then flip in the age of surety that Trump would reify their campaign boasts, should we laugh or cry? Is the Republican establishment’s aim to see Trump’s agenda rendered null and void—or does intent even matter when the result is the same anyway?
Republicans told us they should govern. It's time they get to it. More, much more, at the link.

Cranking the absurdity up to 11

Well, all righty then:
Lewd and rude “desnudas” – naked female panhandlers – are harassing tourists in New York’s Times Square, but cops reportedly can’t arrest them “because most of them are illegal immigrants.”

The desnudas -- a Spanish word meaning "naked" -- are part of a Times Square assembly of popular costumed children’s characters and mostly-naked females hitting tourists up for money in the uber-popular New York City district. A law enforcement source told The New York Post that past proposals to license the often obnoxious street performers went nowhere because most of them are illegal immigrants and wouldn’t register anyway. Plus, City Hall, under Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, isn’t interested in going after illegals such as the desnudas, the source told The Post.

So with little police enforcement, squads of Minnie Mouses, Incredible Hulks and painted women continue to pester passersby.
You can see pictures at the link if you really want to. There's a method to their madness:
Times Square Alliance President Tim Tomkins told The Post many of the Times Square performers continuously leave their Designated Activity Zones in an effort to earn more cash as part of what he called a “scam.”

“Suddenly, there’s three Minnies in your picture,” Tomkins said. “And a Batman, and a Spider-Man. And they all want cash. And they’re all outside the zone.”
And if you don't want to pony up?
“I told you, if you don’t have a tip, then f--- off!” one desnuda told a Post reporter.
We don't have that sort of thing in Minneapolis or St. Paul, at least not yet. But I wouldn't put it past anyone.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Know where you are

The thing (anonymously, of course) speaks for itself:
On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany, President Trump’s advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump’s oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril.

The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.

But within hours, at the president’s direction, the plan changed.

Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared a story, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”

The claims were later shown to be misleading.
The article from the Washington Post (via the Star Tribune) might be misleading as well, but we'll leave that aside for a moment. There's more:
Over the next three days, multiple accounts of the meeting were provided to the media as public pressure mounted, with Trump Jr. ultimately acknowledging that he had accepted the meeting after receiving an e-mail promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported, adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.
We're assuming a lot of facts that aren't in evidence yet. We don't know if Trump did anything of the sort. We know what we know because of anonymous sources. Let's guess who this one is:
“This was … unnecessary,” said one of the president’s advisers, who like most other people interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”
Who's the source? Sean Spicer? Reince Preibus? Someone else? Someone who was there? Someone who wasn't? We don't know.

My suspicion? It's not particularly important who is actually doing the leaking. Trump is a big believer in loyalty, but he's not in an environment where loyalty is rewarded. He's not in New York any more. He really can't trust anyone, even in his inner circle. Anything he says can be used against him, and almost certainly will be. He is an outsider and the folks in Washington won't accept anyone who messes with their rice bowls.

The next few weeks will be crucial. Trump has to change how he operates. And if he's got a counterattack planned, he'd better get on with it now.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Artifact

From the archives:

Not Hal Roach studios
That is my dad's family, circa 1935. My dad is the pouty little dude in the middle. The guy on the left is my grandfather; in the back row is my great-grandfather, along with my grandmother. No one in this picture walks the earth any more; the baby in my grandmother's arms is my aunt Judy, who passed away a few years ago. The older girl on the left is my Aunt Margaret, who died in 1943. I love old family pictures, because it gives you a sense of the world at that time. It was during the Depression, but my grandparents had just bought the house in the background, which was brand new. While everyone is dressed modestly, this is not a picture of poverty.

Awan You to Want Me

We aren't likely to get a lot of help from the MSM on understanding the case of the Awan brothers and their connections to congressional Democrats, but Andrew McCarthy gives it a shot:
In Washington, it’s never about what they tell you it’s about. So take this to the bank: The case of Imran Awan, Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s mysterious Pakistani IT guy, is not about bank fraud.

Yet bank fraud was the stated charge on which Awan was arrested at Dulles Airport this week, just as he was trying to flee the United States for Pakistan, via Qatar. That is the same route taken by Awan’s wife, Hina Alvi, in March, when she suddenly fled the country, with three young daughters she yanked out of school, mega-luggage, and $12,400 in cash.

By then, the proceeds of the fraudulent $165,000 loan they’d gotten from the Congressional Federal Credit Union had been sent ahead. It was part of a $283,000 transfer that Awan managed to wire from Capitol Hill. He pulled it off — hilariously, if infuriatingly — by pretending to be his wife in a phone call with the credit union. Told that his proffered reason for the transfer (“funeral arrangements”) wouldn’t fly, “Mrs.” Awan promptly repurposed: Now “she” was “buying property.” Asking no more questions, the credit union wired the money . . . to Pakistan.
There's more:

At the time of his arrest, the 37-year-old Imran Awan had been working for Democrats as an information technologist for 13 years. He started out with Representative Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.) in 2004. The next year, he landed on the staff of Wasserman Schultz, who had just been elected to the House.  
Congressional-staff salaries are modest, in the $40,000 range. For some reason, Awan was paid about four times as much. He also managed to get his wife, Alvi, on the House payroll . . . then his brother, Abid Awan . . . then Abid’s wife, Natalia Sova. The youngest of the clan, Awan’s brother Jamal, came on board in 2014 — the then-20-year-old commanding an annual salary of $160,000. 
A few of these arrangements appear to have been sinecures: While some Awans were rarely seen around the office, we now know they were engaged in extensive financial shenanigans away from the Capitol. Nevertheless, the Daily Caller’s Luke Rosiak, who has been all over this story, reports that, for their IT “work,” the Pakistani family has reeled in $4 million from U.S. taxpayers since 2009.

That’s just the “legit” dough. The family business evidently dabbles in procurement fraud, too. The Capitol Police and FBI are exploring widespread double-billing for computers, other communication devices, and related equipment.
We're not talking about any of this in the MSM. Nor are we likely to. There's plenty more at the link, and it's a good place to start.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Dumpster Fire Week

Things we learned yesterday:
  1. If you're angry with your coworkers, don't call Ryan Lizza to vent.
  2. If you'd like to repeal Obamacare, don't count on the Republican Party to do it.
The Trump administration likes to give weeks a theme. We're in the middle of dumpster fire week. Let's begin with the Leader of the Free World's new communications supremo, Anthony Scaramucci, who shares the following wisdom (apologies in advance for the multiple F-bombs, but a quote is a quote):
“They’ll all be fired by me,” [Scaramucci] said. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn’t been invited. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)
Try the decaf, Mr. Scaramucci. Of course, he was just getting warmed up:
Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)
Let's not mince words here -- Scaramucci thinks he's a genius, but he's really playing the Kevin Kline character in "A Fish Called Wanda." Again, there's some working blue here, but it makes the point:




Rather than worrying about whether someone takes a meeting with Bill Shine, I'd suggest Scaramucci get his shine box.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have decided Obamacare is nifty and swell, so we'll have no repeal:

A months-long effort by Senate Republicans to pass health legislation collapsed early Friday after GOP Senator John McCain joined two of his colleagues to block a stripped-down Obamacare repeal bill.

“I regret that our efforts were simply not enough, this time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor after the vote. “This is clearly a disappointing moment.”

“It’s time to move on,” he added after pulling the bill from the floor.

The decision by McCain to vote no came after weeks of brinkmanship and after his dramatic return from cancer treatment to cast the 50th vote to start debate on the bill earlier this week. The GOP’s ‘skinny’ repeal bill was defeated 49-51, falling just short of the 50 votes needed to advance it. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski also voted against it.
I've been trying to keep track of this -- based on who you talk to, and when you talk to them, John McCain is either a hero or a monster, and the answer changes by the hour. For his part, Le Grand Orange is probably right:

Especially, watch your wallet
The Democrats want the Republicans to start negotiating with them now. I wouldn't bother. Let the death spiral keep spiraling for another year. Let it burn. At this point, it would be better to work on tax reform and see what happens there.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Just askin'

More pressure on Sessions via Tweet (as usual, read from the bottom up):


Still wanting to know
You might recall Trump's reference to McCabe the other day. Asking a second time suggests something is up. Watch carefully.

I don't know

Should transgender people be able to serve in the military? I don't know. I've not worn the uniform, so I can only speculate how the interactions would play out. And uninformed speculation isn't worth much.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Public relations

Readers of this feature know that our valued contributor Benster is an Eagle Scout. His experience in Scouting was outstanding and, as a family, we are eternally grateful to the Boy Scouts of America for their program.

You may have heard about the Leader of the Free World stopping by the Boy Scout Jamboree earlier this week. He gave a long speech and it included, not surprisingly, more political stuff than one might expect at such a gathering. The scouts attending the Jamboree seemed to like the speech quite a lot, but plenty of people who weren't there didn't, and so we are now being told things like this:

Getting all Godwin up in here
These bien pensant musings are from Newsweek, which apparently is still in business. We know plenty about Le Grand Orange, but what remains most revealing about his presidency so far is how his critics have responded to his presidency. I can tell you this much -- there is far more hate in the hearts of these critics than you will find in the hearts of the Boy Scouts assembled in West Virginia.

il miglior fabbro

Walter Russell Mead, saying what needs to be said about the Charlie Gard case:
But it was a wicked abuse of the state’s coercive power to prevent the parents from trying their best for their child, and it should strengthen the determination of everyone who cares about human liberty to fight the inexorable, gratuitous growth of states that fail at the most basic jobs (like educating children in public schools) but who endlessly seek to expand their ‘competencies’ into new and more challenging fields.
Remember, if the single payer will not pay for your health care, and only the single payer can make the decision, you are also Charlie Gard.

Update: the inimitable Brad Carlson makes an excellent, related point:
And when people point to systems such as this as being the gold standard in saving money on care, they're at best being woefully misleading and at worst bald face lying. Of course less money is spent on those who are considered to have a terminal illness. Let them "die with dignity" or something.
It's a great system, especially if you get to define what dignity means.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dropping dimes in real time

I get up early in the morning so I have time to look at what's happening and write a blog post about it, if possible. As it happens, Donald Trump is simultaneously engaging in a Twitter storm in real time. As always, read 'em from the bottom up:

Naming names
So if you are reading this correctly, you see the Leader of the Free World dropping a dime on two of the most important officials in the Justice Department. So if you want a hot take, here ya go:

  • It's blindingly obvious Trump has had enough of Sessions and wants him out. It's a horrible idea to turn the Attorney General into an attack dog, but it's also been done in the past. Eric Holder, who was Barack Obama's AG, was always on the attack. Based on the available evidence, Sessions is either unable or unwilling to serve in this role.
  • It's not been widely reported, but it is a matter of public record that Andrew McCabe, who is still at the helm of the FBI, has a problem with his own financial disclosures. McCabe's wife, who ran for office in Virginia in 2015, received a total of $760,000 for her campaign from political action committees controlled by the Democrats, which Andrew McCabe did not initially disclose. To the extent that Hillary Clinton controlled the Democratic Party, Trump is correct.
  • Some executives send out memoranda. Trump seems to Tweet. Not how I would do things, but I'm not the Leader of the Free World.
And while I've been writing this, three more Trump Tweets appear:

Carrots, sticks, and a pen
Dang. I thought Trump told us McCain wasn't so good last year. That was then, this is now. Oops, one more!

Are you not entertained?
It may not be the way to run a government, but it's a hell of a show.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

Someone put up signs worth heeding over the weekend:
Joe Morino brought an incredulous friend to see the orange street sign he just spotted in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The official-looking metal sign read: “WARNING: TWIN CITIES POLICE EASILY STARTLED.” It featured a graphic silhouette of a police officer, a gun in each raised hand, shooting in both directions.

“There’s a side of truth to the sign,” Morino said after snapping a picture of it. “That tells you there is something wrong with the system.”
I saw multiple pictures of the second sign, which was at Snelling and University in St. Paul:

I love a man in a uniform
Apparently this one has been taken down, but it's spot-on. And it speaks to a real problem we have in the Twin Cities. If you look at what happened to Justine Damond, will you now think twice before you call 911? The motto of police departments everywhere is to serve and protect? That notion has taken a big hit lately, especially here. And ashcanning Janeé Harteau doesn't change the larger problems we're seeing throughout the metro. I have no reason to believe ashcanning Betsy Hodges will make a difference, either, at least in the short term.

OPEC may not matter any more

Some of my friends first got their drivers licenses in 1979, although I didn't get mine until later on. If you're old enough to remember 1979, you might remember seeing this:

Get it while you could
OPEC per se didn't cause this line -- it was mostly unrest in Iran -- but it did cause gas lines in 1973:

Good luck with that
These days, the chances you'll see a gas line are just about nil. And if the events chronicled in the Wall Street Journal are any indication, you aren't likely to see one again any time soon:
OPEC is worried that its plan to drain a global oil glut—and thereby raise crude prices—isn’t working.

A long-planned meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Monday to discuss the oil market with big producers outside the cartel has turned into a critical gathering. Over the weekend, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said, its ministers have held a series of “intensive consultations” about the challenges for an output-cutting deal the 14-nation cartel struck last year with Russia and other big producers.

The agreement was supposed to take almost 1.8 million barrels of crude oil off the global market and drain an oversupply that has weighed prices down for three years and sent a shock through the economies of oil-producing economies. But prices have remained stubbornly low as the glut persists. Brent, the international benchmark, fell 2.5%, to $48.06 on Friday because of doubts about OPEC’s ability to turn around the market.
If you want to know why, ask the frackers:
Another reason to expect little action on Monday is that OPEC is still weighing how to deal with U.S. producers, which remain largely outside of the cartel’s control.

Shale drillers—which work on shorter-term projects than traditional oil producers—took advantage quickly when oil prices briefly rose last year after the OPEC deal, sending more crude into global supply. They also have learned to drill at lower prices, and U.S. production has maintained its upward swing even as prices have been depressed this year.
As recently as last year, we were told fracking couldn't be profitable if oil was less than $65 a gallon. Oil production in the U.S. continues to grow, even at $48.06. Much of that production is fracking, as the domestic oil industry demonstrates its ability to adapt.

The implications are enormous. The geopolitical implications of the Middle East have been a huge part of life for all of us for nearly half a century. And $48/gallon oil cramps Vladimir Putin's style. Not ten years ago we were told we were reaching Peak Oil. I haven't heard much of that theory lately.

OPEC soldiers on, confident its machinations will make a difference later in the year. OPEC honcho Mohammad Barkindo says so:
Mr. Barkindo said Monday’s meeting could result in recommendations for OPEC and its allies to consider in the future. He said overall compliance with the deal since January had been “excellent.”

“The rebalancing process may be going at a slower pace than we earlier projected but it’s on course. It’s bound to accelerate in the second half,” he said.
Or the frackers will gobble up the market share. Place your bets.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Just a thought

If I were Trump, and I hasten to add I am glad I'm not, I'd do the following:

  • Pardon everyone potentially connected to the Russian thing
  • Pardon everyone potentially connected to Hillary Clinton's serial malfeasance
  • Tell Robert Mueller he can write his report any time he'd like, but the show is over
  • Tell everyone else to get back to work
The historians can sort it out.

Under the bus

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau came back to town yesterday. We're not sure how she arrived, but I suspect it might have been by bus, because she threw Mohamed Noor under it:
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau on Thursday called the shooting death of Justine Damond “unnecessary” and bluntly said it contradicted the mission and training given to her officers.

“Justine didn’t have to die,” Harteau said.

In her first public appearance since the Saturday shooting, Harteau said that based on what is publicly known about the case, there is no justification for officer Mohamed Noor’s decision to shoot Damond.
Nope. Don't look at us fine folks at the MPD. Harteau was just getting warmed up:
“Based on the publicly released information from the BCA, this should not have happened,” Harteau said, referring to a preliminary investigative report released earlier in the week. “On our squad cars, you will find the words ‘To protect with courage and serve with compassion.’ This did not happen.

“I believe the actions in question go against who we are as a department, how we train and the expectations we have for our officers. These were the actions and judgments of one individual,” she said.
So I guess Noor is on his own. Watch carefully, though:
Harteau’s news conference, attended by several members of the Australian media, ranged over topics from Noor’s training to Harteau’s absence from Minneapolis since the shooting. Harteau said she did not know Noor well, and had spoken to him only in passing, but that he “absolutely” performed well during training. She dismissed claims from critics such as former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who on Wednesday called Noor, who is Somali-American, “an affirmative-action hire.”

“This is about an individual officer’s actions. It is not about race or ethnicity,” Harteau said. “We have a very robust training and hiring process. This officer completed that training very well, just like every officer. He was very suited to be on the street.”
Hmmm. The message, none too subtle, is Noor screwed up. Yet "he was very suited to be on the street?" How does that work?

Sometimes the body cameras are operating. In those cases, we see the MPD shooting dogs:
Body camera video from a Minneapolis police officer who shot and seriously wounded two dogs in a residential backyard not only shows the best view yet of the animals’ temperament and movements during the encounter, but the officer is heard moments later apologizing to a sobbing resident while declaring his love for dogs.

The shootings on the night of July 8 behind the home in the 3800 block of Queen Avenue N. also were captured nearly in their entirety on residential surveillance video, which Jennifer LeMay, the dogs’ owner, posted on Facebook, quickly leading to hundreds of thousands of views.
You can watch the video at the link if you're so inclined.

Do we have any conclusions? Not yet, although it's possible to surmise MPD officers have their fingers on the triggers quite a lot. Around here, we shoot first. The asking questions later bit drags on for a while.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

No answers

The transcript of the 911 call that Justine Damond made provides no insight into why she would be killed only moments later:

Operator: 911, what's the address of the emergency?

Caller: Hi, I'm, I can hear someone out the back and I, I'm not sure if she's having sex or being raped.

Operator: Give me the address.

Caller: 5024 Washburn Avenue South.

Operator: Washburn Avenue South. You said it's behind (inaudible)?

Caller: And there's a (inaudible) out the back, yup, yup. And I think she just yelled out "help," but it's difficult, the sound has been going on for a while, but I think, I don't think she's enjoying it. I think it's, I don't know.

Operator: OK, well I already got a call started and help on the way. Uh, you can't see anything, you're just hearing a female screaming then, is that what you're saying?

Caller: Yeah. It sounds like sex noises, but it's been going on for a while and I think she tried to say help and it sounds distressed.

Operator: OK, I've already got an officer on the way. What is your name?

Caller: Justine.

Operator: Justine, what's your last name?

Caller: Justine.

Operator: Justine.

Caller: Yeah.

Operator: And a phone number?

Caller: (This information has been redacted for privacy reasons)

Operator: Okay, we've already got help on the way. If anything changes before we get there just give us a call right back, but officers should be there soon.

Caller: Thanks.

Operator: OK, not a problem.

Damond called again a few minutes later, to confirm the police were on the way:

Operator: 911, what is the address of the emergency?

Caller: Hi, I just reported one, but no one's here and was wondering if they got the address wrong.

Operator: What's the address?

Caller: 5024 Washburn Avenue South. It supposed to be Washburn Avenue South.

Operator: Are you Justine?

Caller: Yeah, (inaudible).

Operator: You're hearing a female screaming?

Caller: Yes, along behind the house.

Operator: Yup, officers are on the way there.

Caller: Thank you.

Operator: You're welcome, bye.

And only a few minutes later, Justine Damond would be dead.

We're not getting many answers from anyone. And I would guess we won't, at least none that explain what happened. Officer Mohamed Noor is taking full advantage of the right to remain silent. The Minneapolis Police Department doesn't have much to say, either, nor does the police union. That's interesting, because in the past the police union has given full-throated support to any officer who shoots someone. The Star Tribune noticed that, too:
In the days since the shooting on the city’s southwest side, Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll has repeatedly declined requests for comment on the shooting of the 40-year-old woman by officer Mohamed Noor.

The normally outspoken Kroll said he would wait until the completion of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation into the incident.
Kroll has a reason to keep quiet, too -- he had plenty to say in the aftermath of the shooting of Jamar Clark, and he got plenty of blowback. But it's still interesting, because he could still have provided a general statement of support for the difficult work police officers do, what you usually get in such cases. But there's been nothing. I'm expecting that trend to continue.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What and why

It's one thing to know what happened. It's quite another to know why. As we learn more about the circumstances of the death of Justine Damond at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, the why will matter greatly:
Police officers Matthew Harrity and Mohamed Noor eased their patrol vehicle into the alley of the quiet south Minneapolis neighborhood late Saturday, the squad’s lights off as they responded to a report of a possible assault.

Near the end of the alley, a “loud sound” startled Harrity. A moment later, Justine Damond, the woman who had called 911, approached the driver’s side of the squad car. Suddenly a surprise burst of gunfire blasted past Harrity as Noor fired through the squad’s open window, striking Damond in the abdomen.

The two officers began lifesaving efforts, but within 20 minutes Damond was dead.
For his part, Noor isn't talking, at least yet:
That rudimentary account of her death, released Tuesday by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is based on an interview that Harrity, 25, a one-year veteran of the force, gave to BCA investigators about a case that has become a focus of national and international attention. Noor so far has refused to talk to investigators and there is no indication when or if he might tell his side of the story.
Cops understand Miranda rights, at least for themselves. And a right is a right, so Noor's decision to stay silent and not answer questions is understandable, although it's likely to frustrate people looking for an explanation.

So what was Noor thinking? Well, maybe about this incident, as reported in the New York Times:
On a corner in the Bronx strained by steady rancor over unsolved crimes, and distrust of the police, Officer Miosotis Familia was a balm.

She had earned a reputation as “a good policewoman” in the short time she was assigned to an R.V.-style police command post at East 183rd Street and Morris Avenue, two miles north of Yankee Stadium, a longtime resident, Roma Martinez, said. She waved hello; she spoke Spanish.

But long before she arrived, a hostility toward law enforcement personnel was building in Alexander Bonds, who had been in and out of prisons and jails for 15 years and was slipping into severe mental illness. Last year he warned in a Facebook video that he would not back down if he encountered police officers on the streets: “I got broken ribs for a reason, son. We gonna shake.”

His girlfriend called 911 on Tuesday night and told the police that Mr. Bonds “was acting in a manic, depressed state — paranoid,” a law enforcement official said. When officers arrived, he had gone.

About three hours later, with Fourth of July fireworks still going off, Mr. Bonds strode up to Officer Familia’s command post and fired a .38-caliber revolver through a window, killing her with a bullet to the head. She was the first female New York Police Department officer killed in the line of duty since the Sept. 11 attacks, and only the third female officer killed in a combat-type encounter in the department’s history.
Let's be clear. The genteel Fulton neighborhood is hardly the south Bronx. And an unarmed 40-year-old woman in her pajamas was no threat to Mohamed Noor that night. I assume Damond would have had no reason to think about something that happened two weeks earlier, about 1000 miles away from the alley where she was killed. Almost certainly she approached the squad car to tell the officers what she had heard, not to kill the officers in an ambush. Back to the Star Tribune report:
The responding officers had not been on the force long. Harrity was hired a year ago; Noor two years ago. Asked by the media about partnering two relatively inexperienced officers, Arradondo said: “These were two fully trained police officers.”

They drove south through the alley between Washburn and Xerxes avenues S., toward 51st Street West, with the squad lights turned off. As they reached the street, “Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad,” according to the preliminary BCA investigation. Damon approached the driver’s side window of the squad car “immediately afterward,” according to the statement.

After Noor shot Damond, the officers quickly exited the car and started performing CPR until medical responders arrived. Damond was pronounced dead at the scene.
Was Mohamed Noor thinking about Miosotis Familia? We don't know, because he isn't talking. We can speculate, but we cannot know unless Noor decides to tell his story. Would a more veteran team of police officers have responded differently? Perhaps, but we don't know. I have not been through training for police officers. I don't know what Noor was taught. Perhaps his instructors could tell us.

We have an idea of what happened. We're not going to get to why for a while. We'll continue to watch the story.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Standing in the Shadows

There really aren't many mean streets in Fulton, but when the authorities arrive, things can happen, as we are learning:
The death of Justine Damond, who called 911 to report a possible crime only to be killed by a responding Minneapolis police officer, has left her grieving family, neighborhood and nation demanding answers in the latest police-involved shooting to thrust Minnesota into the international spotlight.

While many of the details about what happened Saturday night in the city's southwest corner have not been disclosed, this much was: She called to report a possible assault in the alley behind her house in one of the city's safest neighborhoods and was unarmed when officer Mohamed Noor shot her.
From what we're able to gather thus far, Noor shot Damond through the open window of the vehicle he was riding in with another officer, Matthew Harrity. If the details widely reported are true, Damond was talking with Harrity, who would have been driving the vehicle, when Noor shot Damond. Noor was apparently sitting in the passenger seat.

I don't know what happened, really. Three people know and one of them is dead. What I do know is incentives matter. This case played out quite differently than the shooting of Philando Castile, but because it happened not long after the verdict in that case, there's a tendency to look for parallels. The only parallel I can see is this: we give our police the power to use deadly force and officers are, not surprisingly, inclined to use that power.

Our founders were concerned about standing armies. A police force should not be a standing army, but on an operational level it's become increasingly difficult to discern the difference between a standing army and most police forces in this country. Police forces are, in the main, agents of the government and depending on the government in question, they can be a force of oppression. That's the sense many people in minority communities have about the police. While I'd like to say that sense is misguided, it's difficult to make that argument in the face of the evidence before us. Too often, the incentives are not directed at keeping the peace, but rather in getting a piece of the action. Incentives matter.

We have not yet heard the 911 call Justine Damond apparently made, but I imagine we will eventually. It may shed light on the assumptions Officers Noor and Harrity might have made as they arrived on the scene. We also don't know why anyone would consider a woman wearing pajamas to be a threat, but in a dark alley it's difficult to see what you think you see. We'll keep watching.

Monday, July 17, 2017

St. Anthony and Fulton

Alternatively, Philando and Justine:
A 40-year-old woman who family members said called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley behind her home Saturday night was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer.

The shooting happened at the end of the alley on W. 51st Street between Washburn and Xerxes avenues S. in the city’s Fulton neighborhood.

The woman, Justine Damond, from Sydney, Australia, and her fiancé lived in the 5000 block of Washburn.

Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene.
Well, it's bizarre. A few thoughts:

  • I've written about St. Anthony, the community that employed the police officer who killed Philando Castile, and I will be writing more about it in the coming days. St. Anthony is a sleepy enclave, largely well-to-do, and my property borders on it. Fulton, the south Minneapolis neighborhood where the latest incident took place, is livelier than St. Anthony, but also largely well-to-do. 50th Street, one block to the north of where the shooting took place, is a busy but largely genteel thoroughfare with plenty of gentry retail to be found, with the commercial mecca of 50th and France about a half-mile to the west. It's a place where the violence of the city just doesn't happen much.
  • My sister-in-law and her family lived in the area for years. Their house was in Linden Hills, about a half-mile to the north, in between Lake Harriet and Southwest High School. It's a high-demand area and houses that go on the market there are often sold before the sign goes up in the front yard. It's not a place where you would expect much violence.
  • Fulton is the neighborhood that Betsy Hodges, the embattled mayor of Minneapolis, represented in the city council. Fulton, Linden Hills, Lynnhurst and the other neighborhoods in the area are among the nicest places in Minneapolis. They are illusions, places where wealth and privilege insulate people from the realities that obtain elsewhere. Much of what we'll see in the coming days will represent an effort to maintain the illusion. I'll be watching this case, too.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

As seen elsewhere

Spot-on:

Fredo shoulda worn pearls, I guess

Friday, July 14, 2017

Boomtown

The best reporting on the latest Trump scandalette has been coming from John Solomon and Jonathan Easley of The Hill. They bring the story forward here:
Two months before Donald Trump Jr.’s encounter with a Russian figure, a key House subcommittee chairman received a similar overture in Moscow offering derogatory information about a U.S. policy that was upsetting Vladimir Putin.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican with a reputation as a Moscow ally in Congress, told The Hill the information he received in April 2016 came from the chief prosecutor in Moscow and painted an alternative picture of the Russian fraud case that led to the passage of anti-Russia legislation in Congress known as the Magnitsky Act.

“I had a meeting with some people, government officials, and they were saying, ‘Would you be willing to accept material on the Magnitsky case from the prosecutors in Moscow? ‘And I said, ‘Sure, I’d be willing to look at it,’” Rohrabacher recalled in an interview.

The congressman’s account provides the latest evidence that the overture to President Trump’s eldest son in June 2016 by a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya was part of a larger campaign by Moscow that predated the Trump Tower encounter and continued afterwards.
I don't think anyone is calling for Rohrabacher to be prosecuted for meeting with Russian operatives, at least not yet. There's more:
The focus was to sow distrust among American leaders about the Magnitsky Act, and influence far more than Trump’s inner circle. It included lobbying overtures to journalists, State Department officials and lawmakers and congressional staff from both parties, according to interviews with participants and recipients of the campaign.

Congress passed the law and President Barack Obama signed it in 2012, punishing Russia with sanctions for alleged human rights violations in connection with the prison death of a lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky who claimed to have uncovered a massive money laundering scheme based in Moscow.

U.S. officials argued the fraud was perpetrated by Russian government leaders and hurt American companies. But Russians have countered the fraud was actually committed by Magnitsky and his clients. Prosecutors in Russia eventually won a posthumous conviction against the dead lawyer, and retaliated against the U.S. for passing the law by suspending Americans’ ability to adopt Russian children.
So let's think about this. Knowing your audience is key to getting your message across. If you are a Russian and you want to get Team Trump's attention about an issue, how best to get the attention of Fredo Trump, who is thinking about how he can help his father beat Hillary Clinton? Pull a bait and switch, of course. Would Hillary's campaign take similar meetings or get help from a foreign nation? Of course:
Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.
You may have heard this, but in case you were unaware, Russia and Ukraine tend to have an, ahem, problematic relationship. Also, Manafort was in the room with Fredo when they met the Russians, by the way.

So What Does It All Mean? Less than we think, as usual. Remember this?
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
That's from the New York Times, back in 2015. The bleating about corruption in the Trump campaign is coming from the same people who didn't say a word about what Team Clinton was doing.

One of my favorite songs from the 80s is "Welcome to the Boomtown" by David & David. The chorus sticks in my head:

So I say 
I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown
Pick a habit 
We got plenty to go around
Welcome, welcome to the boomtown
All that money makes such a succulent sound
Welcome to the boomtown

In the 80s, the boomtown in question was Los Angeles. It's been D.C. for a lot longer, though. People are going to fight for their prerogatives and there are a lot of people in D.C. who enjoy their prerogatives. At bottom, that's what this scandal is really about -- protecting the ol' rice bowl. And the ugliness and hypocrisy we're seeing at the moment are just the surface.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cherchez la femme

The Hill has an extraordinary piece up about the woman at the center of the Fredo Trump crisis. So help me understand how this works:
The Russian lawyer who penetrated Donald Trump’s inner circle was initially cleared into the United States by the Justice Department under “extraordinary circumstances” before she embarked on a lobbying campaign last year that ensnared the president’s eldest son, members of Congress, journalists and State Department officials, according to court and Justice Department documents and interviews.

This revelation means it was the Obama Justice Department that enabled the newest and most intriguing figure in the Russia-Trump investigation to enter the country without a visa.

Later, a series of events between an intermediary for the attorney and the Trump campaign ultimately led to the controversy surrounding the president's eldest son.
So what were the extraordinary circumstances?
[I]in an interview with NBC News earlier this week, Veselnitskaya acknowledged her contacts with Donald Trump Jr. and in Washington were part of a lobbying campaign to get members of Congress and American political figures to see "the real circumstances behind the Magnitsky Act.”

That work was a far cry from the narrow reason the U.S. government initially gave for allowing Veselnitskaya into the U.S. in late 2015, according to federal court records.

The Moscow lawyer had been turned down for a visa to enter the U.S. lawfully but then was granted special immigration parole by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch for the limited purpose of helping a company owned by Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, her client, defend itself against a Justice Department asset forfeiture case in federal court in New York City.

During a court hearing in early January 2016 as Veselnitskaya’s permission to stay in the country was about to expire, federal prosecutors described how rare the grant of parole immigration was as Veselnitskaya pleaded for more time to remain in the United States.
That was January. We go back to the picture of Veselnitskaya, sitting front and center behind the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, in a congressional hearing in June, 2016.

Image result for Natalia Veselnitskaya michael mcfaul
Why is she there?
There's more:
Sources close to the lobbying effort to rename the Magnisky Act, conducted over the summer of 2016, said it fizzled after only a month or two. They described Veselnitskaya, who does not speak English, as a mysterious and shadowy figure. They said they were confused as to whether she had an official role in the lobbying campaign, although she was present for several meetings.

The sources also described their interactions with Veselnitskaya in the same way that Trump Jr. did. They claimed not to know who she worked for or what her motives were.

“Natalia didn’t speak a word of English,” said one source. “Don’t let anyone tell you this was a sophisticated lobbying effort. It was the least professional campaign I’ve ever seen. If she’s the cream of the Moscow intelligence community then we have nothing to worry about.”
Now think back -- the reason Veselnitskaya was in the country in the first place was to help someone at trial. Does a lawyer who doesn't speak English seem like an individual who would be useful in a judicial proceeding?

To sum up -- Natalia Veselnitskaya was lobbying Fredo Trump six months after she should have been back to Moscow. Days later, she's sitting in on a congressional hearing. Someone wanted this woman here. Much, much more at the link, including the role of a former Congressman from California named Ron Dellums.