Friday, April 28, 2017

Lordy

The thing speaks for itself:
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges learned that Police Chief Janeé Harteau would appoint Lt. John Delmonico as inspector of the North Side’s Fourth Precinct 90 minutes before police announced the decision.

The mayor urged Harteau to come to her office for a meeting, and Harteau declined, according to sources with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

Finally, Hodges said that either Harteau needed to undo the appointment of Delmonico, or Hodges would undo it herself. Harteau left the task to the mayor, and Hodges issued a statement late Wednesday overruling the decision.
A few thoughts:

  • Minneapolis has some really screwed up people running the city. Hodges is embattled on many fronts and stands a good chance of losing her seat, primarily because the demands of the job require her to have a few Menshevik moments, even though her operational preference is to combine careening self-congratulation and incoherent shaming of anyone who would dare disagree with her deep thoughts on any given subject.
  • Harteau clearly was trying to give Hodges the needle. Anyone who has ever watched the local news in the last 15 years has likely seen Delmonico on television, usually in the position of defending the latest indefensible act a cop committed. As the head of the police union, it was Delmonico's job to explain that beating the hell out of an unarmed person with a broken tail light  was always fully justified. Delmonico also made a very public accusation against Hodges a few years back, claiming that she was flashing gang signs. For Harteau to make Delmonico the top cop in the most combustible neighborhood in Minneapolis is, without question, a provocation, and an especially nasty one at that.
  • I'd like to argue the citizens of Minneapolis deserve better than this, but frankly they don't. If you elect someone like Betsy Hodges to run your city, you get what you deserve.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Still the same

Events have made it difficult to maintain a normal blogging schedule for at least the past week, but I'm hopeful we'll get better about it in the coming days. For today, let's consider the latest nonsense coming out of Berkeley, California:
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter has canceled her speech planned for this week at the University of California's Berkeley campus after a dispute with university officials, who feared violent protests, over whether a safe venue could be found.

"There will be no speech," she wrote in an email to Reuters on Wednesday, saying two conservative groups sponsoring her speech were no longer supporting her. "I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team," she wrote.
Ann Coulter has been doing her shtick for nearly 30 years now. We've heard it all before and one would ordinarily think the reaction to her appearance in any venue ought to be boredom, but here we have the battle joined.

The Left is not winning the argument these days. From what I can tell, they aren't even trying to win. The prevailing mode of discourse is you should shut up now.

For its part, the ACLU issued a pro forma denunciation of what happened to Coulter:

I doubt they will, though
Hateful speech isn't something directing other people to hate. It's whatever the bien pensant left would rather not contemplate. And in the end, all this nonsense at Berkeley is less about a conflict of visions (to use a phrase from Thomas Sowell) and more about turf. The Left has its redoubts and academe is a key one. It's bad enough the ravening hordes of Trump Nation are on the prowl in small towns and exurban enclaves, but they'd better stay the hell away from Sproul Plaza. Otherwise you get to meet these freedom fighters:

Image result for antifa
Love is in the air
They love you and have a wonderful plan for your life, so long as you get in line.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Events are again in the saddle

Not much content on the blog lately. While there are any number of things to discuss, I don't imagine I will be writing about them for a few days. I'm hoping to return to regular blogging soon.

I would throw out one thought that I read recently. Condescension is not persuasion.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Money Went Down to Georgia

Curses. . . foiled again!
For the second time in a week, Republicans dodged a potential political cataclysm.

Last Tuesday it was a special election in Kansas where the Republican candidate did just enough to win. This Tuesday it was another special election -- this one in suburban Atlanta -- where a slew of GOP candidates managed to keep Democrat Jon Ossoff just under 50%, forcing a June runoff.
Not for a lack of effort, though:
Sensing opportunity, national Democrats flooded the race with money -- Ossoff raised an eye-popping $8.3 million over the last three months, 95% of which came from out of the state of Georgia. That massive influx of cash, coupled with a lack of any other serious Democrats in the race and a disdain among many Republicans in the district for Trump's in-your-face style, made for a surprising opportunity for Democrats in the south -- a region where the party has been decimated over the last decade.
This isn't complicated, really. No matter what you think about Donald Trump, the Democrats aren't popular, either. Nothing that Trump has done, or hasn't done, has changed that calculus. You can print "potpourri" on that manure sack, but it's still going to have the same aroma. All the out-of-state money in the world isn't going to to change that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Blow

Writing for the New York Times, a Ph.D student at Duke named Casey Williams offers a little shop talk:
For decades, critical social scientists and humanists have chipped away at the idea of truth. We’ve deconstructed facts, insisted that knowledge is situated and denied the existence of objectivity. The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant, is simple: We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety. Claiming to know the truth is therefore a kind of assertion of power.
And now Williams has noticed that Donald Trump is good at using this approach:
There’s no question that past presidents have lied. And Trump is nothing if not a cynical manipulator. But Trump’s relationship to the truth seems novel, if only because he doesn’t try to hide his relativism. Mexican immigration, Islamic terrorism, free trade: For Trump, truth is always more about how people feel than what may be empirically verifiable. Trump admits as much in “The Art of the Deal,” where he describes his sales strategy as “truthful hyperbole.” For Trump, facts are fragile, and truth is flexible.
How would Williams know that? Never mind. Read on:
Trump and Stephen K. Bannon probably don’t spend evenings poring over Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation” or Michel Foucault’s “The Archaeology of Knowledge” (although Bannon’s adviser, Julia Hahn, did write her undergraduate thesis on the psychoanalytic theorist Leo Bersani). But the parallels between Trump’s attacks on accepted knowledge and critical philosophy’s insistence that we interrogate truth claims suggest that not all assaults on the authority of facts are revolutionary.
It can be a struggle to keep up with all the name dropping. I prefer quote dropping. Here's one:
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”
That's C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite dead white European males. Here's a live one:

Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts don't stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape

That's David Byrne. As long as facts continue to change their shape, they aren't likely to do what you want them to.

You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it. It's blowing pretty good these days.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mellow Yellow

I see 'em a lot more than I used to -- the flashing yellow left-turn signal at an intersection. And apparently the signals are confusing people:
By the looks of things, drivers in Plymouth — and probably other places, too — could use a crash course on how to navigate intersections governed by flashing yellow turn arrows.

This comes after an analysis by Plymouth police found that nearly 50 percent of crashes at the intersection of Rockford Road and Fernbrook Lane were the result of drivers not yielding to oncoming traffic when flashing yellow arrows were operating.

Between March 10, 2016 and Feb. 22, officer Scott Kirchner said there were 34 crashes at the busy intersection, and 16 were attributed to motorists failing to yield. The intersection handles 21,000 vehicles a day, according to a 2013 traffic count by the Hennepin County Transportation Department. Of those drivers, 4,093 make left turns. Keep in mind those counts were taken four years ago so the numbers are probably higher.
I don't go through that area much, if ever -- it's probably been a good ten years since I have, but it's easy to understand why there's a problem. It's often difficult to gauge the speed of oncoming traffic in the suburbs, because the posted speed limits often don't have much to do with reality. You don't necessarily know whether the oncoming traffic is coming at you at 35 MPH or 45 MPH. In my area, County Road D/37th Avenue NE tends to have a lot of traffic, but it's often coming more slowly than you think (sometimes less than 30 MPH), while the speeds on Old Highway 8 tend to be faster (often closer to 50 MPH). It's especially tough to make a left turn from Foss Road onto Old Highway 8, which gets a lot of overflow traffic from 35W. That intersection, a T-style intersection, does not have any traffic control other than a stop sign and you can end up waiting as long as 4-5 minutes to make that turn during rush hour. You also have several apartment buildings on Old Highway 8 with people impatiently trying to get out of their parking lots, so making that left-hand turn has been a white knuckle affair for the 20 years I've lived in the area.

The idea of a flashing yellow is to stop the backups at intersections, but it doesn't necessarily work. The linked Star Tribune article suggests one reason:
Impatience might be a factor, too. [Plymouth police officer Scott Kirchner] said drivers waiting to turn at the intersection have had motorists behind them honk.

“They hear that horn and think it’s my turn and go without thinking,” Kirchner said. “There is the pressure and they think maybe I can make this gap.”
We have more need for traffic control than ever before. We don't spend as much money on roads as we could, because we spend a lot of transportation money on other things. I don't have time to rehearse those arguments this morning, but we need to think more about how we move people and goods through our communities.

Ahem

Saturday Night Live skits are not news.

Friday, April 14, 2017

An entertaining read

Overslept this morning, so I don't have time to write a proper blog post. I will point you to a fascinating interview, however. For those of you who remember the era, John Brockington was the bell cow of the Green Bay Packers, a powerful runner who gained over 1,000 yards a season for his first three years. This was 1971-73, an era where the NFL played only 14 games in a season and the defenses were geared to stop the run. It was actually quite an achievement.
On the move in '72

Green Bay Packers historian (yes, they have one) Cliff Christl conducted a couple of interviews with Brockington, who is now 68 years old. The entire interview is here, but have a taste:

Playing for Dan Devine on a 4-8-2 team as a rookie compared to playing for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, which was unbeaten his senior year heading into the Rose Bowl: “(Devine) was very strange. When we were getting ready for the Bengals (the third game in ‘71), I’ll never forget, he said, ‘This team is bigger than us, they’re stronger than us, they’re faster than us. You have to do everything just right to win this football game.’ Like, why are we going out to play? When I was at Ohio State, we never went into a game thinking we could lose. Woody would say, ‘This is how we’re going to beat them.’ And we believed him because he was Woody Hayes. This guy (Devine) tells us, ‘If we don’t play a perfect game, we’re going to lose. They’re better than we are.’ I couldn’t believe it. But that was (Devine).”

On Devine telling him before the 12th game in 1971 that if he could start a team he’d take Minnesota’s Dave Osborn as his running back:  “So we’re in St. Louis and I was like chump change away from 1,000 yards and he makes the comment about Dave Osborn. Gillie says, ‘We got a back that’s ready to get 1,000 yards and (Devine) wants to start a team with somebody else.’ I didn’t want to get into that crap; I just wanted to play football. But he was a strange guy.”

On whether it was common for Devine to do things like that: “He wasn’t a coach that brought the team together. The things he said were so obvious that you wouldn’t do, but he’d do it anyway. It was amazing. He’d say things like, ‘If I was to start a football team, I’d start it with Alan Page or Joe Moore or Dave Osborn.’ It was never a Green Bay Packer. It was always somebody else. I mean how do you get ready for football games when the head coach doesn’t respect the team he is coaching?”
If you are a football fan of a certain age, this is great stuff. Check it out.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A nice move, Jiggly Boy

I've met John Sweeney, but I don't really know him, other than having beers with him in Madison one time maybe 30 years ago now. He's a good friend of my brother Pat, and I'm pretty sure that our faithful correspondent Crankbait is also a friend of Sweeney as well. Sweeney is the successor to the legendary Dudley Riggs and runs the Brave New Workshop, the Minneapolis-based improv group that has been our version of Second City for many years. He's also been known for dancing shirtless at Timberwolves games.



Since he's taken the helm at the Brave New Workshop, Sweeney has sought opportunities to simultaneously help his franchise and help people in the community, and his improv classes for seniors manage to achieve both goals, as the Star Tribune reports:
At the Brave New Workshop comedy school in Minneapolis, [Diane] Fuglestad, 69, is one of 30 senior citizens who have been learning improvisational technique for years. It’s about more than getting a laugh: The classes give these elders new skills to think and act quickly, speak up and, most of all, be seen.
Improv forces you to think on your feet and to react quickly, but it's mostly about joy. I recommend the linked article. We need more joy these days.

Shake Down the Blunder From the Sky

Good grief:
Vice President Mike Pence’s scheduled commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame has prompted a protest by senior students who say that Pence's presence on campus will make them "feel unsafe."

Students Immane Mondane and Jourdyhn Williams have started a #NotMyCommencementSpeaker campaign against Pence's May 21 address.

The campaign consists of students holding white boards featuring quotes from Pence that are "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, offensive, or ostracizing" to members of the Notre Dame community.
A friend of mine on social media posted a version of this story, along with an observation that must be made. If you aren't already aware of this, Notre Dame is located just outside of South Bend, Indiana. Does anyone remember what Mike Pence was doing prior to January 20? Anyone? Bueller?

Just in case you don't recall, Mike Pence was governor of Indiana. Assuming the students mentioned in the story are seniors, they've spent the last four years living in the presence of a scary, scary man. You wonder why the heck they didn't transfer to some other school a long time ago.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

RIP, Don Rickles

Very late to the party on this one. Rickles was hilarious and he had a great run. Some of his best moments were on the old Dean Martin roasts, which are astonishing to see these days -- so many legendary performers -- just look at the people assembled on the dais in this clip, in which Frank Sinatra and everyone within a five-mile radius is a target of Rickles's brilliant shtick. A sample of the master at work:


RIP, Mr. Warmth.

RIP, J. Geils

I always enjoyed their music -- frontman Peter Wolf is one of the more memorable singers of the rock era. Just when the J. Geils Band finally hit the big time, it all fell apart. But they left a lot of good music in their wake. A sample:


RIP.

Just a guess

I'm pretty sure that Sean Spicer knows the Nazis were actually quite fond of using chemicals to kill people. He may be incompetent, but he's not dumb. Spicer seems to have fundamental problems using the language, though. And considering the job he holds requires an individual who has excellent communication skills, he doesn't seem like the optimal choice for the position. Not my place to make personnel decisions for the White House, but they might want to consider an upgrade. And that's all I have to say about that.

Desperados Under the Expected Rate of Return

And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing until I pay my bill

-- Warren Zevon

Hell-raising rock and rollers aren't usually actuaries, but as California's bills start to come due, the artist has a point:
California cities and counties will see their required contributions to the largest U.S. pension fund almost double in five years, according to an analysis by the California Policy Center.

In the fiscal year beginning in July, local payments to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System will total $5.3 billion and rise to $9.8 billion in fiscal 2023, according to the right-leaning group that examines public pensions.

The increase reflects Calpers’ decision in December to roll back the expected rate of return on its investments. That means the system’s 3,000 cities, counties, school districts and other public agencies will have to put more taxpayer money into the fund because they can’t count as heavily on anticipated investment income to cover future benefit checks.
As Walter Russell Mead points out, the expected rate of return was pretty high:
Calpers has concealed the depth of the pension shortfall by using unrealistic rates of return in its accounting estimates. But to stay solvent, it was recently forced to cut its projected rate from 7.5 percent to 7.375 percent (with more reductions almost certainly on their way). The state will need to make up the difference with tax increases and austerity.
So if the actual rate of return turns out to be more like, say, 5 percent? Good luck. We have looming pension crises in a lot of places. And if California imagines that some other entity is going to make up the shortfall, they are sadly mistaken. The printing presses at the Fed are still running full bore and it's not going to be enough.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

State champions

For the second consecutive year, the Irondale Winter Drumline has won the state championship. We're getting now getting ready to go to Dayton for the WGI Championships. Irondale has a legitimate chance to win the national competition as well, as their scores during the season have consistently been in the top 2-3 positions.

If you want to see Irondale perform live, you'll have a chance on Saturday, as the Knights and River City Rhythm perform at 7 p.m. at Irondale High School. Admission is free. Meanwhile, here's video of an early performance of this year's show, "Forever":


And here is RCR's show, "The Devil's Advocate":



Monday, April 10, 2017

Palm Sunday Bombs

Although we are often reminded of such things from the pulpit, the history of Christianity has been filled with martyrs. We now have more in Egypt, following two bombings of Coptic churches yesterday:
Egypt's president called for a three-month state of emergency Sunday after at least 44 people were killed and more than 100 more were injured in two Palm Sunday suicide attacks at Coptic Christian churches, each carried out by the ISIS terror group.

Sunday's first blast happened at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said.

Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers.

A second explosion – which Egypt’s Interior Ministry says was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria -- left at least 17 dead, and 48 injured. The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II -- leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria -- finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed.
We prayed for our brethren yesterday during our own Palm Sunday Mass. I'm glad we did, but I wonder how much it really meant. We don't have much to worry about in our sanctuaries -- the bombers don't come to our suburban churches and while we name many of our churches in honor of those who paid the ultimate price for the faith, we don't spend much time thinking about the meaning of those sacrifices, even during Holy Week. Perhaps we should.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Justice Gorsuch

It won't do to pretend Neil Gorsuch is now on the Supreme Court because of high principle, even if his rulings on the Court demonstrate high principle. The whole thing was about a raw exercise in power. And given the stakes, raw power is what matters. Instead of Barack Obama putting a jurist on the court who would have rolled back the First, Second and Fourth Amendments to fit current leftist desires, Donald Trump put a jurist on the court who might protect those amendments. One can never be sure with justices appointed by Republican presidents. One can always assume a leftist jurist will vote in lockstep, because they always do.

Last year, Mitch McConnell rolled the dice. This time he won. And now that the filibuster is gone, it's likely Trump will have more justices to appoint. I could see him naming the replacements for four more jurists -- Kennedy, Breyer and Ginsburg are getting up there, and Thomas has made noises about retiring in the past. A lot of Democrats are thinking they will flip the Senate and/or the House in 2018, but I doubt that will happen. I would not be surprised if we start seeing a lot of 7-2 decisions in the future.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Once again, events are in the saddle

Life matters more than blogging, so things may be a bit light around here for the next few days. So have an open thread!

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Actually, I appreciate her honest expression of her opinion

Melissa Hortman is a DFLliberal politician. At least she's honest about it:
The DFL's leader in the state House of Representatives is not apologizing for a crack about white men during a floor speech that led at least one Republican colleague to demand on Tuesday she resign from her leadership post.

"I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate," House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park said during a House session Monday evening.

Hortman then praised several speeches by female colleagues, including several women of color, that some members missed as they relaxed in the lounge-style room reserved for members just off the House floor.
Of course it was a cheap shot. It also reflects precisely why Hortman and her pals in the DFL are now a minority and why, outside of places like Brooklyn Park, people who share Hortman's views have difficulty getting elected.

Keep talking, Rep. Hortman. Tell us all about your world view. Shout it from the housetops. Fill thy horn with bile.

The Tell

Experienced pokers players look for any behavior that might tip them off about what their opponent is thinking -- a pattern of tapping one's fingers on the table, a repressed smile, whistling. It's called a "tell." The Democrats and their friends are offering up rather a lot of tells at the moment.

First, the war against Devin Nunes. We've discussed the matter before. Now we have 20 Democrats demanding Nunes step down:
Congress must come together in a bipartisan fashion to understand the nature of this attack and the scope of Russian ties to the Trump campaign, transition team, and presidential administration. Chairman Nunes has demonstrated his bias, and the public will no longer accept the results of this probe as legitimate under his leadership. This is about country, not party. It is also a test about the ability of the House, as an institution, to conduct an investigation of the Executive Branch while being independent of that branch. Chairman Nunes’ recent actions make clear he has failed that test. Only his recusal will allow the House to pass that test.
In the lexicon of Democrats, "bipartisan" means they get their way. It's clear why they don't want Nunes to go forward -- he's on to something.

Meanwhile, on the support staff side of the Democrats, we have this stirring statement of principle:
In a monologue on his Monday night program, CNN host Don Lemon said the network and host will not cover the story about Susan Rice uncovering, or 'unmasking,' the names of Trump officials and confidants that were swept up in surveillance.

"So let us be very clear about this," Lemon said. "There is no evidence whatsoever that the Trump team surveilled or spied on -- was spied on illegally. There is no evidence that backs up the president's original claim."

"And on this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise, nor will we aid and abet the people who were trying to misinform you the American people by creating a diversion. We're not going to do it," Lemon declared.
Emphasis mine. CNN is not going to touch the story. It's left to others to do so. Writing for National Review, a publication that isn't exactly supportive of Donald Trump, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy explains what really went on:

In general, it is the FBI that conducts investigations that bear on American citizens suspected of committing crimes or of acting as agents of foreign powers. In the matter of alleged Russian meddling, the investigative camp also includes the CIA and the NSA. All three agencies conducted a probe and issued a joint report in January. That was after Obama, despite having previously acknowledged that the Russian activity was inconsequential, suddenly made a great show of ordering an inquiry and issuing sanctions.

Consequently, if unmasking was relevant to the Russia investigation, it would have been done by those three agencies. And if it had been critical to know the identities of Americans caught up in other foreign intelligence efforts, the agencies that collect the information and conduct investigations would have unmasked it. Because they are the agencies that collect and refine intelligence “products” for the rest of the “intelligence community,” they are responsible for any unmasking; and they do it under “minimization” standards that FBI Director James Comey, in recent congressional testimony, described as “obsessive” in their determination to protect the identities and privacy of Americans.

Understand: There would have been no intelligence need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. If there had been a real need to reveal the identities — an intelligence need based on American interests — the unmasking would have been done by the investigating agencies.

The national-security adviser is not an investigator. She is a White House staffer. The president’s staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it. If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests; it was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic-party interests.
It's not in the interest of the Democratic Party to have such actions receive scrutiny. So Nunes must step down, and Don Lemon and his pals at CNN must not discuss the matter, either. As McCarthy rightly points out, political appointees do political things. If you choose to believe that Repubicans are Evil and Democrats are Good, I'm sure it's tough to swallow. It's also why we're seeing so much finger tapping and whistling from our fellow citizens on the port side.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Lightning Round -- 040417

I've got nothing to say, but it's okay/Good morning, good morning, good morning. Well, that's not quite true. Commence:

  • It's going to be a nuclear option on the Gorsuch nomination to the Supreme Court, apparently. Fine with me. If the Supreme Court is going to be the blunt instrument used to enforce raw governmental power, as it has been since at least Wickard v. Filburn, the Republicans might as well be forthright about it. 
  • You can tell the Democrats are running out of stories to keep their Russia hacking the election meme going, if they are trotting out a Blackwater story. The way you can tell this is insane -- the date of the meeting was apparently January 11. There wasn't any reason to establish a back channel to Putin on Trump's behalf when Trump was going to be president in nine days. And consider the description of what happened: Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian. No formal role, unofficial envoy, unnamed official, unnamed Russian. This isn't a news story, but it's on the front page of the Strib's website. Wouldn't want to talk about Susan Rice, now would you?
  • I continue to watch what's going to happen in the case of Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony cop who is going to stand trial in the shooting of Philando Castile. It's all quite close to home for us. St. Anthony is literally just past our back yard. The judge in the case is considering a variety of defense motions today, so stay tuned.
  • I hated the basketball game last night. The officiating crew called 27 fouls in the second half. The game was sloppy but not chippy in the least. Swallow the whistles a bit and let 'em play. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

Nothing or Everything

The Keyser Soze of the Obama Administration is back. Perhaps:
Susan Rice, who served as the National Security Adviser under President Obama, has been identified as the official who requested unmasking of incoming Trump officials, Cernovich Media can exclusively report.

The White House Counsel’s office identified Rice as the person responsible for the unmasking after examining Rice’s document log requests. The reports Rice requested to see are kept under tightly-controlled conditions. Each person must log her name before being granted access to them.

Upon learning of Rice’s actions, H. R. McMaster dispatched his close aide Derek Harvey to Capitol Hill to brief Chairman Nunes.
So who, or rather what, is Cernovich Media? It's a guy who does his own reporting and has an agenda. So maybe this is crap. Or maybe not:
This reporter has been informed that Maggie Haberman has had this story about Susan Rice for at least 48 hours, and has chosen to sit on it in an effort to protect the reputation of former President Barack Obama.
Maggie Haberman works for the New York Times. She's also someone who carries water for the Democrats generally, as we discovered from WikiLeaks last year.  As usual, we have no idea who is telling the truth. If Cernovich is telling the truth, Rice should be in prison. But we have no idea.

Meanwhile, Byron York is following another trail for the Washington Examiner*:
Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey demanding the story behind the FBI's reported plan to pay the author of a lurid and unsubstantiated dossier on candidate Donald Trump. In particular, Grassley appears to be zeroing in on the FBI's deputy director, Andrew McCabe, indicating Senate investigators want to learn more about McCabe's role in a key aspect of the Trump-Russia affair.

Grassley began his investigation after the Washington Post reported on February 28 that the FBI, "a few weeks before the election," agreed to pay former British spy Christopher Steele to investigate Trump. Prior to that, supporters of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign had paid Steele to gather intelligence on Clinton's Republican rival. In the end, the FBI did not pay Steele, the Post reported, after the dossier "became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials." It is not clear whether Steele worked under agreement with the FBI for any period of time before the payment deal fell through.

"The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for president in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI's independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration's use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends," Grassley wrote in a letter to Comey dated March 28.
So will we be talking about any of these issues today? I would imagine we would, because as I was writing this post, the Leader of the Free World was back on the ol' Twitter:

Forcing the issue
Guess we'll find out. Perhaps we'll even hear from Maggie Haberman.

*If you click on the link, mute your tab. York is a good reporter, but that website launches autoplay videos like there's no tomorrow.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Funhouse

I suspect Kim Strassel, writing for the Wall Street Journal, is correct:
Mr. Nunes earlier this week got his own source to show him a treasure trove of documents at a secure facility. Here are the relevant details:

First, there were dozens of documents with information about Trump officials. Second, the information these documents contained was not related to Russia. Third, while many reports did “mask” identities (referring, for instance, to “U.S. Person 1 or 2”) they were written in ways that made clear which Trump officials were being discussed. Fourth, in at least one instance, a Trump official other than Mr. Flynn was outright unmasked. Finally, these documents were circulated at the highest levels of government.
As to why Nunes isn't necessarily following normal protocols, Strassel has that covered, too:
Mr. Schiff’s howls about Mr. Nunes’s methods are bluster; the Republican was doing his job, and well. Mr. Nunes has spent years cultivating whistleblowers and sources as part of his oversight responsibilities, and that network scored him information that has otherwise remained hidden. It isn’t clear if the White House itself attempted to obtain these documents, but even if it did, the Senate has confirmed few Trump political appointees, which means there aren’t many loyal staffers among the Obama holdovers to attempt it. It’s also possible the Trump White House was wary of making such a demand, since it would inevitably leak. The last thing the administration wants is wild speculation that it was interfering with the FBI’s Russia probe.
Emphasis mine. Trump may or may not be competent, but we won't really know his actual acumen until he has his team in place. Now that the White House is saying they will let Schiff, and anyone else on the committee, see the documents that Nunes has seen, clowntime may be over.

As they always say, read the whole thing.

Yuge

Actually, no, this post has nothing to do with Donald Trump. It's far more important than the lysergic kabuki going on in the Beltway. Frackers are changing the world:
The Dallas Fed just issued its quarterly energy survey, and in it are some special questions on what price of oil shale firms need to profitably operate existing wells, and what oil price they need to drill new ones as well. These prices vary by shale basin (and even within shale basins), but overall it looks like most U.S. shale operations would be able to continue to turn a profit even if oil prices were to drop $20 per barrel, and current prices are enough to profitably drill new wells in nearly every shale formation.
The implication here is nothing short of astonishing. If oil companies can be profitable even at $20 a barrel, there's essentially nothing OPEC can do to move the world oil market. Cutting production to raise the prices of crude oil? Won't work, because the frackers will simply produce enough to cover the cuts. Moreover, it means the games the Russians play won't have much effect in world petroleum markets. And it means U.S. energy security is assured for the foreseeable future. While there may be temporary shocks here and there, the proven reserves and overall supply of oil is greater than it's been in decades. The geopolitical implications are even more enormous -- put it this way, it's not good news for Putin, or the mullahs.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Epistemology, again

Is Donald Trump a Manchurian Candidate? Is Devin Nunes a liar, a bumbler, a genius, a scoundrel, a saint? Who, exactly, is Evelyn Farkas? I've spent my usual blogging time in the morning reading various sources, trying to figure out what is true and what is not true. I have no way of knowing. And since I've spent the time trying to figure it out, I don't have time to write about it, other than what you are reading at the moment.

The one observation I'd make -- a lot of people seem to be trying to silence Devin Nunes. Why do you suppose that is?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Incentives in Anoka County

Incentives matter:
Long suspicious that a Fridley mother of eight was cheating the state out of various welfare benefits, authorities have charged her Tuesday receiving more than $118,000 in government aid over roughly a 1½-year period.

Authorities say that as she collected benefits, Fozia S. Dualeh falsely claimed that the children’s father, who was gainfully employed, was not financially supporting or living with the family.
The gubmint is giving away money. Get some. There's more:
A search of the home by authorities in late October 2015 led to Dualeh’s husband, and the children’s father, Abdikhadar Y. Ismail, being found in bed under the blankets in the master bedroom, charges said. Men’s clothing was in a dresser, and mail and other documents with his name on them were found throughout the residence.

Messages were left Tuesday for Dualeh seeking her reaction to the allegations. Ismail said, “We are very innocent” but declined to say more.
And as often happens, the lede is buried:
Dualeh’s attorney, Nahid Abuelhassan, disputed the criminal charge and said a civil effort last year by Anoka County to collect the money was thwarted by an appeals examiner.
Stewardship of taxpayer money? Nope. Remember, incentives matter. And if your mission is to give the money away, clawing it back in the case of evident fraud isn't a top priority. There's always more money. In this instance, the fraud was so blatant that there really wasn't much choice. Had Mr. Ismail had the wit to set up a post office box, we might not be reading about this story in the Star Tribune.

One question, though -- are charges due to be filed against Mr. Ismail? One would hope so; it hardly seems sporting to only charge the mother with fraud when both of these individuals were enjoying the largesse of Anoka County. Of course, if you send both parents to prison for fraud, then the kids actually will need a whole bunch of other services. Incentives matter.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ten years ago

At this time ten years ago, I was in the hospital. I wrote about it at the time:
Monday night into Tuesday morning, I had probably the worst headache I've ever had, requiring a trip to the doctor. Because of the additional symptoms I had that morning (blurred vision, slurred speech), I was given a series of tests and I have learned that I have a pituitary tumor. I will be returning to United Hospital next week for surgery to remove this tumor and will likely be in the hospital for the next week. 
If you're going to have a tumor in your brain, a pituitary tumor is better than most. While I've had a few issues over the last ten years, the debilitating headaches that were wrecking my life have largely disappeared. The loss of vision I'd experienced is no longer an issue. I've been fortunate, really.

At this point, I'm still taking medication, but less than we'd envisioned at the time. My endocrinologist is still my primary physician and we do tinker with things, so I'm not certain what the future brings. What I do know is that the last ten years have been much better than I'd expected they would be back in 2007. And I am grateful for that.

Walz comes tumbling down

Can you contain your excitement?
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz said Monday he is running for governor in 2018.

Walz said in a phone interview that he brings a "passion for Minnesota" and a "proven ability to get things done working with other folks."

A Mankato DFLer representing the First Congressional District, Walz was elected in 2006. DFL powerbrokers have been hoping Walz would run, given his ability to garner votes in greater Minnesota. Walz has been re-elected in tough Democratic years like 2010 but barely squeaked by in 2016 despite facing weak opposition. Walz ran ahead of DFL presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who lost the district by 15 points. 
From what I can tell, Walz hasn't proven he can win votes anywhere but Mankato and Rochester. That's a start, but he's going to be a tough sell in the metro. Given what happened in 2016, there was a good chance he was going down in the next election cycle in his congressional district, so he might as well give it a go for governor, especially given the announced competition:
He joins State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Rep. Erin Murphy and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in the DFL race. Others considering a run are U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, Rep. Paul Thissen and Attorney General Lori Swanson. 
If you can find a compelling candidate out of that gaggle, let Ken Martin know.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Back in town

We were out last week looking at colleges. It was an enlightening trip. A few brief observations:

  • If you want to know why colleges have become so expensive, go visit a few. The amenities at the schools we saw were top-notch. The dorm rooms at the schools were nicer than many hotels and the food service is quite good. You might see deferred maintenance and crappy food in some places, but the collegiate experience is quite pleasant these days. It's also unrealistic, because the real world isn't nearly so well scrubbed.
  • I'd never been to St. Louis before. You can see the trouble from the highway in some places, but the areas around Washington University and and Saint Louis University were really quite nice. The prices for food and drink were also noticeably cheaper than in the Twin Cities. 
  • On the other hand, Chicago looks worse for wear. The roads were terrible in certain areas we traveled, especially in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the far north side. Touhy Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare and it had huge gouges in the pavement all the way to the border in Skokie. Make sure you get your shocks fixed before you attempt your passage.
  • The Illinois Tollway system is really annoying. But you already knew that. The latest issue is that you are expected to pay, but there's no way to pay at certain entrances unless you have an I-Pass. I'm expected to go on to their website and enter my credit card to pay a 70 cent toll because I was on I-294 for all of three minutes. Sheesh.
Back to regular programming tomorrow.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

News You Can Use

From the Star Tribune:
“A lot of our time at drumline is competitive,” said Maria Heuring, an Irondale junior who plays marimba. “When we’re at our competitions, we need to be ‘on’ all the time so that we can put forth our best product for the judges, the audience, and for ourselves. Similarly at rehearsals, we need to be persistent in order to keep improving our show.”
Yes, of course you should read the whole thing.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Republicans are bad at politics

Democrats are willing to say and do whatever it takes to win. And they do. Until and unless Republicans realize that, they won't ever accomplish anything.

It was a good week to be away from politics.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Road Show

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

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

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Xavier 73, Prescott 47

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

It's the gold ball
Really a tremendous season.

RIP, Chuck Berry

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





Working a little blue on this one:


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


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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Xavier 81, Ripon 74

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sand in the gears again

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

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

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


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rachel, Rachel, I've Been Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He's good at it.

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

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

Trump has taken it to a higher level.

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Head down and mouth shut

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Events are in the saddle

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Fake news

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

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


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

Friday, March 10, 2017

That's Great. Now Prove It

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

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

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

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

Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Getting busy

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

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

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Check Your Privilege

So, about the gaggle of lefties who dressed in black and were using smoke bombs and pepper spray on Trump supporters at the Capitol last weekend? Turns out one of them is the scion of someone you might remember:

Citizen Kaine
The youngest son of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, was one of six people arrested Saturday after counter-protesters disrupted a rally in support of President Donald Trump at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Linwood Michael Kaine, 24, and four others were arrested on suspicion of second-degree riot after the “March 4 Trump” rally in St. Paul; a sixth person was cited for disorderly conduct. Counter-protesters clashed with Trump supporters in the Capitol rotunda after they disrupted the proceedings with air horns, whistles and chants. At one point, someone set off a smoke bomb.

Linwood Kaine, a Minneapolis resident who attended Carleton College and goes by Woody, was released from the Ramsey County jail on Tuesday morning pending further investigation, law enforcement officials said.
I'm surprised; usually the children of politicians don't have to get their hands so dirty and can job this sort of thing out. So what did they do? More from the linked article in the Pioneer Press:

Speeches had been going on for about a half-hour inside the newly renovated Capitol rotunda when a group of people tried to disrupt the event. At one point, someone set off a smoke bomb — apparently striking a woman in the head, police said. 
A 61-year-old Plymouth woman said she was hit in the head at 12:30 p.m., about 10 minutes after she arrived at the Trump rally. The woman said she saw something coming toward her, tried to avoid the object, but it struck her in the forehead, according to Steve Linders, a St. Paul police spokesman. She was not injured. It was not clear who threw the smoke bomb.

Security guards intervened, skirmishes broke out, and someone sprayed chemical irritant into the crowd. Some counter-demonstrators dispersed, and the rally resumed.

Woody Kaine was seen with four people who lit fireworks inside the Capitol, Linders said. Police are investigating whether Kaine was one of the people who was lighting the devices.

St. Paul police arrested Kaine and the four others near Rice Street and University Avenue, less than a block from the Capitol. After the group ran and a St. Paul police officer detained Kaine, “he turned around and squared up to fight with the officer,” Linders said Tuesday night. “The officer was able to place Mr. Kaine under arrest and take him to the Ramsey County jail for booking.”
Young Mr. Kaine is privileged in ways that most of us are not. His father may not get to hang out in the Naval Observatory these days, but he's a sitting United States senator and was the governor of Virginia before that. Given the fecklessness of local authorities, Kaine the younger and his tonsorially challenged colleagues will likely skate by with only minimal consequences for his actions. Pepper spraying the hoi polloi is no big thing, you see. Eventually young Mr. Kaine will cut his hair and get a sinecure in the family business; if he plays his cards right and puts the Mace on the high shelf, he'll get to be Ted Mondale some day. That is how privilege actually works.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Getting serious

So what the heck is really going on with all the Russian stuff? If Andrew McCarthy is correct, less than you think, but maybe more:
Given the abundance of indications that the Obama Justice Department scrutinized his campaign, or at least his associates, it was odd that the president chose to tweet the one allegation in the whole mess that appears insupportable — viz., that President Obama had had candidate Trump wiretapped. To my knowledge, no such suggestion has ever been publicly reported. At most, it has been reported (but not proved) that there was a FISA application in June that “named Trump” – but, as I’ve pointed out, saying someone was named in an application does not mean that person was targeted for eavesdropping. And, in any event, the reporting tells us that if there was such an application, the FISA court denied it. Thus, I know of no basis to believe that Trump himself was wiretapped; and if the president’s objective was to sensationalize the story, it would surely have been enough to tweet out a colorable fear that surveillance of him — as a Russian agent — had been proposed.
But there's another angle:
Here’s the most interesting part: Now that they’ve been called on it, the media and Democrats are gradually retreating from the investigation they’ve been touting for months as the glue for their conspiracy theory. It’s actually quite amusing to watch: How dare you suggest President Obama would ever order surveillance! Who said anything about FISA orders? What evidence do you lunatic conservatives have — uh, other than what we media professionals been reporting — that there was any investigation of the Trump campaign?
If there wasn't an investigation, what has been leaking all this time?

Another angle, this time from Richard Fernandez:
The most singular thing about Donald Trump's wiretap accusation against Barack Obama is how he's refusing to play the game of extremities — losing a Flynn here and getting a Sessions paralyzed there — and getting right into lethal range. Trump's gone right past Schumer, ignored the surrogates and gone straight for the former president himself.
And the implications are huge:
This escalation represents a real threat to Obama. Suddenly everything is out of control. Nobody would have minded much if Trump had gone after one of Obama's henchmen — which is probably what was expected — but none can foresee how an exchange of blades between principals will end. It is safe to say, however, that unless the combatants disengage, someone will get hurt. It will be a terrible moment for American political civility when a king lies on the political floor. The whole point of a peaceful transition of power is to prevent a clash between kings. Yet the very tragedy the electoral process is intended to prevent is happening before our eyes.
You can't have a peaceful transition of power unless both sides are committed to the idea. We've seen this game before, six years ago in Madison. And at this point, the same forces are at play. And how we respond will make all the difference. We have our first indication on the local level:
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office Monday declined to file charges against six counter-protesters arrested Saturday at a pro-Trump rally at the State Capitol.

Anton Bueckert was arrested on disorderly conduct charges. Jonathan Adams, Linwood Kaine, Glenn Kimball, Isabell Kimball and Haley Ryan were arrested on felony rioting charges.

Monday, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office said there were insufficient facts to prove felony-level riot. The attorney’s office said State Patrol has presented the case to the St. Paul City Attorney’s Office for consideration of misdemeanor charges.
These folks were pepper spraying the Trump supporters. They were throwing punches. They set off a smoke bomb in the Capitol. But they'll probably get by with it, just as the mob that attacked Charles Murray at Middlebury College will, as will the goons at Berkeley. And that's a real problem, as the Ace of Spades reminds us:
Do you really think there will be any legal consequences for the mob?

Or do you think the Political-Media state will tacitly bless their assaults as "understandable" and hence not punishable?''

Does it not seem to be an inside-outside game going on? Community-organized violent demonstrators who are then protected, if not outright blessed, by official government institutions and all of the media to go even further than they've gone already?

A mob that gets cracked down on by government agents is a one-day crime story.

A mob that gets protected by government agents is a serious political story.

That there is political violence is not itself alarming. That government actors, rich institutions, and the putative Fourth Branch of Government support political violence is gravely alarming.

Do you think there will be more of this, or less of this, in the year to come? And if you say less -- well, what would cause there to be less of it?

Strongly worded columns?
The black-clad mob can call themselves anarchists, and some do. But they don't want anarchy in the classic sense. They want control for their side. There's no liberty involved. It's getting serious.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Funhouse

You watch the news and it's like this famous scene from Orson Welles's classic, "The Lady from Shanghai":


Is Trump crazy? Are people telling you the truth? Why is everything reported in the news filtered through "senior American officials?"
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.

Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment. Sarah Isgur Flores, the spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also declined to comment.
So did Comey do this or not? We haven't heard from Comey, just from unnamed "senior American officials?" And if he had, are we certain Comey have direct knowledge of what Barack Obama ordered, or didn't order?

We don't know any of it, really. I'm writing this at my dining room table in my home in a suburb of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I don't know how you define who a "senior American official" is. Is it Comey himself? Or is it this guy?
When Todd asked him whether he could confirm or deny if a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act) order for this existed, [Former DNI James] Clapper declared, "I can deny it."

Asked again whether there was a FISA Court order to monitor Trump Tower, Clapper said, "Not to my knowledge."

Clapper said that if any wiretap like that occurred, he would "certainly hope" that he would be aware of it.

"I can't speak for other authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity," he added.
So do you know what's happening? Do you trust the New York Times? Do you trust NBC? Do you trust Clapper? Should you?
Some lawmakers reacted to the long-expected resignation announcement from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Thursday by wishing him an eventful retirement, featuring prosecution and possible prison time.

The passage of more than three years hasn’t cooled the insistence in certain quarters that Clapper face charges for an admittedly false statement to Congress in March 2013, when he responded, “No, sir" and "not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans.

About three months after making that claim, documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the answer was untruthful and that the NSA was in fact collecting in bulk domestic call records, along with various internet communications.
I can't tell you what to think about any of it. I would say this -- whether you choose to believe Donald Trump or not, he is more likely to know what happened than you are. Whether he's telling the truth? Who knows? We're into full-on epistemology here.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Speaking of outrages

I'm also supposed to angry about this image:

Bad person
Apparently, because Le Grand Orange visited a ship yesterday and wore the hat and jacket they gave him, he's "cosplaying" a military man, especially since Trump didn't serve in Vietnam. No other president who did not serve in the military would have ever done such a thing, wearing a hat that honors a military vessel:

Image result for bill clinton wearing baseball cap
Never happened

How was I to know she was with the Russians, too?

That Russian ambassador fella gets around:

Typhoid Sergey
The pasty dude in the middle of the picture is the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. He's standing in a group of Democratic Party congresscritters awaiting the arrival of Le Grand Orange for his speech the other night. I don't recognize all of the people in the picture, but I can identify two of the guilty parties. The woman in the purple is Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and the man in the striped shirt at the front right of the picture is Cong. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois. Since meeting with Ambassador Kislyak is apparently grounds for a resignation for any Trump administration official, it only seems fair that the same standard apply to everyone in Washington. I demand that Baldwin and Rush resign immediately. Let me know when that happens, please.

It gets worse, though -- check this out:

You can't spell Krispy Kreme without KGB
That's Charles Schumer, our grand inquisitor and moral arbiter, breaking bread (or donuts or something) with Putin! It has to mean something nefarious is going on, right? I'm sure it does. Senator Schumer, you'd better resign today.

Then again, I can see why people would think meeting with the Russian ambassador is not as problematic as it apparently is now. I thought we were told the Russians aren't a threat any more. I had that on pretty good authority, actually:


I realize President Obama is no longer president, but he should resign, too, retroactively. We can't be too careful.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The pundit of the moment

I read widely, but in trying to understand our current moment, I continue to go back to Victor Davis Hanson. His latest piece sums up much of my current thinking. A taste:
Which should properly be more exasperating: Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric that accompanies a possibly revolutionary and realized conservative agenda, or McCain and Romney’s sober and judicious failures at pushing a mostly Bush-like agenda? By not fighting back in take-no-prisoner terms, both Republican candidates failed, ensuring eight years of Obama — years that in my view have done far more damage to the country than anything envisioned by Trump’s first administration.

Even conservatives sometimes seem more bothered by Trump’s raw uncouthness in service to a conservative agenda than they were by Obama’s sautéed orneriness in advancing progressive hope and change. Years of the Cairo Speech, the apology tours, the Iran deal, the Iraq pullout, Obamacare, record debt and low growth — editorialized by chronic attacks on Fox News, along with “you didn’t build that,” “punish our enemies,” and “I won” putdowns from Obama — never prompted calls for the 25th Amendment like those in some anti-Trump tweets. Is the difference predicated on class, accent, education, tone, appearance, tastes, comportment, or the idea that a shared Beltway culture trumps diverse politics? If a polished and now-president Marco Rubio had the same agendas as Trump, but avoided his rhetoric and bluster, would anti-Trump conservatives be pro-Rubio? And would Rubio’s personality and cunning have ensured his election and confidence in steamrolling such an agenda through the Congress?
Some questions are more rhetorical than others. And, more importantly, this:
In sum, it is far more difficult in 2017 to enact conservative change than it was 40 years ago — not necessarily because the message is less popular, but because government is far more deeply embedded in our lives, the Left is far more sophisticated in its political efforts to advance a message that otherwise has no real record of providing prosperity and security, and the Right had avoided the bare-knuckles brawling of the Left and instead grown accustomed to losing in a dignified fashion.
I'm a liberal arts guy and often find that "tone, appearance, tastes and comportment" weigh heavily, too heavily, in how I view the world. I also know this much -- fighting is unpleasant and it hurts. Losing in a dignified fashion is often the easier path. A fight is required, but a lot of people don't have the stomach for it. Perhaps I'm one of them. You can't really argue the counterfactual, but I believe had Marco Rubio been the GOP standard-bearer in 2016, Hillary Clinton would be president today. It's why I preferred Ted Cruz to Rubio, but I also suspect Clinton would have defeated Cruz as well.