Friday, June 23, 2017

St. Anthony

Another pick at the bones of the Jeronimo Yanez trial...

It's a tough case for me, because St. Anthony Village is quite real to me. Many of the national observers pronouncing judgment on the matter would have a difficult time finding St. Anthony. Many people who live in the Twin Cities would have difficulty finding it, too. That's part of its allure. Most suburbs in the Twin Cities are accessible from the interstate highway system. My town, New Brighton, sits at the intersection of 35W and 694, which meet on the eastern edge of town. While 35W nicks the far southeast corner of town, no major highways go through St. Anthony; the busiest road in town is a 4 lane county highway that was once, many years ago, part of the old U.S. highway system. If you are going to find St. Anthony, you need to look for it.

No one will confuse St. Anthony for tonier enclaves like Edina. Generally it features post-war homes, comfortable and generally well-maintained. The population of the town skews older than most of the communities in the area. The city itself has about 9000 residents and their pride and joy is a small school district that produces some of the best-prepared kids in the state. The streets are safe and quiet. There is a retail area, Silver Lake Village, that is on the site of an early rival to Southdale, Apache Plaza. That mall was torn down in the 1990s and a "lifestyle center" development took its place. There are a few shops and a grocery store, along with a moribund Walmart, on the site, but it's not exactly bustling.

St. Anthony's police force, which employed Jeronimo Yanez, generally doesn't have much to do other than issue traffic tickets. They perform that task in their city, along with the neighboring towns of Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, which both contract with St. Anthony for police services. It was in Falcon Heights where Philando Castile died. Falcon Heights in similar to St. Anthony in some ways, but it also houses the State Fairgrounds, so at some points of the year it can be a busy place. Larpenteur Avenue, the road where the traffic stop occurred, is a busy thoroughfare with a significant retail presence to the east.

More to come.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Late to the party, but. . .

We have been traveling the last few days, primarily in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. A fair amount of news has come through since then, so a catch-up is in order.

  • I'll probably watch the dashcam video of the Philando Castile/Jeronimo Yanez encounter, which went quite badly, at some point, although I try to avoid snuff films. From what I can gather, it's clear Yanez panicked and shot Castile. Is that murder? Probably not, which is why John Choi and his prosecutors went for manslaughter. Even so, it's a heavy lift for a conviction, especially when Yanez was able to have Earl Grey, one of the best lawyers in the Twin Cities, represent him. It's an injustice that Castile died that day, but there are no easy solutions to the issues surrounding this case. And man, are there issues. More to come on all that.
  • Just about everywhere I traveled in the last few days, if there was a television on in the background it was tuned to CNN. In many cases, the sound on the television was turned down. Good thing, too. If you watch the screen and don't hear the sound, you can concentrate on the facial expressions and body language. What's evident is barely concealed rage. The parade of talking heads with unremitting scowls suggested that everyone involved would rather be doing something else. The obsession with Le Grand Orange is turning everyone on that network into Captain Ahab with somewhat better tailoring.
  • In case you hadn't heard, the Republican (Karen Handel) won in the special election in Georgia. Another harpoon misses the Great Orange Whale, who swims along in the tears of his would-be tormentors. I probably shouldn't enjoy it, but to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Jon Ossoff's campaign without laughing.
  • Pro tip -- if you want to visit Philadelphia and you only have an afternoon for sight-seeing, don't go on the day of the Pride Parade. Some of the worst traffic I've ever encountered.
  • Pro tip two -- if you need to get across Washington, D.C., during evening rush hour, pick a day when severe thunderstorms aren't coming through. Also some of the worst traffic I've ever encountered.
More on the college visit aspect of our trip in a future post.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Events are in the saddle

Light posting the next few days. Probably will weigh in at some point, though.

Home truth

The end of a long rant from the Ace of Spades:
You may not be interested in Social War, but the Social Warriors are deeply, deeply interested in you, and bringing you to heel, and making you confess that you are indeed a creature with fewer rights and privileges than they possess.

No one's ever going to put them in a position of authority over others -- which is why they desperately need you to accept they have authority over you.

I didn't particularly want Kathy Griffin fired -- but it was necessary.

I actually envy her lack of inhibition and total feeling of freedom. She felt she could do whatever she wanted, so long as it broke no laws.

I'd like to feel that way. But I can't.

I can't feel that way, because I know the progressive mob is always scalp-hunting, and that I am not free to say or think as I might like.

They rule part of my brain -- my very fear of them limits my thoughts, creates inhibitions and limitations in me which I did not choose for myself, but were forced upon me from without.

I have become, partly, a recruit in the Social Justice Warrior army. Their dicta, their demands, their fury is always alive inside of me.

I know to fear them. And so I must self-censor.

I do the same thing. Have been doing it for years. A read through this feature, now in its 12th year, will reveal constant examples of that fear. There's more: 
My fear of their power makes part of my own brain their appointed warden for the rest of my head.

So a big part of my anger is in seeing Kathy Griffin act as a totally free spirit and free agent, able to do what she likes just because she thinks it's funny, or "edgy," or whatever.

It makes me angry to see her living a life where she can just do something without fearing the consequences -- but I can't.

And neither can you.

My hatred of Kathy Griffin isn't a hatred of her -- it's a hatred of the vicious caste-based system which says she has more rights than Sean Hannity, and more rights than you, and more rights than me.

If keeping some of my diminished amount of freedom means that I have to thuggishly begin taking it from others -- so be it.

I didn't make the rules.

I'm just trying to survive them.

I don't want her to have less freedom -- but the only way to make sure I keep the limited, constantly-eroded freedom I currently have is to insist that I am not a serf, and I will not be held to different laws than the Lords.

As I cannot accept that -- and as I will not accept that -- I must insist she pay the same cost I would be expected to pay if I were to do what she did.

Otherwise, I'm saying Sir/Ma'am to the Ruling Caste, and confirming that I accept my lower position.

And the part that matters the most:
Hillary Clinton called half of the country "The Deplorables."

It's really not so different from the lowest caste in India -- the "Untouchables," is it?

They're not even attempting to turn us into serfs covertly any longer -- it's now just pretty much out in the open.

No more.

No more.
It's essentially the same argument Gino is making. War is here.

The Castile Case Comes to a Predictable End

The result I expected, up and down the line:
A jury found St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty Friday in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, whose livestreamed death during a traffic stop stunned a nation.

Castile’s family called the decision proof of a dysfunctional criminal justice system, while prosecutors cautioned the public to respect the jury’s verdict “because that is the fundamental premise of the rule of law.”

“I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota,” Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said at a news conference shortly after the verdict was read in court about 2:45 p.m. “My son loved this state. He had one tattoo on his body and it was of the Twin Cities — the state of Minnesota with TC on it. My son loved this city and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away.”
And the predictable aftermath:
Hours later, at the tail end of a protest march through the streets of St. Paul, hundreds of people headed out on Interstate 94 at Dale, shutting down the freeway. Over the course of about an hour, the crowd thinned out and was moved to a ramp near Marion before State Patrol officers moved in after 12:30 a.m. Saturday and began making 18 arrests. Among those arrested were reporters Susan Du of City Pages and David Clarey of the Minnesota Daily, who were covering the protest.
Where to begin? Well, a few preliminary thoughts:

  • The prosecution made one huge tactical error, I thought. They didn’t present the BCA testimony that Yanez gave the day after the shooting as part of their case, because they were hoping to use it against Yanez during cross-examination when Yanez testified in his own behalf, but the judge didn’t allow it. I understand the strategy; the idea was to impugn Yanez’s testimony on the stand, but you can’t withhold evidence during one part of the trial and expect to pull it out of your hip pocket later on. Had the judge allowed the testimony at that point, it would have given Yanez’s attorneys a great shot at overturning a guilty verdict on appeal. As a matter of law, the judge’s decision was correct. Whether it served the cause of justice is another matter entirely.
  • More generally, we've seen this before -- cops are given an enormous benefit of the doubt in most of their interactions. In nearly every case we've seen over the last five years, the cop has prevailed at trial. It's a high bar to clear.
  • Blocking the highways doesn't help anyone's cause. I expect we'll be seeing a number of different highways blocked in the coming days here in the Twin Cities. I hope nothing happens that will lead to additional tragedy.
  • I don't mean to minimize the grief of Castile's mother, but there was no way for Yanez to know how much her son loved Minnesota. What Yanez knew, or thought he knew at the time, was that there was an armed robbery suspect on the loose who bore at least a passing resemblance to Castile. We still don't know who that individual is, because apparently he hasn't been brought to justice yet. Based on every report we've seen, it wasn't Castile. Yanez didn't know that until much later.
  • For its part, St. Anthony Village has ashcanned Yanez. I'm not surprised that happened. It's possible that the protests could come to St. Anthony in the coming days. As regular readers of this feature know, I live about a mile and a half from St. Anthony City Hall, so the potential unrest that we can expect could have a direct impact on us. We'll just have to see what happens.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Tweetin'

Say what you want about Le Grand Orange, or his Twitter habits, but he raised a fair question on his Twitter feed yesterday:

Because they hate you, that's why
I still contend that the best thing Trump could do at this point is start investigating the hell out of the Democrats, from Hillary on down. He has the power to make it happen. He should do so and let the chips fall where they may. Let's see all the corruption in Washington.

The jury remains out

It's now been most of the week and we still don't have a verdict, or anything close to a verdict, in the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony police officer who shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights:
Jurors concluded about 24 hours of deliberations in the manslaughter trial of officer Jeronimo Yanez without reaching a verdict, pushing talks into their fifth day Friday.

There was little activity Thursday before the jurors were recessed for the day about 4:30 p.m.

In a change from previous days, the jury had lunch catered in instead of leaving the Ramsey County Courthouse. The jury of five women and seven men, including two people of color, first appeared to be stalled Wednesday on whether Yanez is criminally culpable for last year’s fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

About 1:40 p.m. Thursday, Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, and her attorney Glenda Hatchett arrived at the eighth floor of the courthouse to await any developments, leaving about an hour before jurors when it became apparent that nothing would come that day.
The longer the jury is out, the higher the tension rises. The key issue remains unresolved -- it's not whether Yanez shot Castile, which is beyond dispute. What matters more is why Yanez stopped Castile in the first place:
Prosecutors argued that Yanez, who is Mexican-American, racially profiled Castile, a black man, when he stopped him for a nonworking brake light. Yanez testified that he also wanted to investigate whether Castile was a suspect in the armed robbery of a nearby convenience store four days earlier. Castile was never connected to the robbery.

Defense attorneys argued that Castile was culpably negligent in the shooting because he volunteered that he possessed a gun without disclosing that he had a permit to carry it, that he reached for it instead of keeping his hands visible, and that he was high on marijuana, rendering him incapable of following Yanez’s order not to reach for the gun. Yanez testified last week that he fired because he feared for his life.
We keep hearing that Castile was not connected to the robbery, but at that point Yanez could not have known that. We've touched on it before, but to this day the robbery remains unresolved.

I live about a mile and a half from St. Anthony's government complex. If the jury comes back with a not guilty verdict, we could see a Ferguson-type response to the verdict fairly close to home. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Out in the open

The coup is on and the mask is dropped:
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Trump’s own conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.
Officials said. What they didn't say directly is they are coming for Trump, though the message is unmistakable.

I made no bones about my views on Trump during the campaign. I did not support him. Once he was elected president, that had to end, so I've treated Trump in the same manner I've treated his predecessors -- criticize when deserved, but praise when earned. Trump's opponents in Washington and elsewhere don't see things that way. They want him gone and they don't care how it happens.

Let's get real. The special counsel in this case is conducting an investigation that has one purpose -- to overturn the results of an election and disqualify the winner, by turning actions the president has every right to do into a process crime. We do not have the rule of law in this country. We only have the rule of those who deem they should rule. Donald Trump is not part of this cohort. Robert Mueller is. And we're now going to find out who is right.

This is ugly now. It's going to get a lot uglier. And if you think you can reason with the people staging this coup, forget it. The norms do not apply. This is an exercise in raw power.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Res ipsa loquitur

As seen on Facebook:

And he's sincere about it

Boom boom out go the lights

Power was out at our house this morning, so I wasn't able to get a blog post up. Power is apparently back on, but I'm at work now, so have an open thread.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trial Balloons

Powerline is floating so many trial balloons right now you'd think you were at Temecula. A number of the posts seem to be suggesting that the Leader of the Free World ought to give Robert Mueller the Archibald Cox treatment. Here's Paul Mirengoff, discussing Mueller's hiring decisions:

Mueller has selected Deputy solicitor general Michael Dreeben as one of his advisers. Dreeben is a premier criminal law expert. However, he’s considered a left-winger by people whose judgment I trust. And Preet Bharara — former US attorney of the Southern District of New York and current Trump adversary — says he’s over-the-moon about Dreeben’s selection.

Dreeben does not owe his selection to investigative prowess. He’s on the team to evaluate whether the fruits of the investigation give rise to a crime.

That’s fine if Dreeben has no agenda. But if he’s anti-Trump, there’s reason to fear he will bend over backwards to spin out a theory through which Trump can be prosecuted.

Mueller has also tapped Jeannie Rhee, formerly a federal prosecutor and high-level Justice Department official. Rhee provided legal services for the Clinton Foundation, a fact the Washington Post omits from its account. In addition, she donated $5,400 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign PAC “Hillary for America.”

As bitter as the Clintonistas are about losing the election (or rather having it “stolen” by the Russians), it seems unconscionable that Rhee would be on a team that will decide whether to prosecute President Trump at the end of a “Russian interference” investigation.
Meanwhile, Mirengoff's colleague John Hinderaker is making a related argument:
The idea that Jeff Sessions had something to do with a spearfishing expedition into the DNC’s email server (the Russians, if they were Russians, tried the same thing with the RNC, but the Republicans weren’t dumb enough to fall for it) is ridiculous. No one believes it, not even the most rabid Democrat. To say that there is no evidence to suggest any such thing is an understatement.

No doubt CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Times will pretend to find something “troubling” in Sessions’s testimony tomorrow, no matter what he says. But it is becoming increasingly obvious to any sane person that with regard to the “Russian investigation,” there is nothing to investigate.
Meanwhile, Le Grand Orange is tweeting again this morning:

Sad!
Do you think something's up? I do.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Lightning Round -- 061217

Lot of scary stuff in the sky yesterday:

Green is never a good color
So time for a little lightning round:

  • The jury will begin deliberations in the Jeronimo Yanez case today. Yanez, the St. Anthony police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year, testified in his own defense on Friday. I wasn't in the courtroom, but apparently he was pretty compelling. I'm watching the case carefully, because any outcome that doesn't include a guilty verdict is going to mean things will get rough, potentially close to me. 
  • Apparently Team Trump has decided that the way to stop the scandal mongering in Washington is to go on offense and start attacking the integrity of those conducting the investigations. I'm not sure that's going to work, but it's never been tried before, so we'll see. We'll be in the Washington, DC, next week for a brief visit, so it will be interesting to see how things look from there.
  • I'm officially tired of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Just so you know.
  • Joel Kotkin is always worth reading and his latest piece in the Orange County Register is particularly good. A taste: 

Unlike its failed predecessor, this new, greener socialism seeks not to weaken, but rather to preserve, the emerging class structure. Brown and his acolytes have slowed upward mobility by environment restrictions that have cramped home production of all kinds, particularly the building of moderate-cost single-family homes on the periphery. All of this, at a time when millennials nationwide, contrary to the assertion of Brown’s “smart growth” allies, are beginning to buy cars, homes and move to the suburbs.

In contrast, many in Sacramento appear to have disdain for expanding the “California dream” of property ownership. The state’s planners are creating policies that will ultimately lead to the effective socialization of the regulated housing market, as more people are unable to afford housing without subsidies. Increasingly, these efforts are being imposed with little or no public input by increasingly opaque regional agencies.

To these burdens, there are now growing calls for a single-payer health care system — which, in principle, is not a terrible idea, but it will include the undocumented, essentially inviting the poor to bring their sick relatives here. The state Senate passed the bill without identifying a funding source to pay the estimated $400 billion annual cost, leading even former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to describe it as “snake oil.” It may be more like hemlock for California’s middle-income earners, who, even with the cost of private health care removed, would have to fork over an estimated $50 billion to $100 billion a year in new taxes to pay for it.
  • I don't know if you remember this joke from The Naked Gun:

Sometimes life imitates art:

Delta Airlines and Bank of America pulled out of their sponsorship of New York’s Public Theater on Sunday over a production of “Julius Caesar” that reimagines the main character as President Trump.

Shortly after Delta, who was a four-year sponsor, made its announcement, Bank of America yanked its support as well.

The Shakespeare in the Park play tells the story of the leader assassinated by Roman senators over the fear that he’s becoming too tyrannical, but rather than the original setting, the production stages Caesar (Gregg Henry) and his wife, Calpurnia, (Tina Benko) with Donald and Melania Trump lookalikes.
Where have you gone, Frank Drebin?

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Co-Me Generation

Random thoughts on Comey:

  • One shouldn't have to say this, but apparently we do -- disagreeing with James Comey on the state of the FBI does not make Donald Trump a liar. Trump's relationship with the truth is episodic, but not in this instance. If Trump felt the FBI was in disarray, he's certainly entitled to that opinion, no matter how much it hurts Comey's feelings.
  • It's ludicrous for Comey to assert that his firing was designed to stop any investigations, because the investigations haven't stopped. He knows that, of course, but his immediate career goal is amour propre.
  • Comey admitted he's a leaker. That's important, because it helps to establish a pattern that needs to be addressed. As I'm writing this, Trump is tweeting the same point:
Epistemology, again
  • Comey's leak did accomplish what he wanted, since he did get a special counsel named. Now that we know the provenance of all this, it makes Robert Mueller's next moves especially interesting. Mueller could take the usual approach and go all Inspector Javert on Trump, or he might conclude that the pretext for the investigation is based on vapor and close up shop quickly. I would expect Mueller to take the Javert approach, because he's going to respond to incentives like anyone else and leading the charge against Trump is far more likely to get you praised in the Washington Post, but we'll see.
  • In many respects, the underlying narrative took on a lot of water yesterday. It's going to be difficult to go after anyone concerning Russian spying, because it's not really much of a story. We're now in the process crime phase, which was the point of this exercise in the first place. It's obstruction of justice, apparently, because Comey himself is Justice, and you can't fire Justice. Nice racket, actually -- it's every bureaucrat's dream!
  • The next move, quite clearly, is to bring Comey back to the Hill, but this time in front of the Judiciary Committee. Comey finally started to throw Loretta Lynch under the bus yesterday and we need to know more about that. He'd clearly rather not talk about those matters, but it's time he did.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Yanez trial is ongoing

We're deep into the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony cop who killed Philando Castile last summer. The prosecution is coming to the end of presenting its case, which is fairly strong:
Yanez, 29, a St. Anthony police officer, is charged with second-degree manslaughter for shooting Castile, 32, shortly after 9 p.m. last July 6, and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for endangering Castile's passengers, girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her daughter, then 4.

Noble testified that Yanez had few details, including height or weight, when he linked Castile to an armed robbery suspect whom police had documented with a description and photo.

A transcript of Yanez's car-to-car call that night was previously published in court, showing that Yanez called partner Joseph Kauser and said that Castile looked like the suspect because of his "wide-set nose."

No other "reasonable" officer would have considered Castile the suspect, Noble said. (Authorities have said he wasn't.)

"I mean, hundreds of black men had to have driven by," Noble said. "That's absurd."
Noble is Jeffrey Noble, a prosecution expert who is apparently a retired deputy police chief from Irvine, California. He's likely mistaken about that last part -- the Larpenteur Avenue area is actually well known in the black community as a place where you are likely to be pulled over for Driving While Black. But that's part of the subtext of this trial.

Here is a picture of the robbery suspect:




This is a picture of Castile:



Apparently these are two different men. To my knowledge, the convenience store robber is still out there, although the most recent report I can find dates back to October of last year. I still would like to know what's happening in that case.

As I've mentioned previously, I live on the border between St. Anthony and New Brighton. St. Anthony is very real to me. We'll continue to watch this trial carefully.

Comey Comey Comey Comey Comey Chameleon

We have the transcript of James Comey's prepared remarks for today's hearing. You can read it here -- it is a PDF.

I'm bored with this Comey. He's living in his own narrative, the heroic actor dealing with the uncouth ruffian. We get that. Official Washington is entirely convinced that the ruffian needs to go. We get that. I'm hopeful we won't see much of Comey after today. Unless he gives Official Washington what it wants, we won't.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Every 1's a Winner

A 25-year-old federal contract worker in Georgia is facing federal charges for leaking classified materials to the media, the Department of Justice says.

Reality Leigh Winner, of Augusta, was arrested by the FBI on June 3 and appeared in federal court on June 5. She remains in federal custody pending a hearing scheduled for June 8.

She was charged with gathering, transmitting or losing defense information that could have been damaging to the U.S. She is accused of taking a top secret National Security Agency document, copying it and mailing it to a news organization believed to be The Intercept, NBC News reported, though the organization was not named in the federal court documents.
It's apparently not that difficult to get a top-secret security clearance. An image of Reality:

Likes her selfies
 The news reports I've read indicate the feds have her pretty much dead to rights. The evidence available indicates she's a Bernie supporter and hates Trump. No surprise there. She's also a bit into self-negation:

Weasel and the white girl's cool
But perhaps my favorite part of this whole sorry saga -- it's pretty clear that The Intercept, which published the documents that Winner apparently stole, actually made it pretty easy for the feds to track down Winner:
The government was not aware Winner leaked the document until a news outlet contacted government officials for comment on an upcoming report based on a document they believed to be classified. After receiving and reviewing a copy of the document, the government began an investigation.

"The U.S. Government Agency examined the document shared by the News Outlet and determined the pages of the intelligence reporting appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space," the affidavit read.
Essentially, the Intercept gave their source up for nothing. Given Glenn Greenwald's experiences, especially with regard to Edward Snowden, you have to have to wonder what's up with that. My guess? If you spend all your time looking at the SJW Bernie Girl, you don't pay attention to the other actors. If you think the game is on, you're likely right, but we're still pretty deep into the funhouse. Reality, baby!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Khuram Butt Boogie

Known wolf, fond of wearing an Arsenal shirt:
Sick jihadis Khuram Shazad Butt, 27 – also known as “Abz” – and Rachid Redouane, 30, along with a third accomplice were shot dead in Borough Market after mowing down pedestrians on London Bridge and launching a relentless stabbing attack.

Formal identification has not yet taken place, but cops believe they know the identities of the two men named today – both of whom are from Barking in East London.

Inquiries are still ongoing to confirm the identity of the third attacker.

Barking mad. But there's more:
Ex-KFC and London Tube worker Butt was quizzed by cops over his twisted views before he was gunned down along following the depraved assault on Saturday night.

The killer and his two accomplices murdered seven people after mowing down revellers in central London before going on a rampage wearing fake bomb vests and wielding hunting knives.

The Sun had earlier revealed that the Arsenal kit-wearing ringleader of the London Bridge terror attack posed with a jihadi flag on Channel 4 documentary The Jihadis Next Door, was thrown out of a mosque and tried to radicalise kids in his local park in the years before the devastating atrocity.
And, of course, there's this part of it:
Police today confirmed Butt was known to security services, including MI5.
And, there's this:
The extremist was thrown out of an East London mosque two years ago for ranting that voting in an election was “un-Islamic”.

One local said: “On Saturday he was asking one of our other neighbours where he could rent a van and how much it would cost.”

The wife of the killer, who was of Pakistani origin, had just given birth to their second child, neighbours in Barking revealed.

The couple are believed to have been living with his mum — enjoying a comfortable lifestyle boosted by state handouts.
You get what you subsidize. And mostly what you get is hopelessness. If your life doesn't consist of much other than temporary jobs and the dole, it's especially easy to search for a worldview that explains the world in terms you'd prefer, and that gives you a course of action to follow. Jihad has all of that. You get to be a martyr and you get to kill strangers. It's a real kick until the police show up.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Yep

Angelo Codevilla, summing up the current state of affairs in Washington:
The deepening levels of corruption in our legal system and our politics may be seen in what appears to be the disregard that the media, the legal system, the Trump administration itself, and the Special Counsel’s charge are showing for the one and only violation of law that has occurred: namely, the revelations of communications intelligence operations as well as of results therefrom, by unnamed but authoritative intelligence officials, to such as the Times’ Michael Schmidt and the Post’s Adam Entous.

Since the number of those who possessed the information in question is small, ascertaining the identity of those who divulged it poses no problem to serious investigators. Since Messers Schmidt and Entous could not help but know that communications intelligence is protected by a strict liability statute, they could also be held responsible for their participation in the crime.

Instead, we have a ruling class, led by the Democratic Party, that is trying to reverse the effects of an election that repudiated it by alleging a conspiracy―evidence for which is limited to the allegation itself. We have a Republican Party and President so frightened of their political enemies that they play along, in the forlorn hope of being granted legitimacy. Hence, both sides play at politics and law. But contending on the basis of insubstantial allegations while tolerating flagrant crime kills respect for law. It augurs a future in which the only punishable crime will be to stand with the less bloody-minded side.
A lot more at the link. A depressing but necessary read.

Other people's money

Eventually, as Margaret Thatcher noted, you run out of other people's money:
"In the past," [NYT lefty blogger Thomas] Edsall writes, "Democrats could support progressive, redistributive policies knowing that the costs would fall largely on Republicans. That is no longer the case. Now supporting these policies requires the party to depend on the altruistic idealism of millions of supporters who, despite being relatively well off, often feel financially pressed themselves."
Most of the Republicans of my acquaintance aren't super wealthy -- that's Democratic Party territory and has been for a long time now. For every Donald Trump, there's a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett. Other Republicans are the ones making money now, often in small businesses, and the Democrats have always been keen to hit those folks first -- it's why we tax income, not accumulated wealth. But now, as Michael Barone notes at the link, the money isn't always there:
Those of us who think that unduly redistributive taxation can be an impediment to growth will regard this as a feature, however. That's a conclusion to which Connecticut's Democratic Governor Daniel Malloy has uncomfortably arrived, after noticing that his previous tax increases have caused the geese who have been laying the golden eggs have been taking wing and flying off to no-state-income-tax Florida. "The reality is in Connecticut," Malloy said last month, "we get most of our money from very few people and that can produce some very wild swings."
It's a formula that doesn't work well. It can't work, actually. Out on the West Coast, Joel Kotkin has noticed, too:
The two most remarkable campaigns of 2016 — those of Trump and Bernie Sanders — were driven by different faces of populist resentment. Yet, increasingly, the Democrats’ populist pretensions conflict with their alliance with ascendant “sovereigns of cyberspace,” whose power and wealth have waxed to almost absurd heights. Other parts of their upscale coalition include the media, academia and the upper bureaucracy.
The people who control the pixels and buy the ink by the barrel. There's more:
This affluent base can embrace the progressives’ social agenda — meeting the demands of feminists, gays and minority activists. But they are less enthusiastic about the social democratic income redistribution proposed by Bernie Sanders, who is now, by some measurements, the nation’s most popular political figure. This new putative ruling class, notes author Michael Lind, sees its rise, and the decline of the rest, not as a reflection of social inequity, but rather their meritocratic virtue. Only racism, homophobia or misogyny — in other words, the sins of the “deplorables” — matter.

The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, the world’s third-richest man, reflects this socially liberal, but oligopolistic, worldview. Last spring, Bezos worked assiduously to undermine Sanders’ campaign, then promoted Clinton, and now has become a leading voice in the anti-Trump “resistance.” The gentry wing of the party, which dominates fundraising and media, as the opposition to Sanders reveals, likes its money. The tech community is famously adept at avoiding taxes.
Unfortunately, to keep the coalition together, Jerry Brown has to manage the care and feeding of a lot of people that Bezos would rather not see. And the Bernie Sanders wing of the party doesn't care about their blandishments. They want what they want -- "free" healthcare, "free" college tuition, like that. And someone has to pick up the tab. The grandees of Silicon Valley would rather not. This can't go on, and it won't.

Friday, June 02, 2017

The Climate Kabuki

Writing for the American Interest, Jason Willick makes a key point about the scuttling of the Paris agreement:
Like many Trump-era debates, the President’s actions on Paris are best understood through the lens of what we (following Tyler Cowen) have called “placebo politics”—elevating or reducing the status of this or that group through symbolic actions that won’t have much if any material impact on policy. President Trump’s repudiation of the agreement falls into this category: It delights his nationalistic base and sends his internationalist-minded critics into paroxysms of rage and despair—all without actually doing anything, because the Paris agreement consists simply of voluntary, unenforceable emissions pledges that are already being flouted.
All religious movements bewail apostates. And on an operational level, faith in the efficacy of climate agreements, and treaties generally, requires belief in the perfectibility of human nature, and on the self-proclaimed genius of those who negotiate such things. Back to Willick:
The drama of the Paris climate accords, then, amounts to a portrait in miniature of our political moment. A smug establishment indulged in vacuous, photo-op politics that doesn’t get us any closer to solving our major problems but pleases donors and nonprofits and makes the great and good feel even better about themselves. An angry coalition of people who felt that their status was declining reacted against this half-hearted phoniness by indulging in a placebo politics of their own—raising their own status by nihilistically tearing down the other side. Trump’s decision today doesn’t make the U.S. better off, but it probably doesn’t make us much worse off, either.
That mostly seems right to me, but I do have one quibble -- are we really talking about nihilism in this context? I don't really know too many nihilists -- do you? And as Mark Steyn has said, when we are talking about climate treaty supporters, we are talking about people who believe, in the main, that we cannot control political borders, but we can control the heavens. Clearly there's faith involved.

I Ain't Gonna Work on Macedonian Content Farms No More

Are you on the list?

Have you been denounced yet?
I must be one of these. I did assume she would win -- I predicted the results as follows:

Rust is reddish
So I did make the list, I guess. I would apologize, but somehow I think others are a bit more responsible for the demise of Hillary of Arc.

But one reason did intrigue me, at least a little bit -- apparently those content farming weasels in Macedonia are real. Click the link if you're interested.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

2017, man

Gov. Mark Dayton explained his rationale for defunding the legislature yesterday:

Oops, that might not be from his press conference
Pardon the technical difficulties. Let's just say that Mr. Met's gesture was about the same as the governor's however:
The DFL governor on Tuesday vetoed the Legislature’s operating budget in an effort to force Republican legislative leaders to reopen disputes over taxes, education policy and immigration. That followed a decision by Republicans just days earlier to approve a bill that would have terminated funds for Dayton’s Department of Revenue had the governor not signed off on their tax cuts.

It was a surprise strike and counterstrike that soured the end of an otherwise productive legislative session. For Dayton and Republican leaders, it set up a political and legal dispute that could linger for months.

“The Minnesota Constitution gives me the authority to line-item veto appropriations,” Dayton said Wednesday. “It doesn’t qualify that I can line-item veto these but not others. It’s blanket authority.”
Dayton can believe what he wants, but I expect the state Supreme Court to strike down what Dayton did. If one branch of government can zero out the operating budget of another, then we no longer have a constitutional form of government in Minnesota, and the courts will recognize that.

What a year.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

America's Sweetheart

Can you feel the love:

An exclusive
We've seen this sort of thing before:

It's only a movie
We've also seen Kathy Griffin with Trump in a different context, on his Apprentice television show a few years back:

Maybe he'll help my career
It's really not worth our time to try to understand the revenge porn tendencies of our moral instructors on the Left. I'm just putting the images down for the record. We're going to see and hear much worse.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Not what John Fogerty had in mind

Would he indict Woody? John Choi answers the question:
The chaos that some counter-protesters brought into the Minnesota Capitol in March during a rally in support of President Donald Trump included smoke bombs, Mace in people’s faces and fireworks, prosecutors said Friday as they announced charges against eight people.

Among those charged was Linwood “Woody” Kaine, a son of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. The 24-year-old Minneapolis man is accused of fleeing police on foot and concealing his identity in a public place, both misdemeanors, and obstructing legal process, a gross misdemeanor.
While Choi is a member in good standing in the local DFL power structure, he hasn't let that allegiance affect him in this instance:
Investigators used additional eyewitness interviews, social media postings and cellphone videos to identify suspects and connect their actions to criminal conduct, said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.

“When people seek to prevent others who are peacefully assembled from making their voices heard, it threatens the very foundation of our democracy,” Choi said Friday.
In the end, I wouldn't be surprised if Kaine doesn't go to jail for long, but it's important to start holding people who do such things to account. And several of Kaine's partners in rioting are looking at felonies, and they should be.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Submitted without further comment

Walter Russell Mead:
Many high-profile Trump critics, irresponsibly in our view, have been giddily cheering the onslaught of leaks designed to damage the Trump administration.

Reasonable people can debate the merits of leaking in certain circumstances. But the recent unauthorized release by U.S. intelligence services of sensitive information relating to the Manchester bombings has no imaginable justification. 
This is a dangerous game.

This just in

Do we have an announcement in the Montana special election? Let's go to our reporter on the scene:
What do you have to say for yourself, Crusher?

Yes, it's official -- Greg "Body Slam" Gianforte will be going to Congress. Just one day after getting into an altercation with a reporter from The Guardian (by the way, why on earth is The Guardian covering elections in Montana?), and getting charged with misdemeanor assault, Gianforte won the election against his Democratic opponent, who apparently is a singer.

We need to stipulate that assault is a bad thing, I suppose. Don't physically attack someone unless you have reasonable fear of being harmed yourself. And for his part, Gianforte did apologize the reporter by name. Having said that, the piety from the Left in the wake of this incident is risible. The invaluable Walter Hudson makes the salient point in a social media post:

Calling a thing what it is
Or maybe we can turn to Dennis the Peasant:


Come see the violence inherent in the system! But are you Dennis, or are you the King? Don't be so sure you know the answer to that question.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What if the single payer doesn't have the money?

Creating a single-payer health care system in California would cost $400 billion a year — including $200 billion in new tax revenue, according to an analysis of legislation released Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The projected cost far surpasses the annual state budget of $180 billion, and skeptics of the bill say the price tag is “a nonstarter.”

Half of the $400 billion would come from existing federal, state and local spending on health care. An additional $200 billion would have to be raised by imposing a 15 percent payroll tax on California employers and employees, the analysis found.
 So where does the rest of the money come from?
But the cost of the new tax would be partially offset by reduced spending on health care coverage by employers and employees — which is how nearly half of Californians receive health insurance.
So does that mean single payer is more efficient? Or will that reduced spending come from slow-walking, or denying outright, procedures that currently get covered? Wouldn't you want to know that up front?

Meanwhile, across the country in New York, the math is also daunting:
The single-payer health care plan that cleared the lower chamber of New York's state legislature on Tuesday would require massive tax increases to double—or possibly even quadruple—the state's current annual revenue levels.

The state Assembly voted 87-38 on Tuesday night to pass the New York Health Plan, which would abolish private insurance plans in the state and provide all New Yorkers (except those enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare) with health insurance through the state government. The same proposal cleared the state Assembly in 2015 and 2016, but never received a vote from the state Senate.
So, about that math:
New York collected about $71 billion in tax revenue last year. In 2019, when the single-payer plan would be enacted, the state expects to vacuum up about $82 billion. To pay for health care for all New Yorkers, though, the state would need to find another $91 billion annually.

And that's the optimistic view. In reality, the program is likely to cost more—a lot more.

Gerald Friedman, an economist at UMass Amherst and longtime advocate for single-payer health care, estimated in 2015 (when the New York Health Act was first passed by the state Assembly) that implementing single-payer in New York would cost more than every other function of the state government. Even if New Yorkers benefit from an expected reduction of $44 billion in health spending, which Friedman says would be the result of less fraud and less administrative overhead, the tax increases would cancel out those gains.
The money has to come from somewhere. Where would that be?
To pay for the single-payer system, Friedman suggested that New York create a new tax on dividends, interest, and capital gains that would range from 9 percent to 16 percent, depending on how much investment income an individual reports, and a new payroll tax that would similarly range from 9 percent to 16 percent depending on an individual's income.
When you factor in the taxing that's already taking place in California and New York, you're looking at an effective tax rate approaching 60%. Do you think that will fly?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Louder Than Bombs

I haven't spent a lot of time listening to The Smiths or the subsequent solo career of their front man, Morrissey. In general, I find their stuff is kinda, well, mopey. But in the wake of the terrorist attack in Manchester on Monday, Morrissey is now in the news because he didn't react properly:

I'd like to drop my trousers to the Queen

From what I can tell, we are allowed to think two things about Manchester, and Paris, and Nice, and all the other terrorist attacks. First, we really shouldn't spend a lot of time dwelling on the motivation of those who blow up young girls. And second, we need to carry on, whatever that means. As you can see from his note, mopey Morrissey is having none of that. And because he's calling the politicians out for their cheerleading, he's now a monster himself. I apologize for the profanity in the attached tweet, but there's worse at the link:

Don't hold back, tell us how you really feel
I don't think there's anything particularly controversial about what Morrissey is saying here. He's right, of course -- politicians and royals are largely immune from terror, other than ol' Mountbatten, but that was nearly 40 years ago now. The people who are subject to the ministrations of the prime minister, or the mayors of London or Manchester? Not so much. We have to call a thing what it is. The reason the British were able to endure the horrific bombing of the Nazis is because they had confidence that their wartime leaders were taking steps to bring the carnage to an end. Are we sure that the grandees are doing that now?

It's been a long time since Morrissey and his pal Johnny Marr wrote the song "This Night Has Opened My Eyes," but it seems pretty apt in this context:

Oh, he said he'd cure your ills
But he didn't and he never will
Oh, save your life
Because you've only got one

If you read the rest of the lyrics, the topic is most likely abortion, and you'll see Morrissey's trademark ambivalence throughout, but there's another reality that fits our current context as well:

So, please save your life
Because you've only got one
The dream has gone

But the baby is real
Oh, you did a good thing
She could have been a poet
Or, she could have been a fool

As long as we live, we have possibilities. The nihilists who blow up children under the banner of the Islamic State don't give a damn about any of those possibilities. I know poets and I know fools. Sometimes, they are one in the same. Morrissey might be an unlikely person to remind us of all that, but I'm glad he did.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Across the Atlantic Sea

All hell breaks lose in Manchester:
An explosion that appeared to be a suicide bombing killed at least 22 people on Monday night and wounded 59 others at an Ariana Grande concert filled with adoring adolescent fans, in what the police were treating as a terrorist attack.

Panic and mayhem seized the crowd at the Manchester Arena as the blast reverberated through the building, just as the show was ending and pink balloons were dropping from the rafters in a signature flourish by Ms. Grande, a 23-year-old American pop star on an international tour.

Traumatized concertgoers, including children separated from parents, screamed and fled what appeared to be the deadliest episode of terrorism in Britain since the 2005 London transit bombings.
Two thoughts:

  • Terrorism is always going to be an issue in a free society. Large gatherings of people, especially young people, make an inviting target, and even though there is no indication that security was lax in Manchester, it doesn't take a very big bomb to cause incredible carnage in an arena.
  • The performer in this case, Grande, is politically outspoken. That doesn't matter, though -- Grande's worldview doesn't have anything to do with the motivations of a terrorist. Her only role in this event was being popular enough to attract a large audience. For those suggesting that there's some sort of larger meaning, you're almost certainly wrong about that. This video has over 900,000,000 views on YouTube; unlike most pop songs of this era, I've actually heard it before. She clearly has an audience. That's all that really mattered.
Our friend Brad Carlson has more thoughts. You should read them.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gino explains, yet again

Our friend Gino explains, yet again, the motivation:
Trump may go down, as the Press, the DNC and the GOP all plot against him... but these issues will still remain.
See, you keep thinking it's about Trump. And for for those who oppose him, it is.
But it's not.
We didn't vote for Trump, The Man.
Trump, The Man came to us... offering deliverance.
A deliverance that nobody else believed we deserved.
Why is that?
Click on the link to see the reason. His conclusion rings true:
We have ceased to be a democracy and have become a mobacracy.
The strongest mob runs the show.
Unfortunately, the ones who voted for Trump, we who drastically need the change in policy, are too busy working overtime while trying to provide for our families, to 'mob up' and cause trouble... until the day arrives, when we decide that there is nothing left to lose...
(when we decide to act like college students, you won't soon forget it.)
It's taken me a long time to understand what Gino is saying. My worldview comes from a half-century of living and a sense that I should aspire to get beyond the provincialism and paper mills of my hometown. That I should be a person of culture and learning, a person who has read the Great Books and grappled with the Big Ideas of western civilization. The joke's been on me, though -- the institutional keepers of those traditions have been gone for a long time. If you look to academe today, you see a bunch of shrieking harp seals who are more into intellectual parlor games and raw power mongering than in the life of the mind. It's been a thoroughgoing betrayal. It's been an ongoing project for nearly 100 years, but you have to stand apart from it to see it. We've gone from Julien Benda to Jacques Derrida and the applause has never ceased. You don't have to necessarily know who these two very different French philosophers are to understand the process, and I don't have enough time this morning to explicate it, but you've experienced it. And the ruin is everywhere.

Gino, and people who share the challenges that Gino faces, have had just about enough. We need to be listening.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dangerous games

I'm going to assume that the latest round of leaks, the ones describing how Trump apparently told his Russian visitors that James Comey is a "nut job," are accurate. Based on what I have observed of Mr. Trump, that statement rings true. If Trump actually said these things, he made a major blunder. He can't just go around and assume he's bullshitting with guys in the cocktail lounge. The stakes are too high.

At the same time, at this point, it's become obvious to people in Washington that leaking is a cost-free offense, so we're going to see even more of it. It's the usual malice on the part of the Democrats who are doing it, but it's a sign of cowardice for the Republicans. It signals that Republicans are more concerned (and more comfortable) with licking the boots on their throats than they are for fighting for any of the principles they claim to have. And if any of the kabuki theater stage whisperers think they are doing the right thing, they ought to think again. Peggy Noonan makes the point well:
Mr. Trump’s longtime foes, especially Democrats and progressives, are in the throes of a kind of obsessive delight. Every new blunder, every suggestion of an illegality, gives them pleasure. “He’ll be gone by autumn.”

But he was duly and legally elected by tens of millions of Americans who had legitimate reasons to support him, who knew they were throwing the long ball, and who, polls suggest, continue to support him. They believe the press is trying to kill him. “He’s new, not a politician, give him a chance.” What would it do to them, what would it say to them, to have him brusquely removed by his enemies after so little time? Would it tell them democracy is a con, the swamp always wins, you nobodies can make your little choices but we’re in control? What will that do to their faith in our institutions, in democracy itself?
It will tell them the truth -- their faith was misplaced. This struggle isn't about governance, but rule. The permanent class of bureaucrats and their benefactors are in charge and those of us who aren't part of the equation should just shut the #@%! up and keep the tax money coming. It will tell them that the dystopian ideas behind the Hunger Games are a lot closer to reality than any of us would care to admit.

I don't have an answer. There's no easy way to solve these problems. It's not likely that Trump will learn to keep his mouth shut and listen more -- he's never had to do it in his life, and he's Leader of the Free World, so what the hell do I, or anyone else, have to say to him about it? And at the same time, Chuck Schumer and his pals are such thoroughgoing cynics and grifters that to ask them to look to their conscience is to suggest a metaphysical snipe hunt.

We're at a dangerous place. And it's not going to end well.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sharks gotta shark

A judge makes a point that needs to be made:
The judge overseeing the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis expressed concern Thursday over the legal fees being racked up in the case — about $15 million to date.

“It bothers me so much that all these attorney fees are being run up,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel said at a hearing Thursday, adding that legal fees are consuming funds that could be directed to survivors of archdiocese clergy sex abuse.

In an attempt to curb the spending, Kressel ordered that no expert witnesses be hired for the time being. He also ordered a tighter schedule for both parties to argue their legal objections to each other’s compensation plans.
Lawyers are expensive. And litigiousness is extremely expensive. Many moons ago, I worked for a law firm and I saw how bankruptcies are handled. You can rack up a lot of fees. Meanwhile, the victims wait.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Special counsel

We'll have to see how it goes. Chuck Schumer won't be satisfied unless he gets Trump's giant head on a pike. Can't control any of it, so for now we'll just keep watching.

Come out of the cold, Muffy

When I was in college, back in the 1980s, I had a classmate nicknamed Muffy (it was the 80s, after all) who would cut your hair for $5, about the same price as one would pay for a haircut in those days. Muffy did an outstanding job. She would cut your hair in the lounge in her dorm and she had a steady stream of customers, because she was outstanding and coincidentally drop-dead gorgeous.

Muffy got plenty of business, all word of mouth, from her classmates. One could argue that she was costing the barber shops of Beloit some business, but I don't recall any of them going out of business while she was on campus. She was breaking the law, though, because you are not supposed to cut hair for money unless you have a cosmetology license. She was from the San Diego area. It's possible she had a cosmetology license from California, but I never asked her and I doubt she did. Had someone reported her activities, she likely would have been in trouble. I am confident that the statute of limitations has run on her tonsorial crime wave, so I can tell the story.

Now, more than 30 years later, it appears that Wisconsin is looking at whether many licensing requirements are even necessary:
A new council would be created to review the necessity of every occupational licensing requirement in Wisconsin under a bill being circulated for co-sponsors.

The measure unveiled Wednesday would require the submission of a report by the end of 2018 that recommends elimination of licenses and other changes rules and requirements. The Legislature in 2019 would then consider approving the recommendations.
As Walter Russell Mead notes, these requirements are often less about professional standards and more about protecting a guild:
There is a virtual consensus among economists that state-enforced training requirements for a variety of low to mid-skill jobs, from catering to hair-braiding to interior decorating, have grown excessive, exerting a major drag on economic growth and employment—especially for people who don’t have the time or money to take thousands of hours of costly courses to practice a basic trade that isn’t particularly dangerous and whose skills can easily be judged by consumers.

Licensing requirements for low-skilled work have exploded over the past decades for no other reason than that professional guilds have been able to capture state legislatures and used them to help entrench their market positions. 
I don't object to paying extra for the services of someone with demonstrated expertise, but for most of us, the licensing requirements aren't relevant. Muffy wasn't running a full-fledged salon; she wasn't giving perms or doing complicated makeovers. She was just giving haircuts to her vaguely dissolute classmates and saving them a trip to town. I haven't seen Muffy in 30 years and have no idea what she's doing now, but I trust her life of crime is done.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Memo to file

If it is true that Donald Trump tried stop an FBI investigation, he's in a hell of a lot of trouble. At this point, we don't know that. The New York Times is reporting that James Comey wrote a memo about it, but the Times doesn't have the memo in question. We don't know if such a memo actually exists. We only have the following:
Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
"One of Mr. Comey's associates read parts of it to a Times reporter." That's a pretty thin reed. If you were to read "Curious George Gets a Medal" to a Times reporter, would that prove Curious George was part of the space program?

What's been striking about almost all the reporting about Trump's great sins is how often the reporting is based on anonymous sources, which is almost all the time. The denials of the reporting, as we saw with H. R. McMaster yesterday, is always on the record. Does that matter? Of course. Writing for the Federalist, Mollie Hemingway makes the salient point:
Previous Washington Post stories sourced to anonymous “officials” have fallen apart, including Josh Rogin’s January 26 report claiming that “the State Department’s entire senior management team just resigned” as “part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.”

The story went viral before the truth caught up. As per procedure, the Obama administration had, in coordination with the incoming Trump administration, asked for the resignations of all political appointees. While it would have been traditional to let them stay for a few months, the Trump team let them know that their services wouldn’t be necessary. The entire story was wrong.
So should you be skeptical of the reporting? I won't tell you what you should think, but you should look at the pattern Hemingway establishes in her article.

Back to the Comey memo. Let's assume it actually exists. If the narrative in this case is accurate, and Trump was actually trying to obstruct justice, what was Comey's responsibility? To write a memo to file, or to report the President's actions up through the chain of command? I would argue he'd be required to do both, about which more in a moment. His boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was new in office and there were any number of deputies around who were Obama-era holdovers, so there wouldn't have been any political danger in reporting the actions. From what we know, Comey didn't do that.

Frankly, if Trump was trying to obstruct justice, Comey's responsibility would have been to go public immediately and resign his position. He didn't do that. Beyond that, you can argue that Comey was also guilty of obstructing justice by not reporting the incident at the time it happened. Writing for Fox News, Greg Jarrett, who is an attorney, points out the relevant statute:
Under the law, Comey is required to immediately inform the Department of Justice of any attempt to obstruct justice by any person, even the President of the United States.  Failure to do so would result in criminal charges against Comey.  (18 USC 4 and 28 USC 1361)  He would also, upon sufficient proof, lose his license to practice law.

So, if Comey believed Trump attempted to obstruct justice, did he comply with the law by reporting it to the DOJ?  If not, it calls into question whether the events occurred as the Times reported it. 
You can assume Jarrett is a partisan hack, his reading of the statutory language seems correct to me:
Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 684; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(G), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)
That's 18 USC 4. What does 28 USC 1361 say?
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff.
(Added Pub. L. 87–748, § 1(a), Oct. 5, 1962, 76 Stat. 744.)
Comey was head of the FBI. He would know the relevant statutory language. Either his mens rea was working properly and he didn't think Trump committed a crime, or he's personally guilty of obstructing justice by not reporting immediately to his superiors what Trump did. I'll bet at least one person in Congress will be asking that question.

One last point -- you might remember that, when Comey was fired, he was in Los Angeles giving a speech and that he found out about his firing because of news reports that were running on television monitors behind him. Most of the commentary I've seen suggested that Trump was just being a jerk by firing Comey that way. Perhaps. I don't think so, however. I suspect the timing was quite intentional. Since Comey was across the country at the time of his firing, he would not have been able to secure his office and dispose of anything that might later be a problem for him. You can safely assume Jeff Sessions now has everything Comey had, including any memoranda he wrote in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Comey knows that, too.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Baseline

So we're clear -- apparently the claims of a current and former official, both anonymous, regarding what happened with Trump and the Russians last week, are more valuable than an on-the-record denial from H. R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, who was in the room when the conversation took place.

This is the world we live in.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Aw, that's a shame

OPEC has issues, and Walter Russell Mead and friends have noticed:
The oil cartel roped eleven other petrostates into an agreement to curtail production in 2017 and are currently working on extending that deal, but the output cut’s ultimate goal of eating away at the oil market’s glut of crude is being undermined by the actions of suppliers outside of OPEC—U.S. shale producers chief among them. Now, OPEC is revising upwards its estimates of how quickly supplies will grow outside of its membership this year by a whopping 64 percent. 
Why is this happening? Primarily because of the frackers:
By cutting costs and boosting efficiencies, U.S. shale has made itself capable of profitably producing $50 per barrel oil.
The only way cutting production makes sense for OPEC is if they can subsequently get $75 per barrel, or thereabouts, to make up for the lost amount of production. And meanwhile frackers are gearing up elsewhere:
Vaca Muerta, which is Spanish for Dead Cow, is a shale gas and oil formation the size of Belgium in the heart of the region of Patagonia and is essential to Argentina being able to become self sufficient in energy.

President Mauricio Macri hopes a pact he has negotiated with unions and provincial authorities will jumpstart investor interest in developing the field.
Argentina won't be in the game for a while yet, because labor and transportation costs are still obstacles to profitability, but it will be in the game eventually. The price of a barrel of oil was $115 as recently as 2014. It's been less than half that price for a long time now:


Frack you
OPEC cut production last year and while prices rose for a time, they have been essentially stable for over a year. I have paid as much as $4/gallon for gas around this time of year in the past; I have not paid more than $2.50 in a long time, except in places like Chicago where they tax the crap out of gasoline (and everything else). While we worry about bread and circuses in Washington, we don't have to cringe every time we approach a gas pump. I'm grateful for that.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Meanwhile, while you were Comeytose

While everyone in Washington is getting their Sam Ervin on, an inconvenient truth:
Aetna is saying goodbye to Obamacare.

The insurance giant announced Wednesday that it would not offer policies in Nebraska or Delaware next year, completing its exit from the exchanges. Earlier this year, Aetna (AET) said it would pull out of Iowa and Virginia in 2018.

The company said it expects to lose more than $200 million in its individual business line this year, on top of nearly $700 million in losses between 2014 and 2016. Aetna withdrew from 11 of its 15 markets for 2017. It has 255,000 Obamacare policyholders this year, down from 964,000 at the end of last year.

These customers, however, continue to be costlier than the company expected, Aetna said during its earnings call earlier this month. It had to set aside an additional $110 million to cover larger-than-projected losses for this year.
If you care to do that math, it means Aetna has lost over a billion dollars on the Obamacare exchange business. And other insurers face similar issues. Walter Russell Mead knows why:
American health care costs too much. Solving this problem isn’t just about litigating the merits of Obamacare or Trumpcare; it’s about ensuring that the American people have access to the health care they want and need while keeping the country solvent.

We can’t do this all at once by some mighty government fiat—or, for that matter, through a blind faith in private markets. It took two generations for us to work ourselves into our present mess, and it will take time to work our way back to a sane and sustainable system.
I would quibble with the term "blind faith," but we can set that aside. The Econ 101 issue of scarcity is not going away, but Mead has a few ideas that would help:
Some promising areas for future policy innovation include: regulatory reforms that encourage disruptive forms of health care delivery, tort reform that eliminates the distortions that “defensive medicine” imposes on the system, and efforts to “push competencies down”—with help from computer assisted diagnostics, for example, registered nurses (RNs) can do more things that only doctors could do well in the past, and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can do things that used to require RNs.
To a large extent, this is already happening. A typical visit to a doctor's office usually means much more time spent with a nurse than with the doctor. My doctor spends more time in a typical visit with data entry than with conducting an actual examination, while the nurse does most of the heavy lifting. I'm supposed to be a human being, but for most of these transactions I'm just that, a transaction. If the majority of the work can be handled by an RN or LPN, that's how it will be handled. And documentation rules the terms of the transaction.

We can spend hours in the weeds on these issues. And we probably will.

Resistance

Out of the Memphis area:
A Weakely County woman was arrested after reportedly following Congressman David Kustoff Office: Representative (R-TN 8th District) and then threatening him.

Police say Wendi Wright followed a car down Highway 45 Monday afternoon.

Inside the car were Congressman Kustoff and aide Marianne Dunavant.

Wright reportedly followed the car after it left a town hall on the UT Martin campus.
The picture of the accused:


We're going to see more of this sort of thing. Count on it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Word broke yesterday that the racist note "hate crime" that caused St. Olaf to go into turmoil a few weeks back was a hoax:
A racist threat against a St. Olaf student that touched off campuswide protests and forced the college to cancel classes earlier this month was a hoax, the school revealed Wednesday.

A student confessed to writing the note, St. Olaf President David R. Anderson wrote in a message to students. The threat — an anonymous, typewritten note — was “fabricated,” he said, as an apparent “strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.”

“This was not a genuine threat,” Anderson wrote in the first of two messages Wednesday to students. “We’re confident that there is no ongoing threat from this incident to individuals or the community as a whole.”
Hoaxes are a problem. If some of the responses of the students quoted in the Star Tribune article are accurate, and I have no reason to believe they aren't, St. Olaf has a much bigger problem on its hands:
Finals begin next week and students were out on the campus grounds Wednesday enjoying the spring sunshine. Student groups set up study break stations on the lawn, blasting music and handing out cotton candy.

Sophomore Alexandra Mascolo was swinging in a hammock next to the campus chapel. She’d participated in the protests earlier this month and believed that the most recent incident “started something good” at the college, although she noted, a hate crime hoax, “was not necessarily the best way to get it started.”
Confirmation bias is a good thing, I guess. Omelets, eggs, that sort of thing. Mascolo isn't alone:
Student organizers who this month called for sweeping changes on campus to address a string of reported incidents involving racist messages targeting black students, said Wednesday that they don’t know the identity of the hoaxer. But they say their protest went beyond any single incident.

“Our movement wasn’t about one individual,” said Precious Ismail, a spokeswoman for the campus group, the Coalition for Change on the Hill. “Our movement was about a pattern of institutional racism.”
What we're not clear about, at least yet, is whose racism we're talking about. As for the movement's actual goals, let's consider the very first demand  the students made in the wake of the initial protest:
A. We demand the removal of Arne Christenson from the Advisory Board of The Institute for Freedom & Community. Given Mr. Christenson’s political views and values as a Christian Zionist, St. Olaf College risks his influence upon the speakers brought to the school, the educational offerings, faculty development workshops, and scholarships sanctioned by the Institute through financial means.
Christian Zionist? What does that have to do with a note on a windshield? And who is Arne Christenson, anyway? A member of the St. Olaf Class of '83, but a thought criminal -- he works for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you see. And since the United Nations has told us that Zionism is racism, Christenson can't be part of anything affiliated with his alma mater.

The picture of St. Olaf's president, Anderson, with the student group making the demands, must be seen to be believed -- check out the sullen, creepy Maoist vibe you get from the assembled students surrounding Anderson:

Better get with the program there, bald dude
This is the same warmed-over leftist agenda we've seen for years. There's no joy in it, there's no attempting to make the world a better place. It's all about coercion and settling scores. The demands aren't for justice, but for conformity to a narrow worldview. Free inquiry? Forget it. It's a betrayal of everything a liberal arts education is supposed to champion. The St. Olaf campus is gorgeous, but it's a Potemkin village.

We visited St. Olaf as a potential college for my daughter a few months back; I wrote about it at the time. We'll be looking elsewhere.