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.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

He probably should be

Clinton campaign honcho Robby Mook says he's terrified:

A proper investigation would be terrifying to a lot of people in Clintonworld. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Posse Comeytatus

Comey is gone. You can find a million links to the story, so I won't bother. My thoughts:

  • I was nine years old, almost 10, when the Saturday Night Massacre took place. It was actually on my brother's 7th birthday. By the time Nixon moved against Archibald Cox, there was ample evidence of criminal activity. At this point, there is no evidence of criminal activity at all, at least on behalf of the Trump administration, especially in terms of a coverup. As a result, comparing what happened today, right in the middle of the news cycle, with the cynical move that Nixon made on a Saturday night, when he hoped no one would pay attention, is asinine. It's simply not an apt comparison, especially since Trump's attorney general and his deputy were the ones who made the recommendation. Not analogous in the least.
  • As far as the Democrats are concerned, Comey has been a hero and a goat and a hero and a goat and now, apparently, a hero, because he's been given the pipe. I don't think he's either, actually. He's a bureaucrat trying to survive, but he'd long overrun his headlights in a deep, deep wood. I'm pretty sure Obama would have given Comey the pipe, too, but he didn't feel like he could get by with it, because he thought it would jeopardize the Clinton campaign. As it turned out, Obama was protecting something that was doomed, anyway.
  • The largest problem with Comey was his approach to his job -- he's an investigator, not a prosecutor, so his regular pronouncements about whether criminal charges were warranted in the Clinton email case were, to put it mildly, outrageous. I understand why Comey did speak up on the case initially -- Loretta Lynch was clearly in the bag for Clinton and the meeting she had with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac in Phoenix was astonishingly improper. It was equally improper for Comey to render a judgment on whether charges were warranted. The right approach would have been to let Lynch kill the investigation, and then resign his position out of principle. That was what Elliot Richardson and William Ruckleshaus did in 1973. Comey apparently wasn't that principled. He tried to split the difference and it did not work.
  • I see that John McCain, who still hates Trump, is now calling for an independent committee on the Russia business, while Chuck Schumer is calling for a special prosecutor. If I were Trump, I would name McCain the prosecutor and let him go full Captain Queeg on the deal. It would get McCain's butt out of the Senate and would allow the governor of Arizona to appoint a more coherent replacement in the Senate. If my suspicions are correct, Trump doesn't have anything to fear, because if Trump had done something untoward, we'd have found out about it a long time ago. Trump has very few friends in Washington, even in his own party, and there are probably thousands of people who would love to give him the shiv.
  • My guess on what happens next? Trump will be okay. The more time Chuck Schumer spends in front of a microphone with his sonorous blathering, the better. If Trump is truly interested in clearing the decks, he ought to fire the odious IRS Commissioner John Koskinen next. He ought to then have Sessions turn loose some of his deputies to take a real look into what's been going on at the IRS for the last 8 years. I guarantee that if he did that, some bureaucrat would take his revenge on Trump by releasing his tax returns, which will actually help Trump. I think in about three months, it will become clear that the Trump administration began in earnest this day.

Choices

I recommend this piece by Joel Kotkin. I call particular attention to this passage:
Overall, domestic migration trends affirm Trump-friendly locales. In 2016, states that supported Trump gained a net of 400,000 domestic migrants from states that supported Clinton. This includes a somewhat unnoticed resurgence of migration to smaller cities, areas often friendly to Trump and the GOP. Domestic migration has accelerated to cities between with populations between half a million and a million people, while it’s been negative among those with populations over a million. The biggest out-migration now takes place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

Of course, for the blue cognoscenti, there’s only one explanation for such moves: Those people are losers and idiots. This is part of the new blue snobbery: Bad people, including the poor, are moving out to benighted places like Texas but the talented are flocking in. Yet, like so many comfortable assertions, this one does not stand scrutiny. It’s the middle class, particularly in their childbearing years, who, according to IRS data, are moving out of states like California and into ones like Texas. Since 2000, the Golden State has seen a net outflow of $36 billion dollars from migrants.
Our kids are approaching adulthood and they will have decisions to make on where to make their lives. It's possible they will choose to remain here in the Twin Cities, but will the Twin Cities be a place that makes sense for them? It made sense to us to move here 25 years ago; we were living in Chicago and this seemed like a better place to make a life. On balance, we're happy to be here. Our government is simultaneously imperious and frivolous, but we've been living off the seed corn for a long time. I don't know if that will be possible for our children.

There's a whole lot more at the link; despite his observations that trends may favor red states, Kotkin, a man of the Left, sees a possibility that the blue states could still rule, especially if Donald Trump continues to falter. But it won't be a happy rule.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Lightning Round -- 050817

Haven't done one of these for a while. Fire up the Doppler:

  • Didn't have a dog in the French election. I suspect M. Macron will have as much trouble running France as everyone else does. From what I can gather, Macron seems like a fusion of John Kasich and Justin Trudeau, which doesn't seem especially promising. I assume Angela Merkel will do her best to get Macron up to speed, but the issues in France, especially related to its shameful colonial past, will continue to remain a problem. 
  • I strongly recommend Salena Zito's recent column in the Washington Examiner, which concerns the difference in communication styles between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. In a column filled with smart insights, this one is the best: "Voters want fewer media "Etrumptions" and more information. People do believe what is going on Washington is consequential, but they want to judge for themselves with good, relevant information. They are tired of being told what they are supposed to think about every Trump word, especially the words that don't matter." The meaning of "Etrumpion," which is a handy term, is at the link.
  • As we sometimes say, res ipsa loquitur. Behold the views of Kurt Eichenwald, a senior writer at Newsweek:

The pre-existing condition seems to be an excess of bile. I would also wager that Eichenwald has never been touched by the consequences of the Affordable Care Act. As you might guess, he deleted these tweets. Profiles in courage, as always.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Are you dead yet?

Apparently you will be really soon, now that the House has narrowly passed a bill that will start to dismantle Obamacare. Tough luck, dude.


Economy of words

Over at the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf takes a stab at figuring out why the Left is losing at this moment. He has identified a variety of reasons. You can read his conclusions for yourself at the link, or if you don't have time, I offer a summation:

Leftists are assholes.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Another satisfied customer

Sometimes the best way for a columnist to open a piece is with a statement of purpose. Writing for the New York Daily News, Gersh Kuntzman cuts right to it:
Hey, Hillary Clinton, shut the f--- up and go away already.
All righty, then. Kuntzman is just getting warmed up:
On Tuesday at the Women for Women conference, she reminded us again what a flawed candidate she was last year — and what a flawed person she has always been. 
In her talk before a friendly audience, Clinton said she’s writing a memoir — and said it’s “painful” to revisit how Donald Trump beat her like a ragdoll in an election that was a lock.

Painful? We’re the ones in pain, Hillary. You’re making millions to process it. We’re the ones living it.
It's been ever thus. But there's more. Kuntzman lists five items on his bill of particulars. This one is my favorite:
She ran a very poor campaign: Clinton will likely point out on page 1 that she stayed “on message” when Donald Trump shambled and grabbed p------ all over the place. But Clinton did not have a message beyond, “I’m not with stupid.”

She had genuine experience serving the public and understanding how the government works. She had an entire party establishment clearing the decks for her (and giving her the debate questions!). And she was running against a madman.

But when she called half the country the “basket of deplorables,” it was pretty much over. As Mitt Romney learned four years earlier when he said 47% of the country was “freeloaders,” you’re not the smartest guy in the room if you make a gaffe as dumb as that.
It's worse than that, truth be told. Romney's remarks were not meant for public consumption, but were plastered everywhere via a surreptitious recording. Clinton made her remarks in a public forum. Romney was describing the challenge of getting people who are reliant on government to vote for Republicans. Clinton was just insulting people. The definition of a gaffe in politics is when you inadvertently tell the truth. Romney was saying something that is obvious. Clinton was revealing her worldview. And for Kuntzman and other disillusioned lefties, that's a problem that goes beyond Clinton's ineptitude, because they share the same worldview. If you view your fellow citizens with contempt and aren't willing to make even a rudimentary effort to hide it, you aren't going to win many elections. Mrs. Clinton's husband was an excellent liar and he got by with it, because he felt your pain, or something like that. Hillary doesn't bother with fake empathy. The Democrats, as always, need better liars.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Golden words he will pour in your ear/But his lies can't disguise what you fear

Voltaire, baby!
During his opening monologue, Colbert went off on Trump over the President’s treatment of CBS News’ John Dickerson, who saw an interview with Trump abruptly ended when he asked about the President’s unproven claims that then-President Obama had wiretapped Trump and members of his campaign. As Dickerson and Colbert are both CBS employees, Colbert felt it his duty to say the things Dickerson himself could not.

“Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine,” Colbert said near the end of the insult-laden rant. “You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla that got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c–k holster.” The final remark has drawn the internet’s ire, with viewers taking to social media to declare Colbert is homophobic.The hashtag #FireColbert began spreading around Twitter, along with calls for people to boycott sponsors of the late-night show.
So what is a c–k holster? Say, it, Variety! Just say it!


Hell, set it to music! If I had some video editing skills, I'd be substituting Colbert's bon mot into this song:


We were at a taping
His monologue fell in the deep
Someone reached in and grabbed it
It was a "c–k holster"
"C–k holster"
"C–k holster"

Don't fire him, CBS! Own him! Celebrate him! He is the face of your network! He's the man, the man with the Midas touch, a spider's touch. Mister C–k holster! It's almost worth getting Shirley Bassey out of mothballs. We'll give the last word to Peggy Noonan instead.
"I thought Mr. Trump was supposed to be the loudmouth vulgarian who swears in public," Noonan continued. "They are aping what they profess to hate. They excoriated him for lowering the bar. Now look at them. And they're doing it because they have nothing else — not a plan, not a program, not a philosophy that can be uttered."
It's quite a look.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Consolation Prize

If nothing else, Donald Trump performed a valuable service on Saturday night by turning the White House Correspondents Dinner into a non-story. Ann Althouse gets the key quote from Trump, who instead of sitting around watching the b-listers make fun of him, was out on the hustings in Pennsylvania:
As you may know, there's another big gathering taking place tonight in Washington, D.C. Did you hear about it? A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation's capital right now.
That's perfect. I hope you'll pardon me for working blue, but it needs to be said -- for years, the WHCD has been, well, a circle jerk. It's no more important or newsworthy than the bi-annual awards show my company offers, in which we honor top performers and vendors who have benefited our company. It matters to us, but it shouldn't matter to you, and I'm certain it doesn't. But because the business of the news media is to tell stories, rather than sell widgets, they have made it a point of honoring themselves and telling the world all about it, often leading the newscasts they produce by showing how naughty and daring -- ooh, did you see how that comedian you've not heard of DESTROYED President Bush??? -- they are as they stroke each other. We're happy for you -- really, we are. But Trump called you out and you had it coming.