Friday, July 31, 2015

Call and response

You can't break the rules until you know how to play the game
But if you just want to have a little fun, you can mention my name
Keep your feet in the street, your toes in the lawn
But keep your business in your pocket this is it were it belongs

Come on Cecil, take a dollar, come on Cecil, take a tip
Do yourself a favor If she offers it, take it
But honey, don't give it away if he don't appreciate it

Hey little Walter
Hey little Walter
Walter listen
Hey little Walter
Something's gonna getcha little Walter

In praise of actual journalism

We wrote yesterday about the tendency of modern journalists acting as little more than stenographers for the ruling class. Fortunately, it's still possible to do some actual journalism, as this dispatch from McClatchy demonstrates:
The classified emails stored on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server contained information from five U.S. intelligence agencies and included material related to the fatal 2012 Benghazi attacks, McClatchy has learned.

Of the five classified emails, the one known to be connected to Benghazi was among 296 emails made public in May by the State Department. Intelligence community officials have determined it was improperly released.
That's a problem for the next Leader of the Free World. Why is that?
“Even if Secretary Clinton or her aides didn’t run afoul of any criminal provisions, the fact that classified information was identified within the emails is exactly why use of private emails . . . is not supposed to be allowed,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security matters. “Both she and her team made a serious management mistake that no one should ever repeat.”
There's a whole lot more in the linked article. All of it is worth your time.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Range of options/options you don't get

It's been part of the argument that the Leader of the Free World makes concerning his cherished nuclear agreement with Iran -- it's either make the agreement, or prepare for war:
President Obama’s defense of the complex and painstakingly negotiated nuclear deal that his administration reached with Iran boiled down to a simple, if controversial, contention: The only real alternative to the deal was war.

Obama returned to that conclusion repeatedly Wednesday at a news conference that stretched for more than one hour.

“Without a deal,” he said in his opening statement, “we risk even more war in the Middle East.”

A few minutes later, in response to a reporter’s question, Obama dismissed concerns that the House and Senate might vote down the deal, forcing him to use his presidential veto. Wouldn’t a rejection of the deal by lawmakers make him question its wisdom?

“Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force, through war,” Obama countered. “Those are — those are the options.”
So does Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agree with that assessment? According to testimony he gave on Capitol Hill yesterday, not so much:

President Obama’s claim that Congress must either back his deal with Iran or plan for war does not square with the advice he has received from his top general, Senate lawmakers learned on Wednesday.  
Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, never presented Obama with such a binary choice. “At no time did that come up in our conversation nor did I make that comment,” Dempsey told Senator Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) during a Senate hearing on the Iran deal. “I can tell you that we have a range of options and I always present them.”
What's more, Dempsey argued against relaxing the sanctions against Iran:
Dempsey also acknowledged that he advised the president not to agree to the lifting of sanctions pertaining to Iran’s ballistic missile program and other arms. “Yes, and I used the phrase ‘as long as possible’ and then that was the point at which the negotiation continued — but yes, that was my military advice,” he told Senator Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.). In the event the new deal goes into effect, the arms embargoes will expire over the next several years.
Alert readers may notice that I'm quoting National Review on yesterday's testimony, while I quoted a Washington Post story on Obama's initial claims. There's a tale behind that as well. Here is a screen shot of the Google Search I made to find information on yesterday's testimony:

Top of first page
More of first page
Last part of first page
What don't you see? Any coverage of the hearing from an MSM publication. If you do a different search, you get this from the Post:

The emphasis here is not on Dempsey contradicting the president's claims, but rather how All the President's Men are backstopping him and that the Senate is being irresponsible in questioning his wisdom. You do get to the point Dempsey makes, but you have to slog through nine paragraphs to get there. I get the distinct impression that the Post doesn't want you to know there's any disagreement.

We are now at a point where the MSM seems especially reluctant to tell the whole story, or are simply ignoring stories that are inconvenient. I watched the KARE news at 10 o'clock and they went on for the first five minutes of the newscast about Cecil the Lion, as they had the night before. It's defensible, I suppose, because there is a local angle, but if you wanted to know anything about this Congressional testimony, or about the continuing scandal involving Planned Parenthood, you'd have heard nothing on the broadcast. We need a free press, not a bunch of stenographers, and we're not getting it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Question of the day

Would the lion poaching dentist cater pizzas to a gay wedding at the Spokane NAACP?

Hang on

Do you like thrill rides? Are you up for a good scare? Try this one on for size:
Chinese equities have suffered the sharpest one-day crash in eight years, sending powerful tremors through global commodity markets and smashing currencies across East Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The Shanghai Composite index fell 8.5pc despite emergency measures to shore up the market, with a roster of the biggest blue-chip companies down by the maximum daily limit of 10pc. The mood was further soured by news that corporated profits in China are now contracting in absolute terms, falling 0.3pc over the past year.

The violence of the moves unnerved investors worldwide, stirring fears that the Communist Party may be losing control after stoking a series of epic bubbles in property, corporate investment and equities to keep up the blistering pace of economic growth.
What happens if the Chinese gubmint loses control? No one knows for sure, but it won't be good:
The long-standing assumption that the Chinese authorities know what they are doing has been shattered.

The government’s heavy-handed measures include a ban on short sales and on new share issues, as well as pressure on the 300 largest companies to buy back their own stock, and forced purchases of stocks by brokerage houses.

Many investors are effectively trapped with margin debt used to buy the stocks. These liabilities cannot be covered without selling the stocks. The longer the market remains partially frozen, the more likely it will lead to extreme stress.

David Cui, from Bank of America, said $1.2 trillion of stock holdings are being carried on margin debt. This is 34pc of the free float of the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets. “When the market ultimately settles at a level that can be sustained on fundamental reasons, we expect that the financial system may wobble, due to high contagion risk,” he said.
Wobbles may be putting it mildly. Stay tuned.


If the plight of Cecil the Lion bothers you more than what we're learning about Planned Parenthood, you need to do some hard thinking about what has become of your life and your soul. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Open thread

We have an inconvenient thunderstorm rolling through the area, which means I need to adjust my schedule to get into work at the normal time. Long story short, no time to post anything, so this is an open thread. Give us something to think about in the comments!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cuba libre

Since we've now normalized relations with Cuba, everything's great, right? Cubans have to be happy with things on their island, right? Well....
 Half of the Cuban men's field hockey team at the Pan American Games in Toronto defected to the United States, a player and sources close to the Cuban delegation said.

The sources said eight of the 16 Cuban players had deserted, while team member Roger Aguilera put the number at seven, just the latest in a rash of Cuban defections across several sports.

"Everyone knows what happened to our team, we have seven of them in the United States," said Aguilera, after the decimated Cubans were hammered 13-0 by Trinidad and Tobago.
We can pretend that Cuba is a decent place, but the people who live there don't agree.

Trustworthy, loyal

The Boy Scouts are going to let local chapters have gays in troop leadership:
The Boy Scouts of America is expected Monday to end its blanket ban on gay leaders — a turning point for an organization that has been in turmoil over the issue.

But some scouting groups will still be able to limit leadership jobs to heterosexuals.

To gain the acquiescence of conservative religious groups that sponsor many dens and troops, like the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches, the policy will allow church-run units to pick leaders who agree with their moral precepts.
As most people who read this feature know, the Benster is an Eagle Scout. I have been involved in Scout leadership at the Cub Scout and later Boy Scout level since Ben started in Scouts, for well over a decade. Is this a big change? Not as big as it would seem.

Scouting has had a very good and effective Youth Protection program in place for the entire time Ben was a Scout. Any scouting organization that follows the guidelines properly can avoid problems with sexual abuse by adult leaders.

There are two keys to the program:
Two-deep leadership on all outings is required. A minimum of two registered adult leaders, or one registered leader and a participating Scout’s parent or another adult, are required for all trips and outings. One of these adults must be 21 years of age or older.
Two-deep leadership provides another set of eyes to ensure that a scout and an adult leader aren't in a position that could become an issue. And to make it explicit:
One-on-one contact between adults and youth members is prohibited. In situations requiring a personal conference, such as a Scoutmaster’s conference, the meeting is to be conducted with the knowledge and in view of other adults and/or youth.
The ban also extends to electronic communication:
The policy of two-deep leadership and no one-on-one contact between adults and youth members includes digital communication. Leaders may not have one-on-one private online communication or engage one-on-one in other digital activities (games, social media) with youth members. Leaders should copy a parent and another leader in digital and online communication, ensuring no one-on-one contact exists in text, social media, or other forms of online or digital communication.
I have served as a merit badge counselor, which requires me to communicate with scouts concerning the progress in earning the merit badges they are seeking. Whenever I need to communicate anything to a scout, I always copy the scoutmaster and/or the scout's parents in the communication. We take these guidelines seriously.

I will always recommend Scouting. It's a great program and provides life lessons that endure.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A blast from the borscht belt

You don't hear much from Jackie Mason any more -- if I remember correctly, he got in trouble about 20 years ago for insulting David Dinkins -- but he's still around. And he's still got a fastball when he wants to use it. He makes a valuable point here:
Mason put his comic chops to use in analyzing the inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities as it is laid out in the deal. “Instant” inspections will only take place 24 days after requested, giving time – he charged – to clean up the site to be inspected.

"First Obama said we can inspect them any time, any place, whenever we please. Now it turns out ‘whenever we please’ except when they don’t allow it.  If they don’t want it it’s up to them. So then we have to wait 28 days [sic] to inspect, as if to say for the 28 days we can trust them completely, because they’ll do nothing. They’ll just hold the bomb in front of us waiting for us to come so they can show it to us. That’s how stupid this negotiation is to us," he said.

"Do you know that in the restaurants of New York, they have an inspection system. You can surprise any restaurant without notice that you can walk in and inspect them… So we are protected in this city from a bad tuna fish.  We’re not protected from a bomb but we’re protected from a bad quality of a tuna fish," Mason joked.
Maybe if we can't get inspections, we could use Yelp.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Now he's just trolling


Feel the love
The full image, in case you weren't clear:

The ears tell the story
John Kerry will be coming over to wax the Ayatollah's car later on.


The United Nations, always with their eyes on the ball:
It’s a good thing all the world’s serious human rights issues have been resolved. With more pressing problems out of the way, the UN Human Rights Committee appears now to have the leisure time to attend to a few loose ends here and there. The committee—which includes representatives from human rights bastions such as Uganda, Algeria, and Egypt—has released a report recommending that Britain fully outlaw the smacking of children at home. 
Nothing else to worry about in the world, of course. No, nothing at all should concern us.

Well, yeah

Hard to argue with this assessment:

Republicans would do well to consider this model:

Friday, July 24, 2015

The race so far

Time to put down a marker on the Republican side. Impressions:

Donald Trump continues to suck most of the air out of the room. I don't know that, when it comes time to actually vote, he'll get many. He is entertaining, of course, and he's been able to dominate the news cycle ever since he got in the race. I don't see him making it, though.

Jeb Bush doesn't really have a reason to run, other than it's his turn. He also gains a lot of enmity among the base. His best hope is that Trump clears out a bunch of the other candidates.

Scott Walker hasn't had a great launch, but he's got a great story and he can tell it well enough. He'll be a contender.

Marco Rubio is a talented guy; he may emerge. He's made a few enemies, though, and they tend to be loud.

Ben Carson is, in the end, not a serious candidate. He has his fans, but I don't see him getting there.

Mike Huckabee has his constituency, but his constituency isn't going to be sufficient to get the nomination. He's got too much Elmer Gantry in him for my tastes.

Rand Paul has been trying to thread the needle by keeping some libertarian street cred while simultaneously trying to avoid the odor of his father's campaign. I don't think he'll be able to sustain it.

Ted Cruz might be the most talented guy in the field. I suspect he'll do very well in the debates. He could emerge.

Chris Christie is too much of a jerk to get through the process. He'll find a way to implode.

John Kasich might have the best credentials in the field, but he's not a pleasant person and he's got too much Jon Huntsman in him to win. If you don't recognize the name Jon Huntsman, you've actually identified the problem.

Rick Perry is sitting pretty low in the polls, but I think he could emerge. He's clearly learned from his 2012 run and has a good record. Someone to watch.

Carly Fiorina has been the most pleasant surprise of the campaign. She's smart and she's tough. A lot of people bag on her for her unsuccessful Senate campaign in California, but the electorate she would face nationally will be easier to sway than the electorate she saw in California. There's a good chance she'll be the VP candidate on the final ticket.

Bobby Jindal is potentially a very good candidate, but he can't get started. Not sure where his constituency will come from, either.

Rick Santorum is not going to make it. He's essentially battling for the same voters as Huckabee and there aren't enough of them to get the nomination.

Lindsey Graham should just go home.

George Pataki is running, I guess. Needs something to do, apparently.

Jim Gilmore apparently was the governor of Virginia at some point. He had an excellent career in the old ABA as well. No, I'm sorry, that was Artis Gilmore.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Oh, by the way

The end game is coming:
The 11 million Americans who receive Social Security disability face steep benefit cuts next year, the government said Wednesday, handing lawmakers a fiscal and political crisis in the middle of a presidential campaign.

The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare said the disability trust fund will run out of money in late 2016. That would trigger an automatic 19 percent cut in benefits, unless Congress acts.
How might Congress act, you ask?
There is an easy fix available for the disability program: Congress could shift tax revenue from Social Security's much larger retirement fund, as it has done in the past.

President Barack Obama supports the move. And acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin said shifting the tax revenue "would have no adverse effect on the solvency of the overall Social Security program."
So how long will the retirement fund last under the current setup?
The trustees said Social Security's retirement fund has enough money to pay full benefits until 2035, a year later than they predicted last year. At that point, Social Security will collect enough in payroll taxes to pay about 75 percent of benefits.
But if the gubmint moves money from that fund to cover the shortfall in the disability fund, would the money really last until 2035? The article says it only changes the number to 2034. That's still less than 20 years from now.

Meanwhile, there's this nugget:
Medicare's giant hospital trust fund is projected to be exhausted in 2030, the same date as last year's report. At that point, Medicare taxes would be enough to pay 86 percent of benefits.
The hour is growing short. But let's talk about gay marriage and Donald Trump.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The plan comes together

If you are an African-American child in New York City, consider yourself lucky -- many of your brethren never got the chance to be born:
Black lives matter? Apparently not in New York City.

A “Pregnancy Outcomes” report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reveals in 2013, more black babies were aborted than born in the city.

A chart on page 7 shows 24,108 “non-Hispanic black” babies were born while 29,007 faced “induced terminations” — or abortions.
Shocking? Not sure why. It's what Margaret Sanger intended.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Another week, another Planned Parenthood official in the baby parts market:
A second undercover video shows Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Medical Directors’ Council President, Dr. Mary Gatter, haggling over payments for intact fetal specimens and offering to use a “less crunchy technique” to get more intact body parts.

It is similar to last week’s viral video showing PPFA Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola admitting to using partial-birth abortions to get intact parts and suggesting a price range of $30 to $100 per specimen.

Gatter is a senior official within Planned Parenthood and is President of the Medical Directors’ Council, the central committee of all Planned Parenthood affiliate medical directors.
And she's a savvy negotiator, too:
Gatter twice recites Planned Parenthood messaging on fetal tissue collection, “We’re not in it for the money,” and “The money is not the important thing,” but she immediately qualifies each statement with, respectively, “But what were you thinking of?” and, “But it has to be big enough that it’s worthwhile for me.”
Needs to wet her beak, I guess. There's more:
Gatter also admits that in prior fetal tissue deals, Planned Parenthood received payment in spite of incurring no cost: “It was logistically very easy for us, we didn’t have to do anything. So there was compensation for this.” She accepts a higher price of $100 per specimen understanding that it will be only for high-quality fetal organs: “Now, this is for tissue that you actually take, not just tissue that someone volunteers and you can’t find anything, right?”

By the lunch’s end, Gatter suggests $100 per specimen is not enough and concludes, “Let me just figure out what others are getting, and if this is in the ballpark, then it’s fine, if it’s still low, then we can bump it up. I want a Lamborghini.”
No word on whether she ever got her Lamborghini, but if she did, one can assume it runs on biodiesel. Video at the link.

I'm a comedian, you see

Al Franken was joking, you see:
Sen. Al Franken on Monday said that remarks he made more than 15 years ago — before he became a senator — about Sen. John McCain’s military service were a joke.

The Minnesota Democrat’s remarks are similar to those of Donald Trump, who ignited a firestorm after telling a crowd in Iowa on Saturday that McCain is “not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
So what did our august solon say, exactly?
Franken’s remarks also appeared in a 2000 Salon article.

That story quotes Franken as saying, “I have tremendous respect for McCain, but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned, he sat out the war.”
Franken did, too:
During Vietnam, I was in college, enjoying my student deferment. The government wisely felt that, in my case, military service was less important than completing my studies to prepare me for my chosen career: comedian.
Of course. Franken is still a comedian, you see:
He also condemned Trump’s remarks from Saturday, saying “I don’t know what’s going on in Donald Trump’s head or through his hair, but I condemn him for a lot of things he’s said.”
I'm sure we'll just accept ol' Al's explanation. Why wouldn't we? We take Jon "Clown Nose On, Clown Nose Off" Stewart as a legitimate news purveyor, except when we don't. That's how we roll in America. Accept it, haters.

An excellent question

This report is from the Times of Israel and it's astonishing. See if you can figure out what's wrong here:
The US is considering providing an extensive military package to Israel in the wake of the Iranian nuclear accord, Channel 2 TV reported Sunday.

Days after the deal was signed in Vienna last Tuesday, sources in Washington indicated they will provide the Jewish state with advanced weaponry and technology, apparently to compensate for the boost the deal will give Iran.

In a Saturday phone call with former president Shimon Peres, National Security Adviser Susan Rice explained that the US was ready to offer Jerusalem a military compensation package that was unprecedented in its scope, the TV report said.
So, let's think about this:

  • Why the hell would we need to compensate Israel through offering advanced weaponry and technology if Iran's intentions were peaceful?
  • Why is Susan Rice talking to Shimon Peres and not Benjamin Netanyahu? Would you expect a foreign minister, any foreign minister, to be calling George W. Bush? 
Oddly enough, Netanyahu had the same question:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the notion of a reimbursement package Sunday, saying that no amount of compensation would be enough to confront a nuclear armed Iran “sworn to our destruction.”

“Why should we need to be compensated if the deal is supposed to make us safer?” he asked. “The deal endangers our security, our survival even, and the security of the Middle East and the world.” 
Meanwhile, Obama took the agreement to the UN Security Council yesterday, which approved it. After all, why give Congress a chance to weigh in. Those weasels might actually agree with Netanyahu or something. Can't have that.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Donald and Its Discontents


  • Donald Trump speaks for himself, unless he's using Al Franken's old material (h/t Althouse via Reason Magazine). Senator McCain's colleague wrote in 2000: I doubt I could cross the line and vote Republican. I have tremendous respect for McCain but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned he sat out the war. I bet McCain and Franken yuk it up over that in the ol' Senate cloakroom.
  • The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, in the interest of curing Trump fever, make Trump's point quite clearly: Some Americans may find it satisfying 16 months from Election Day to tell pollsters they’d vote for him, but that doesn’t mean conservative elites should validate this nonsense. Are you part of the conservative elite? Do you want to be part of this elite? The elite seems to have trouble winning national elections. Are the elite's concerns your concerns?
  • It's hardly a novel thought, but let's just say it -- the reason that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are garnering enthusiasm is the same. There's a sense out here, beyond the Potomac and the Hudson, that our betters aren't listening to the concerns of the people our betters purport to represent. Setting the politics aside for a moment, the only real difference between the Obama years and the presidencies of every president since, well, Grover Cleveland is velocity. The federal government always gets bigger, but it's even more voracious under Obama. Do you get the sense that any of the mainstream candidates are going to change that trajectory?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Submitted without further comment

An advertisement from the 1970s:

No guns on the premises

The scene in Chattanooga yesterday:

Don't do this, don't do that, can't you read the signs?
Huh, that sign wasn't particularly effective.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The end of the Chisholm Trail

The Wisconsin Supreme Court swats down the John Doe investigation. Big time.
Dealing Gov. Scott Walker a victory just as his presidential campaign gets underway, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a sweeping decision Thursday ruled the governor's campaign and conservative groups had not violated campaign finance laws.

The ruling means the end of the investigation, which has been stalled for 18 months after a lower court judge determined no laws were violated even if Walker's campaign and the groups had worked together as prosecutors believe.
The victory isn't Walker's, actually. It's a victory for free speech and against some truly awful behavior on the part of John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County prosecutor behind the act, and his bobo special prosecutor Francis Schmitz. Writing for the majority, Justice Michael Gableman was categorical in his assertions about the case:
"It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing," Gableman wrote.

Calling the challengers brave, Gableman wrote that their litigation gave the court "an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation."
It's about time. The case has stunk on ice from the outset. It's bad enough that the investigators were conducting nighttime raids on people who had done nothing wrong, but the prosecutors were regularly leaking results of their "investigation" to willing henchmen in the media. The process itself was the punishment, as Gableman noted in his opinion (via Ann Althouse):
 "The breadth of the documents gathered pursuant to subpoenas and seized pursuant to search warrants is amazing.  Millions of documents, both in digital and paper copy, were subpoenaed and/or seized.  Deputies seized business papers, computer equipment, phones, and other devices, while their targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their attorneys.  The special prosecutor obtained virtually every document possessed by the Unnamed Movants relating to every aspect of their lives, both personal and professional, over a five-year span (from 2009 to 2013).  Such documents were subpoenaed and/or seized without regard to content or relevance to the alleged violations of Ch. 11.  As part of this dragnet, the special prosecutor also had seized wholly irrelevant information, such as retirement income statements, personal financial account information, personal letters, and family photos."
Sweet stuff, that. I don't know whether Chisholm or Schmitz will be looking at any repercussions for their actions, but they should really get the full Nifong. The entire investigation was an abuse of power and their conduct was reprehensible.


I should have been doing this all along, but after 9 1/2 years (!) it's about time I start making this feature a little easier to search. I will be putting labels on posts going forward and I'm also going to start going back through the archives to add labels to old posts. Counting this post, we have 4,638 active posts on this blog, so it's going to take time to get this project done. In the end, it should be worth it.

Any Major dude will tell you

You must not ever, ever, disturb Precious:
In case you missed it, [Major] Garrett asked how Mr. Obama could be “content with all the fanfare around this (nuclear) deal” with Iran after missing the opportunity to include four Americans languishing in Iranian prisons as part of the negotiation. The president took exception to the way the question was framed––and after scolding Garrett the way a teacher does a insubordinate student (“That’s nonsense. And you should know better…”)––he really didn’t provide an answer to the question in between all the long pauses. It was as if the president found the situation so rare, he began searching the room for Candy Crowley to jump in and save him from himself (again).
Here's the video:

Candy Crowley wasn't available, but another CNN functionary, Dana Bash, was:
CNN’s Dana Bash said after the presser, “There’s a fine line between asking a tough question and maybe crossing that line a little bit and being disrespectful, and I think that happened here.”
Yeah, reporters are always respectful of the President:

Days of Wine and Fetal Livers

Most of you, I would assume, have heard about the calm lunch discussion Dr. Deborah Nucatola of Planned Parenthood had in which she discussed how PP is involved in harvesting fetal tissue:
“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Nucatola also describes how Planned Parenthood abortionists move the preborn child into a breech delivery position so that the body can be preserved while the brains of the child are removed. This account is an almost exact medical description of partial-birth abortions which are illegal in the United States.

Planned Parenthood, though, appears to be concerned internally about the legality of their own behavior, as Nucatola notes how, “At the national office, we have a Litigation and Law Department which just really doesn’t want us to be the middle people for this issue right now.”
I don't see why they wouldn't shout it from the housetops. After all, as Kevin Williamson astutely points out, parts is parts:
Planned Parenthood—and supporters such as Mrs. Clinton—have always argued that what’s in play here is not the butchered body of a child at all, but a meaningless blob of tissue. (What kind of tissue, I wonder? Jackrabbit tissue? Rutabaga tissue?) If Mrs. Clinton and Planned Parenthood and the rest are right, why should it be a crime to deal commercially in these meaningless tissues? Shouldn’t there be a robust marketplace for those little hearts and livers and “lower extremities,” which, we are assured by all the best people, are not little human hearts and livers and lower extremities, but something else? Why not sell them on eBay? Why not have billboards?
I remember when I was told that Kermit Gosnell was an outlier. Good times.

You know, an enterprising reporter might consider asking Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Flint Smith what she thinks about all this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Peace in our time

I haven't been able to confirm this independently, but I believe that the Iranian regime is celebrating its successful negotiation of a nuclear treaty with the United States by lobbing a few gay people off of rooftops in Tehran.

Okay that's a little snarky. Still, you have to wonder why anyone would believe that the Iranians a trustworthy. It seems to me that you would not ordinarily put much stock in the assurances of people who routinely chant "death to America" in their public demonstrations. I can only assume that my confusion on this issue stems from my usual lack of nuance in such matters.

Peace in our time, yet again.

Of course, what I think doesn't matter very much. What the Saudis and the Israelis thank will be considerably more important.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I like Scott Walker. We need to watch how he approaches politics on the national scale, but he's made most of the correct choices in Wisconsin. This longish piece from Stephen Miller does a nice job of explaining why:
These are the rules that the far left of the Democrat party has set for anyone who dares step onto their playing turf, where most of legacy network media admittedly play the refs for them. No one is more equipped to make them play by their own rules than Scott Walker. Furthermore, there is this narrative developing from GOP Corporate that in order to move the country beyond the divisive class vitriol that has dominated Obama’s policies (rhetoric that, by the way, won’t end once he leaves office) the proper role of a candidate is to bring people together in Washington and heal the country. This was a prevailing theme of Mitt Romney’s campaign and is now taking shape with Jeb Bush.

On Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David, invoking the spirit of Henry Clay, quipped “a good compromise leaves everybody dissatisfied.” Compromise is the sort of talking point constantly pushed by moderates that pleases absolutely no one beyond the Beltway journalists feeding it to them. Conservatives–not even just the true-red hardcore ones, but the moderates as well who are tired of losing–don’t want a President who will reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. They want someone who will steamroll them like Obama did during his first two years, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. And Scott Walker? He’s certainly not going to be touting his record of working with Democrats in Wisconsin, not after signing Act 10, concealed carry, and Right-To-Work legislation into law…and that’s exactly why he’s enormously popular. Conservatives dream of someone who will break what’s left of the tired and aged Democratic minority in Congress, and leave them on an ash heap, barely able to comprehend how old and outdated their party faces have become while wallowing in the mess left for them to clean up as their own demi-god strolls out of office singing “Amazing Grace” to himself. There can be no compromise this election.
Emphasis mine. Scott Walker has put skins up on the wall. He's beaten a particularly rabid strain of Democrats in Wisconsin three times since 2010. And he's been successful because he doesn't take the bait. He doesn't play the identity politics game. In Wisconsin, he has let the Democrats emote, stage their protests in the Capitol building, hang out in Rockford rather than voting on a bill. He's waited them out and he has stayed on message. If he can continue to stay on message, he'll have a chance.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The punchlines write themselves

Say hello to my little friend:
It has a goo-spewing mouth on its belly, is covered in toxic slime, hosts a brain-eating parasite and, like any ambitious mutant monster, the New Guinea flatworm is invading the U.S. by way of sunny Miami.

There’s also this: The worm is hermaphroditic, so it can multiply anywhere, anytime.
Being a hermaphrodite is common to all worms, but we'll leave that aside. This dude is nasty:
While humans face little risk from the worm, it thrives on snails and will eat any slug, worm or soft critter living in soil. And its appetite is voracious. Robinson has seen pictures of a Giant African Land Snail — another invasive marauder — being attacked by a pack of 30 to 40 flatworms.

The worm latches onto the shell’s opening, then spits its stomach out through the mouth on its belly. An acidic goo from the stomach dissolves the snail’s flesh so the worm can re-swallow both stomach and prey. 
It often works as a bureaucrat. And it brings other gifts as well:
The New Guinea flatworm carries the rat lung parasite, which burrows into the brain and can spread to humans. They are also coated in a toxic slime, so shouldn’t be handled.
Alan Grayson has not yet commented, most likely out of professional courtesy.


Away from the brink, for at least a while, in Greece:
Greece reached a deal with its European creditors Monday, pledging stringent austerity to avoid an exit from the euro and the global financial chaos that could have followed.

The deal calls for Greeks, already reeling from harsh measures and economic decline, to cut back even further in exchange for more loans without which its financial system would surely collapse. The deal, which still needs approval from Greece's parliament, will be the country's third bailout in five years.
I'll admit it -- I wanted to see what would happen if there were a Grexit. The creditor nations, particularly Germany, couldn't afford to blink, especially with Portugal and Italy standing in the wings. We'll continue to watch the story.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


I only have a minute or two, so this will be brief.

Donald Trump has identified a legitimate issue.

It's not clear that he has any solution.

I'll take him more seriously if he comes with a solution.

That is all.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Shifts and shiftlessness

A caveat at the outset -- I do not want Jeb Bush to be president. In fact, the entire Bush family really ought to go away from national politics and stay away. Okay, we've cleared that up. Now, let's get to the mendacity built into the reaction he's getting for something he said earlier this week:
During an interview that was live-streamed on the app Periscope, Bush made the comments to New Hampshire’s The Union Leader answering a question about his plans for tax reform.

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours” and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That's the only way we're going to get out of this rut that we're in.”
The reaction I've seen to this statement is ridiculous. A sample, from my social media feed:

The obscenely wealthy have a robust history of believing that everybody who isn’t obscenely wealthy is not so simply by virtue of being shiftless. If they weren’t already dead inside, I guess that would make it easier for them to sleep at night and look themselves in the mirror.

What makes someone "obscenely wealthy" is a discussion for another day. So, did you sense that ol' Jeb is saying people are shiftless? I didn't. Bush is talking about the workforce participation rate, which is at a lower point than it has been in generations. A lot of people aren't working full time hours at present. For some, it's a conscious decision. For some others, it's because full time work isn't readily available. For some people, the job search has been so fruitless that they've given up.

In my job, I manage 7 people. Five of the seven are full time employees; the other two are contractors. One of the two contractors works 3 days a week; the other works the full week. I have enough work to hire these people and probably one more, but the cost of adding a new employee is so high that it's simply easier to have them work as contractors. We pay our contractors very well, but we don't have to take on any of the other associated costs of employing someone, especially benefits.

I'm not particularly crazy about the arrangement, but we make it work. Employers everywhere do similar things. Would my 3 day-a week contractor have a better life if she worked all five days? Maybe, but not necessarily. Her current schedule allows her time for her family, which is important to her. Mrs. D works part-time as well; she could increase her hours by taking another job, but at this point in our lives it doesn't make sense for her to do so.

I do think a lot of people would like more hours. I know a lot of full time workers would like to work less hours than they currently do. Getting there is difficult and will require a lot of people to change how they operate. Making it easier for people who are unemployed, or underemployed, to find full time work is the challenge. How do you do it? The election hinges on how we answer that question.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Popping noises

So what's going on China? Walter Russell Mead has a few thoughts:
So China’s extraordinary years of lending and growth have surely created an economic bubble, but they have created two other bubbles as well. First, a political bubble based in the belief that China’s government techniques can defy the laws of economic gravity and create long-term, stable, above-market rates of growth in the developing world. Second, a geopolitical bubble based on the belief that China’s stellar economic record of the last few decades will continue indefinitely into the future with immense consequences for the international order. That is, the country’s success has encouraged authoritarian regimes and technocrats all over the world to believe that markets can be managed long term, and that market forces can be indefinitely held at bay.
My employer deals extensively with Chinese companies, especially trading companies. Many of the financial arrangements in China are murky, at best. If the Chinese economy crashes, the effects are going to be significantly greater than what is happening in Greece.

As an aside, we aren't likely to run out of technocrats any time soon -- the Eastern Seaboard is full of them. If events are in the saddle, we're going to see a lot of these technocrats flailing around, trying to wrest control. Watch carefully.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015


You may have heard about the case of Francisco Sanchez, who apparently shot and killed a woman at random in San Francisco last week. Sanchez was in the country illegally (or was "undocumented," if you prefer). Apparently the weapon he used had an, ahem, interesting provenance:
Authorities are investigating whether a gun associated with a Bureau of Land Management employee was used in the fatal shooting of a young woman on a tourist-heavy San Francisco pier, an agency spokesperson said.

"The matter is under investigation, and law enforcement is working to confirm the origin of the weapon," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Sources familiar with the investigation say the gun belonged to a federal agent and may have been stolen recently. It is unclear whether the firearm was a government-issued service weapon or a personally owned gun.
For his part, Sanchez claims it was all an accident:
Earlier this week, Sanchez told ABC station KGO-TV in a jailhouse interview that he started wandering on Pier 14 Wednesday, July 1 after taking sleeping pills he found in a dumpster. He said he then picked up a gun that he found and it went off.
I believe that. Happens all the time. Just the other day I was talking to a few of my neighbors and they were sharing their tales of found pharmacology. In fact, one guy found a rocket propelled grenade launcher and a stash of Valium in a dumpster just down the road from here. Wait, you don't believe that? It's at least as plausible as the story Sanchez is offering.

So, let's total up the questions:

  • Sanchez was in San Francisco, it appears, because it's a "sanctuary city" where our undocumented neighbors can live without fear of dealing with Immigration. Good idea?
  • Why would a Bureau of Land Management employee need a government-issued service weapon?
  • Sanchez had been deported five times before. The linked story reports that Sanchez had been turned over to the San Francisco Police Department on an outstanding drug warrant, but once that case was adjudicated Sanchez was turned loose, even though ICE had specifically requested that they be notified when the case was over. Is that a wise policy?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Smoke from a distant fire

You left me here on your way to paradise
You pulled the rug right out from under my life
I know where you goin' to I knew when you came home last night
'Cause your eyes had a mist from the smoke of a distant fire

You don't need a mellow rock song from the late 70s (take a bow, Sanford Townsend Band) to feel the smoke from a distant fire. It's tough not to notice how nasty the air is in the Twin Cities right now. There's been an acrid haze for the better part of a week,  as smoke from forest fires in Saskatchewan billows into town:
The worst of the air hung over a large swath of Minnesota from the south to Duluth and a pocket along the northeast border for much of Monday, gradually shrinking and lessening by mid-evening.

On an air-quality scale that ranges from 0 to 200, some parts of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, pushed into the mid-170s and 180s, said Steve Mikkelson, a spokesman for the MPCA.

“That’s unusually high,” Mikkelson said, pointing out that he hasn’t seen readings this high for more than a decade. “We’ve had alerts in the ‘unhealthy for everyone’ range of the scale before, but not this high.”

We often talk of air quality, but frankly, there is no air quality right now. I took this picture up at Interstate Park in Taylors Falls on Saturday. It was a beautiful summer day, but it didn't seem like it. It's been difficult to spend much time outside at all the last few days. I'm lucky because I rarely have any respiratory problems, so I would imagine that a lot of other people who ordinarily do have such issues are really suffering right now. If you have asthma, it's downright dangerous at the moment.

We got a lot of rain yesterday, around 3 inches at my house, but even that didn't clear the air. In fact, the air was worse yesterday afternoon on my commute home. You could barely see the skyline from Lake Street as I was driving north on 35W.

The local meteorologists are hoping that things will begin to clear today or tomorrow. I sincerely hope so. While such conditions wouldn't faze someone from Los Angeles, or Beijing, it's highly unusual for this area. It's easy to take things for granted, but the discomfort I'm feeling at the moment is a reminder that things could be a lot worse, and are, for many people and many places.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble:
Foreign investors are selling Shanghai shares at a record pace as China steps up government intervention to combat a stock-market rout that many analysts say was inevitable.

Sales of mainland shares through the Shanghai-Hong Kong exchange link swelled to an all-time high on Monday, while dual-listed shares in Hong Kong fell by the most since at least 2006 versus mainland counterparts. Options traders in the U.S. are paying near-record prices for insurance against further losses after Chinese stocks on American bourses posted their biggest one-day plunge since 2011.
How will the Chinese government react? Early results aren't particularly encouraging:
The latest attempts to stem the country’s $3.2 trillion equity rout, including stock purchases by state-run financial firms and a halt to initial public offerings, have undermined government pledges to move to a more market-based economy, according to Aberdeen Asset Management. They also risk eroding confidence in policy makers’ ability to manage the financial system if the rout in stocks continues, said BMI Research, a unit of Fitch.

“It’s coming to a point where you’re covering one bad policy with another,” said Tai Hui, the Hong Kong-based chief Asia market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, which oversees about $1.7 trillion. “A lot of investors are still concerned about another correction.”
It's likely that the Chinese government doesn't have that many options left. As things deteriorate, will the government try to distract the populace through some foreign policy bellicosity in the region? That's a possibility as well. As the old Chinese curse has it, may you live in interesting times. It's getting interesting, all right.

Monday, July 06, 2015


You shouldn't have to point out the obvious, but often it's necessary. Star Tribune business columnist Lee Schafer, step up to the mike:
The shouts and huzzahs from the governor’s office when the business news channel CNBC recently named Minnesota as the best state for business likely made it difficult to hear the heavy sighs of the business owners who have a completely different lived experience.

There is no good reason to just dismiss the overall conclusion of the CNBC study, as the facts CNBC lined up to put Minnesota just ahead of No. 2 Texas seem convincing. It’s also easy to find people here who will happily admit they love running a business in a region with a great quality of life and a highly educated workforce.

But to conclude that everything is just fine here for “business” means accepting the comical idea that every business owner’s situation is the same.
If you work for an established business with infrastructure, it's not too bad here. But if you're a startup, the taxes and regulations are significant hindrances:
The CNBC study ranked Minnesota 35th in the cost of doing business, and the personal income tax rate here causes business owners heartburn, too.

Big companies can just pay executives a little more, but for a mom-and-pop taxed as a Subchapter S or other pass-through company, the business money and the personal money are the same. The personal income tax rate here tops out at 9.85 percent, among the highest in the nation.
That's a pretty tough load, especially if you want to expand your business and bring on more workers. I recommend you read the whole article.

The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks

There was debt all over the dance floor 
and the band was playin' rhythm and blues 
You got down and did the gator, and half 
an hour later, you were barfin' all over 
Frau Merkel's shoes. 

Okay, that's not how it was written, but it's what has happened:
Greece lurched into uncharted territory and an uncertain future in Europe's common currency Sunday after voters overwhelmingly rejected demands by international creditors for more austerity measures in exchange for a bailout of its bankrupt economy.

Results showed about 61 percent voted "no," compared with 39 percent for "yes," with 100 percent of the vote counted. The referendum — Greece's first in more than four decades — came amid severe restrictions on financial transactions in the country, imposed last week to stem a bank run that accelerated after the vote was called.
What happens next? It could go a variety of ways, but I can promise you that a number of other debtor nations are watching closely.

Here comes the spiral

It's another one of those "go figure" moments that we enjoy so much:
Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected. Federal officials say they are determined to see that the requests are scaled back.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.
Yep -- that's 54% in Minnesota. Doing a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation for my own health insurance, that would mean an extra 3 grand a year for my family. For a lot of others, it would be worse. Can you afford an extra 3 grand?

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Fight the urge

The Department of Health and Human Services has given you a homework assignment:
This Fourth of July, families across the nation will gather around hot dogs (or their favorite vegetarian alternative) and potato salad to spend some quality time together, watch fireworks and reflect on the holiday’s meaning. But as much as we love our families – and we do, seriously –we don’t always agree when it comes to current events, like last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding tax credits that help make insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more affordable for millions of people.

Misinformation about the ACA is everywhere, and there’s been a lot of money spent to spread that misinformation – as much as half a billion dollars in ads, according to one 2014 estimate. Not surprisingly, many Americans still don’t know how changes the law made to insurance and the health care system can help improve their lives.

You should be prepared when Aunt Janine says something like, “Obamacare hasn’t helped anyone!” So here are a few points to remember during this long holiday weekend:
In the interest of familial harmony, here are a few points I'd suggest instead:

  • Don't talk about Obamacare
  • Have a bratwurst and an icy cold beverage of your choice
  • Enjoy the fireworks
  • Go out and take a nice day trip somewhere if you'd like
  • Take some pictures of the family not talking about Obamacare
  • Don't talk about Obamacare
Happy 4th, everyone!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Generosity with other people's money

Story one:
Today, President Obama will visit La Crosse, Wis., to make the case that the federal government should require employers to pay overtime to all salaried workers who earn less than $50,000 per year.

The proposal is the latest salvo in the nation’s broader debate about economic fairness, which intensified during the slow recovery from the 2009 recession. Only in the past year has U.S. joblessness dropped below pre-recession levels. Wage growth, meanwhile, has stagnated.
Story two:
Gov. Mark Dayton gave big raises to his cabinet Wednesday, prompting a swift attack from Republicans as he boosted the salaries of some agency commissioners overnight by 30 percent or more.

The raises for top executives, which go as high as $155,000, are far above those that rank-and-file state workers will receive. Recent contract agreements with the state’s two largest public employee unions resulted in 2.5 percent increases this year and next.

Observations? A few:

  • A safe bet -- Dayton's lackeys will get their money. The people Obama claims to help? Probably not that much.
  • I have no idea why the Leader of the Free World needed to fire up Air Force One and travel halfway across the country to make his argument, but it's easy to spend other people's money when you are the Leader of the Free World. 
  • It's better, by far, to be a Dayton lackey than to work in a sandwich shop.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Worth every penny

So you are opening a women's hall of fame. You want to have a prominent woman to speak at your grand opening. It gets pricey, though:
When the University of Missouri at Kansas City was looking for a celebrity speaker to headline its gala luncheon marking the opening of a women’s hall of fame, one of the names that came to mind was Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But when the former secretary of state’s representatives quoted a fee of $275,000, officials at the public university balked. “Yikes!” one e-mailed another.
What to do? Well, if you can't get Sinatra to play your room, you can always get Frank Sinatra Jr.:
So the school booked the next best option: her daughter, Chelsea.

The university paid $65,000 for Chelsea Clinton’s brief appearance Feb. 24, 2014, a demonstration of the celebrity appeal and marketability that the former and possibly second-time first daughter employs on behalf of her mother’s presidential campaign and family’s global charitable empire.
What do you get for the money?
The schedule she negotiated called for her to speak for 10 minutes, participate in a 20-minute, moderated question-and-answer session and spend a half-hour posing for pictures with VIPs offstage.
The median household income in the United States for 2013 was $51,939. Chelsea got more than that for an hour's work. And do you know what? Gloria Steinem would have worked for a lot less:
The e-mails show that the university initially inquired about Chelsea Clinton but her speaking agency indicated she was unlikely to do the speech. At that point, a university vice chancellor urged organizers to “shoot for the moon” and pursue the former secretary of state, who proved too expensive.

So the university turned back to others, eventually choosing Chelsea Clinton when the agency indicated she was willing. Just shy of her 34th birthday, Clinton commanded a higher fee than other prominent women speakers who were considered, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem ($30,000) and journalists Cokie Roberts ($40,000), Tina Brown ($50,000) and Lesley Stahl ($50,000), the records show.
Do you remember, back in the late 90s, when the Clintons made life uncomfortable for Steinem? She and her associates in the women's movement had to pretend that Bill Clinton's dalliances with Monica Lewinsky were no big thing. Now they can't even get a sniff for a women's hall of fame luncheon and the Clintons get the money. I suppose it's good to know your value in the marketplace.

Just my impression

The reaction to the Obergfell decision seems to go this way, at least based on my observations:

  • Gays are genuinely happy, but don't seem particularly inclined to push the envelope any further
  • Left-wing straight people are the ones pushing to use the decision as a battering ram against churches who don't comply, and religious folks generally