Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The New Brighton Kangaroo Court Meets a Real Court -- Part Four, Keep It Dark

Parts one, two and three are available at the provided links.

We briefly return to the story of the New Brighton City Council. The mayor decided to have a special emergency meeting to figure out how to respond to the order from Ramsey County Judge Lezlie Ott Marek that struck down the improper city ordinance seeking to change the election cycle. You can access the meeting agenda and a video at the links I've provided, although there's not much to see, as the video goes dark after a minute. What you will note is that the meeting took all of five minutes.

If the city is getting competent legal advice, they should have been told to forget trying to appeal the order. They were wrong on the facts and the law, and they also improperly rejected a petition to set things right. If the mayor and city council attempt an appeal, they will only compound the numerous errors they have made.

We'll keep watching the events unfold.

Benghazi? You're Still Bringing That Up?

If I've seen one meme, I've seen a million -- Hillary Clinton pwned/destroyed/utterly wrecked the nasty Republicans investigating (oh, I'm sorry, wasting millions on a witch hunt) Benghazi. Why are we still talking about it? Oh:
The State Department says about 30 emails that may be related to the 2012 attack on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya, are among the thousands of Hillary Clinton emails recovered during the FBI's recently closed investigation into her use of a private server.

Government lawyers told U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta Tuesday that an undetermined number of the emails among the 30 were not included in the 55,000 pages previously provided by Clinton. The State Department's lawyer said it would need until the end of September to review the emails and redact potentially classified information before they are released.

Mehta questioned why it would take so long to release so few documents, and urged that the process be sped up. He ordered the department to report to him in a week with more details about why the review process would take a full month.
So, let's see. . . that means the following:

  • Clinton has been lying, yet again, about saying the emails she had destroyed were not related to any investigations.
  • Clinton attempted to destroy federal records. She wasn't able to destroy all of them, but we'll never know for sure what did get destroyed.
  • The State Department is still stonewalling.
  • The goal is to run out the clock.

The stench is getting tough to bear. Where is the Democratic John Dean? Where is the Democratic equivalent of Hugh Scott?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


In re Colin Kapernick:

  • If he doesn't want to stand for the national anthem, that's fine. It's a free country.
  • While it's difficult to suss out exactly what he's trying to say, he's not entirely wrong about police being, at times, too violent.
  • Having said that, I suspect he's more concerned about these things now because he sees his career slipping away and being a jock SJW would be a good gig.
  • Maybe we could get him and Tim Tebow out on a new-fangled muscular Chautauqua circuit, since neither of them are likely to play much football anytime soon.

The worst day of the year, 26th anniversary edition

I've told this story before, but I hope you'll indulge me.

August 30, 1990, was a beautiful late summer day, sunny and a bit hot, but comfortable enough. My father had been transferred to Theda Clark from St. Elizabeth's in Appleton following quadruple bypass surgery. He had a heart attack two weeks prior and was not really getting better even after the surgery. The doctors explained the dilemma: since Dad had not been able to get up and around, he was in danger of suffering from a pulmonary embolism. While drugs were available to break the clots, they might jeopardize healing from the surgery he'd recently undertaken. Dad was caught between Scylla and Charybdis, as the Police once sang.

We were now there, all six of us. I, the eldest, newly engaged, had been the last to arrive. Two of the siblings were still in high school. And we waited. The doctors and nurses would come and go, bringing periodic reports, decidedly non-committal in tone. My dad's best friend, himself a doctor, came by and told us that he didn't like what he'd seen. The longer we waited, the better it might be, but a pulmonary embolism is a serious problem and it could happen at any time.

As night fell, we left the hospital to get something to eat. We headed to the Appleton outpost of George Webb, the legendary greasy spoon that was a Wisconsin tradition, with locations seemingly on every street corner in Milwaukee. We tucked into massive plates of grease and tried to forget, if only for a moment. With visiting hours over, we headed home, hopeful that the silence was golden and that maybe, just maybe, things would turn out. One of my brothers returned to his home in Milwaukee, hoping that maybe he'd not need to return that night.

Around 10:20, the phone rang at our house. I picked up the call. The nurse said that Dad wasn't doing too well and that we should come back to the hospital. "We're on the way," I replied, without inflection. We piled into a few cars and headed back to Theda Clark. Once we got there, the news was grim. A clot had formed and had traveled to Dad's lungs - a pulmonary embolism. The only hope was surgery, and the odds weren't good. Could someone give us permission to perform it? My stepmother said, yes, yes, please perform the surgery.

We headed for the chapel and prayed. Meanwhile, my brother sped back from Milwaukee, hoping to arrive in time to provide his support and prayers. But the odds were against us and eventually the news was bad. At 11:50 p.m., Dad was gone.

So many things have happened since that day, 26 long years ago. I married my fiancee the next year and we've had a wonderful marriage that has produced two beautiful children. My siblings have long since entered adulthood and two of them are now parents as well. We've had tremendous fun and more than a few heartaches since that day. We lost our stepmother 8 years later and our mother two years after that, both victims of their 40+ year addictions to cigarettes. Those days were horribly sad, too, but likely inevitable.

The sense I've always had was that Dad wasn't ready to go. On his deathbed, he was gripping the railings, as if fighting to keep himself from leaving. He knew, I'm guessing, that he was leaving way too soon, and he fought like hell to stay, even if Heaven beckoned. I can only hope that they have wonderful windows in Heaven, because I'd want him to know how wonderful his grandchildren are, that the young lady he admired has turned out to be a fantastic wife, mother and daughter-in-law, and that his boy is proud to be his son. Twenty-six years on, even as I shed a tear or two, I trust he does know these things.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lightning Round -- 082916

Things keep rolling:

  • Not much new to report on the slam dunk ruling against the City of New Brighton. The only things I've heard are second- or third-hand reports and I'm not comfortable with saying anything more until I know more. My sense is the folks responsible for the debacle have to go through their own Kubler-Ross process. I will continue to watch events, however.
  • An alert reader pointed me to this story involving the city council of Lake Elmo. In this case, a city council member was censured twice for calling public attention to an $11 million shortfall, because in doing so he brought a spotlight on the performance of the city finance director. The situation in Lake Elmo is, if anything, even more dire than what's been happening here in New Brighton. It may not mean anything, but the reader noticed something interesting that relates to the New Brighton matter -- the city attorney of  Lake Elmo and the new city attorney of New Brighton are both the same individual, Sarah Sonsalla. As I said, it may not mean anything, but it's an odd coincidence.
  • On the national scene, not much seems to change. Every day brings new evidence of corruption from the Clintons, but it doesn't seem to matter very much to the electorate, or at least those who are being polled. It's no surprise that local governments assume they can get away with anything they desire -- if corruption isn't an issue on the national level, how worked up are you allowed to be on what happens locally?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The New Brighton Kangaroo Court Meets a Real Court -- Part Three, The Strib Takes Notice

The Star Tribune takes note of events in New Brighton:
City elections in New Brighton this fall have been called off.

A judge has decided that the city’s decision last year to switch to even-year elections, changing the terms of council members, was invalid under state law.

Ramsey County District Court Judge Lezlie Ott Marek also ruled Thursday that the city’s denial of City Council Member Gina Bauman’s petition challenging the switch — on the grounds that it didn’t follow the law — was wrong. Marek said the petition did follow the law.
That's the only reasonable conclusion. But the mayor doesn't seem to get it:
Mayor Valerie Johnson said she was “disappointed in the ruling, but I have to say that I believe the city did everything properly.”
How do we put this politely? That's delusional. Strib reporter David Peterson outlines the sequence of events nicely:
The dispute stems from the City Council’s decision on Nov. 10, 2015 — a week after the last election — to switch from odd- to even-year voting, lengthen the mayor’s term by a year and reduce the terms of other council members by a year.

Bauman dissented, saying the council didn’t have the right to overrule voters on terms of office and that the question should have been put to the people.

In May, Bauman formally petitioned for a referendum. The city denied it, saying she hadn’t followed required technicalities. The judge this week disagreed, saying that she had “complied with all of the requirements.”
And let's not forget how the city council chose to handle Bauman's concerns about the change:
A dispute on the issue led last spring to Bauman’s censure by the council and the resignation of City Attorney Troy Gilchrist, whom Bauman had consulted about the petition.
Let's review what happened. The city council made a change in elections that was invalid under state law. And when they were challenged on it, they censured the council member who was challenging the rule. They subsequently denied a petition seeking redress. And when the matter was brought to the district court, the city government got slapped down, big time and the ordinance was thrown out entirely.  But Mayor Johnson thinks the city did everything properly. Perhaps delusional isn't a strong enough term.

There's more at the link. It's worth your time.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The New Brighton Kangaroo Court Meets a Real Court -- Part Two

Part one of this series is here.

We pick up the story of the New Brighton City Council's move to change the municipal election cycle, and the tactics they used to change the law. Council member Gina Bauman, who opposed the measure and who had a petition rejected by the others on the council, filed a lawsuit in the Ramsey County District Court, after advising the rest of the council that she and co-petitioner Susan Erickson, a resident of New Brighton, had planned to do so. So what happened in the Ramsey County District Court? The easiest way to see what happened is to look at the order that was entered. It's five pages long and is written in such a way that you do not need any specific legal training to understand the findings of the court. Since the order is a matter of public record, I have taken the liberty of reproducing it below.

You will rarely see an order that is such a slam dunk. While the order speaks for itself, some commentary is in order.

  • I find it astonishing that the New Brighton City Council members who hatched this plan in the first place did not understand the statutes involved. Either they were too lazy to undertake even the most rudimentary search for the relevant statute, or they were too corrupt to care. The statute is clear -- you cannot entertain an election change for 2016 unless you start the process before June 1, 2015. The now-stricken ordinance was passed on November 10, 2015. The ordinance they passed was doomed from the outset.
  • As the findings of fact in the order demonstrate, state statutes are equally clear on the matter of how to handle a petition. By rejecting the petition out of hand and not allowing an opportunity for the petitioners to correct the presumed defects, the council members involved were reckless at best. And one can safely surmise that if the city got legal advice from the new city attorney, they got very bad advice, indeed.
  • Given the recklessness of the city council members who voted for the ordinance, it's outrageous that this same group would censure the one member of the council who raised an objection to an ordinance that was, as a matter of law, dead on arrival. As a practical matter, Bauman is a whistleblower and she was retaliated against for blowing the whistle. The three members of the New Brighton City Council who voted to censure Bauman, along with the current mayor, are the ones who merit censure or some other form of condemnation for their misconduct in office.
  • I am not close enough to the matter to know for sure, but based on what I have heard, it would also be useful to determine what role the city manager played in this particular episode. While the mayor and city council set policy for the city, the manager is responsible for implementation of the policies and has a significant say in how such matters are approached. As a resident of New Brighton, I would have expected the senior member of the city's administrative staff to have considered and addressed the issues at hand, including the potential statutory requirements involved, in such a momentous change. Perhaps he did, but it doesn't seem likely.
Most of all, the whole episode demonstrates our local government officials are not serving us well in New Brighton. Wise leadership is always what we want, but at a minimum we should have competent leadership. I don't believe we have wise or competent leadership in New Brighton.

The New Brighton Kangaroo Court Meets a Real Court -- Part One

You might remember the noxious behavior of the New Brighton city government in recent months, especially concerning they way it dealt with a disagreement among its members. Following is a quick recap:

  • New Brighton held municipal elections in November, 2015, as per usual. In that election, the sitting mayor, Dave Jacobsen, was defeated in a three-way contest by a newcomer, Val Johnson. Two city council members, Mary Burg and Paul Jacobsen (no relation to the outgoing mayor), were reelected to office. Two other city council members, Gina Bauman and Brian Strub, were not up for election.
  • Under the city laws in place at the time, Johnson earned a two-year term as mayor, while Burg and Paul Jacobsen earned four year terms. Bauman and Strub, who were elected in 2013, would continue in position until 2017.
  • Bauman, who had unsuccessfully run for mayor in 2015, has generally disagreed with her fellow council members over policy approaches. She has generally supported keeping taxes low and municipal spending to a minimum. The other members of the council like to spend money.
  • At the regularly scheduled city council meeting in November, council member Strub introduced a new ordinance that would change the election cycle from the odd-number year cycle it has been on to an even-numbered year cycle, to coincide with state and national elections. The effective import of the change was to shorten the four year terms of Bauman and Strub to three years, and to extend the term of incoming mayor Johnson's term to three years, meaning elections that would have taken place in 2017 would now take place in 2016. The ordinance, which had received no public notice before Strub introduced it, was passed 3-2, with Bauman and outgoing mayor Dave Jacobsen in opposition.
Fast forward to April. Bauman, who continued to oppose the change, asked the city attorney of New Brighton to research whether a petition could be brought forth to put the election change to a referendum. The other members of the council, working in concert with City Manager, Dean Lotter, voted to censure Bauman for her impertinence in questioning their wisdom. They then went even further, removing Bauman from the local government commissions she served on as part of her city council duties. They also forced the city attorney to resign for taking Bauman's call.

Bauman, undeterred, then subsequently submitted the petition to the council at their May meeting, which the rest of the council summarily rejected, claiming it did not conform to state statute. More importantly, they did not allow Bauman to correct the error they claimed the petition had, thus killing the petition. The municipal government then went on its merry way and began work on putting the election for Bauman and Strub's seats on the ballot for this year.

The issue went to court and a Ramsey County judge ruled on the matter this week. We'll discuss what happened in greater detail tomorrow, but let's just say this -- it didn't go well for the City Council.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nothing to see here, move along

I've been told that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats hate money in politics. I'm thinking it's more love/hate:
If there were a moment in this presidential race when Hillary Clinton could act on her stated outrage over the obscene amount of money in politics, it is probably now, having eclipsed her rival Donald Trump in terms of cash in the bank and blocked off his most direct paths to victory.

But Clinton isn’t tapping the brakes. She is instead on an extended tour through the nation’s elite enclaves — from Laguna Beach to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard to Magic Johnson’s house in Los Angeles – in an unrestrained fundraising blitz that makes even some supporters chafe.

The price of entry at several of the stops, such as Monday’s dinner at the Beverly Hills home of entertainment mogul Haim Saban, is $50,000 per person. On the Vineyard on Saturday, Clinton netted roughly $2 million at a single cocktail party, then darted off to a small dinner event at a billionaire’s home that generated another $1 million.
The linked article from the Los Angeles Times tells you a lot, including the hypocrisy involved:
Over-the-top fundraising can also make for poor optics as the Democratic nominee struggles to overcome voter anxiety about her trustworthiness and decades of donor controversies involving the Clintons, from the selling of overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom during her husband’s administration to six-figure payments for secretive speaking engagements with Wall Street investment firms.

Sixty percent of voters in a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month said they do not see her as honest. The immense cash infusions are now coming to a candidate who regularly says some variation of what she did at a community college round table in Iowa recently: “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all.” 
Not until the Clintons have all of it, though. Meanwhile, don't you worry your pretty little heads about anything. All that money the Clintons are sloshing around in, it's none of your concern, citizen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Good news for Roseville, St. Louis Park, Richfield. . .

We will soon find out whether Minneapolis values its businesses:
A Hennepin County judge on Monday overruled the Minneapolis City Council's decision to block a $15 minimum wage charter amendment, ordering that the issue be placed on the November ballot.

Judge Susan Robiner issued her decision more than a week after she heard arguments from advocates who gathered enough signatures to send the issue to voters. The City Council, following the legal opinion of City Attorney Susan Segal, previously had voted to prevent the proposal from reaching the ballot. A majority of council members said they believed the issue was not a proper subject for a charter amendment, the only type of action allowed to be put to a direct vote.
And the folks who think they'll be getting rich are mobilized:
Barring a higher court reversal, the judge's decision means supporters of the higher wage, including the groups 15 Now Minnesota, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, will have just over two months to convince voters that Minneapolis' minimum wage should be among the highest in the nation. Only a handful of other cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, have approved a $15 minimum wage.

Advocates said Monday that they are optimistic. They pointed to poll results they released last week that showed 68 percent of 400 voters surveyed said they'd vote in favor of a $15 minimum wage.
As the economists say, there's no such thing as a free lucha. We'll find out soon if the citizenry figures it out, or whether they get the H. L. Mencken treatment.

Toll booth

The expressway to Hillary Clinton has a toll booth:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.
The linked report from the Associated Press contains some excellent reporting, although it goes out of its way to make it sound as though nothing untoward is happening. An example:
In another case, Clinton was host at a September 2009 breakfast meeting at the New York Stock Exchange that listed Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman as one of the attendees. Schwarzman's firm is a major Clinton Foundation donor, but he personally donates heavily to GOP candidates and causes. One day after the breakfast, according to Clinton emails, the State Department was working on a visa issue at Schwarzman's request. In December that same year, Schwarzman's wife, Christine, sat at Clinton's table during the Kennedy Center Honors. Clinton also introduced Schwarzman, then chairman of the Kennedy Center, before he spoke.

Blackstone donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Eight Blackstone executives also gave between $375,000 and $800,000 to the foundation. And Blackstone's charitable arm has pledged millions of dollars in commitments to three Clinton Global aid projects ranging from the U.S. to the Mideast. Blackstone officials did not make Schwarzman available for comment.
Schwarzman is a major donor to Republicans, but he pays to play and Blackstone is a major player, much to the chagrin of many of Hillary's pals on the Left. And his top deputy at Blackstone, Hamilton James, is a big donor to Democrats. At the level these guys operate, you have to pay to play, and they do.

And then there's this guy:
[. . .] Claudio Osorio. He’s a Clinton Foundation donor who leveraged his “generosity” to get $10 million from the government with help from the Clinton State Department. Osorio is now serving a 12-year prison sentence after scamming the government out of millions and cheating his investsors.
Osorio was supposed to be building houses in Haiti. Didn't happen. Why did he get hep from State?
Why might Hillary Clinton be willing to steer resources to this crook’s project? For one thing, Osorio had hosted a fundraiser for Hillary at his Star Island mansion.

For another, Osorio was a Clinton Foundation donor, contributing between $10,000 and $50,000 to the organization, according to Goodman. In addition, he had hired Clinton’s 2008 finance director Jonathan Mantz to lobby OPIC for the loan request.

Less than 24 hours after Tabernacki, the OPIC official, wrote her memo citing Osorio’s Clinton connections, OPIC approved a $10 million loan. It approved the loan just two weeks after the company proposed the project. Officials told Goodman that the process usually takes months or years.

But not when you have friends in very high places.
With 15,000 more emails to catalog, we'll learn more. A lot more. Whether we'll learn it before November 8 is the question.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Our government doesn't pay ransom, we are told. If that is true, why would the government be issuing this warning?
The State Department issued a warning on Monday urging U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Iran, which has made the detention of Americans a priority.

The latest travel advisory, which emphasizes Iran’s desire to capture U.S. citizens, comes on the heels of a growing scandal over the Obama administration’s decision to pay Iran $400 million in cash on the same day that it freed several U.S. hostages.
No, that can't be right. We don't pay ransom, remember?
The payment has been cast by lawmakers and others as a ransom payment and prompted concern among U.S. officials that Iran is making arresting Americans a priority.

The travel warning is meant to “highlight the risk of arrest and detention of U.S. citizens, particularly dual national Iranian-Americans,” according to a State Department announcement on Monday. “Foreigners, in particular dual nationals of Iran and Western countries including the United States, continue to be detained or prevented from leaving Iran.”

“U.S. citizens traveling to Iran should very carefully weigh the risks of travel and consider postponing their travel,” the warning adds. “U.S. citizens residing in Iran should closely follow media reports, monitor local conditions, and evaluate the risks of remaining in the country.”
Why would there be any risk? We don't pay ransom.
The Obama administration expressed particular concern about commercial airlines doing business with Iran. This warning comes as American companies such as Boeing continue to pursue million-dollar business deals with the Islamic Republic.

“The U.S. government is concerned about the risks to civil aircraft operating into, out of, within, or over Iran due to hazards from military activity associated with the conflicts in Iraq and Syria,” the warning states. “The FAA has advised U.S. civil aviation to exercise caution when flying into, out of, within, or over the airspace over Iran.”

The warning emphasizes that “the U.S. government’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Iran in the event of an emergency is extremely limited.”
It's not surprising. You try to get a pallet o' euros going some time.

Email is forever

A judge ordered the U.S. State Department on Monday to review for possible release 14,900 of Hillary Clinton's emails and attachments that the FBI found when investigating her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

The judge also scheduled a Sept. 23 hearing on when to release the emails, a deadline that raises the possibility some will become public before the Nov. 8 presidential election between Democrat Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump.
It's going to come out one way or another.
Questions about her email practices as secretary of state have dogged Clinton's White House run and triggered a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe that found she was "extremely careless" with sensitive information by using a private server but recommended against bringing charges.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters it was still reviewing the 14,900 documents and it was unclear how many were personal or work-related. He also said it was unclear how many may duplicate those already released but that there were "likely to be quite a few" not previously disclosed.
Well now. I don't doubt there will be "quite a few" emails and that quite a lot of them will be embarrassing. The question will be whether there's a smoking gun. It doesn't really matter how the bureaucratic turf war between State and Justice is resolved, because it's the other actors on the stage, who aren't part of the government, who will decide what we know and when we know it.

Meanwhile, what we know is embarrassing enough:
When Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested a meeting with Clinton, he was forced to go through the Clinton Foundation for an appointment. Abedin advised Band that when she went through “normal channels” at State, Clinton declined to meet. After Band intervened, however, the meeting was set up within 48 hours. According to the Clinton Foundation website, in 2005, Salman committed to establishing the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program for the Clinton Global Initiative. And by 2010, it had contributed $32 million to CGI. The Kingdom of Bahrain reportedly gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. And Bahrain Petroleum also gave an additional $25,000 to $50,000.
That's a lot of palms to grease. But there were others:
Another email exchange between Abedin and Clinton shows a special favor for a top donor: a 15-minute meeting with Clinton, who delayed a plane to accommodate the big contributor.

“Danny abraham called this morning. He is in dc today and tomorrow and asked for 15 min with you. Do u want me to try and fit him in tomorrow?” Abedin wrote in a May 4, 2009, email to Hillary Clinton.

“Will the plane wait if I can’t get there before 7-8?” Clinton asked Abedin.

“Yes of course,” she replied.

Abraham, the Slimfast billionaire, donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.
That's a lot of Slimfast. It's going to be an interesting few months.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hole in the news cycle

It was pretty quiet over the weekend. We rarely see Hillary Clinton these days and other than the Donald's supporters getting attacked in Minneapolis on Friday, not much seemed to happen over the weekend.

August is like that -- the summer is quickly drawing to a conclusion and a lot of people are on vacation, so there's not necessarily a lot of news to report. Based on my social media feed, it appears that a few dozen friends of mine were at the Metallica concert on Saturday at the People's Stadium, but metal's not my thing. We'll check out the acoustics in about six weeks when Fearless Maria and her might Irondale High School Marching Knights compete at the Youth in Music event in the stadium.

So we have a hole to fill. That means an open thread. What's on your mind?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Charm offensive

So The Donald came to town last night. And he got a yuge, classy response:
The New York businessman made his first visit to the state as the Republican presidential candidate for a private nighttime fundraiser at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Dozens of protesters gathered out front ahead of the event and marched around the large building. Later in the ­evening, a smaller contingent grew unruly. Some fundraiser attendees were pushed and jostled, spit on and verbally harassed as they left the ­convention center.
And these protesters were justifiably proud of their behavior:
The demonstrators who harassed donors were not present earlier on, when the protest was peaceful. Many in the later group hid their faces behind scarves.
When you hide your face, that's always a sign that your side is correct.

You are under no obligation to like Donald Trump, or to believe he should be the next president. I agree with that sentiment. At the same time, I harbor no illusions concerning many people who "protest" Trump. It's going to get uglier and uglier, especially now that Trump finally seems to be pivoting to a more traditional approach to campaigning.

And example -- before Trump came to Minneapolis last night, he was in Louisiana handing out toys and supplies  to victims of the massive flooding that's been going on down there. You can question whether such moves are strictly p.r. or something else, but given the beating George W. Bush took 11 years ago for his response to Katrina, and his successor's complete lack of interest in interrupting his vacation, it was a good move.

If I were to bet, I would assume Hillary Clinton is going to win this election. It's going to get closer, however, and if Trump starts to gain momentum, we're going to see some horrible things before November.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A mirror in the HuffPo

Does this sound familiar?
Although many African-Americans have made incredible strides in educational attainment we are still lagging behind in key indicators of success such as net worth, poverty rates, high incarceration rates and, as such, have some of the highest unemployment numbers. In addition we seem to be victims of a disproportionate amount violence. All of these issues are some of the most serious problems we face as a people and our culture of political correctness and liberalism has not only not solved them, but I believe has made them worse. I know many liberals who do incredible work to make the world around them better, and that’s not who I am talking about. I’m talking about the cocktail party liberals, the elites, who wear the cloak of liberalism to protect themselves from criticism and so they can keep a clear conscious.
That's Nikki Johnson-Huston, writing in the Huffington Post, ground zero for cocktail party liberals everywhere. And she has even more to say:
White liberals posting on Facebook about #blacklivesmatter, white privilege and supremacy are not cleansed of their hypocrisy and elitism because they use the right hash tags. I would urge these same people to get off their iPhones and look around to see the issues they ignore in their own lives. If you’re one of these people, before you cry out in offense, ask yourself where you chose to live and how many of your neighbors, that you know, are people of color. Where do your kids go to school? Who are your friends and colleagues? Who do you see next to you while you’re in your meeting at work? What have you done to change those inequalities? Have you recommended a black friend for a job at your company, or told them about a house for sale in your neighborhood or recommended a talented black child go to your child’s school? Answer these questions honestly and you’ll realize that you might not be who you think you are when it comes to racial issues in this country. Are you are part of the group I’m referring to as smug white liberals and you don’t even know it?
There's more, a whole lot more, at the link. Give it a look.

For the record

Yes, the Obama administration does pay ransom:
The State Department admitted Thursday that the United States handed over $400 million in cash to Iran only after Tehran released four American hostages — two weeks after President Obama insisted the payment was not a “ransom.”

State Department spokesman John Kirby was asked at a press briefing: “In basic English, you’re saying you wouldn’t give them $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?”

“That’s correct,” he replied.
You might recall this, from the Leader of the Free World:

I have been scolded recently for using the term "Leader of the Free World" in a derisive manner. One longtime commenter told me he would no longer read this feature because of my lack of respect for the President of the United States. I would argue the Commander in Chief gets about as much respect in this feature as he deserves.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Peggy dials in

Peggy Noonan is a former Reagan speechwriter who has had a perch at the Wall Street Journal for years. She seriously went off the rails in 2008, becoming an acolyte for Barack Obama. She was hardly alone in that season of self-deception, but given her prominence and pedigree she garnered a lot of attention and, subsequently, a lot of scorn, especially on the Right.

She's been better for the last few years, and her recent column concerning Donald Trump and the people who support him is pretty good. A lot of Trump supporters feel betrayed. She draws on the recent experience of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who threw open the doors of Germany to a sea of immigrants who aren't particularly attuned to Western culture, to make a salient point:
Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be.

Nothing in their lives will get worse. The challenge of integrating different cultures, negotiating daily tensions, dealing with crime and extremism and fearfulness on the street—that was put on those with comparatively little, whom I’ve called the unprotected. They were left to struggle, not gradually and over the years but suddenly and in an air of ongoing crisis that shows no signs of ending—because nobody cares about them enough to stop it.

The powerful show no particular sign of worrying about any of this. When the working and middle class pushed back in shocked indignation, the people on top called them “xenophobic,” “narrow-minded,” “racist.” The detached, who made the decisions and bore none of the costs, got to be called “humanist,” “compassionate,” and “hero of human rights.”
Emphasis mine. If you ask the average bien pensant liberal in the U.S. about Trump and his supporters, you'll hear many of the same adjectives. Back to Noonan:
The larger point is that this is something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it. It is a theme I see working its way throughout the West’s power centers. At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling.
I think "virtue-signalling" is a lot of it and although I live in flyover land, this "not our kind, dear" sentiment is plenty strong in our area. Although most people around here are closer in station to those who are objecting to globalism, Trump and his supporters are just too unseemly. Back to Noonan:
From what I’ve seen of those in power throughout business and politics now, the people of your country are not your countrymen, they’re aliens whose bizarre emotions you must attempt occasionally to anticipate and manage.
That last part matters. If our leaders assume that people in the hinterlands are alien, what difference does it make if you import some more aliens of a different sort? It's just something to be managed and the managerial class is all about that. Noonan again:
Affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience. I don’t have it fully right in my mind but something big is happening here with this division between the leaders and the led. It is very much a feature of our age. But it is odd that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.
Is it odd? I don't think so. I've spent most of my adult life on the outside of the elite, but I know people who have made it there, mostly from my college days. You wouldn't have assumed, based on what was happening at the time, that they would rise to the heights they occupy. And that's where we'll leave things for now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Preview of Coming Attractions

Walter Russell Mead looks at Germany and sees America:
Older Germans have been made expensive promises that they have relied on in planning the rest of their lives. And they have the electoral weight, for now, to ensure that they will be kept. This will likely be the beginning, not the end, of reforms to make those viable.

Similar efforts will play out all over the Western world, where Blue Model retirement programs are running into both cold, hard arithmetic and the heat of a debate between two big generations, the boomers who’ve planned for retirement on a Blue Model basis and the Millennials who are expected to pay for it. Here in the U.S., in an election where both candidates fully embrace the Blue Model social programs, including social security, such generational issues are on the back-burner—for now. But given these realities, it probably won’t be too long before the fight over retirement will be back with a vengeance.
Demographically, I am technically a Baby Boomer, although I was born at the very end of the era. The first wave of boomers are now turning 70, while I am in my (somewhat) early 50s. I've never assumed I would be able to retire early and I expect to be working for nearly 20 more years. Still, I fully expect it to be tougher for those who are younger than me, especially the Millennials. So does Mead:
And when you look at the German deal as a paradigm—for someone will propose something like it—you can understand how American millennials would be angry. Millennials are being explicitly asked to work longer so that their parents can retire at unrealistically young ages: when 65 became the standard retirement age across the Western world, in the mid-20th century, it was much closer to the age of death than it is today. According to the World Bank, German life expectancy at birth was 69 in 1960 and is 80 today; in the U.S. those numbers are 70 and 79 respectively. The older generation, of course, rejected any attempts to change this in the past, essentially writing themselves larger and larger retirement checks as they came to live longer and longer.
Of course they would. Most people would. It's an entitlement, doncha know. But the beauty part is that a lot of us won't be stepping aside, either:
And now the bill is coming due. To add insult to injury, as these reforms are gradually implemented, older, senior managers will continue to work for more years, rather than clearing room at the top by retiring. So if you’re a millennial, you’ll be working longer, at less pay and at a lower position, to fund benefits for the older generation that, realistically, probably won’t be viable for their own. Some deal.
This is true. I have no intent of stepping aside from my position. Even if I wanted to, it wouldn't be an option. The bills keep coming in and while we save for retirement, I'd surely love to be saving more than is possible at the moment. On the bright side, my student loan bills are long since paid off; young people these days are generally starting around 20K or more in the hole by the time they get their bachelor's degree. Meanwhile, the party's on at The Villages and Del Webb and such.

The status quo is not going to last. We need to be talking about these issues, but instead we're discussing an orange guy's deportment. We are not a serious nation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Do You Know the Way to Arden Hills?

If you live in the northwestern part of Ramsey County, the potential and the pitfalls of the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant area are worth consideration. This is what the area looks like now:

A big ol' brownfield
Can you imagine it looking like this?

Stop messing 'round with your tricks
That is a picture of Santana Row, a development in San Jose, California, which in turn is modeled on Paris. Are you skeptical? So was the Arden Hills City Council:
The company chosen to oversee one of the biggest developments in the state is asking the suburb of Arden Hills to move its City Hall onto the site and to approve residential buildings as high as 12 stories.

Developer Bob Lux of Alatus LLC on Monday outlined the company’s vision for a town center on hundreds of acres at the site of the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.
I'm having a tough time imagining the market for a 12-story building in Arden Hills, but who knows?
Lux and his colleagues outlined a project whose town center would resemble Santana Row, the celebrated Parisian-style development in San Jose, Calif., with waterfront amenities recalling the band shell area on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

Another model for a town center featuring movie theaters and restaurants would be St. Louis Park’s West End.

“People from North Oaks and White Bear Lake would be coming here for entertainment and meals,” Lux said. “The people who designed West End are working for us and learned some lessons from it.”
I suppose they could -- Highway 96 is a nice road that's been rebuilt over the past decade, but I'm not certain they will. But we'll leave that aside:
The key to making the new project a walkable, pleasant environment, the developer stressed — rather than “seas of parking lots” — would be a mass grading of the entire property. That would allow for large stretches of underground parking below commercial and multifamily sites while creating fill to be used elsewhere.

“You would have no competition almost anywhere in the metro area,” he said, adding that the site is within easy driving distance of both big downtowns.

Negotiations, in effect, over the height of buildings began almost at once: It has long been clear that where Ramsey County is comfortable with an urban village, Arden Hills prefers something more suburban.

Asked what he can make work, Lux said that financially speaking, “eight stories would be the minimum” for some town-center areas. “I know it works with 12; if capped, 10 to 12 I know could work, I’d probably say 10. Tour some projects with me and I think you’ll be more comfortable with the height.”
Walkable, but within easy driving distance. And there you have the conundrum. As anyone who has traveled in the area knows, the interchange between 694 and 35W is one of the most notorious bottlenecks in the Twin Cities. We're seeing a great deal of road construction now, especially on 694, which will help matters, but it's still tough driving around here. I suspect people might come out here, but unless the traffic flow improves dramatically, I'm skeptical about getting repeat business. And I'd be curious to see what the market is for apartments or condominiums in a multi-story building in a suburban area. Land is at a severe premium in a place like San Jose; not so much here.

I'm going to be watching this closely, because whatever happens in Arden Hills will greatly affect its neighbors.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Milwaukee is still burning

More problems in Milwaukee:
Police said one person was shot at a Milwaukee protest on Sunday and officers used an armored vehicle to retrieve the injured victim and rush the person to a hospital, as tense skirmishes erupted for a second night following the police shooting of a black man.

Some two dozen officers in riot gear confronted about 150 people who blocked an intersection near where the black man was fatally shot Saturday afternoon, and more arrived. Police moved in to try to disperse the crowd and warned of arrests after protesters threw bottles and rocks at police.
The National Guard is ready to take the streets, if needed.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker put Wisconsin's National Guard on standby, and 125 Guard members reported to local armories to prepare for further instructions. Milwaukee police tweeted late Sunday that the National Guard had not been deployed.

Six businesses were burned in the unrest earlier in the weekend and 17 people people were arrested, [Milwaukee Police Chief Edward] Flynn said. Four officers were hurt from flying concrete and glass, although all of them had been released from hospital.
Meanwhile, the local alderman is complaining:
Milwaukee Alderman Khalif Rainey, who represents the neighborhood that erupted, said the city's black residents are "tired of living under this oppression."

"Now this is a warning cry. Where do we go from here? Where do we go as a community from here?" he asked.
Uh, Alderman Rainey? Aren't you part of the oppression? If the community wants to get someplace better, perhaps getting a better alderman would help.

As always, the fog of war is in evidence. What's been striking thus far is comparing the response to this incident with what has happened recently here. There's been almost no reportage or new information about the Philando Castile case and it's been essentially quiet for a month now. Perhaps things will go silent in Milwaukee as well, but I'm guessing not. One difference in this case will be the involvement of David Clarke, the Milwaukee County sheriff, who loves to be on television. How much Clarke can actually do is questionable, as the line of responsibility between municipal and county law enforcement is murky.

For his part, the dead man, Sylville Smith, sounds like a charmer:
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said Smith had been arrested 13 times. Online court records showed a range of charges against Smith, many of them misdemeanors.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Smith was also charged in a shooting and was later charged with pressuring the victim to withdraw testimony that identified Smith as the gunman. The charges were dropped because the victim recanted the identification and failed to appear in court, Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern told the newspaper.
And that anecdote neatly encapsulates the problem in many cities. Victims of crimes are afraid to come forward and police aren't trusted. I don't know how you get out of the box.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Milwaukee's on fire

Here we go again:
Violence and protests erupted in Milwaukee overnight after a man was fatally shot by police during a foot chase.

Police said the victim, 23, was armed with a handgun and shot dead by an officer after fleeing a traffic stop on Milwaukee's north side Saturday afternoon.

Hours later angry crowds took to the streets, smashing a police car and setting fire to another. One officer was injured by a flying brick; a gas station and auto-parts store were set alight. Police said gunshots were heard.
I'm from Wisconsin and I love Milwaukee; unfortunately, I'm not surprised by any of this. Parts of the city are simply not safe and haven't been for a long time. This one could get ugly.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hillary Hoover

Is the presidency a poisoned chalice? How would you like to deal with this mess in your first 100 days?
The next president could be dealing with an ObamaCare insurer meltdown in his or her very first month.

The incoming administration will take office just as the latest ObamaCare enrollment tally comes in, delivering a potentially crucial verdict about the still-shaky healthcare marketplaces.

The fourth ObamaCare signup period begins about one week before Election Day, and it will end about one week before inauguration on Jan. 20. After mounting complaints from big insurers about losing money this year, the results could serve as a kind of judgment day for ObamaCare, experts say.
If you haven't been paying attention, we've been seeing a steady stream of insurers heading for the exits, along with projections of vastly higher insurance premiums next year. If you are President Hilllary Clinton, how do you deal with that issue? After that, how do you deal with the slow-motion public pension crisis now underway? And how do you deal with the national debt? Maybe you've seen a chart:

That was two years ago -- it hasn't improved since then.

Too much of the government is on auto-pilot and most of the spending is mandatory:

Yes, the Heritage Foundation is right-leaning, but the numbers are the numbers. We've been kicking the can down the road for the last 50 years. It's been a bipartisan abdication of responsibility. The only president in recent years who has publicly broached these issues is George W. Bush, but he backed down in a hurry. That was ten years ago. As the old saying goes, something that can't go on, won't go on. Have fun with that, Madame President.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Never mind that

Austin Bay looks at the matter of Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist who was executed by the mullahs:
Here’s a sketch of Amiri’s murky trek. In 2009, while on pilgrimage to Mecca, Amiri disappeared. In 2010 he reappeared on Youtube, indicating he was in the U.S. Then he appeared in person, in Washington, D.C., walking into the Pakistani Embassy’s Iranian-interests office. He said he’d been kidnapped by Saudi and American intelligence agents. They tortured him. Then he came to America, and they offered him money to reveal Iranian nuclear secrets. But he didn’t. Now he wanted to go home, to Iran.

This summary from U.S. News & World Report has additional details and speculates that the Iranian government threatened his family. Amiri did return to Iran to be welcomed as a hero. Then, in May 2011, the regime arrested him and accused him of treason. Amiri, according to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary government, had spied for The Great Satan (the U.S.).

Amiri’s execution intersects with the 2016 U.S. political elections. As the linked article notes, two emails transmitted in 2010 through Hillary Clinton’s off-the-books and unauthorized server appear to refer to Amiri. Clinton senior adviser Jake Sullivan was involved in both emails: one he forwarded on July 5, 2010 (10 days before Amiri returned to Iran) and another (one he sent) dated July 12. The July 5 email said, “Our friend must be given a way out.”

For many good reasons senior official-level traffic is “born classified.” Access to a SecState’s unprotected email traffic provides enemy intelligence services with clues and indications regarding U.S. foreign and defense policy. In some cases, it may provide confirmation of suspected U.S. operations or, perhaps, U.S. intelligence assets and sources. Assets include human spies.
Those emails were out there on an unsecured server. While you can't necessarily prove the Iranians got confirmation that Amiri was working with our government from unsecured emails, it certainly is possible they did. And that should not have been possible.

Meanwhile, we know some more things Hillary Clinton didn't want known:
A new batch of State Department emails released Tuesday showed the close and sometimes overlapping interests between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.

The documents raised new questions about whether the charitable foundation worked to reward its donors with access and influence at the State Department, a charge that Mrs. Clinton has faced in the past and has always denied.

In one email exchange, for instance, an executive at the Clinton Foundation in 2009 sought to put a billionaire donor in touch with the United States ambassador to Lebanon because of the donor’s interests there.

In another email, the foundation appeared to push aides to Mrs. Clinton to help find a job for a foundation associate. Her aides indicated that the department was working on the request.
I don't suppose any of this matters to Hillary's supporters. But it should. I also suspect Julian Assange has a lot more of this sort of thing in the queue. It doesn't appear to matter, though, because if your friends control the justice system, you won't be brought to justice:
The FBI went to Justice Department earlier this year asking for it to open a case into the foundation, but the public integrity unit declined. The Justice Department had looked into whether it should open a case on the foundation a year prior and found it didn’t have sufficient evidence to do so.
Well, yeah. If you don't let investigators find evidence, you won't have any. It's how we handle voter fraud allegations, too. But never mind that. I'm sure Donald Trump will say something stupid today so we won't have to think about our next president's behavior.

Those aren't scrubbing bubbles

Will Smith, on what needs to happen:
"As painful as it is to hear Donald Trump talk and as embarrassing as it is as an American to hear him talk, I think it's good," Smith said. "We get to know who people are and now we get to cleanse it out of our country."
Interesting choice of words. Wonder if anyone is willing to ask Smith a followup question on how precisely he would like the cleansing to take place.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lightning Round -- 081016

Too many topics, not enough time. Let's start, shall we?

  • One of the advantages of being #NeverTrump is that you don't have any obligations to take up the cudgels on his behalf. Having said that, I don't take the hyperventilating about his "Second Amendment people" remarks very seriously. He's not calling for anyone to assassinate Hillary Clinton and "Second Amendment people" wouldn't do it, anyway. There are dozens of reasons to oppose Trump; we've discussed many of them in this space. This latest incident is not one of them.
  • And in case you've forgotten, Hillary Clinton has a history of thinking out loud as well. The cries of anguish that were directed against her comments then were similarly self-serving.
  • And because Trump is too busy saying stupid things, it's easy for the media to ignore things they shouldn't ignore. And other things, too. We'll be coming back to the matter of Shahram Amiri in another post, as his case underscores the real world consequences of Hillary Clinton's extraordinarily reckless behavior.
  • Looks like Jason Lewis won the primary in CD2. I used to listen to Jason's radio show quite a lot on the afternoon drive home, especially in his first incarnation as "Minnesota's Mr. Right"; he's a very bright man and does an excellent job of presenting the conservative worldview. It's going to be a close race in CD2, which is significantly more blue than it once was, but he should have a good chance of winning. The DFL candidate, Angie Craig, will have a lot of money and institutional support behind her, but I'm not seeing much of a rationale for her campaign other than to be a slightly less tone-deaf version of Betty McCollum. We already have one of those.
  • Meanwhile, Phyllis Kahn is finally done, after losing her DFL primary against newcomer Ilhan Omar. Kahn has been in the Lege since 1973. That's a long run. What was perhaps more surprising is that another Minneapolis DFLer, Joe Mullery, went down last night as well. Understanding the machinations of the DFL in the city is difficult at best, but on balance getting rid of tenured deadwood is usually a positive step, and Kahn and Mullery won't be missed.
  • And over in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan edged his primary opponent by about 70 points.
  • And before we forget, let's also remember the sorts of guests who attend Hillary Clinton rallies. No word yet on whether Zubeidat Tsarnaeva will be turning up at a Clinton rally in Boston.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Primary Day

There really isn't much happening in our immediate area, but there are a few primaries worth mentioning in Minnesota, especially in the 2nd CD, where a number of candidates are vying to replace the eminently replaceable John Kline. I don't have a horse in this race; I used to listen to Jason Lewis back in the day, but I'm not certain he's appreciably better than John Howe or Darlene Miller. The fourth candidate running, Matt Erickson, claims to be a Trump supporter but in fact he has been doing an extended performance art piece in lieu of a campaign. I've seen some of it play out on social media. I'm amused:
Matthew Erickson is always one for a fight. In September 2004, like a scene out of Gran Torino, the 17 year-old heard a honk outside his home. Five young Hmong men had broken the window on his Ford pick-up. Without a second thought he raced out the door in stocking feet, unarmed, and chased them down the block. After trading blows, the police arrived to help subdue the perpetrators before they could get away. Matthew’s brother called the cops while bringing up the rear. The thieves were caught with the stolen property of a dozen other neighborhood vehicles. They had been terrorizing the city in this way all summer.

There is always a man who is hot for a fight and, ladies and gentleman, Matthew David Erickson is that man.
That's the intro on the "About" page on his website. The most amusing part of his campaign has been watching the MSM attempt to tiptoe around his candidacy. You're not going to Congress, Matt, but you might have a future at the Brave New Workshop.

Our new friends

A reminder of how they roll in Iran:
BERLIN -- Iran’s regime executed a gay adolescent in July - the first confirmed execution of someone convicted as a juvenile in the Islamic Republic in 2016 - Amnesty International reported this week.

Hassan Afshar, 19, was hanged in Arak Prison in Iran's Markazi Province on July 18, after he was convicted of  "forced male-to-male anal intercourse" (‘lavat-e be onf’) in early 2015, the NGO said in a statement Tuesday. 
Maybe we can give 'em another Pallet o' Euros to make them reconsider their behavior.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Short Circuit

When it comes to understanding the mind of Hillary Clinton, we don't want to make the connections:
On Friday Mrs. Clinton had a chance to revise her comments when a reporter asked her: “Are you mischaracterizing Director Comey’s testimony and is this not undercutting your efforts to rebuild trust with the American people?”

Her reply: “Director Comey had said that my answers in my FBI interview were truthful. That’s really the bottom line here and I have said during the interview and in many other occasions over the past few months, that what I told the FBI, which he said was truthful, is consistent with what I have said publicly. So I may have short-circuited and for that, I, you know, will try to clarify.”
She didn't clarify it. Nor was it necessary to clarify -- everyone knows Hillary Clinton is a bald-faced liar and not especially good at it. And at the link, Gordon Crovitz explains the problem:

Clintonian obfuscation won’t hide the reason she set up her private email server in her basement. She publicly claimed it was for “convenience,” so that she could use a single device for her work and personal emails, but Mr. Comey confirmed she used multiple devices. Mrs. Clinton disclosed the real reason in a 2010 email that came to light later. “I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible,” she wrote her State Department advisers. She chose to evade the requirement that her work emails be on State’s servers because that would have made them accessible to the public under disclosure laws.

The result is that her emails are available—just not to Americans. Contrary to Mrs. Clinton’s claim that “there were no security breaches,” security experts agree China, Russia and unknown others hacked into all 63,000 emails on the home-brew server—including the 33,000 she failed to provide under court order.

The timeline suggests after Russia hacked Mrs. Clinton’s emails, its spies decided to complete their knowledge of Mrs. Clinton’s relationships by hacking the Clinton Foundation, State Department and Democratic National Committee. Unless a friendly spy agency that hacked Mrs. Clinton’s emails does Americans a favor by publishing them before the election, if she is elected Vladimir Putin will have the capacity to blackmail her at will.
And so will other nations -- do you suppose the Chinese, or the Iranians, or even the Israelis, might have reason to blackmail her? The problem isn't the short circuit -- the problem is anyone possessing the information will have Madame President by the short hairs.

Ransom Notes

You can tell how much a story concerns a presidential administration by considering how shrill the denunciations of the story are. My social media feeds are telling me in no uncertain terms that I cannot, must not, dammit you'd better not believe the Pallet o' Euros the Iranians received last year was ransom money. Dammit, it's not. What the hell is wrong with you for even thinking such a thing?

Writing for the Orange County Register, Carl Cannon offers a few reminders:
Regarding the ransom angle, Obama simply re-asserted the official U.S. position that the American government does not make such payments; he chastised his critics for not acknowledging that the Iran deal “is working,” without amplifying on why he believes that’s true; and he concluded by saying that the only new bit of information in the Journal piece was the form of payment.

“It is not at all clear to me why it is that cash, as opposed to a check or a wire transfer, has made this into a new story,” he said. “The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions, and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran, that we couldn’t send them a check, and we could not wire the money.”

“This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” he added.
That's the line. Dammit, you'd better believe it. Back to Cannon:
These answers are so thin they should undermine, rather than bolster, confidence in the Iran deal. For starters, the administration didn’t “announce” the $400 million payment in January: White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed it when it was reported elsewhere.

Second, where would anyone get the idea that it was a ransom payment for hostages? How about from the Iranians themselves. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi was quoted on Iranian state media as crowing, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”

Finally, the $400 million being delivered in cash (mostly Swiss francs and Euros, apparently) is not a minor detail. It’s an alarming disclosure. The president’s explanation seems absurd. How does sending a cargo plane full of cash comply with existing sanctions while bank transfers do not? As far as not having “a banking relationship with Iran,” what does that even mean? Is the president really claiming that no bank in the world would have facilitated a legal transfer of funds – even if Obama had asked them directly?
You don't get to ask those questions. There's more, a lot more, at the link, including a gentle reminder about how Uncle Sam and other local agencies view large cash transactions. A taste:
Take the Burmese refugee – an American citizen for 10 years – who manages a touring Christian rock band, raising money for a Burmese orphanage. He was stopped for a taillight violation by Oklahoma sheriff’s deputies, who sent him on his way after relieving him of the $53,000 he’d raised for charity. Could be drug money, they said.
There's a lesson here -- put yer money on a pallet and convert it to Euros.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Meanwhile, on the hustings

The Trump campaign has added a soundtrack:

Meanwhile, tick, tick, tick

Another day, another kick of the can down the road:
America’s slow-motion public pension train-wreck (by some estimates, the shortfall currently exceeds $3 trillion) has been kept in motion for years by deeply dishonest accounting practices employed by state and local governments, which presume unrealistically that pension funds can consistently earn white-hot annual returns approaching eight percent. So it’s disappointing, but not particularly surprising, that the actuarial establishment moved to suppress a report pointing this out.
Everyone knows that if you invest the public pension money in socially responsible funds, it's certain to maintain a year-over-year return of 8 percent. Every year. It's just that good! As always, Walter Russell Mead makes the salient point:
There are powerful interests that don’t want public pensions to be governed by the same kinds of accounting principles used in the private sector because… well, because if they were, public pensions would go from seriously underfunded to catastrophically underfunded.
And, because incentives matter, consider the following:
In the long run, shifting to a more portable system of public pensions—defined contribution, rather than defined-benefit—wouldn’t just help save states and municipalities from fiscal ruin. It would also do much to improve the performance of the civil service. The current system creates a jobs-for-life mentality in public employment because workers need to stay at their positions for decades to collect the full value of their pensions. Somebody who was a good teacher at 30 but wants to leave and should leave at 40 is currently trapped. Also, one of the reasons the unions fight quality evaluations so fiercely is that the loss of job and pension is so much more draconian than simply losing a job.
"La la la I can't hear you" isn't a good basis for public policy, but it can work for a while as long as we aren't paying attention and the bill collectors keep their distance. We're approaching the end of that time.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

A mystery solved

In the middle of a fascinating interview with Esquire, Clint Eastwood finally explains what the hell he was doing with that chair in the 2012 GOP Convention (some of this is NSFW, by the way):
ESQ: So you're not endorsing him?

CE: I haven't endorsed anybody. I haven't talked to Trump. I haven't talked to anybody. You know, he's a racist now because he's talked about this judge. And yeah, it's a dumb thing to say. I mean, to predicate your opinion on the fact that the guy was born to Mexican parents or something. He's said a lot of dumb things. So have all of them. Both sides. But everybody—the press and everybody's going, "Oh, well, that's racist," and they're making a big hoodoo out of it. Just fucking get over it. It's a sad time in history.

ESQ: What troubles you the most?

CE: We're not really … what troubles me is … I guess when I did that silly thing at the Republican convention, talking to the chair …

ESQ: I didn't say it was silly.

CE: It was silly at the time, but I was standing backstage and I'm hearing everybody say the same thing: "Oh, this guy's a great guy." Great, he's a great guy. I've got to say something more. And so I'm listening to an old Neil Diamond thing and he's going, "And no one heard at all / Not even the chair." And I'm thinking, That's Obama. He doesn't go to work. He doesn't go down to Congress and make a deal. What the hell's he doing sitting in the White House? If I were in that job, I'd get down there and make a deal. Sure, Congress are lazy bastards, but so what? You're the top guy. You're the president of the company. It's your responsibility to make sure everybody does well. It's the same with every company in this country, whether it's a two-man company or a two-hundred-man company… . And that's the pussy generation—nobody wants to work.
In case you're not familiar with the source material:

"I am"... I said
To no one there
And no one heard at all
Not even the chair

"I am"... I cried "I am"... said I
And I am lost and I can't
Even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

It's perhaps the most disheartening part of this cycle, the sense that no one is listening at all.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

An expert speaks

The Leader of the Free World, demonstrating his usual light touch:

President Barack Obama offered one of his sharpest denunciations of Donald Trump to date Tuesday, declaring the Republican nominee entirely unfit to serve as president and lambasting Republicans for sticking by their nominee.

The strong rebuke in the White House East Room came after Trump's criticism of the family of a slain Muslim US soldier, along with comments that displayed apparent confusion related to the Russian incursion into Ukraine. 
"The Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president," Obama said at a White House news conference with the Prime Minister of Singapore. "He keeps on proving it."
Strong words. So how do you demonstrate competence? Well, let's look at how the Leader of the Free World does the job:
The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.

Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.
Pallets full of currency? Nice touch. No word on whether the pallet jack was gold plated as well.

Let's cut to the chase here, shall we? It's easy to denounce Donald Trump for his myriad idiotic statements. He's incredibly easy to bait and his unwillingness to concede a point has continued to cause him, and the poor souls who try to support his candidacy, fits. It's easy to imagine various foreign leaders running rings around him.

Could he be possibly worse than the incumbent, though? Think about what the pallets full of euros mean. Back to the Wall Street Journal report:
Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas and a fierce foe of the Iran nuclear deal, accused President Barack Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages.”

“This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures” of Americans, he said.

Since the cash shipment, the intelligence arm of the Revolutionary Guard has arrested two more Iranian-Americans. Tehran has also detained dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K. in recent months.
You get what you pay for. I remember a time when paying ransom for hostages, especially to Iran, was enough to threaten a presidency. Now? Not so much.

Meanwhile, let's consider how things are going with another of the initiatives of the Leader of the Free World:
Aetna (AET) said Tuesday it is canceling plans to expand into five more states next year and will reassess its involvement in the 15 states where it currently offers coverage on the individual exchanges. Aetna -- which expects to lose $300 million (pre-tax) on its Obamacare business this year -- must conclude its review by the end of September and notify states where it intends to withdraw.

" light of updated 2016 projections for our individual products and the significant structural challenges facing the public exchanges, we intend to withdraw all of our 2017 public exchange expansion plans, and are undertaking a complete evaluation of future participation in our current 15-state footprint," said CEO Mark Bertolini in a second-quarter earnings statement.
Maybe the Obama administration can get a pallet o' euros for Aetna, too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Rings true

Richard "Wretchard" Fernandez:
The 2016 election is not about the continuity of governance, not about more of the same. It's about the destruction of the old political system. It is either about the reform of Washington or it is nothing.  In that struggle neither Trump nor Hillary can emerge from this wreck with a stable mandate because the forces on either side are so evenly matched.

They will become either transitional figures or, in the face of crisis, authoritarian ones.  Because America is so close to a 50-50 split, the new president must either accommodate or purge, become the president of both sides or the leader of one.
Washington doesn't want to be reformed. And we're going to continue to see crises. So who do you like?

Ain't Too Proud to Beg

So pathetic:
I’m angry at Clinton because I expect better. The country needs better. I say again: If Trump becomes president, the world will have Clinton to blame.
That's Ron Fournier, writing for the Atlantic, essentially begging Hillary Clinton to stop lying. He makes it clear from the outset:
This is a note to Clinton Democrats—a desperate plea, actually. 
Why would he beg? Well, because Hillary Clinton is a liar. Let Fournier explain his source of anguish:
On Sunday, the former secretary of state told FOX News’ Chris Wallace that FBI Director James Comey cleared her of misleading the public about her rogue email server at the state department: “Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails.”

That’s wrong and she knows it, which makes it a lie.

“Clinton is cherry-picking statements by Comey to preserve her narrative about the unusual setup of a private email server,” wrote Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, who awarded Clinton the maximum four “Pinocchios” for her whopper. “This allows her to skate past the more disturbing findings of the FBI investigation.”

Read here if you want to know about the FBI’s findings. In addition, her actions were an assault on the Freedom of Information Act and the hallowed concept of legislative oversight.
Legislative oversight? That's been dead for years. We haven't seen effective legislative oversight since Oliver North. The Obama administration has been corrupt from the get-go, but there's been no accountability because the Democrats in Congress protect Precious at all costs. And when the Ron Fourniers of the world wring their hands in anguish instead of simply calling a thing what it is, they make it easy for the corruption to continue unabated. And Fournier knows it, just as Hillary Clinton knows it.

Let's put it this way. The country does deserve better than Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is not better. I'm hardly the only person who believes this, but this election would improve immeasurably if the vice presidential candidates were at the top of their respective tickets. But the candidates are the candidates. And if Fournier expects Hillary Clinton to change, he's a liar, too.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Donald Trump responds to Khizr Khan

Confidence games

This piece from Walter Russell Mead, discussing some of the email traffic found in the DNC hack, falls into the "read the whole thing" category. A taste:
Too bad that we now have to depend on leaks from Putin moles to know what’s going on in our country, but the donor stroking industry revealed in these emails is anything but secret. Thousands of prominent people are involved, either as strokers or strokees. Many of these people are extremely well known to journalists at major newspapers, and not a few of them are married to journalists.

Yet here is the NYT treating these leaked emails as a window into an unknown world. The unwillingness of the press to delve into the Vanity Fair at the heart of modern progressive politics (there is no such reluctance to peer into the mysteries of Republican finance) is a real problem.
It is a con and I imagine people involved start to feel like this:

Mead reminds us of the larger toll:
It’s the indirect costs that are high; if anyone wonders why so many of our career politicians are cynics with deep contempt for the public they serve, years of fawning over dumb rich people, pretending to take their silly ideas seriously, assuring each of them that you aren’t like the other stupid rich people, no, you are special, you are smart, and our ten minutes a year friendship punctuated by check writing is deep and sincere—all this tends to corrode the soul. Having a political class who subsist on exploiting the character weaknesses and insatiable narcissism of dilettante plutocrats isn’t the best way to cultivate an ethos of responsibility and patriotism at the highest levels of government.
And because the political class is so thoroughly compromised, it's easier for an orange-hued charlatan to run his own con. More, a lot more, at the link.