Friday, March 31, 2017


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

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

As they always say, read the whole thing.


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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Epistemology, again

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Incentives in Anoka County

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ten years ago

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

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

Walz comes tumbling down

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

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

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

Back in town

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

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

News You Can Use

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Republicans are bad at politics

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

It was a good week to be away from politics.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Road Show

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

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

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Xavier 73, Prescott 47

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

It's the gold ball
Really a tremendous season.

RIP, Chuck Berry

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

Working a little blue on this one:

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

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Xavier 81, Ripon 74

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sand in the gears again

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rachel, Rachel, I've Been Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He's good at it.

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

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

Trump has taken it to a higher level.

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Head down and mouth shut

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Events are in the saddle

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Fake news

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

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

That's Great. Now Prove It

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

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

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

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

Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Getting busy

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

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

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Check Your Privilege

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Getting serious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 06, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 03, 2017

Speaking of outrages

I'm also supposed to angry about this image:

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

Image result for bill clinton wearing baseball cap
Never happened

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

That Russian ambassador fella gets around:

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

It gets worse, though -- check this out:

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

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

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

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The pundit of the moment

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

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

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

1000 Words

It's Bernie Sanders, listening to Trump's kinda State of the Union address last night with evident discomfort:

Not happy, Bob
I didn't watch the speech, but I've looked at the transcript. From what I understand, Trump did not deviate much from the speech as written. To a certain extent, it mirrors much of what we've heard from his predecessors. A few of the proposals caught my eye, including this one:
I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE --- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.
It's a useless office, but it's an effective shiv. There were more than a few of those in the speech. Another:
Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan?
We now know that all of those promises have been broken.
And another:
 My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America. 
If Trump wants to accomplish anything, he needs to remind the country why he won the election. On that score, here's Victor Davis Hanson:
Urban elites seldom experience the full and often negative consequences of their own ideologies. And identifying people first by race, tribe or gender — by their allegiance to their appearance rather than to the content of their characters — has rarely led anywhere but to tribalism and eventual sectarian violence.

The result was that when Trump, the outsider without political experience, appeared as a hammer, rural America apparently was more than happy to throw him into the glass of the bicoastal establishment, without worrying too much about the shards that scattered.
Trump was at the podium last night because he is the tribune of people who don't have the luxury of throwing out 1000 words to express their concerns. It may not end well, but it's still important to understand why he, and not Hillary Clinton, is now Leader of the Free World.