Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nasty colds all around

This has been a tough year in Minnesota for colds and flu. Seems like everyone has had one and now it's my turn. I want to write something edifying, I really do, but every time I cough it feels like I'm getting hit by Brian Urlacher. Not a sensation I recommend.

So, it's again a bit of an open thread. Hope you're staying healthy!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Bell Poll Yard, New Brighton
Shapes of things before my eyes
Just teach me to despise
Will time make men more wise?

Lobby, Minneapolis Hilton
Soon I hope that I will find
Thoughts deep within my mind

That won't displace my kind

St. Anthony Parkway, Northeast Minneapolis
Come tomorrow, will I be older?
Come tomorrow, may be a soldier

Come tomorrow, may I be bolder than today?

Restaurant, St. Anthony Village

Monday, February 26, 2018

Lightning Round -- 022618

Busy weekend, mostly spent away from the news. But what I've heard deserves comment:

  • I'm not to the point where some of my erstwhile libertarian friends are in re law enforcement (i.e., using hashtags like #****thepolice), at least not yet, but when I watch a guy like Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel operate, I understand why people feel the way they do. Israel's department failed in every conceivable way and yet he's still strutting around like he deserves a medal, primarily because his solution for his own department's incompetence is to take away millions of guns across the land. His grandstanding performance in the Wellstone Funeral CNN Town Hall on guns was disgraceful, especially since Israel knew full well his officers did nothing to stem the carnage inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Israel ought to resign in shame, but it's likely he won't. The only person in recent political life who was more infuriating in his passive-aggressive bureaucratic serenity was John Koskinen, Obama's top IRS droog. Students are expendable, but bureaucrats are bulletproof.
  • Do we want guns in school? No. Do we need them? That's a separate question. No one is seriously saying we need to make the faculty at the average high school a SWAT team, but if a school district were to say they are giving their schools the option to have a certain group of personnel get the training they need to confront a school shooter, the chances are greater that such school will minimize the danger. I will be curious to see if the Osseo school district takes up the idea.
  • We've spent a lot of time on music in the last few days. Fearless Maria performed at the Minneapolis Convention Center with the MMEA All-State Jazz Band, and we spent Saturday at Irondale hosting drumlines and color guards for our annual Winter Music of the Knight show. The nasty snowstorm that arrived Saturday afternoon really hurt our attendance, but it was still a happy event. While we're not likely to miss the 10+ days involved in putting on a show, we remain grateful for the many opportunities our family has had through our involvement in the music programs at Irondale. The kids have a chance to do remarkable things and while there's a cost involved, it's been well worth it.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Open thread

Events are very much in the saddle at the moment, so we'll need to make this an open thread. If you have time and aren't worried about the latest snownami, come see us at Irondale for Winter Music of the Knight today. Drumlines begin performing just past noon, with color guards in the evening. One admission gets you both shows.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Try shrieking on CNN instead

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Guns and poses

A few thoughts:

  • I'm not much of a gun guy. I didn't grow up in a family that liked shooting sports and the only time I've ever been near a deer camp is to drink beer, but I am a 2nd Amendment guy. The notion that giving up the ability to defend one's self will make us safer is, well, bizarre.
  • The cheap emotionalism on display in recent days is especially grotesque. Any time you see a children's crusade forming, you can safely assume the people behind it don't have the best interests of children at heart. 
  • And can we stop pretending that shrieking teenagers, no matter how badly they have been wronged, are suddenly possessed with irrefutable wisdom? Emma Gonzalez has a platform for the moment, but if she ever utters a heterodox thought, or notices that her handlers are, well, handling her, she'll be in the ditch in Crawford next to Cindy Sheehan.
  • Are we allowed to notice how badly the systems already in place failed in the case of Nikolas Cruz? If we analyze the sequence of events, it's clear that plenty of people had opportunities to intervene in his life and chose not to. Perhaps it would be worth spending some time fixing those issues before we mount a crusade against inanimate objects. Nah, that's crazy talk.
  • Our friend and regular reader Bike Bubba made an excellent point elsewhere the other day: I personally like the bit that Powerline linked last weekend. The “plan” for achieving gun control in some portions of the left is not about evidence or logic, but about personal attacks. I always change my mind when someone slanders me! Either that, or I might contemplate that in a world where the left confuses personal attacks with argument, I might do well to have a ready means of self-defense. Just so, Bubba.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lowry Avenue Bridge, looking west

Another photograph from Saturday:

February sky
It was quite windy on Saturday and the clouds were on the move, but it was pleasant for a mid-February day in Minneapolis. My brother Mike (a/k/a the Stinger) were on the prowl in Nordeast. The area to the east of the bridge has gentrified in the last 20 years and is becoming one of the pricier precincts in town, while the ongoing poverty of North Minneapolis lies at the other end of the bridge. The Lowry bridge is new, completed in late 2012. It's an attractive structure, as this stock photo shows:

She comes in colors
You can cross the Mississippi River in many places in the Twin Cities and the bridges aren't nearly as massive as the ones down the river. The bridge for I-90 at LaCrosse, only about 150 miles to the south, is considerably more massive and mundane:

Built for work
Further down the river is the bridge at Savanna, Illinois, one of the more frightening bridges I have ever crossed:

Erector set

There's a replacement coming. Good thing, too. 

Monday, February 19, 2018


Emotion is the only thing that seems to matter in politics these days, at least on social media. Any attempt to bring a bit of rational thinking results in so much blowback that's it almost never worth the bother. I post song lyrics and black and white photography on FB, and that's about it these days. Once in a while one of my friends might post something on FB that I wrote here, but the people who see those posts do not overlap with my college friends, who are almost entirely on the port side.

I have thought more than once that I should stop writing about politics and repurpose this blog for other things. I probably won't do it, but when stupidity is in full flower in our politics, it seems like a mug's game to keep talking about it.

Here is the photo I posted this morning, taken Saturday afternoon from the Lowry Avenue bridge in Minneapolis, looking north:

Almost frozen over
You might see more of this sort of thing in the future.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Your government at work -- Mass Shooting Edition

If we want to stop mass shooters, we need to take your gun away. Apparently that's the solution, because we can't even do the basic work:
Documents obtained by CNN show that law enforcement officers responded to Cruz’s house on 39 occasions over a seven-year period. No police reports were immediately available for those calls so it was not possible to determine whether Cruz was involved.

Another neighbor, concerned about Cruz “acting weird” in the backyard took video of him dressed in boxer shorts shooting what appeared to be a BB gun. The man, who asked not to be identified, said his wife watched Cruz shooting bottles, cans and buckets over and over again for two days in October 2017. He sometimes pointed the gun toward their window, the man said.

“She got scared. I got scared,” he said.
I'll bet. There's more:
The FBI received a tip last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a "desire to kill" and access to guns and could be plotting an attack, but agents failed to investigate, the agency said Friday. Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for the FBI's director to resign because of the missteps.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the shooting that killed 17 people Wednesday was a "tragic consequence" of the FBI's failure and ordered a review of the Justice Department's processes. He said it's now clear that the nation's premier law enforcement agency missed warning signs.
No, Mr. Sessions. They didn't miss the signs. They ignored them. And there's more:
Jim Gard, a Maths [sic] teacher, said Cruz had been in his class last year.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Mr Gard told the Miami Herald. “There were problems with him last year threatening students.”

However, Robert Runcie, the Broward County School District Superintendent, told reporters he was not aware of any concerns raised about the student.

“We received no warnings,” Mr Runcie said outside the school. “Potentially there could have been signs out there. But we didn't have any warning or phone calls or threats that were made.”
So at the local level, the federal level, and within the education system Cruz had attended, no one connected the dots or made any moves to change the course he was on. Everyone was asleep at the switch. But we should let these people take your guns away. Sounds like a plan.

The sign says New Brighton, but...

...the politicians are straight outta Bucharest, circa 1988:
Last month, a New Brighton commissioner wrote a letter to the editor of the New Brighton Bulletin questioning the motives of the former city council to change elections from odd years to even years.

On Tuesday, the commissioner lost his volunteer position because of that letter. The council voted 3-2 to remove Ben Jones from the planning commission.

Council members and city staff said Jones’ letter was insulting and misleading. Jones thought that was an unfair assessment.

“I’m disappointed,” Jones said of his removal. “I think it shows a little bit of pettiness in the council majority and a little bit of an unhealthy attitude toward the role of the commission and toward dissent in the city.”
I don't know Ben Jones, but I question the motives of the city council, too. Can't do that, apparently. City Manager Dean Lotter explains:
“Venues in which public meetings are conducted should be a sanctuary for free thought and decorum. That’s integral to achieving that dialogue or that goal,” City Manager Dean Lotter said in a recent meeting. “In order to achieve that decorum, commissioners give up some of their rights, like penning editorials. It’s just how it is.”
So you are free to think whatever you want, but you'd better not express your thoughts, according to Der Kommissar Manager Lotter. Meanwhile, the ever-excitable Red Queen mayor of New Brighton, Val Johnson, gives the game away:
“He has insulted me. He has insulted this council. And I don’t know if I could ever trust him again as a commissioner,” Johnson said at a recent meeting. “And when I lose that trust in people that we appoint, then there’s something that needs to be done.”
Mayor Val Johnson
Lest I offend Dear Leader Mayor Johnson's delicate sensibilities, let's get something straight. You wanted to be mayor. You ran for mayor. You are the mayor. In an open society, your decisions, your behavior, your general comportment, all of it -- are fair game for criticism, even open ridicule. No wonder you don't want to face the voters until 2020.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Open thread/subject for further research

No time to write this morning, so this will be an open thread. However, I am going to read this article tonight and suspect it will be worth a post later on, so if you want to keep pace with your scattered blogging pal, hit the link.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Just so you know. . . .

There is no way to completely stop school shootings, so long as we value an open society where people can come and go as they please. Mental health treatment might help some; as we learn more about the young man in Florida who killed 17 people, we might gain some insights we rarely get from such shooters, who in most cases take their own life to cap off their crimes. Nikolas Cruz is in custody, so he might tell us something useful. Politicians might try to render the 2nd Amendment a dead letter, but they can't take all the guns away without intolerable collateral damage. So let the bien pensant gun grabbers have their moment of virtue signaling. It will go nowhere.

Knuth Gets the Kibosh

You might remember Kate Knuth, who was supposed to be the bright young DFL hope. She once represented New Brighton in the legislature, but mysteriously stepped aside after three terms. After kicking around for a while, she got herself a plush job with the City of Minneapolis as "Chief Resilience Officer." Well, it didn't last long:
The chief resilience officer of Minneapolis, Kate Knuth, has stepped down after seven months on the job.

Hired for the grant-funded position in June, Knuth was responsible for responding to “challenges” facing the city, which ranged from low graduation rates for black students to the risks of spills from trains hauling hazardous materials to severe weather stoked by climate change.

Knuth, an environmental educator and former DFL legislator, spent her first months in the job interviewing people and conducting a survey, but had not delivered any finished work product before she resigned.
If the goal of the position was to figure out the challenges Minneapolis faces, the city could have saved a lot of money had they simply given Betsy Hodges a mirror, but we'll leave that aside. Think about being on a job for seven months and not delivering any finished work product. It's astonishing, really. I fully expect our old friend Kate to return to academe, where not delivering work product isn't likely to raise as many eyebrows.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Layers of the onion

Andrew McCarthy, scales removed from his eyes, is now peeling back the layers on GotterMuellerung:
Yes, it was clear that [FBI Agent Peter] Strzok engaged in serious misconduct: The married G-man’s reported extramarital affair with his married FBI colleague Lisa Page was scandalous not only for the obvious reasons but as potential blackmail material against counterintelligence agents. Plus, Strzok appears to have been the main investigator in the Hillary Clinton emails case that the FBI and Justice Department bent over backwards not to prosecute; and there is reason to believe his rabidly anti-Trump text messages with his paramour crossed the line from arrogant political banter to unprofessional investigative decision-making.

But there were dissonant notes, too, cutting against the neat ditty about a high-ranking government agent acting on a corrupt partisan agenda. For one thing, I was hearing from people with good national-security credentials that Strzok was a highly effective counterintelligence agent.

And then there was Mike Flynn.
You remember Mike Flynn. He was briefly Trump's National Security Adviser. The guy our Lord and Savior* Robert Mueller got to cop a guilty plea. The guy who lied to the FBI. Or did he?
The first revelations about Strzok’s texts came only days after General Flynn, who had fleetingly served as President Trump’s first national-security adviser, pled guilty in the Mueller investigation to a charge of lying to FBI investigators. Strzok had conducted the interview with Flynn. Combine that with the fact that he had been a principal in all the important FBI interviews in the Clinton caper, and the presumption crystalized: Political hack Strzok went kid-gloves on the Hillary Gang and scorched-earth on Trump World.

That’s not reality, though. 
There is a problem here. Strzok didn't think Flynn lied. But Mueller and his band of avenging angels went scorched earth on Flynn. Back to McCarthy:
Flynn’s case is back in the news thanks to Byron York’s important Washington Examiner report yesterday. He retraces the history: Because Flynn was a Trump transition official and incoming national-security adviser, there was nothing at all inappropriate about his discussing Obama-imposed sanctions against Russia with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Nevertheless, then–acting attorney general and Obama partisan Sally Yates seriously considered prosecuting Flynn under the absurd, never-invoked Logan Act. This misconception that Flynn had done something wrong led Yates and Comey to have Flynn interviewed as if he were a criminal suspect. Apparently unconcerned, Flynn agreed to be interviewed without counsel. Strzok came away from the session believing that Flynn had told the truth. Comey, Byron York reports, “told lawmakers that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe that Flynn had lied to them, or that any inaccuracies in his answers were intentional.”

Yet, ten months later, with Yates, Comey, and Strzok now out of the picture, Mueller decided to charge Flynn with lying to the FBI anyway. And Flynn decided to plead guilty — perhaps because he was guilty . . . or perhaps because he lacked the resources to sustain the legal fight . . . or perhaps because he feared Mueller’s team would otherwise prosecute his son.
But there's more. McCarthy noticed something that seems important:
The judge who accepted Flynn’s guilty plea was Rudolph Contreras. Mysteriously, just days after taking Flynn’s plea, Judge Contreras recused himself from the case. The press has been remarkably uncurious about this development. No rationale for the recusal has been offered, no explanation for why, if Judge Contreras had some sort of conflict, the recusal came after the guilty plea, not before. We can note that Contreras is one of the eleven federal district judges assigned to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

We do not know if Judge Contreras signed one or more of the FISA warrants the Justice Department sought for Trump campaign figures Carter Page and Paul Manafort (or even if signing a FISA warrant would constitute grounds for a conflict in Flynn’s case). We can note, however, that Contreras is one of just three FISA court judges who sits in the District of Columbia, where it is likely the Trump-Russia FISA warrants were sought.
That's. . . odd. But this is worse:
When Judge Contreras pulled out, Flynn’s case was reassigned to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. We now know that one of Judge Sullivan’s first actions on the case was to file an order directing Mueller to provide Flynn with any evidence in the special counsel’s possession that is favorable to Flynn, whether on the issue of guilt or of sentencing. Significantly, the order stresses that if Mueller has such evidence but believes it is not “material” and therefore that Flynn is not entitled to disclosure of it, Mueller must show the evidence to the court so that Judge Sullivan may decide whether to mandate its disclosure.
Did Mueller's team tell Flynn that Strzok didn't think he'd committed the crime. If he had, why would Mueller be charging him in the first place? And if he had, what are the chances Flynn would have pled guilty? Back to McCarthy:
Now, it could be that this is just Judge Sullivan’s standard order on exculpatory information, filed in every case over which he presides. But it is noteworthy that Flynn had already pled guilty, and in the course of doing so had agreed to Mueller’s demand that he waive “the right to any further discovery or disclosures of information not already provided” — in addition to forfeiting many other trial and appellate rights. (See plea agreement, pages 6–7.) It certainly appears that Sullivan’s order supersedes the plea agreement and imposes on the special counsel the obligation to reveal any and all evidence suggesting that Flynn is innocent of the charge to which he has admitted guilt.
It's important to understand -- getting Flynn's scalp is Mueller's biggest accomplishment. Paul Manafort's alleged crimes happened well before he signed on to the Trump campaign, while George Papadopolous was at best a low-level functionary, no matter what his fiancee says. And no one has charged Carter Page with anything. If it turns out that Mueller's team withheld exculpatory evidence to get Flynn to cop a plea, this thing could blow sky-high.

*If my tongue were planted any further in my cheek, it would come out my elbow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Station of the Crossed

While it's worth questioning whether the topic should occupy anyone's time, I have been thinking lately about the cohort of the Republican Party that remains #NeverTrump. At this point, what is the motivation? As usual, the invaluable Victor Davis Hanson has some thoughts:
We rightly associate the elite disdain for the clingers, irredeemables, and deplorables with progressives like Obama and Hillary Clinton. But politics is incidental to the matrix; more essential is class.

It was Mitt Romney who said he could not work with 47 percent of the population and wrote them off as hopelessly lost voters. It was David Brooks and Bill Kristol who caricatured the white working class as near Neanderthal and romanticized illegal aliens (often by deliberating conflating them with legal immigrants.)

If one were to read carefully through the disparagement of Americans in the texts of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, with their slurs against hillbilly Virginians and Texans and smelly Trump supporters, one can see that Strzok appears likely to be a suburban Republican or independent of the sort who would vote for John Kasich.

The point is not that Strzok and Page are hyperpartisans, but that they are comfortable with candidates who foremost reflect their cultural tastes and proper cursus honorum. And as we have witnessed with some in the NeverTrump movement, for these sorts, being grateful that new economic policies might reinvigorate the old rust-belt and the hinterland is more than offset by the concomitant price of an ascendant working class that lacks the tastes of the elite and the romance of the deliberately distant poor and minorities.
If you show sympathy for the hillbillies, or worse advocate for them, you don't get to hang with the cool kids. Back to Hanson:
The Trump catharsis has shown that about 10 percent of the Republican Party, the NeverTrumpers, was largely apolitical. That is, former cornerstone positions of deregulation and tax reform, oil and gas production, charter schools, deterrent foreign policy, restoring friendship with Israel and moving the embassy to Jerusalem were apparently always secondary to the more important criterion of offering a mild, sober and judicious frown to progressivism, through discerning losers like George H.W. Bush, John McCain, or Mitt Romney.

Such a Republican elite was so embedded within American establishment institutions as to be both immune from the economic stagnation of an Obama neo-socialist revolution (remember income inequality soared under Obama) and in no real need of a Reagan revolution or Trump’s often messy radical push-back against progressivism.
Yep. And this one is for you, David Brooks:
Its creed was not really, as advertised, the ethics of “losing nobly is better than winning ugly,” but rather the snobbery of “losing a cultural image is worse than winning a political agenda.” Put more bluntly, it is better to put up with a socialist with a “perfectly creased pant” than a prairie-fire conservative in rumpled Walmart slacks.
I know plenty of people who have, at various times, claimed to be conservative. Some of these people spend time on social media talking about their raw denim jeans and their wing-tip work boots. Others slag their home towns and the people they have ostentatiously left behind. I have known dozens of Philip Pirrips in my life. Class doesn't matter in America nearly as much as it did in 19th Century England, but it does matter. And many ostensible conservatives realize their perch is tenuous at best. Why take up the cause of those you've left behind? Isn't it better to go to London, or New York, or even Minneapolis, and shake the dust from your sandals?

We carry the markers of class and station with us at all times. If they overtake us, we become David Brooks. Don't be David Brooks.

Monday, February 12, 2018

A refreshing glass of juche

Apparently we're supposed to admire the North Korean cheerleaders:
It was about 10 minutes before puck drop in the much-anticipated unified Korea women’s hockey team debut, when the North Korean cheerleaders stole the show.

Kanye West blared on the arena speakers, and the cheer squad of young North Korean women decked out in matching red and white outfits decided it was time for their first routine.
They waved small unified Korean Peninsula flags, and swayed in unison and sung “ban gap seup nee da,” or nice to meet you.

The crowd was instantly transfixed.

“It felt like I was competing in my own country,” Jong Su Hyon, one of 12 North Koreans on the joint team’s roster, said of the atmosphere following Korea’s lopsided defeat to Switzerland.
Others love 'em:
North Korea’s cheerleaders seem to be enjoying the Winter Olympics more than the athletes. They’re having a ball if pictures taken of them at the event in Pyeongchang, South Korea, are anything to go by.

The latest images showed several members from to 200 strong team wearing masks as they cheered on the unified Korean hockey team. Around 75 North Korean cheerleaders dressed in matching red with white caps made noise during a preliminary game against Switzerland in Gangneung.

Some people thought it looked a bit weird but they seemed to be having fun so we can’t be too down on them. The story of the Winter Olympics so far has been the united front the two Korean countries have showed.
There's nothing united about the two Koreas, of course. Kim Jong Un would wipe out Seoul in a heartbeat if he weren't aware that he'd be wiped out himself in the next heartbeat. It's easier to send out the cheerleaders and pretend things aren't what they are:

Shake down the launch codes from the sky
You can find amusing examples of videos that poke fun of this sort of thing, like this one:

It's not really amusing, though. And we shouldn't be encouraging the North Koreans.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dawn breaks

Andrew McCarthy, a former Justice Department official who is the big legal mind at National Review, has spent a lot of time over the past year throwing cold water on claims that there was skulduggery afoot at DOJ under the Obama administration. He couldn't believe or imagine his old pals would be hacks and criminals. They would never abandon integrity, would they? Not them!

Well, he's starting to figure it out:

In May 2017, as I have detailed (here), Steele was required to respond to interrogatories. He emphasized that his dossier allegations were “raw intelligence” that was “unverified” and “warranted investigation.” He further described his reports as “limited intelligence” that described mere “indications” of “possible” coordination between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. He was not in a position to vouch for the accuracy of what he’d been told, he explained; he passed it along because it needed further investigation.

Yet, far from reporting Steele’s retreat to the FISA court, Grassley and Graham report that the FBI and Justice Department continued vouching for the reliability of his allegations.

Beyond all that, we now learn through the senators’ memo, and some follow-up reporting, that two longtime Clinton cronies, Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal, fed their own anti-Trump dossier to Steele, through a State Department official, Jonathan Winer. In the fall of 2016, Steele, while working on his Clinton-funded project, reported this Clinton-crony information to the FBI.

Still, the FBI and Justice Department elected not to tell the FISA court that the Clinton campaign was paying for Steele’s unverified, unverifiable anti-Trump research.

I spent many months assuring people that nothing like this could ever happen — that the FBI and Justice Department would not countenance the provision to the FISA court of uncorroborated allegations of heinous misconduct. When Trump enthusiasts accused them of rigging the process, I countered that they probably had not even used the Steele dossier. If the Justice Department had used it in writing a FISA warrant application, I insisted that the FBI would independently verify any important facts presented to the court, make any disclosures that ought in fairness be made so the judge could evaluate the credibility of the sources, and compellingly demonstrate probable cause before alleging that an American was a foreign agent.  
I was wrong.
Yes. Yes, you were. I was, too. I'm still not crazy about many things Donald Trump does, but there's no evidence he would sink to the level of his predecessors, levels that are now amply documented, if not yet widely disclosed. To be fair, McCarthy wasn't nearly as much of a NeverTrumper as some of his colleagues at NR, but he made common cause with them. The scales have fallen from his eyes.

I continue to wait for the rest of the NeverTrumpers to understand that, in their zeal to condemn the uncouth orange haired-occupant of the Oval Office, in their bien pensant efforts to signal their own virtue, that they are in the same camp with people who spent the period of 2009-2017 wiping their asses with the Constitution. If you want to pretend you are principled, it is best you don't hang out with vipers like James Comey. They may have been your colleagues, but they were never your friends.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Open thread

There's all manner of things to talk about, but I got so busy reading this morning that I ran out of time to write anything. So we'll open up a thread and see what happens. Meanwhile, have some b&w photography, something I've been dabbling in lately:

Sun going down in Burnsville, MN

Bell Pole Yard, New Brighton, MN

Rice Creek, New Brighton, MN
Nordeast Minneapolis

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Magnet and Steele

It's getting interesting in D.C. now:
A criminal referral from top Senate investigators confirms explosive charges in last week’s House Intelligence Committee memo regarding abuse of surveillance authorities at the FBI and Department of Justice. It also reveals a host of problems arising from the bureau’s cooperation with foreign investigator Christopher Steele, who was working on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The eight-page memo from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) includes underlying evidence to support the claims.
That's from Mollie Hemingway, writing for the Federalist. The Grassley/Graham referral not only backstops the material Devin Nunes wrote about in his memo, it expands upon what appears to have happened during the campaign. You should read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights:
The letter describes a verification effort before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) so inadequate it resembles a concerted effort to conceal information from the court. However, the senators blame Steele’s “apparent deception” for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) failures by FBI and Justice, and refer Steele for investigation of violating federal law regarding making false statements to the U.S. government. The letter also reveals Clinton associates were feeding Steele allegations that he used in his reports.
Garbage in, garbage out. And who were the garbage merchants? Well, that's redacted, sort of. But how did Yahoo News get the information? From the Grassley/Graham document:
[REDACTED], the application attempts to explain away the inconsistency between Mr. Steele’s assertion to the FBI and the existence of the article, apparently to shield Mr. Steele’s credibility on which it still relied for the renewal request. The application to the FISC said: “Given that the information contained in the September 23rd news article generally matches the information about Page that [Steele] discovered doing his/her research, [REDACTED] The FBI does not believe that [Steele] directly provided this information to the press” (emphasis added).
One problem with that assertion -- it's not true. Steele gave it all to Michael Isikoff. Back to Hemingway:
Reporter Michael Isikoff recently confirmed that Steele was obviously his source for the article, and that Clinton’s Russia dossier project head Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS was a longtime friend. The FBI stated to the court that Steele had nothing to do with the article. Shopping his unverified allegations to the media was contrary to Steele’s agreement with the FBI. Even after Steele publicly testified about his many media contacts, the FBI hid that part of his dossier operation from the court and continued to rely on his credibility for surveillance reauthorization.
We knew this a long time ago, actually -- there were reports galore that someone had been shopping the dossier around to the news media in the aftermath of the election. What we didn't know then was that Team Clinton was directly involved. Grassley/Graham explain:
One memorandum by Mr. Steele that was not published by Buzzfeed is dated October 19, 2016. The report alleges REDACTED as well as REDACTED Mr. Steele’s memorandum states that his company “received this report from REDACTED US State Department,” that the report was the second in a series, and that the report was information that came from a foreign sub-source who “is in touch with REDACTED, a contact of REDACTED, a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to REDACTED.” It is troubling enough that the Clinton campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.
The REDACTED folks here are almost certainly longtime Clinton hatchetman Sidney Blumenthal, and the other individual is Cody Shearer, another Clinton hand.

So if we connect the dots, it appears Steele was a partisan, working for a partisan (Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion/GPS), who had the Clintons for a client. It also appears that the Justice Department and the FBI knew this and didn't see fit to explain what it meant when they were pursuing the FISA warrant against Carter Page, a figure mostly on the periphery of the Trump campaign.

Things are getting real.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Schiff for Brains

He's a beauty:
The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee was the victim of a prank phone call by Russian comedians who offered to give him 'compromising' dirt on Donald Trump – including nude photos of the president and a Russian reality show star. can disclose that after the prank, his staff engaged in correspondence with what they thought was a Ukrainian politician to try to obtain the 'classified' material promised on the call.

On an audio recording of the prank call posted online, Adam Schiff can be heard discussing the committee's Russia investigation and increasingly bizarre allegations about Trump with a man who claimed to be Andriy Parubiy, the chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament.

The call, made a year ago, was actually from two Russian comedians nicknamed 'Vovan' and 'Lexus' who have become notorious for their phony calls to high-ranking American officials and celebrities, including UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Elton John.

Its existence was first reported by The Atlantic but not how a staff member working for the minority on the House Intelligence Committee pursued the information after the call.
Schiff claims he knew all along it was a prank. But if you know it's a prank, why do you stay on the phone for 8 minutes? Wouldn't you hang up immediately? And why would you send your staff back for a follow-up if you knew it was a prank? Listen for yourself -- it's comedy gold, Jerry:

A reminder for you -- if Donald Trump Jr. talks to Russians about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, it could be a felony and certainly worthy of the attention of Robert Mueller. If Adam Schiff talks to Russians about getting dirt on Donald Trump, it's copacetic.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Monster Art

Now that we are well into the era of #MeToo, the question hangs in the air -- how do you deal with the art of a monster? Along with untold millions of my fellow citizens, I've long enjoyed the comedy of Bill Cosby. Harvey Weinstein has produced dozens of movies, including several I admire. And Roman Polanski directed one of the best films of the 1970s, Chinatown.

I wouldn't any woman I care about, or any woman at all, to be forced to spend five minutes with any of these men. Yet do we toss out the work they did because they have been monsters? I have been thinking about this question lately. What do you think?

Monday, February 05, 2018

Lightning Round - 020518

Not much time this morning, so here we go:

  • The Nunes memo wasn't a dud, but it wasn't a bombshell, either. I am assuming there will be subsequent documentation of the claims made and that we'll hear things that are even more alarming when the Inspector General's report comes out. I am simultaneously amused and alarmed that the FBI apparently considers Yahoo News a credible source of information. Seems like one weird trick to me.
  • It was a good Super Bowl, but with more than a little bit of strangeness to it. Tom Brady is a warrior, but it became evident that the Patriots weren't able to "do your job," as they famously claim, especially on defense. No one patches things up better than the Patriots, but I saw mostly a bunch of guys on their defense and the Eagles were able to exploit that. I'll be highly curious to see what happens to Nick Foles now that he's a Super Bowl MVP. Carson Wentz is their quarterback, but Foles was a much more important backup than, say, Jeff Hostetler. 
  • The halftime show from Justin Timberlake was kinda all over the place, but the highlight for us was the presence of the University of Minnesota Marching Band in the middle of it, with two former Irondale Marching Knights on the field. Very, very cool.
  • The Super Bowl ads were preachy and tendentious. Tell me why I should buy your product. Your commitment to social justice gives me no guidance as to whether your 4G network matches the competition. Sheesh.
  • I'll be curious to see how the final financials break out on the Super Bowl from a local perspective. My sense is that things were so expensive that a lot of people who live here stayed away. Couple that with the difficulty of getting downtown at all and I was never seriously tempted to go any further south than Larpenteur Avenue all weekend. 

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Benster And D Pick Your Game -- Bold North Edition

Old dude, this might be the closest some Vikings fans have gotten to a Lombardi trophy.

It's in the same state and you can see it. Yes, I suspect you're right.

I hope you are avoiding the crazies downtown.

Put it this way -- I do not anticipate crossing Larpenteur Avenue until Monday. It's really not that bad here, because the fashionable people don't come to the northern suburbs. If you can't get a reservation at Meritage, you don't go to Applebee's in Northtown.

Well, you don't either, Geritol Fan!

True. Although some of the swells ought to try out our friends at Bistro La Roux.

If the Saints had won, they'd be there for sure. I sure liked my po' boy there.

Before this turns into a restaurant review piece, we ought to turn our attention to the Super Bowl.

Good point! That Metamucil buzz must be wearing off for you! This could be the continuation of the Patriots and their dynasty deal with the devil, or will the Eagles finally end years of frustration and break through?

And will they need to grease the poles in Philly again?

We will discuss that and more. I'm feeling the HYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPEE!, and am ready to watch me work.

Philadelphia Eagles (+4) vs. New England Patriots, in Minneapolis. The Patriots were expected to come to Minnesota and defend their crown. The Eagles were given no respect after Carson Wentz went down, but Nick Foles and their defense decided to prove the doubters wrong. I personally am sick and tired of the Patriots, but not because they have ruined my team's chances to win. The reason I am sick and tired of New England is that they seem to win by employing people who have done things that are fast and loose in terms of fair play and screwing over other teams, and their fans seem to treat them like they are the victims. Tom Brady may be the best quarterback of all time, but he certainly has been dogged by questions about inflation of footballs and was on the team during Spygate, and may have had some of his success come from information he should not have had. Bill Belichick has certainly been a great coach, but we easily forget that he quit on the New York Jets after 1 day as their head coach after the Jets gave him a second chance to be an NFL head coach, as detailed here. It is a shame that instead of celebrating the Patriots success, they have made themselves into villains because of things like Spygate and Deflategate, missteps that were of their own doing. I would love to see the Eagles win, and I think they can. The Patriots under Kraft, Belichick, and Brady have played tight Super Bowls and never have blown any team out. The Eagles have a great defense and Nick Foles made plays against a much better defense in the NFC Championship game. I think New England has an excellent shot to win, but I feel that the Eagles will have the will to win in order to make their critics have to call them Super Bowl champions. Eagles 27, Patriots 21. (In OT)

I don't have any great love for the Eagles, but as a team and organization they aren't all that loathsome. Their Milwall-style fan base makes it more difficult to get with them, too. But the Eagles fans aren't on the field. Can the Eagles win? I think they can, too. Will they, though? Not so sure. The Patriots win because they are, invariably, stronger at the moment of truth. That's what happened last year. The Falcons couldn't close the deal, even though they were dominating the game most of the way. You have to beat the Patriots for 60 minutes, or more. Can the Eagles do that with Nick Foles at the helm? Yes, but that's not the way to pick it. Patriots 34, Eagles 31.
I probably won't be welcome in Foxboro, but as a Packers fan I can always point out that we beat New England straight up in Super Bowl XXXI to cement the 1996 Packers as one of the best teams to ever win a championship. Thank you for reading us this season. Until next fall, Ben out!

Friday, February 02, 2018

Never is a long damned time

Back in 2016, when the presidential election was well underway, I actively hated Donald Trump. I found his ad hominem rhetoric appalling, suspected his long history of dealmaking to be a marker of an empty political philosophy, and I assumed the sophisticated Democratic Party apparat would peel him like a banana in the general election.

We're two years on. I'm still no fan of his rhetorical style, but everything else I thought about Trump has turned out to be wrong. As far as his rhetorical style goes, what I've subsequently figured out is this -- he's wasn't talking to me, at least not directly, in 2016. Trump has delivered things conservatives have desired for a long time, especially tax reform. He also appointed a worthy successor to Antonin Scalia and is now filling the federal bench with principled men and women who will be in a position to correct the myriad abuses of the Obama years. And, most of all, he's been working to drain the swamp in Washington, DC. Even though he's made a few deals here and there that make me wonder, his overall record is that of a consistent, principled conservative.

It's easy to find conservatives with a podium who remain Never Trumpers. I don't get it, frankly. Yes, Trump is a lout from the outer boroughs and his tastes are less than tasteful. I get why Democrats hate him -- he's a traitor to his class (Wharton grads aren't supposed to get dirty) and he's been busy tearing their playhouse down, because he understands what frauds they are. But what's become obvious over the first year of his administration is that most Never Trumpers are frauds, too -- they are not really concerned with politics and principles -- instead, their primary commitment seems to be getting along with the in-crowd that Donald Trump is systematically routing. And in opposing Trump, they've been as shrill as the Democrats.

It is difficult to see past your own cultural markers, especially the ones you've chosen for yourself. I am a graduate of a liberal arts college that sends out a lot of liberals into the world. Most of my college friends don't see the world the way I do. Because we have social media, I get to see what my college friends are thinking, and what's become clear is they aren't thinking. They've become frightened and reactionary, because change is coming. To an extent I remain sympathetic -- they don't want to give up a worldview that has shaped most of the choices they have made throughout their adult lives. If you've become part of the hive, it's no good when the queen bee is struck down. Still, change always comes, for good or ill. I don't have to embrace Trump personally or emulate his rhetorical style or persona. But if he's doing good work, it's incumbent upon me to acknowledge that. And he is.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

When the history of this time is written. . .

. . . we will see that two reporters were the ones who advanced the stories that matter. Both are women and neither is Maggie Haberman of the New York Times. One of the key reporters is Sharyl Atkisson, who got forced out of CBS because she wasn't willing to perform stenography. The other reporter is Sara Carter
Newly released text messages between a pair of FBI anti-Trump officials at the center of the Russia investigation controversy show that they sought to “get around” rules established by the government to preserve text messages, stating that none of the agencies abide by the rules then “why should we.”

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page discussed getting new Apple iPhones, in lieu of their Samsung 5 government issued phones in text messages they exchanged in August 2016. They noted in the texts that the new phones would help keep their text messages from government collection after speaking with the FBI’s IT director, according to newly released August 2016 text messages.
Why should they? Oh, it was the law, I suppose. There's more:
Here’s a portion of the text messages:
Strzok: “Hot damn. I’m happy to pilot that…we get around our security/monitoring issues?”

Page: “No, he’s proposing that we just stop following them. Apparently, the requirement to capture texts came from omb, but we’re the only org (I’m told) who is following that rule. His point is, if no one else is doing it why should we.”

Page: Helps that Dd had a terrible time with his phone [redacted] which made him concerned for our folks all over the place.

Page: These phones suck as much as they do because of the program we use to capture texts, full stop.

Strzok: No doubt.

Strzok: I’m not convinced short of OPR, that text capture capability really deters anything.

Strzok: If I want to copy/take classified, I’m sure as hell not going to do it on this phone.
You could interpret that exchange as two employees chafing over unfair work rules. Or it could suggest that the rest of the Obama administration didn't care very much about following its own rules. "Omb" would be the Office of Management and Budget, which would have something to say about governmental employee conduct. Who is "Dd?" Back to Carter:
In the above text messages, Strzok’s reference to “Dd” is possibly referring to Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, per Johnson’s letter’s footnote.
It's also worth recalling the Strzok and Page's texts went missing for a time. Does any of this prove corruption? Not yet. But it certainly is a lot closer than anything we've seen to date concerning the successor of Barack Obama.

il miglior fabbro

Maureen Callahan in the New York Post, discussing Hillary Clinton's explanation of why she did bupkis about a sexual harasser on her campaign staff:
Yet Clinton’s essay underscores what a terrible candidate she is and always has been. She offers nothing more than self-serving prevarications under the guise of explanation: She didn’t want to take away a man’s livelihood. The young woman who complained was reassigned (because the victim should be inconvenienced). She liked her new post! We’re in a different era now! How was Hillary to know, way back in 2008, that sexual harassment should never be tolerated?

“For most of my life,” Hillary wrote, “harassment wasn’t something talked about or even acknowledged.”

Except for the bulk of the 1990s, when her husband was accused by multiple women of harassment and by one of rape and Hillary worked to publicly discredit them.

Other than that, no knowledge.
Ouch. And the conclusion:
This has always been the problem with Hillary Clinton: Nothing is ever her fault. She is congenitally incapable of saying the words “I’m sorry” — in fact, they are nowhere to be found in her Facebook post. She is somehow always the victim despite her own poor decision-making. She still blames us for losing the most winnable election ever.
Well, perhaps some day we'll be worthy of choosing Hillary Clinton. We can only hope.