Thursday, May 31, 2018

A good, succinct explanation

Writing for American Greatness, Henry Olsen has a few gentle clues for the Bill Kristols of the world:
I am not a Trump fan by any stretch of the imagination, yet it strikes me as fairly obvious why many Americans would like the president or think he is doing a good job. Some Americans have been so disaffected by economic changes of the last decade that they see Trump’s enthusiastic embrace of American jobs for American workers as a breath of fresh air. Others find his staunch support of American security as reassuring. Trump’s proposed Muslim ban enrages many of his opponents, but the polling data suggests that this more than any other proposal is what made him president.

Others might be less enthusiastic about Trump but have good reason to think he’s doing a good job. Religiously traditional people see themselves under siege from an elite culture that holds them in contempt and have chosen to embrace the devil that backs them over the devil who does not.

Still others, many of whom are traditional business or free market conservatives, remain wary of him personally but increasingly like his policies. Indeed, there are a number of polls that show Republicans who voted for Gary Johnson to be of this view. They might prefer someone without Trump’s flaws, but faced with the evidence of a man who hasn’t screwed up and who has implemented much of their agenda they seem willing to reconsider their prior anti-Trump views. But few if any of the punditocracy has followed suit, and fewer still can even see that many Americans don’t view Trump as beyond the pale.
The last three words of this excerpt are the key ones -- beyond the pale. It's a term that goes back centuries, but in the current context it means unacceptable. And as I've come to experience the current administration, I've had to look at what unacceptable means. For the Never Trumpers, it's still more about style and temperament than it is about actual performance in office. Trump's behavior will always be grating -- the braggadocio, the continuing struggles with subject/verb agreement, like that. All the boorishness will never be easy to take.

And yet, and yet. . . Trump's critics persist in making much of their critique about his deportment rather than his performance of his duties. Barack Obama's persona was certainly more elegant and classy than Trump's, but it was a veneer. He remains what he decided he wanted to be when he entered politics -- a Chicago politician. Obama may not have worn a pinkie ring, but he was quick to kneecap anyone who got in his way. He just was more discreet about it. Trump doesn't care about any of those niceties -- if he wants something, he'll either do it if he can take care of it himself, or he'll rage and whine and wheedle and threaten. But he'll often get what he wants. And to the extent his exertions square with good public policy, he'll be more successful than his predecessor and deservedly so. It all goes back to the distinction Eric Hoffer makes between Men of Words and Men of Action. We have a Man of Action in the White House. And that's going to make the Men of Words grind their gears.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

il miglior fabbro

I missed this piece from Richard "Belmont Club" Fernandez when it first came out, but it's spot-on:
What could explain the relative durability of Donald Trump in the face of the 24x7 media denunciation of his peccadillos is the fact that he, like the man in the rubber monster suit, is too front and center to be genuinely frightening. It is not that the public has ignored his shortcomings or faults so much as they have made adjustments for them. Trump is a definite quantity and many prefer him to what they imagine to be worse.

While Trump’s defects have been “priced in” to the political equation by contrast the liberal heroes are often pitched too high.  The future villains, ignored or flatteringly covered by the media until the moment of their sudden exposure, prove psychologically more menacing because they were supposed to be the Good Guys. Portrayed as kindly television personalities, avuncular talk show hosts, square jawed news anchors, patrons of feminism or crusading district attorneys until exposure they fulfill the condition of betrayal and a surprise of the classic horror boogeyman. They are the tigers who stalk us from behind, the anacondas that wait coiled in ambush from an overhead branch, or little old ladies quietly eating at a diner who turns out to be possessed.
Anyone who observes the scene long enough knows the Good Guys aren't very good at all. But in a world where traditional faith is denounced and mocked on a regular basis, those doing the denouncing and mocking face the task of providing a substitute. And so we are regaled with tales of brave Sir Schneiderman and his contemporaries. And the tales, almost invariably, turn to ash. As always, click the link.

Freedom of speech

We have freedom of speech. When you are being compensated, the organization compensating you may not enjoy your observations so much and take action against you, up to and including no longer providing any more compensation.

  • I don't care about Roseanne Barr. She was working for Disney/ABC. If Disney/ABC doesn't like her promulgating offensive tweets against Obama-era officials, they can fire her.
  • I don't care about Colin Kaepernick. He was working for the San Francisco 49ers, who got rid of him. Other teams don't see his value being commensurate with the public relations nightmare he is. He's not entitled to a job any more than Roseanne Barr is entitled to a job.
That's the only way intellectually consistent way to look at these issues, I think. Just understand -- the culture war is for keeps, bro.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Albion the news that's fit to print

Can't talk about it in England. Likely no one in England will read these words, but in case someone from England does happen across this blog, I share the reportage of Ezra Levant:

On Friday, May 25, Tommy [Robinson] was reporting from outside the courthouse in Leeds, where an accused Muslim rape gang was on trial for repeatedly raping British girls as young as eleven years old. Tommy was broadcasting on Facebook, from his cell phone.  
Tommy was very careful:
He did not set foot on the court precinct.
He did not call the men “rapists”, but rather called them “accused rapists”.
In no way did he interfere with the trial, which was on its final day.
When Tommy mentioned the names of the accused rapists, he was reading from a BBC website — so the names were clearly public information, on the state broadcaster.
Tommy did nothing wrong.

But suddenly, seven police officers swarmed Tommy and threw him in the back of a police van.

They said he was causing a disturbance, which is absurd — he was by himself on the street, with only a cameraman and a friend.

But it got worse. Much worse.

Within hours, Tommy was summoned before the judge. Tommy’s long-time lawyer was not informed of this. Rather, the court appointed a lawyer who didn’t know Tommy and wasn’t an expert in the specialized law of contempt of court.

In a matter of minutes, Tommy was sent to prison — with a 13-month sentence. He is now in HM Prison Hull, a brutal facility near Leeds. 
You aren't allowed to talk about certain things in England any more. In the United States, we have a First Amendment. In England, there are hate speech laws. If the government hates your speech, you can be thrown into a police van without warning. Back to Levant:
The basic facts here — what Tommy was doing and what he didn’t do; the shocking speed with which he was imprisoned; the fact that his own lawyer was not notified; the fact that Tommy has not had a proper chance to meet with his lawyer — are banned in the UK.

Not just the underlying facts of the rape gang trial — but the whole incident involving Tommy.

The judge who sent Tommy to jail, made it illegal to report that he sent Tommy to jail.

Why did the judge keep his justice secret? 
Why? Because he rightly assumed he could get by with it. More at the link, including a fundraising appeal if you're so inclined.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Calling in an air strike on your own position

I'm seeing plenty of this image on social media today:

That monster Trump, putting kids in cages in. . . 2014?
The problem? This was 2014.

In Hamm, Luxembourg

Over 5,000 Americans have their final resting place here, including Gen. George S. Patton:

A number of my uncles served in World War II. They all made it back. My grandfather served in World War I. He made it back. Many did not. We remember them today.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The mumbling sociopath's gift to us all

Elections have consequences:
Minnesotans will likely see an increase in income taxes next year after Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a tax bill meant to bring the state tax code in line with the new federal system following a sweeping overhaul passed by the U.S. Congress last year, according to Certified Public Accountants who spoke with Fox 9.

It's also going to get harder to file returns because the new federal tax code uses a different formula to arrive at your taxable income, they said, forcing Minnesotans to essentially calculate their tax return twice. The bill vetoed by Dayton this week would have simply copied the federal formula.

"I'm very concerned for the taxpayers of Minnesota," said Todd Koch, a CPA with Jak & Company. "Without any changes, it is a very rare person that would pay less and almost everybody will pay more."

In a letter to legislative leaders this spring, state Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly said the state would have to draft more than 80 pages of new income tax instructions because Minnesota isn't currently seeing any reduction in rates or an expansion in credits but the federal system is. The work for many government agencies begins now to update the state's computer system and coordinate with software vendors like TurboTax to rewrite the programs for next year.
I've had an accountant handle my taxes for years. He's going to be getting a lot more business. I suspect anger is going to increase over Dayton's perfidy as more people learn what he did and we may yet get a special session. I don't think the DFL wants to run on tax increases and the pressure will increase for Dayton to do something. His handlers will eventually get him the message.

Negotiations 101

You could see this coming right up the ol' DMZ:
North Korea said it was surprised by President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un and it remained willing to meet with the U.S. at any time.

First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said Friday that his country still wanted to pursue peace and said it would give Washington more time to reconsider talks. He added that North Korea “inwardly highly appreciated” Trump for agreeing to the summit, and hoped the “Trump formula” would help lead to a deal between the adversaries.

“The first meeting would not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way would make the relations get better rather than making them get worse,” Kim said in a statement carried Friday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. “We would like to make known to the U.S. side once again that we have the intent to sit with the U.S. side to solve problem regardless of ways at any time.”
North Korea needs a deal much more than the United States does. Trump knows this and when Kim and his pals decided to stomp their jackboots, Trump walked away. Meanwhile, all the lefties who were laughing about commemorative coins and whatnot yesterday will be waking up to this headline and going back to their puddles of bile.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The mumbling sociopath

As mentioned in the previous post, there are despicable people in public life. One of them happens to be the governor of Minnesota:
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday vetoed the tax and budget bills that included the main work of the Republican-led Legislature and vowed he would not call a special session to work things out, saying, "They had their chance."

While the bills contained proposals supported by Democrats and Republicans, Dayton days earlier had telegraphed his problems with the legislation. Just a few hours before the midnight Sunday deadline for bills to pass, Dayton dashed Republican hopes that there was enough to like in tax and budget bills.

He renewed those criticisms Wednesday after the vetoes.

He described the budget bill as "not meant to be something I could sign. It was meant to be something they (Republicans) could take around the state." The tax legislation, he added was "skewed to big corporations and wealthy people, and it was unacceptable."
The Republicans will be going around the state anyway. They come to St. Paul from all corners, unlike the coterie of Metrocrats who mostly reside within 10 miles to either side of the 694/494 loop. And these Republicans will have to report that a mumbling sociopath decided it was better to make their lives more difficult because tax cuts cannot happen. There's more:
Overall, though, he ripped Republicans for bills he said were meant only for "re-election campaign slogans."

The tax bill veto could cause headaches for Minnesotans filing their taxes next year. It was intended to bring state tax law in alignment with federal tax law changes.

Conforming the federal tax code was high on lawmakers' to-do list this session because not conforming will mean complicated tax forms next year and possible increases for some Minnesotans.
Minnesotans deserve the complications, you understand. Too many of them voted for Republicans. Can't have that.

Just so we're clear

  • I hold no brief for Tomi Lahren; the next time I see her on television will be the first time. I hear she shows up on Fox News. Don't know.
  • I do know this: throwing drinks at people you don't like is never an acceptable practice. I can think of dozens of people in public life who are despicable. I would never throw a drink at any of them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Late Spring

"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked. 

"Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly." 

 -- Ernest Hemingway, "The Sun Also Rises"

Suddenly, we are learning things. Andrew McCarthy:
See, it has always been suspicious that the anonymous current and former government officials who leak classified information to their media friends have been unable to coordinate their spin on the start of “Crossfire Hurricane” — the name the FBI eventually gave its Trump-Russia investigation.
When it began matters a lot. Back to McCarthy:
With the revelation last week that the Obama administration had insinuated a spy into the Trump campaign, it appeared that we were back to the original, Page-centric origination story. But now there was a twist: The informant, longtime CIA source Stefan Halper, was run at Page by the FBI, in Britain. Because this happened just days after Page’s Moscow trip, the implication was that it was the Moscow trip itself, not the dossier claims about it, that provided momentum toward opening the investigation. Then, just a couple of weeks later, WikiLeaks began publicizing the DNC emails; this, we’re to understand, shook loose the Australian information about Papadopoulos. When that information made its way to the FBI — how, we’re not told — the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation was formally opened on July 31. Within days, Agent Peter Strzok was in London interviewing Downer, and soon the FBI tasked Halper to take a run at Papadopoulos.

I’m not buying it.
I'm not either. More:

Last week, as controversy stirred over the possibility that the Obama administration had used a spy against the Trump campaign, the eagle eye of the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel caught a couple of key passages from the House Intelligence Committee’s recent report on Russian interference in the election — largely overlooked passages on page 54.
It turns out that, in “late spring” 2016, the FBI’s then-director James Comey briefed the principals of the National Security Council on “the Page information.” As the Washington Examiner’s Byron York observes in a perceptive column today, NSC principals are an administration’s highest-ranking national-security officials. In Obama’s National Security Council, the president was the chairman, and among the regular attendees were the vice-president (Joe Biden), the national-security adviser (Susan Rice), and the director of national intelligence (James Clapper). The heads of such departments and agencies as the Justice Department (Attorney General Loretta Lynch) and the CIA (Director John Brennan) could also be invited to attend NSC meetings if matters of concern to them were to be discussed.

We do not know which NSC principals attended the Comey briefing about Carter Page. But how curious that the House Intelligence Committee interviewed so many Obama-administration officials who were on, or who were knowledgeable about, the NSC, and yet none of them provided a date for this meeting more precise than “late spring” 2016.
If this is true, we're now into "what did the president know and when did he know it" territory. It's worth remembering that Andrew McCarthy isn't a carnival barker like Sean Hannity and he is writing from National Review, which has been the primary Never Trump calliope in right-wing media. So what happened? McCarthy looks at the timeline and makes an educated guess:
There are many different ways the Obama administration could have reacted to the news that Page and Manafort had joined the Trump campaign. It could have given the campaign a defensive briefing. It could have continued interviewing Page, with whom the FBI had longstanding lines of communication. It could have interviewed Manafort. It could have conducted a formal interview with George Papadopoulos rather than approaching him with a spy who asked him loaded questions about Russia’s possession of Democratic-party emails.

Instead of doing some or all of those things, the Obama administration chose to look at the Trump campaign as a likely co-conspirator of Russia — either because Obama officials inflated the flimsy evidence, or because they thought it could be an effective political attack on the opposition party’s likely candidate.

From the “late spring” on, every report of Trump-Russia ties, no matter how unlikely and uncorroborated, was presumed to be proof of a traitorous arrangement. And every detail that could be spun into Trump-campaign awareness of Russian hacking, no matter how tenuous, was viewed in the worst possible light.
We are now approaching the "late spring" of 2018, two years on. Sunlight has been gradual at best, but we're learning things suddenly now. And Andrew McCarthy isn't the only one looking for answers:
Congressional Republicans have been calling for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate alleged misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department for months now, and finally, a group of them will be introducing a resolution on Tuesday asking for just that.
Up to now, the Obama leftovers in the Justice Department, i.e., most everyone, have been trying to stonewall or kick things down the road. The latest gambit has been turn these new matters over to the Inspector General investigating other related shenanigans, but there's a jurisdictional issue there:
Washington D.C. attorney Victoria Toensing on Monday called Rosenstein's offer to expand the investigation "embarrassing and "a scam."

"He’s going to have the IG look into it? The IG? Now how is the IG going to talk to Sally Yates, who has left the Department?" she asked.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions two months ago, joining other congressmen in calling for the appointment of a second special counsel for that very reason.

“When I counted up 24 witnesses that he would not be able to access were he to investigate it, yeah only one conclusion, that’s special counsel,” Gowdy told Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer on Special Report back in March. Horowitz has no access to "anyone who no longer works for the Department of Justice, FBI, State Department," Gowdy explained.

Included on the list of witnesses would be former FBI director James Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, James Rybicki (Comey’s former chief-of-staff), and Clinton fixers Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer. Another name that could be added to the list is alleged FBI informant Stefan Halper.
Just a guess -- Donald Trump is going to see the wisdom of this request and make it happen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The walls close in

You sense the president is beginning to notice the whip in his hand:

Read it top to bottom
You could tell John Brennan is panicking based on his tweet from the other day, in which he demands that Congress stop Trump:

Wait, Congress controls the Executive Branch?
Brennan knows Ryan and McConnell cannot stop Donald Trump from pulling back the curtain on Brennan's perfidy. What he really wants is for Ryan to call off Devin Nunes and McConnell to call off Chuck Grassley. Why is that? Well, consider the interesting question Grassley is asking:
In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Iowa Republican requested emails, phone logs, handwritten notes and text messages regarding former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr’s communications with Christopher Steele, who wrote the dossier. The report was commissioned by Fusion GPS, where Ohr’s wife worked.

In addition, Grassley asked to schedule a transcribed interview with Ohr. Grassley said he was concerned that Ohr, who was demoted last year, had continued to send the FBI information from Steele, a former British spy, even after the bureau sought to distance itself from him over his contacts with the media.

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman also asked Rosenstein to ensure that the committee “receives timely access to or possession of all documents on equal terms provided to other congressional committees related to the controversies described in this letter and the investigation that has been publicly reported as ‘Crossfire Hurricane.’”
That's not going to go well for Swampy Brennan. And then there's Nunes:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has demanded the FBI/Department of Justice documents relating to the origin of the counterintelligence investigation. As Nunes has persisted, anonymous authorities resisting his demand commenced a leak campaign with stories planted in the New York Times and the Washington Post (story linked here) this past Friday evening, both full of information all but identifying Stefan Halper as an informant working with the FBI to probe the Trump campaign.

Who is Halper? He is gingerly described as “[a] Cambridge professor with deep ties to American and British intelligence.” In its editorial “The FBI informant who wasn’t spying,” the Wall Street Journal states: “He has worked as a longtime U.S. intelligence source for the FBI and the CIA.”

The leak campaign of the anonymous authorities who took to the Times and the Post for the stories that surfaced late Friday was intended in part falsely to defame Nunes. 
The swamp invited Nunes and Cong. Trey Gowdy to a meeting, which would then be leaked, but Nunes didn't go. The leak happened anyway and it blew up in the faces of the Swamp. It's amusing, really.

We're going to know a lot more in the coming weeks. And it's going to be very, very bad for Brennan and his pals.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Home Truth

Another sighting of the rarest of all birds, the honest Democrat. Former Clinton hand Mark Penn, writing for The Hill:
Stopping Mueller isn’t about one president or one party. It’s about all presidents and all parties. It’s about cleaning out and reforming the deep state so that our intelligence operations are never used against opposing campaigns without the firmest of evidence. It’s about letting people work for campaigns and administrations without needing legal defense funds. It’s about relying on our elections to decide our differences.
More, a lot more, at the link.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The dog that still isn't barking

Andrew McCarthy continues to unwrap the real scandal in the Trump/Russia investigation, but see if you can spot the problem with this otherwise excellent bit of analysis:
The fons et origo of the counterintelligence investigation was the suspicion — which our intelligence agencies assure us is a fact — that the Democratic National Committee’s server was hacked by covert Russian operatives. Without this cyber-espionage attack, there would be no investigation. But how do we know it really happened? The Obama Justice Department never took custody of the server — no subpoena, no search warrant. The server was thus never subjected to analysis by the FBI’s renowned forensics lab, and its evidentiary integrity was never preserved for courtroom presentation to a jury. 
How come? Well, you see, there was an ongoing election campaign, so the Obama Justice Department figured it would be a terrible imposition to pry into the Democrats’ communications. So, yes, the entire “Russia hacked the election” narrative the nation has endured for nearly two years hinges on the say-so of CrowdStrike, a private DNC contractor with significant financial ties to the Clinton campaign. 
In Investigations 101, using foreign-intelligence authorities to spy on Americans is extraordinary, while taking custody of essential physical evidence is basic. By the way, the government’s failure to ensure the evidentiary integrity of the DNC server by taking possession of it and performing its own rigorous testing on it makes it practically impossible to prosecute anyone for “colluding” in Russia’s cyber-espionage. It’s tough to prove that anyone conspired in something unless you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the something actually happened the way you say it happened. To do that in a courtroom, you need evidence — a confident probability analysis by your intelligence agencies won’t do.

Emphasis in original. Still, there's something important here -- the question isn't about CrowdStrike, or about the FBI's perfidy. The real question is why the DNC didn't want their server to be analyzed? Any guesses? I have two:

  • If the FBI analyzed the server, they'd have found some things the DNC would not have wanted anyone to know
  • Was the server actually hacked? Or did the information come out in some other way, like grabbed on a zip drive?
Someone knows the truth. A lot of very powerful people in Washington don't want the truth to come out. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Open thread

Overslept this morning, so no time to blog. But I know my faithful readers have many things to share.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

It's a gas, gas, gas

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at the morning driving rain
But it's all right now, in fact, it's a gas
But it's all right. I'm Jumpin' Jack Flash
It's a gas, gas, gas

It's starting to hit the fan. We now have a name for what was happening in 2016 -- Crossfire Hurricane:
The FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia was originally known as "Crossfire Hurricane" before it was widely known to the public and even the bureau itself, officials told The New York Times.

The case, named after a Rolling Stones lyric, was used by only the small group of agents sent to interview the Australian ambassador to the United Kingdom, who had evidence of possible collusion between Russia and a Trump adviser. 
What this means -- at the behest of someone within the Obama administration, the FBI was spying on the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. This isn't G. Gordon Liddy and his crew breaking into the Watergate -- this is the executive branch actively interfering in a presidential campaign. This is huge.

We can also assume the Inspector General's report is imminent and that the reportage we're seeing now is an attempt to get out ahead of the story. If the trail leads back to the White House, we're talking about a political scandal that makes all the others look like a game of checkers.

A guess on how this plays out:

  • The IG report drops and it's damming
  • Trump then, finally, declassifies all of the information -- the redactions and ass-covering included
  • As the corruption oozes forward, it becomes quite easy for Trump to shut down Mueller, so he does
So you remember the notion that the Obama administration was "remarkably scandal-free?" Guess not.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Tom Wolfe, RIP

Tom Wolfe was one of the great writers and chroniclers of the American scene. He passed away yesterday at the age of 88. Most people know him from Bonfire of the Vanities, or The Right Stuff, but one of my favorite pieces remains his sly look at the bien pensant New York of 1970, Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers:

. . . and now, in the season of Radical Chic, the Black Panthers. That huge Panther there, the one Felicia is smiling her tango smile at, is Robert Bay, who just 41 hours ago was arrested in an altercation with the police, supposedly over a .38-caliber revolver that someone had, in a parked car in Queens at Northern Boulevard and 104th Street or some such unbelievable place, and taken to jail on a most unusual charge called “criminal facilitation.” And now he is out on bail and walking into Leonard and Felicia Bernstein’s 13-room penthouse duplex on Park Avenue. Harassment & Hassles, Guns & Pigs, Jail & Bail—they’re real, these Black Panthers. The very idea of them, these real revolutionaries, who actually put their lives on the line, runs through Lenny’s duplex like a rogue hormone. Everyone casts a glance, or stares, or tries a smile, and then sizes up the house for the somehow delicious counterpoint . . . Deny it if you want to! but one does end up making such sweet furtive comparisons in this season of Radical Chic . . . There’s Otto Preminger in the library and Jean vanden Heuvel in the hall, and Peter and Cheray Duchin in the living room, and Frank and Domna Stanton, Gail Lumet, Sheldon Harnick, Cynthia Phipps, Burton Lane, Mrs. August Heckscher, Roger Wilkins, Barbara Walters, Bob Silvers, Mrs. Richard Avedon, Mrs. Arthur Penn, Julie Belafonte, Harold Taylor, and scores more, including Charlotte Curtis, women’s news editor of the New York Times, America’s foremost chronicler of Society, a lean woman in black, with her notebook out, standing near Felicia and big Robert Bay, and talking to Cheray Duchin.

Cheray tells her: “I’ve never met a Panther—this is a first for me!” . . . never dreaming that within 48 hours her words will be on the desk of the President of the United States . . .
This is a first for me. But she is not alone in her thrill as the Black Panthers come trucking on in, into Lenny’s house, Robert Bay, Don Cox the Panthers’ Field Marshal from Oakland, Henry Miller the Harlem Panther defense captain, the Panther women—Christ, if the Panthers don’t know how to get it all together, as they say, the tight pants, the tight black turtlenecks, the leather coats, Cuban shades, Afros. But real Afros, not the ones that have been shaped and trimmed like a topiary hedge and sprayed until they have a sheen like acrylic wall-to-wall—but like funky, natural, scraggly . . . wild . . .
These are no civil-rights Negroes wearing gray suits three sizes too big—

—no more interminable Urban League banquets in hotel ballrooms where they try to alternate the blacks and whites around the tables as if they were stringing Arapaho beads—

—these are real men!
Not much has changed over the last 48 years. I don't know about the Panthers, but Tom Wolfe was a real man. RIP.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Yes, an investigation is in order

The local Fox affiliate in the Twin Cities has a huge story:
 Minnesota lawmakers are scheduling a hearing for Tuesday after the Fox 9 Investigators exposed daycare fraud that could be costing taxpayers millions of dollars and some of that money could be making its way to terrorists overseas.

Carry-on suitcases filled with as much as a million dollars in cash are regularly leaving on flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to the Middle East. Last year alone, government agents determined the money transfers amounted to over a $100 million. They believe a sizeable amount is coming from fraud in the state's childcare assistance program, which offers government subsidies to low-income families.

At least 10 daycare centers are currently under active investigation for overbilling the state. Most of those centers are owned by Somali immigrants. Members of the community told Fox 9 that the fraud is widespread. It's believed some of the funds are being sent in the form of remittance payments to relatives in their homeland. Investigators also believe terrorist groups are demanding a cut of the money when it arrives overseas.
I would not be surprised if the $100 million figure is conservative. We give away a lot of money for childcare expenses. How does it work? From the original story at Fox 9:
Five years ago the Fox 9 Investigators were first to report that daycare fraud was on the rise in Minnesota, exposing how some businesses were gaming the system to steal millions in government subsidies meant to help low-income families with their childcare expenses.

“It’s a great way to make some money,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.

In order for the scheme to work, the daycare centers need to sign up low income families that qualify for child care assistance funding.

Surveillance videos from a case prosecuted by Hennepin County show parents checking their kids into a center, only to leave with them a few minutes later. Sometimes, no children would show up.

Either way, the center would bill the state for a full day of childcare.

Video from that same case shows a man handing out envelopes of what are believed to be kickback payments to parents who are in on the fraud.

When asked where the money was going, Freeman said, “I don’t know exactly where it went. But it adds up when you begin to look at how many people were involved."
It sure does. Somalia is an awful place and I can't hardly blame people for wanting to leave there. At the same time, if people want to come here, it's reasonable to expect them not to participate in welfare fraud.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Try tellin' everybody but, oh no

Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, is a smart man. And he's noticed something:
Like it or not, a significant number of Americans are actually happy these days. They are making money. They feel safe, and they agree with with the president’s protectionist trade policies, his call for more American jobs, even his immigration stance.

The jobs growth reports, the North Korea summit and the steady economy are beating out the Stormy Daniels scandal and the Robert Mueller investigation in Middle America, hands down.

So you are not going to win back the House by making it all about him.
You, in this instance, would be the Democrats. There's more:
Rather than stoking the base by attacking Trump, Democrats need to come up with a platform that addresses the average voters’ hopes and concerns. Not just the needs of underdogs or whatever cause happens to be the media flavor of the week.

Democrats need to look like the adults, not like another pack of screaming kids on the playground.

And they need to start now.
It's advice the modern Democratic Party cannot and will not take.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Ask an expert

If the problem with the Trump administration is a tendency to collude, they really ought to get better at it. Perhaps they could ask some experts. The invaluable Judicial Watch has the details:
On May 17, 2017, Comey received notices to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee.

An email chain dated May 18 and 19, 2017, with the subject line “Future testimony” shows then-FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki, then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Assistant Director Gregory Brower, Comey and others discussing Comey’s upcoming testimony:

In this chain, on May 18 at 6:30 pm, Comey wrote to Rybicki to confirm that he had accepted the invitation to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) but declined the invitations from the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee.

Comey also writes: “Last, would you please tell OGC [Office of the General Counsel] that I would like to be able to review any documents authored by me or on which I am copied that will be produced to SSCI in connection with my testimony and would like the opportunity for that review before I testify?”

An email from a redacted sender, apparently Comey, to Rybicki dated May 19 at 11:49 am reads:


I just got off a call with Senators Burr and Warner. They would like to have a hearing next Wednesday at which I testify, first in open session and then in closed, if necessary. I asked them not to announce it until I check with FBI/DOJ to see if you want to discuss anything before they do that. I told them I had asked for guidance on any institutional prerogatives and for the opportunity to review any documents FBI has produced that relate to me. I told them I would communicate with them by the end of the day to either ask them to hold announcing the Wednesday hearing or go ahead.

Many thanks.


On May 19 at 2:10 pm, Rybicki writes back:

Director: We just met to discuss the requests outlined in the two emails below. Before responding the General Counsel has asked me to confirm that you have discussed with the attorneys representing you, and that you are comfortable discussing these issues with us rather than communicating through your counsel.

On May 19 at 3:02 pm, a redacted sender, likely Comey, responds to Rybicki: “Yes and yes.”
Remember, Comey had been fired at this point. Why was he still talking to people in the FBI and colluding with them? Do you suppose Michael Flynn was offered similar courtesies? And note that Comey was willing to talk to some committees, but not others. The House Oversight Committee is Trey Gowdy's shop -- not someone who Comey would want to deal with. As for the Senate Judiciary Committee, that's Chuck Grassley's group -- again, a potential adversary Comey wouldn't want. It's not surprising he'd rather see Senators Burr and Warner, who were far less likely to ask him tough questions.

The whole investigation has stunk from the get-go. And the reasons are all hiding in plain sight. No matter what you think of Donald Trump's vulgarian deportment, he is the duly elected president. That Comey and Mueller were working with the FBI to collude coordinate testimony tells you everything you need to know about the nature of Mueller's work. It's never been about justice. It's all about preserving fiefdoms. I don't want any of these goons to be lord of our manor.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

He's right, you know

Roger Kimball, discussing the wisdom of Judge T.S. Ellis:

The crux of Judge Ellis’s repartee with Robert Mueller’s thugs, er, prosecutors revolved around the legitimate exercise of power. His remarks have been quoted in dozens of columns. They deserve to be quoted in dozens, if not hundreds, more.

“What we don’t want in this country is we don’t want anyone with unfettered power,” Ellis said. “We don’t want federal judges with unfettered power. We don’t want elected officials with unfettered power. We don’t want anybody, including the president of the United States, nobody to have unfettered power. So it’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me that the special prosecutor has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants.”
So, Judge Ellis been quoted one more time. And he's right, you know. We had all manner of unfettered power when President Pen and Phone was in office. No matter what else you might think of Donald Trump, he's done us all a favor by rolling back his predecessor's excesses. And we need a whole lot more Judge Ellises in public life.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Good riddance

The Iran deal is dead, at least for now. And we can only hope the arrogant worldview that brought it about is gone as well. Matthew Continetti:
The worldview Trump opposes privileges therapy and dialogue over realism and hard decisions. It imagines that the Iranian theocracy is a reliable or trustworthy hedge against Sunni power and will liberalize gradually as the arc of justice progresses. These are the ideas that motivated the presidency of Barack Obama. The Iran deal was the signature achievement of Obama's second term, and it is now gone. In truth, though, Obama's legacy was disappearing long before Trump made his announcement. Obama's legacy, like much of his self-presentation, was a mirage, a pleasing and attractive image that, upon closer inspection, loses coherence.
You didn't have to inspect it that closely, actually. There's more:
Because he governed so extensively through executive order and administrative fiat, because he was so contemptuous of criticism and had a "my way or the highway" approach to negotiations with Republicans (though not with Iranians), the longevity of Obama's agenda depended heavily on his party winning a third consecutive term in the White House. As Tom Cotton warned the Iranians years ago, an agreement entered into by a president and not submitted to the Senate as a treaty can be abrogated by the next man who holds the office. Hillary Clinton's failure doomed the Iran deal and the reputations it had established. It was Barack Obama and John Kerry who allowed Donald Trump to exit the deal by rejecting longstanding procedure. Perhaps it was knowledge of this fact that inspired Kerry in his desperate attempt to preserve the agreement.
For all the claims we hear about his autocratic ways, Donald Trump isn't a tenth as imperious as his predecessor. And the timing of getting out of this deal is good, too. Iran took the money it received from Obama and used it on the battlefield in Syria. That hasn't worked out so well. There has always been plenty of unrest in the country, too. While no one loved the Shah, life was, in the main, better for a lot of Iranians back then. Consider this image from Tehran University in the early 1970s:

Could just as easily be the U.S.
 These women, assuming they still are alive, would be approaching the age of 70 today. I'm guessing the life they had then would look pretty good now. Watch what happens.

That son of a bitch Johnson

Eric Schneiderman, the early years:

He would never hurt you.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The sacred duty to march into a bayonet

In the middle of an otherwise excellent summation of the perfidy of the Justice Department's indefensible actions, particularly in the matter of Michael Flynn, National Review's Andrew McCarthy makes an observation that seems nothing less than bizarre:
It is simply ridiculous for President Trump to continue bloviating about this situation on Twitter and in friendly media interviews, and for congressional Republicans to continue pretending that the problem is Justice Department and FBI leadership — as if Trump were not responsible for his own administration’s actions. The president has not only the authority but the duty to ensure that his subordinates honor lawful disclosure requests from Congress.
McCarthy has to know that if Trump makes any move that compels the Justice Department to do anything that will likely redound to his benefit, it will essentially guarantee his impeachment. The only recourse Trump has is relying on the courts. And thus far, the courts are doing a good job of exposing Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, and the rest of the goon squad that Trump is not currently allowed to control. For his part, McCarthy lays it out quite well:
A little over a week ago, the House committee chaired by Representative Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) published its lengthy report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The report was actually completed weeks earlier but was withheld while the committee battled to disclose information that the Justice Department and FBI insisted on blacking out. As usual, the DOJ claimed that the declassification and release of the information would damage investigations and national security. No, it wouldn’t, countered Chairmen Nunes and other Republicans who knew what had been redacted.

When the Comey memos were finally disclosed, we learned that there was no investigative or national-security reason to have concealed them.

This has become a depressingly familiar dance. Justice and the Bureau previously insisted that the sky would fall if Congress forced the release of an Intelligence Committee report on government abuse of foreign-intelligence surveillance powers. To the contrary, we learned that the FBI and DOJ had used the unverified Steele dossier to obtain surveillance warrants on at least one person tied to the Trump campaign, in contravention of express guidelines that “only documented and verified information may be used to support FBI applications to the [FISA] court” (see Nunes’s March 1 letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions). In addition, we learned that the FISA court was not told that the dossier was a Clinton campaign opposition-research project, and that its author, Christopher Steele, had been terminated as an informant for lying to the FBI about his contacts with the media.
Everything that the FBI redacted was, in short, exculpatory to Flynn. Back to McCarthy:

The now-unredacted passages reveal that top Obama DOJ and FBI officials provided the committee with ‘conflicting testimony’ about why the FBI interviewed Flynn as if he were a criminal suspect.

Well, shortly after the redactions were lifted late on Friday, The Federalist’s Sean Davis got busy on Twitter, posting side-by-side comparisons of the original heavily redacted pages and the new, more transparent version. The disclosures are stunning. I know this will amaze you, but it turns out the redactions had absolutely nothing to do with concerns about the need to protect national security or pending investigations. Instead, the now-unredacted passages:
  • Elaborate on why the FBI did not believe Flynn had lied, including quotations from Comey’s testimony.
  • Reveal that for some period of time during 2016, the FBI conducted a counterintelligence (CI) investigation of Flynn.
  • Note that top Obama Justice Department and FBI officials provided the committee with “conflicting testimony” about why the FBI interviewed Flynn as if he were a criminal suspect.
  • Illustrate that the FBI and Justice Department originally insisted on concealment of facts helpful to Flynn that are already public.
So what was this all about? As usual, revenge:
The suggestion that Flynn’s post-election contacts with Russia were improper, let alone unlawful, is absurd. Flynn was the designated national-security adviser for the incoming administration and a key member of the Trump transition team. To have communications with officials of foreign governments was a legitimate and necessary part of his job.

It is worth noting that Flynn had been fired by Obama from his post as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and is despised by Obama intelligence officials for having become an ardent public adversary against Obama’s national-security policy, most prominently as candidate Trump’s most visible supporter. The interest of Obama’s DOJ and FBI in Flynn appears to have intensified after Trump won the election, when Flynn was presumed to be laying groundwork to reverse Obama’s positions — as Trump promised to do throughout the campaign.

While it is only natural that Obama officials would seethe over Flynn’s ascendancy, the suggestion that his post-election contacts with Russia were improper, let alone unlawful, is absurd. Flynn was the designated national-security adviser for the incoming administration and a key member of the Trump transition team. To have communications with officials of foreign governments was a legitimate and necessary part of his job. Plus, Kislyak was a foreign agent subject to FISA surveillance, so the FBI had recordings of his communications with Flynn and knew that Flynn had done nothing improper. (It has been presumed that Flynn’s communications with Kislyak were intercepted because Kislyak, not Flynn, was the subject of a FISA warrant; now, with confirmation that Flynn was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation, we may need to revisit that presumption.)
Yes, you probably should revisit the presumption. More:
Yes, yes, I know — technically, Flynn was prosecuted for making false statements about the conversation, not for having the conversation. Obama officials had hoped to nail Flynn on a heinous crime — a corrupt deal to drop the sanctions as a quid pro quo for Putin’s election-meddling that purportedly helped Trump win. Instead, all they could show was a trivial misstep: Flynn’s failure to acknowledge that sanctions were mentioned in his conversation with Kislyak — a mention so innocuous that the FBI couldn’t decide whether Flynn’s failure to describe it was a lie or an innocent failure of recollection.

Is this misstatement really why Flynn was pursued? I don’t think so. Obama officials hounded Flynn because, to this day, they remain vindictive toward political opponents who dared to engage in foreign affairs while Obama was still president. Democrats today are cheering former Secretary of State John Kerry’s rallying of foreign governments against President Trump’s determination to undo Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. They make no mention of possible violations of the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from acting on behalf of the U.S. in foreign-policy matters. Apparently, the Logan Act, which has never been successfully used to prosecute anyone, is alive and well only when it comes to General Flynn
So in a Justice Department still riddled with swampy Obama-era types, how should Trump solve the issue?
Republican committees can carp all they like about Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. The buck stops with the president.
The bayonet is affixed. March into it, Mr. Trump.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Slapped down

Is the Mueller juggernaut off the rails? Well, at least one key judge thinks so:
A federal judge in Virginia on Friday sharply questioned special counsel Robert Mueller’s authority to bring tax and bank fraud charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“I don’t see what relationship this indictment has with anything the special counsel is authorized to investigate,” said US District Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” Ellis told Mueller’s team, suggesting that they lied about the scope of the probe and are seeking “unfettered power” to bring down the president.
We don't really know what the special counsel is authorized to investigate, because Rod Rosenstein is stonewalling requests to find out. But Judge Ellis could throw out the Manafort case with prejudice, which would be a huge blow to Mueller.

Meanwhile, the Russian troll farms that that Mueller is supposedly dealing with are fighting back as well:
A federal judge has rejected special counsel Robert Mueller’s request to delay the first court hearing in a criminal case charging three Russian companies and 13 Russian citizens with using social media and other means to foment strife among Americans in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In a brief order Saturday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich offered no explanation for her decision to deny a request prosecutors made Friday to put off the scheduled Wednesday arraignment for Concord Management and Consulting, one of the three firms charged in the case.
This was supposed to be a slam-dunk. Now, maybe not:
The 13 people charged in the high-profile indictment in February are considered unlikely to ever appear in a U.S. court. The three businesses accused of facilitating the alleged Russian troll farm operation — the Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, and Concord Catering — were also expected to simply ignore the American criminal proceedings.

Last month, however, a pair of Washington-area lawyers suddenly surfaced in the case, notifying the court that they represent Concord Management. POLITICO reported at the time that the move appeared to be a bid to force Mueller’s team to turn over relevant evidence to the Russian firm and perhaps even to bait prosecutors into an embarrassing dismissal in order to avoid disclosing sensitive information.
The discovery request suggests the game these lawyers are playing:
Lawyers for the company accused of funding Russia’s election interference trolls are demanding that special counsel Robert Mueller turn over reams of information, including the identities of informants, details of any electronic surveillance, and a list of “each and every instance” since 1945 in which the U.S. “engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes in any foreign country.”
I hold no brief for Russian troll farms, but this request is pretty amusing, actually. Anybody up for a little discussion of Jacobo Arbenz? Or Iran, circa 1953? Or Obama trying to oust Netanyahu?

This is gonna get pretty interesting soon.

Friday, May 04, 2018

The rarest of all birds. . .

. . . at least in this era, is a Democrat who thinks through the implications of a course of action. Mark Penn, an old Bill Clinton hand, is one of those rare birds. And in a piece for The Hill, Penn lays it out concerning Rod Rosenstein:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s reaction to reports of possible impeachment for failing to respond to congressional subpoenas was to proclaim that the Justice Department “will not be extorted.”

I suppose he meant to say, “Only we here at the Justice Department do the extorting, with special counsels, daylight raids of people’s attorneys, bankrupting people with legal fees, threats to prosecute family members, and questionable wiretapping of Americans.”
All of these things have happened with Rosenstein overseeing the work of Robert Mueller, even though the oversight has been a wink and a nod. And Penn is just getting warmed up:
Last time I checked, the Constitution gave the elected representatives of the people the right to decide whether to impeach public officials for failure to comply with completely lawful subpoenas and appropriate oversight. They even provide Congress with immunity included in the Constitution to prevent threats from people like Rosenstein.

As the proposed questions for President Trump from special counsel Robert Mueller imply, just the act of the president raising issues or even having negative thoughts about the appropriateness of actions by Rosenstein, fired FBI director James Comey or Mueller can be investigated as possible obstruction of justice.

Thoughtcrime! Or if you prefer, shut up, Rosenstein explained. And Penn also reminds us of Rosenstein's perfidy at the outset of this drama:
This government within the government has now crossed a line that is unacceptable. By gaining the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rosenstein stepped into the shoes of the attorney general, even though he was not appointed to that role by the president.

Now he believes he is above the law despite the myriad of conflicts he has ignored to authorize these unlimited investigations of the administration he supposedly serves. Remember, Rod Rosenstein provided the memo supporting the firing of Comey and then turned around and installed Mueller, a friend of Comey’s, as special counsel, right after trying to get Mueller the position of head of the FBI.
And the proper course of action? Back to Penn:
Sessions should call Rosenstein in and demand that he comply fully with the subpoenas or fire him and replace him with someone who will fairly oversee the Russia investigation and who will comply with the lawful orders of Congress. Yes, all hell will break loose, but Rosenstein has now assumed unconstitutional powers, believing that he is accountable to no one but his own conception of the rule of law, and these comments reveal the truth that has been carefully hidden below the Harvard-educated patina of respectability.
And then there's this set of questions, which also deserve an answer:
And by the way, exactly who is paying for Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, and the continued work of Fusion GPS? Might that be donor money not being reported?
The longer this farce goes on, the worse it stinks. Penn understands that. We all need to understand it.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Rock and Roll!

I spent my morning writing time reading this list, with critic Bill Wyman (no relation to the bassist for the Stones) ranking the acts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from best to worst. I could write about this topic for days, but because I was too busy reading to write anything today, I'll just have you click the link and have a look for yourself. At first glance, I'd say he overrates the Ramones and Nirvana and underrates the Yardbirds, but your mileage may vary. Even though I believe the Hall of Fame to be a dubious venture, rock history matters. You could start a hundred arguments with this list. And you can start in the comments section.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Oversight is for other people

Image result for rod rosenstein
Shut up, he explained
Rod Rosenstein doesn't like answering questions:
After months of conceding to demands from a small group of House Republicans for more visibility into continuing investigations, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, pushed back on Tuesday, declaring that the Justice Department “is not going to be extorted.”

His comment came the day after revelations that several of those Republicans, led by Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina and other loyalists of President Trump, had drafted articles of impeachment to use against Mr. Rosenstein in case the long-simmering dispute with the deputy attorney general boiled over.
He's quite full of himself, actually:
Mr. Rosenstein said he had been threatened, though he did not name the Republicans.

“There have been people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time,” he said. “And I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”
Uh, Mr. Rosenstein? Congress has an absolute right to demand your cooperation. They have oversight over the Justice Department and they control your budget. If they want something, it's your duty to provide it. It's not extortion. Just so we're clear.

I've seen this idea floating around for a while now, that somehow the Justice Department needs to be independent of the Executive Branch. I would be hard pressed to think of anything that would be worse than having an organization with the power to put people in jail being able to avoid accountability. It's the unstated dream of all the bureaucrats in Washington. It's also what Donald Trump means when he talks about the swamp. And whatever you think about Trump generally, he's 100% correct in his assertions about the nature and general perfidy of the permanent bureaucracy in our nation's capital.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Meanwhile, in New Brighton

The cabal that runs New Brighton got their wish last year, finally ousting Gina Bauman, the turbulent priest of the city council. And to make sure they kept things the way they wanted, they changed the terms of their election to add an extra year to their terms, ostensibly to save money, or so they say.

Our friends at Enlighten New Brighton pick up the tale:
Ever since the New Brighton City Council gave themselves a one year term extension without the consent of the voters they have been actively trying to spin the situation to defend their unethical action. Their self serving, logically tortured arguments have come up in public meetings, official city publications, and a taxpayer financed campaign-style mailing. Regardless of the venue or vehicle the arguments are tired and lame, and apparently not impressing the voters.

The Council's unethical actions have also apparently gotten the attention of the Minnesota legislature, prompting language in an Election Omnibus Bill (SF3021) that includes language that clarifies that City Councils cannot change existing terms by changing the election cycle. During the debate on this legislation New Brighton City officials passionately, but futilely, testified against this provision with their usual specious (to put it politely) arguments.
SF3021 will almost certainly pass -- both the legislature and (crucially) Secretary of State Steve Simon support the bill, so there's almost no chance of a veto, although you never know what Mark Dayton will do, since most of the time he doesn't know, either.

Leave that aside, though. The larger point is this; twice now the New Brighton City Council has tried to change terms of elections to benefit their agenda. They are about to get slapped down again. Despite this, they persist in such behavior. It's a bad situation. We're continuing to keep an eye on their shenanigans.