Archive for Political Science Fiction

Credulity in the 21st century

Patrick Nonwhite, one of the two wise guys behind the DPRK News Service, billed as the “Official News feed of Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea,” has learned that some people simply have to believe in things, no matter how absurd. He relays this tale:

Our first big media mention, in which Greta Van Susteren, then at Fox and now at MSNBC, quoted us in her Fox blog as proof that North Korea was behind the hacking of Sony Pictures at the time The Interview was released. Plenty of people, including me through another account, told her she might be wrong about this, then she doubled down by stating that while “some say” the account is a parody, she believed it to be true. Then I predicted what the account would tweet ten minutes in the future. My prediction was correct. She took the blog post down and sent it to the memory hole. (I should add Ms. Van Susteren is a very nice person.)

Just don’t try to tell her she might be wrong.

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But hey, it’s not a tax

“We didn’t come to the State Capitol to start raising taxes.”

Um, there’s a budget hole you could steer an aircraft carrier through, and the state constitution forbids deficit spending.

“Listen up, goddamn it. We didn’t come to the State Capitol to start raising taxes.”

And so it came to pass that this came to pass:

Letter from Child Support Services announcing a new fee

After all, those custodial parents are just rolling in extra cash these days.

Aren’t they?

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Still the water comes in

Debt ceiling? What a joke:

This whole debt ceiling business is a gigantic scam.

It comes up every several months, and when it does, politicians on both sides of the aisle spend a few weeks hyperventilating about it, with the GOP yammering that they will not approve a debt hike without some minor (and meaningless) Democrat concession of some sort, while the Democrats squeal that the GOP is playing fast and loose with the financial status of the US government and economy, and we’re all gonna die.

Pure theater, and not very exciting, or even amusing, theater at that.

Here’s the truth: the debt ceiling is always going to be hiked, no matter what. By the time it reaches a hundred trillion dollars (and a hundred trillion dollars will buy you a one- pound bag of rice), it will still be raised.

This is a non-issue, and Trump is absolutely correct to treat it as one. The GOP is just pissed because he’s taking one of their most prized hobby horses off the table and they lose one of their favorite venues for political posturing.

The GOP holds 52 (of 100) Senate seats. What do you think they’d be doing differently if they held 62 or 72?

Based on what I’ve seen, the answer is “Not a damn thing.”

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Turning up for turnout

There is, I decided, not a whole lot of emotional gratification in the absentee ballot; mostly, it reminds me that I am old and infirm. And frankly, passing in front of a mirror tells me that every stinking day.

So I betook myself to the actual polling place and hiked (well, with the walker) about 50 feet uphill. A guy in a Cox truck stared at me in disbelief. “Where’d you park?”

I pointed to my car, six spaces away.

“You want me to move your car up here?” “Up here” was along the side of the building, adjacent to the one officially marked handicap space.

“I’ll be all right,” I said.

He nodded — this is not something anyone wants to argue about — and grabbed the door for me.

And at about 5:03 pm, I started on the three pages of ballot. I’d pretty much made up my mind beforehand, so I really didn’t need to read all that legal verbiage. And the machine responded with 1024, 1025 and 1026; assuming everyone filled out all three pages — there’s no reason to assume otherwise, since there’s one poll worker dedicated to the task of handing you all three of them — I was the 324th voter.

Incidentally, the person in front of me was a long-legged young woman in a short leg cast; as I was leaving, a gentleman about my age arrived in a wheelchair. Had I had any doubts about what I was doing, I would have felt vindicated right about then.

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On the ballot tomorrow

They’re asking for a whole lot of money, as usual:

  • Ordinance No. 25,750: A new quarter-cent sales tax, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
  • Ordinance No. 25,751: A temporary, 1-cent sales tax to begin Jan. 1, 2018, and expiring April 1, 2020, to fund capital improvement projects.
  • Proposition 1: A $490.56 million bond issue for street construction and repair projects.
  • Proposition 2: A $26.795 million bond issue for bridge construction, repair and rehabilitation projects.
  • Proposition 3: A $27.585 million bond issue for the construction, repair and maintenance of traffic control equipment.
  • Proposition 4: A $60 million bond issue for economic and community development, including job creation programs.
  • Proposition 5: A $137.72 million bond issue for construction, expansion and improvement of city parks.
  • Proposition 6: A $23.91 million bond issue for the construction of a new library and remodeling, equipping and improvements at existing libraries.
  • Proposition 7: A $20.185 million bond issue for renovations, furnishings and improvements at buildings in the Civic Center Complex.
  • Proposition 8: A $20.395 million bond issue for upgrades to the city’s transit system, including the purchase of buses and improvements to bus stops.
  • Proposition 9: A $13.085 million bond issue for expanding, renovating and improving the city’s Central Maintenance Facilities Complex at SW 15 and S Portland Avenue.
  • Proposition 10: A $62.17 million bond issue for improving and equipping the city’s drainage control system.
  • Proposition 11: An $8.865 million bond issue for repairs, renovations and improvements at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
  • Proposition 12: A $30.84 million bond issue for the construction of a new Police Training Center, to be a part of a new combined Police-Fire Training Center.
  • Proposition 13: A $45.35 million bond issue for the construction of a new Fire Training Center, to be a part of a new combined Police-Fire Training Center.

I expect all the bond issues to pass, since nobody will notice how they’re paid: through a small levy as part of the property tax. Over the years, the city has made an effort to keep that levy at or below 16 mills; it is currently 14.81 mills.

The MAPS 3 sales tax ends 31 December 2017; this new penny would kick in the next day. So the only “new” tax is that quarter-cent, which is intended to pay for more firefighters and police officers. This is over and above the 0.75 cent currently levied for public safety. Should both sales-tax measures pass, the combined state and city sales tax will rise to 8.625 percent.

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DACAdaisical

The definitive explanation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals mess:

In our government, the president is charged with executing the laws of our nation. Congress passes those laws. Mr. Obama used his authority to decide not to enforce certain immigration laws against a specific set of people — children brought here illegally who are now grown. They were thus safe from prosecution while he was president, and would have remained so until a successor decided to enforce those laws. Which is what we have happening now.

My friend may or may not be right that ending DACA is evil and cruel, but because DACA came into being as a presidential whim it can depart in the same way. Mr. Obama probably was and is concerned with how the people affected by DACA are treated and about the problems their situations create for them. But he was not concerned enough to try to get a law enacted that would have made that concern outlast his term. You might say that the timing of the DACA policy, five months before a presidential election, means that it was at its core a cynical grab at Hispanic voters. This would make you more cynical than me, but not very much, because I’m pretty sure that possibility motivated some of the folks in the White House even if not Mr. Obama himself.

Whatever the cause, though, the reality is that from January 20, 2009 to January 5, 2011, Mr. Obama’s party controlled the White House and both branches of Congress. Had something like DACA been a high priority, it could have been made into law at any time during those two years. Persons now upset by the end of DACA may blame Mr. Trump for ending it, but they should also blame Mr. Obama for half-assing it in the first place and giving the current president the opening.

Half-assing it seems to be more the rule than the exception in Washington these days. In fact, there are times when they can’t even be bothered to quarter-ass it.

Addendum: Spellchecker is unnerved by “half-assing,” but pays no attention to “quarter-ass.”

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Meanwhile in Minneapolis

The political spouse who can speak eloquently on behalf of the candidate is seldom seen or heard from; at the national level way back in 2016, Bill Clinton probably came the closest, though his efforts were marred by signs of ill health and by the general ineptitude of the Hillary campaign.

A friend of mine is running for a City Council seat in Minneapolis. And her wife, I suggest, has more than risen to the challenge:

In 2012, Erica decided she wanted to run a marathon in her hometown of Detroit. Once the decision was made, Erica kicked into gear. She read up on several training methods and synthesized the information to create a training schedule for herself. She was well-planned, deliberate and, literally, took the process one step at a time. She ran in the winter, she ran in the summer, she ran in the rain, she ran when she didn’t feel like running, she ran when she thought she couldn’t run any longer. Erica ran.

On October 20, 2013, Erica ran the Detroit Marathon. The day was bright, chilly, and windy. I stood near the start and watched her begin the race. Erica ran. I went back up to our hotel room to warm up. Erica ran. A little while later, I took the train to my next Erica-viewing post. Erica ran. After that, I headed to Starbucks to get something warm to drink. Erica ran. Another train ride took me close to the finish. Erica ran. I placed myself at Mile 25.8. I didn’t know what to expect when I saw Erica. As she ran around the corner, she saw me and smiled. My heart swelled with pride and love. Erica ran for four hours, fifty-six minutes, and twenty-seven seconds. She did not give up.

In March of 2015, I mentioned to Erica that I’d like to run a half marathon. Erica said she’d run it with me. She put together a training schedule for me. I am NOT a runner. She ran with me for the first few months, encouraging me along the way. Once I felt more comfortable, I sometimes ran on my own, but I always felt better with her by my side. On September 13, 2015, we ran the City of Lakes Half Marathon. Erica stayed with me the whole time. When we hit mile 12 and I started whimpering (just a little), she took my hand and we ran up the last hill together. Without Erica, there is no way I would have finished the training and completed the half marathon. She helped me go the distance.

The Erica I know makes things happen. She gathers as much information as possible, thinks critically, and comes to a decision about how best to use what she’s learned. She’s open to new ideas and is flexible when a plan isn’t working. Erica is passionate and dedicated. She uses her expertise to support others in achieving their goals. I remember when Erica first talked with me about her desire to run for Minneapolis City Council. That conversation took place in 2014. I believe that Erica will achieve her goal. Erica is the kind of person we need working for us on the City Council. She will not give up. She will go the distance for you, for me, and for all the residents of Minneapolis.

Disclosure: As I mentioned, Erica Mauter is a friend; we met in metro Detroit about a decade and a half ago. I have made a not-especially-huge financial contribution to her campaign because, well, she is my friend.

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Trailing the pack

During the latter years of the Obama administration, it was a fairly common trope on the political right to assume that anything put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics had been cooked to a fare-the-well by a corps of faceless operatives, loyal to the Bureau first and the President second and the American people somewhere around fifty-fourth.

Which is not to say that the Trump administration did a great deal to change those apparent priorities. In fact, it might simply be that the Bureau, in our data-hungry age, is still just barely beyond the abacus. For example:

The BLS website uses JavaScript to bring you various features. JavaScript is a software technology needed on most web pages for buttons, online forms, and other content to work properly. Important: Disabling JavaScript will cause some sites to not work properly. Click on the name of your browser to view instructions for enabling JavaScript.

And here are the choices you get:

Browsers recommended by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Netscape, fercrissake? And version 7, released in 2002, at that?

More dramatic, perhaps: Firefox 1.5.x. The current stable release is 55.0.3.

And near the bottom of the page, this revelation:

Last Modified Date: August 14, 2008

Well, thank you, George W. Bush.

(Via Ellie Kesselman.)

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Maybe now it’s settled

Background:

During the antebellum period, the Cherokee and other Southeast Native American nations known as the Five Civilized Tribes held African-American slaves and took them as workers and property to Indian Territory. After the American Civil War, the Cherokee Freedmen became citizens of the Cherokee Nation in accordance with a reconstruction treaty made with the United States in 1866.

In the early 1980s, the Cherokee Nation administration amended citizenship rules to require direct descent from an ancestor listed on the “Cherokee By Blood” section of the Dawes Rolls. The change stripped descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen of citizenship and voting rights unless they satisfied this new criterion. On March 7, 2006, the Cherokee Supreme Court ruled that the descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen were unconstitutionally kept from enrolling as citizens and were allowed to enroll in the Cherokee Nation. Chad “Corntassel” Smith, then-Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, called for an emergency election to amend the constitution in response to the ruling. After a petition was circulated, a special election held on March 3, 2007 resulted in a constitutional amendment that disenrolled the Cherokee Freedmen descendants. This led to several legal proceedings in United States and Cherokee Nation courts in which the Freedmen descendants continued to press for their treaty rights and recognition as Cherokee Nation members.

The 2007 constitutional amendment was voided in Cherokee Nation district court on January 14, 2011, but was overturned by a 4-1 ruling in Cherokee Nation Supreme Court on August 22, 2011. The ruling excluded the Cherokee Freedmen descendants from voting in the special run-off election for Principal Chief. After the freezing of $33 million in funds by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a letter from the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in response to the ruling, an agreement was made in federal court between the Cherokee Nation, the Freedmen descendants and the US government. This allowed the Freedmen descendants to vote in the special election.

Finally, this case seems to be settled:

A judge ruled Wednesday that the descendants of enslaved people who were owned by members of the Cherokee Nation — known as Cherokee Freedmen — have citizenship rights.

“The Cherokee Nation can continue to define itself as it sees fit,” U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan wrote in his ruling, “but must do so equally and evenhandedly with respect to native Cherokees and the descendants of Cherokee Freedmen.”

Cherokee Nation is not putting up a fight:

The tribe’s attorney general, Todd Hembree, said in a statement Thursday evening [pdf] that the Cherokee Nation does not intend to appeal the decision.

“The Cherokee Nation respects the rule of law, and yesterday we began accepting and processing citizenship applications from Freedmen descendants,” Hembree said. “While the U.S. District Court ruled against the Cherokee Nation, I do not see it as a defeat. As the Attorney General, I see this as an opportunity to resolve the Freedmen citizenship issue and allow the Cherokee Nation to move beyond this dispute.”

Good for him.

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Nazi, schmatzi

Our present-day “Nazis” are a rather poor imitation of the real thing, saith Thales of Florida:

No, not even the Swastika-bearing Stormfronters are proper Nazis. They are more akin to Nazi LARPers, role-playing or reenacting an ideology that died a long time ago. Even if they suddenly multiplied by several orders of magnitude, and became a real threat, their ideology while still being evil would not be actual Nazism, no matter what they may claim. Their evil is not Nazism. It’s like an absurd parody of Nazism. I mean, come on, Tiki Torches? They are the JV backbench of evil. And if they ever gained any measure of power, they would spend most of their time arguing who was whiter than thou while pretending they didn’t all have fetishes for Asian women.

Make no mistake, they are evil. But, again, evil is not coextensive with Nazism. Even though the Antifas are becoming a lot like the Nazis in some ways, they aren’t really Nazis either, though like the Stormfronters, they are evil. They, too, are a farcical form of evil. Unlike the Stormfronters, they have a measure of funding, media support, and popular support, which may make them a more prominent threat. And they are much larger, as a group. Quantity, of course, has a quality all of its own. Still, my suspicion is that if you put the Stormfronters and Antifas in a gladiator fight to the death, you would need two or three Antifas per Stormfronter to balance out the betting odds. Your mileage may vary.

The true measure, I suspect, is how much that battle royal would command via pay-per-view. At the moment, I can’t imagine it being more than about 89 cents.

(Title swiped from Professor Tom Lehrer.)

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A knock at lower volume

Last week, word got out that the Justice Department was seeking to force DreamHost, the home of several hundred thousand Web sites, this one included, to turn over any and all server records having to do with a leftish site called disruptj20.org. The company vowed to resist.

And here’s what’s happened since then:

After we went public with our concerns, the wave of public outcry from concerned citizens, judicial pundits, and commentators of all political backgrounds seemed to sink in. By Monday evening, the Department of Justice had relented and filed an amendment to remove some, but not all, parts of the data demanded in their warrant that we considered to be troubling.

We noted that the government took the relatively conspicuous step of filing its paperwork late Tuesday afternoon in what we can only speculate was an attempt to avoid further coverage by news media.

This late-in-the-game re-scoping of the request for data by the DOJ was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough. In fact, we filed a sur-reply [pdf] with the court in response [Wednesday] afternoon.

The public hearing took place yesterday, perhaps coincidentally while a DDoS attack was being mounted against all DH sites.

In the end, the judge agreed with a much-modified version of the motion to compel, and some of those modifications are serious:

The court has asked the DOJ to present it with a “minimization plan.” This plan is to include the names of all government investigators who will have access to this data and a list of all methods that will be used to comb through it in search of evidence.

The production of evidence from this trove of data will be overseen by the court. The DOJ is not permitted to perform this search in a bubble.

It is, in fact, now required to make its case with the court to justify why they believe information acquired is or is not responsive to (aka: “covered by”) the warrant.

The court will then seal any information that is acquired but then deemed to be “not responsive.” After that point, this information will not be available to the government without a court order.

Further, the Department of Justice is forbidden from disclosing the content of this responsive information to any other government agency. This is an uncommon step for the court to take, but it speaks to the sensitive content of this site and the First Amendment issues raised.

Comply with all these, said the court, and you can inspect what’s left. I have to figure that DOJ is not at all happy with this, but they’re not about to say so.

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Quote of the week

How the Left, in its zeal to destroy the past, destroys itself:

It is this ahistorical nature of the American Left that is at the root of this incoherent and pointless violence. The Left organized a great PR campaign in response to Charlottesville, but they threw it all away in an orgy of violence over the last week. The reason is they are locked into the moment, a moment bound on all sides by a rage against nature. They can’t think about how today’s action will be viewed tomorrow, because there is no tomorrow for these people. All that matters is the catharsis.

Men have always contemplated their place in the timeline. The Irish used to say that the past is a nightmare from which they never awake. This was, of course, in relation to the Troubles. Faulkner had Quentin Compson, his character in The Sound and the Fury, obsess over his family’s past, which was a stand in for the Old South. The Compson family was the emblem of the old, post Civil War South. Quentin finally smashes his pocket watch, a family heirloom, snapping off the hands, before he drowns himself in the Charles River.

And really, it was worse than that: Quentin was willing to confess to incest with sister Caddy — which didn’t actually happen, Caddy’s pregnancy being the responsibility of a man she would not name — in order to permit the family to keep up a front. But Quentin’s idea got no support from their father, who argued that virginity was severely overrated.

That’s the end for the Cult of Modern Liberalism. What has kept it going for generations was an easy to find collection of devils against which they could rally the true believers in a great cause. They have run out of devils and now they are digging up old graves, in an effort to bring back devils from the past. This rage will end in a great fire onto which they throw the old culture of America. Finally, when they have burned the last of it, they will throw themselves on the pyre, perhaps with some help from the rest of us.

At this point, I’m not sure whether I should bring a bucket of water or a gallon of gasoline.

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A brand-new beat

Actually, this particular rhythm has been building in the streets since the 1960s, though not everyone heard the call. Still, if you can’t forget the Motor City, there’s a very good reason why.

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Knock, knock

Who’s there? Why, the Feds, of course:

For the past several months, DreamHost has been working with the Department of Justice to comply with legal process, including a Search Warrant [pdf] seeking information about one of our customers’ websites.

At the center of the requests is disruptj20.org, a website that organized participants of political protests against the current United States administration. While we have no insight into the affidavit for the search warrant (those records are sealed), the DOJ has recently asked DreamHost to provide all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors.

Regular readers may recall that DreamHost has been bringing my site to you since the last day of 2001. So my interest in this case is not entirely theoretical.

Chris Ghazarian, our General Counsel, has taken issue with this particular search warrant for being a highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution.

The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website. (Our customer has also been notified of the pending warrant on the account.)

That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.

I’m pretty sure I’d be on the opposite side of the fence from the site’s operators and most of its users. But that doesn’t matter. This does:

The internet was founded — and continues to survive, in the main — on its democratizing ability to facilitate a free exchange of ideas. Internet users have a reasonable expectation that they will not get swept up in criminal investigations simply by exercising their right to political speech against the government.

We intend to take whatever steps are necessary to support and shield these users from what is, in our view, a very unfocused search and an unlawful request for their personal information.

The DOJ has appealed to the D. C. Superior Court for an order to force DreamHost to turn over all this data; DreamHost has filed arguments in opposition, and a hearing will be held Friday.

Addendum: DreamHost co-founder Dallas Kashuba is interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Update, 17 August: The hearing has been moved to the 24th. It is open to the public.

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The very fabric of society

Actually, the lack of fabric may matter in the upcoming German elections:

There can’t be many countries where a major political party’s leader would campaign on a nude beach. But German politician Gregor Gysi, leader of Die Linke, the anti-capitalist party that is the third biggest in the current parliament, has done so this week to bemoan the declining popularity of naturism in his country. In doing so, he’s tapped into a lingering east-west culture divide, and maybe a few extra votes.

Gysi’s political career started in East Germany where he was something of a dissident within the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED). In the 1980s, when Gysi was pushing for reform, the “free body culture,” or FKK as it is known in Germany, was widespread in Communist East Germany, a politically repressed people’s way of telling the world that they actually enjoyed freedom of a sort. In 1982, there were 40 official nude beaches in the Communist nation and lots of others that weren’t mentioned in the state-published guidebook.

This wasn’t, of course, due to any particular penchant for nudity among the Communists:

FKK became popular in Weimar Germany, where it was linked to both nationalism and to social-democratic pacifism. The Nazis banned naturism in 1933 but relaxed the rules soon afterwards under pressure from influential party members and SS officers who argued there was nothing wrong with the natural beauty of the German body. The Communists banned it again in the 1950s: They hated both the old social-democratic and Nazi associations, and they followed the prudish Soviet line on anything even remotely sex-related.” The ‘nudist unions’ were a by-product of the disintegration of imperialism in the area of body culture and sports,” the state sports organization declared in 1951. “As an expression of imperialist decadence, ‘nudist unions’ cannot be tolerated.” By 1954, nude bathing was largely banned from Baltic beaches even if it didn’t involve membership in any group.

The ban lasted two years before being lifted, mostly because nobody had bothered to follow it:

[I]n 1956, nude beaches were officially allowed, and though ad-hoc attempts to clear them out persisted for some years, it was clear that the naked people had won. FKK became an acceptable form of expressing individual freedom. By the time it collapsed, the East German regime had co-opted it. Official propaganda even pushed the nudist norm to the outside world as evidence of the country’s progressiveness.

Still, nudism is in decline all over the reunited Germany:

The drop in FKK’s popularity is probably due more to a growing Muslim population and the proliferation of high-resolution mobile phone cameras than to capitalist prudery and lasciviousness. In a changing world, it has been reduced to a niche that will never be as large as it was in a largely closed, homogeneous Communist country.

And probably never as small as it is in the US.

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New frontiers in legal advertising

Is anyone actually surprised by this anymore?

Ms Olenko is divorced, though for what reason I don’t know.

Side note: This must be a New York law: the pages of Olenko’s Web site bear the disclaimer “ATTORNEY ADVERTISING. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.” We need that sort of thing here.

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Looking for some common ground

“I really don’t like abortion,” I told the pleasant young woman from a group called Trust Women, “but I will not support the bans, or half-bans, that the state legislature keeps coming up with.”

Biggest text on their door hanger:

The ban on using private insurance for abortion care should be repealed. And politicians should leave medical decisions to women and their doctors.

Which, technically, is two separate issues, though I wasn’t very clear in making that declaration.

Not sure how she wrote that down in her book, but she didn’t scowl even once. And I have more than usual reason to be grateful for that: when the knock came, I pushed the door open only a little and tried to shoo her off the porch, warning her that I was at Wardrobe Zero. She said she didn’t mind, and so that’s how the discussion was conducted.

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Some people will defend this

What they can’t defend is how various governmental entities can slap nearly four dollars in taxes on a $6 carton of Sprite, and yet said governmental entities are utterly broke.

“But that stuff is not good for you” will not wash as a justification, either, unless you plan to tax Chicago residents based upon their home addresses.

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Because everything is political

And I do mean everything:

There followed an egregious violation of the First Rule of Holes:

Although you have to give the Globe, like every other daily in the States hard up for revenue, credit for getting two uses out of the same stupid graphic.

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Report from the Crust Inspector

Basically, we’re supposed to shut our pieholes:

If FederalGovCo were to set out to bake you a nice apple pie, it would require 200 paper-pushers to oversee the job; it would take ten years for the FDA to approve the recipe; it would end up costing about 700 dollars; and it would be so disgusting as to be inedible. If your grandma — who had baked a million of the things, all of which were perfectly delicious — tried to come into the kitchen to help out, she would be jailed for not having the proper license. If you complained about the taste, your honesty would get you a serious denunciation for “hate speech” for hurting the feelings of the eighteen transgender lunatics involved in the process as mandated by law, despite the fact that not one of them had ever baked so much as a Swanson’s chicken pot pie in their entire lives.

Then a blue-ribbon panel would be appointed to get to the bottom of the whole disaster, and Congressional Republicans would spend the next fourteen years holding hearings about it. In the end, we’ll all agree that it’s Trump’s fault — working together with the Russians, no doubt — and just say to hell with it and go to McDonald’s instead.

Which, oddly, would be the same conclusion reached by Congressional Democrats in their own caucus.

We’ve already learned, though, about not complaining about the taste.

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Buddy, gonna shut you down

By now, no one takes the threat of a “government shutdown” seriously, and it’s not hard to see why:

[W]hat “services” does the federal government provide that a majority of Americans would agree to classify as “essential?”

National defense? Well, yes, I think we could get majority concurrence on that one. But what others? The Postal Service is autonomous today. The interstate highway system pretty much “serves” us without need for human supervision, despite the occasional pothole. Would anyone much care whether the alphabet agencies were furloughed in their entirety? How about the staffs of our elected federal legislators? Surely the 535 elected nostrum-spouters in the Capitol could go without their regularly scheduled tongue baths for a few days without soiling their diapers, no?

Not according to Washington’s definition of “essential.” In Washingtonese, it appears to mean “whatever we choose to do, regardless of whether it benefits anyone but ourselves.”

I suspect that extra Necessity Points are scored by The New York Times:

President Trump has filled far fewer top jobs in cabinet or cabinet-level agencies than President Barack Obama had at this point in his presidency.

An infographic follows, and then:

This is largely because Mr. Trump has been exceptionally slow in nominating people to serve in leadership positions below the secretary level, according to a New York Times analysis. Mr. Trump has announced 38 percent of these positions, compared with 78 percent for Mr. Obama over the same period.

The implication is that Mr. Trump is, at best, inattentive to this particular duty.

Now: what government functions are failing for lack of high-level personnel?

Send me a postcard if you can think of one. Our autonomous Postal System will get it to me.

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Someone’s dream job

The trick is finding a vacancy in one of the 535 positions:

The press likes to tell us how unpopular the President is. Congress rates even lower. Our representative earn three times the average worker, exempt themselves from the laws they pass, vote themselves junkets and vacations at the taxpayer expense, get pensions for life and complain they need a housing allowance to make ends meet. Yet somehow every one of these guys and gals leaves office a multimillionaire. I don’t care how much you save and invest, $160K a year does not turn into tens of millions in a decade unless you get Hillary to teach you about cattle futures.

Oh, they catch on fast enough, believe me.

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He went to church incognito

The New York Post front page, following the resignation (effective next month) of White House press secretary Sean Spicer:

New York Post cover story: No More Mr. Spice Guy

Of course, he’s got no friends, because they read the papers.

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A bad idea whose time will never come

The perpetrator this time is Attorney General Sessions, who seeks more opportunities to rob the citizenry in the name of crime prevention:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will issue new directives to increase the federal govenment’s use of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice that allows law enforcement to seize property from suspected criminals without charging them with a crime.

Why? It’s profitable:

A 2014 Washington Post investigative series found that warrantless police seizures … have boomed since 9/11, hauling in $2.5 billion. Also in 2014, for the first time ever, the U.S. government seized more property from Americans than burglars did.

Burglars, at least, are honest about their intentions.

Peter Grant blasts this idea the way it needs to be blasted:

The State makes the claim, and then — without having to prove it — proceeds to confiscate the asset(s) that it alleges were financed through the claimed illegal activity. Their owner must then prove that the State is wrong before he or she can reclaim the asset(s) — at his or her expense. Many can’t afford that expense.

This is immoral on a fundamental level. It removes the burden of proof from the authorities, and places it on the individual. It’s not justice — it’s the antithesis of justice. If the asset(s) are confiscated after the defendant has been found guilty of a crime by a jury of his or her peers, that’s one thing. To just take them, without any legal justification whatsoever, is as much a crime as the misdeeds of which their owner may be suspected or accused.

At the state level, in only three states — Montana, Nebraska and North Carolina — a criminal conviction must be obtained before any assets can be seized. This should be the standard nationwide, and the Attorney General should embrace it. He won’t, of course.

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If you build it, they will [redacted]

Warren Meyer, spring 2015:

For some reason, it appears that building hotels next to city convention centers is a honey pot for politicians. I am not sure why, but my guess is that they spend hundreds of millions or billions on a convention center based on some visitation promises. When those promises don’t pan out, politicians blame it on the lack of a hotel, and then use public money for a hotel. When that does not pan out, I am not sure what is next. Probably a sports stadium. Then light rail. Then, ? It just keeps going and going.

Warren Meyer, summer 2017:

Finally, we may be at an end, though politicians are still hoping for some sort of solution that better hides what a sorry expenditure of tax money this really was.

What he means by “this”:

Phoenix has entered into exclusive negotiations to sell the city-owned Sheraton Grand Phoenix downtown hotel — the largest hotel in Arizona — for $255 million.

The city signed a letter of intent with TLG Phoenix LLC, an investment company based in Florida, to accept the offer and negotiate a purchase contract, city officials announced Tuesday evening.

But the deal faces criticism from some council members concerned about the loss to taxpayers. The city also attempted, unsuccessfully, to sell the hotel to the same buyer for a higher price last year.

If Phoenix ultimately takes the offer, the city’s total losses on the taxpayer-funded Sheraton could exceed $100 million.

The city still owes $306 million on the hotel and likely would have to pay that off, even after a sale. That would come on top of about $47 million the city has sunk into the hotel, largely when bookings dropped due to the recession.

Now how did the city of Phoenix end up owning a hotel?

When Phoenix leaders opened the Sheraton in 2008, they proclaimed it would be a cornerstone of downtown’s comeback. They had one goal in mind: lure big conventions and tourism dollars. Officials argued the city needed the extra hotel beds to support its massive taxpayer-funded convention center a block away.

Fortunately, that can’t possibly happen here.

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Rather familiar

Nawaz Sharif has served as the 12th, 14th, and (currently) 20th Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We may assume that he don’t like this:

The Panama Papers — a collection of documents leaked from off-shore law firm Mossack Fonseca in 2014 — included documents that appeared to indicate that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had accumulated a substantial fortune far beyond what he and his family legitimately earned. The Pakistani Supreme Court set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to determine where the money came from. Sharif produced documents to show that the money had been legitimately acquired, but the authenticity of those documents was in question. Daughter Maryam Sharif appeared to have signed forged documents to try to cover up the truth.

And how was the truth of the matter ascertained?

How was the forgery detected? A document purporting to have been written and signed in 2006 used Microsoft’s Calibri font. While Calibri was originally designed in 2004 and was available in betas of Windows Vista and Office 2007 throughout 2006, it didn’t actually ship in a stable version of Windows or Office until 2007. As such, its use in a document dated 2006 is extremely suspect. It’s not impossible that, for some reason, beta software was used to prepare the documents. But it is more than a little unlikely.

At least no one’s claiming they were done on an IBM Selectric.

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Few trophies

If it sometimes seems these days that President Trump is desperately searching for things he can brag about, the problem, I suspect, resides less on Pennsylvania Avenue than on the GOP wing of Capitol Hill:

[T]hese pathetic mooks aren’t actually trying at all. And do you think they are worried by threats that they might lose their majorities? Why would that bother them? The only way they truly feel comfortable in Washington is when they are in the minority. They have no more idea how to actually govern than any other similar collection of hand-puppets would.

Trump, I suspect, knows this perfectly well, and when he’s not running off at the tweet in an effort to monopolize the news cycle, he’s scheming to cut the GOP off at the knees. And he’ll do a better job of it than the Democrats, I think.

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A headline for a summer’s eve

The story, such as it is:

Mayor de Blasio — forgetting that he’s accountable to eight million Big Apple residents — blew off a Post reporter Saturday after he gave a speech in Hamburg, Germany.

The mayor did extensive interviews with German media after delivering a speech to activists protesting the gathering of world leaders at the G20 summit.

But when a reporter for The Post greeted de Blasio after he’d talked to the German reporters, he smiled, turned and walked away without any acknowledgment.

That, by itself, would not appear to be a big deal. But:

De Blasio flew to Hamburg on Thursday afternoon after skipping a somber NYPD swearing-in ceremony following the murder of officer Miosotis Familia.

And the combination led to this Post front-page headline:

Front page of New York Post 9 July 2017

This would never have worked if the G20 summit had been held in Spain.

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And they’re still broke

The Illinois Seventh District state representative:

If you thought your tax bill was going up from $1000 to $1012, you deserve this guy.

A resident of the state is displeased to correct his misfiguring:

My late brother, who spent a fair amount of time as a drunken sailor, would have objected strenuously to this characterization.

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More of that Us vs Them stuff

“If the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”

So said Richard Nixon, to David Frost in 1977. Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s last Attorney General, was utterly dedicated to that idea; Donald Trump, autocrat that he is, has made similar noises.

Now Nixon wasn’t around for Twitter, but I am persuaded that his own little fan club would loudly support him; partisans, at least as far as I can tell, will happily endorse this idea if their guy is President, and will loudly reject it otherwise. To test this notion, I tossed off an ad hoc Twitter poll; obviously, it’s not at all scientific, and the sample size is tiny, but the numbers lined up almost exactly the way I thought they would:

Persuaded as I am that almost everything the government does violates the Constitution in one way or another — well, okay, they’re allowed to deliver the mail — I just wonder where the hell we’ve been getting all these farging megalomaniacs, and the lackeys to serve at their beck and call.

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