Archive for Political Science Fiction

Quote of the week

Nary a statesman in the bunch, says Mike Hendrix:

When was the last time you heard any of these contemptible cretins referred to as a “statesman”? The very idea of comparing any of the villainous poltroons currently in Congress to, say, James Madison, James Monroe, or, for that matter, Peter Muhlenberg of the first Federal Congress is risible on its face. The kind of people drawn these days to “serve” in Congress couldn’t be trusted to walk your damned dog. You certainly wouldn’t dream of hiring them to babysit your daughter, even for five minutes.

The profligate treachery and self-serving arrogance of John McCain; the addled witlessness of Maxine Waters; the complete mendacity and dishonesty of Nancy Pelosi; the smug double-dealing of Harry Reid; the slimy disingenuousness of Mitch “Yertle” McTurtle — these aren’t exactly ringing endorsements of the caliber of people in charge of government in the modern era. Some of them — most, probably — might be vain and presumptuous enough to think they’d fare well in a comparison to the true statesmen of an earlier age. But that only adds “delusional” to the litany of their inadequacy.

The character traits of those attracted to national elective office effectively guarantee that they’ll be the very type of person we wouldn’t want there. An overblown sense of self-importance; a desire to lord it over others, and an unswerving belief in their competence to do so; a monstrously and unjustly inflated ego; a mania for attention and affirmation; a near-sociopathic lack of interest in the needs or desires of other people; dishonesty and shamelessness; short-sightedness and disinterest in long-term consequences; basic fiscal greed — these pathologies, crippling disqualifications in just about any other field, are now requirements for success as an American career politician.

Nor are these traits reserved solely to persons named on ballots; the last few administrations have had an unerring knack for finding underlings at commensurate levels of fatuity. Deluged by smears and countersmears, those of us who have better things to do than play Fantasy Despots all week have a tendency to lose interest — which, of course, makes life easier for those who would rule us.


Slightly less expensive

When the word got out that the Oklahoma legislature, as a reward for screwing up the budget process once more, was getting a pay cut, I knew I had to see what Patrick at The Lost Ogle had to say about it. And he said it, all right:

The inept, hodgepodge collection of right wing ideological assholes, special interest shills, oil industry lemmings, and perverse deviants that we know as Oklahoma lawmakers (some, I assume, are good people) will receive an 8.8% pay reduction effective in November.

Some of those categories overlap.

From the AP wire story:

All of Oklahoma’s 149 state senators and representatives will get a pay cut of 8.8 percent in November 2018 after an independent nine-member panel narrowly voted to approve the reduction.

The Legislative Compensation Board voted 4-3 on Thursday to impose the pay cut effective on the next group of legislators elected next year.

Members of the panel are appointees of the governor, speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate. Several said the decision was a difficult one, but that the total annual compensation for legislators of $62,000 was too generous given the salary of the average Oklahoman or state worker.

Well, this action affects only the salary ($38,400 a year, to be reduced to $35,020). Per diem remains unchanged. (Patrick: “Considering a first year Oklahoma teacher only makes $31,600 a year, that still seems too high.”)

A fraction of those lawmakers will be gone after 2018 because of term limits; they will never have to experience the indignity of a pay cut. It will be interesting to see how many legislators not facing term limits after 2018 decide to move on.

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Harare up

Roberta X ponders a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe:

Too soon to tell if Robert Mugabe’s actually on the outs in Zimbabwe or if the government there will see much change, but one can hope. They’d’ve been better off with an honest commie, too, instead of the crappy strongman socialism that has impoverished and starved a country that used to export food. It’s too much to expect that the government will dip much of a toe in democracy, but if ever a place was ripe for it, Zimbabwe is. It’s about time the people there got a break. Will they? If past history of even freely-voting people is any guide, they will not; they will opt for more of the devil they know. Still, sometimes you flip a coin and it stands on the edge.

Just finding a coin to flip has been tricky at times:

In its 2014 mid-term monetary policy statement, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) said it would import special coins, known as Zimbabwean bond coins, to ease a shortage of change in the economy. Like the original 1980 coins, these special coins would be denominated in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, but would have values at par with US cents. There would also be South African rand coins of 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 rand, 2 rands, and 5 rands. The RBZ’s statement did not specify when or where these coins would be imported from, but a later report on November 26, 2014 clarified that over $40 million worth of these coins were expected to be delivered within the next week from Pretoria. On 18 December 2014, the 1, 5, 10, and 25 US cent denominations were released into circulation. The 50 US cent denomination followed in March 2015. A 1 dollar bond coin was released in November 2016.

If there’s any Zimbabwean paper currency left, they should probably sell it to Venezuela, which sorely needs the paper, as there have been no Sears, Roebuck catalogs for ages.

Meanwhile, this happened last night:

Seems official enough.

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Ketchup with the budget

A letter to the editor of the Oklahoman, published yesterday:

I have a simple solution for Oklahoma’s budget crisis. If we were to add a dime tax to every order of french fries sold in Oklahoma per day, no one would notice! Tax dollars raised would cover teacher pay, DHS, law enforcement, fire, construction and everything else we need to fund. Obesity kills many more Oklahomans than smoking does. Oklahomans will quit smoking, but they will never give up french fries.

Scott Uselton, Edmond

Does this include hash browns? Tater Tots? For Heinz’ sake, man, we need details!

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And this is what we’ve come to

I’m guessing this means a third-party candidate.

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Beyond the realm of passability

Warren Meyer’s tax proposal, ever since ever:

  1. Eliminate all deductions in the individual income tax code except for a single personal deduction.
  2. Eliminate the corporate income tax.
  3. Tax capital gains and dividends as regular income.
  4. Eliminate the death tax as well as the write-up of asset values at death.

Addressing the possibly controversial bits:

Corporate income all eventually passes through to individuals as capital gains or dividends, so eventually they do get taxed. The same is true of inherited assets — because they would not get written up in value at death, they would still trigger large capital gains once tapped by those who inherit the assets. As far as rates are concerned, I actually don’t see a strong need for a flat tax — I can live with the progressive rates we have now.

I have heard people of late saying that we can’t eliminate the corporate income tax because foreign investors would never get taxed. First, they would get taxed, just in their home country. And second, who cares? There have got to be a lot of things worse than a rush of foreign capital into the US.

“What about those companies who have enormous stacks of cash overseas?”

There’s no reason to keep it there if the Feds aren’t going to grab big chunks of it.

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Meanwhile in Riyadh

What the heck has been going on in Saudi Arabia? This makes more sense than anything else I’ve heard:

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the power behind his father’s throne, and may be the throne itself shortly.

Yes, he is consolidating his own hold on Saudi Arabia. But to what purpose?

I believe, as I have conjectured before, that it is to enable him to confront and vanquish the unholy central alliance forged at the birth of the modern Saudi Arabia between the Salafist Wahabbi Sunni Muslims, and Muhammad ibn Saud, founder of today’s Saud dynasty.

Prince bin Salman has apparently figured out that the only way for Saudi Arabia to survive — or at least for his family to survive at the head of that country — is to end the schizophrenic world stance dictated by the Wahabbi component of the family/state, which sponsors Muslim terrorists and terrorism, and the moderate Sunni wing of the family, which seeks primarily financial rather than religious recompense.

There are those who’d argue that there’s no such thing as “moderate” Islam, but I’m not quite prepared to assert that every last one of them should be presumed to be a jihadi in waiting.

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How now, proud Daou?

Peter Daou is currently running something called Verrit, which I have not explored in any detail but which appears to be a social network/talking points dispenser for Hillary Clinton fans. Daou has worked on Clinton campaigns before, though his Twitter account comes across as a twisted love song to Lady Cornpone.

And truth be told, if I must deal with Peter Daou, I’d rather deal with this aspect of him:

Forty percent of this band was named Daou: Vanessa, the singer, and Peter, the keyboard player. They were married at the time. Vanessa achieved some fame as a solo act; Peter went on to — well, you can read as much as you can stand here. And “Surrender Yourself,” which headed for the top of the dance chart in 1992, is probably the one thing in his life that requires no explanation. It’s a damned good record, and it deserves to be pulled off the shelf now and then.

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Tim Draper has had the Gaul to propose dividing California into three parts, prompting an analysis by McG:

The typical reaction in conservative circles to proposals like this is that it would merely mean giving California more Senate seats and Electoral Votes. Which is just what the ultra-extreme leftists out there want our knee-jerk reaction to be.

In actuality, only one of the three new states resulting from Draper’s proposal — the coastal one that includes Pyongyang-by-the-Bay — would be controlled by the Stalinist wannabes that run the state now, and currently control all 55 of its Electoral Votes. The southern one, though it contains Harveywood, would actually be more mainstream. And interior northern California would be culturally more in tune with the other Western states — meaning Republican presidential tickets would actually be favored there.

But … but … stability!

I’m old enough to remember when the Bush 41 Administration was fighting tooth and nail to keep Yugoslavia in one piece, keeping Slovenians, Bosnians and Macedonians under the heel of Belgrade because they could only see “instability” resulting from a breakup. Those nationalities had to shed blood to win their independence because Official Washington had its collective head up its collective fundament about the actual on-the-ground reality in that part of the world.

It seems to me that Official Washington has had its collective head up its collective fundament about the actual on-the-ground reality everywhere on earth except the 68 square miles of the District of Columbia, and some of the 700,000 or so residents therein might question that exception.

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Somebody’s trying too hard

Whatever this bill may be, I would oppose it just for its asinine name:

Was more time spent on making up the title than on actually writing the bill? Maybe not, but that’s not the way I’m inclined to bet.

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A trillion a year

Says a Forbes report, this is what we can expect in the way of budget deficits in the Trump years and thereafter:

In July, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the Trump fiscal 2018 budget will result in an average annual deficit of about $677 billion between 2018 and 2022. But that took the Trump budget proposals at face value and assumed Congress would agree to all the spending cuts proposed by the White House, something that the House and Senate have already shown no interest in doing. That makes the average annual baseline deficit over the next five years closer to $750 billion.

While the White House and its congressional supporters insist the tax cut the House and Senate will consider in the next month or so will eventually pay for itself with much higher economic growth rates, the congressional budget resolution passed by the Senate late last Thursday (and highly likely to be accepted by the House) assumes that the deficit will increase by about $150 billion a year over the next 10 years. Nonpartisan analyses show that the deficit will increase by an average of between $220 billion and $240 billion between 2018 and 2027 and even more thereafter. An average of the three estimates results in about a $200 billion increase in the budget deficit for each of the next five years.

That will make the annual deficit around $940 billion.

When $60 billion is a rounding error, something is seriously wrong.

Remember when everyone was complaining about budget deficits in the Obama years? Me neither. And that won’t change any time soon:

Trump appears to be heading down the same road. The only difference today is that the GOP will be openly applauding him for it, or at least shrugging it all off like it’s no big deal. And a GOP Congress — which sometimes pretends to act on behalf of limited government when a Democrat is in office — gains zero political mileage out of opposing big spending when it is proposed by a Republican president.

“Not a dime’s worth of difference,” said George Wallace. Before adjusting for inflation, of course.

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Now that’s what I call undocumented

Then again, no one asked me:

Florida has a U.S. senator who once flew aboard the Space Shuttle.

A congressional candidate from Miami can go one better: Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera says she’s been aboard a spaceship too. But this one was crewed by aliens. As in extraterrestrials.

Three blond, big-bodied beings — two females, one male — visited her when she was 7 years old and have communicated telepathically with her several times in her life, she says. (Sen. Bill Nelson served as payload officer aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. All seven people aboard were from Earth. As far as is known.)

Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, a Republican who is running to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, recounted her experience with the ETs during a 2009 television interview.

She described “going up” inside the spaceship — though whether it went into space or just hovered around town was left unclear.

“I went in. There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship — not like airplanes,” Rodriguez Aguilera said.

Dilithium crystals!

Oh, sorry. I’ll be quiet now.

Among the things she said she found out from the aliens:

  • There are 30,000 skulls — “different from humans” — in a cave in the Mediterranean island of Malta.
  • The world’s “energy center” is in Africa.
  • The Coral Castle, a limestone tourist attraction in South Miami-Dade, is actually an ancient Egyptian pyramid.
  • “God is a universal energy.”

She also said that the aliens had mentioned Isis, though she didn’t clarify if they meant the terrorist organization or the ancient Egyptian goddess.

The most believable of those, perhaps, is the tale of the Coral Castle:

The grounds of Coral Castle consist of 1,100 short tons (1,000 t) of stones in the form of walls, carvings, furniture and a castle tower. Commonly believed to be made of coral, it is made of oolite, also known as oolitic limestone. Oolite is a sedimentary rock composed of small spherical grains of concentrically layered carbonate that may include localized concentrations of fossil shells and coral. Oolite is found throughout southeastern Florida from Palm Beach County to the Florida Keys. Oolite is often found beneath only several inches of topsoil, such as at the Coral Castle site.

The stones are fastened together without mortar. They are set on top of each other using their weight to keep them together. The craftsmanship detail is so skillful and the stones are connected with such precision that no light passes through the joints. The 8-foot (2.4 m) tall vertical stones that make up the perimeter wall have a uniform height. Even with the passage of decades and a direct hit on August 24, 1992, by the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew, the stones have not shifted.

Will all these revelations help or hurt her candidacy? There are three Republicans in the race. Then again, she has connections:

Rodriguez Aguilera’s daughter is former Republican National Committee Hispanic outreach director Bettina Inclán Agen. Her son-in-law, Jarrod Agen, is Vice President Mike Pence’s deputy chief of staff.

The 27th District of Florida, reports the Cook PVI, is D+5.

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To the surprise of no one

A Bad Newspaper clipping via Miss Cellania:

Clipping from The Examiner, 2008: Jackson County has its first code of ethics

This was, you should know, Jackson County, Missouri:

The Jackson County executive Monday signed an order creating the first-ever code of ethics to govern all county business.

The order, signed by Executive Mike Sanders, will establish guidelines for county employees.

A violation could lead to up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both.

“After countless hours of work, this document is a crucial step forward in preserving the public’s trust and faith in the work that goes on in this building,” Sanders said at his state of the county speech last week. “The public expects, and should demand, that all of the county’s business be conducted in the open and with the highest ethical standards.”

(From The Examiner, 18 November 2008. Tom Pendergast was not available for comment.)

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This kind of service ain’t cheap

Newly minted EPA boss Scott Pruitt objects to rather a lot of policies enacted by the agency he now heads. What he doesn’t seem to object to is spending money:

On July 27, records show, Pruitt and six staff members arranged a flight on a Department of Interior plane from Tulsa to the tiny outpost of Guymon, Okla., at a cost of $14,434.50. The EPA noted that “time constraints” on Pruitt’s schedule wouldn’t allow him to make the 10-hour round-trip drive. The purpose of the trip was to meet with landowners “whose farms have been affected” by a controversial rule regulating water bodies in the United States, according to the agency. Pruitt has initiated a process to withdraw the regulation, known as the Waters of the United States rule.

Security is also important to Pruitt:

The Environmental Protection Agency is spending nearly $25,000 to construct a secure, soundproof communications booth in the office of Administrator Scott Pruitt, according to government contracting records.

The agency signed a $24,570 contract [pdf] earlier this summer with Acoustical Solutions, a Richmond-based company, for a “privacy booth for the administrator.” The company sells and installs an array of sound-dampening and privacy products, from ceiling baffles to full-scale enclosures like the one purchased by the EPA. The project’s scheduled completion date is Oct. 9, according to the contract.

Typically, such soundproof booths are used to conduct hearing tests. But the EPA sought a customized version — one that eventually would cost several times more than a typical model — that Pruitt can use to communicate privately.

Which is still cheaper than flying out to Guymon twice.

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Well, isn’t that special?

The Legislature starts its Special Session today, and how long it lasts may be the most important aspect of it, owing to one seemingly odd statute: no bill to raise taxes can be introduced in the last five days of a session. So if they plan to be out of there in a week, there will be no tax increases considered. That said, the search for revenues that can be collected without seeming to raise taxes will be at the very top of the agenda, and one doesn’t just shake the sofa cushions to obtain $215 million.

Expect the Democratic minority to push for restoring the 7-percent gross production tax on oil and gas, and expect the Republican majority to blow them off. Some background:

When commodity prices started to tank — those “new” to the industry were unprepared while oil and gas veterans sighed and began to tighten their belts and update their resumes. Shellshocked non-profits and businesses, who relied on industry support and investment, began the grim task of layoffs, scaling back services or shutting their doors altogether as corporate giving was dramatically reduced or cut completely. The entire impact reverberated across the state, but oil and gas got a big win.

The veterans had been here before, some of them several times: it’s simply the way it is. And then:

Just prior to the commodity price tumble, the industry received a gift from Oklahoma legislators and Governor Mary Fallin — a reduction in the gross production tax from 7% to 2% (1% for horizontal wells). While I didn’t have a crystal ball, it wasn’t hard to ponder “what if” scenarios. I didn’t have to live through history to learn from it — I asked peers, colleagues and friends, “If the industry experiences a downturn, won’t this impact the state budget and funding?” The general sentiment in response was, “Not our problem.”

Sentiments remain generally unchanged for now.


Forward thinking

Steve Sailer floats a hypothesis:

Michelle Obama has felt oppressed for most of her life by the feminist assumption that became conventional wisdom in American society in the early 1970s that tall, broad-shouldered females like herself should play basketball.

I have heard complaints by several tall women over the years along the lines of “No, I didn’t want to shoot hoops, and I don’t know why they kept asking.” So this doesn’t sound too far out of line.

The passage of Title IX to promote women’s sports in 1972 when Michelle Robinson was eight was one of the banes of her girlhood because it led to numerous suggestions from well-wishers that she had the perfect physique for a power forward.

Surely she didn’t look like a power forward at eight. (Twelve, maybe.) And maybe things have changed: of the 12 members of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, winners of six consecutive Western Conference titles, only four of them are below six feet tall — Mrs Obama is five-eleven — and they’re all guards.

But she’s kind of a girly girl who doesn’t like sports and wants to wear high heels, and doesn’t like the change in our culture that encouraged people to mention her height and brawn in the guise of offering helpful pro-feminist You-Go-Girl suggestions.

That said, both of her daughters were entered into sports programs:

Malia and Sasha had to take up two sports: one they chose and one selected by their mother. “I want them to understand what it feels like to do something you don’t like and to improve,” the first lady has said.

A girly girl she might be, but her fashion sense was decidedly impaired early on; she did, however, improve.

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To the next manor over, born

Lost your battle for dogcatcher in Alpha Township? Why not run for a Council seat in Betaville?

The other day I was driving to work and saw that the town must have an election coming up — there were signs everywhere reading “So-and-So for Mayor.” The name sounded vaguely familiar, which is odd, because I don’t follow local politics in cities I don’t live in. So when I had a free moment I googled up So-and-So … and hey, whaddaya know, he’s a failed Congressional candidate from a few years ago, from another district.

Who says politics is just showbiz for ugly people? This clown is a character actor from central casting, indistinguishable from every other central casting clown Our Rulers see fit to bestow upon our “elections” every few years. Should he not get elected mayor, So-and-So will no doubt be parachuted into some other town to run for alderman or something. His resume and biography don’t matter — he once got elected to something, somewhere, so he’s “electable.” He’ll die in office, and his obituary will gush about “a lifetime of public service” … though it won’t mention all the publics he’s served, since someone might notice that he’s not from any of those places and none of his so-called constituents could pick his mug out of a police lineup. See also native New Yorker Hillary Clinton, or stalwart Chicagoan Alan Keyes, whose totally Constitutional qualification to run in those districts was “once changed planes at La Guardia and O’Hare,” respectively.

And one thing you can be absolutely certain of: So-and-So, on every piece of campaign material from the day after the election until the day he dies, will be referred to as “experienced.” Because we’re utterly desperate for someone to uphold the status quo.

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There are plenty of public servants out there who take that “service” business seriously. (The OHP officer who came up behind me on the shoulder after a tire disintegrated one morning — and volunteered to put the spare on for me — qualifies easily.)

And then there are the ones that don’t:

I don’t know what it is — does power corrupt, or does the promise of power (and the perks it carries) attract people who are perhaps less scrupulous? Or is it harder for the earnest and awkward and honest to navigate the minefield that is small-town politics? Hard to know. (Though I think some of these are appointed positions …)

Again, I find it frustrating. I know it’s because I carry some remnants of the childhood belief that there should be fairness or at least justice in the world, and I get frustrated that if I park a little bit wrong in a space, I face a $20 ticket — which I then feel bad about the rest of the week, and not because I’m out $20 — but other people embezzle or intimidate or whatever and seem to feel no remorse for it. (And in some cases, the people-doing-wrong do it for years, and accumulate a lot of “goodies” before they are found out). And yes, I know, I shouldn’t compare my life to other people’s and I should be “in it” for service to others, but it does make me frustrated to see so many people working hard and scrabbling and sometimes not getting the things they need, when others break the rule and seemingly get every want fulfilled …

One factor working against good government in small cities is the absence of local media coverage: radio is mostly syndicated stuff, television is piped in from the nearest megalopolis, and your daily newspaper’s ownership is in some place like Davidson, North Carolina.

(Actually, I think Davidson is a really nice little town busily mutating into a suburb of Charlotte, twenty miles to the south, and they have one of the great small liberal-arts colleges, but they’re probably a long way from your town’s centers of power.)

And yes, there’s the Golden Rule, but we’ve been off the gold standard for decades.

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JD Rucker said this last fall:

But if not Clooney, then who? How about Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)?

Assuming Clooney doesn’t run, the more likely and mainstream choice of Senator Kamala Harris is poised to be the nominee. She’ll win California if she’s even a blip on the radar. Her opponents would have to eliminate her from contention altogether for her to lose this state where she is extremely popular.

Unfortunately for other hopefuls, the only way to eliminate her from contention will likely be through scandal because if California’s current plan passes, she’ll only have to go through Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. The state is pushing to move their primary to early March, making it the kingmaker it has always wanted to be.

As Politico points out, her opponents would be hard-pressed to mount the fundraising efforts necessary to blitz the most populous state in the nation with enough juice to derail her. That’s not going to happen unless Mark Cuban or some other self-funded billionaire enters the race. Harris will be the Democratic nominee and the DNC will wholeheartedly embrace her as the Trump-slayer.

And for those benighted jokers who make their selection on the basis of eye candy, she’s a cinch:

Kamala Harris has something to say

Kamala Harris has something to say

For those more obsessive than I:

And hey, if George Clooney does win, the First Lady will suddenly be vaulted into Jackie Kennedy territory. We’ve looked at her once.

Okay, more than once.

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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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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.


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


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 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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