Freedom ain't free


June 20, 2016


towers omitted

Context here.

The battle over the narrative expands ever thus, so rapidly it will eventually eclipse the borders of the known universe. But consider, is it not at least possible if not likely that all the following factors played some role in the Orlando mass murder?

  • Jihadi ideology, infecting Mateen — there, his name — from abroad or from radicals of his acquaintance, even if he was not “directed” as the president suggests;
  • Rank homophobia, picked up independently of Islam, in the great cosmopolitan pine forests of central Florida;
  • Craziness, meaning Mateen was fucked in the head, manifesting as a lunatic’s craving for immortality;
  • Publicity of past mass murderers, both of the terrorist and loose-screw variety, enabling such craving; and
  • The relatively easy availability of guns in the United States.

Why does our politics require that it be only one of these things? Probably because we no longer teach nuance in our endless “national conversation,” probably because nuance does not bait clicks, but that’s a different subject.

Regardless, obscuring Mateen’s religion and expressed political opinions by editing offending words from the 911 transcript seems like management of the news cycle in furtherance of the war over the narrative, rather than an honest attempt to limit the publicity that might encourage more of these d-bags. One almost — almost — believes that the DOJ is trying to switch the conversation from the FBI’s failure to do anything about Mateen after the G-men had identified him as sufficiently dangerous to interview. Unfortunately, believing that conspiracy would require us also to believe that the president’s own strongly professed desire to deny the Islam in Islamism did not determine the redaction of the transcript, and that requires magical thinking far beyond our own trifling capabilities. We do offer this parting shot, though: Why is it that the partisan left no longer refers to itself as the “reality-based community”?

UPDATE: Well, now, the Obama administration changed its mind and released the full transcript. Good for them, but then why the redaction nonsense in the first place?


Reasons to be happy for Cleveland

June 19, 2016

There are many reasons to rejoice in the NBA Championship of the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. Among them, Cleveland itself has had an epic championship drought in all sports and had a tough run otherwise for something like 60 years, LeBron James had never delivered a championship for his hometown, and Golden State is named after California. All outstanding reasons to cheer the Cavs, especially if you are not from Cleveland. But that is not why we are so happy tonight.

It must be confessed that we are not a true fan of NBA basketball, or at least have not been since we lived in Chicago during the Jordan years, and now probably watch no more than three games in a season. We nevertheless read, virtually against our will, this article in the New York Times Magazine from a few months back, “What Happened When Venture Capitalists Took Over The Golden State Warriors.” Why were we compelled? Because the aggrandizement of Silicon Valley venture capitalists — who have accomplished many important things but are not nearly as godlike as they suppose — is such a banal elite media narrative that we were wondering if the Grey Bitch could possibly find anything new or interesting to write on the topic. It couldn’t, but it did mine this bit of championship class self-important douchebaggery from the majority owner of the Warriors, Joe Lacob:

But Lacob won’t accept that what the Warriors have achieved is a product of anything but a master plan. “The great, great venture capitalists who built company after company, that’s not an accident,” he said. “And none of this is an accident, either.”

There is no trash talk like VC trash talk, apparently. Suffice it to say, it was at that moment on a Sunday morning in late March, reading that paragraph with a great cup of coffee and a Spaniel by our side, that we resolved to cheer for whatever team was playing against the Warriors.

Here’s to the Cleveland Cavaliers, authors of the greatest and most just sports miracle of the decade.

Beautiful Austin

A jog along Barton Creek

June 16, 2016

A couple of days ago I went for a noontime jog along Barton Creek, just west of Mopac, to the big live oak. The creek was running strong, even though it had not rained for more than a week.




Freedom ain't free

Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton’s get out of jail free card

June 11, 2016

For more than a year, Republicans have desperately hoped (and the mainstream media has suggested) that the “FBI primary” — the longstanding investigation in to her private email server, the information that went over it, and the Clinton Foundation and the tangled web of favor-trading that it weaves — would somehow damage Hillary Clinton so badly that she will lose in November notwithstanding the massive Democratic edge in the Electoral College. Whether that damage would flow from the Department of Justice convening a grand jury (which would probably cut off her misleading claim that she is not a “target”) or mere voter backlash against the steady drip-drip of one revealed lie after another is not clear. What is clear is that the Republican desperation for the indictment of Clinton is rising in proximity with the party’s anxiety over its own probable nominee.

The last day brings exciting news for such Republicans. First, it now appears that Clinton indeed sent at least one email marked “Classified.” While the marking does not in and of itself confer culpability — it is unlawful to misuse classified information whether or not it is marked — it does make it easier, perhaps decisively so, to argue that Clinton knew she was doing. And knowledge equals intent equals mens rea, the type of intent necessary to prove criminal culpability. Or so the argument goes. In any case, we know the email scandal is getting worse, because journals of the left are now on the case, even if from a confused point of view: “FBI criminal investigation emails: Clinton approved CIA drone assassinations with her cellphone, report says.” No doubt it took “CIA assassinations” to get Salon interested. Welcome aboard!

Then, ABC News reported that a patron of the Clinton Foundation — a stock operator, to use an old term — had been pushed on to a “sensitive government intelligence advisory board even though he had no obvious experience in the field, a decision that appeared to baffle the department’s professional staff.” Worse, newly available emails reveal an internal attempt to “protect the Secretary” from ABC’s original investigation of the matter back in 2011.

Anyway, it is not our purpose here to persuade the unpersuaded that Hillary is indeed a crook — if you do not believe it now, it is likely you are not open-minded to the possibility that she is, or that you simply do not care. Rather, it is to say that her opponents are not irrational to hope or even expect that the probable nominee of the Democratic Party will find herself in a heap of legal trouble before the fall.

On the partisan left, of course, this is all laughed away, most fashionably with a nervous cackle. The partisan right, however, is divided between those who still hold out hope, as it were, and the cynics, who believe that there is no chance that the Obama Department of Justice will not stretch prosecutorial discretion to its theoretical limit in order to avoid hurting Clinton’s chances. (There is, of course, no meaningful constituency on the right for the position that Hillary Clinton is of high character, and that this is all of a piece with the “vast right wing conspiracy,” revivified, or at least warmed over, from the 1990s.)

The cynical camp, which will attribute any current expansive deployment of executive power to the aggrandizement of Barack Obama, believes that the DOJ will block the prosecution of Hillary Clinton to protect Obama’s legacy. Here is an exemplary post from that point of view. Money quote:

Since his recent endorsement of Hillary for president, Obama has staked his entire legacy on her candidacy, and it becomes less likely that Joe Biden can be tapped to replace her. Hillary has the momentum, money, and organization, whereas Biden has none of these. If Obama’s legacy is going to survive, he needs to keep Hillary’s campaign alive.

The linked post goes on to propose that if the DOJ did move to prosecute Clinton, Obama might preemptively pardon her.

We are not in this corner of the cynical camp. In our view, Obama’s “legacy” is a secondary consideration, even for Obama. The far greater danger, at least in the minds of the Washington elite, is that Donald Trump becomes president of the United States.

Imagine, if you will, the bureaucratic dynamic that unfolds if the FBI submits findings to the Attorney General which argue strongly for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton on any of the aforementioned grounds. The Attorney General, if a partisan, could simply stonewall, and refuse to move forward. What is the FBI, or perhaps dissenters inside the DOJ’s professional staff, to do?

In an ordinary year with a perfectly respectable Republican nominee — say a Mitt Romney or John Kasich — the FBI would leak like a salad spinner and its director might resign in protest. Career lawyers within the Justice Department would complain to reporters. Cue shit storm, and substantial damage to Barack Obama’s legacy. That exact scenario happened during Watergate, and it was quite effective in taking down an actual president, much less a mere candidate.

The problem is, we suspect that even the principled professionals in the DOJ and the FBI shudder to contemplate a Trump presidency, and far fewer reporters will want the country’s blood on their hands, as they will see it, even if they could source such a story, write it, and get it past their editors. The “leak” deterrent, which would be the main reason a partisan Attorney General might think twice about stonewalling an FBI recommendation, will be inoperative with scary Donald Trump at the top of the opposition ticket.

Hillary Clinton should be very grateful that the GOP will nominate Trump. And, ironically, those among Trump’s supporters who believe that he has the greatest chance to beat Hillary may have neutralized the one thing that would definitely take her down.

Freedom ain't free

Justin Trudeau, legal weed, and the progressive impulse

June 11, 2016

The Washington Post‘s Wonkblog argues that “Justin Trudeau may have made the best case for legal pot ever.” Trudeau argues that young people are going to smoke it anyway, it is in fact more available because it is illegal and unregulated, and billions of dollars end up in the hands of organized crime which then does lots of other bad things.

Read it if you dare, but that is actually the most banal argument for legal pot ever. It
amounts exactly to this: “Prohibition was a great idea, but it made alcohol more fashionable among people who had not been drinking before and the mob and official corruption screwed it all up.”

How about, “it shouldn’t be illegal to smoke a plant, ever.” Or to distill one.

That liberals decided to rebrand themselves as “progressives,” the name of the movement that gave us Prohibition, perhaps the most socially pestilential idea ever, is the most compelling evidence that Americans don’t do history.


Ugly linkage

June 8, 2016

We’re sitting in Newark Airport after a long five days, and it is definitely time for Ugly Linkage. Please remain calm.

She Who Must Be Obeyed Is Not Trump may be poised, careful in her choice of words, and completely free of animosity toward Mexican-American judges, but she has a lot of explaining to do even according to Salon:

Among all the rivers of money that have flowed to the Clinton family, one seems to raise the biggest national security questions of all: the stream of cash that came from 20 foreign governments who relied on weapons export approvals from Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

Federal law designates the secretary of state as “responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales” of arms, military hardware and services to foreign countries. In practice, that meant that Clinton was charged with rejecting or approving weapons deals — and when it came to Clinton Foundation donors, Hillary Clinton’s State Department did a whole lot of approving.

While Clinton was secretary of state, her department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors. That figure from Clinton’s three full fiscal years in office is almost double the value of arms sales to those countries during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

Hillary’s defense: “One or two” donations “may have slipped through the cracks.” We shit you not.
All of which reminds of this beautiful Austin moment:

El Arroyo

Credit: Somebody random on Facebook.

Speaking of which, egads:

We increasingly believe that when it comes down to it, so to speak, we will #FeelTheJohnson (if you search that on Twitter, by the way, your results will be surprisingly clean and uplifting…).

As others have said, Troll Level: Grandmaster.

Also from Glenn, the “most epic correction of the decade.” No, really. It makes one wonder why we allow our tax money to go to social science research at all.

As a Cubs fan, we are not happy to see hype like this:

We also note that the ’27 Yankees really did not become the ’27 Yankees until well in to the summer of that year. (No, we are not “the baseball guy,” but we did read listen to Bill Bryson’s awesome book “One Summer: America, 1927”, which we recommend without reservation.)

That is all.

Photography Travel

New York on a nice day

June 8, 2016

We have been knocking around the Apple the last few days, mostly doing bidness and otherwise adding to American greatness but also having a little fun. This morning’s meeting took us to the 48th floor of a mid-town building with a great view north:


Those damn one-percenters, hogging all the awesome views.

Yesterday evening we walked down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square and the Comedy Cellar, one of our favorite ways to burn an uncommitted evening in New York. We snapped what would have been an awesome shot of the Flatiron Building (the Wikipedia entry is worth your time, especially for its account of soaring New York real estate prices), but some clown bombed it:


Waddya gonna do?