What The In Crowd Knows

A tale as old as time:

Dominant liberal culture is, if nothing else, fiercely rule-abiding: they get very upset when they see anyone defying decrees from authorities, even if the rule-breaker is the official who promulgated the directives for everyone else. 

While I appreciate the willingness of Glenn Greenwald, a man of the Left, to call out the hypocrisy of our Ruling Class, this observation isn’t quite right, actually. Dominant liberal culture is all about rule promulgation, not necessarily personally abiding by rules. As time goes on, the pretense fades, and why wouldn’t it? Nothing ever happens to the Ruling Class.

Dobie Gray, a more perceptive social critic than our man Greenwald, was all over this way back in ’65:

I’m in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I’m in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows
Any time of the year, don’t you hear?
Dressin’ fine, makin’ time
We breeze up and down the street
We get respect from the people we meet
They make way day or night
They know the in crowd is out of sight

Back in ’65, the term “out of sight” roughly meant cool, fashionable, au courant, like that. Some 56 years later, out of sight has a more conventional meaning: in the shadows, behind the curtain, holed up in nondescript office buildings in and around the Beltway. Our in crowd is an industrious lot, and they keep coming up with more rules at all times, whether our Congresscritters weigh in or not.

Any time of the year, don’t you hear? Mocking fools, making rules

But many of our fellow citizens don’t hear, nor are they listening. Instead, we all hear our animatronic Leader of the Free World as he is sent out to joust with the Teleprompter.

We make every minute count
Our share is always the biggest amount
Other guys imitate us
But the original’s still the greatest

Just ask them. If you can identify them.

 

 

 

Adventures In Variantland

I haven’t written here recently (sorry, Mitch!), mostly because I did a fair amount of traveling in August. I attended my high school reunion in the wilds of Wisconsin, then a week later headed east to a family wedding in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio (highly recommended, by the way).

In the course of my travels, I spent time in six different states — Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Given that the howling over the dread Delta Variant has been in full effect for much of the summer, I was particularly interested in what I would see in my travels. Were people paying attention to the renewed demands for masking and social distancing? Were the entreaties of the Powers That Be having any effect?

Not a chance.

My high school reunion had over 100 attendees, a good result for a class with 144 surviving members. Classmates returned to my Wisconsin home town from California, Washington state, Colorado, Maryland, and New York, among other places. One classmate arrived masked, but took his mask off about 15 minutes into the festivities. The venue was a local brewery with a beer hall and the entire event was indoors. My masked classmate was the only person I saw wearing a mask all weekend, outside of some of the staff at the hotel. Social distancing? Not much of that, either — as you would expect at a high school reunion, it was hugs galore.

The following week was the family wedding; we took a convoluted path so we could pick up our college-age daughter, who attends school in Missouri. We stopped in Waterloo, Iowa, for lunch — not a mask in sight. We got gas in Hannibal, Missouri — no masks at all. Our overnight hotel was in downstate Illinois — again, no masks or social distancing in sight, and a full buffet breakfast available. We stopped for lunch in Indiana — again, no masks anywhere. We gassed up again on the Indiana/Ohio border, in a town that looked like nothing had changed since 1978. No masks. We reached our destination — no masks at the hotel. We had an out-of-town guest reception — saw every face in the place.

The wedding the following day was wonderful — joyous, raucous, with an open bar and food trucks from Columbus for the meal. There were probably 250 people in attendance; not a soul was wearing a mask. It was an outdoor event, but if social distancing was a factor, no one seemed to realize it. Nothing changed on the return trip. No mask? No problem!

Over this past weekend, we attended the Great Minnesota Grease Together. Everyone had to mask up on the shuttle buses, but once we were at the fair, mask wearing was about 1%, even in the queues for a Sweet Martha bucket before leaving the fairgrounds.

We are reminded daily the Delta Variant is still in full swing, an implacable foe, with future variants lined up like planes in a holding pattern at O’Hare; Mu is coming next, and all the other letters of the Greek alphabet are getting ready to ravage the countryside, so many that we’re likely to run out of letters eventually. Presumably another naming convention waits in the wings — perhaps future variants can be named after Kentucky Derby winners (the “Seattle Slew Variant” perhaps), assuming we can independently verify that neither the horses nor their jockeys ever used Ivermectin. As anyone with a television or a smart phone knows, the hectoring and self-congratulatory moral tutelage continue unabated, all of it fact-checked, verified, or otherwise given the J.D. Power award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.

But you know what? Even after a summer of harangues and a phalanx of Tik-Tok Cassandras, people are doing as they please, at least here in flyover land. 

Yes, yes, everything I’m presenting here is anecdotal, but current behaviors are easy to observe and if a skeptic made a similar sojourn, the skeptic would see the same things. There will remain a cohort of those who follow every word and every directive from Drs. Fauci, Osterholm and their colleagues. Most readers of this feature likely see social media posts featuring our bien pensant  betters dutifully wearing their masks and keeping a yardstick or two between them as they struggle to take a selfie. And that’s fine — let your freak flags fly!

In the end, though, it’s highly likely the Safety Dance is over, unless our betters are willing to force compliance. What’s been happening in Australia has given me pause, but mandates and lockdowns will be difficult to enforce. And our betters know it.

Storytellers

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I would tune in out-of-town baseball broadcasts on my trusty AM transistor radio. From our home in eastern Wisconsin, it was easy to catch Merle Harmon and Bob Uecker covering the hapless Brewers on WTMJ in Milwaukee, but when the Brewers fell behind the Orioles 7-2 in the 4th inning, my mind would wander.

I found the alternatives; I also listened to Vince Lloyd covering the Cubs on WGN in Chicago, but only if the Cubs were on the road, and on other nights I might catch the White Sox with Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall on WMAQ. If I were feeling more ambitious, I could catch the gentlemanly Ernie Harwell on WJR in Detroit, or feisty Jack Buck on KMOX out of St. Louis. Sometimes, but not always, I could catch Herb Carneal on WCCO.

It’s difficult to explain to younger people, but on weeknights you couldn’t watch a game unless you lived in a big city. Writing for the Athletic (paywall, unfortunately), Jon Greenberg and Stephen J. Nesbitt detail what’s been a pastime for 100 years now:

The beauty of baseball on the radio is in its simplicity. It’s theatre of the mind. Even younger broadcasters, who were raised in the TV age, say radio was the sound of their summers, conjuring images of car rides, sifting through static, and listening from a fishing boat in the middle of a lake.

It was the sound of discovery, in the same way that postwar Brits looking for the new sounds would tune in Radio Luxembourg. Those faraway voices suggested there was something more out there, beyond the city limits of wherever you happened to be. If you have an IP today, you can see the world and hear every voice imaginable. While I appreciate the choices arrayed before me, I do miss the thrill of listening to Ernie Harwell through the static on a still August evening. 

Looks Like We Got Us A Convoy

Let those truckers roll:

President Joe Biden claimed on Wednesday that he once drove an 18-wheeler truck, but his remark—made during a visit to a Mack Truck factory in Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania—quickly garnered a skeptical reaction.

In audio recorded by local news channel WFMZ-TV, Biden can be heard off camera telling workers at Mack Truck Lehigh Valley Operations: “I used to drive an 18-wheeler, man […] I got to.”

This claim is, like many of the Leader of the Free World’s observations, unmoored from reality. Apparently back in 1973, Biden took a long ride with a truck driver, but there’s no evidence he ever drove the rig:

Zach Parkinson, director of RNC Research, also questioned the president’s claim, sharing a 1973 opinion piece written by Biden, who was then a first-term senator.

In that article, Biden talked about how he had ridden in a “47,000-pound cargo truck” on a 500-mile-plus trip from Delaware to Ohio.

“There is zero evidence that Biden ‘used to drive an 18 wheeler,'” Parkinson tweeted.

“The extent of Biden’s trucking experience is that he **rode in** a truck once, for one night in 1973 (he made sure to return home by plane though).”

Truck drivers and CB radios were a thing back in the 1970s and an advertising guy from Omaha named Bill Fries had a big hit single under the name C.W. McCall. The song “Convoy” made it to #1 on the country and the pop charts in the early part of 1976 and it led to a huge rise in sales for CB radios, which had been, up to that time, primarily a tool for truck drivers and other people in the transportation industry. The song was catchy and the trucker jargon lyrics were entertaining to hear coming through on the AM radio of your ’75 Cutlass:

Well, we rolled up Interstate 44
Like a rocket sled on rails
We tore up all of our swindle sheets
And left ’em settin’ on the scales

By the time we hit that Chi-town
Them bears was a-gettin’ smart
They’d brought up some reinforcements
From the Illinois National Guard

The amusing thing about Fries/ C.W. McCall is he was never a truck driver, either:

“I was never a truck driver, even though people think I must have been,” Fries says. “I wanted to sound authentic. I wanted to talk like people talk. If you want to talk to truckers, you have to sound like a trucker.”

Biden has been straining for authenticity for 50 years now. He’s truck driver, a tough guy from Scranton, friends with Corn Pop and God only knows what else. And he has access to the nuclear codes. 

Come on and join our convoy
Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
‘Cross the USA

Sleep tight, everyone.

A Big Ol’ Slug From The Poisoned Chalice

Kareem and the Big O in 1971

On April 30, 1971, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Baltimore Bullets 118-106 to win their first NBA championship. The team had won the equivalent of a Powerball jackpot the previous year, when a coin flip gave the team the first pick in the 1969 draft. The Bucks drafted Lou Alcindor, the dominating center from UCLA, then added the great Oscar Robertson, an equally dominating guard who had played for terrible teams for a decade. The early good fortune lead to glory as the Bucks franchise won its first title in only the third year of its existence. 

At the time, I was a second grader at St. Therese School in Appleton, Wisconsin. While I didn’t follow the NBA that closely at first, I knew this championship was a big deal. Shortly after the Bucks won the championship, Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which confused me a bit, but second graders are easily confused. As we grew older, we would try to imitate Abdul-Jabbar’s famous sky hook on the school playground, ineffectively of course. We would cheer our Bucks and curse the mighty Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, who would stand in the way of our team’s glory. The Bucks made it back to the finals in 1974, but lost to the Celtics in 7 games, including the finale on the floor of the Milwaukee Arena.

As time went on, Abdul-Jabbar decided that he no longer wanted to live in Milwaukee, which did not fit his cultural needs. The Bucks traded Abdul-Jabbar and the players the team received in return formed the nucleus of a consistent contender for the league championship, but a team that never could get past the hated Celtics and the equally despised Philadelphia 76ers. This went on for over a decade, but by the early 90s Michael Jordan ruled the league and the Bucks became a footwipe. I continued to follow the Bucks throughout my adolescence and into adulthood, but there wasn’t much joy in it. 

In 2013, the Bucks finally found the man who would replace Abdul-Jabbar, a Greek citizen of Nigerian descent named Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was 18 years old and while his talent was recognized, he was not invited to hang out in the green room with the other top prospects of that year. When his name was called, he came up on stage from the stands at Barclays Center, a face in the crowd. Over the following eight seasons, he transformed himself from a skinny refugee kid into the most imposing and relentless basketball player on the planet, earning the nickname “The Greek Freak.”  On Tuesday evening, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years, scoring 50 points in a 105-98 clincher against the Phoenix Suns. For his part, Antetokounmpo is a thoroughly likable young man with a big smile and a spectacular game, and his teammates are equally talented and amiable. And after a 50-year wait, my childhood team had finally returned to the summit.

It’s a great story, but only if you accept the narrative that the NBA still means something. In the 50 years between championships, much has changed. The games in 1971 were played in darkened arenas with less than 13,000 people in attendance. The owners were local businessmen and the coachers were guys like Red Auerbach, the curmudgeonly cigar chomping leader of the Celtics. Over the course of 50 years, the NBA engaged in relentless marketing, leveraging the genuine star power of Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan to transform the league into an international entertainment. The money flowed and the movie stars and beautiful people were sitting courtside, especially in Los Angeles.

This went on for a long time, but in recent years the dominant player and personality has been LeBron James, immensely talented but a man with a perpetual scowl on his face. His preferred nickname is “King James,” and he has been an imperious monarch for nearly 20 seasons. He indulges in woke social commentary and turns a blind eye to the NBA’s sordid relationship with the Chinese government, claiming that critics of the tyrannical regime are not sufficiently informed. James is a tremendous talent, but he’s utterly detestable.

So after 50 years, how much joy is there in winning a championship of a league full of vipers and hypocrites? For me, more than is justified. The fan in me wants to get a championship cap that matches those the Bucks wore as they accepted the trophy in Milwaukee, but let’s face it, it’s likely that hat probably comes from a crappy Chinese factory and the profits would land in the coffers of some woke conglomerate.

But still, but still, I want to believe the Bucks have accomplished something noble and that my years of fandom are now being rewarded. My head says it’s a lie, but my heart says something else.

 

 

What’s A Cubit?

Bill Cosby is out of jail:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the indecent assault conviction of Bill Cosby on Wednesday and ordered his release from prison after finding that he was denied protection against self-incrimination.

The court said that a prosecutor’s decision not to charge Cosby, 83, in an earlier case opened the door for him to speak freely in a lawsuit against him, thinking he would not incriminate himself criminally. A second prosecutor later used the lawsuit testimony in a criminal trial, and that testimony was key in his conviction years later.

Cosby was convicted on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018 of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, and was serving a three- to 10-year sentence. He has served nearly three years of the sentence.

The state Supreme Court said Cosby cannot be retried on the same charges.

Let’s be clear from the outset — I hold no brief for Bill Cosby. Based on the available evidence, he’s a flat-out monster and richly deserved punishment for his misdeeds. I do hold a brief for due process, however, and there’s no question his prosecution was a violation of his rights. The right against self-incrimination is of paramount importance. All things being equal, I would rather not see Bill Cosby’s face in the future, once we get past this round of media attention.

So yeah, Bill Cosby as he is now carries little value, but what about Bill Cosby as he once was? He was one of the best comedians of the previous century, arriving on the scene around 1960, the same time as Bob Newhart (beloved), Jonathan Winters (much missed), Don Rickles (“problematic”), and Woody Allen (reviled, mostly on merit). Cosby first became famous for his “Noah” bit, which is still hilarious nearly 60 years on:

God: (standing on a chair behind Noah, he rings a bell once) NOAH.

Noah: (Looks up) Is someone calling me? (Shrugs and goes back to his work)

God: (Ding) NOAH!!

Noah: Who is that?

God: It’s the Lord, Noah.

Noah: Right … Where are ya? What do ya want? I’ve been good.

God: I want you to build an ark.

Noah: Right … What’s an ark?

God: Get some wood and build it 300 cubits by 80 cubits by 40 cubits.

Noah: Right … What’s a cubit?

I wouldn’t want to see Noah’s Menard’s bill — that much is certain.

Between the Noah bit, his Fat Albert routines, and the decade-long kids show based on those routines that was a staple of my childhood, Cosby was ubiquitous even before his 1980s era sitcom ruled the airwaves. He was America’s Dad. It was all a lie, yes — he is also a sexual predator and a hypocrite of the first order, but he was a wonderful interpreter of the human condition. What do we do with useful monsters? It’s a conversation worth having.

Hastily Made Portland Tourism Ad?

So is this a tourism ad, or a cry for help?

Odd tourism ad, doncha think? Usually you get a picture of nature, or a soaring skyline, or beatiful people enjoying dazzling nightlife. But not this time.

So what does a tourist do in Portland? Apparently you can cross a bunch of bridges. That might have some allure. I have it on good authority that Portland has a number of restaurants, but it’s difficult to tell what the bill of fare might be from this brown paper ad. It’s possible the restaurants in Portland feature word salad. “We’re a place of dualities that are never polarities.” What does that even mean? Does it mean this?

Portland crowd-control police unit resigns en masse after team member  criminally charged - East Idaho News

That might be the dazzling nightlife? After all, things are going well:

Every member of a police crowd-control unit in the US city of Portland has resigned after one of its officers was indicted on an assault charge.

The charge stemmed from violent anti-racism protests that rocked the city, in the state of Oregon, last year.

Prosecutors allege the officer used “excessive and unlawful use of force” against a protester in August 2020.

But Portland’s police union described the decision to prosecute the officer as “politically driven”.

The reporting here is from the BBC. Looks like they didn’t get the “mostly peaceful” memo. 

Church, State, And The Condition Of The Soul

It’s been a longstanding issue — how does the Catholic Church deal with politicians who are Catholic, but who actively support policies inimical to the faith? Especially now, since Joe Biden, a lifelong Catholic, is in the Oval Office? The nation’s bishops are meeting this week and the matter is coming to a head:

This week at their annual spring meeting, the bishops of the U.S. Catholic Church — the largest faith group in the country — will debate the meaning of Communion and whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be barred from receiving it. The conversation and a vote among the church’s top clerics could have significant ramifications because it centers on one of the most intimate moments of Catholic worship and binds it uniquely to a specific political and policy position.

Intimate moment isn’t quite right; rather, the Eucharist is central to the faith. And within the Church, the centrality of the Eucharist means the stakes are high. But if you’re going to rely on the Washington Post to explain the matter, you’re going to get dogma of a different sort:

The vote comes after two decades of deliberate, passionate focus by Catholic political and theological conservatives to make abortion a litmus test for the sacrament, while church teachings on poverty, climate, racism and authoritarianism, among other things, become more subjective to follow. It also comes after years of hardening toward abortion opponents within the Democratic Party.

Much of that description is doubletalk, frankly. We have 2000 years of history with the Church and arguments about politics have been part of that history from the outset, but poverty has always been an ongoing concern. The default position of Catholicism is faith and works, which is why Catholics build hospitals and schools everywhere they go. And ascribing passion as the prevailing emotion for conservatives is cute, when you consider the behavior of the pro-choice side.

I, like Joe Biden, am a lifelong Catholic. Biden is an ostentatious sinner, but so am I. Understanding my faith has been an ongoing effort for me, especially since the Vatican II teaching I received was equivocal on many issues. I am a graduate of a well-regarded Catholic high school in Wisconsin (Top 50 in the country — just ask them!), but the quality of the religious instruction I received wasn’t very good. Scarcity applies not only to economic matters, but also to clear moral instruction. And in this Archdiocese, which harbored monstrous priests for decades, even the clearest moral instruction is tainted. Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and many other Catholic politicians benefit greatly from this loss of trust. But Biden is a Catholic in a secular world. And I cannot know the condition of his soul; assuming that I do would be a sin as well.

Biden is also a symptom of a larger malady. As time has passed, Catholics in the West have been following the same dismal path that mainline Protestants have followed — the buildings remain, but the people aren’t coming. We still get decent attendance at my parish, but the faithful parishioners are aging rapidly and many young families are otherwise engaged on Sunday.

Still, hope remains. COVID has actually helped our parish school, which remained open while their public school counterparts were on a year-long Zoom call with cameras off. Parents who would not have considered enrolling their kids in a Catholic school gave Catholic education a chance and many of them are returning this year. And there is tremendous energy in the Church, mostly in places that were once missionary lands. It wasn’t a coincidence that the current Pontiff came from South America, even though his worldview is decidedly European, but there is a decent possibility that the next Pope will be from Africa or Asia. A revival is not guaranteed, but the Holy Spirit hasn’t left the building.

You Could See It Coming. . .

. . . right up 38th Street:

For the second time in less than a week, Minneapolis city crews worked to reopen the area around 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to traffic and activists have returned makeshift barriers to the area.

Minneapolis city crews, at around 4:50 a.m. Tuesday, were removing items from George Floyd Square in an attempt to reopen the intersection to traffic.

Once crews were done removing items, they left the area.

Later Tuesday, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew reported activists had returned makeshift barriers to the streets near the intersection.

Our friends in Minneapolis have turned fecklessness into an art form.

Seriously, what’s the point? Either you clear the intersection and ensure it doesn’t get blocked again, or you admit you are too weak to run your city and let the local warlords run the show. This is a stupid game. 

 

Green Ideas And Word Salads

Do you remember Kate Knuth? When we last heard from her, she was cashing checks as a resilience officer for the city of Minneapolis. It didn’t end well:

Knuth, an environmental educator and former DFL legislator, spent her first months in the job interviewing people and conducting a survey, but had not delivered any finished work product before she resigned.

So what happened? Tell me if you can figure out what happened:

Mychal Vlatkovich, a spokesman for Mayor Jacob Frey, said they’ve begun looking for a replacement and hope to hire someone by the end of March who will focus on the mayor’s goals. He said the mayor’s office did not ask Knuth to step down, but declined to answer whether she was allowed to continue in the position and referred further questions to Knuth and former City Coordinator Spencer Cronk, who is now the city manager of Austin, Texas.

Go ask the guy who moved to Texas. We aren’t sayin’ nothin’.

As you might imagine, this unceremonious departure didn’t sit well with Knuth, who has been rent-seeking for the better part of her career. And unsurprisingly, after her tussle with the tousled mayor, she’s looking for revenge:

Frey’s contentious relationship with the city’s elected representatives, among other issues, got Knuth thinking in January about running for mayor. “Especially in the last year, especially in the last six weeks, there has been an absence” on the part of Frey, she said. “I also haven’t seen as strong of an interest in the basic running of the city that I would like to see from my mayor.”

In theory, revenge is a better motive for running than monomaniacal incoherence, which is what usually delivers the goods around City Hall. But is Knuth coherent? Let’s check out her Jack Handey imitation:

“The thing that I bring is this really strong commitment to moving through the work of structural transformative change, particularly when it comes to public safety, particularly when it comes to climate change,” she said. “Pairing that with [my] experience in, and just liking working within, big public institutions and working with them and through them to make sure they’re serving what we deserve as a city is potentially really powerful and I think something people in this city would really value.”

Dude. But there’s more. Oh my yes, there’s more:

Climate change intersects with progressive economic policies for Knuth. “I think one of the best resilience strategies we could accomplish is if every family had $500 in the bank,” she said. “Whether it’s a car breaking down or the power going out and losing some food, they’re better able to handle that. Does that sound like a climate policy? No, but if climate change increases risks in the most vulnerable [communities] now or even more vulnerable [communities in the future], decreasing vulnerability overall is super important in terms of dealing with climate change.”

That’s just super.

Will Knuth have a chance? Given the puzzle palace structure of elections in Minneapolis, it’s entirely possible. Frey has been weighed and found wanting, but the current competition has Mos Eisley Cantina written all over it, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Coming on like a amalgam of Marianne Williamson and Rachel Carson may just work. 

 

Memorial Day

The image I’ve posted is an American cemetery in France, near Verdun. These graves are for soldiers killed in World War I. There are nearly 15,000 graves at the site. Over 53,000 Americans died in combat in World War I and 116,000 Americans in total died as a result of the war. My grandfather fought in World War I and was able to survive the carnage and come home. He was one of the lucky ones. And because he was lucky, so am I.

My grandfather died in 1959, before I was born. I never did get a chance to know him, or to thank him for his service. He did get 40 more years, time enough to marry and raise a family that included my father. I don’t doubt that each of these crosses represents a man who would have loved to have 40 more years to live, to do the things my grandfather was able to do.

We remember those who gave their all on this day precisely because of the enormity of the sacrifice they made. Every one of these crosses represents a human life that was cut short, a dream unrealized. We owe these individuals our gratitude in ways that we cannot adequately express.

Bagman’s Groove

Value propositions:

The Ukrainian energy company that was paying President Biden’s son Hunter $1 million a year cut his monthly compensation in half two months after his father ceased to be vice president.

From May 2014, Burisma Holdings Ltd. was paying Hunter $83,333 a month to sit on its board, invoices on his abandoned laptop show.

But in an email on March 19, 2017, Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi asked Hunter to sign a new director’s agreement and informed him “the only thing that was amended is the compensation rate.”

The board member’s access to the White House had been amended a bit, too, and it’s difficult to imagine Hunter’s, ahem, skill set was particularly valuable to a Ukranian energy company when his dad was a private citizen. There’s more:

Documents on the laptop also show that Hunter invited [Burisma executive Vadym] Pozharskyi to meet then-vice president Biden at a dinner in Washington DC in April, 2015.

That would be the laptop that dare not speak its name about seven months ago. While we’re not sure what was on the menu at that dinner, there were just desserts:

In December 2015, Biden flew to Kiev and strong-armed the Ukrainian government into firing its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating Burisma at the time, including seizing four large houses and a Rolls-Royce Phantom belonging to the company’s owner Mykola Zlochevsky.

And there was more:

Three months later, Shokin was forced out of office, and nine months later, all legal proceedings against Burisma were dropped. Joe Biden has said in the past that Shokin wasn’t doing enough to crack down on corruption and that the push had nothing to do with Hunter’s position.

And the future Leader of the Free World said this:

In a 2018 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, VPBiden bragged that he had threatened to withhold $1 billion in US loan guarantees for Ukraine unless Shokin was sacked.

“I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired,” he said.

Correlation is not causation, but son of a bitch, it sure has an aroma.

This Ain’t No Foolin’ Around

The sound of gunfire, off in the distance/I’m getting used to it now.

That wasn’t off in the distance. It was the scene at 38th and Chicago yesterday, also known as George Floyd Square. Sure, it was the middle of the day, but it’s always a good time to bust a few caps, right? This news report was, ahem, deadpan:

The Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd died was disrupted by gunfire Tuesday, just hours before it was to be the site of a family-friendly street festival marking the anniversary of his death at the hands of police.

Nothing quite says family-friendly street festival like random gunfire. But fortunately, a bona fide journalist was on the scene:

Journalist Philip Crowther, who was shooting live video from 38th and Chicago, reported hearing as many as 30 gunshots about a block east of the intersection. Crowther said a storefront window appeared to have been broken by a gunshot.

“Very quickly things got back to normal,” Crowther said. “People here who spend a significant amount of time, the organizers, were running around asking, ‘Does anyone need a medic?’ It seems like there are no injuries.”

Mr. Crowther? There’s nothing normal about any of this. But hey, we appreciate the narrative!

New York Bookstores And Suburban Gas Stations

We’re a week past the lifting of the mask mandates. But as Miranda Devine notes in the New York Post, confusion reigns:

This is how confused New Yorkers are about masks. At Barnes & Noble Wednesday, no mask was required to browse the bookshelves, but on the other side of Union Square, the Strand bookstore had mandated masks for all shoppers. Practically everyone inside both stores was wearing a mask, anyway, despite CDC advice that you don’t need one, indoors or outdoors, if you’re vaccinated against COVID-19.

Considering that more than half of Manhattan has been fully vaccinated, something is very wrong with the way we are processing risk. The trust between public health experts and the public is broken and now no one knows what to believe.

Why is that? Devine has a culprit:

We can blame one man above anyone for this parlous state of ­affairs: Saint Anthony Fauci, the coronavirus czar once hailed as the most trusted man in America for his leadership through the pandemic. He has flip-flopped on every piece of advice, never admits doubt and tells lies with ­brazen indifference.

True, Fauci is a dissembler for sure. But the weirdness must be just in places like Manhattan, right? But what are we seeing here in Minnesota? 

Mitch shared a few examples yesterday. Here is what I’ve seen: I get a cup of coffee every morning at a gas station near my home. While I live in Ramsey County, I am not a St. Paul resident and there is no mask mandate for our community. The mask requirement signs are all taken down. But based on what I’ve observed, just about everyone who enters the station, at least in the morning rush, is wearing a mask. I started watching this behavior midweek. In the two days I observed, I saw about 25 people enter the store. Almost all of them were still wearing masks. The only guys who consistently didn’t wear a mask going into the store were the guys delivering milk. And, um, me.

Is there a health benefit to still wearing a mask, especially if you’re vaccinated? Or is it theater? Back to Devine:

It was just on Tuesday that Fauci admitted it was not science but theater that kept him wearing a mask — even double masking — despite being fully vaccinated for ­almost five months.

“I didn’t want to look like I was giving mixed signals,” he told “Good Morning America.” “But being a fully vaccinated person, the chances of my getting infected in an indoor setting is extremely low.”

So it is. But even then, he squirted out more octopus ink:

“I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” Fauci told Axios. “It’s an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors.”

And Devine isn’t having it:

Fauci at this point is being deliberately confusing. He is feeding the mental disorder of vaccinated Karens who cling to their masks. He needs to tell them the truth and stick to it.

I agree. And don’t expect Governor Walz to help straighten things out.

 

 

 

Ko-Ko Kamala And The Kalorama Kommissar

They never would be missed:

Vice President Kamala Harris keeps a list of reporters and other political types who might be racist, according to a profile published in the Atlantic on Monday.

“The vice president and her team tend to dismiss reporters. Trying to get her to take a few questions after events is treated as an act of impish aggression,” writes Edward-Isaac Dovere. “And Harris herself tracks political players and reporters whom she thinks don’t fully understand her or appreciate her life experience.”

In important ways, the less said about Harris’s life experiences, the better. But while most may not consider her an old school politician, her little list is straight outta 1885:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found
I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!

List keeping is kind of a thing for our current leadership and their mentors. Consider this exchange from a previous administration:

“Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother,” Obama told [Oregon Congressman] DeFazio during a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus, according to members afterward.

I don’t doubt it for a second. Nor should you.

 

Who Needs A Highway, An Airport Or A Jet. . .

. . . when you can’t buy a gallon of gas?

Drivers along parts of the East Coast piled into gas stations on Tuesday, resulting in long lines and shortages as motorists reacted to what could be a weeklong shutdown of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline because of a cyberattack.

Colonial Pipeline Co., operator of a 5,500-mile conduit for gasoline, diesel and refined products, said Monday it hoped to substantially restore service by the end of the week. It shut the pipeline late last week after a ransomware attack that U.S. officials have linked to a criminal gang known as DarkSide.

We haven’t seen gas lines too often in recent years. I remember those gas lines in the 70s. OPEC was at the height of its powers and while the cartel didn’t conduct ransomware attacks per se, the effect was about the same. It happened the first time in late ’73 and into ’74, right as Watergate was starting to gain traction, and then again in 1979, when many of my friends were getting their driver’s licenses. We were eager to start cruising the main drag, but gas was hard to find at times, limiting our early forays into car culture and adulthood.

In the middle of that summer (July 15, to be precise) Jimmy Carter gave his infamous “malaise” speech. While the chattering classes were supportive, Carter’s hangdog expression and mien sent an unmistakable message of weakness, which other players noticed. Weak politicians don’t prosper, so Carter blew up his career that evening.

A few days earlier, a Chicago disc jockey Steve Dahl had blown up a large box of disco records at Comiskey Park, starting a melee that tore up the field and causing the White Sox to forfeit the second game of a scheduled doubleheader. About a month later, members of the provisional IRA assassinated Lord Mountbatten, detonating a bomb on his boat while he was out sailing with members of his family. One way or another, it seemed like things were about to blow in that summer of ’79.

We’re more than forty years on. Tensions have been high lately, but it’s been calm since the jury came back against Derek Chauvin. It’s likely our current gas shortage will be temporary and may not directly affect the Upper Midwest at all. History does not necessarily repeat, but it’s easy to sense weakness in our leaders at all levels of government. Some have already noticed. Joe Biden was on the scene in 1979, so I’d like to believe he was paying attention. Summer’s coming. I hope it doesn’t blow.

 

V-K Day

Mr. Mask Mandate, he dead:

Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday he’ll sign an order Friday ending Minnesota’s statewide mask-wearing mandate following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks.

Calling it a great day for Minnesota, the governor continued to plead with unvaccinated Minnesotans to get their shots to hold back the spread of COVID-19.

“So those peacetime emergencies are done and the business mitigations are coming to an end. I want to be clear it’s not the end of the pandemic, but it is the end of the pandemic for a lot of vaccinated folks,” he told reporters.

It’s the end of many things, actually — most importantly, it’s the end of Karen Nation enforcement and forcing shopkeepers and restaurateurs into indentured scolding, at least on this particular issue. Walz’s Nurse Ratched, Jan Malcolm, admitted as much:

“When things are no longer a rule or a mandate, they think therefore that everything is safe,” she said, noting that Minnesota still has a relatively high level of COVID-19 spread. “People may translate this guidance meaning that the pandemic is over.”

Malcolm said if it were feasible to keep a mask mandate just for unvaccinated people, “I definitely would have liked to see that. I just think that it’s not practically enforceable at this stage.”

I’ll bet she would have liked that. But apparently there is a limit after all. Maybe you don’t need to laminate the ol’ vaccine card.

The economic and social toll of the lockdowns is incalculable — how many families were separated, how many graduations were canceled, how many businesses were shuttered, how many of our elderly were consigned to death in nursing homes without being able to say goodbye or even have a final hug? Meanwhile, we’ve had the joy of experiencing Walz and his coterie treat our fair state as a protectorate. Now, suddenly, we say Goodbye to All That. The signs will come off the doors as soon as tomorrow, but the reckoning is about to begin.

Try Some, Buy Some

Every desktop should have a link to The Devil’s Dictionary, the masterwork of Ambrose Bierce, who had his primary success in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. Bierce’s cynical lexicography still rings true, a full century after he wandered into Mexico to meet his Maker circa 1914. To use one example, Bierce defines “adherent” as follows:

ADHERENT, n. A follower who has not yet obtained all that he expects to get.

All politicians are on the lookout for adherents, especially a guy like Gavin Newsom, the upmarket Jacob Frey who is (a) governor of California and (b) facing a recall. Newsom is a man in a hurry, so he’s looking to get some adherents in bulk:

Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a second round of $600 state stimulus checks on Monday to hasten California’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to expand the payments from low-income residents to also include middle-class families, and noting that doing so would ensure benefits for 2 out of 3 state residents.

The proposal to deliver $8 billion in new cash payments to millions of Californians is part of a $100-billion economic stimulus plan made possible in part by a budget that has swelled with a significant windfall of tax revenues, a surplus the governor put at $75.7 billion.

You might wonder where the money came from, but never mind that, because ol’ Gavin’s not done — he’s also rent seeking, er, offering rent assistance: 

Newsom also proposed $5 billion to double rental assistance to get 100% of back rent paid for those who have fallen behind, along with as much as $2 billion in direct payments to pay down utility bills, proposals that were supported by legislative leaders on Monday.

This is hilariously corrupt but hey, who doesn’t love a stimmy? And since California is famously a one-party state, no one is gonna stop Newsom from buying his way out of a recall. Recall elections in Minnesota are essentially impossible, so Tim Walz doesn’t need to do this sort of thing, but there’s little doubt he’d pull the same stunt were it required. I think it’s safe to assume all Dem officeholders who find themselves in trouble will make it rain next year.  

Use All Your Well-Learned Politesse

Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Mr. D, a man of wealth (ed: not actually true) and taste. I’ve been commenting here at Mitch’s place for many years, but I have also been blogging at Mr. Dilettante’s Neighborhood for over 15 years, so I know the blogging biz. Mitch has graciously asked me to be a contributor here and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Brief intro: my current day job is as a contractor with a large medical device company, although I have done many other things in my career. I’ve been married to Mrs. D for nearly 30 years (anniversary in September!) and I live in the northern suburbs. I have two adult children.

I am roughly a contemporary of Mitch. I grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Minnesota in 1992, after spending five years in Chicago. I am a Catholic boy and a product of Catholic education. Unfortunately, I came of age in the late 1970s, so much of my religious instruction was Vatican II mush. I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to understand my faith. I write about that sometimes. I love sports, so you will see some of that as well, although I’d rather not discuss the Packers right now, thank you. I am conservative to libertarian in my politics, so yeah, I’ll write about that, too. And I love music, especially rock and pre-90s r&b, so I’ll write about that. I’m also good for archaic cultural references, but I will keep the Shields & Yarnell jokes to a low roar.

Most of all, I will respect your intelligence. The first thing you learn in writing classes is this: know your audience. I’ve been part of this audience for a long time, so I know this much — smart people congregate here. The internet is chock full of shoddy reasoning and facile argumentation and you don’t have time for that. Neither do I. Shot in the Dark has always been a refuge from the second-rate. And so it shall remain. Glad to be here.