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Timbs v. Indiana: A First, Tentative Step Towards the Elimination of Civil Asset Forfeiture?


SCOTUS today announced its decision in Timbs v. Indiana. It is good, but not great news. All nine justices agreed that the prohibition on excessive fines found in the Eighth Amendment applied to state civil forfeiture actions. The unanimity is particularly nice to see and the result is a step in the right direction. Gorsuch and Thomas wrote separately to make the true — but at this time, pedantic — point that the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment rather than the oxymoronic “substantive due process” doctrine should be the vehicle for incorporation.

The case stopped short, however, of banning civil asset forfeitures. It remanded for further proceedings — presumably on the question of the excessiveness of the forfeiture involved in the case.

I had hoped for a more expansive opinion that would put an end to the constitutionally loathsome practice of confiscating the property of citizens without obtaining a criminal conviction to justify the confiscation. But it appears that the Roberts Court will continue to take small steps, deciding no more than necessary to decide the issues presented to it. At least that’s what it did here.

Nothing in any of the opinions that I can find sheds any light on whether civil asset forfeiture is long for this world or not, though I am hopeful that at least some of the justices see this as a stepping stone to resolving that question in favor of the victims of the noxious practice.

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Speaking of Overreach in the Executive Branch …


There are several conversations going on about the declaration of a national emergency by President Trump last week. Many folks are in high dudgeon about this executive “overreach.” Many Congressfolk, who heretofore have talked about and around, and ultimately did nothing about the border crisis for decades, are outraged that a President would act. ‘I mean, yeah sure it is a crisis or an emergency, but it is up to the legislature to solve, not the President. Haaaruuumppfff!’ Quite embarrassing for them, in light of the fact they have done squat about it legislatively for over 18 years now.

But, I digress. Let’s examine another executive branch action that has clearly overreached. And likely illegally.

It seems that another member of our FBI is out with a book and a book tour. Reminiscent of the bumbling tone-deaf Jim Comey, here comes Andy McCabe. Yes, that Andy McCabe. Liar. Fired. Husband of the wife whom Hillary and the Dems gave $700,000 to run as a Democrat in Virginia. This good friend and colleague of smarmy Rod Rosenstein, with whom he is now arguing about who was going to wear the “wire” to somehow trap their boss, the President of the United States of America, and invoke the 25th Amendment on a sitting president. All because he appropriately fired their previous boss. It is complicated.

Well, during his book tour and celebrity interviews he has revealed many details of this subterfuge and overreach. Here’s Rich Lowry, no Trumpist by any stretch, writing at National Review (not Breitbart or American Greatness):

First of all, Trump obviously was perfectly capable of discharging his duties; he just discharged them in a way alarming to McCabe and Rosenstein. His response to an effort by his Cabinet to join such an exercise would have been to fire anyone involved, which he could have done because, again, he wasn’t incapacitated …

Consider the lunacy of this: By providing Trump with a memo justifying Comey’s firing, Rosenstein participated in the scheme that the FBI considered a possible crime, or the culmination of a Russian plot. Then Rosenstein turned around and appointed a special counsel, whom he oversaw, to investigate the possible crime to which he was a party.

It is time for the special counsel to end. It is time for multiple G-men to go to jail. This is a witch hunt.

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Some Random Musings on the Smollett Case


Attending a Catholic elementary school and being taught by nuns provided two educations. One was the classical three R’s — actually four R’s if you include religion. The other education was in behavior. One day, a boy in third grade decided he would throw a tantrum. A real tantrum, throwing himself on the floor next to his desk, and screaming. Sister Mary (not her real name) left the room and came back with two more nuns and a pail of water. The water was poured onto the boy and he was marched off to the office. His mother received a phone call informing her that she needed to bring another uniform to school for her son.

I learned two lessons that day. The first was to take throwing a tantrum before the end of the school year off my to-do list. The second was that I would not be rewarded for throwing a tantrum by being sent home before the end of the school day.

Mr. Smollett it appears tried to perpetrate a hoax of being attacked because of his race and his sexual preference. His first mistake was perpetrating a hoax. His second mistake was assuming he was smarter than Chicago Police detectives. His motivation is not that important. Motivation is a platform for rationalizations, not only from Mr. Smollett but from his supporters as well.

He has thrown a tantrum or two about people who did not believe his story and his supporters have thrown Twitter tantrums. The rationalizations have included blaming VP Pence, President Trump, and MAGA hats. Now that his story has fallen apart, some of his supporters claim that the Chicago Police Department is lying because they are racists.

Unfortunately, there are not enough nuns carrying pails of water to deal with all the Twitter tantrums, and that’s a shame.

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Of Kings, Presidents, and the Abdication of Congressional Power


I’ve been a member of Ricochet for several years but never had sufficient reason to believe my political opinions were worth sharing here. Alas, I’m still not convinced of the value of my own views, but I am sure that my teenaged son has thought out many of his own quite well. Here’s an essay he wrote a few months ago (when he was still 16) that he has authorized me to share with you all. Enjoy!

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead.” This was originally meant as a British criticism of American society, but the modern political climate has proven him wrong: we have given ourselves a king to honor, namely in the form of whoever holds the office of President of the United States.

While the President clearly does not hold the same power as a king, he is honored as such by both the public and members of the government – and, it seems, Congress in particular. They largely do not seem to realize this, but it is obvious that he is held, in the eyes of the public, to the same position. Should he state his intentions through a speech or a tweet, people assume it as a threat, and an executive order is treated as if it had the authority of a royal decree.

This has had numerous detrimental effects not only on the country at large, but on the federal government itself. The Republican Party has an unfortunate tendency to view the President as a means to an end; convince the President, you can do whatever you want. The Democratic Party has an equally unfortunate tendency to view him as an implacable monarch, whose declarations and commands can only be defeated through public outrage and media flag-waving.

As a result, should the President unofficially declare something, the Republican congressmen simply assume that because the President said so, it will work itself out, and the Democratic congressmen appear on Sunday morning talk shows and take to social media to complain, rather than taking effective, logical steps to use the power available to them. The tragic result is a sort of political trench warfare, with both sides of the conflict dug into defensive positions and neither gaining any significant ground.

It is often assumed that the three branches of the American government are meant to be equal, with none having more power than the other two. This is simply untrue: in the minds of the Founding Fathers, the legislative branch was to stand ascendant over both the executive and judicial. Almost every decision made by the President can be rescinded by Congress, and any executive order, in particular, can be undone in short order.

However, the system only has as much power as it is given, and with members of Congress on both sides of the increasingly wide political divide focusing on social media and smear campaigns, they are simply not giving enough power to the system to prevent the President from doing whatever he wishes. And so it ends with the Supreme Court as some sort of synod, with Congress fighting over the ears of the justices. Hence the partisan mudslinging over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination: the Republicans want as many of their people to have the President’s ear as possible, and the Democrats want the opposite. Both are willing to do anything to get what they want, and neither realizes that the power they believe the President wields was actually in their hands all along.

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How Do You Make That Hose?


http://hbd-ther.knowledge4you.ca/wp-content/uploads/industrial-hose_product-image.pngYou likely use things made with the help of my maternal grandfather’s patent every day. From cars to jet airliners, from garden hoses to welding torches, reinforced hose is used. You need an inner layer that stands up to whatever flows through the hose, you need a reinforcing layer to keep the hose from bulging and bursting under pressure, and you need an outer coating to protect the hose from the external environment. So, how do you make that? Therein lies a tale.

F. Merrill Galloway was my maternal grandfather. Born in 1908, he went home at 95. He worked his entire adult life until the Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA) or mini-strokes ended his ability to work in his late 80s. He worked with both his hands and his mind, from his garden, to clocks, to rebuilding a violin from broken pieces in a cigar box. Then there was the work that paid the bills and in which he took enormous pride.

https://cdn.sportsmemorabilia.com/sports-product-image/1955-thermoid-rubber-fire-hose-vintage-print-ad-86-t849350-500.jpgHe worked in the rubber industry his entire adult life. He was hired after college by Quaker Rubber, which was eventually bought by H.K Porter, which is now part of HBD Industries. He was moved to Ohio to establish a continuous hose production plant. The manufacturing plants in which he worked made hoses and belts, of the sort found in a car’s engine compartment, for instance. These are now organized under one of the venerable brand names: Thermoid. Into the plant came raw materials, and out the other end went finished products on pallets.

Rubber, whether natural or synthetic, is only useful when combined with certain additives and heated. The heating process is called vulcanization, or “curing.” Curing chemically fixes the additives in among the rubber molecules so that the product does not sag into a puddle in the summer or crumble into pieces in the winter. American Innovations offers a creative telling of Charles Goodyear’s lengthy trial and error discovery of vulcanization. A Royal Society of Chemistry podcast on rubber chemistry offers a more technical, but accessible, explanation.

Vulcanisation crosslinks rubber by creating sulfur bridges between chains, which generally vary in length between one and eight sulfur atoms. Short crosslinks produce a more heat resistant rubber, whereas longer crosslinks produce a more elastic material. The amount of crosslinking also affects the mechanical properties – the higher the degree of crosslinking, the stiffer the rubber. For example, rubber bands have a much lower crosslink density than car tyres. On its own, sulfur is a slow, inefficient crosslinker, so accelerating agents are added to catalyse the process, and other additives are added to stop the reaction and stabilise the final product.

The flexibility and ability to hold air, water, and other liquids or gasses make hoses superior to metal tubes or pipes, in many applications. Yet, you do not want a hose to bulge, like a party balloon. So, you can add lateral or sidewall strength by wrapping the hose in thread, applied in a crosswise manner by several bobbins rotating in opposite directions as the hose passes between them.

Before the reinforcement step, the raw materials, following a recipe for the particular desired product, are combined and heated into a near liquid mass. That mass is then extruded with the desired cross-section interior and exterior diameters. Another rubber company gives this explanation of the rubber extrusion process:

The rubber extrusion process begins with the soft, unvulcanized rubber compound being fed into the extruder.

Next, the flutes of the revolving screw will begin to carry the rubber forward into the die, with an increase in pressure and temperature occurring as the material gets closer to the die itself.

Once it reaches the die, the built-up pressure forces the material through the openings, where it will consequently swell in various degrees based on the material compound and hardness. Because of this tendency toward swelling, many extruded parts require plus or minus tolerances on their cross sections. During the vulcanization, the extruded rubber will well or shrink in both its cross section and its length, depending on the type of rubber compound used.

With the extruded, but not vulcanized, hose wrapped with reinforcing material, repeat the extrusion process with the same or different materials to create the outer layer. Now we need to get the whole thing to set with the characteristics we desire for use. Time to bring the heat.

One way to vulcanize hose is to make a desired length and heat it all at once. Obviously, this limits the speed of production, and the length, depending on the heating system. What we really want is a continuous system, a sort of assembly line. Yet, the length of time you need to apply heat suggests the assembly line could get quite long, just to keep the moving hose in the heating system long enough for vulcanization.

Ah, but what if we had a system of pulley wheels at two ends and at point through a shorter heating system? Now the hose could be passed back and forth several times through the heating system. Here is where my grandfather enters the picture.

He was involved in the patented invention and improvement of the most efficient system for curing “elasticized polymer” or “rubber” in a continuous moving production line. A bed of glass beads, as small as fine sand, but smooth, is both heated and suspended in air by forces hot air from below. It looks like a bubbling liquid, and the hose dips down in and passes through the liquid-like glass bead bath. The roller or pulley system is adjustable, to maintain the right tension or slack on the moving hose, preventing distortion.

The U.S. Patent Office has the drawing in PDF format, part of the pre-digital application archive. Google offers both the drawing and the text for the patent. Justia Patents offers the last improvement credited to my grandfather in 1979:

This invention constitutes an improvement upon the existing practice of manufacturing reinforced automotive heater hose and the like in a continuous operation which comprises continuously extruding an elastomeric tube, continuously applying to the outer surface of the tube an appropriate reinforcing layer of textile yarns or the like, continuously extruding over the reinforcing layer an elastomeric covering layer, and continuously curing the elastomeric components in an elongated chamber containing heat exchange elements the improvement residing in the provision of a method and means for elongating within certain limits the uncured or partially cured hose during the curing process whereby reduction of pressure and temperature within the extruding units and other advantages in production of reinforced automotive heater hose and the like may be realized.

As I and my oldest sister, who worked several summers at the plant, recall, there were three of these lines, so three different types of hose could be produced at once. There were workers posted near the initial mixing station, to ensure the extruder was properly fed, and near the reinforcing material bobbin systems to ensure they were feeding correctly and reloaded as needed. Towards the end, hose was cut at specified lengths, and could be finished with various fittings. Each lot had a small sample cut for quality control testing by the in house lab.

How do you ensure the product is being produced within specifications? Well, that takes some measurement devices, and a quick search shows my grandfather, around 80 years old, inventing and patenting two such tools. This exemplifies the man, who was still going to work in the R&D department of the plant. It was a family joke that “work will be the death of Daddy.” My uncles joked “oh, the shame, I’ll retire before him!” He taught his children and grandchildren that if you put in the time to weed your garden, consistently, it would eventually be easy. As soon at the Farmers’ Almanac said it was safe, he was putting into his garden the young plants he had started in the basement under fluorescent grow lamps. His hands and mind were always turning to sustaining or improving something.

Grandpa Galloway spent most of his working life in the same Ohio town, yet his expertise made him part of the company team flying to Europe and Asia when foreign companies inquired about licensing the continuous manufacture of reinforced hose process. I’m not sure of the outcome of those trips, although I recall Grandpa’s comment that the Chinese would likely just steal the process. That was surely a safe assessment, one which no Congress or president has effectively addressed until, perhaps, President Trump.

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ISIS Mother Pleads to Return—to Alabama


We knew this would happen. All the men and women who were excited about fighting for ISIS wanted to be involved with the ISIS cause and they went to fight in Syria. And now one of them wants to come home with her child.

Hoda Muthana went to Syria in 2014; she was one of 1,500 foreign women and the only American staying in a Kurdish-run refugee camp. She was married three times and widowed twice. And now she has an 18-month old son. She is asking to return to the United States.

Her attorney claims she was brainwashed by ISIS. She wanted to “spill American blood”; she was known online as a prominent spokesperson for ISIS. Now she says that joining ISIS “was a big mistake.”

She told The Guardian that her parents were very conservative and limited her freedom in Alabama. She claims that contributed to her radicalization.

In a letter obtained by ABC News, these were the words she wrote:

Being where I was and seeing the ppl [sic] around me scared me because I realized I didn’t want to be a part of this. My beliefs weren’t the same as theirs. In my quiet moments, in between bombings, starvation, cold and fear I would look at my beautiful little boy and know that I didn’t belong here and neither did he. I would think sometimes of my family, my friends and the life that I knew and I realized how I didn’t appreciate or maybe even really understand how important the freedoms that we have in America are. I do now. To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly.

I think her choices were unwise and irresponsible. She has now put her own life and that of her child’s potentially in danger from Islamist radicals. We don’t know if she has outgrown her brainwashing. Would we be safe if we admitted her to the U.S.? What about her child?

My heart goes out to her and I say no. You can’t return.

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Responding to Conservative Critics of Trump using the National Emergency Law on 1976


I saw this article two days ago and I think it is spot on. I have some quotes, but please, read the whole thing. (All quotes from this article except the table on how Reagan, too, shredded the Constitution by using the 1976 law)

Now come all the great Washington “conservatives” lambasting President Trump for threatening to declare a “national emergency” so he can finally build the promised southern border wall that got him elected president.

These out-of-the-blue “constitutionalists” have lined up alongside the open border Democrats who for years have airily dismissed U.S. citizens’ alarm over the open border as a “manufactured crisis.”

These critics are all of a sudden worried that Mr. Trump will overreach his executive authority. Even more fundamentally, they cringe, this action by a president will forever grant unchecked new powers to every future president.

Give me a break. These are the same goons in Congress who for decades have handed over congressional authority to any president in the White House who happens to wear the same color jersey they do. Democrats have done it for Democrat presidents and Republicans have done it for Republican presidents.

Indeed. I guess when Reagan did it it was OK:

Reagan October 14, 1983 December 20, 1983 Trade[18] Continuation of Export Control Regulations (Executive Order 12444)[20] – expiry of the Export Administration Act of 1979
Reagan March 30, 1984 July 12, 1985 Trade[18] Continuation of Export Control Regulations (Executive Order 12470)[20] – expiry of the Export Administration Act of 1979
Reagan May 1, 1985[21] March 13, 1990[22] Sanctions[18] Prohibiting Trade and Certain Other Transactions Involving Nicaragua (Executive Order 12513)[21] – The United States embargo against Nicaragua,[23]followed the victory by Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega in the 1984 Nicaraguan general election over the U.S.-backed Contras
Reagan September 9, 1985 July 10, 1991 Sanctions[18] Prohibiting Trade and Certain Other Transactions Involving South Africa (Executive Order 12532)[20] – response to the initial attempt by Senate Democrats to pass what would be the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986
Reagan January 7, 1986 September 20, 2004 Sanctions[18] Prohibiting Trade and Certain Transactions Involving Libya (Executive Order 12543)[20] – followed the 1985 Rome and Vienna airport attacks
Reagan April 8, 1988 April 5, 1990 Sanctions[18] Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Panama (Executive Order 12635)[20] – deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and General Manuel Noriega

Why did Congress invent the National Emergencies Act in the first place if it is such a threat to the Constitution? And where has all this angst been the five dozen times presidents have declared national emergencies since the law was created in 1976?

Yep. Which party first ran for a third term? Which party abused the filibuster? Which party decided to unwind the filibuster?

The truth of most of the political class is they don’t want to protect the border.

Because Congress won’t do its job. Its members are all willing to just pass the buck and do nothing. More on this here.

If Congress did not want this to happen, it could have stopped it, and still could stop it. Congress gave the power to the Executive and they can take it away.

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Firearms Background Checks


I decided to a little more research into the failure of finding a felony conviction for the Aurora, IL shooter. When his employment was terminated, he shot 10 people. Five employees were killed, and five police officers were wounded.

In spite of his felony conviction in the mid-1990s for aggravated assault in Mississippi, he managed to obtain a Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card in January 2014. He submitted his name and birthdate, but he checked the box stating he had not been convicted of a felony.

Five weeks later he purchased .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol. The purchase was approved on March 6, 2014, after he cleared a second background check. On March 16, 2014, he applied for a concealed weapons permit. According to the Chicago Tribune, he submitted his fingerprints to expedite the process. His fingerprints were sent to the FBI and that revealed his felony conviction.

On April 17, 2014, Mr. Martin was sent a letter informing him that he could not possess a gun. Upon receipt of the letter he had 48 hours to transfer the handgun to someone with a valid firearms permit or his local police department. He was also required to submit a firearms disposition record of the transfer. The revocation of his permit was supposed to be transmitted through a statewide database. His local police department, the Aurora police department would then mail the disposition record of transfer to the Illinois State Police.

None of that happened and almost five years later, ten people were shot by a convicted felon. The process is far too complex in Illinois, and a more complex process does not mean separating a felon from a firearm. It leads to assumptions that someone else is doing their job or it’s someone else’s problem. Illinois state law does not require a law enforcement agency to seek a warrant to seize a firearm, although it is not forbidden to do so.

In spite of the timeline, no one knows where the system broke down. The search has begun by the Illinois State Police, and the Aurora Police Department to find out the why, and how Mr. Martin still retained his handgun for five years after he was informed he could no longer possess a handgun.

Going back to the form that Mr. Martin falsified is the first step in obtaining a warrant from the court to seize his firearm. Falsifying a state document is a crime. It does not matter if a prosecutor will decline to prosecute that crime. The warrant, arrest and the seizure would still be valid. Felon in possession of a firearm is also a crime. If the Illinois State Police are responsible for the background check it would be far simpler for them to obtain the warrant, and execute the warrant.

Do away with the firearms disposition form, especially in light of the fact that Mr. Martin falsified a state document. In all cases of a felon in possession of a firearm, the objective is to remove the firearm as soon as possible. I don’t understand why Illinois allows a felon to transfer the weapon to someone else, especially a felon that falsified a state form.

His criminal record was found but the investigation should also include just what information was available on Mr. Martin in the NCIC and NCIS data system. The NCIS system did not come online until 1998. Mr. Martin was released from prison in 1997. Is there a chance that Mr. Martin’s data was not available in the NCIS. Because the FOID card is a state-issued card did the Illinois State Police only perform a state database check for the FOID card.

The Illinois State police do have access to both the NCIC and NCIS database but the investigation continues.

Note: A big tip of the hat to the Chicago Tribune. 

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The Problem with No Name


Confused about what is going on in France? You should be.

Fortunately, former Ricochet editor @claire has made an ambitious and, in my view, largely successful attempt to clarify the who, what, when, where, why and how dare you of the Yellow Vest Revolution and has published the article in The American Interest, I strongly recommend reading it.

This is not to say I go along with all her conclusions.

She is quite right to point out that basically, the French don’t have much to complain about. We Brits, who are mostly descendants of King Henry II Plantagenet, who was as French as they come (Count of Anjou and Maine), and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and are therefore French through and through, have tried for 700 years to bring our Continental cousins up correctly, but complain they always have done and complain they always will.

The statistics quoted by @claire in support of her argument are national and do not reflect the unevenness in the distribution of France’s wealth. She has herself opined that the great American divide is urban/rural rather than conservative/liberal, and this observation, probably correct, applies to France as much as to the US. The original protest about gas taxes was entirely justified, as the flight from rural to urban living has left many isolated and dependent on vehicular transport.

The main point on which I disagree with @claire’s analysis is her insistence that ‘they voted for Macron’ and that ‘he has a mandate’. They didn’t and he doesn’t.

‘They voted primarily against Marine Le Pen. We don’t know how much of the vote was against Le Pen and how much for Macron, and never will, but cast your minds back to the presidential election of 2002, when the run-off was between Marine’s father Jean-Marie and Jacques Chirac. Chirac won by a landslide but never claimed he had a mandate. He couldn’t. A huge part of his votes came from Socialists and Communists who swallowed their pride just to ensure Le Pen’s defeat.

Do read the section entitled Useful Idiots. Although @claire’s articles, like the chapters in her books, are interminable, she does sub-divide and label them clearly. Here she is at her strongest with the ‘convergence’ argument.

She also makes the important point: ‘There has never been a fully honest reckoning here with the Revolution [of 1789]. This is true, and it always puzzled me when I lived in France. The violence of the Terror always seemed so out of kilter with the avowed ‘nobility’ of the revolutionary aims: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

I am less pessimistic than @claire when it comes to her conclusion. I do not deny that the risk of extremist Left-Right violence exists, but Le Pen doesn’t have a Sturmabteilung to pit against ANTIFA. The greater risk is that she herself would be deposed by a French Gauleiter who might create one. But I still believe that this movement will peter out sooner or later, though Macron might have to dissolve parliament and call new elections for a semblance of normality to be restored.

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Pattern recognition


One wonders how many Democrat voters are starting to notice a pattern here. Surely some of them are starting to notice that their party’s causes are based on fantasies and make-believe, just like the economic policies of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or the job applications of Elizabeth Warren, or the evidence for the Trump-Russia collusion, or Hillary’s email server, or John Kerry’s military service, or whatever.

How many times can Democrats blatantly lie to their true believers before they create some skepticism among their own voters? There just must be a line somewhere; a line that they cross and even some college professors or parts of the old media starts to wonder if their support for the Democrat party may be misguided. Just a few, at first. But at least a few. Right?

There has to be a line. Somewhere. Right?

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Good News: Here Comes Gen Z


I have been seeing this trend through my own child and her friends who are Gen Z. Extremely practical, level-headed, hard-working youngsters who scoff at political correctness. They aren’t ‘conservative’ in the classic sense, but they lean in that direction, mainly because they’ve seen through the absurdity of today’s leftist ideals and attempts at radical social reform.

Teenagers rebel. They usually find a weakness in the arguments their parents and teachers make. Because of rapid changes, parents and teachers are more out of touch, advising them to play by the old, outdated rule books. Or to abide by the political priorities and remedies they themselves believed most effective.

Generation Z seems to be rebelling against left-wing excess. Part of the ‘rebellious’ behavior is simply ignoring them, working hard, and not looking to others (government) to solve their problems.

As a side note, I’m seeing young YouTube commentators who can run rings around professionals on major networks, this impressive young man being one of them.

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Who’s Right: AOC or de Blasio?


Amazon has announced that they are not going to locate one of the headquarters in NYC due to political blowback on the deal NY and NYC cut to attract Amazon there. The deal was priced at $3 Billion in Amazon’s favor. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) opposed the deal stating that that money should be distributed to the poor of NYC instead. Mayor de Blasio says “What money?!”

So what was the deal? It appears it was a fairly typical “redevelopment” project whereby a city (and/or state) offers a variety of things: spending money on infrastructure to make the place more useful to the expected developer, waiving certain regulations that add cost to the private developers, and exempting or reducing future taxes on the developer that would ordinarily be levied. Of these elements only infrastructure spending involves actual cash in the possession of government. And even then, the only cash that could alternatively be distributed to the poor would be any infrastructure expense that would be customizable for a particular developer as opposed to infrastructure needed to make the area usable for any economic activity.

But, you ask, couldn’t future tax collections that are being reduced or waived have been used for the poor? Yes, but only if there was economic activity stemming from a development. No development, no tax revenue.

Now let’s be clear: Amazon is taking advantage of competition between locales to reduce their tax burden as much as possible. If the locales did not compete with tax incentives, then exempting from or reducing tax burdens would not be a factor. But it’s like OPEC, cities have to act like a cartel to enforce higher taxes, or all cities are under pressure to offer reduced taxes to attract business.

If Amazon was going to do business on the cheap (from a tax perspective) in NYC, why did NY and NYC want them? Because employment creates individual taxpayers and consumers of other goods and services, to say nothing of votes for politicians who are seen as increasing employment and economic activity (unless they are named Trump).

Tucker Carlson knows all of this but has been on Amazon’s case because its actual employment practices nationally forces some locations to subsidize its workforce with welfare. So Tucker’s inner populist exerted itself to decry the national HQ sweepstakes that Amazon was running. But that did not make the NYC deal bad for NY/NYC. And, other than possibly the janitorial staff (which would likely be contracted out) at the NYC site, none of the employees would likely be on welfare. We are in a new Gilded Age with tech companies rather than smoke-belching factories, but the NY/NYC – Amazon deal was not a cash bribe, it was a “tax expenditure.”

“Tax expenditures” are where government declines to collect taxes on the condition that the money that otherwise would have been collected is spent in a governmentally-approved manner. Examples include charity, targeted employment, and training, solar, etc. So NY/NYC was making a bet: If Amazon located there and employed first construction crews then workers, the net tax collections from businesses and individuals with whom Amazon spent money would exceed the taxes not assessed directly on Amazon. If Amazon came without the tax incentives, NY/NYC stood to gain more, but if no business will operate in that location without the incentives, then NY/NYC just has unoccupied non-tax producing space.

The problem with the NY/NYC-Amazon deal wasn’t the deal, it was Amazon itself. But, of course, moving on is no problem for Amazon. And maybe NY/NYC will find someone else to develop and employ with fewer tax incentives and the citizens will be better off. But at the moment de Blasio seems to be the less crazy Marxist.

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I.Q. and Race: The Elephant in the Room


The topic I’m about to discuss burns almost everyone who touches it. But I have some protection: I’m old, totally out of touch (what’s an Emo?), and wear sweat pants high on my waist with a stripe down the side. That is, I’m so harmless that I’m hardly worth thinking about. In fact, I think […]

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Tinker – Tailor – Soldier – Spy


Have you ever felt on that rare occasion that watching a movie before reading the book was helpful? No? Have you ever read a book by John Le Carre?

First, there’s that British humor and language, like ‘bob’, instead of meaning @kentforrester‘ s dog, it means moolah, money. It dives from there into the deep, dark, dangerous cavern of espionage. I love spy stories, especially non-fiction. I have several Robert Baer books, and others from the cold war to the present time. Yet I’ve noticed Le Carre books everywhere lately, library sales, book store discount tables and movies popping up. I try reading them and my brain starts to whirl. In “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”. the reviews warn “this is not for the quick action reader”. He slowly builds the characters to where they become personal, and then methodically unfolds the plot, shifting from present to past and back again (from that quirky British perspective). A third of the way through I shelved it, frustrated. Then the movie was on last night…

The movie version boasts a stellar cast with some of my favorites like the great chameleon, Gary Oldman, playing the veteran spy and main character, George Smiley. He’s supported by Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, and others.

My husband sat down and said, “After twenty minutes of watching the movie, I still have no clue what’s going on.” That’s what I thought about the book, then the movie began to cohesively come together. I grabbed the book off the shelf and took up where I left off and read these words:

“Operation Witchcraft No. 4 – source Merlin – 60 pages: It was an immensely technical Soviet Foreign Service appreciation of the advantages and disadvantages of negotiating with a ‘weakened’ president. The conclusion, on balance, was that by throwing the president a bone for ‘his own electorate’, the Soviet Union could buy useful concessions in forthcoming discussions on multiple nuclear warheads. But it seriously questioned the desirability of allowing the United States to feel ‘too much the loser’. If Merlin maintains the standard, I would venture to predict that we could buy anything there is to have in the American agency’s shop.’ 

The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal instantly came into mind, followed by Uranium One…

Not to ruin the story, but the top echelon of the British spy agency become suspect. Only a few old souls, including resurrecting veteran retired spy George Smiley, can be trusted. Mueller investigation anyone?

La Carre was an actual spy. It’s been said he coined the term “mole” to describe a person who infiltrates and steals government secrets. Headlines are warning of deep fake news from foreign sources to influence our country’s elections and stability, socialism is the new talking point from the former Democratic Party, upcoming European elections with populists are running hot, China is tightening the noose of control around the world… we only have scratched the surface of seismic world events now unfolding.

From the book: “Divide and rule, that’s the principle at work these days. Personalities who should be helping to fight Communism are all at one another’s throats.”

I don’t think John LeCarre, after reading his bio, is a conservative from an American perspective, or understands the challenges that our current president inherited, and is facing on the global stage. Fascism is a statement that he used in a recent comment to describe Trump as well as to the current political tremors in Poland and Hungary. The traditional hard red line with socialism, fascism, communism on one side and democracy with true freedom on the other have become blurred. In fact, the definition of many things that have become inverted. How big a leap is it from socialism to fascism to communism?

Is love of God and country by defending traditions, borders, creating prosperity through free enterprise, and seeking to share these with a world the definition of a fascist country? Do identity politics usurp reason and compromise, causing further division? Divide and rule. Paging George Smiley…

Have you read John Le Carre? What is your favorite spy novel or author? Is truth mimicking fiction these days, as in “I never thought I’d live to see the day when…”, and how so? What do you see on the horizon politically in 2020?

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Narrative Uber Alles


LZ Granderson, over at CNN, has this on the Jussie Smollett hoax. Don’t bother to click. Here’s a summary. He hopes it turns out a gay black man really was the victim of a racist, homophobic hate crime because that would be better than Jussie Smollett becoming a poster boy for undermining the narrative that […]

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I’m In, For The Movie, Anyway


Trailer looks cool. Premise is solid. But, you just don’t do that. Period. Punto. Unless you want to go pure outlaw. The government offered you a contract. You took that. Doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anything else. Think you got a raw deal? Suck it up, Cupcake, you signed on the dotted line. Still, looks […]

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For more than two years, we have discussed whether or not Donald Trump is fit to be President. Little attention has been paid to the same question regarding Hillary Clinton. (No, this is not another defense of Trump’s election.)

Clinton’s preferred policies, methods, and plans for power are beside the point. My concern is more fundamental. Democrats ran an unprosecuted felon for the highest office in the land — and that proposal went unchallenged.

The FBI publicly laid out the case against Hillary Clinton — felonious mismanagement of state secrets — and then usurped the authority of the Department of Justice to decline the “option” of prosecution. No insider knowledge is necessary to recognize her guilt. The details of her crime were public, as was the destruction of evidence.

A felon could have been President of the United States.

It’s bad enough that Democrats have established a habit of disputing electoral results. Let alone attempts to stall or undo their opponent’s presidency since his election.

They have also established, with consent from Republican leadership, that a presidential candidate may not be prosecuted and that this refusal to prosecute means crimes — even rising to treason — do not make a person ineligible for political office.

Has that ship sailed? Will the precedent influence similar decisions in the future? If the powers that be elevated another ineligible candidate to office, would we accept it with the same grumbling meekness with which we accepted Obamacare and other frauds?

Where does this rank among your concerns?

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Quote of the Day: Socialism


“Socialism only works in two places: Heaven where they don’t need it and hell where they already have it.” – Ronald Reagan

The problem with socialism is it requires perfect people to work. That is why it works in heaven. Of course, if people are perfect, as Reagan observed, socialism is unnecessary. And if people are not perfect in a place where socialism is implemented? Well, Reagan had the answer to that, as well. Perhaps it is no accident that the United States’s most flawed politicians are the most ardent socialists in the United States.

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Not Just Guns Walked During Fast and Furious


I love my country, but I fear my government. Fast and Furious has come up in comments about the current Deep State concerns in the Russian collusion investigation. The Los Angeles Times has a series of articles on the ATF Fast and Furious debacle. One article concerning a Glendale, Arizona firearms store owner is pretty revealing that the guns sold to Mexican drug cartels were not followed across the border.

Not just guns walked away, Eric Holder, the Attorney General in the Obama administration also walked away from any responsibility for around 3,000 firearms sold to criminals on the Mexican side of the border.

In the fall of 2009, ATF agents installed a secret phone line and hidden cameras in a ceiling panel and wall at Andre Howard’s Lone Wolf gun store. They gave him one basic instruction: Sell guns to every illegal purchaser who walks through the door.

For 15 months, Howard did as he was told. To customers with phony IDs or wads of cash he normally would have turned away, he sold pistols, rifles and semiautomatics. He was assured by the ATF that they would follow the guns, and that the surveillance would lead the agents to the violent Mexican drug cartels on the Southwest border.

Mr. Andre was not the only gun store owner that had concerns.

Other firearms dealers shared his concerns. At the nearby Scottsdale Gun Club, the proprietor sent an email to Agent David Voth. “I want to help ATF,” he said, “but not at the risk of agents’ safety because I have some very close friends that are U.S. Border Patrol agents in southern AZ.”

Howard recalled that a chubby, bald and “very confident” man named Jaime Avila walked into the store on Jan. 16, 2010, and bought the AK-47s. Under the Fast and Furious protocol, agents were supposed to use the video cameras, surveillance, informants and law enforcement intelligence to follow the weapons and hope they led them to the drug cartels.

But no agents were watching on the hidden cameras or waiting outside to track the firearms when Avila showed up. Howard faxed a copy of the sale paperwork to the ATF “after the firearms were gone,” assuming they would catch up later. They never did.

Between November 2009 and June 2010, according to an ATF agent’s email to William Newell, then the special agent-in-charge in Phoenix, Avila walked away with 52 firearms after he “paid approximately $48,000 cash. The firearms consisted of FN 5.7 pistols, 1 Barrett 50 BMG rifle, AK-47 variant rifles, Ruger 9mm handguns, Colt 38 supers, etc.…”

Jaime Avila was stopped at the border:

Sometime in spring or early summer 2010 — the exact date is unknown — U.S. immigration officers reportedly stopped Avila at the Arizona border with the two semiautomatics and 30 other weapons. According to two sources close to a congressional investigation into Fast and Furious, the authorities checked with the ATF and were told to release him with the weapons because the ATF was still hoping to track the guns to cartel members.

The two semi-automatics would turn up again, this time at the scene of the Terry shooting. According to sources, they were hidden in backpacks and stashed in the desert, ready for Mexican bandits.

A Border Patrol Agent loses his life:

Late in the night on Dec. 14, in a canyon west of Rio Rico, Ariz., Border Patrol agents came across Mexican bandits preying on illegal immigrants.

According to a Border Patrol “Shooting Incident” report, the agents fired two rounds of bean bags from a shotgun. The Mexicans returned fire. One agent fired from his sidearm, another with his M-4 rifle.

One of the alleged bandits, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, a 33-year-old Mexican from Sinaloa, was wounded in the abdomen and legs. Agent Brian Terry — 40, single, a former Marine — also went down. “I’m hit!” he cried.

A fellow agent cradled his friend. “I can’t feel my legs,” Terry said. “I think I’m paralyzed.” A bullet had pierced his aorta. Tall and nearly 240 pounds, Terry was too heavy to carry. They radioed for a helicopter. But Terry was bleeding badly, and he died in his colleague’s arms.

The bandits left Osorio-Arellanes behind and escaped across the desert, tossing away two AK-47 semiautomatics from Howard’s store.

The stop at the border of Jaime Avila was the moment that defined the idiocy of Fast and Furious. The death of Brian Terry was the defining moment for his family of a callous disregard for his life by a government agency that engaged in a coverup to protect Fast and Furious firearms that were found at the scene of his death, and repeated violations of Federal law, and Arizona state laws. This program put Arizonans at risk, and the Mexican government has stated that firearms sold during Fast and Furious to cartels have been involved in 170 crime scene incidents in Mexico.

You can read the full story by clicking on the link. Betrayal, collusion, and coverup — it’s all there.

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‘Lady Death’ the Story of a Successful Sniper


Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the Soviet Army’s most successful female sniper during World War II. A fourth-year history student when Hitler invaded Russia, she quit school to enlist as a sniper. In 1941 and 1942 she racked up 309 kills.

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, is an English translation of her memoirs. She died in 1974, leaving a manuscript copy of her memoirs, which remained unpublished until this century.

In it she recounts her life, with a primary emphasis on her wartime experiences. She shows how she became an expert marksman before the war, joining shooting teams at work and in school, becoming fascinated with both the machinery of the rifle and the art of shooting.

She put those skills to good use when Russia was invaded. Enlisting as a private, she served as a sniper in the 25th Rifle Division. She recounts her experiences during the summer of 1941 through the spring of 1942. She fought at the sieges of Odessa and Sevastopol, was wounded several times, promoted to lieutenant (and command of a sniper platoon), married a husband and saw him die in combat. These experiences are described in the chapters covering her combat career.

Wounded near the end of the latter siege, she was evacuated before Sevastopol fell. She had become famous, the subject of several published Soviet “histories” she states invented exploits for dramatic purposes.

Against her objections (she had a husband to avenge) she was sent to the United States on Stalin’s orders as a Soviet student representative to an international youth conference. There she met and was befriended by Eleanor Roosevelt. This is as fascinating an account as her combat recollections. The United States, Canada, and Britain were environments to which she had never been exposed.

Pavlichenko was an unapologetic communist, who grew up a privileged member of the nomenclature, the Soviet elite. This colors her history of events. She mentions Hitler invading Poland, but fails to mention the Soviets aided Hitler.

Regardless, “Lady Death,” is fascinating, and Pavlichenko’s beliefs don’t change her real accomplishments. This is a book worth reading.

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Greenhill Books, 2018, 272 pages, $32.95

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

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Success of Stupidity


I had never heard of Jeremy McLellan until an associate retweeted these thought-provoking comments. What do you make of them?

We’ve been told that a “free marketplace of ideas” will stamp out bad ideas and allow good ones to thrive. The opposite seems to be happening. Not surprised. Markets are good at giving people what they want at the lowest cost. What happens if we want bad information?

The incentives are completely backwards. There are no consequences for spreading hoaxes. You get page clicks, ad revenue, policy changes, millions of followers, and if it eventually gets exposed as a lie, none of that goes away. No one gets fired and no one unfollows you.

Not sure what the answer is. We’re probably doomed for the moment and it will only get worse. Some will realize the lies and switch sides only to be spoonfed the same amount of lies from the other perspective. It’s the incentives that are broken.

How does “the marketplace of ideas” fare these days? What other than the cudgel of political correctness and mere wishful thinking help errors and harmful ideas to flourish?

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The Aurora Shooting


The Aurora, Illinois shooting: five killed and five police officers wounded by an employee who had been fired by his employer.

It is time to start enforcing firearms laws that are already in place. The Aurora shooter was a convicted felon who purchased a firearm in spite of having an aggravated assault conviction for stabbing a woman in Mississippi in 1995. He had also been arrested six times by Aurora, Illinois police officers and his most recent arrest was in 2008 for violating an order for protection.

Court records show Martin was convicted of aggravated assault in the stabbing of a woman in Mississippi in 1995. He’d also been arrested six times previously by Aurora police, most recently in 2008 for violating an order of protection, (Aurora Police Chief) Kristen Ziman revealed Saturday.

Ziman said the assault conviction might not have appeared on a criminal background check when Martin applied and was approved in January 2014 for a Firearm Owners Identification card.

In March of that year, Martin applied to buy a handgun from an Aurora gun dealer, and he was approved within five days.

Five days after that, Martin applied for a concealed carry permit. When Martin’s felony conviction was discovered during the background check for that license, his application was denied and his FOID card was revoked.
However, his Smith & Wesson handgun — the same weapon used in Friday’s shooting — was never confiscated.

Martin’s conviction for aggravated assault did not show up on the background check conducted by his employer.

This shooting is going to lead to more demands for new laws in spite of the fact that Mr. Martin should have never had a firearm if the laws that exist now had been enforced. Regardless of the fact that his conviction had not been found in his approval for the purchase of a firearm it was found later when he applied for a concealed carry permit. A warrant for his arrest should have been sought by the Aurora Police Department, or the Illinois State Police for Mr. Martin, and the seizure of his pistol. He was a felon in possession of a firearm, not just a crime under Illinois state law, a crime under Federal law as well.

Clarification 02/18

The NCIC system is a two tiered system. A criminal background check may not reveal a previous felony conviction to a private employer conducting a criminal background check. A law enforcement agency has more information available to it concerning previous convictions. NCIC checks involving the purchase of a firearm are conducted by state police that have full access to the system. The mystery is that the felony conviction of Mr. Martin was not found at the point of purchase, but was found in his application for a concealed carry permit. A felony conviction is not removed from the database unless a request is made by a court that has expunged a conviction. 

The State of Illinois does, and did send a letter demanding the surrender of the firearm so they were aware of the purchase. That is not enough. The timeline between the purchase and the application for the concealed carry permit should be enough probable cause, and a reasonable belief that Mr. Martin, a convicted felon possessed a firearm and a search warrant should have been sought to seize the firearm.

Federal Law, Prohibited Persons from Firearms Possession and Purchase: 

• convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
• who is a fugitive from justice;
• who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802);
• who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution;
• who is an illegal alien;
• who has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
• who has renounced his or her United States citizenship;
• who is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or
• who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

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Bruno Ganz is Dead and Hitler is P… Angry


Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who helped give the world it’s first serious German-language portrayal of the last days of Adolf Hitler on film and an enduring internet meme, has died at age 77.

Thanks to the “Hitler finds out about X…”parodies that populate YouTube, Ganz’s turn in Der Untergang (The Downfall, 2004) has probably made him the most known “unknown” in the English-speaking world. He had a 50-year career in cinema but he made very few films for Hollywood.

His most famous work was probably Der Himmel über Berlin (The Heaven Over Berlin, 1987) released in the US as Wings of Desire. Ganz plays one of two angels whose job it is to watch over the divided city, when he falls in love with a human woman and longs to become mortal himself. (Peter Falk plays himself in the movie, that is, if Peter Falk was really an angel who made the transition to mortality himself.)

As an angel or the Devil himself, Ganz had a helluva run.

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What has happened to the FISA court?


It seems to me that the FISA court has been defrauded at least three times by the FBI/Justice department. If I was a Judge on the court who was led to sign off on an application based on fraudulent data, I would be furious and someone would be in front of me getting questioned severely (i.e. getting reamed out) and in real danger of some sort of imprisonment. Why have we not heard anything of any repercussions?

Also, as Chief Justice, Roberts is in charge of the FISA court. Where is he?

My recollection (please correct me if I’m wrong), is that just when the FISA court law was up for renewal, the abuse started becoming clear. Ryan and McConnell pushed through the renewal very quickly. Why the rush?

All of the revelations about the FBI and Justice department has taught me that I can’t be cynical enough.