Wednesday, February 28, 2024

House Freedom Caucus on Mitch McConnell

My thoughts...

Idaho spent an hour trying to kill someone and gave up. For now.

This is barbarous.

Michigan Fires a Warning Shot Across Biden's Bow

LANSING, Michigan (AP) — “Uncommitted” got enough votes to win two delegates in Michigan’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, as an effort organized to protest President Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza made its voice heard in the key swing state.

While Biden won the state with more than 618,000 votes, more than 100,000 Michigan Democratic primary voters cast ballots for “uncommitted” in the race, enough to pick up the pair of delegates — one from the 6th District, centered around Ann Arbor, and the other from the 12th District, which includes Detroit suburbs with large blocs of Arab Americans.

The vote totals raise concerns for Democrats in a state Biden won by only 154,000 votes in 2020. Biden was beaten by the “uncommitted” vote in both Dearborn and Hamtramck, where Arab Americans make up close to half the population.

Read the rest here

Trump Offers to Post $100 Million Bond While Appealing Civil Judgement

The law usually requires appellants to deposit the entirety of a civil judgement either in cash or a bond while working through any appeals. This is likely to add to speculation that Mr. Trump may be having difficulty raising the near half-billion dollars imposed in his recent civil fraud judgement.


By a youthful AMERICAN, a wife of the modern lady stamp, whose intellectual qualifications will soar no higher than to criticise [sic] the clergyman's eyebrows instead of his sermons, and give a dissertation on the dresses and bonnets of all the ladies, and the mustaches of each gentleman on the same side of the church, as anything approaching commonsense will not be appreciated. She will do well to be as idiotic as the present fashion can make her. Reply to Henry W. T. D. c/o of the Tribune

From the classified page of the New York Tribune February 28, 1855 (pg. 1 column 6)

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The 2024 presidential rankings

It's basically a beauty contest run by leftist academics. But FWIW, here it is. IMO they got the top three and the bottom two right. Everything in between I disagree with, in some cases pretty strongly. That said, I don't rank presidents in order. That's a bit too subjective for my taste. I grade them. Here is my list.


  • A+ GOAT
  • A Great
  • A- Near Great
  • B+ Very Good
  • B Good
  • B- Good(ish)
  • C+ Above Average
  • C Average
  • C- Below Average
  • D+ Poor
  • D Bad
  • D- Very Bad
  • F Catastrophically Bad
  • U Unrated 
Presidents in chronological order

  1. George Washington: A 
  2. John Adams: C 
  3. Thomas Jefferson: B 
  4. James Madison: C+ 
  5. James Monroe: B- 
  6. John Q. Adams C- 
  7. Andrew Jackson D+ 
  8. Martin Van Buren C- 
  9. William H. Harrison: U (only in office for 1 month)
  10. John Tyler: C- 
  11. James K. Polk: B+
  12. Zachary Taylor: C 
  13. Millard Fillmore: D+
  14. Franklin Pierce: D
  15. James Buchannan: F
  16. Abraham Lincoln: A+
  17. Andrew Johnson: D-
  18. Ulysses S. Grant: B-
  19. Rutheford B. Hayes: C
  20. James Garfield: U (only in office 6 months and incapacitated for half that)
  21. Chester Arthur: C+
  22. Grover Cleveland: B-
  23. Benjamin Harrison: C
  24. Grover Cleveland: C+ (2nd term is rated slightly lower than 1st)
  25. William McKinley: B
  26. Theodore Roosevelt: A-
  27. William H. Taft: C+
  28. Woodrow Wilson: D
  29. Warren G Harding: C-
  30. Calvin Coolidge: B
  31. Herbert Hoover: D+
  32. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A (mostly on the basis of his war record)
  33. Harry Truman: B
  34. Dwight D. Eisenhower: A-
  35. John F. Kennedy: B-
  36. Lyndon B. Johnson: C+
  37. Richard Nixon: D+ 
  38. Gerald R. Ford: C
  39. Jimmy Carter: C-
  40. Ronald Reagan: A-
  41. George H. W. Bush: B
  42. William J. Clinton: C+ (the last fiscally sane president)
  43. George W. Bush: C-
  44. Barrack Obama: B-
  45. Donald J. Trump: F
  46. Joeseph R. Biden: U (incumbent but not looking too good for future rankings)
* Grades are not based exclusively on how well they conform to my own political beliefs, but also include how effective they were as a political leader, what they got done in terms of their objectives, their impact on the country while in office and the long-term consequences of their presidency whether for good or ill. To get a solid A from me, the president had to have either successfully dealt with some grave crisis that may have posed an existential threat to the country or, in the case of Washington, successfully set up a new country largely from scratch and given almost all future presidents guideposts in how to conduct themselves. To get an F from me, the president's record has to have gone well beyond mere corruption, incompetence, and/or the pursuit of bad policy. Their conduct in office must have been so egregious that they materially threatened the survival of the Republic. Happily, only two earned that grade. 

Life in the land of long ago

Haircut, a straight razor shave and a shoeshine (1942). With wartime inflation, I am betting that guy was not getting out of there for less than 50 cents. (See link for full sized image)

From here

Monday, February 26, 2024

Constitutional Law: Originalism vs Traditionalism

Judges who are committed to originalism, which seeks to interpret the Constitution based on what it meant when it was adopted, often say they are guided by “text, history and tradition.” The phrase rolls nicely off the tongue.

But one of those things is not like the others, a conservative federal appeals court judge said this month in a lively talk at Harvard Law School that critiqued recent trends at the Supreme Court.

“Traditionalism gives off an originalist ‘vibe’ without having any legitimate claim to the originalist mantle,” said the judge, Kevin C. Newsom, who was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in 2017 by President Donald J. Trump. “It seems old and dusty — and thus objective and reliable. And maybe it is indeed all those things. But let’s be clear: It’s not originalism.”

The Supreme Court’s blockbuster 2022 decisions eliminating the right to abortion and expanding gun rights both drew on traditions that emerged after the constitutional provisions in question were ratified. The rulings did not turn on their discussion of tradition, but nor were they minor asides.

Scores of decisions, including ones from every avowed originalist justice, have relied on post-ratification traditions, as Sherif Girgis, a law professor at Notre Dame, demonstrated in a comprehensive exploration of the topic published last year in The New York University Law Review.

“Though increasingly dominant in this originalist court’s opinions,” he wrote, “the method has no obvious justification in originalist terms.”

Read the rest here.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

William Lefroy: The English Church Crisis

This article opens with a serious assumption. It accepts as proved the existence of a crisis in the Church of England. The reality of this is asserted by one who up to a short time since was popularly regarded as the leader of the opposition in Parliament. It is admitted by the First Lord of the Treasury, by the Prime Minister of England and by His Grace the Lord Primate. Nor is it an exaggeration to say the opinion has been expressed by all sorts and conditions of men. It is now indisputable that England is moved by what is termed, alike by friend and foe, "the crisis in the Church."

Read the rest here

Friday, February 23, 2024

Trouble at CBS News

“Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation.” Those words, from CBS icon Edward R. Murrow, came to mind this week after I spoke with journalists at the network.

There is trouble brewing at Black Rock, the headquarters of CBS, after the firing of Catherine Herridge, an acclaimed investigative reporter. Many of us were shocked after Herridge was included in layoffs this month, but those concerns have increased after CBS officials took the unusual step of seizing her files, computers and records, including information on privileged sources.

The position of CBS has alarmed many, including the union, as an attack on free press principles by one of the nation’s most esteemed press organizations.

I have spoken confidentially with current and former CBS employees who have stated that they could not recall the company ever taking such a step before. One former CBS journalist said that many employees “are confused why [Herridge] was laid off, as one of the correspondents who broke news regularly and did a lot of original reporting.”

That has led to concerns about the source of the pressure. He added that he had never seen a seizure of records from a departing journalist, and that the move had sent a “chilling signal” in the ranks of CBS.

A former CBS manager, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he had “never heard of anything like this.” He attested to the fact that, in past departures, journalists took all of their files and office contents. Indeed, the company would box up everything from cups to post-its for departing reporters. He said the holding of the material was “outrageous” and clearly endangered confidential sources.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

IRS: Wealthy Americans are evading $150 billion in taxes annually

The nation’s millionaires and billionaires are evading more than $150 billion a year in taxes, adding to growing government deficits and creating a “lack of fairness” in the tax system, according to the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS, with billion of dollars in new funding from Congress, has launched a sweeping crackdown on wealthy taxpayers, partnerships and large companies. In an exclusive interview with CNBC, IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said the agency has launched several programs targeting taxpayers with the most complex returns to root out tax evasion and make sure every taxpayer contributes their fair share.

“When I look at what we call our tax gap, which is the amount of money owed versus what is paid for, millionaires and billionaires that either don’t file or [are] under reporting their income are $150 billion of our tax gap,” Werfel said. “There is plenty of work to be done.”

Werfel said that a lack of funding at the IRS for years starved the agency of staff, technology and resources needed to fund audits — especially of the most complicated and sophisticated returns, which require more resources. Audits of taxpayers making more than $1 million a year fell by more than 80% over the last decade, while the number of taxpayers with income of $1 million jumped 50%, according to IRS statistics.

Read the rest here.

Tax evasion has become something of a national pastime in the US. With the IRS having been starved of funding for decades, the chances of getting caught are extremely low. 

This is bonkers

Monday, February 19, 2024

Europe may be waking up

As the leaders of the West gathered in Munich over the past three days, President Vladimir V. Putin had a message for them: Nothing they’ve done so far — sanctions, condemnation, attempted containment — would alter his intentions to disrupt the current world order.

Russia made its first major gain in Ukraine in nearly a year, taking the ruined city of Avdiivka, at huge human cost to both sides, the bodies littered along the roads a warning, perhaps, of a new course in the two-year-old war. Aleksei A. Navalny’s suspicious death in a remote Arctic prison made ever clearer that Mr. Putin will tolerate no dissent as elections approach.

And the American discovery, disclosed in recent days, that Mr. Putin may be planning to place a nuclear weapon in space — a bomb designed to wipe out the connective tissue of global communications if Mr. Putin is pushed too far — was a potent reminder of his capacity to strike back at his adversaries with the asymmetric weapons that remain a key source of his power.

In Munich, the mood was both anxious and unmoored, as leaders faced confrontations they had not anticipated. Warnings about Mr. Putin’s possible next moves were mixed with Europe’s growing worries that it could soon be abandoned by the United States, the one power that has been at the core of its defense strategy for 75 years.

Barely an hour went by at the Munich Security Conference in which the conversation did not turn to the question of whether Congress would fail to find a way to fund new arms for Ukraine, and if so, how long the Ukrainians could hold out. And while Donald Trump’s name was rarely mentioned, the prospect of whether he would make good on his threats to pull out of NATO and let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” with allies he judged insufficient hung over much of the dialogue.

Yet European leaders seemed to also sense how slowly they had reacted to the new realities. European plans to rebuild their own forces for a new era of confrontation were moving in the right direction, leader after leader insisted, but then they added it would take five years or more — time they may not have if Russia overwhelms Ukraine and Mr. Trump undermines the alliance.

Read the rest here.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Alexei Navalny

The only thing that surprised me is that they let him live this long. Putin is the head of an organized crime syndicate masquerading as a government. No wonder Trump likes him so much.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Greece legalizes SSM

Details here

So, how many of those who voted for this have been excommunicated? There was a day when the immediate answer would have been "all of them." This is as much an indictment of the Church as it is of modern society. The usual suspects are crowing with a particular glee because Greece is the first ostensibly Orthodox country to cave on this. And they are not wrong. Bluntly, this was a stunning defeat for the Church, made all the worse by the fact that they largely acquiesced to it.

Russia feared to be eyeing Moldova

The Kremlin is using “very similar” rhetoric towards Moldova as it did before its invasion of Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War reported.

The think tanks says Moscow’s methods are “likely” designed “to set conditions to justify possible future Russian escalation against Moldova”.

Addressing the Transnistria conflict, yesterday, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, made a series of allegations that mirror those directed at Ukraine ahead of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its full-scale invasion.

His allegations included falsely claiming that the US and EU control the Moldovan government. He also claimed that there are about 200,000 Russian citizens in Transnistria, and that Russia is “concerned about their fate” and “will not allow them to become victims of another Western adventure.” 

The Kremlin has used the idea of protecting its “compatriots abroad” to justify Russian occupation of Transnistria since 1992 as well as its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the ISW reported. 

“The timing of a possible Russian hybrid operation in Moldova is unclear, but the Kremlin is setting informational conditions to make it possible soon,” it said.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Biden attacked Hur for asking him when his son died. But did it happen?

President Joe Biden lashed out at Robert Hur last week over one particular line in the special counsel's report on his handling of classified documents: that Biden "did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died."

“How in the hell dare he raise that?” Biden told reporters in an impromptu White House press conference. “Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, it wasn’t any of their damn business.”

But Hur never asked that question, according to two people familiar with Hur’s five-hour interview with the president over two days last October. It was the president, not Hur or his team, who first introduced Beau Biden’s death, they said.

Biden raised his son’s death after being asked about his workflow at a Virginia rental home from 2016 to 2018, the sources said, when a ghost writer was helping him write a memoir about losing Beau to brain cancer in 2015. Investigators had a 2017 recording showing that Biden had told the ghost writer he had found “classified stuff” in that home, the report says.

Biden began trying to recall that period by discussing what else was happening in his life, and it was at that point in the interview that he appeared confused about when Beau had died, the sources said. Biden got the date—May 30—correct, but not the year.

Hur's 345-page report absolved Biden of criminal wrongdoing while pointing to evidence that he took home and kept highly classified material. Even though Biden was found to have disclosed classified information to the ghost writer on three occasions, prosecutors concluded that they could not prove that the president knew it was classified information at the time.

Read the rest here.

This is going to be quite simply the most awful election year of my life, and one of the worst in the history of the country. 

Brett Stephens: The Isolationist G.O.P., Again

When historians look back on the early days of 2024, they probably won’t recall what, precisely, an elderly Democratic president couldn’t quite remember about the names or countries of other world leaders. They will note what 26 Senate Republicans chose to forget about world leadership.

I’m referring to Tuesday morning’s Senate vote on a $95 billion supplemental foreign-aid package, including $60 billion in desperately needed military assistance for Ukraine, along with $14 billion for Israel and $10 billion for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza. The bill must still pass the House, where it faces the opposition of Speaker Mike Johnson and can only hope to survive via parliamentary maneuvering and the votes of Democrats plus some remaining Republican security hawks.

On paper, the 70-to-29 vote looks like a bipartisan embrace of embattled democratic allies. But it marks the moment when Republicans reverted to the isolationism of the original America First Committee of pre-World War II infamy. A majority of the G.O.P. Senate conference, including onetime Ukraine hawks like Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton, voted against the aid, mostly, they said, because it wasn’t paired with border-security measures.

That’s the same bill they voted against last week — a bill patiently negotiated over months by one of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate, Oklahoma’s James Lankford. The cynicism would be breathtaking if it weren’t so predictable coming from the Trumpified right.

Let’s walk through some additional points of dissent among Republicans who opposed the bill.

Read the rest here.

With an eye on Russia, Swedes are embracing the military

STOCKHOLM — Sweden is transforming its Home Guard military reserve from a Dad's Army into a fighting force that has become so attractive to young Swedes that it's having to turn away applicants.

The reason? Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and growing worry — reinforced by the country's leaders — that Sweden must prepare for war.

That's a huge change from recent years, when the Home Guard, a force of 23,000 soldiers who support the full-time military, fell out of favor after the Cold War ended. Thereafter the Home Guard became the domain of largely middle-aged citizens, many of whom didn’t take their duties terribly seriously.

Read the rest here.

Donald Trump's latest acquisition

The Republican National Committee is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Terminally ill children in the Netherlands can now be euthanized against their will

On February 1, a Dutch law allowing the euthanasia of terminally ill children went into effect. The law legalizes the killing of children ages one through 12 who are deemed to be “suffering hopelessly and unbearably.”

Previously, the country allowed euthanasia of children older than 12, along with infants under age one who could be killed if their parents and doctors agreed and they faced an illness labeled as terminal or faced serious suffering. In 2023, lawmakers passed a controversial expansion of the eligibility guidelines to include children of all ages.

According to reports, the new guidelines state that “the child’s opinion should be sought as far as possible in a way appropriate to the child’s understanding and age,” though parents can decide to have their child euthanized in conjunction with a doctor even if the child is unwilling or unable to consent.

Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

"Lightbulb on a dimmer..." the NY Times is questioning Biden's age

A series of New York Times editorials over the weekend offered sometimes scathing assessments of President Biden’s ability to hold office due to his age and mental acuity in the days after a special counsel’s report called into question the president’s well-being during an investigation into his handling of classified documents.

Read the rest here.

As a student of history, I'm hard pressed to think of a worse election year in terms of choices. On the one hand, a brain addled octogenarian lefty, and on the other a conman and congenital liar, with the IQ of a houseplant and a moral grounding that seems to meld the ethics of Mussolini and a three-penny upright. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

A Wearying Pontificate Nears Its End

We are approaching eleven years since Jorge Bergoglio was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. While most of us knew almost nothing about the man when he walked onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, now most Catholics wish they knew less than they do. From pedophile-enabling Cardinal Danneels joining Francis on that balcony to the pope’s recent endorsement of same-sex couple blessings, controversy has surrounded this pontificate from beginning to end; a week doesn’t seem to go by without the pope stirring the pot with some papal appointment, document, or off-hand comment.

I think I speak for a lot of Catholics when I say that the whole circus surrounding Francis has become wearisome. Probably nothing Francis could do or say at this point would surprise us, although he still desperately makes every effort to do so. We repeat a tiresome cycle:

Step 1: The pope says or does something controversial.
Step 2: Conservative and Traditional Catholics criticize his actions (traditionalists directly, conservatives more obliquely).
Step 3: Progressive Catholics rejoice and take the pope to mean exactly what he says.
Step 4: Non-progressive popesplainers storm social media to explain that the pope doesn’t actually mean exactly what he says.
Step 5: Return to Step 1.

Read the rest here.

Broadly speaking I agree with the substance of this rather brutal indictment. But I respectfully disagree on one important point. Far from being relegated to a footnote in the history of the papacy, I think this pontificate will be remembered as among the worst and most destructive. The damage and scandal caused by Francis will take quite some time to repair, if it is even fixable. There are documents that are going to need to be formally withdrawn and repudiated. And all of this will depend on who the next pope is. Given how the College of Cardinals has been stacked, I am less than sanguine. 

Monday, February 05, 2024

King Charles has cancer

Respice post te. Hominem te esse memento. Memento mori.