Presty the DJ for July 21

Today in 1970, after Joe Cocker dropped out due to illness and unable to get Jimi Hendrix, promoter Bill Graham (possibly at Hendrix’s suggestion) presented Chicago in concert at Tanglewood, a classical music venue in Lenox, Mass.:

I would have loved to go to this concert, but I was 5 years old at the time.

The number one song today in 1973:

The number one R&B song today in 1979:

Today in 1980, AC/DC released “Back in Black,” their first album with new singer Brian Johnson, who replaced the deceased Bon Scott:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for July 21”

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There is no substitute for calling 911

Esquire swerves away from overpriced men’s fashion to cars:

In 1955, at the age of 24, and fresh from the success of East of Eden, actor James Dean popped down to John von Neumann’s Competition Motors in Hollywood, California to in a MG TD for a new Porsche 356 1500 Super Speedster. The sports car purveyor to the stars obliged. Weeks later, Dean entered a race in Palm Springs, and placed first in the under-1500 class. The following month he headed up to Bakersfield and won again. The Speedster threw a rod in Santa Barbara shortly thereafter. Back at Competition Motors Dean traded it in for Porsche’s latest race car, the 550 Spyder, got Von Dutch to paint “Lil’ Bastard” across the tail, and made a beautiful car iconic. After wrapping up filming of the movie Giant, Dean drove up the Central Valley toward Salinas in the 550 for another race. But he never made it.

And, yet. The glamor of racing didn’t end with Dean—in fact, it only strengthened from there, becoming part of the legend, the doomed romanticism. He died doing what he loved, and what could be more pure than that? Dean became among the first of a tradition: the actor turned gentleman driver, handsome and domineering, possessing not just the means to race but a level of dedication that transcended their stardom. He may have never driven one onscreen, but he cemented the legend: Porsche and the Hollywood connection, intertwined.

The racing image sealed it, but in the early years, Porsche’s 356 appeal was palpable—small European sports cars were hot, exactly the car to see and be seen in. James Bond may have never driven a Porsche (at least, not yet), but Sean Connery sure looked good in his 356. Janis Joplin’s 356 took on psychedelic colors (and in 2015 fetched $1.76 million at auction). In the film Bullitt, it’s McQueen’s Highland Green Mustang that gets all the glory, but Jacqueline Bisset’s Canary Yellow 356C convertible lends some balance to the film’s heavy-laden grit.

When the 911 came out in 1964, Porsche’s true potential as a sports car builder evolved: honed even further with a replacement that was faster, sharper, and more practical. Robert Redford put skis atop a 1968 Porsche 911T for the film Downhill Racer, a combination of cool made up of Alpine skiing, one of the earliest 911s, and Redford’s square-jawed magnetism. Can’t argue with that math.

And then there’s the legend of the Kings of the Mountain up on Mulholland Drive, clandestinely racing across the Hollywood Hills in hot-rodded 911s, the lights of Los Angeles on both sides below them. In 1981, Harry Hamlin starred in a film of that name, behind the wheel of a monster 356 Speedster—the movie didn’t do well, which is probably why you’ve never heard of it, but it’s a slice of old Hollywood history that we’ll continue to love nonetheless.

The Eighties arrived with a flash—a decade of excess and bright colors and car phones and Blaupunkt radios blasting Duran Duran—and Porsche symbolized that New Money glamor. They were fast, sleek, and most importantly, expensive. Witness the star turn of the Porsche 928 in Risky Business. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect moment than Tom Cruise, with Ray-Bans and a shit-eating grin, saying the unofficial Porsche tagline, “there is no substitute.”

What would Tony Montana buy? In Scarface, it was none other than a gleaming silver 928, bought to impress Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, who, understandably so, wouldn’t be caught dead in a Fifties Cadillac with tiger-skin upholstery. A fully-equipped 928 fit the bill. And in Sixteen Candles, main heartthrob Jake Ryan rolls up to Molly Ringwald’s house in a bright red 944, the perfect car for high school rich kids.

Given the brand’s rich history in racing, it’s no surprise then that Porsche became intertwined with high stakes in Hollywood too. In the 1987 movie No Man’s Land, an undercover cop infiltrates a gang of car thieves, led by Charlie Sheen, whose garage boasts an impressive number of stolen Porsches. Twenty years later, what’s the first car stolen in Gone In 60 Seconds? The hottest new 911 of the era, a silver 996 named Tina, flying out of the showroom with a bang.

Even today, Hollywood’s obsession with Porsche still feels as relevant as ever, without forgetting the decades past that made the match so natural—take the 2017 movie Atomic Blonde for example. Set in a Cold War days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is equal parts Soviet-drab and Western glitz, all pinks and purples and golds, a culture of fur coats and Carrera sunglasses. And for agent James McAvoy, whose amped-up flashiness belies a certain ruthlessness, his whale-tailed Porsche 964—seen evading spies throughout Berlin’s tunnels—is an indispensable part of his character, and key to the movie’s signature look.

Getty Images

That look leads us conveniently to the beginning. There’s nobody more associated with the Porsche hype than the aforementioned Steve McQueen, whose 1971 film Le Manswas a passion project, a love letter to his greatest hobby, and everything he touched in that film became imbued with a palatable cool—the Heuer Monaco wristwatches, the Gulf livery on his character’s Porsche 917K race car, and the Porsche 911 itself, his own personal Slate Gray 911S, purchased in Europe to match one he had in California.

In the opening of Le Mans, he roams across the unspoiled French countryside, no MAC trucks or soft-drink billboards along his two-lane highway. He parks the 911 in the pits. Some unremarkable human drama ensues. McQueen climbs into his other Porsche, the mighty 917K. And so it was, and so it will continue to be.

Well … keep in mind that Porsche aficionados considered neither the 944 nor the 924 to be true Porsches, since they had four-cylinder engines in front. (The 924 was originally intended for Volkswagen.) Nor did they consider the 928 to be a true Porsche, since it had a V-8 in front and an optional automatic transmission. (The 928 was intended to eventually replace the 911. The 928 is gone, and the 911 is not.)

Now an aside: CBS-TV’s “Magnum P.I.” had the hero driving a Ferrari 308GTS.

Less known is the fact that the producers first considered putting Magnum behind the wheel of a 928, asking Porsche to build one with an extra-large sunroof. Apparently Porsche balked at the idea.

Certainly visually Magnum with a 928 doesn’t work. (Irrespective of the issue of Tom Selleck’s height, which forced the producers to take out the driver’s seat cushion from Magnum’s Ferrari. The famous Italian driving position is long arms and short legs.) I have driven neither (again, life is unfair), but I gather that the 928 is not the same car as the 308.

The biggest difference between a 911 and most other performance cars is its engine — a flat-six (originally air-cooled), located behind the back wheels. (Which makes it “rear-engine,” in contrast to a “mid-engine” car with the engine either ahead of the rear axle or behind the front axle.) Unlike American front-engine cars that are nose-heavy, the 911 is tail-heavy. Whereas a driver can make front-engine rear-drive car spin by punching the gas too hard (either accidentally or deliberately), they usually understeer, but not 911s. Their squirelly handling (in the opinion of those who weren’t used to driving them) was also a complaint of the Chevrolet Corvair, which had the same engine design and location.

Down the street and on the other side from the Corvettes-owning neighbor was the owner of a dark red 911. I never got to see that car except when it was driving past our house. Our next-door neighbors briefly had a boarder who had a red 914. (Not sure if it was a four-cylinder or a 914/6.) That, sitting in one at a Milwaukee car show and the vicarious experience of my eighth-grade English teacher’s Christophorus magazines (for Porsche owners, published since 1952) are the total of my own Porsche experiences. (The magazine made me aware of Porsche’s European delivery option, in which one could go to Europe, pick up the 911, drive it around Europe for a while, and then when done have it shipped to the U.S.)

One of the interesting features of the early 911s was the instrument panel.

On the far left was the fuel gauge and oil level gauge. Next was oil temperature and oil pressure. The tachometer was in the middle, with the speedometer (and turbo boost gauge) to its right and the clock on the far right. No engine temperature gauge (perhaps because the first ones were air-cooled), and no battery gauge, but a lot of focus on oil.

The ignition switch was on the left side of the dashboard, a race setup to allow the driver to start and shift immediately. (Also found on Fords back in the ignition-switch-on-dashboard days allegedly because Henry Ford was left-handed.)

There is one additional experience of sorts. Not long after I was hired to be the editor of a business magazine, my boss (one of my two favorites in my career) knew that I was a car nut. He was not, but he suggested (perhaps because it didn’t involve his own money) buying an old 911 and learning about the car by fixing whatever came up. I didn’t follow through on his suggestion (remember, I work in journalism, the land of low wages and lousy hours). Maybe I should have, though I’m guessing my ownership experience would have lasted until children started arriving, even though the back seat of a 911 will fit children and car seats.

Meanwhile, there is good news reported by Road Show …

Enthusiasts grumbled when the previous Porsche 911 GT3 hit the scene offering only a dual-clutch gearbox. Even though the sequential manual pushed the performance envelope with faster shifts for better lap times, some Porschephiles still longed for a more involving driving experience that comes with three pedals. For 2018, there’s good news for those manual transmission purists because the GT3 will once again be offered as a stick shift.

How is it? On roads throughout California’s Napa Valley region, it’s spectacular. Rowing through gears with the crisp short shifter is certainly more entertaining than flicking paddle shifters, and it makes perfect downshifts with its auto rev-matching, which can be turned off if you prefer to blip the throttle yourself.

Improvements to the 991.2 Porsche 911 GT3 don’t end with manual transmission. There’s a new 4.0-liter boxer six-cylinder engine in back cranking out 500 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. That engine replaces a 3.8-liter unit making 475 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of twist. Redline remains a stratospheric 9,000 rpm.

… not that it makes me any more likely to buy a Porsche because (1) I would honestly prefer a Corvette, and (2) I can afford neither, even if I could find a Corvette cheaper than the 911 GT3’s $144,650 price.

 

 

Moore for the Packer Hall of Fame

Readers know that Ted Moore was the radio voice of the Glory Days Packers.

Moore’s son, Richard, is now trying to get his father inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame. If Ray Scott, who covered the Glory Years Packers for CBS-TV, belongs in the Packer Hall of Fame (and he does and is a member), and if Jim Irwin, who replaced Moore in the booth (first working with Gary Bender, then as the play-by-play guy), belongs (and he does and is also a member), then Moore absolutely belongs. (Also in the Packer Hall of Fame is Russ Winnie, who was the announcer when WTMJ radio started carrying Packer games in 1929.)

The case for Moore, who is a member of the Wisconsin Broadcasting Hall of Fame

… is, to quote our Founding Fathers, self-evident. Until 1973 the NFL prohibited games from being telecasted in the home team’s TV market, which is the Packers’ case is Green Bay and Milwaukee, due to concerns about not being able to sell out the stadium. (As if that would ever have been a worry with Lambeau Field.)

So if you lived in the eastern third of the state and you didn’t have tickets to the game at Lambeau or Milwaukee County Stadium (where fans probably should have brought a radio thanks to the fact that County Stadium was a rotten place for football due to where the seats were), you had to listen to Moore, who worked every minute of every game, preseason, regular-season and postseason (two more years than Scott did, though that was CBS’ doing by ending the team announcer arrangement, which should be brought back for TV) — and mostly by himself, as you can hear from the Ice Bowl game — including six NFL championship games (the 1962 game for NBC-TV), three other NFL playoff games, the first two Super Bowls and, for what it’s worth, two Playoff Bowls, featuring the runners-up of the NFL’s two conferences, a game infamously called by Vince Lombardi “a game for losers, played by losers.”

I don’t remember Moore doing Packer games. Bob Fox does:

I grew up in that era. It was the golden age for Packer Nation, as Lombardi’s Packers won five NFL titles in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. The team also won an unprecedented three NFL championships in a row, a feat that has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL going back to 1933. …

Scott was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2001. So were a couple of other legendary Green Bay newspaper reporters who covered the Packers back then, as both Art Daley (1993) and Lee Remmel (1996) have been enshrined as well. So was the team photographer during that time, Vernon Biever (2002).

Basically everyone who covered the Packers during the Lombardi era is in the Packers Hall of Fame. All except Moore.

Ted Moore and Vince Lombardi

Now there have been two Packer radio announcers who have been inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. They are Russ Winnie (2016) and Jim Irwin (2003).

I expect them to be joined at some point by Moore and current radio play-by-play man, Wayne Larrivee.

I got to know Irwin pretty well at WTMJ in 1980 and 1981 when I worked there, first as an intern and then as a freelance reporter. In fact, I got to know Irwin so well, that he was the No. 1 reference listed on my résumé while I was looking for broadcasting and journalism work out of college.

Now longevity in covering the Packers does play a part in getting into the Hall of Fame for the team. Daley (68 years), Remmel (62 years) and Biever (61 years) each covered the Packers for over six decades.

Scott (10 years), Winnie (17 years) and Irwin (29 years) all covered the team for at least a decade and in Irwin’s case, almost three decades.

Moore spent 12 years broadcasting games for the Packers. And it was he who first hired Irwin.

Like I mentioned in my most recent story, the quarterback sneak by Bart Starr in the 1967 NFL title game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, was one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.

And it has to be the greatest play in the history of the Packers. It was Moore who provided the play-by-play on that legendary moment in Green Bay lore.

“Third down and inches to go to pay dirt. 17-14, Cowboys out in front. Starr begins the count and he takes the quarterback sneak and he’s in for the touchdown and the Packers are out in front. The Green Bay Packers are going to be world champions,” Moore yelled out, as the 50,000-plus frozen faithful in the Lambeau Field stands went delirious.

The thing about Moore that is different from nearly every play-by-play announcer (including myself) today is his voice. In the days when radio voice quality mattered more than it seems to matter today (however you feel about that), Moore had a more modulated, deeper, richer voice than you generally hear today. CBS-TV’s Verne Lundquist and late NBC-TV announcer Charlie Jones don’t and didn’t sound like Moore, but those two are probably as close today voice-wise as you’d find to Moore.

The other thing about Moore is that, like announcers of that day, he came across as perhaps more booster than reporter, which again was common in those days and isn’t necessarily uncommon today. (Though it seems more obnoxious today.) It’s certainly not as if current Packer radio announcer Wayne Larrivee doesn’t want the Packers to win, but Larrivee will be critical if the Packers aren’t playing well. I gather that Moore didn’t go out of his way to be critical, though he announced bad plays if they were bad plays. That’s the way things were in those days.

Moore had the good fortune to get hired to do Baltimore Colts games in time for Super Bowl V, which was one of the worst (11 turnovers), yet closest, Super Bowls in history.

Moore also announced UW football, partnering with former Milwaukee Braves announcer Earl Gillespie, and also for a while announced Badger basketball on TV. That gave him the chance to call Magic Johnson’s last college basketball loss, when UW beat Michigan State on a buzzer-beating half-court shot by Wes Matthews. (I have that on tape somewhere.)

Moore was as much a part of the Glory Days as Scott was, and if for only that reason certainly belongs in the Packer Hall of Fame.

Presty the DJ for July 20

Today in 1968, Iron Butterfly’s “In-a-Gadda-da-Vita” reached the charts. It is said to be the first heavy metal song to chart. It charted at number 117.

That was the short version. The long version takes an entire album side:

At the other end of the charts was South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela:

Quite a selection of birthdays today, starting with T.G. Sheppard:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for July 20”

Trump and Putin: Another view

J.T. provides …

A few thoughts about Trump, actions versus talk, and negotiations with foreign leaders….

Trump understands negotiations like few others. He’s very much like Reagan in being tough on our adversaries, although they have a different style. Reagan, of course, called the Soviet Union “The Evil Empire,” and it was, and Reagan used very harsh rhetoric, and rightly so, considering the circumstances.

Trump won’t do that with Russia now, because it would be counterproductive. Putin is a genuinely bad guy. I think we all understand that, and that includes Trump. But, Russia is nowhere near as much of a threat nor is it nearly as powerful as the USSR was. Reagan’s was a different time and called for both different tactics and a different strategy. The way to get Russia to stop its nefarious ways is through a carrot-and-stick approach, much like before, except we can use a lot more carrot than stick, now, because Russia just isn’t as powerful as the old USSR was. Not even close.

Russia’s GDP in 2017 was less than a tenth of ours (1.577 trillion versus 19.390 trillion for us).

The EU’s GDP in 2017 was 17.277 trillion, also more than ten times Russia’s.

Germany’s GDP was 3.677 trillion in 2017.

France’s GDP in 2017 was 2.582 trillion.

Spain’s was 1.311 trillion.

The United Kingdom’s was 2.622 trillion.

Italy’s GDP was more than Russia’s (1.935 trillion). Even Canada’s (1.653 trillion).

All of these are NATO countries. And those aren’t all of the NATO countries, either. (Link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Member_states_of_NATO )

(You can look at the other NATO members’ GDP at this link: https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/gdp )

It’s quite easy to tell that Russia is the 21st century’s “sick man of Europe.”

In 2015, NATO countries’ GDP totaled 36.211 trillion dollars (from the wiki link above). That’s nearly 23 times as large as Russia’s in 2018 (Link: https://tradingeconomics.com/russia/gdp) .

I’m sure Putin knows this. I’m sure Trump does, too.

So, why did Trump treat Putin so nicely during the press conference? Because talk is cheap, which Trump also knows very well. Trump wants Putin’s help in corralling China and North Korea. He also wants help keeping Iran at bay and defeating ISIS, while guaranteeing Israel’s security. How does he get all that? Carrots and sticks.

Actions matter orders-of-magnitude more than talk. In April, Trump imposed a whole slew of sanctions against Russians. (Link: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/04/07/trump-sanctions-on-russia-this-is-as-far-from-collusion-as-can-get.html )

That hurts. I’m sure it got Putin’s attention.This, also, is the very opposite of “collusion.” Trump has been extremely tough on the Russians. Note that those sanctions are still in effect and were put in place months before the summit earlier this week. That’s the stick. Russia’s economy sucks and Trump gutpunched them in April.

Proving to foreign leaders that he wants to get along with them, because we’re all better off as friends than we are as enemies, is the exact same play he tried with Kim Jong-Un and with China’s Xi, as well. Did it work? Kim Jong-Un hasn’t fired any rockets off since then has he? Trump’s power of persuasion is his superhuman ability.

Trump is all about trying to get along with the foreign heads of state, but he understands that we sit in the catbird’s seat. Between us and NATO, we could cripple Russia’s economy if we needed to.

If Russia were an enemy, would Germany allow itself to get so dependent on energy from Russia?

Trump is right in calling Russia a “competitor” and not an enemy, much less an “Evil Empire.” That echoes what George W. Bush said about China when he said they were a “strategic competitor.” He’s also right to try to schmooze Putin face-to-face (as well as Mr. Kim and President XI), and make nice for the cameras in order to try to get cooperation (although the press conference was a mistake).

Will all of this work? Can he make “competitors” play nice? Well, it’s all about the economy, and between us, NATO, South Korea, Japan, and all of our other allies, we have Russia bent over a barrel.

None of us know what Trump and Putin discussed in their meeting. It was probably all sorts of things, and I bet trump pursued our national interests as hard as he could. Imagine how tough he was on Putin since he was so tough on our NATO allies.

I bet we’ll see progress on that front soon enough. It would help if the EU would be tough on Putin, too.

Putin quite obviously wants to reassemble the old Soviet Un

Putingate

Jay Nordlinger:

[Monday] morning, President Trump tweeted, “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

Some of us see it differently. Putin’s Russia is a dictatorship that kills critics, violates borders, interferes in democratic elections, etc. — and that’s why relations between it and the United States, a great liberal democracy, are bad.

Also, the Mueller team has just indicted twelve GRU agents. Does our president think that’s the fruit of a “Rigged Witch Hunt”?

When Trump sent out the above-quoted tweet, the Russian foreign ministry responded, “We agree.” That’s something that ought to give us pause — all of us Americans.

• Some conservatives are remembering Jeane Kirkpatrick today, who, in a famous 1984 speech, said Democrats (her own party at that point) tended to “blame America first.” President Trump appeared to do so in his tweet. Then, at his press conference with Putin, he was asked whether Russia bore any responsibility for bad relations between Moscow and Washington. Trump said, “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish.” And a bit later: “I think we’re all to blame.”

In times past, we conservatives referred to such a posture as “moral equivalence.”

• For two years now, there has been a debate over who hacked the Democrats in the 2016 election. In a debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”

Later, there was a theory that a Democratic staffer had leaked sensitive information and been murdered as a result.

The U.S. intelligence community holds that Russia is the guilty party, when it comes to election interference. Our intelligence community holds that Russia is still at it. H. R. McMaster, who was once Trump’s national security adviser, said that evidence of Russia’s guilt was “incontrovertible.” In February, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, made a blunt statement: “Frankly, the United States is under attack.” Last week, with equal bluntness, he said, “The warning lights are blinking red.”

And, of course, Robert Mueller indicted those twelve GRU men.

President Trump, at his joint press conference with Putin, was asked whom he believed: Putin or the U.S. intelligence community. He answered, “My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me, and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

That was corrected a day later when the White House claimed Trump meant to say “I don’t see any reason why it would not be.”

• Many of us have noted that Trump has excellent people around him — many of conservatism’s best and brightest. General McMaster was one of them. Then we have John Bolton, James Mattis, Dan Coats, Mike Pompeo, et al. But none of them was elected president. None of them ran for the office. The American people chose Trump. And “it all comes down to the man at the desk,” as George Bush the Elder said in the 1988 campaign. The president is where the buck stops, as Truman had it, or rather his sign did.

Dan Coats can be as blunt as he wants, and he does a service when he informs the public. But if the president chooses not to listen to him, or not to believe him — that’s the president’s prerogative, and the voters will react as they will.

• People have often pointed out that there seem to be two administrations, when it comes to U.S. policy on Russia: President Trump — and the rest of the administration. This idea was spelled out in a New York Times article, headed “Trump Opens His Arms to Russia. His Administration Closes Its Fist” (here).

• Sergei Magnitsky was Bill Browder’s lawyer — and a whistleblower. Magnitsky was tortured to death, real slow, by Russian authorities. Since that time, Browder has dedicated his life to human rights and justice. He has campaigned all over the world for “Magnitsky acts,” which place sanctions on Russian officials who abuse human rights. His activism has made him a prime target of Putin and the Kremlin. Bill (he is a friend of mine) has to watch his step at every turn. He has stuck his neck out, for truth and justice.

{Monday] at the joint press conference, Putin told his usual tales, his usual lies, about Bill (or some of them). All the while, Trump nodded solemnly and understandingly. It would be hard to tell you how disgusting that was to many of us.

• Putin suggested that the Kremlin and Washington cooperate in investigating Russian cyber attacks. Trump, gratified, called this “an incredible offer.” He repeated it: “I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay?”

“Incredible” is just the right word, though the president may not know it.

• Throughout this summit, Trump’s posture toward Putin has been gentle and respectful — even deferential. Contrast this with his posture toward Trudeau, Merkel, May, and their like.

• In an interview on Saturday, Trump was asked to name America’s “biggest foe globally right now.” Trump first said the European Union. Later, with Putin, he referred to the boss of the Chinese Communist Party as follows: “our mutual friend President Xi.”

People notice these things, and are right to.

• On his way to Finland, to meet Putin, Trump once again referred to the press as “the enemy of the people.” This phrase is greatly meaningful in Russia: Many, many people have been killed under that designation. What I mean is, many people have been killed as “enemies of the people.” I think American presidents should avoid this phrase, especially when talking about the free press, annoying as that press may be.

In Russia, many, many journalists have been killed, having incurred the displeasure of Putin. An American president should remember that.

• Over the weekend, I expressed the hope that Trump would bring up political prisoners, in the tradition of American presidents. (For my blogpost, go here.) Evidently, this did not happen. Some of us were especially hoping that Trump would bring up the case of Oleg Sentsov, the filmmaker and writer from Crimea who has been on hunger strike for over two months.

• In the Obama years, a lot of us made the following point: The president seemed annoyed with democratic protesters in Iran, for making it harder for him to deal as he wanted with the Iranian government. In a similar way, Trump seems annoyed with reality for intruding on his desired relations with Putin.

• I have been banging on a drum for many years (to no avail) — decades now. I don’t believe that Olympic Games, World Cups, and other such international competitions should be held in police states. President Trump said he wanted to “congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup. It was really one of the best ever.”

I would greatly appreciate a president, or other leader, who said, “No more Olympic Games or World Cups in police states. Choose another place in this great broad world.”

• Over and over, Trump said, “The world wants to see us get along” — the United States and Russia. Sure. But sometimes, relations must be unsmooth between adventuring dictatorships and democracies such as ours. Every conservative, among others, knows this in his bones.

President Trump, at his joint press conference with Putin, was asked whom he believed: Putin or the U.S. intelligence community. He answered, “My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me, and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

John Doe and Russia

Dan O’Donnell:

The smirk was unmistakable; the defiant, self-satisfied smugness of a man who knew the extent of the abuse of his power and dared the world to punish him for it. FBI agent Peter Strzok’s performance in last week’s joint hearing of the House’s Judiciary and Oversight Committees was less fact-finding than it was character-revealing.

And in Wisconsin, it was all too familiar: The arrogant disregard for the proper function of law enforcement and bitter condescension toward those who dared stand up to it. The Badger State has seen its share of Peter Strzoks before, and its experiences with them stand as an example of how to remove them from power.

The parallels between Strzok’s contempt for the man he was tasked with investigating – Donald Trump – and the disdain of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and Wisconsin Government Accountability Board for the man they took it upon themselves to investigate – Scott Walker – are downright eerie, and the level to which that hatred fomented the systemic abuse of investigative authority is downright chilling.

Both the FBI’s Russia investigation and Milwaukee DA’s John Doe probe were launched with ostensibly noble objectives but rather quickly devolved into partisan inquisitions.

The FBI has been trying to determine whether the Trump 2016 campaign had illegally colluded with Russia.  The John Doe investigation tried to determine whether the Walker 2012 recall election campaign illegally colluded with conservative political action groups.

The Russia probe has been ongoing for 18 months without a single shred of evidence tying the Trump campaign to any criminal conspiracy with Russia, yet what appears to be a campaign of steady and selective leaking to the press has left the public with the impression that it’s only a matter of time before Trump is led out of the White House in handcuffs.

In both February and on Friday, when the Justice Department announced indictments directly tied to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, it was clear that this activity occurred without any American cooperation or even knowledge. In order to prove “collusion” (which isn’t in the sense it’s colloquially used actually even a crime), investigators would have to demonstrate the existence of a criminal conspiracy; that is, they would need to show that someone connected to Trump worked with the Russian hackers to break into the Democratic National Committee servers and/or coordinate the release of the stolen emails.

They did not. However, because of the seemingly endless nature of the investigation and the near-constant leaks and innuendo stemming from it, the public is left to believe that the evidence of so-called collusion is right around the corner when it fairly obviously is not.

The John Doe investigation not only failed to produce any evidence of criminal wrongdoing whatsoever, federal and state courts alike unanimously ruled that the alleged crime the investigators were probing wasn’t actually a crime at all.  The secret nature of John Doe proceedings didn’t preclude selective leaking to the press, however, as details of the investigation found their way into near-daily Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stories, and secret documents formed the basis of Guardian article published just days before the U.S. Supreme Court effectively ended the investigation for good.

Perhaps most nauseating of all, both investigations seem centered around political opposition research, giving rise to the very real and very terrifying fear that both were perpetuated to advance electoral and not investigative ends. The FBI has for months been stonewalling Congressional inquiries into the role of the so-called Trump dossier, a sensationalistic and unverified piece of opposition research commissioned by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in both launching and furthering the Russia probe.

In Wisconsin, investigators were so brazen as to store illegally obtained emails from Republican politicians, activists, and media personalities in a filing cabinet marked “opposition research.” Ironically, the cabinet was in the basement of the Government Accountability Board, which was the agency tasked with policing campaign and ethics laws.

It had, however, morphed into a hyper-partisan attack dog for the Democratic Party that operated with such zeal that its attorney, Shane Falk, emailed colleagues reminding them that Walker’s perfectly legal and permissible actions were in fact “a bastardization of politics and our state is being run by corporations and billionaires.”

“The cynic in me says the sheeple would still follow the propaganda even if they knew,” Falk continued. “But at least it would all be out there so that the influences on our politicians is clearly known.”

This righteous anger and obvious pre-judgment might have been the most clearly known example of investigative bias until Strzok started texting his mistress promising to “stop” a Donald Trump presidency while investigating…the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

There he sat on Thursday, though, sneering at Congressional Republicans who dared to challenge him on what exactly he meant by texts such as “Trump is a f***ing idiot” and whether expressing such sentiments meant he had a vested interest in the outcome of politically charged investigations.

Strzok, like Falk before him, oozes disdain for such “sheeple” who will follow politicians like Trump and Walker even though the investigators just know they’re wicked – despite what the evidence fails to show.

Herein lies the threat to nothing short of the Rule of Law itself when the Peter Strzoks and Shane Falks of the world target their political enemies: The power of the investigator in this country is immense, and there are precious few checks on its misuse.

Wisconsin’s experience with a corrupt John Doe investigation, though, should be America’s guide. The targets of that investigation (which included the MacIver Institute) fought back, defying gag orders to tell their stories of persecution and paramilitary-style raids and eventually suing to stop the investigation in its tracks. Not content with victory in the judicial branch of government, Wisconsin’s Legislature disbanded the Government Accountability Board and changed the state’s John Doe laws to make them tougher to abuse.

While no one could credibly suggest disbanding the FBI, legislative and judicial checks on what appears to be the widespread misuse of its investigative authority for political ends are perhaps long overdue. It’s time for the rest of the country to, like Wisconsin, start really watching the watchmen and seeing them for what they have become.

Peter Strzok is the smirking, defiant face of what is in fact a form of wannabe tyranny – the deep-seated belief that the law doesn’t apply to those who decide how (and, more importantly, against whom) to enforce the law.

Remember when liberals were suspicious of law enforcement, especially the FBI? Good times.

 

Democrats left and left

Investors Business Daily:

Long-time political watchers have been shocked in recent months to see formerly powerful Democratic Party leaders ousted by far-left challenges within their own party. The once-proud centrist party of the working class, the Democrats are now a party of the hard left.

Recent events show just how far things have gone:

  • 28-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes beat New York Rep. Joe Crowley, the No. 4 ranking Democrat in the House, in a primary challenge. Despite a series of embarrassing gaffes in just over a week, the Democrat-safe New York district she’s in guarantees she’ll win.
  • In California, far left state Senator Kevin de Leon challenged four-term incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein for the endorsement of the state’s Democratic Party and won hands down, 65% to just 7%. Feinstein, 85, whose liberal credentials are impeccable, wasn’t far left enough, even though she trounced de Leon in the actual primary, 44% to 12%.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi faces an increasingly open challenge to her leadership in the House. Younger, more radical members of her party now push to replace her with someone from the far left of the party.
  • Driving the point home, on July 3 a giddy Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called self-proclaimed democratic socialist Ocasio-Cortez  “the future of our party.”

Economics 101, retail edition

Tom Woods:

Bernie Sanders just tweeted:

“Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon made about $11,000/hour in compensation last year. I’d like to hear from him why he thinks his workers don’t deserve to be paid a living wage of $15/hour.”

One of my Facebook friends replied, correctly, with this:

$11,000/hr is $22,880,000 assuming 40 hrs a week.
Redistribute that to the 2,300,000 Walmart employees and you get a whopping $9.94 per employee PER YEAR. With the CEO working for free.

OK, so maybe we’re not going to get to $15/hr by stealing from the CEO, but maybe we can get there by expropriating the shareholders.

Walmart had a net income of $9,862,000,000 last year. Redistribute that to the 2,300,000 employees and you get about $2/hr. Still not enough to have cashiers making $15/hr.

And of course if investors knew you would expropriate them in this way they wouldn’t have put up the money to build Walmart and it literally would not exist.

(Now before you tell me that Walmart uses the government’s roads, or gets some hidden privilege, that’s all beside the point: you think Bernie or his followers are making subtle distinctions like that?)

People in the thread were explaining about the value of the CEO, and why this kind of Tweet is — at the very least — extremely unhelpful.

Someone responded with:

“yeah but 11,000$/ hr thats f***ing absurd”

Why?

“because the average person working at that company makes like 10$/hr. ceo’s are not worth 1000x of 1 person”

Then why do they make that much?

“good question”

Then I jumped in: “Since you can’t answer the question, is it possible that you’re not really understanding the way the economy works? Maybe it’s a little more complicated than ‘this phenomenon seems unreasonable to be, so I shall condemn it’? Why would you think the contribution of the janitor in one building is comparable to a CEO running a worldwide enterprise, making decisions that affect millions of people?”

He said that “1 person is not worth 1000x of another person,” and that the real value added comes from “the people working the actual jobs on the front line.”

A philosopher in the thread responded, “I don’t know if any human being is worth 1000x another human being. However, yes, some people’s labor is worth 10,000 times other people’s labor.”

Then I chimed in (bold to make it easier to read): My father was a forklift operator in a food warehouse. He was intelligent enough to understand that his brawn alone would have accomplished nothing. Thanks to the capital investment by capitalists, he had a forklift that vastly increased what his labor was able to contribute to the enterprise. Not to mention the organizational genius necessary to coordinate the almost incalculable number of moving parts involved in running hundreds of grocery stores.

“No one should earn that much money,” you say. That’s just prejudice.

According to you, since lots of people struggle to earn even a fraction of that, they should simply earn more and other people should earn less. Why? How? On what basis? Your personal prejudices?

If you’re so concerned about inequality, I have news for you: you yourself are in the global 1%. To most of the world, you look like that CEO looks to you. What specific steps are you taking to make yourself more equal to them?

I never got an answer about what steps he was taking. You can imagine my surprise.

It’s always about what other people should be doing with their wealth.

There’s a lot of economic ignorance out there.