Trump Swings and Misses

This was not a good day for American foreign policy.

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

In a strongly-worded statement, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Mr Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.

Of course, we don’t know what was accomplished in private yet, but the public outcome of Trump’s meeting with Putin left a lot to be desired.

Democratic Candidates Support Drivers Licenses for Illegal Aliens

Of course they do.

The participants were former state Rep. Kelda Roys; Mahlon Mitchell, head of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin; political activist Mike McCabe and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.

 […]

A question from Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights organization based in Milwaukee, asked if candidates would support a law that would allow undocumented immigrants access to driver’s’ licenses “no matter what their status or income.” All four candidates said yes, and pointed to a larger need to support immigrants.

But they do not support the kids of those illegal aliens having access to better schools through School Choice. Democrats are big on keeping people staying in their assigned place in society.

 

Foxconn Will Only Benefit Southeast Wisconsin

Oh, wait

Foxconn Technology Group is buying a historic downtown Eau Claire building and space in the Haymarket Landing building as part of an expansion that will create 150 jobs.

The company announced it is expanding its Wisconn Valley Innovation Network to west-central Wisconsin as part of its initiative to spur innovation, attract talent and connect with supply chain partners, according to a statement. Foxconn plans to close on these properties later this year and open new operations in early 2019.

The new centers, to be named Foxconn Place Chippewa Valley, will create at least 150 high-tech jobs in Eau Claire. Employees will work with companies that will become part of Foxconn’s extensive supply chain and contribute to the development of the AI 8K+5G ecosystem that Foxconn is building in Wisconsin.

“We are excited to expand our Wisconn Valley footprint to the Chippewa Valley and west-central Wisconsin. Our goal in establishing Foxconn Place here is to help inspire innovative ideas, attract talent and catalyze cutting-edge solutions in this part of the state,” said Alan Yeung, Foxconn’s Director of U.S. Strategic Initiatives and President of FEWI Development Corporation. “Foxconn Place Chippewa Valley will play a key role in building a vibrant AI 8K+5G ecosystem in the U.S., with Wisconsin at the center of this vision.”

I will remind the gentle reader that every single Democrat running for governor has spoken against the Foxconn deal. I actually think that if one of them would break with the pack and champion Foxconn, they would stand a better chance of winning the general election, but it would kill them in the primary.

Deaths by Scorpions on Rise

In Brazil.

Specialists in Brazil have warned of the rising danger of deadly scorpions amid a spiraling number of reported deaths and stings by the hardy arachnids which are proliferating in the country’s urban centres.

The number of deaths from scorpion stings reported to the country’s public health system has more than doubled in the past four years, from 70 in 2013 to 184 in 2017, while cases of scorpion stings rose from 37,000 in 2007 to 126,000 last year.

Meanwhile, the death last week of a four-year old girl in São Paulo state has reinforced concerns that many small towns lack anti-venom to treat stings.

Feinstein Not Liberal Enough for Californian Dems

Who thought we would see the day that Feinstein would anchor the right wing of her party.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The California Democratic Party snubbed U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Saturday by handing its official endorsement and a badly needed boost to state Sen. Kevin de Leon, her longshot Democratic challenger.

In backing de Leon, a majority of the party’s 360-member executive board ignored Feinstein’s calls to stay neutral in the race. Her allies had warned an endorsement would create an intraparty squabble that could detract from important down-ballot races.

De Leon has long been courting party activists and appealed to those seeking a fresh face and a more progressive senator to fight against President Donald Trump.

“Today’s vote is a clear-eyed rejection of politics as usual in Washington, D.C.,” de Leon said in a statement after the vote. “We have presented Californians with the first real alternative to the worn-out Washington playbook in a quarter-century.”

US Rejects Bid From EU to Go Soft on Iran

Good.

The US has rebuffed high-level pleas from the European Union to grant exemptions to European companies from its sanctions against Iran.

In a letter to European nations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US rejected the appeal because it wants to exert maximum pressure on Iran.

It said exemptions would only be made if they benefited US national security.

The EU fears that billions of dollars’ worth of trade could be jeopardised as a result of Washington’s new sanctions.

Astroturfing the Supreme Court

This time they got sloppy. Usually they at least change a few words to make it more believable. It’s hard to blame the papers. How are they supposed to check that until the letters run elsewhere?

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is going into the Supreme Court confirmation process with a hail of rhetorical arrows zinging by him, including a phony letter-writing campaign aimed at unsuspecting American newspaper editors

At least 21 papers were duped last week, including big-market brands like the Dallas Morning News and The Washington Times. They ran identical letters over a four-day period, each signed by a different person.

The effort is an example of public-relations ‘astroturfing,’ a technique meant to simulate genuine grassroots support for an idea or cause.

The form letter is one small piece of the message minefield erupting around Kavanaugh as he prepares for a brutal confirmation process that will end with scant support from Democrats.

Man Tries to Pull Gun on Police. Gets Shot.

Yet again, people react to a police shooting with outrage and, upon review, we see that the police were reacting to a very real threat. One might begin to think that the people reacting to police shootings aren’t entirely sincere or informed.

Saturday’s fatal police involved shooting that sparked violent protests in Chicago was captured on police body camera which shows the man who was killed was armed with a handgun.

Harith Augustus, 37, was identified as the man who was shot by police by the Medical Examiner’s office, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The video, released much earlier than expected by the Chicago Police Department, shows Augustus clearly had a gun holstered, as well as an additional magazine.

In the video, he appears to be reaching for his weapon during the confrontation with the police.

The father to a five-year-old, Augustus, also known as Snoop the Barber, worked in a barbershop nearby where he was shot.

Strzok Should Take a Page from Page

I don’t know how much of this praise is legitimate and how much is crafted to put pressure on the FBI and Strzok, but it sure is different from the Strzok testimony. Although Strzok kept trying to hide behind advice from the FBI to keep quiet, it appears that Page did not receive, or is not adhering to, the same advice.

“Lisa Page is a very credible witness and she’s doing her best to help us find the truth,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said following Friday’s hearing. “I can tell you, in ways I think she’s been falsely accused about not being willing to cooperate. We’ve learned some evidence today that would suggest she’s been willing to help, in the spirit of transparency. … The last thing anyone wants is to be falsely accused. Her willingness to cooperate today speaks well for her.

“I think there’s significant information that is new, that she has provided,” he added. “Obviously you know I am in favor of getting transcripts out for the American people, so that they can judge for themselves, but certainly I’m not going to share those today until those become public.”

Meadows tweeted following the hearing, “Remarkably, we learned new information today suggesting the DOJ had not notified Lisa Page of Congress’ outstanding interview requests for over 7 months now. The DOJ/FBI appear to be continuing their efforts to keep material facts, and perhaps even witnesses, from Congress.”

After she did not appear on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “congressional subpoenas for testimony are not optional,” warning Page that the House could move to hold her in contempt if she did not comply.

“She was a part of the mess that we’ve uncovered over at DOJ. She has an obligation to come and testify,” Ryan, R-Wis., emphasized Wednesday during a news conference at the Capitol. “If she wants to come and plead the Fifth, that’s her choice, but a subpoena to testify before Congress is not optional. It’s mandatory.”

Last Sears in Chicago to Close

Speaking of disruption

The Six Corners store, on the edge of Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood, will shut its doors for the last time Sunday, two months shy of its 80th anniversary. The closure is part of Sears effort to turn around its business after years of losses and declining sales, but when the store rings up its final sale, the city will lose one more link to a hometown company that used to be the world’s largest retailer.

Down to One Blockbuster

As a former employee of Blockbuster, this makes me sad. Blockbuster is the perfect example of the technological disruption of an industry and a company that was too slow to adapt. There was a small window of opportunity where Blockbuster could have leveraged its brand to dominate the fledgling streaming media business, but they were too fat, happy, and slow to do it. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. This disruption continues unabated. I’ve seen projections that as much as half of the Fortune 500 won’t be on the list in 10 years. I believe it.

This week, there are three stores remaining, but by next week there will only be one store open for business — in Bend, Oregon.
Alaska’s last two Blockbuster stores — one in Anchorage and another in Fairbanks — announced they would officially close on Sunday.
Sandi Harding, the Bend store’s general manager, told CNN she was surprised her store was the last one open.
“It’s pretty exciting that we are the last holdout,” she said.

A bit of nostalgia

Bend’s Blockbuster looks just like stores from years ago — yellow on the inside and employees sporting blue shirts. They even have floppy disks and old computer systems, Harding told CNN.
After Sunday, this video store in Bend, Oregon, will be the last remaining Blockbuster in the US.

“It’s very nostalgic,” she said. “We have a bunch of 19-year-olds working here — it’s fun explaining to them what a floppy disk is.”

Dems Vow to Keep ICE

HAHAHAHAHAHA

A group of Democrats who introduced legislation to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said they will vote against the measure if GOP leadership follows through with their vow to bring it to the House floor.

Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Adriano Espaillat(D-N.Y.) released a statement Thursday accusing GOP leaders of exploiting the legislation for political gain after leadership confirmed it planned to hold a vote.

While the Democratic lawmakers said they plan to vote against their own measure – which would create a commission to examine ICE’s responsibilities and then recommend transferring them to other agencies – they said they welcome the opportunity for debate.

So some lefty politicians, led my Wisconsin’s own Mark Pocan, jump on the radical bandwagon and submit a bill to abolish ICE. When the leadership says, “OK, cool… let’s have a vote,” those same lefty politicians cry foul and vow to vote against their own bill, thus proving that they were just posturing.

On the bright side, I guess I’m happy that they aren’t actually stupid enough to abolish ICE.

Meeting the Queen

Heh.

(CNN)President Donald Trump will meet Queen Elizabeth for tea Friday. Nothing to worry about there.

The not-always-delicate Trump will likely be closely watched to see if he can navigate the numerous protocols surrounding the royal family without committing a faux pas.
Thinking not specifically about Trump, but as an American… I hate how the media obsesses over royal etiquette. While in another country, our Presidents should be polite and respectful of their traditions, but our Presidents are world leaders in their own right who are not required to scrape and bow according to every nuance of English etiquette. Screw that.

Democrats Call for Kavanaugh to Recuse Himself

The Democrats are just insane right now.

A former boss and political ally of Brett Kavanaugh, pushing back on a mounting rallying cry of Senate Democrats, said it is “preposterous” to suggest that the Supreme Court nominee should recuse himself from cases involving Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia, because there is no evidence Kavanaugh and the president made a “deal” about the issue.

“I don’t see the basis for a recusal,” Timothy Flanigan, who served as deputy White House counsel during the early years of the George W. Bush administration, said in an interview for the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.”

When it was pointed out that Trump had nominated Kavanaugh while under investigation by Mueller — and facing a potential subpoena for his testimony — Flanigan replied, “I’m not sure I see the relevance of that.” He added that “unless there was a credible suggestion that … there’s some kind of deal that Brett would vote against [upholding a subpoena to the president], I frankly find that preposterous.”

Since President Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination Monday night, a number of Democrats have demanded that Kavanaugh commit to recusing himself from any issues involving the Mueller probe that could end up before the court. They have argued that it would be a conflict of interest for him to rule on issues such as a potential subpoena for Trump’s testimony or whether the president can be indicted — and that his vote on a divided court could be decisive, ultimately determining the fate of Trump’s presidency.

“I don’t think he should be on the court, and you can be sure that me and my colleagues on the Democratic side are going to be asking if he will recuse himself, should he be confirmed,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., told reporters.

So because Democrats fantasize that Trump made a deal with Kananaugh over an BS investigation, he should commit to recusing himself on some potential, unnamed case that might come before the Supreme Court? Nuts.

FBI Refuses to Answer

Put aside the specific issue, Trump, Gowdy, etc. and consider this in the abstract. What we have here is Congress trying to exercise its Constitutional oversight authority over a law enforcement agency in the Executive Branch, and that agency refusing to cooperate. Abolish ICE? It might be time to abolish the FBI. Which agency has abused the civil rights of more Americans during its existence?

A House Judiciary Committee hearing quickly spiraled into chaos on Thursday when FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok said he couldn’t answer a question related to the Russia investigation because the FBI’s lawyers had instructed him not to, leading the committee’s chairman, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to threaten to hold Strzok in contempt.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., asked Strzok — whose anti-Trump text messages led to his removal from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller — how many interviews he conducted in the first week of the probe.

“Congressman, as you know, counsel for the FBI, based on the special counsel’s equities, has instructed me not to answer questions about the ongoing investigation into Russian attempts to interfere,” Strzok replied.

Gowdy repeated his question and Strzok repeated his answer, infuriating Goodlatte.

“Mr. Strzok, you are under subpoena and are required to answer the question,” Goodlatte said. “Are you objecting to the question?”

Baldwin Won’t Vote for Kavanaugh

I’m shocked. SHOCKED!

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she’ll oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, citing his views on health care and abortion rights.

“The people of Wisconsin need a fair, impartial and independent Supreme Court Justice who will stand up for them, not for powerful special interests. I don’t have confidence that Judge Kavanaugh would be that justice,” Baldwin, D-Madison, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday.

Baldwin’s opposition is not surprising. Kavanaugh has yet to have any Democratic senators pledge support for his confirmation, though a few remain undecided — and most have come out strongly opposed.

Rogue School Board Foments Turmoil

This story is amazing, but not surprising.

DPI issued a finding late last month that the Mercer School District inappropriately spent about $175,000 from its community programs and services account — otherwise known as “Fund 80” — over the 2015-’16 and 2016-’17 school years. Most of that was used to boost wages and benefits for a small group of employees, including Torkelson, without adequate documentation, according to the letter.

DPI also admonished board members for voting on bonuses for administrators, including $11,000 for Torkelson, in closed session.

[…]

The DPI probe focused on how the tiny school district spent its Fund 80 dollars for recreation including pickleball and community programming over the two years. Torkelson said in a January interview that the district offers a broad array of programming — child care, senior meals, yoga, art and music classes — that have “transformed the culture of our district.”

Critics dismiss it as a handful of sparsely attended classes and a “walking track” through the halls of the school.

[…]

Of keen interest has been Torkelson’s compensation. Torkelson was paid about $136,000 last year, though his contract was for about $98,000, according to his critics. He said he effectively buys back some of his benefits, including insurance and unused vacation days, but Reinert and others say that should total no more than $114,000.

[…]

And things could get heated. In 2014, a local blogger, Richard Thiede, sued the district for suggesting he was tied to a supposed hacking of the district’s email system. Reinert was slapped with a restraining order over the “Fifty Shades” fracas. Late last year, the board voted to consider legal action against anyone, including Reinert, who forwarded an email letter critical of the district.

[…]

Reinert and Duley, as well as one of the deputies, tried to obtain the district’s video of the meeting, but were not successful.

Months later, then-President Deanna Pierpont told the Journal Sentinel that she had erased it, and that Mercer no longer records its meetings.

“I didn’t like what I saw. … People in the audience were yelling. Students were there. … I just felt that I didn’t want that out on the website.”

Reinert was stunned when she heard, but not entirely surprised.

“Unbelievable. I was afraid they were going to do that,” Reinert said. “It’s illegal. You can’t just get rid of documentation of a public meeting.”

We are seeing shadows of this from local governments (school boards, in particular) all over Wisconsin. Threatening detractors, stonewalling requests for information, conducting the people’s business outside of public view, destroying public records, violating board contracts and policies, an on and on. And when wrongdoing is identified, District Attorneys and the Attorney General are always reluctant to prosecute anyone in local government.

Unfortunately, our form of self-government relies on honorable people conducting the people’s business. Many times, the only real enforcement mechanism for school boards is for the public to vote them out of office. But that takes a long time and relies on the public being able to learn about their malfeasance. This is further aggravated by the collapse of local news outlets’ ability or willingness to ferret out the information. Often times, the local school district is one of the largest advertisers for the local newspaper that is supposed to be covering them. This leaves the hard task of digging out local government dirt to amateurs and angry citizens, who are often marginalized and stonewalled. They simply do not have the time or resources to aggressively investigate suspected bad behavior by local governments.

I don’t really have a good answer. Good government requires that citizens be vigilant about electing good people to office and that they remain engaged to hold their elected officials accountable. But few citizens have the time to really keep tabs on their local municipality, county, school board, and other various governments. Also, information is increasingly difficult to uncover in an era where we, as a people, are not willing to financially support the local media outlets that we need to dig out relevant and actionable information.

The inevitable result is what we are seeing… more and more local governments being run by ne’er-do-wells and buffoons with little regard or capacity for honorable stewardship of the public business.

Baldwin’s Empty Chair

Ouch

Germany’s Gas

Trump is right.

Donald Trump‘s claim that Germany imports 70 per cent of its gas from Russia at a fiery Nato summit today is correct – and the country will soon receive even more.

The EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat, says that Russia is responsible for up to 75% of Germany’s total gas imports.

And experts say that figure could dramatically increase after a new pipeline between Russia and Germany opens in two years time.

[…]

Donald Trump also questioned the role of the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who is now working for Gazprom.

Schroeder signed the deal for Nord Stream in haste after being ousted by Angela Merkel in a narrow election defeat in 2005.

Just weeks after leaving office, however, he started overseeing the implementation of the project for Gazprom.

Schroeder took up position as head of Nord Stream AG’s shareholder committee and has worked for the gas behemoth ever since.

The former politician is rumoured to have been paid millions by Gazprom and is set to pocket even more with the announcement of the second phase of the Nord Stream project.

Washington County Sheriff Candidate’s Spouse Signed Walker Recall Petition

It has come to my attention that the wife of one of the two Republican candidates for Washington County Sheriff signed the petition to recall Governor Walker in 2011. Shelly Schulteis is the wife of Captain Marty Schulteis. She is a teacher in the West Bend School District and signed the recall petition. You can see it for yourself here.

One can certainly debate how relevant this fact is, but it is certainly newsworthy. The attempted recall of a sitting governor over the passage of Act 10 was a defining issue in Wisconsin that energized both sides of the debate to a white hot fury. The debate over Act 10 continues to be waged even as the evidence of years has mounted to prove that the Act has been tremendously successful in liberating local governments and taxpayers from the shackles of the entrenched public employee unions. It is precisely because the attempted recall of Governor Walker was so controversial that signing the recall petition continues to be relevant in current events.

In this case, we are not talking about the candidate signing the petition. We are talking about his wife. How relevant is it to how the candidate will perform the job should he win? That’s hard to say. We are also talking about a political office that, although partisan, is not terribly political. While a Sheriff can be politically active and has a philosophical view of how to do the job, 90+% of the job has to do with things like leadership, management, prioritization, communication, preparedness, etc.

Also, Marty Schulteis has a long history on the job in Washington County. If he were a closet lefty who uses his position to advance liberalism, one would think that someone would have noticed by now. I haven’t heard anyone make that claim.

I have met with both candidates and investigated their backgrounds. I am personally still undecided and it’s a close call for me. Both candidates have solid law enforcement bona fides and conservative philosophies, but have slightly different takes on how to be a Sheriff. You can read my column from a few weeks ago about them. This is another piece of data to throw into the decision matrix that wasn’t included in that column.

I asked Captain Schulteis if he would like to comment. He provided a very thoughtful response that I have posted in full below.

My commitment to Washington County is that I will be a Constitutional Sheriff that protects the individual rights of every person.  The first 10 amendments to the US Constitution contain individual rights including the 1st amendment freedom of expression. My core belief in individual rights does not end when I pull into my driveway.

My wife is an exceptionally talented and dedicated local elementary educator of over 20 years.  She is a strong and independent woman and I love her more than life itself. We started dating in high school long before our career paths developed.  She and I share common ground on many public policy issues, but there are other areas that we find ourselves on completely opposite spectrums politically.  One such example is the Governor’s performance.   She signed the Walker petition back in 2011 based on her convictions. She also never left the classroom during the Madison protests based on her convictions.  We have simply agreed to disagree on Act 10.  Anyone with a significant other can probably relate to not always agreeing with one another on some issue.

I was raised in a conservative household and that is simply who I am.  Although I do not agree with her, my greater conviction is that I completely protect her ability to have a difference of opinion.

If elected as Sheriff, my pledge will be to represent all with respect, dedication and fairness.  The Sheriff needs to embody everyone’s common concerns relating to local public safety policy.   It is imperative that the Sheriff can work with others that may not have the same philosophical views, even his wife.