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Durham Is Now a Special Counsel

Attorney General William Barr notified Congress today that on October 19, he appointed John Durham a Special Counsel under DOJ regulations. He did this “to provide him and his team with the assurance that they could complete their work, without regard to the outcome of the election.” In other words, absent this appointment, Joe Biden’s Attorney General undoubtedly would have terminated Durham’s investigation and ordered that no report or indictments be issued. As Special Counsel, DOJ regulations provide that Durham can be fired only for specified causes. Presumably Barr waited until now to disclose Durham’s appointment as Special Counsel to avoid any possible impact on the election.

Barr’s letter says that he originally expected that Durham would complete his investigation by the Summer of 2020, but that proved impossible because the COVID epidemic, “as well as additional information he uncovered.” So maybe Durham has has found some dynamite info on Russiagate!

Sure. This is the way we have been teased by this investigation for the last year. I have pretty much given up on any blockbuster revelations, and anyway it is too late for such revelations to matter much. I simply hope that Durham’s investigation will fill in the few missing pieces of Russiagate that are not yet public, and bring an end, finally, to that drawn-out saga.

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Remembering Diego Maradona | Power Line

Diego Maradona died last week of a heart attack at age 60. Maradona is generally considered the second greatest soccer player of all time, behind only Pele. Some even rate him ahead of the magical Brazilian.

I never saw Maradona play in person, but did see him on television in four World Cups — 1982 (where he was a petulant dud), 1986, 1990, and 1994. All things considered, I have never seen a soccer player perform as well as Maradona. What a combination of skill, speed, and power — packaged, improbably, in a short and stocky body.

I saw Pele in person twice, but after his prime, and watched Johan Cryuff play many times in the North American Soccer League. Cruyff dazzled, but against inferior competition. The one time I him saw against the best — on television in the 1974 final against West Germany — he came up a little short.

I’ve seen Lionel Messi, Maradona’s fellow Argentine, on television in big European club matches play as well as Maradona. However, Messi, although performing well at World Cups, has never come close to Maradona’s level on the biggest stage. Messi himself has said he could play forever and never match Maradona.

1986 was Maradona’s signature World Cup. He led a solid but largely unspectacular (by World Cup standards) collection of players to the championship.

Maradona is best remembered for his self-described “hand of God” goal against England in the quarterfinals. (Video below.) This was a blatant case of cheating — using his hand to score against the great Peter Shilton.

Less well remembered is how, in the same match, Maradona slalomed through the English defense before beating Shilton. (Video below) Some consider this the greatest World Cup goal ever.

And almost entirely forgotten is Maradona’s performance in the next match — a semifinal against Belgium. In that contest (video below), Maradona got the better of Jean-Marie Pfaff, probably the best goalkeeper in the world at that time (if Shilton wasn’t).

After the match Pfaff commented (I quote from memory), “I consider myself a great goalkeeper, but I wouldn’t even be a goalkeeper if I had to play against Maradona regularly.”

Maradona’s performance in the 1990 World Cup is also largely forgotten. His teammates, again, were solid but unspectacular, and the opposition was gunning for Maradona. Yet, he led Argentina all the way to the finals, where the team lost to West Germany.

That Cup was played in Italy. At the time Maradona was starring for Napoli, whose fans adored him.

Italy drew Argentina as its opponent in the semifinals. As fate would have it, the match took place in Naples.

Playing off of southern Italian resentment of the north, along with the adoration of Napoli fans, Maradona claimed that the Naples crowd would be behind him, rather than the Italian national team. It didn’t work out that way.

On match day, the Neapolitans hung up banners saying, “Diego in our hearts, Italy in our chants” and “Maradona: Naples loves you, but Italy is our homeland.”

Maradona broke those hearts. Argentina played its best match of the tournament against the favored “Azzurri.” Maradona assisted on Argentina’s one goal and delivered the winning kick in the penalty shootout that decided the match.

Nonetheless, Maradona is still revered in Naples, as I learned in visiting the city and the region in 2014. Our tour guide, a boy when Maradona played for Napoli, lit up at the mention of his name.

Maradona also excelled at the World Cup in 1994. He looked out of shape, but the magic was still there.

Some of it, though, might have been chemically induced. Maradona was disqualified for failing a doping test after the team’s second match.

Argentina had won the first two contests by a combined scored of 6-1. Without Maradona, the team lost to Bulgaria and Romania by a combined score of 2-5.

Soccer immortals like Pele, Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, and Sir Bobby Charlton became “grand old men” of the sport after retirement. That was never in the cards for Maradona. The “hand of God” goal, the attempt to hijack Napoli fans, and the failed drug test were the tip of the iceberg of an outrageous personality.

With his substance abuse, Maradona followed the “bad boy” model for retired superstars (think of George Best). He also added a malignant element, bad-mouthing Pele and cozying up to Fidel Castro.

However, like Cruyff and Beckenbauer, Maradona went into coaching at a high level. Argentina put him in charge of its 2010 World Cup effort.

Maradona went “romantic.” He played with five attackers, ala Brazil in 1970 (typically, Messi, Carlos Tevez, Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, and Maxi Rodriguez).

His team rampaged through the early matches, winning the first four by a combined score of 10-2. However, modern soccer caught up with Maradona in the quarterfinal against Germany, which Argentina lost 0-4 in as poor a defensive display as one is likely to see in match between sides of this caliber.

That was it for Maradona as manager of the national team. However, he continued managing in the lower levels of soccer until his death.

Maradona was a face in the crowd at subsequent World Cups. At times, he appeared to be deranged.

Given his life style and addictions, I doubt that anyone expected Maradona to live a long life. Still, his death at age 60 stunned the soccer world.

The cause appears to have been straightforward — a heart attack. Yet, perhaps inevitably, the death has become a matter of controversy.

Meanwhile, the tributes have poured in. Pope Francis, an Argentine, called Maradona “a poet of soccer.” That he was.

Even the English, victims of the rascally “hand of God” goal, joined in the tributes. This weekend, each EPL match began with a minute of silence for Maradona.

Gary Lineker, star of the 1986 English World Cup team and now a “grand old man” of the game, said:

By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time. After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God.


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NASDAQ Strikes a Blow For Discrimination

Today NASDAQ filed proposed rules with the Securities and Exchange Commission that would “mandate diversity in the boardroom for companies listed on its stock exchange.”

[T]he new rules would require companies on the stock exchange to have at least one woman director and one who self-identifies as an “underrepresented minority” or member of the LGBTQ community — or face possible delisting.

NASDAQ’s president provided the usual spin:

Nelson Griggs, the president of Nasdaq Stock Exchange, added that the proposal “gives companies an opportunity to make progress toward increasing representation of women, underrepresented minorities and the LGBTQ+ community on their boards.”

Of course, the proposed rule would not provide an “opportunity,” which obviously exists already, but rather would represent a dictatorial order. Delisting would be devastating to most companies that trade on NASDAQ. Nevertheless, I assume that an SEC under Democratic control would approve these discriminatory rules.

The purpose of a board of directors is to manage a corporation for the benefit of its shareholders. It is not to advance a collateral liberal agenda, which is what NASDAQ no doubt has in mind. It is noteworthy that the American Civil Liberties Union, which once advocated for civil rights but now is on the other side, applauded NASDAQ’s crudely discriminatory initiative.

Unmentioned in liberal media accounts hailing NASDAQ’s proposed discrimination is the fact that it would be illegal. Hans Bader pours cold water on the liberal parade:

The stock exchange NASDAQ plans to impose racial quotas on companies that are listed on it, requiring them to violate federal law. Under a proposed NASDAQ rule, corporations would have to put at least one minority and one woman on their board of directors. Such racial quotas violate a federal statute, 42 U.S.C. 1981, which forbids racial discrimination in contracts, and which has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as forbidding racial quotas even when such quotas are motivated by a desire for diversity.
[R]acial quotas are forbidden as a means of pursuing diversity, even in the unusual contexts where an applicant’s race can be considered to promote diversity. That’s what the Supreme Court ruled when it struck down a racial quota in college admissions. It ruled that violated both the Constitution and 42 U.S.C. 1981, which bans racial discrimination in public and private contracts. (See Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244, 276 n.23 (2003)).

Moreover, corporate boards are not an area where diversity justifies the use of race at all. Most courts say that in employment, as opposed to college admissions, diversity is not a reason to consider an applicant’s race. An appeals court struck down a federal diversity regulation imposed on broadcasters for that reason, finding it unconstitutional. (See Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod v. FCC (1998)).

Another appeals court ruled it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to make layoff decisions based on race in order to maintain “diversity.” (See Taxman v. Board of Education (1996)).

Much more at the link. Liberals have a political agenda that lets nothing stand in its way–certainly not the Constitution. Liberals are essentially lawless. Happily, we now have a Supreme Court, and more broadly a federal judiciary, that likely will stand up against these unconstitutional attempts at racial or gender discrimination. This is one of many reasons why we should be grateful that for four years at least, Donald Trump has been our president.

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Garcia wins in California-25 | Power Line

Yesterday, I wrote an update on two of the three House races I discussed on Sunday — Iowa-2 and New York-22. Today, there is definitive news about the third of these races. In California-25, Republican Mike Garcia is the winner. Democrat Christy Smith has conceded.

This seat traditionally has been held by Republicans. Katie Hill won it for the Democrats in the Democratic wave of 2018, but resigned due to a sex scandal. Garcia then won the seat in a special election earlier this year.

The Los Angeles Times describes the district as “sprawling suburbs, desert land and horse ranches north of downtown L.A.” It includes Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster. According to the Times, “Democrats have recently gained a voter registration advantage, but deep red pockets throughout the district helped secure Garcia’s seat.”

Garcia’s profile also helped. He was a Navy fighter pilot. His father is an immigrant from Mexico. He has said:

I was a first-generation immigrant. My father and my grandfather came here and started from the ground up and created a great small business in the construction business. We were taught to work hard, we were taught to earn every dollar that we make, take pride in our country, and be a patriot.

Garcia’s win in the special election this summer was the first time in more than 20 years that the GOP flipped a California congressional seat from blue to red. Now the victory has been ratified, albeit by only 333 votes.

John McCormack says that all of the Republicans who flipped Democratic districts in 2020 are veterans, minorities, or women. In many cases, like Garcia, they are two of three.

The GOP is changing, both ideologically and in the profile of its new candidates.

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The Flynn outrage | Power Line

The outrage perpetrated on General Michael Flynn should go down in the hall of shame along with the Dreyfus affair. The Flynn outrage revealed the rotten core of the Obama administration and the multidimensional corruption of our most trusted institutions. The Flynn outrage should live in infamy, and yet we have leftist hacks like former Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin — see “Mic drop on Jon Tevlin” — celebrating the rank travesty of justice and suffering inflicted on Flynn.

The Flynn outrage awaits its own Émile Zola, but Margot Cleveland gets the ball rolling in the excellent Federalist column “Trump’s Michael Flynn Pardon Is Only The Beginning Of The Justice This Nation Deserves.” Subhead: “The corporate media has refused to tell Americans the truth, so I will. Here are six key aspects of the case that expose the Obama-Biden administration’s travesty of justice.”

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Biden’s hyper-partisan leftist OMB nominee

Joe Biden has selected Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She is the president of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a leftist think tank.

Her selection was immediately touted by the mainstream media because she will be the first “woman of color” to lead the OMB. Tanden’s parents came from India.

Thus, although she is deemed “of color” for purposes of having her nomination lauded by the left-liberals, Tanden is actually a member of group that is disfavored by left-liberals when it comes, for example, to admission to college. To Tanden’s credit, she was admitted to Yale Law School despite her ethnicity.

Tanden is the first nominee to come under serious public fire from Republican Senators. If the GOP retains control of the Senate, Rob Portman will head the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, one of two committees that will hold hearings on Tanden’s nomination. Lindsey Graham will head the other.

Portman, who is hardly a flame thrower, says he hopes Biden will decide not to go through with this nomination. He explained:

The concern I have is both judgment, based on the tweets that I’ve been shown, just in the last 24 hours. . .and it’s the partisan nature. Of all the jobs, that’s one where I think you would need to be careful not to have someone who’s overtly partisan.

As for Graham, he chuckled when asked about the Tanden selection. Then he commented: “She had a lot to say. It will be a long hearing. Uphill.”

The Washington Post’s article on Republican opposition does not present the tweets in question, an interesting omission. The tweets can no longer be found in Tanden’s account. She has taken them down.

One tweet, from July 2019, said:

Can people on here please focus their ire on McConnell and the GOP senators who are Up This Cycle who enable him: Cory Gardner, Collins, Ernst, Cornyn, Perdue, Tillis And many more.

If Perdue wins next month’s runoff election, all of these Senators except Gardner will vote on Tanden’s nomination. And Collins’ vote will probably be crucial.

In another tweet, Tanden called Majority Leader McConnell “Moscow Mitch.”

Tanden’s hyper-partisan tweets might be what prevents her confirmation, but they are far from the only grounds for reservation. Folks at the Center for American Progress have harshly criticized her management style. A former senior employee says she used the company as “an engine for her ambition” at her colleagues’ expense.

That’s probably par for the course among Washington insiders. However, some of the specifics of her tenure are less common, one hopes.

Her mishandling of a sexual harassment complaint came under fire, causing colleagues to describe Tanden as “impossible to trust.”

In addition, Tanden was accused by an eyewitness of punching a top editor at ThinkProgress after he asked Hillary Clinton about the war in Iraq during a meeting at CAP. Tanden denied punching the editor. “It was push,” she said.

Ali Gharib, another former ThinkProgress journalist, tweeted yesterday that Tanden lacks “leadership and moral courage.”

Wikilinks revealed more about her “leadership and moral courage” (or lack thereof) after it hacked the emails of John Podesta, the founder of CAP and longtime confidant of Tanden. The emails showed that, in the words of The New Republic, Tanden has “consistently prioritized politics over policy, and frozen out dissenters who might otherwise have ideas of value to contribute to the Democratic agenda.”

In one email, she wrote:

I would do whatever Hillary needs always. I owe her a lot. And I’m a loyal soldier.

In her capacity as a loyal soldier for Hillary, Tanden incurred the wrath of Bernie Sanders. I wrote about this here and here.

Jim Geraghty collects some of Tanden’s “greatest hits” here.

My view is that, within limits, a president has the right to be served by the top level officials of his choice. Tanden will test these limits. Rightly or wrongly, her emails attacking GOP Senators will probably test them the most.

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Bruce Herschensohn, RIP | Power Line

Sad news of the passing yesterday of Bruce Herschensohn, long time conservative activist, documentary filmmaker, and commentator in California. I got to know him a bit in the mid-1980s when he was a commentator on a local TV news program in LA (paired up for nightly debates with former Democratic Senator John Tunney—see the promotional ad below), and then when he ran for the Senate in 1992, losing narrowly to Barbara Boxer while running a million votes ahead of President George H.W. Bush. (In the TV ad below, which aired during the GOP primary that year, Bruce attacks his liberal Republican rival, Tom Campbell.)

I suspect if you had asked Bruce what one word he’d have wanted used to describe him, he’d have unhesitatingly said, “Anti-Communist.” Foreign policy was his main interest, and in later years our paths crossed again at Pepperdine University, where he as a fellow at the same time I was teaching there, offering lunchtime seminars full of history lessons going back to his time as an aide to President Nixon. Among other matters, Bruce never wavered in his support for the Vietnam War, arguing in this brief video for Prager U that the blame for the ultimate defeat in Vietnam owed entirely to the cowardice of the Democratic Party, to the great shame of the United States.

Bruce was a very kind and friendly person. While TV viewers saw him in fierce debates with John Tunney on TV, Bruce told me that he and Tunney had become good friends, and that he was personally fond of Tunney.

They don’t make ’em like Bruce any more. RIP.

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Coronavirus in one state (132)

Governor Walz took over Monday’s regularly scheduled press briefing yesterday. He advertised it as a “deep dive” on the data that is now to become a feature of Monday briefings with Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who performed the “deep dive” with slides that mostly do not appear in the vide I have embedded the video below. (The cited data are accessible at the MDH Situation Update, the MDH Weekly Report, and the state’s COVID-19 Response dashboard.)

Briefings convened by Walz are run by his staff and limited almost entirely to Capitol press corps. It is a cozy group, not unlike those admitted to the circle of love at MDH briefings, but even more tightly controlled. I take it that the subtext of this briefing is the perceived need for Walz to reiterate the rationale supporting the incredibly destructive shutdown regime he has promulgated. Rest assured, it is for our own good.

Walz commenced the briefing with the usual torrent of verbiage. He paid tribute to the importance of data. He referred to the record number of 101 deaths reported on November 27. For some reason he failed to mention that 65 of these deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities (64) or other congregate care setting (one).

Malcolm then took the lectern to review the data. Referring to the day that 101 deaths were reported, she recited the tired trope to the effect that “we are asking so much of our fellow Minnesotans.” The word “asking” is of course a euphemism in this context.

Among the questions was one directed to Walz about the misinformation disseminated, I think, on Twitter, that he has a net worth of $400 million. If only (my comment, not his). He asserted that he has been compensated “fairly” for his service in the public sector. You got a problem with that?

Walz responded (at about 48:00) that he is concerned about this misinformation only to the extent that it undermines faith in institutions. If you believe that misinformation, you probably won’t follow his public health “advice” (there’s that conceit of voluntariness again).

On this point I think back to Walz announcing his big shutdown order of March 25 — the one he was advised — privately, but accurately — would cost 800,000 jobs. “To battle COVID,” he vowed, “we’re going to make sure that we reduce the impact, especially deaths of our neighbors.” Walz touted his reliance on “the best data possible” as projected by a tailor-made model produced by experts at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health. “We’re using the best scientific data,” Walz assured Minnesotans, and then issued a warning based on the model. “If we just let this thing run its course and did nothing,” Walz asserted, “upwards of 74,000 Minnesotans could be killed by this.”

The number of fatalities as of this morning stands at 3,593 (including 2,413 in long-term care facilities). Walz’s projection was insanely false and stupid at the moment he gave it. With mitigation, Walz chose to omit, his super-duper model projected that 50,000 Minnesotans would die. And he paid millions of taxpayer dollars for that super-duper model which was in fact a glorified joke.

Walz himself has done more to undermine “faith in institutions” than anyone talking about him on Twitter, but he isn’t looking back. By the way, we’re also not too crazy about his acquisition of a refrigerated storage facility for use as an overflow morgue.

In response to a question posed at the end of the briefing Walz reluctantly previewed his likely “recommendation” that Minnesotans clamp down on Christmas gatherings. Oh, goody.

You wouldn’t know it from the Minnesota data presented at this excruciating briefing, but critical aspects of the epidemic remain the same. The median age of death is 83. Ninety-four percent of decedents have one or more of seven significant underlying conditions; only two percent do not. These briefings should take the opportunity on every occasion to warn those at greatest risk.

Among the comments on the briefing posted on the MPR News Facebook page from which I lifted the video is this disaffected take: “Blah, blah, blah. He has no idea what to do. Nor does anyone else to be fair. No matter how deep he dives!”

One uncharacteristically perceptive comment left by a listener at the MPR News Facebook page was triggered by Walz’s discussion of the coming vaccines (“the light at the end of the tunnel”): “Thank God that President Trump pushed the vaccines through so quickly!”

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Biden Takes Lead In Hall of Fame Voting

Robert Goldberg of The Goldberg Retort headlines: “Biden Takes Early Lead in Baseball Hall of Fame Balloting.” It’s pretty funny:

President-elect Joe Biden has vaulted into a surprising early lead in voting for the 2021 candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame. With about 10 percent of all the ballots in, Biden leads early favorites, including former Yankees Gary Sheffield, Nick Swisher, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettitte as well as more controversial nominees such as Curt Schilling and Barry Bonds.

Bonds is controversial for taking illegal peformance-enhancing drugs, Schilling for being a conservative.

Biden received votes from the BBWAA and the Veterans Committee. Despite never having played major league baseball, the President-elect’s name appears on every ballot over the past decade. When asked about this, Biden campaign press secretary Bubba Bernstein stated: “There is no evidence of voter fraud by or on behalf of the Biden campaign. The president-elect’s baseball record at Archmere Academy speaks for itself. While there is a long way to go in the race to the Hall, we are confident that when all legal ballots are counted, Joe Biden will take his place there along with Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.”

Separately the president-elect tweeted a photo with the caption: “Here’s a photo of me playing the Great American Pastime.”

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Chai Feldblum returns | Power Line

Joe Biden, the devout Catholic who doesn’t know that the “P” in Psalms is silent, seems poised to carry on the left’s attack on religion. That’s a fair inference from the fact that his transition team includes Chai Feldblum — the prominent LGBT activist who believes that in almost all cases where the “sexual liberty” of gays conflicts with religious belief, “sexual liberty should win.”

Feldblum is part of the transition’s “agencies review teams.” These teams will evaluate the operations of Cabinet-level departments, regulatory agencies, etc. Feldblum is part of the group that will review the operations of the Department of Justice plus the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the Commission on Civil Rights, the National Council on Disability, and more.

The press release announcing the members of the teams states that their purpose is to enable “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and their cabinet to hit the ground running on Day One.” But in which direction will the administration be running?

With Feldblum on the team, it’s likely that the administration will be running in the direction of her radical LGBT agenda. And it’s likely that it will be running over many people of faith in the process.

As Feldblum recognized in her infamous statement that LGBT rights trump religious belief, there are cases in which the aggressive LGBT agenda can’t be reconciled with freedom of religious conscious. Gay and lesbian weddings are a good example.

A decent regard for religious freedom would dictate, at a minimum, a balancing of the two sets of rights. A decent regard for the Constitution as written might well favor religious rights. After all, these rights are expressly protected by the First Amendment. The “right” of same-sex couples to marry is a judicial invention.

But that’s not how left-wing LGBT activists see it. To them, it doesn’t matter whether there are a dozen bake shops in town capable of making a wedding case in the shape of a phallus. Strident gay couples can force a devout baker to produce that cake or else go out of business.

Nor does Feldblum’s agenda stop with coercing wedding vendors. For example, she favors mandating that transgender individuals can use the restroom and locker room of their choice.

Feldblum’s extreme views caused Sen. Mike Lee and a few others to oppose her renomination for EEOC commissioner. The nomination failed.

Would a Republican Senate block Feldblum’s nomination to an important job in the Biden administration? I don’t know. Does Feldblum, who now practices law at a big D.C. firm, want a job in the Biden administration? I don’t know that either.

It doesn’t matter much. What matters is that the Biden team is looking to Feldblum to shape its policy on LGBT issues. Even if Feldblum doesn’t take an official position, her acolytes will likely end up in key posts.

Feldblum’s selection for the Justice Department agency team is a clear indicator of the immoderation of the Biden-Harris administration. An analysis of many other members of the agency teams would show the same thing.