Friday, April 28, 2017

Lordy

The thing speaks for itself:
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges learned that Police Chief Janeé Harteau would appoint Lt. John Delmonico as inspector of the North Side’s Fourth Precinct 90 minutes before police announced the decision.

The mayor urged Harteau to come to her office for a meeting, and Harteau declined, according to sources with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

Finally, Hodges said that either Harteau needed to undo the appointment of Delmonico, or Hodges would undo it herself. Harteau left the task to the mayor, and Hodges issued a statement late Wednesday overruling the decision.
A few thoughts:

  • Minneapolis has some really screwed up people running the city. Hodges is embattled on many fronts and stands a good chance of losing her seat, primarily because the demands of the job require her to have a few Menshevik moments, even though her operational preference is to combine careening self-congratulation and incoherent shaming of anyone who would dare disagree with her deep thoughts on any given subject.
  • Harteau clearly was trying to give Hodges the needle. Anyone who has ever watched the local news in the last 15 years has likely seen Delmonico on television, usually in the position of defending the latest indefensible act a cop committed. As the head of the police union, it was Delmonico's job to explain that beating the hell out of an unarmed person with a broken tail light  was always fully justified. Delmonico also made a very public accusation against Hodges a few years back, claiming that she was flashing gang signs. For Harteau to make Delmonico the top cop in the most combustible neighborhood in Minneapolis is, without question, a provocation, and an especially nasty one at that.
  • I'd like to argue the citizens of Minneapolis deserve better than this, but frankly they don't. If you elect someone like Betsy Hodges to run your city, you get what you deserve.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Still the same

Events have made it difficult to maintain a normal blogging schedule for at least the past week, but I'm hopeful we'll get better about it in the coming days. For today, let's consider the latest nonsense coming out of Berkeley, California:
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter has canceled her speech planned for this week at the University of California's Berkeley campus after a dispute with university officials, who feared violent protests, over whether a safe venue could be found.

"There will be no speech," she wrote in an email to Reuters on Wednesday, saying two conservative groups sponsoring her speech were no longer supporting her. "I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team," she wrote.
Ann Coulter has been doing her shtick for nearly 30 years now. We've heard it all before and one would ordinarily think the reaction to her appearance in any venue ought to be boredom, but here we have the battle joined.

The Left is not winning the argument these days. From what I can tell, they aren't even trying to win. The prevailing mode of discourse is you should shut up now.

For its part, the ACLU issued a pro forma denunciation of what happened to Coulter:

I doubt they will, though
Hateful speech isn't something directing other people to hate. It's whatever the bien pensant left would rather not contemplate. And in the end, all this nonsense at Berkeley is less about a conflict of visions (to use a phrase from Thomas Sowell) and more about turf. The Left has its redoubts and academe is a key one. It's bad enough the ravening hordes of Trump Nation are on the prowl in small towns and exurban enclaves, but they'd better stay the hell away from Sproul Plaza. Otherwise you get to meet these freedom fighters:

Image result for antifa
Love is in the air
They love you and have a wonderful plan for your life, so long as you get in line.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Events are again in the saddle

Not much content on the blog lately. While there are any number of things to discuss, I don't imagine I will be writing about them for a few days. I'm hoping to return to regular blogging soon.

I would throw out one thought that I read recently. Condescension is not persuasion.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Money Went Down to Georgia

Curses. . . foiled again!
For the second time in a week, Republicans dodged a potential political cataclysm.

Last Tuesday it was a special election in Kansas where the Republican candidate did just enough to win. This Tuesday it was another special election -- this one in suburban Atlanta -- where a slew of GOP candidates managed to keep Democrat Jon Ossoff just under 50%, forcing a June runoff.
Not for a lack of effort, though:
Sensing opportunity, national Democrats flooded the race with money -- Ossoff raised an eye-popping $8.3 million over the last three months, 95% of which came from out of the state of Georgia. That massive influx of cash, coupled with a lack of any other serious Democrats in the race and a disdain among many Republicans in the district for Trump's in-your-face style, made for a surprising opportunity for Democrats in the south -- a region where the party has been decimated over the last decade.
This isn't complicated, really. No matter what you think about Donald Trump, the Democrats aren't popular, either. Nothing that Trump has done, or hasn't done, has changed that calculus. You can print "potpourri" on that manure sack, but it's still going to have the same aroma. All the out-of-state money in the world isn't going to to change that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Blow

Writing for the New York Times, a Ph.D student at Duke named Casey Williams offers a little shop talk:
For decades, critical social scientists and humanists have chipped away at the idea of truth. We’ve deconstructed facts, insisted that knowledge is situated and denied the existence of objectivity. The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant, is simple: We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety. Claiming to know the truth is therefore a kind of assertion of power.
And now Williams has noticed that Donald Trump is good at using this approach:
There’s no question that past presidents have lied. And Trump is nothing if not a cynical manipulator. But Trump’s relationship to the truth seems novel, if only because he doesn’t try to hide his relativism. Mexican immigration, Islamic terrorism, free trade: For Trump, truth is always more about how people feel than what may be empirically verifiable. Trump admits as much in “The Art of the Deal,” where he describes his sales strategy as “truthful hyperbole.” For Trump, facts are fragile, and truth is flexible.
How would Williams know that? Never mind. Read on:
Trump and Stephen K. Bannon probably don’t spend evenings poring over Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation” or Michel Foucault’s “The Archaeology of Knowledge” (although Bannon’s adviser, Julia Hahn, did write her undergraduate thesis on the psychoanalytic theorist Leo Bersani). But the parallels between Trump’s attacks on accepted knowledge and critical philosophy’s insistence that we interrogate truth claims suggest that not all assaults on the authority of facts are revolutionary.
It can be a struggle to keep up with all the name dropping. I prefer quote dropping. Here's one:
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”
That's C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite dead white European males. Here's a live one:

Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts don't stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape

That's David Byrne. As long as facts continue to change their shape, they aren't likely to do what you want them to.

You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it. It's blowing pretty good these days.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mellow Yellow

I see 'em a lot more than I used to -- the flashing yellow left-turn signal at an intersection. And apparently the signals are confusing people:
By the looks of things, drivers in Plymouth — and probably other places, too — could use a crash course on how to navigate intersections governed by flashing yellow turn arrows.

This comes after an analysis by Plymouth police found that nearly 50 percent of crashes at the intersection of Rockford Road and Fernbrook Lane were the result of drivers not yielding to oncoming traffic when flashing yellow arrows were operating.

Between March 10, 2016 and Feb. 22, officer Scott Kirchner said there were 34 crashes at the busy intersection, and 16 were attributed to motorists failing to yield. The intersection handles 21,000 vehicles a day, according to a 2013 traffic count by the Hennepin County Transportation Department. Of those drivers, 4,093 make left turns. Keep in mind those counts were taken four years ago so the numbers are probably higher.
I don't go through that area much, if ever -- it's probably been a good ten years since I have, but it's easy to understand why there's a problem. It's often difficult to gauge the speed of oncoming traffic in the suburbs, because the posted speed limits often don't have much to do with reality. You don't necessarily know whether the oncoming traffic is coming at you at 35 MPH or 45 MPH. In my area, County Road D/37th Avenue NE tends to have a lot of traffic, but it's often coming more slowly than you think (sometimes less than 30 MPH), while the speeds on Old Highway 8 tend to be faster (often closer to 50 MPH). It's especially tough to make a left turn from Foss Road onto Old Highway 8, which gets a lot of overflow traffic from 35W. That intersection, a T-style intersection, does not have any traffic control other than a stop sign and you can end up waiting as long as 4-5 minutes to make that turn during rush hour. You also have several apartment buildings on Old Highway 8 with people impatiently trying to get out of their parking lots, so making that left-hand turn has been a white knuckle affair for the 20 years I've lived in the area.

The idea of a flashing yellow is to stop the backups at intersections, but it doesn't necessarily work. The linked Star Tribune article suggests one reason:
Impatience might be a factor, too. [Plymouth police officer Scott Kirchner] said drivers waiting to turn at the intersection have had motorists behind them honk.

“They hear that horn and think it’s my turn and go without thinking,” Kirchner said. “There is the pressure and they think maybe I can make this gap.”
We have more need for traffic control than ever before. We don't spend as much money on roads as we could, because we spend a lot of transportation money on other things. I don't have time to rehearse those arguments this morning, but we need to think more about how we move people and goods through our communities.

Ahem

Saturday Night Live skits are not news.

Friday, April 14, 2017

An entertaining read

Overslept this morning, so I don't have time to write a proper blog post. I will point you to a fascinating interview, however. For those of you who remember the era, John Brockington was the bell cow of the Green Bay Packers, a powerful runner who gained over 1,000 yards a season for his first three years. This was 1971-73, an era where the NFL played only 14 games in a season and the defenses were geared to stop the run. It was actually quite an achievement.
On the move in '72

Green Bay Packers historian (yes, they have one) Cliff Christl conducted a couple of interviews with Brockington, who is now 68 years old. The entire interview is here, but have a taste:

Playing for Dan Devine on a 4-8-2 team as a rookie compared to playing for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, which was unbeaten his senior year heading into the Rose Bowl: “(Devine) was very strange. When we were getting ready for the Bengals (the third game in ‘71), I’ll never forget, he said, ‘This team is bigger than us, they’re stronger than us, they’re faster than us. You have to do everything just right to win this football game.’ Like, why are we going out to play? When I was at Ohio State, we never went into a game thinking we could lose. Woody would say, ‘This is how we’re going to beat them.’ And we believed him because he was Woody Hayes. This guy (Devine) tells us, ‘If we don’t play a perfect game, we’re going to lose. They’re better than we are.’ I couldn’t believe it. But that was (Devine).”

On Devine telling him before the 12th game in 1971 that if he could start a team he’d take Minnesota’s Dave Osborn as his running back:  “So we’re in St. Louis and I was like chump change away from 1,000 yards and he makes the comment about Dave Osborn. Gillie says, ‘We got a back that’s ready to get 1,000 yards and (Devine) wants to start a team with somebody else.’ I didn’t want to get into that crap; I just wanted to play football. But he was a strange guy.”

On whether it was common for Devine to do things like that: “He wasn’t a coach that brought the team together. The things he said were so obvious that you wouldn’t do, but he’d do it anyway. It was amazing. He’d say things like, ‘If I was to start a football team, I’d start it with Alan Page or Joe Moore or Dave Osborn.’ It was never a Green Bay Packer. It was always somebody else. I mean how do you get ready for football games when the head coach doesn’t respect the team he is coaching?”
If you are a football fan of a certain age, this is great stuff. Check it out.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A nice move, Jiggly Boy

I've met John Sweeney, but I don't really know him, other than having beers with him in Madison one time maybe 30 years ago now. He's a good friend of my brother Pat, and I'm pretty sure that our faithful correspondent Crankbait is also a friend of Sweeney as well. Sweeney is the successor to the legendary Dudley Riggs and runs the Brave New Workshop, the Minneapolis-based improv group that has been our version of Second City for many years. He's also been known for dancing shirtless at Timberwolves games.



Since he's taken the helm at the Brave New Workshop, Sweeney has sought opportunities to simultaneously help his franchise and help people in the community, and his improv classes for seniors manage to achieve both goals, as the Star Tribune reports:
At the Brave New Workshop comedy school in Minneapolis, [Diane] Fuglestad, 69, is one of 30 senior citizens who have been learning improvisational technique for years. It’s about more than getting a laugh: The classes give these elders new skills to think and act quickly, speak up and, most of all, be seen.
Improv forces you to think on your feet and to react quickly, but it's mostly about joy. I recommend the linked article. We need more joy these days.

Shake Down the Blunder From the Sky

Good grief:
Vice President Mike Pence’s scheduled commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame has prompted a protest by senior students who say that Pence's presence on campus will make them "feel unsafe."

Students Immane Mondane and Jourdyhn Williams have started a #NotMyCommencementSpeaker campaign against Pence's May 21 address.

The campaign consists of students holding white boards featuring quotes from Pence that are "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, offensive, or ostracizing" to members of the Notre Dame community.
A friend of mine on social media posted a version of this story, along with an observation that must be made. If you aren't already aware of this, Notre Dame is located just outside of South Bend, Indiana. Does anyone remember what Mike Pence was doing prior to January 20? Anyone? Bueller?

Just in case you don't recall, Mike Pence was governor of Indiana. Assuming the students mentioned in the story are seniors, they've spent the last four years living in the presence of a scary, scary man. You wonder why the heck they didn't transfer to some other school a long time ago.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

RIP, Don Rickles

Very late to the party on this one. Rickles was hilarious and he had a great run. Some of his best moments were on the old Dean Martin roasts, which are astonishing to see these days -- so many legendary performers -- just look at the people assembled on the dais in this clip, in which Frank Sinatra and everyone within a five-mile radius is a target of Rickles's brilliant shtick. A sample of the master at work:


RIP, Mr. Warmth.

RIP, J. Geils

I always enjoyed their music -- frontman Peter Wolf is one of the more memorable singers of the rock era. Just when the J. Geils Band finally hit the big time, it all fell apart. But they left a lot of good music in their wake. A sample:


RIP.

Just a guess

I'm pretty sure that Sean Spicer knows the Nazis were actually quite fond of using chemicals to kill people. He may be incompetent, but he's not dumb. Spicer seems to have fundamental problems using the language, though. And considering the job he holds requires an individual who has excellent communication skills, he doesn't seem like the optimal choice for the position. Not my place to make personnel decisions for the White House, but they might want to consider an upgrade. And that's all I have to say about that.

Desperados Under the Expected Rate of Return

And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing until I pay my bill

-- Warren Zevon

Hell-raising rock and rollers aren't usually actuaries, but as California's bills start to come due, the artist has a point:
California cities and counties will see their required contributions to the largest U.S. pension fund almost double in five years, according to an analysis by the California Policy Center.

In the fiscal year beginning in July, local payments to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System will total $5.3 billion and rise to $9.8 billion in fiscal 2023, according to the right-leaning group that examines public pensions.

The increase reflects Calpers’ decision in December to roll back the expected rate of return on its investments. That means the system’s 3,000 cities, counties, school districts and other public agencies will have to put more taxpayer money into the fund because they can’t count as heavily on anticipated investment income to cover future benefit checks.
As Walter Russell Mead points out, the expected rate of return was pretty high:
Calpers has concealed the depth of the pension shortfall by using unrealistic rates of return in its accounting estimates. But to stay solvent, it was recently forced to cut its projected rate from 7.5 percent to 7.375 percent (with more reductions almost certainly on their way). The state will need to make up the difference with tax increases and austerity.
So if the actual rate of return turns out to be more like, say, 5 percent? Good luck. We have looming pension crises in a lot of places. And if California imagines that some other entity is going to make up the shortfall, they are sadly mistaken. The printing presses at the Fed are still running full bore and it's not going to be enough.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

State champions

For the second consecutive year, the Irondale Winter Drumline has won the state championship. We're getting now getting ready to go to Dayton for the WGI Championships. Irondale has a legitimate chance to win the national competition as well, as their scores during the season have consistently been in the top 2-3 positions.

If you want to see Irondale perform live, you'll have a chance on Saturday, as the Knights and River City Rhythm perform at 7 p.m. at Irondale High School. Admission is free. Meanwhile, here's video of an early performance of this year's show, "Forever":


And here is RCR's show, "The Devil's Advocate":