Saturday, February 28, 2015

This is how it should be done

So the crap story that Jezebel reported about Scott Walker? The Daily Beast picked it up and ran with it. Having realized it was crap, they have up a complete retraction:
CORRECTION AND RETRACTION: A Daily Beast college columnist at the University of Wisconsin based this article off a Jezebel posting which was incorrectly reported. Jezebel updated their post on Saturday with the following after USA Today published a story debunking Jezebel's account and clarifying Gov. Scott Walker's position. "UPDATE: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Cleary Act. Scott Walker's camp assures that he's committed to protecting victims.”

The Daily Beast is committed to covering the news fairly and accurately, and we should have checked this story more thoroughly. We deeply regret the error and apologize to Gov. Walker and our readers. This story should be considered retracted.
The new, accurate headline:

Good job, Daily Beast

Meanwhile, Jezebel hasn't retracted their story yet. By their deeds ye shall know them.

The new journalism

Did you know that Scott Walker is a monster? Just ask Natasha Vargas-Cooper:
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget—which would cut $300 million dollars out of the state's beloved public university system—has a non-fiscal bombshell tucked in between its insane pages.

Under Walker's budget, universities would no longer have to report the number of sexual assaults that take place on a campus to the Department of Justice. Under Walker's plan, university employees who witness a sexual assault would no longer have to report it.

There are no policy recommendations in Walker's budget how or what would replace these reporting mechanisms. The Governor simply instructs that they should be deleted.
Every undergraduate on the UW campus is apparently only moments away from being Kitty Genovese or something, because of that balding bastage. My goodness!

Except. . . well, it's not true in the least.
The University of Wisconsin requested that Gov. Scott Walker remove a requirement that all 26 campuses report allegations of sexual assaults to the state every year because it already submits similar information to the federal government, a UW spokesman said Friday.

The proposal to delete the annual reports to the state Department of Justice is among dozens of requirements that would be removed as part of Walker's plan to decouple the university from most state laws and state oversight. Though the budget proposal came out earlier this month, the sex assault request was explained in a summary released Thursday by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

UW System spokesman Alex Hummel said Friday that the university requested the change because information given to the state is duplicative of data required to be reported to the U.S. Department of Education under federal law. The university also posts the information on its website.
Jezebel has appended an "update" to her piece that confirms the same thing:
UPDATE: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Cleary Act. Scott Walker's camp assures that he's committed to protecting victims.
So, not to put too fine a point on it -- the piece is bullshit. Every word that precedes the update is a straight-up lie. However, as I write, this is what you see on their website:

No, we were fair -- we hid his bald spot, haters

And for her part, Vargas-Cooper, is unrepentant for writing a straight up lie:

I am a blameless journalist, so shut the #@%! up, haters

Bad optix, eh? Tact, you say? It's Scott Walker's fault that he honored a request, you see. In this case, bad optix = moral blindness.

I'll be watching for the retraction that has to come.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Don't tell Marie

So remember that business about ISIS needing a jobs program? Well, that's really not it. For example, consider the case of Jihadi John:
The world knows him as “Jihadi John,” the masked man with a British accent who has beheaded several hostages held by the Islamic State and who taunts audiences in videos circulated widely online.

But his real name, according to friends and others familiar with his case, is Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming. He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.
Not an impoverished guy? Not surprising. Mohammed Atta wasn't particularly poor, either. Poverty isn't what drives these guys. You are all probably sick of me flogging Eric Hoffer's The True Believer, so I hope you'll forgive me for quoting the book yet again, but this seems right:
“For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and the potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking. Experience is a handicap." 
“Glory is largely a theatrical concept. There is no striving for glory without a vivid awareness of an audience—the knowledge that our mighty deeds will come to the ears of our contemporaries or “of those who are to be.” We are ready to sacrifice our true, transitory self for the imaginary eternal self we are building up, by our heroic deeds, in the opinion and imagination of others.” 
Perhaps there is a better explanation for Jihadi John and his ilk, but I've not found it.

The Constitutional Lawyer Strikes Again

One of the reasons we were assured that Barack Obama would be a good president is that he is a bona fide constitutional lawyer. His administration seems to have an interesting take on constitutional issues:
The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations.

At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies. These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance policies. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation.

What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway.
Now, I'm not a bona fide constitutional lawyer, but I have read the Constitution. There's this tricky part called Article 1:

Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

In other words, Congress has the power of the purse. The executive branch can request anything they want, but they cannot spend money that Congress hasn't authorized.

Apparently this executive branch doesn't care much:
In a Feb. 3 letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Ryan, along with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., asked for “a full explanation for, and all documents relating to” the administration’s decision to make the cost-sharing payments without congressional authorization.

In response, on Wednesday, the Treasury Department sent a letter to Ryan largely describing the program, without offering a detailed explanation of the decision to make the payments. The letter revealed that $2.997 billion in such payments had been made in 2014, but didn't elaborate on where the money came from. 
If I were Paul Ryan, I have Jack Lew's butt in a chair on Capitol Hill today to explain himself. This cannot stand.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nothing to see here, move along

So that Homan Square facility in Chicago? Nothing to see here, folks:
The Guardian newspaper published a story Tuesday saying the Chicago Police Department operates an “off-the-books interrogation compound” that some local defense lawyers called the domestic version of a secret CIA “black site,” but police officials responded that the facility isn’t used to violate suspects’ rights — and isn’t even secret.
Further, we have assurances from a guy named Marty -- how can you not trust a guy named Marty?
Marty Maloney, a spokesman for the police department, said interviews are handled no differently at Homan Square than at other police facilities, such as the department’s 22 districts or its three detective headquarters.

“If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them,” Maloney said. “There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square.”

Arrest reports are completed at Homan Square, and suspects are taken to other facilities for booking, Maloney said.
Recall what the Guardian article said:
Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor said Homan Square represented a routinization of a notorious practice in local police work that violates the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution.

“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”
Access is the problem. Yes, if an attorney knows the client is at Homan Square, the attorney can visit. But if you don't know and the CPD won't tell you, you can't.

Meanwhile, the dutiful Sun Times reminds us that, hey, it could be worse:
And unlike other Chicago Police facilities over the years, no allegations of torture have been reported in the media in connection with Homan Square.
As we all know, if it hasn't been reported in the media, it hasn't happened. QED. We'll be watching the reporting coming out of Chicago in the next few days concerning Homan Square. Unless I miss my guess, there won't be much other than the Adventures of Spin and Marty we've seen here.

Your internet landlord

Net Neutrality is the same ol' thing -- the gubmint gets to decide:
This Thursday, Feb. 26, will be a fateful day for the future of the Internet. In the nearly 40 years that I have been involved in communications law and policy, including serving as the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) associate general counsel, this action, without a doubt, is one of the agency's most misguided.

The sad reality is that, without any convincing evidence of market failure and consumer harm, the FCC is poised, on a 3-2 party-line vote, to expand its control over Internet providers in ways that threaten the Internet's future growth and vibrancy.

Here is the nub of the matter: By choosing to regulate Internet providers as old-fashioned public utilities in order to enforce "neutrality" mandates, the commission will discourage private-sector investment and innovation for many years to come, if only as a result of the litigation that will be spawned and the uncertainty that will be created. And the new government mandates inevitably will lead to even more than the usual special interest pleading at the FCC, as Internet companies try to advantage themselves and disadvantage their competitors by seeking favored regulatory treatment.
Time to start the rent seeking from the new landlord.

As seen on the internet

When lefties call in an air strike on their own position:

So remind me again -- where does the National Debt stand right now? As I write this, the National Debt stands at:

I don't have any problem with bashing Republicans, especially  George W. Bush, on fiscal profligacy grounds. I don't think the current administration has much to brag about, however.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Home truth

Walter Russell Mead, discussing the report from the Guardian of the Homan Square facility that the Chicago Police Department uses to interrogate people (and worse) before they are formally charged:
The Homan Square scandal should remind us that governments don’t work very well, and that big city governments under long term Democratic rule generally work less well than others. This wasn’t happening in Alabama; this wasn’t the KKK targeting minorities. This isn’t uncaring white suburbanites mistreating urban minorities. It happened in the most liberal city in one of the most liberal states in the country.

But we shouldn’t be surprised that a Democratic urban machine failed its prisoners. Look at what happens in Chicago schools. And Chicago, whatever its problems, is nowhere near the bottom tier of American cities when it comes to incompetent government.

Blue model “progressives” are always sure that big and complicated government programs can and will fix complicated and difficult social problems. They are always sure that the people who are skeptical about these programs are evil racists who hate the poor. And they are always surprised when the inevitable happens, the programs don’t work, and the institutions go wrong.
Personally, I think Mead gives these progressives too much credit. I think the more likely explanation is that they don't really give a shit. That's the way it is in the City That Works.

It's too bad that Ace Commenter Rich doesn't come around any more. I'd love to see him go all Bertrand Russell on this topic. There's more in the post immediately below this one.

Back to that same old place

Though your brother's bound and gagged
And they've chained him to a chair
Won't you please come to Chicago
Just to sing
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
Now this could only happen to a guy like me
And only happen in a town like this
Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

* Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
* Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
* Shackling for prolonged periods.
* Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
* Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15. 
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
You came to take us
All things go, all things go
Jacob Church learned about Homan Square the hard way. On May 16 2012, he and 11 others were taken there after police infiltrated their protest against the Nato summit. Church says officers cuffed him to a bench for an estimated 17 hours, intermittently interrogating him without reading his Miranda rights to remain silent. It would take another three hours – and an unusual lawyer visit through a wire cage – before he was finally charged with terrorism-related offenses at the nearby 11th district station, where he was made to sign papers, fingerprinted and photographed.

In preparation for the Nato protest, Church, who is from Florida, had written a phone number for the National Lawyers Guild on his arm as a precautionary measure. Once taken to Homan Square, Church asked explicitly to call his lawyers, and said he was denied.

“Essentially, I wasn’t allowed to make any contact with anybody,” Church told the Guardian, in contradiction of a police guidance on permitting phone calls and legal counsel to arrestees.

Church’s left wrist was cuffed to a bar behind a bench in windowless cinderblock cell, with his ankles cuffed together. He remained in those restraints for about 17 hours.
We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go
The Chicago police statement did not address how long into an arrest or detention those records are generated or their availability to the public. A department spokesperson did not respond to a detailed request for clarification.

When a Guardian reporter arrived at the warehouse on Friday, a man at the gatehouse outside refused any entrance and would not answer questions. “This is a secure facility. You’re not even supposed to be standing here,” said the man, who refused to give his name.
Six and three is nine
Nine and nine is eighteen
Look there brother baby and see what I've seen
Three attorneys interviewed by the Guardian report being personally turned away from Homan Square between 2009 and 2013 without being allowed access to their clients. Two more lawyers who hadn’t been physically denied described it as a place where police withheld information about their clients’ whereabouts. Church was the only person who had been detained at the facility who agreed to talk with the Guardian: their lawyers say others fear police retaliation.

One man in January 2013 had his name changed in the Chicago central bookings database and then taken to Homan Square without a record of his transfer being kept, according to Eliza Solowiej of Chicago’s First Defense Legal Aid. (The man, the Guardian understands, wishes to be anonymous; his current attorney declined to confirm Solowiej’s account.) She found out where he was after he was taken to the hospital with a head injury.
Somehow people must be free
I hope the day comes soon
Won't you please come to Chicago
Show your face

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Like a big Pisa pie

ISIS is controlling a lot of geography in the Middle East, but it seems a bit confused about geography elsewhere:
Hapless Islamic State militants have vowed online to take over Rome - and 'throw homosexuals off the leaning tower of pizza'.

In the message, posted by a Twitter account linked to the terror group, the ISIS supporter also threatens to bring sharia law to the Italian capital.
So where exactly is (ahem) Pisa?

That would be 222 miles away
I also suspect this scene wouldn't have played out so well in a burqa:

I don't suspect ISIS will be at the Trevi Fountain any time soon. I wouldn't dismiss them entirely, though.

Love to love you Bibi

Joe Lieberman suggests that Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum go see Benjamin Netanyahu when he speaks to Congress next week:
Go because you know that Israel is one of our closest and most steadfast allies and you feel a responsibility to listen to its leader speak about developments that he believes could threaten the safety, independence and even existence of his country, as well as that of our closest allies in the Arab world.
So, do you believe Ellison and McCollum know any such thing?
Go because — regardless of what you think of the leaders involved or their actions in this case — you are a strong supporter of America’s alliance with Israel, and you don’t want it to become a partisan matter.
It's been a partisan manner for a long time now. Ellison and McCollum are partisans. There's no point pretending otherwise.

My guess -- Lieberman is wasting his breath.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The kid next to Benster

I have the picture in my hand -- a Little League team photo from 2008, really not that long ago. There are nine kids in the photo, enough to play a game. There are five kids in the front row and four in the back, flanked by the coaches. Benster is in the front row, the second kid shown. I'm standing in the back row, along with my friend, the head coach. I'm standing directly behind a different kid, who died on Friday.

I don't know the circumstances of his death, but I do know that, at the age of 18, his life ended way too soon. I remember the kid well -- he played infield for us, mostly second base and sometimes the outfield. He is a year younger than the Benster, a class younger. He would have been 11 years old then. Once we got past that year, we didn't see much of the the kid next to Benster; he was on a different team and played against us one year, and we greeted him then, but he wasn't a kid that was part of the Benster's social circle. The short obituary online says that he played football and lacrosse for his high school. He was a scrappy kid back then, on a team with a lot of scrappy kids. This team wasn't very good and lost most of its games, but it was a team that had a great run in the midyear tournament and won second place, defeating a team along the way that had earlier edged our squad 43-2. I still have the trophy from that tournament in my office, along with a baseball the kids all signed at the end of the season. They all signed balls for one another.

In a metropolitan area of 3 million people, it's a statistical certainty that some kids will die during the year. We live in a stable, relatively prosperous area, a place where kids have plenty of opportunities and generally get to adulthood without too much difficulty. The kid next to Benster made it to the age of 18. Technically, he made it to adulthood. I look at the picture in my hand, then look at the picture that accompanies the obituary. He was a handsome young man with his life in front of him. Or so one would think. I don't have a tidy summation or a moral lesson to share this morning. Some situations don't lend themselves to such things. I do know this -- it's a horrible thing to read an obituary for a kid you've coached.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Must be oyster season. . .

. . . with all the pearl-clutching going on:
As the world now knows, Giuliani, the former New York mayor, said at a dinner featuring Walker, the Wisconsin governor, that “I do not believe that the president loves America.” According to Politico, Giuliani said President Obama “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

And Walker, just a few seats away, said . . . nothing. Asked the next morning on CNBC about Giuliani’s words, the Republican presidential aspirant was spineless: “The mayor can speak for himself. I’m not going to comment on what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well. I’ll tell you, I love America, and I think there are plenty of people — Democrat, Republican, independent, everyone in between — who love this country.”

But did he agree with Giuliani? “I’m in New York,” Walker demurred. “I’m used to people saying things that are aggressive out there.”
That's Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, who thinks that Republicans who don't explicitly defend Barack Obama are cowards and should be disqualified from the presidency. Here's the Milbank Standard::
This is what’s alarming about the Giuliani affair. There will always be people on the fringe who say outrageous things (and Giuliani, once a respected public servant, has sadly joined the nutters as he questioned the president’s patriotism even while claiming he was doing no such thing). But to have a civilized debate, it’s necessary for public officials to disown such beyond-the-pale rhetoric. And Walker failed that fundamental test of leadership.
Emphasis mine.

So, do you remember when a political candidate said this?

That would be the future Leader of the Free World, calling out his predecessor. The part I like the best is how he talks about Bush taking the national debt up to $9 trillion. As it happens, the national debt is over $18 trillion now. Perhaps Bush wasn't trying hard enough. This wasn't an unrelated third party questioning the patriotism of the president. This was the actual candidate. I'm sure Milbank was out of town that day or something, otherwise he'd have denounced Obama in the same way.

By the way, do you remember this?

I remember that a lot of Republicans were outraged by those statements, but there wasn't a general requirement that any of the 1988 Democratic candidates were duty bound to condemn the attack. If you want to go way back, there's this:
John Quincy Adams, the son of founding father and second president John Adams, began his career in public service by working as the secretary to the American envoy to Russia when he was still a teenager. He had an illustrious career as a diplomat, which formed the basis for his later career in politics.

The supporters of Andrew Jackson began spreading a rumor that Adams, while serving as American ambassador to Russia, had procured an American girl for the sexual services of the Russian czar. The attack was no doubt baseless, but the Jacksonians delighted in it, even calling Adams a “pimp” and claiming that procuring women explained his great success as a diplomat.
Yeah, politics can get a little nasty. Let's boil it down. At this moment, Rudy Giuliani speaks for no one but himself. He is not in the employ of Scott Walker or any other politician. Giuliani is, in fact, a private citizen, a prominent one but a private citizen nonetheless. If Scott Walker is required to denounce private citizens for expressing unkind opinions about the Leader of the Free World, he's not going to have much time to do anything else. Which is kinda the point.

As seen on the internet

The job interview could be problematic, though

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lightning Round -- 022015

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while....

  • Rahm Emanuel is getting a tougher challenge than he expected in the Chicago mayoral race. His main opposition comes from Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who is attacking him from his left calling Emanuel "Mayor 1%." This is straight out of the Elizabeth Warren playbook and it's worth watching. If Emanuel goes down, it will be a sign that the establishment Democrats are in more trouble than they appear.
  • Kevin Garnett is coming back to town. He doesn't have a lot to offer any more as a player, but as a leader and a butt-kicker, he's a great choice. I've long thought that things were too comfortable on 1st Avenue North and it will be a good thing to get someone who can raise the expectations a little.
  • There are many reasons to respect James Nobles, the legislative auditor for the State of Minnesota. His recent audit of MNsure revealed how much of a cluster the whole thing has been, but one of the more interesting tidbits is that the first executive director, April Todd-Malmlov, who resigned under pressure, expected the state to pick up her attorneys' fees if she cooperated with the investigation. We haven't heard much about Todd-Malmlov lately, but it's still worth recalling that one of the things that caused her downfall was that she took a Caribbean vacation with James Golden, who is the state's Medicaid director. In a state that isn't as amazing as Better Minnesota, this sort of thing would have raised a few more eyebrows.
  • So you like that economy these days? How do you feel about subprime loans? They're back and in a big way. I'm sure it will all be very different this time.
  • Remember Debbie Wasserman-Schultz? Me neither, but still I found this little bit amusing: apparently she was willing to change her position on medical marijuana if only a top donor would stop being so mean to her, or something. 
  • Rand Paul wants to be President. Ron Paul is wondering what will be left after a secession movement starts rolling. Getcha popcorn.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Days Are Here Again

Is Clinton a liberal Reagan? Brett Budowsky offers a highly nuanced view:
In my last column, I warned fellow liberals that the grave danger to American liberalism is not a Democratic president liberals agree with 90 percent of the time but a one-party Republican state with every branch of government controlled by a GOP in the grip intolerance and extremism. Today we consider the mirror image of that column: the new day of progressive triumph, power and leadership that would come with a dramatic Clinton victory in 2016.
Oh, it could happen:
The great opportunity for Clinton is to become the first woman president while also becoming a liberal Ronald Reagan: a conviction politician who stands for progressivism, a competent chief executive who believes in governing and a skilled negotiator with opponents at home and leaders abroad.

Clinton in 2016 could have the same effect as Reagan in 1980 and 1984: recruiting Democratic candidates, inspiring Democratic supporters and winning an electoral landslide.
The Clintons are famous for being conviction politicians. This should be pretty easy for her to pull off.

Harf the Herald Angel Sings

It can't be easy being Marie Harf. She has so many things to explain:
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf explained Monday that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has marauded through much of the Middle East, leaving thousands dead, won’t be defeated through military force but through responsible governance and better job opportunities.

Harf’s explanation of the Obama administration’s plan for dealing with the deadly ISIS threat came in response to a question from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
Of course, when that argument gets hooted down by meanies like Michael Ramirez, Harf has to go back out and explain it all again:
"Longer term, we cannot kill every terrorist around the world, nor should we try," Harf said on CNN. "How do you get at the root causes of this? Look, it might be too nuanced an argument for some, like I've seen over the past 24 hours some of the commentary out there, but it's really the smart way that Democrats, Republicans, military commanders, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat this." 
Well, that satisifies me. I've known for years about my own personal lack of nuance and it's about damned time that everyone else comes to grips with their own shortcomings in the nuance department. I appreciate this dedicated public servant's efforts to set us straight. Let's all try to do better, m'kay?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Maybe not the right prescription

So the audit of MNsure is in. And so are the reviews:

An expansive new study that chronicles MNsure’s troubled debut concludes that failures outweighed achievements in the health insurance exchange’s first year.

The report that Legislative Auditor James Nobles delivered Tuesday is the most thorough government review to date of MNsure’s initial shortcomings. It documents issues with MNsure’s online enrollment system and customer service, plus a lack of testing before the system debuted in October 2013. 
“We think MNsure performed poorly,” Nobles said during a House committee meeting Tuesday.

Joel Alter, evaluation manager for the auditor’s office, added: “MNsure overpromised and it underperformed.”
Not gonna argue with them. But their solution? Not so good:
Going forward, the auditor’s report recommends changes in state law to improve the exchange, and argues that “an agency with MNsure’s impact and visibility should be directly accountable to the governor.”
Have they seen who's in that chair recently?

1000 Words

Joe Biden, simplifying the work of the blogosphere by simply being himself:

Have you ever heard of Scranton, darlin'?
The guy at the podium is Ashton Carter, now the Secretary of Defense. The woman at the back is his wife, Stephanie. I can only assume that the Vice President of the United States has a different interpretation of the term "photo opportunity."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gail Collins Needs an Eraser

Scott Walker may or may not be president, but he's pretty good at turning his opponents into Wile E. Coyote:
In hindsight, perhaps the headline “Scott Walker Needs An Eraser” wasn’t the best idea.

In a recent column about the Wisconsin governor, a conservative Republican, New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote that Walker had cut state aid to education, causing teacher layoffs in 2010. But Walker didn’t take office until 2011.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the story is the hectoring that Walker got from another media grandee, Ron Fournier:

Big Time
This later led to a Big Time embarrassment for Fournier:

Ron Fournier, Super Genius

Someone might ask why Fournier is taking sides, but we know the answer.

Meanwhile, let's ponder this rumination from Dave Weigel:
And the small point of this conservative fightback is that the media-watchers proved the columnist wrong. There would be no repeat of [Collins's] weekly Romney jokes. Walker was worth defending and telling the truth about; they did so and the paper grudgingly recoiled. There is no such conservative enthusiasm for protecting Jeb Bush from the "Democratic press." This says something about Walker's appeal, and where it's rooted.
So lemme get this straight -- is Weigel suggesting that Collins wasn't telling the truth? Or is he suggesting that conservatives only care about the truth as long as it serves an agenda? You get less projection at a 20-screen multiplex.

And on a related note, the accuracy of Walker's detractors isn't getting much better:

Feel the wrath of Collins Nation

Pack a lunch. . .

. . . and spend some time with this long piece in the Atlantic about ISIS (h/t Gino). Much of what writer Graeme Wood reports here comports with The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright's landmark 2006 work that details the history of al-Qaida and the underpinnings of jihad. There's way too much to discuss in a single blog post, but two paragraphs from Wood's piece are a good entry point:
Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. [Abu Bakr al-]Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.
More, a whole lot more, at the link.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Competition by other means

Just win, baby. Or be a baby?
The Minnesota State High School League is investigating why the other teams boycotted the award ceremony after the Faribault Emeralds won the state high school high-kick dance tournament.

The Emeralds stood alone on the floor of Target Center on Saturday night to accept their first-place trophy and medals. When they went to join the other five teams in the tournament, to share hugs and high-fives, the other team members inched away until the Faribault athletes again stood alone.

“I felt really heartbroken,” Faribault senior captain Abbie Meehl said. “That kind of hurt me just knowing they’re not with us.”

The protesting teams were disqualified for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after they refused to line up for the awards ceremony. No second- or third-place trophies or medals were awarded.
As it turns out, the Faribault team apparently stole their routine from the Jackie Robinson West Little League. I might have that wrong, actually:
The teams, coaches and parents apparently were upset that the Faribault team’s routine looked suspiciously similar to a YouTube video of a performance by an out-of-state dance team. The team appeared to copy the video’s costumes, heavy eye makeup and music. They were also upset that the high school league had cleared the Emeralds of any rules violations.
Emphasis mine. The rules are one thing, the rulings are quite another. A few observations:
  • We've had a window into some of the posturing that goes on in competitive youth activities. The Benster played organized baseball for many years and Fearless Maria is involved in competitive marching band and now drumline at her high school. In Benster's case, he was not playing at the higher, traveling level, which in retrospect seems a blessing. Our coaches were, with maybe one exception, focused on helping the kids get better and not on winning the game at all costs. Even at the lower, less competitive levels, I saw some astonishingly bad behavior from other teams and coaches.
  • I think one of the reasons things get so competitive is because of the commitment involved in these activities. The kids in the band and drumline regularly practice for 3-4 hours at a session, 3-4 times a week, and then are gone all weekend for competitions. The end result is pretty remarkable -- if you watch the shows that the best high school programs put on, they are amazingly intricate and musically powerful exhibitions, with high levels of choreography and often with original music scored and arranged for the bands. And the financial commitment involved is north of four figures, when you take everything into account. For traveling sports programs, the cost is even greater. It's human nature to want to win under those circumstances and it's not particularly surprising that emotions run high if you don't win.
  • The challenge for both the Minnesota High School League and for the larger Little League organization is balancing the nature of the competition taking place. As tough as it was for the Jackie Robinson West kids to lose their title, it was clear that their sponsors did cheat, because you can't alter the boundaries of the league after the fact. The danger in Little League is that if you let people form regional all-star teams, you'll never see a smaller town have a chance. One of the teams that seems to be a perennial visitor to Williamsport is the team from Warner Robins, Georgia. Warner Robins is not an Atlanta suburb; it's actually a town about the size of St. Cloud outside of Macon. It's the sort of town that develops an outstanding youth program and goes from strength to strength. If the rules were changed and a bunch of little of suburban Atlanta Little League districts were to do what Jackie Robinson West did, they'd likely beat Warner Robins every year. If you don't have a chance to win, what happens?
  • The question for Faribault is murkier. While you could argue the Emeralds borrowed too many elements from a different high school's show, there's still the matter of getting your team to perform it properly. There are no real shortcuts; it's difficult work. The state high school league reviewed the Faribault show and compared it to the show from Utah. The league ruled that Faribault could compete. If you follow the rules and you win, that should be the end of it. It rarely is. I would assume that the parents and coaches of the schools that didn't win put in the same kind of hours and money that we do for the band program. There's going to be emotion involved when you fall short. Overcoming that emotion is part of what you should learn in competition. Apparently there's still some learning left to be done. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Which one has a better shot of pronouncing it correctly?

Friday, February 13, 2015

What they do

They smile in your face/all the time they want to take your place -- the Bakk-stabbers:
The two most powerful DFLers in Minnesota government had a bitter and public falling out Thursday, as Gov. Mark Dayton alleged that Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk “stabbed me in the back” amid ongoing controversy over the governor’s decision to grant pay raises to state agency commissioners.

Dayton’s rebuke of Bakk at a late afternoon news conference was unusually harsh even for the rough-and-tumble politics of the State Capitol. It raised immediate questions about how a splintered relationship between the two men could affect Dayton’s agenda and the DFL’s fortunes in the legislative session. It came after Bakk, of Cook, led a successful charge on the Senate floor earlier in the day to delay the pay raises until July 1. The raises total $800,000 in additional pay per year to 23 cabinet officers.
Blades are long, clenched tight in their fist
Aimin' straight at your back
And I don't think they'll miss
Bakk did not directly respond to a request for comment after Dayton’s criticisms, which were lengthy and pointed. Through his spokeswoman, Bakk provided only this statement: “I will not comment on private conversations except to say if he feels that way, he was not listening when we had a conversation about the potential options to be considered relative to floor action on the bill.”
I keep gettin' all these visits
From my friends, yeah, what they doin to me
They come to my house
Again and again and again and again, yeah
Shortly after the Senate vote, Dayton said he wanted to talk with “other DFL senators” in a private caucus meeting.

“He was not happy,” said Sen. Jim Carlson of Eagan, who attended with five other senators. Carlson said DFL senators were not warned that Dayton would oppose the pay raise delays, although he stressed that Bakk did not try to make senators think otherwise.
Some people got to have it
Some people really need it
Listen to me y'all, do things
Do things, do bad things with it
The amendment Bakk passed Thursday would strip Dayton of his pay raise authority until July 1, when his authority would be restored.

“Might he do it differently? That’s yet to be seen,” Bakk said of Dayton in a Senate floor speech. Bakk said he would have preferred Dayton take a more incremental approach to raising the salaries, perhaps staggered over several years. The pay raises “most likely are warranted,” Bakk said, but added that “the Legislature and the public haven’t had the opportunity to have a discussion about how pay has lagged for these department heads.”
I know money is the root of all evil
Do funny things to some people
Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime
Money can drive some people out of their minds
By Dayton’s account, his relationship with Bakk is permanently altered. He said he now trusts Kurt Daudt, the Republican House speaker, more than Bakk and he set new ground rules for how he will deal with Bakk going forward.

“I’m not going to meet with Sen. Bakk anymore without others present because I don’t trust his word,” Dayton said.
People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train


As seen on the interwebs:

Swing it, baby

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Due diligence

For some reason, the matter of Scott Walker's school days is now of paramount importance to our media betters. Both the Washington Post and the Boston Globe have seen fit in recent days to travel to Marquette University to learn the deep dark secrets of Walker's undergraduate days, while Politico is aghast that Walker dared to go to his college reunion, since it is apparently strictly forbidden for anyone to enter such an event without showing a diploma at the door. This, by the way, would be news to anyone at any college or university, since people who didn't finish at the school are universally welcomed back to campus, especially if they have a habit of writing checks of sufficient size.

I'm heartened that we seem to have our probing media back now, given the relative lack of curiosity surrounding the undergraduate years of other politicians you may know, including the fella who currently sits in the White House. Do you recall the Post or the Globe inquiring about Obama's days at Occidental College, or Columbia, for that matter? Do you recall anyone looking at that? Better late than never, I guess.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A bad day for the conventional wisdom industry

So Brian Williams is out for six months, and Jon Stewart is quitting. A few thoughts:

  • Williams apparently liked to tell tall tales. Well, he works for NBC, where that sort of thing has a long legacy. It's difficult to feel too bad for Williams, who will likely land on his feet somewhere eventually. Lester Holt gets a six-month audition for the lead anchor spot at NBC and he'll do just fine, as he's sufficiently earnest and mildly stentorian. He should be able to move the Metamucil as well as Williams ever did. 
  • Stewart's departure has my social media feed crying, as many of my lefty friends really love their fake news. I didn't watch Stewart much over the years but it was easy enough to see his act, since nearly every bit he's done since 1999 has been posted somewhere on the internet. From time to time he'd go after a liberal about something or other, but probably 95% of the time he trained his writing staff's snark on conservative targets, a completely brave move in America. It takes great courage to ridicule John Boehner and we should celebrate Stewart's many accomplishments in purveying conventional wisdom.

Eternal amazement

A shocking turn of events:
Less than two years after Minnesota raised its cigarette tax to one of the highest in the country, cigarette smuggling has become a growing business in the state. Now officials want more money to combat the problem.

Of course they do. Why do they need more money? To punish people who make rational decisions, of course:
Frank Orton, who owns Ortons Convenience Stores, said two of his 15 stores are losing customers to his competitors across the state border. His Moorhead location is just one exit away on Interstate 94 from a North Dakota convenience store that also sells cigarettes. There, the state cigarette tax is only 44 cents.

Orton estimates that cigarette sales are down by about 40 percent at his Moorhead and East Grand Forks stores, though he declined to provide more specific sales figures.

“I don’t think all those people quit smoking.” Orton, 33, said. “They just drive one exit over to Fargo and buy them for $3 less a pack.”
Meanwhile, the state wants Orton to pay for more enforcement:
Orton said he supports the effort to curb smuggling because it evens the playing field for businesses. But he says it is unfair for the state to raise the cigarette tax so high and then two years later ask tobacco retailers to pay a state license fee to fund enforcement efforts. Orton notes that during the debate on whether to raise the state’s excise tax on tobacco, retailers warned it would hurt sales and lead to smuggling.

“We pointed this all out and it all fell on deaf ears,” he said. “Now what we’ve told them would happen is occurring.”
For the record, the current tax on a pack of smokes in Minnesota is $2.90.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Where will it lead us from here

So the Greeks aren't going to get any relief on their debt from the Germans, who hold a lot of the notes? No problem -- just demand reparations for WWII:
Europe’s leaders were stunned by the aggressive tone of Mr Tsipras’s address to the Greek parliament on Sunday night. They had assumed that Syriza would hold out an olive branch once it was safely in office, shifting its stance in time-honoured EU fashion.

Instead Mr Tsipras vowed to implement the party’s radical Thessaloniki Programme in its “entirety”, including a demand for €11bn of war reparations from Germany, a move deemed deeply offensive in Berlin.

Sigmar Garbriel, Germany’s vice-chancellor and Social Democrat leader, said "the chances are zero" that his country will respond to such an extraordinary demarche. The German press decried Greece's use of the “Nazi card” as moral blackmail.
The party's been over in Athens for a long time now, but they don't want to admit it. But maybe there's a reason for that -- the Greeks may have Barack Obama in their corner:
Crude realpolitik suggests that Greece may not be as isolated as widely-presumed. American President Barack Obama told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington that he expects Europe and the IMF to “work with the new Greek government to find a way that returns Greece to sustainable growth within the Eurozone."

In a clear sign that Washington is losing patience with the eurozone’s strategy of fiscal contraction, Mr Obama almost seemed to endorse Greece’s demands for a radical shift in policy. “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression. At some point there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits,” he said last week.
I could go on explaining the ramifications of this sort of thing, but this image pretty much explains the dynamic:

With no loving in our souls and no money in our coats

This is all coming to a head in March. Watch carefully.

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Party of the Future

Hillary Clinton is keeping her powder dry, but the remainder of the fugitives from Madame Tussaud's are circling about:
Todd asked, "Is there any scenario that you would run for president in 2016?"

"I have no scenario whatsoever in my mind. I haven't thought about it. As you can tell, I'm pretty busy," Kerry said causing Todd to laugh.

"I know. Is it a never say never?

"Well, nobody says never. But I'm not -- never -- I have no concept of it," said Kerry.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden is heading out on the hustings:
Vice President Joseph R. Biden will head to Iowa next week, sparking more rumors that he is considering a bid for the Democratic nod in 2016.

Mr. Biden will speak in Des Moines on Thursday, sources familiar with the matter told The Des Moines Register. His office confirmed that he is scheduled to deliver remarks at Drake University and participate in a roundtable discussion at Des Moines Area Community College on college tuition affordability, the Des Moines Register reported Friday.
And while the rumors aren't swirling much these days, we still have our favorite 70s retread out there:
The famously Delphic governor often leaves people guessing about his motivation and intentions, which leaves plenty of leeway ahead of 2016. Absent a clear-cut statement of disinterest from Brown — who sought the White House in 1976, 1980 and 1992 — some see familiar signs of a presidential-candidate-in-waiting.

The governor has widely touted California’s comeback and his record as a model for the rest of the country and, especially, a dysfunctional Washington, D.C. With support from an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature — and a combination of spending cuts and voter-approved tax hikes — Brown has brought the state’s deficit-ridden budget under control, overhauled the education finance system to benefit poorer students, pushed through major environmental initiatives and reaped the benefits — job growth, an improved housing market — of a slow but steady economic recovery.

“Things happen in California that are not happening in Washington,” Brown said during an October appearance at an electric-vehicle expo in San Francisco. “We can do a lot of things in California to shift the [political] climate throughout the whole country.”
I see an opportunity for Gary Hart.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

When Republicans Attack!

Those vicious, vicious bastards:
Republicans on Friday stepped up their attack on Gov. Mark Dayton for giving significant raises to his agency commissioners, with Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, saying she was blindsided by the pay hikes and promising hearings on the issue next week.
Attack! Attack! The Star Tribune is aghast. Here's the banner headline:

Sarah "Miss Scarlet" Anderson in the conservatory with  the knife

Do you believe the nerve of that Sarah Anderson? Attacking the poor governor this way? He's just trying to reward these dedicated public servants and keep them out of the nefarious hands of the private sector.

Of course there is a legislative history, which dedicated Star Tribune reporter and public citizen J. Patrick Coolican shares with us:
The raises are the result of a measure passed by the DFL-controlled Legislature in 2013. Legislators passed the recommendations of the bipartisan Compensation Council, which gives guidance to lawmakers about the pay of judges, legislators, constitutional officers and, in this case, the governor’s cabinet. The legislation included a provision that allowed pay to increase to 133 percent of the governor’s salary, up from the previous cap of 85 or 95 percent. The 2013 measure also allowed the governor to raise the pay of the commissioners without legislative approval.
Emphasis mine. You might think, wait, so what this is saying is that the DFL legislature handed a blank check to a DFL governor. If you drew this conclusion, really, you must be as vicious as that Anderson woman. Just look at the pure bile evident in her official photo:

Cleverly cropped to hide the shiv she's holding behind her back
Get your mind right. You need to understand that the raises are perfectly justified, because there is no need for legislative oversight in a fully operational Better Minnesota. And since this sort of thing is by definition above board, there's simply no justification for outrage concerning the primary beneficiary of the largesse, a DFL fundraiser:
Republicans are particularly irked by the increase for Dayton’s choice to be the new Metropolitan Council chairman, Adam Duininck. The chairman’s salary will jump from $58,000 to $145,000, with the job going from part time to full time. Duininck, who had been a Met Council member, also has been a top DFL fundraiser and is married to Dayton’s chief of staff.
I'm sure there's absolutely no conflict of interest in giving the husband of the governor's chief of staff an $87,000 salary bump. That sort of thing happens all the time. And if you object to this sort of thing, really, it's about time that you examine your own priorities.

For his part, Gov. Dayton explained his rationale by going back into party history:

Hope that cleared things up, haters.

Friday, February 06, 2015

I Got the High Horse Right Here

Ride your pony:
Obama had a more non-denominational message for the audience that also included prominent leaders of non-Christian faiths. The president said that while religion is a source for good around the world, people of all faiths have been willing to "hijack religion for their own murderous ends."

"Unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," Obama said. "In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

"So it is not unique to one group or one religion," Obama said. "There is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort our faith."
See, you might just have the same simple tendency as the guys who did this:

It got worse shortly after this image was captured
And he's right, of course. There's at least a puncher's chance that one of my distant ancestors stopped being a leaping gnome in the Black Forest and rode off to the Holy Land and got medieval with some poor schlub in Antioch. Maybe has some paperwork on that.

There's really not much difference between you, sitting in your comfortable suburban living room, and Boko Haram. You doubt me? Pictures don't lie, bub.

This is Boko Haram
Burn Rubber on Me, or Burn a Jordanian Pilot -- pretty much the same thing, right?
QED, haters.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Mr. Blog, he dead?

Hey, it turns out blogs are not dead after all:
Blogs, by their nature, offer a point of view and have a voice, and that’s the way that journalism and media are heading. The advantage of the blog over the publication or media outlet is fundamental here: It’s less complicated for an individual to form and express an opinion than for an institution to express one. Bloggers, unlike old-fashioned journalists, don’t follow the convention of attempting to pretend not to have any opinions about the news they are covering. They also are freer to express idiosyncratic, outsider views than newspaper columnists, even the best of whom are constrained by their institutions and their audiences.
I don't know if that is the way journalism is heading. I suspect journalism has been at that destination for a very long time now and is still hesitant to admit as much.
And while the ability to produce opinion quickly can be abused, blogs provide the kind of connection and curation that is necessary to understand a world with so much news and information. Successful blogs use hyperlinks to send us out into the web; the blog is guide and greeter. A great blogger can be a personal information concierge, and is likely offering that service for free. Blogs are often bargains.
Yep. I don't even have a tip jar, because I'm not looking to make a living at this. But let's drop the "curation" nonsense, as it overblows the significance of what a blog really does. Most people get into blogging because it sounds like fun. If you like to write and aren't intimidated by a blank screen, it can be. It is work, though, especially if you try to have something new every day. I'm less worried about that now than I was a few years back, but I still end up writing most days, and I'll probably keep doing that, because the blank screen is a challenge.

Just go read Brad

I was going to write about the secret life of Walter Mitty Brian Williams, but Brad Carlson is all over it. Just click the link.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Ask an expert

Mark Dayton, media critic:
Gov. Mark Dayton, who rarely misses a chance to bash Minnesota's neighbors to the east, has branded a TV ad campaign for Wisconsin tourism as "one of the most idiotic things I've ever seen." 
He's referring to the current series of Wisconsin Tourism ads, which are based on the 1980 movie "Airplane" and feature actor Robert Hays and former Milwaukee Buck Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:
"It's one of the most idiotic ads I've ever seen in my life," Dayton said Tuesday, speaking at the Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference at St. Paul RiverCentre.

Dayton was speaking to the tourism industry group about the importance of TV advertising that promotes state tourism. He said he'd also seen recent tourism-based TV ads from both Dakotas and Montana, and found them all unmemorable.

Dayton proceeded to joke that Minnesota should pay Wisconsin to keep the ads on the air.
A few observations:

  • Using taxpayer funds to pay for Wisconsin tourism ads would be a better use of resources than a number of things Dayton typically funds.
  • Dayton should probably leave the comedy to professionals.
Let's also, for the sake of argument, compare the "idiotic" ad campaign with some brilliance issued from the Explore Minnesota folks in recent years. Here's the Wisconsin ad:

And here's a Minnesota effort that features a famous athlete:

For his part, Dayton had more to say that wasn't in the original article:

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

On Vaccines

  1. Getting your children vaccinated is an exceptionally good idea. Our children have had their vaccinations precisely on schedule, because it's an exceptionally good idea.
  2. Not all ideas, even exceptionally good ones, should be subject to government force.
  3. As some of you might know, we were in California about a month ago and our travels took us to Disneyland, which was the site of a measles outbreak. Like the vast majority of visitors to Disneyland during this time, every member of our party either has been vaccinated, or may have had measles in their youth. We are all healthy.
  4. One reason measles is coming back is that people are mobile and come to the United States from places where measles is present and vaccinations are not routine. That appears to be the case with the Disneyland outbreak.
  5. Do the anti-vaccination people have a point? Almost certainly not, especially concerning autism, but research is ongoing and should continue. On balance, vaccination is still by far the better choice.
  6. In some respects, the debate over vaccinations is a proxy battle over the larger questions concerning public health and its nexus with government force. 
  7. The government expects compliance on a great many health issues, including wearing a seat belt. I always wear one. Should I be compelled to do so? Different question. 

Monday, February 02, 2015

As seen on the internet

Submitted without further comment.

il miglior fabbro

Two observations made by others that are worth your time:

The invaluable Bjorn Lomborg, writing for the Wall Street Journal:
At the U.N. climate conference in Lima, Peru, in December, attendees were told that their countries should cut carbon emissions to avoid future damage from storms like typhoon Hagupit, which hit the Philippines during the conference, killing at least 21 people and forcing more than a million into shelters. Yet the trend for landfalling typhoons around the Philippines has actually declined since 1950, according to a study published in 2012 by the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. Again, we’re told that things are worse than ever, but the facts don’t support this.

This is important because if we want to help the poor people who are most threatened by natural disasters, we have to recognize that it is less about cutting carbon emissions than it is about pulling them out of poverty.
Much more at the link.

Second, our old pal the Red Squirrel comes up with a winner. Click the link and see for yourself.

Super Duper Super Bowl

Game over. What to make of it?

  • When Bill Belicheck gets two weeks to prepare, he usually comes up with a good plan and yesterday was no exception. Tom Brady had to make a lot of throws -- 50 in all -- but he was generally able to move the chains and when it came down to the last drives of the game, the Seattle defense had been on the field for too long. Given the health of the fearsome Seattle secondary, this was a particularly intelligent way to attack. 
  • Everyone is talking about the end of the game and the catastrophic interception that Russell Wilson threw on the 1-yard line. Was it a given that Marshawn Lynch would have scored on a running play? We'll never know, but it wasn't a given. I'm also not convinced it was the worst play call ever. You see that goal line pick play in the NFL all the time; if you were to go through the highlights over the course of the season you'd probably find a similar scoring play just about every week. What you can't do is be late with the throw. Russell Wilson was late and that gave Malcolm Butler the chance to make the play.
  • The Seahawks learned how difficult it is to repeat. They were very fortunate to be in the Super Bowl at all, for reasons that we won't belabor, and yet it looked like they would pull another rabbit out of the hat. The fluky pass that Jermaine Kearse caught while lying on his back in the final minute was reminiscent of the play that Antonio Freeman made against the Vikings at Lambeau back in 2000. Here's the Freeman catch:

           And here's Kearse's catch:

  • Now that the game is over, it's likely that the Patriots will have to endure a lot more questioning over the "Deflategate" issue. There's been a lot of chest beating going on concerning the integrity of the game. Do you believe that? Had the game against the Colts been close, perhaps it might have made a difference, but the score was 45-7. Unless something comes out that clearly implicates either Brady or Belicheck, it's going to be difficult to make this seem like a tainted championship. 
  • Meanwhile, we can already start thinking about the 2015 season

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Super Bowl Pick?

Benster and I have been either (a) too busy or (b) overcome with indifference,  so no Benster and D today. But for the record,  my pick is Seattle 31, New England 25.