Saturday, May 30, 2015

Speaking of waking nightmares

How would a currency implosion in Japan strike ya?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made asset-price inflation his top priority. Under pressure from the BOJ and the government, state-controlled entities – such as the Government Pension Investment Fund with ¥137 trillion in assets – are dumping Japanese Government Bonds into the lap of the BOJ and are buying stocks with the proceeds.

Foreign hedge funds have jumped into the fray, which is the hot money that can evaporate overnight. But fear not, every time the Nikkei drops 100 points or so, the BOJ starts buying, or creates the perception that it’s buying, and within minutes, stocks shoot back up. It’s part of the BOJ’s relentlessly communicated policy to inflate asset prices come hell or high water.

And hell or high water may now be on the way.
We have a solution:

Your hell or high water expert
More, a lot more at the link. We can make jokes now, but the endgame isn't going to be particularly amusing.

Home truth

A college professor's waking nightmare, via New York Magazine:
Most academics I know — this includes feminists, progressives, minorities, and those who identify as gay or queer — now live in fear of some classroom incident spiraling into professional disaster. After the essay appeared, I was deluged with emails from professors applauding what I’d written because they were too frightened to say such things publicly themselves. My inbox became a clearinghouse for reports about student accusations and sensitivities, and the collective terror of sparking them, especially when it comes to the dreaded subject of trigger warnings, since pretty much anything might be a "trigger" to someone, given the new climate of emotional peril on campuses.

I learned that professors around the country now routinely avoid discussing subjects in classes that might raise hackles. A well-known sociologist wrote that he no longer lectures on abortion. Someone who’d written a book about incest in her own family described being confronted in class by a student furious with her for discussing the book. A tenured professor on my campus wrote about lying awake at night worrying that some stray remark of hers might lead to student complaints, social-media campaigns, eventual job loss, and her being unable to support her child.
The full account is at the Chronicle of Higher Education behind a pay wall. The First Amendment may no longer apply in large swathes of academe. Thin line between Marxist theory and Marxist practice, kids.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Speaking of getting paid...

So why was Sidney Blumenthal giving Hillary Clinton advice on Libya? Because she was paying for it:
Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton, earned about $10,000 a month as a full-time employee of the Clinton Foundation while he was providing unsolicited intelligence on Libya to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with the arrangement.

Blumenthal was added to the payroll of the Clintons’ global philanthropy in 2009 — not long after advising Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — at the behest of former president Bill Clinton, for whom he had worked in the White House, say the sources.
Unsolicited? Doubt that. But there's more:
A Clinton loyalist who first earned the family’s trust as an aggressive combatant in the political battles of the 1990s, Blumenthal continues to work as a paid consultant to two groups supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — American Bridge and Media Matters — both of which are run by David Brock, a close ally of both Clinton and Blumenthal.

Yet Blumenthal’s financial and personal connections to the Clintons and their allies have emerged as subjects of intense scrutiny as Clinton seeks to gain momentum for her presidential campaign.

Blumenthal’s concurrent work for the foundation, the Brock groups and a pair of businesses seeking potentially lucrative contracts in Libya underscores the blurred lines between her State Department work and that of her family’s charitable and political enterprises.
Will you hear more about Sidney Blumenthal this summer, or Dennis Hastert? Place yer bets.

Talk about the weather

One meteorologist's voice isn't probative, but a sample is in order:
I do encourage you to listen to the opposing point of view in the climate debate, but be sure the person you hear admits they can be wrong, and has no financial interest in the issue. Unfortunately, those kind of qualified people are very hard to find these days. It is also hard to find people that discuss climate without using the words “neocon” and “libtard”. I honestly can’t stand politics; it is tearing this nation apart.

Back to my point… many professional meteorologists feel like we are fighting a losing battle when it comes to national media and social media hype and disinformation. They will be sure to let you know that weather events they are reporting on are “unprecedented”, there are “millions and millions in the path”, it is caused by a “monster storm”, and “the worst is yet to come” since these events are becoming more “frequent”.

You will never hear about the low tornado count in recent years, the lack of major hurricane landfalls on U.S. coasts over the past 10 years, or the low number of wildfires this year. It doesn’t fit their story. But, never let facts get in the way of a good story…. there will ALWAYS be a heat wave, flood, wildfire, tornado, tyhpoon, cold wave, and snow storm somewhere. And, trust me, they will find them, and it will probably lead their newscasts. But, users beware…
More at the link.


So is it just another Illinois politician being corrupt? Or is something else going on? Suddenly, Dennis Hastert is back in the news:
Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is facing federal charges in an alleged attempt to conceal large bank withdrawals, used to pay an individual for past “misconduct” on the part of the former veteran politician, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.

The unnamed individual, a resident of Hastert’s hometown of Yorkville, has known Hastert for most of his life. The alleged misconduct happened many years earlier, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, in 2010, Hastert met with and then agreed to provide an unnamed individual $3.5 million “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” that person, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.
You could take multiple angles on this one. Among your choices:

  • Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach before he got started in politics. It's quite possible that Hastert did more than teach wrestling moves to someone back in the day. Maybe he'll be in the same cell block as Jerry Sandusky.
  • The structuring law is problematic. The reason it exists is primarily to make it easier to watch money being moved around, particularly drug money. Like much of the War on Drugs, there's a lot of collateral damage.
  • It's certainly convenient to have another Republican scandal going on right now. Gives the reporters something else to talk about that isn't related to other politicians who have spent time in the Land of Lincoln.
  • It's especially interesting that the person Hastert was paying didn't start asking for money until after Hastert left Congress. There's a reason for that. Hastert has been a Washington lobbyist ever since he retired from Congress. I would imagine that lobbying is especially lucrative for a former Speaker of the House.
All will be revealed in due course. Getcha popcorn.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Neighbors V

Thousands of people travel through New Brighton every day, but most of the traffic keeps on going. The eastern edge of the city borders on I-35W, one of the busiest and most important north/south routes in Minnesota. About in the middle of the city, I-694, the primary bypass road for east/west traffic in the Twin Cities, bisects the city. This interchange is one of the busiest and most congested places in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, although this image doesn't indicate that. I drive through this interchange several times a week:

694, looking west
While the interstate highway system has made it much easier to travel across the country, it's also made it easier for some places to become little more than exit ramps. And when you enter New Brighton on these major thoroughfares, you don't get much of a sense of place. The landscape on 35W is mostly industrial, while the 694 route has traffic noise calming walls that block any view of the surrounding neighborhoods. Unless you are specifically aware of a destination you'd like to see in New Brighton, the average motorist isn't likely to stop. More to come.

Pay to play

It's one of those stories that's gonna knock you over with a feather:
U.S. prosecutors plunged the World Cup’s governing body into crisis, charging nine officials with corruption as Europe’s largest soccer federation called for postponing this week’s FIFA election for president. 
Earlier today, Swiss police entered the luxury Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and arrested seven FIFA officials. Switzerland is probing whether anyone broke laws in awarding upcoming tournaments to Russia and Qatar. Two former soccer executives were also charged in New York, as were four sports marketing officials.

The Justice Department vowed more arrests in a widening probe of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

“They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest, and protect the integrity of the game,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a news conference. “Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves.”
Well, come on now. The World Cup is ordinarily played in the summertime. The average temperature in July in Qatar is quite comfortable, as the accompanying graph indicates:

Excellent weather for soccer. Hard to imagine that it would take any bribery for FIFA officials to award the World Cup to what is such an obvious place to spend the summer.

I expect we'll see something similar regarding the Olympics shortly. Why would that be?

As seen on the internet

Destroying the village in order to save it:

Maybe they can get jobs at the particle board factory
We must punish people. Punish, punish, punish. Because justice.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Actual news in New Brighton

We'll return to the Neighbors series tomorrow, as we actually have news to report in our fair city, and the topic is chicken farming:
The New Brighton City Council voted Tuesday night not to ban backyard chicken coops. The issue has divided the city for months between chicken advocates and chicken opponents.

New Brighton formed an "Urban Farming Task Force" in 2013. Finally, on May 12, the council considered a new ordinance that would restrict the number of chickens allowed at one household by the acreage of the property. The more acreage, the more chickens would be allowed up to 18 chickens.

On Tuesday night, the council voted 4-1, with councilmember Gina Bauman in the negative, to allow no more than six chickens per household. It was noted that in a city with 6,000 homes, there are approximately 30 that hold chickens. 
KARE decided to feature an Irondale student as the face of suburban animal husandry:
One of those is the O'Neil home on Long Lake Road, who have had chickens for four years.

"We checked with the City of New Brighton and at that time they said there was no restriction and so we got six chickens, baby chicks and we built the coop and we've had chickens ever since," said Julie O'Neil.

The brain-child of raising the chickens was Riley O'Neil, 16, an Irondale High School sophomore. O'Neil cares for 12 chickens including two roosters on the family's two and a half acre property. Riley's father built an elaborate coop for the hens and males.

Riley reacted strongly to a proposed ordinance that would have banned all backyard poultry from New Brighton.

"Well, quite frankly, I find it outrageous," said Riley. "We called four years ago when we got ours to make sure that there was no issue whatsoever. It is just ridiculous."
A couple of observations:

  • There aren't many properties in New Brighton that are 2.5 acres. Most of the lots in our neighborhood are about 1/4 acre. What might work for the family that is featured in the story would be problematic in most parts of the city.
  • The city has banned roosters. That means I won't get a wakeup call from a rooster and I'll just have to rely on more traditional sounds, like the huge trains that rumble through our neighborhood.
  • Chickens and their coops aren't particularly pleasant, but the limit should keep things from getting out of hand. Having said that, I also suspect that this decision isn't the end of the issue. I have a feeling that the nuisance factor is only going to rise.
  • What I'm curious about is whether the chickens will attract predators, because I know the predators are already around. I've already seen foxes and a coyote within a block or two of our house. We're now seeing a trio of wild turkeys just about every day wandering the streets. You never used to see such things around town, but now you do. I fully expect to see Marlin Perkins one of these days.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Handling it well

The Leader of the Free World gets a hard slap regarding his immigration shenanigans:
A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the Obama administration’s request to lift a hold on the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would have granted protection from deportation as well as work permits to millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

Two of three judges on a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, left in place an injunction by a Federal District Court judge in Brownsville, Tex. The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states against actions President Obama took in November. Many of the initiatives were scheduled to take effect this month.

The appeals court found that the states had sufficient legal grounds to bring the lawsuit and that the administration had not shown that it would be harmed if the injunction remained in place and the programs were further delayed.
That last part is important, because it means that the judges think that the case against the president's actions has a good chance of succeeding.

For their part, Team Obama handled the decision with the usual grace:
Today, two judges of the Fifth Circuit chose to misrepresent the facts and the law,” a White House spokeswoman, Brandi Hoffine, said. “The president’s actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy and keep our communities safe. They are squarely within the bounds of his authority, and they are the right thing to do for the country.”
Emphasis mine. Nothing quite like insulting federal judges to move the argument your way. It's one thing to say you disagree with a decision, it's quite another to allege willful misrepresentation. Don't think that little outburst is going to help the argument as it goes up through the courts.

Neighbors IV

New Brighton is a modest place and yesterday's Memorial Day remembrance event at St. John's Cemetery was low key:

Marching to the cemetery on 7th Street

A brief ceremony

The Irondale Marching Knights play the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

 If there was any advance publicity for the event, it escaped my notice. I would guess the majority of the parade viewers were parents of the band members. It was a small and generally somber ceremony, befitting the meaning of Memorial Day. Unless you happened to be in the neighborhood at the time, you wouldn't have even realized the ceremony was taking place. More to come.

It's good to be thorough

I'm guessing this won't end well:
Eric Sheppard, the Valdosta State University student who was confronted last month by an Air Force veteran after he stomped on the American flag, has issued a violent 4,700-word anti-white rant in which he threatened to “annihilate those who come after me.”

Sheppard is wanted by police after they found a gun in his backpack days after the flag-stomping demonstration. In his lengthy letter, submitted to The Valdosta Daily Times this week, Sheppard said he will not surrender and will use violence if necessary.
We're not too close to Valdosta State, so we can safely assume this guy won't be in our breakfast nook any time soon. He does have an agenda, though:

“This will Cost You all YOUR Lives……What You say I am “guilty” of is Bringing a Weapon on the Valdosta State University campus, Threatening White People and All who Aid their White Supremacist Structure and Stepping on Your dirty rag that you call ‘Old Glory’. Well it is Us the Victims of the Actions enforced under that Symbol that Will Glorify Our Triumph over Your Sick Race.”

Quoting former Nation of Islam leader and New Black Panther Party chairman, Kallid Abdul Muhammad, Sheppard wrote of whites, “we give them 24 hours to get out of town by sundown.”

“I say, if they don’t get out of town, we kill the white men, we kill the white women, we kill the white children, we kill the white babies, we kill the blind whites, we kill the crippled whites, we kill the crazy whites, we kill the faggots, we kill the lesbians, I say god dammit we kill ’em all,” Sheppard continued.

“If they are white kill ‘em all.”
The following may or not be accompanying audio.

Hope he enjoyed it

The meaning of the holiday if you are the courtesans courtiers of the philosopher king:


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Neighbors III

New Brighton is something of a hodgepodge with respect to land use. While some areas are strictly residential, the area to the east of Old Highway 8 is a crazy quilt of small manufacturers, office buildings and a large pole yard where thousands of telephone poles are visible.

New Brighton also has a large supply of apartments, mostly along Old Highway 8 and Silver Lake Road, the two primary north/south arterial routes in town. While some of the east/west routes carry more traffic than others, these routes are often residential streets. The one exception is Interstate 694, which bisects the city roughly in the middle. More to come.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Point of order

The continuing antics of the Duggar family aren't on my radar screen. Couldn't care less about them, generally. And if their television show is cancelled because of Josh Duggar's indiscretions, that's okay with me.

I will say this, though -- if you decry the behavior of Josh Duggar and still extol Lena Dunham or Roman Polanski, you're not being particularly consistent.

Neighbors II

So what is your neighborhood like? I started to tell you a bit about my neighborhood yesterday. There's a bit more to the story. While the immediate area I live in is all single-family housing, we have a municipal boundary behind my property line. The area directly behind my house is not New Brighton, but rather St. Anthony. The property directly behind my house is part of a private condominium development, Mirror Lake. It's not a huge complex and the people who live there are mostly older, so it's pretty quiet. We've never had any trouble with our neighbors to the west.

A block to the north, across Foss Road, is Lakeside, a mobile home community. It's a fairly large mobile home community, as the length of Foss Road, from Old Highway 8 to the St. Anthony border, is a little less than a half-mile. While mobile home communities get a lot of derision, the people who live in Lakeside get along well and trouble is rare. It's a well-managed community and there are usually only a few vacancies at a time.

Taken at a glance, it wouldn't be desirable to live so close to multi-family housing. We've never had an issue. It might seem less than orderly, but it works. More soon.

Friday, May 22, 2015


My street is two blocks long and ends in a cul-de-sac. Most of the houses on my street were built between 1965-1970. There are a few people who are original owners of their homes. We've been in our home for 18 years now. It's nothing fancy but it suits our purposes. Our neighbors include a professor at the University of Minnesota, a pharmacist, a mail carrier and a general contractor. One of the houses on our street appears to be in foreclosure; the family that has lived there has had financial difficulty and some marital instability. While we are aware of the issues, we don't say much about it. We wave at each other when we drive through the neighborhood, but we don't talk a lot. There are a few younger kids who ride scooters in the cul-de-sac, but for the most part it's a quiet street where the only predictable sound is a lawn mower or a snow thrower, depending on the season. It's a stable place.

There are dozens of similar streets in New Brighton, and probably thousands in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. New Brighton rarely gets in the news much and we prefer it that way. There's an ongoing dispute about chicken farming, and some folks on the other end of town got into a dispute about feeding deer that led to a murder last year, but for the most part very little happens here. We go about our business and not much changes.

Should it change? Depends on who you ask. More to come.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Katherine Kersten gets a bigger podium

The Wall Street Journal publishes her op-ed on the Met Council. A topic that merits additional discussion, to say the least. We'll be coming back to the topic anon.


Elizabeth Warren hates the big banks, except when she does business with them:
A loophole in a federal financial disclosure law for members of Congress let U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — a strident critic of big banks — withhold information about a high-limit line of credit against her Cambridge home with one of the country’s largest banks.

Federal law requires members of Congress and other federal 
officials to annually disclose their financial assets and liabilities, including mortgages. In a form filed last week, Warren stated she and her husband, Bruce Mann, had no debt liabilities in 2014.

But according to a Middlesex South Registry of Deeds record, Bank of America holds a $1.3 million mortgage on the Cambridge home owned by Warren and Mann.

An aide for Warren said the amount represents a home equity line of credit, not a mortgage.
A seven-figure HELOC? That ain't bad. And not having to disclose it? Even better. As always, what politicians do is more important than what they say, and Warren has been all about the kabuki when it comes to big banks for her entire career.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another 1000 Words

I am beginning to suspect that a few people among the commentariat are a little concerned about our governor. My previous post offered a picture of Mark Dayton from the Star Tribune that's frankly a little frightening. Meanwhile, MPR News offers this image:

That's a bit less than flattering, too. I would imagine that the editors at the MPR News website had a choice of multiple images of the governor that they could have posted. They chose this one.

Meanwhile, the MPR News story also carried this image of Dayton's antagonist, House Speaker Kurt Daudt:

No goofy expression on this one -- just an earnest man and a bottle of hand sanitizer, in medias res. Are they telling us something?

1000 Words

Photographer Glenn Stubbe of the Star Tribune delivers a classic:

I hate people when they're not polite
Meanwhile, at least one Republican lawmaker wants an apology from Dayton:
A long-time teacher and state representative wants Gov. Mark Dayton to apologize for saying some Republican lawmakers “hate the public schools.”

Dayton’s remark came during a Tuesday news conference he called to discuss his plans to veto a education funding bill that passed the House and Senate Monday. The $400 million in new spending isn’t enough for Dayton and he’s frustrated it also omits his top priority of universal preschool.
Sondra Erickson, who is from Princeton, offered this statement:
“As a public school teacher with nearly four decades in public school classrooms, I am disappointed with Governor Dayton’s disrespectful remarks. Minnesotans expect their public officials to respectfully debate the issues facing our state without resorting to personal attacks. Republicans and Democrats passed a bipartisan budget that underscored our commitment to students and teachers including significant investments in proven early learning programs. Teachers deserve nothing but great respect because of their dedication to prepare our children with knowledge and skills for the future. Closing the achievement gap requires only the highest regard for those who teach and lead our children. I respectfully request that the governor apologize for his remarks.”
I would say this to Rep. Erickson -- the notion that "Minnesotans expect their public officials to respectfully debate the issues facing our state without resorting to personal attacks" is ludicrous. Erickson can't really believe that when she lives in a state that sent Al Franken back to Washington last year. Personal attacks work quite nicely in Minnesota. Instead of asking for an apology, it would make more sense to point out that the governor of this state has some, ahem, challenges of his own.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Free enterprise, baby!

The Washington Post has discovered that people really want to hear what Hillary Clinton has to say:
Disclosure documents filed by Hillary Clinton last week revealed that the couple have earned about $25 million for delivering 104 paid speeches since January 2014.

While Bill Clinton’s lucrative speaking career since leaving the White House in 2001 has been well documented, the new disclosures offer the first public accounting of Hillary Clinton’s paid addresses since she stepped down as secretary of state. And they illustrate how the Clintons have personally profited by drawing on the same network of supporters who have backed their political campaigns and philanthropic efforts — while those supporters have gained entree to a potential future president.
Eager audiences abound in Silicon Valley:
Silicon Valley is one place where those overlapping interests come together, according to a Washington Post analysis of the new Clinton disclosures.

Out of the $11.7 million that Hillary Clinton has made delivering 51 speeches since January 2014, $3.2 million came from the technology industry, the analysis found. Several of the companies that paid Clinton to address their employees also have senior leaders who have been early and avid supporters of her presidential bid.
And why wouldn't they?
While it is common for former presidents to receive top dollar as paid speakers, Hillary Clinton is unique as a prospective candidate who received large personal payouts from corporations, trade groups and other major interests mere months before launching a White House bid. In some cases, those speeches gave Clinton a chance to begin sounding out themes of her coming campaign and even discuss policy issues that a future Clinton administration might face.

Companies that paid her to speak include industry giants such as Xerox, Cisco Systems and Qualcomm, as well as start-ups and trade groups focused on biotechnology and medical technology.
There is a lot more at the link.

I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation

Do you have more than one email account? Most people do. So did Hillary Clinton, it now appears:
Emails published by the New York Times Monday indicate that Hillary Clinton used more than one private email address during her time as secretary of state, contradicting previous claims from the Democratic presidential contender’s office.

Multiple emails show Clinton used account “” while serving in the Obama administration as secretary of state.
So why does that matter? Well, we've been told otherwise, as have Congressional investigators:
Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, had previously told Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) that that particular address had not “existed during Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.”

Another statement from Clinton’s office said she only used one address during her time as secretary of state.

“Secretary Clinton used one email account during her tenure at State (with the exception of her first weeks in office while transitioning from an email account she had previously used),” it said. “In March 2013, Gawker published the email address she used while Secretary, and so she had to change the address on her account.”

Clinton served as secretary of state from Jan. 2009 to Feb. 2013. The emails she sent with the “” were sent in 2011 and 2012, according to the documents released by the Times.
Meanwhile, on the Benghazi beat, we see a little more, shall we say, contradiction with earlier assertions:
A Defense Department document from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), dated September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack, details that the attack on the compound had been carefully planned by the BOCAR terrorist group “to kill as many Americans as possible.”  The document was sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Obama White House National Security Council.  The heavily redacted Defense Department “information report” says that the attack on the Benghazi facility “was planned and executed by The Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman (BCOAR).”  The group subscribes to “AQ ideologies:”
I'm sure it's all innocent. There's no reason to believe any of this behavior is untoward. Knowing what you know now, you should just not pay any attention.

Have some sausage

The session at the Lege is over, for now:
Faced with a midnight deadline to adjourn in the state constitution, the House and Senate each rushed through votes in the final minutes that left many lawmakers protesting. The Senate appeared to actually go two minutes past its deadline.

The House approved a jobs bill, which funds economic development programs and grants, with seconds to spare as Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, ignored representatives demanding to speak and closed the vote as soon as a majority had been reached. Lawmakers yelled "shameful" and "crooks" as Daudt closed out the session -- while multiple others smiled and said, "I love this place."
Mark Dayton has promised vetoes and I'm sure that the Education Minnesota people will make sure that he follows through on his threats. And I'm also certain that a special session is in the offing. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Credit where due

On balance the Obama administration has been awful on most things. They seem to be getting one right in this instance:
The White House on Monday announced new limits on federal programs that supply local police with military-style equipment.

After four months of study, a Cabinet working group tasked by President Obama to reform the initiatives unveiled eight categories of military supplies local law enforcement will be banned from acquiring from federal agencies or with federal funds.

The list includes grenade launchers, tracked armored vehicles, armed aircraft, bayonets, and guns and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher.

There is a “substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items,” which “could significantly undermine community trust,” the group’s report reads.

Other federally supplied equipment, such as wheeled armored vehicles, drones, helicopters, firearms and riot gear, will come with new strings attached for local police to ensure officers are trained in their use and in “community policing, constitutional policing and community input.”
I really can't think of any reason a local constabulary would need grenade launchers or bayonets, to say nothing of some of the other toys. We have a lot of issues with policing in this country that go well beyond the hardware, but it's still worth noting when the administration does something positive.

Same as it ever was

Nothing really changed at the Capitol, other than Mark Dayton formally saying he would veto the education bill since it doesn't put private preschools out of business:
“I will veto, again, I will veto a $400 million bill,” Dayton said. A veto would bring high-profile consequences, including the prospect of a Department of Education shutdown, and likely would require a special legislative session to sort out. House Republicans would bear the blame for that, Dayton vowed. By Sunday night, the school funding bill had not yet received full House or Senate floor votes.

“I regret the consequences, but I regret just as much the consequences of not providing prekindergarten for 40,000 children in Minnesota,” Dayton said. He contended that House Republicans prefer to leave more than $1 billion in state funds unspent in order to push a large tax cut next year.
Never mind that a lot of school districts don't even have the space for the program. Never mind that the teachers aren't in place. Never mind the cost that will never go away. Never mind that the private preschools that exist all over the state would likely go away. Dayton wants what he wants, or rather, his handlers in Education Minnesota want.

We'll keep watching this farce.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

How the narrative gets moved

Gov. Dayton wants his pre-K and he wants it now. We know that. What's interesting isn't that he wants to drive out private preschools and replace them with more foot soldiers for Education Minnesota. What's interesting is how his pals in the media help him out. Look at this little bit from J. Patrick Coolican in the Star Tribune:
Further complicating the budget fight is the possible ­fallout should Dayton reject the education bill. Budget officials have warned that without an E-12 bill, the state Department of Education would shut down, schools would be forced to lay off teachers and applications for teacher licenses would go unprocessed, among other repercussions.
Emphasis mine. We now have a new term -- notice that? It's not K-12 anymore, it's E-12, and if Dayton doesn't get what he wants, the entire education system would be plunged into a lake of fire or something.

Never mind that a lot of school districts don't even have the space for such a program, let alone the teachers hired. Dayton wants what he wants and if you don't give it to him, you hate 4-year olds. Yes, the governor said that:
"So they're not going to help four-year-olds because they don't like public schools?" Dayton asked.
What a demagogue. Remember, he's the reasonable one.

I've had 4-year-olds. My kids attended a wonderful preschool at Salem Covenant Church here in New Brighton. The teachers and staff at Salem were fantastic and they've been doing oustanding work since 1971. I would recommend the Salem program to anyone and have done so with great enthusiasm since my kids were young. There are hundreds of similar schools in the state and they do great work. But they don't have any particular fealty to Mark Dayton, so they are disposable.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Boston Mangler

If there was ever a guy who deserved the death penalty, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would the guy. And that was the verdict in Boston yesterday:
A jury's ruling today to sentence marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death is "justice" and a warning Boston "will not tolerate terrorism," survivors and police said after the verdict.

"This is nothing to celebrate. This is justice," said first-responder Michael Ward. “He wanted to go to hell and he’s gonna get there early."

The verdict against Tsarnaev, who'll turn 22 in July, was announced by U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr.'s courtroom clerk Paul Lyness. Tsarnaev showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
It's easy to see why the verdict came down. Tsarnaev placed a backpack bomb down in the crowd and he killed people, including an 8-year old boy named Martin Richard:

Martin is circled on the left of the picture. Tsarnaev lurks in the background, in the white cap. If you look carefully, you can see the backpack to Martin's right, also along the railing, in between Martin and the mailbox.

Here is what the scene looked like after the bomb went off:

Killing field
 I oppose the death penalty. I still do. Cases like this are the sort that test one's assumptions.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Speaking of chemicals. . . .

Minneapolis authorities launched an investigation into police response during a downtown street protest that turned unruly Wednesday night in which chemical spray used by officers hit a 10-year-old boy.
So what was a 10-year-old boy doing in downtown Minneapolis during a protest, anyway?
Susan Montgomery, the mother of the boy who was sprayed, said that she and her son, Taye, were among the protesters.

At one point, the officer drove up abruptly to Montgomery and the others with his siren on and lights flashing on S. 7th Street. “People started running. It seemed like he was mad at that point,” she said.  
After stopping, the officer “just jumped out of his car and started spraying everybody,” Montgomery said.
Other protesters confronted the officer, screaming that he had sprayed a child, Montgomery continued. The officer responded by spraying them as well, she said.

Taye, who his mother said is autistic, fell to the ground and was carried into a nearby hotel. Milk was poured into his eyes to deaden the chemical irritant, his mother said.

Asked Thursday about the incident, Taye told reporters, “He didn’t give us any warning. He just went right ahead and sprayed. … It hurt!”
If ever a story called for the "one the one hand/on the other hand" approach, this one is it.

  • Let's not have law enforcement officers using chemcial sprays indiscriminately, please?
  • And let's not bring 10-year-old children to a protest, please?
  • The blocking traffic tactic is getting pretty damned old, folks. It doesn't engender any sympathy for your cause, either.
  • Still, blocking traffic shouldn't be a cause to bring out the chemical spray.
Increasingly, the takeaway from these protests boils down to the following:

  • Our governments ask cops to behave in antisocial ways
  • It's evident that a lot of cops really groove on their antisocial assignments way too much
  • Most of the protesters these days are more about moral vanity than the causes they claim to espouse
You think that's a mean statement? Consider the mother's justification for bringing her son:

Taye’s mother on Thursday defended her choice to bring her son to the previous night’s protest, saying she wanted to instill a sense of social justice in him.

“If people want to call me a bad mother for taking my son there and fighting for justice, then so be it,” she said. “But I think I’m doing the best thing that I can to break cycles and make change.”
I will defend this woman's right to believe what she wants. Bringing a child to a protest doesn't make her a bad mother. But she needs to understand there are some bad mothers of a different sort out there.


The Leader of the Free World gives us a little context:

So, chlorine has not been historically used as a chemical weapon. This would be news to a lot of people who were at Ypres in 1915:
After the batteries were in place, it was decided that wind conditions and the ragged configuration of the front line in that sector made it unsuitable for a gas discharge. New batteries of gas cylinders then were dug in along the northern flank of the salient, the batteries being concentrated at Bixschoote, near the junction between the northern flank of the salient and the front north of Ypres, and at Poelkapelle, near the apex of the salient. On April 11, the batteries were in place on the north flank, ready to deliver about 150 tons of chlorine gas on order. An attack was planned to follow behind the gas cloud, along a southern axis to sweep across the base of the salient, with the Bixschoote-Poelkapelle front as the line of departure for the German assault force.
After several postponements, always awaiting suitable wind conditions, the attack finally was ordered at 5:30 p.m. on April 22, 1915. What followed staggers the imagination.
As seen by the Canadians, who stood to the right of the Algerians, two greenish-yellow clouds formed on the ground and spread laterally to form a terrifying single cloud of bluish white mist. Blown by light wind, the cloud moved down on the Algerian trenches. The Canadians noticed a peculiar odor, smarting eyes, a tingling sensation in the nose and throat, and heard a dull, confused murmuring underlying everything.
Soon, Algerian stragglers began to drift toward the rear, followed by horses and men pouring down the road and finally by mobs of Algerian infantry streaming across the fields, throwing away their rifles and even their tunics. One Algerian, frothing at the mouth, fell writhing at the feet of the British officer who tried to question him.
Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, later said: What happened is practically indescribable. The effect of the gas was so overwhelming that the whole of the positions occupied by the French divisions was rendered incapable of any resistance. It was impossible at first to realize what had actually happened. Fumes and smoke obscured everything. Hundreds of men were thrown into a stupor, and after an hour the whole position had to be abandoned with fifty guns.
As seen by the Germans, the effects of the attack were horrible, the dead lying on their backs with clenched fists, the whole field bleached to a yellow color.
But Obama is right -- it's also why whenever there's a chlorine leak from a municipal swimming pool facility, we don't even worry about it.

For further context, see First Ringer's excellent essay on the subject of the chlorine gas attack at Ypres and its aftermath, which he published at Shot in the Dark a few weeks back. Maybe our President could learn something from it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What's missing

Rand Paul, discussing the trade agreement that dare not speak its name:
Paul said he thinks the “secretive” process hurts the “cause” of TPA and TPP advocates, and is calling on the Obama administration to publicly release the deal’s details before future votes on the matter in the U.S. Senate.

“The thing is is that I think it actually hurts their cause by making it so secretive—while I can’t discuss the details of what was in there because of them calling it secret, I didn’t see anything that I didn’t think couldn’t be made public with a problem,” Paul said. “If so, I’m missing something because we read through 800 pages of it and we didn’t see anything that I couldn’t conclude couldn’t be made public.”
What's missing is accountability.

Found while looking for other things

From 1978, Alberta Hunter:

Train in vain

You can complain all you'd like about infrastructure, but what happened in Philadelphia on Tuesday night was something different:
The Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia, killing at least seven people, was hurtling at 106 mph before it ran off the rails along a sharp curve where the speed limit drops to just 50 mph, federal investigators said Wednesday.

The engineer applied the emergency brakes moments before the crash but slowed the train to only 102 mph by the time the locomotive's black box stopped recording data, said Robert Sumwalt, of the National Transportation Safety Board. The speed limit just before the bend is 80 mph, he said.

The engineer, whose name was not released, refused to give a statement to law enforcement and left a police precinct with a lawyer, police said. Sumwalt said federal accident investigators want to talk to him but will give him a day or two to recover from the shock of the accident.
106 mph? Seriously? I don't know if the engineer was not paying attention, or if there was a catastrophic equipment malfunction, but there's no way in hell that a passenger train should be traveling through a city at 106 mph. I'll refrain from further commentary until we know more, though.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

He's not your Bud, Budowsky

Another day, another Jackson on the nightstand:
I spent many years working for senior Democratic Senators such as Lloyd Bentsen and House Democratic leaders beginning with the legendary Speaker Tip O’Neill, and have never seen any president of either party insult so many members of his own party’s base and members of the House and Senate as Mr. Obama has in his weeks of tirades against liberals on trade.

In Mr. Obama’s speech at Nike last week, his comments to Matt Bai of Yahoo over the weekend, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s comments to reporters on Monday, Mr. Obama and his White House staff have repeated a string of personal insults directed against prominent liberal Democrats in Congress, liberal Democrats across the nation, organized labor, and leading public interest and environmental groups who share doubts about the TPP trade deal.
That's the voice of Brent Budowsky, who is dealing with the anger stage of his own personal and political Kubler-Ross scenario:
Mr. Obama’s tirades on trade have included accusations that these liberal Democrats are ignorant about trade policy, insincere when offering their opinions, motivated by politics and not the national interest, and backward looking towards the past. Obama’s repeated attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in which he charged that Warren’s concern about the trade bill is motivated not by a reasoned view of what is right for America but by her personal political motivations, is one of the most dishonest and repellant examples of character assassination and contempt by any American president, against any leading member of his own party, in my lifetime.

Of course Ms. Warren, the most nationally respected liberal leader in American politics, is motivated by what she believes is right for the nation. Doubts about the trade bill are not limited to Ms. Warren. They are shared by the leader of Senate Democrats, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the leader of House Democrats, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and a majority of Democrats in the Senate and House as well as a significant number of leading liberal economists.

For the President to suggest that he knows more about trade then all of them do, and that they are all ignorant about the trade bill and trade policy, is staggeringly false and contemptuous of many who have been working on trade policy far longer than he has and know far more about trade, in truth, than he does.
But he does, Mr. Budowsky. Just ask him. And get in line, pal.

Identifying the enemies

President Obama explains how the ruling class perpetuates itself:
“Part of what’s happened is, is that elites in a very mobile, globalized world are able to live together, away from folks who are not as wealthy, and so they feel less of a commitment to making those investments,” he explained during a panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University today.

Obama criticized the free-market system in America for allowing higher concentrations of wealth to exist among the rich while the bottom percentage was being left behind and receiving a smaller portion of that wealth.

“Those who are doing better and better, more skilled, more educated, – luckier – having greater advantages are withdrawing from the commons,” he said. “Kids start going to private schools, kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks, an anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.”
His own children were unavailable for comment as they were busy with their studies at Sidwell Friends, where the current tuition is surprisingly affordable. But I digress.

Do you see the transition? “Kids start going to private schools, kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks, an anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.” So where is the "anti-government ideology" coming from, precisely? Is it private school? A private club? And which ones? Does Sidwell Friends preach an anti-government ideology? Closer to home, do Blake or Breck do these dastardly things? C'mon, Mr. President, we need to know the facts. It's tough to be carrying the torches and pitchforks without a roadmap.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

George Zimmerman Involved in Shooting*

Yeah -- someone took a shot at him. But lookit the headlines (h/t/ Patterico)

*In much the same way that Gabrielle Giffords was involved in a shooting.

Another earthquake in Nepal

This one was closer to Mount Everest:
Nepal has been hit by another strong earthquake, causing widespread panic and casualties just over two weeks after a devastating tremor killed more than 8,000 people, injured 18,000 and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale and struck 42 miles (68km) west of the town of Namche Bazaar, close to Mount Everest. It was followed closely by at least six strong aftershocks. Shockwaves were felt as far away as the Indian capital, Delhi, and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

The full extent of casualties is unknown, with reports of collapsed buildings and some fatalities coming in from remote areas close to the epicentre.
My next door neighbor is from Nepal and had been in the country when the first earthquake hit two weeks ago. He just got back here yesterday. Wow.

Separated at birth

Apologies to my friend Brad Carlson, the local master of the form:

Monday, May 11, 2015


Tom Brady gets a four game suspension. So who do the Patriots play in their 5th game?

And it's on national television, too. Fancy that.
Don't think anyone'll need to put the nickel in ol' Cris Collinsworth on this one.


Have you seen the new Super Bowl rings for the Patriots?

Seriously, though, what is going to happen to the Patriots now that the Wells Report has come out? They're nervous in New England:
No one knows specifically what the Deflategate punishment will be for Tom Brady, but within Gillette Stadium they are bracing for the worst.

Sources with the Patriots I have spoken with tell me they are fearful of a lengthy suspension, perhaps in the six- to eight-game range, for Brady in the aftermath of the Wells Report.
I'm not sure what the appropriate response is, to be honest. What would you suggest?

Good luck with that

So the State of Illinois doesn't have the money to pay off its pension obligations, you say? And you'd like to make changes so that it's possible to reform the system so that it doesn't bankrupt everyone in the state? Forget about it, says the state supreme court:
Now, to pay off its retirement debt, Illinois needs more than $6 billion a year from taxpayers to make up for the skipped contributions to the pension system, along with more than $1 billion more to pay off its pension bonds. That represents more than one-fifth of the state’s general-fund budget. By contrast, states typically spend no more than 4 percent to 5 percent of their budgets on pensions.
There are about 12.88 million people living in Illinois currently. If the extra $7 billion were divided equally among all of these citizens, it would mean everyone has to cough up an extra $543.47 a year. Not everyone will do so, of course. Will "the rich" be able to pick up the freight? Or will they pull up stakes instead? Place your bets.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Goaded into violence

Gino and I have a disagreement about the meaning of the event in Texas, in which two gunmen traveled to kill the organizer of a "Draw Muhammad" contest, Pamela Geller. I'm willing to stipulate, for the sake of argument, that Pamela Geller is a shameless provocateur who has built a career out of her animus toward others. I wouldn't want her hanging around my house and she'll never see a dime from me.

Now that we've established the baseline for this post, let's consider something Gino wrote earlier this morning in a comment to an earlier post:
once again, her free speech was never violated. it was defended and guaranteed against the peeps she goaded into violence.
I think there's a larger question at play here. Do the "peeps," Elton Simpson and Nadir Hamid Soofi, have any moral agency? Or is someone else, namely Pamela Geller, responsible for their choices?

Simpson and Soofi lived in Phoenix, Arizona. The event that Geller staged took place in the Dallas suburbs. It's a pretty long drive to get from one place to another:

It takes rather a lot of goading to get someone to travel 1,078 miles to commit violence. Perhaps Geller is just that odious. Or is something else going on here?

Do you blame someone else? Some would argue that Simpson was under a different spell:
About the time of the attack Sunday, on a Twitter account with the name “Shariah is Light” that has since been suspended, someone posted using the hashtag #texasattack. The profile picture on the account is of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant imam killed in a 2011 American drone strike in Yemen.

Mr. Awlaki repeatedly called for violence against cartoonists who, in his view, insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The Twitter post says that the writer and the man with him have “given bay’ah,” or pledged loyalty, “to Amirul Mu’mineen,” a title meaning commander of the faithful that was used by early Muslim rulers and has been claimed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State. “May Allah accept us as mujahedeen.”
So, do you blame Anwar al-Awlaki? He's been dead for four years. Do you blame al-Baghdadi? Or do you agree with Simpson's father?
The father of one of the suspected gunmen in the Garland, Texas, shooting told ABC News that his son "made a bad choice."

"We are Americans and we believe in America," Dunston Simpson said Monday. "What my son did reflects very badly on my family."
Provocateurs will always be among us. We choose how we respond to provocations. Dunston Simpson is correct: Elton Simpson made a bad choice. I don't believe it necessarily relects badly on his family. A 30-year old man makes his own decisions. Elton Simpson had moral agency. It doesn't matter how odious you find Pamela Geller -- the owner of Elton Simpson's fate is Elton Simpson.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Home Truth

Ace, on the meaning of Gellerpalooza in Texas (n.b., an F-bomb ahoy, and emphasis in the original):

Now, as a personal matter, I have had sharp differences with Ms. Gellar. We do not get along.

But this is entirely besides the point.

Americans, acting under the influence of America, were fucking shot at by crazed religious cultists seeking to impose a cancerous religious lunacy on America.

One does not "support" someone's right to free speech by name-calling them and advertising how far one believes they fall outside the smug Upper Middle Class (leftist-dominated) Consensus.

One supports free speech by supporting those who speak freely.

I am so disgusted by how so many alleged thinkers seem to care more about social positioning than actual thought.

I should not advertise any hostility I may have towards Ms. Gellar to prove I'm "among the acceptable ones."

Acceptable to whom? Who is making this list?
As Gino has pointed out, Pamela Geller is not a particularly nice person. I don't give her much thought generally because, in the main, I've got better things to think about. Chances are, you have better things to think about as well. The beauty of truly free speech is that you can ignore the speech of others, or offer your own speech to counter it.

We all engage in self-censorship from time to time, and we all tend to pick our battles. It's usually easier to let someone you disagree with prattle on, even if you might personally wish they'd shut up and take their ignorance and irrationality somewhere else. The danger we face now is that many of those who are doing the prattling, and many of their exemplars who have the larger microphones, aren't willing to fight for your right to speak. Word to the wise -- you might want to speak up now.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

No alternative

Back in 1992, when I first moved to the Twin Cities, there were two major alternative weekly newspapers around -- the Twin Cities Reader, and City Pages. The TCR gave up the ghost years ago, leaving the field to City Pages. Other weeklies have tried to compete and have gone -- the Rake, Metromix and a local version of the Onion, to name a few. Over the years CP has had some very good writers in its employ and has, from time to time, been a useful source for stories that the larger media in town don't want to discuss. Sure, it was reliably leftist and often relied on commercialized nookie for much of its ad revenue, but those are the rules of engagement for most alternative weeklies.

Now, we have word that a big change is on the horizon:
The Star Tribune agreed Wednesday to buy City Pages, a deal that creates an uncommon coupling of the biggest alternative weekly in the Twin Cities and Minnesota’s largest news organization.

In buying the publication from Voice Media Group, the Star Tribune Media Co. said it would stop publishing, a website and weekly tabloid that refashioned the Star Tribune’s entertainment coverage into formats that directly competed with City Pages for readers and advertisers.
It's hard to be an alternative when you're owned by the entity you're trying to be an alternative to. And the Strib acknowledges the point in its coverage of the sale:
City Pages continued to draw more advertising than, and its news pages are less formal in tone and quicker to throw an elbow, often enough at the Star Tribune.
While the Star Tribune swears it will keep the newsrooms separate and that editorial decisions will be independent, I wonder about that. My guess is that CP will eventually morph into a slightly edgier version of There are a lot of voices in the Twin Cities media, but they tend to be singing out of the same hymnal. This sale only exacerbates that trend.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


It now appears that the New England Patriots were cheating when they used deflated footballs in their game against the Indianapolis Colts. Some of the evidence that has been presented appears to be circumstantial, but the trail of texts seems to indicate that some form skullduggery took place and that Tom Brady was involved.

So what do you do about the situation? It's not clear that there is any recourse for the National Football League. You really can't scrap the results of the game and and you certainly cannot get the protagonists back on the field.

All you really can do, I suppose, is to make sure that standards are met for games in the future. I'm not certain that is the Patriots really gained that much benefit from the cheating; in some respects, I think the primary advantage was psychological. If Tom Brady and his compatriots on the Patriots felt they gained an advantage from having slightly under inflated footballs, that might explain the results in a close game. Of course, the AFC championship game wasn't particularly close. It would be difficult to argue that the Colts were a superior team who ran afoul of a vast conspiracy, especially when they could not score and their defense was atrocious.

Most football fans consider the Patriots to be an evil empire anyway, so I suspect that in the end this controversy won't change perceptions very much. I do worry that young people who are learning the game of football will take the wrong lessons from this episode, but one has to hope that the coaches and supporters of young players are somewhat more ethical than Tom Brady appears to be.

This just in

A wild and crazy guy
Ron Erhardt is an idiot:
Rep. Ron Erhardt, DFL-Edina, apologized Tuesday for delivering a meandering floor speech in which he donned a lab coat and stethoscope while alleging that avian flu can be transferred to humans who eat the meat of infected birds.
He's not the only idiot in the Minnesota legislature, but he appears to be the only prop comic in the lege, although I haven't checked to see if Gallagher is now a member.

Drawing a distinction

I don't draw very well, so even if I attempted to draw Muhammad, you wouldn't be able to tell what my drawing was trying to convey. More talented people can draw Muhammad, unless someone shoots them for trying. And as you likely know, someone did try to shoot some people in Texas who were engaged in a Draw Muhammad contest. It didn't end well for the shooters, either, as you likely heard.

Anyone who has studied the career of Pamela Geller understands that she's a provocateur. I don't pay much attention to her because I kinda got her point a long time ago and further inquiry isn't worth my time, or yours, most likely. I don't pay much attention to Dan Savage or Tom Tomorrow either. All of these individuals have their patrons and that's cool. Patrick "Patterico" Frey sums it up well:
There seems to be a debate between, on one hand, 1) the anti-Geller/Spencer/Wilders types, and on the other hand, 2) a group consisting of both a) pro-Geller/Spencer/Wilders types and b) people who worry about the effects on speech of fanatics claiming a heckler’s veto by virtue of killing anyone whose speech they don’t like.

You can put me firmly in the latter camp, and although I am more of a “2b” type of guy, it doesn’t really matter today whether I’m an “a” or a “b.” What matters is that I am a 2.
Being a 2 is the right way to approach the matter. Terrorism is more difficult in Texas than it is in Paris, too.


I tweaked the link colors to make them more noticeable. They seem to be a lot more noticeable now. Hope that helps -- let me know if it doesn't!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sun spot baby

This could be a real climate changer:
[I]f history is a guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a cooling impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere - and where we all live. There have been two notable historical periods with decades-long episodes of low solar activity. The first period is known as the “Maunder Minimum”, named after the solar astronomer Edward Maunder, and it lasted from around 1645 to 1715. The second one is referred to as the “Dalton Minimum”, named for the English meteorologist John Dalton, and it lasted from about 1790 to 1830 (below). Both of these historical periods coincided with colder-than-normal global temperatures in an era now referred to by many scientists as the “Little Ice Age”. In addition, research studies in just the past couple of decades have found a complicated relationship between solar activity, cosmic rays, and clouds on Earth. This research suggests that in times of low solar activity where solar winds are typically weak; more cosmic rays reach the Earth’s atmosphere which, in turn, has been found to lead to an increase in certain types of clouds that can act to cool the Earth.
Perhaps history isn't a guide. Perhaps the computer models predicting catastrophic climate change because the earth is warming are true. Guess we're gonna find out.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Random song of the day

Police on my back

Another really bad idea -- let's federalize the police force:
The idea behind federal supervision of local police forces is that it will make them more accountable. Instead of a bunch of presumptively racist, violent hicks running things on a local level, we'll see the cool professionalism of the national government in charge.

There are (at least) two problems with this approach. The first is that federal law enforcement, especially in recent years, hasn't exactly been a haven of cool professionalism. The second is that no law enforcement agency is very good at policing itself, meaning that a national police force is likely to be less accountable, not more. 
All true. Let's consider three separate events from the past couple of days. First, a potential terrorist attack in Texas:
Two gunmen were killed and a security guard wounded Sunday outside a "Draw Muhammad" contest organized by a free speech group at a school arena in Garland, Texas, police said.

The attackers drove up and opened fire on the security guard as the event was finishing up about 7 p.m. (8 p.m. ET), said Joe Harn, a spokesman for the Garland police.

Officers at the heavily-policed event returned fire, killing the men.

The suspects' bodies remained at the scene because investigators were concerned there could be a bomb in their car. A bomb squad robot was checking the vehicle, Harn said.

There were no immediate clues to the identity of the attackers.
Next, an apparently random shooting in Menasha, Wisconsin, close to my old stomping grounds:
City of Menasha Police say five people were shot in a random act of violence on the Trestle Trail Bridge.

Four of the five people are dead, including the suspected shooter.

Police had all hands on deck on the Trestle Trail Bridge after receiving a call of an active shooter just after 7 p.m. Sunday.

“Within a matter of moments there were 30 officers on scene trying to contain the situation,” said Chief Tim Styka of the City of Menasha Police Department.

Upon arrival, officers found the five people shot on the bridge.
Finally, a horrific case of arson that killed two people in southwestern Minnesota:
A home on a southwestern Minnesota farm was engulfed in flames, a generous husband and wife are dead, and three young men are in jail.

That’s the grim scenario in Lyon County, where a blaze Thursday in Balaton killed 75-year-old Jim Hively and his wife, Cathy, who was 71.

Under arrest are three men who could be charged as soon as Monday. They are all from that area of the state and range in age from 18 to 21. All are suspected of arson and burglary. Two of them also are suspected of murder.

One of the suspects, a 20-year-old man from Balaton, is on probation after being sentenced for helping his brother flee law enforcement in a pickup truck last summer following the shooting and wounding of a 30-year-old man in nearby Yellow Medicine County. The brother was caught, convicted and is in prison.
All horrible events that are utterly unrelated. How would federal involvement assist the citizenry in any of these instances?

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Avenging Angels

I don't know what happened in Baltimore on the day that Freddie Gray received mortal injuries. Nor do you. I do know this much -- proving second degree murder against the driver of the paddy wagon is going to be a tough job for the prosecutor bringing the case, Marilyn Mosby:
State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby charged the driver of the van with second-degree murder and the other officers with offenses that included involuntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, second-degree assault, false imprisonment and misconduct in office. The officers were taken into custody Friday and released on bail.
Mosby's explanation for bringing charges is a little, well, problematic:
"I heard your call for 'no justice, no peace,'" Mosby, who has been in office for only four months, said Friday morning. "Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man."
Let's think about this for a moment. Do you want a prosecutor playing to the crowd? A prosecutor should be looking at the facts of the case, not listening to calls for justice. She'd better be damned sure she can make her case, because falling short would be a disastrous result.  In a world where everyone is a fallen angel, an avenging fallen angel is especially dangerous.