Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A good Scouter

Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough says he was abused by a scoutmaster in the 1960s and 1970s. I have no reason to doubt his account. It's important to remember that the adult leaders and volunteers who give their efforts to Scouting are, in the main, outstanding people.

As many of you know, the Benster is an Eagle Scout. He had a wonderful experience in Scouting and had the support of many fine people during his time in Scouting. One of the people he encountered along the way died yesterday. Cindie Teeling was the Vice Chair for Eagle Advancement for the Northwest District of the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America. That's a heck of a title, but as a practical matter what it means is that Cindie reviewed Eagle Scout applications for hundreds of young men who were pursuing the Eagle rank. If you were a scout in New Brighton, Roseville, Mounds View, Shoreview, Arden Hills, North Oaks or Little Canada -- essentially, the territory covered in the Mounds View and Roseville school districts, there was a good chance you would have met Cindie along the line.

Cindie was tough and had very high standards. She sent the Benster's application back a few times and while it was frustrating at the time, we all see the wisdom of why she did it. Ben's project was pretty ambitious and she got him to think through all of the details carefully. Ben's project turned out very well:

A welcoming field in Isanti

Cindie was battling cancer, but you would not have known that. All you knew is that she cared deeply about the Scouts in our area. I don't think there's any question that the world is a better place because Cindie Teeling was part of it. Her legacy will live on through Benster and the many other Eagle Scouts she counseled over the years. Funeral arrangements are pending.


Candidate Combover sez:
"If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious illegal immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court. Furthermore, they will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be."
Brian Williams is, without question, the gift that keeps on giving. As you might remember, Howard Cosell was fond of "telling it like it is" and Humble Howard wore a ridiculous toupee for most of his career. It must be a thing among those with tonsorial challenges..

Monday, June 29, 2015

Grexit, stage left

Here it comes:
Greece moved to check the growing strains on its crippled financial system on Sunday, closing its banks and imposing capital controls that brought the prospect of being forced out of the euro into plain sight.

After bailout talks between the leftwing government and foreign lenders broke down at the weekend, the European Central Bank froze vital funding support to Greece's banks, leaving Athens with little choice but to shut down the system to keep the banks from collapsing.

Banks are expected to be closed all next week, and there will be a daily 60 euro limit on cash withdrawals from cash machines, which will reopen on Tuesday. Capital controls are likely to last for many months at least.
Guess the Germans aren't willing to support the Greeks any more. Yeah, the world financial markets may be headed into a panic mode. But love wins, or something.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

il miglior fabbro

So you're not crazy about the Obamacare decision, and the gay marriage thing isn't floating your boat? Well, imagine a fusion:
Children raised without a mother or a father represent a major crisis in many American communities. Marriage is one of the essential ingredients for a health and independent society – it’s very difficult for people of modest means to avoid government dependency without getting married, especially if they have children.

We need a huge number of stable families raising more than one child for society to flourish. Some fear it will be difficult to properly encourage the traditional form of marriage now that the Supreme Court has imposed gay marriage across the land.

Fortunately, the other controversial Court decisions handed down this week give us powerful tools to reverse the damage from decades of liberal social engineering and keep the institution of marriage vibrant. Gay marriage won’t be a problem at all – in fact, same-sex couples will be invited to be part of the same grand program, achieving maximum social harmony. Heck, they won’t have a choice, any more than straight couples will. Compulsory unity from coast to coast!

What I propose is an ObamaCare-style individual mandate for marriage.
Click that link. Just do it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world

President Obama has mail:
The Iran nuclear deal is not done. Negotiations continue. The target deadline is June 30.  We know much about the emerging agreement. Most of us would have preferred a stronger agreement.

The agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. It will not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure. It will however reduce that infrastructure for the next 10 to 15 years. And it will impose a transparency, inspection, and consequences regime with the goal of deterring and dissuading Iran from actually building a nuclear weapon.

The agreement does not purport to be a comprehensive strategy towards Iran. It does not address Iran’s support for terrorist organizations (like Hezbollah and Hamas), its interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen (its “regional hegemony”), its ballistic missile arsenal, or its oppression of its own people. The U.S. administration has prioritized negotiations to deal with the nuclear threat, and hopes that an agreement will positively influence Iranian policy in these other areas.

Even granting this policy approach, we fear that the current negotiations, unless concluded along the lines outlined in this paper and buttressed by a resolute regional strategy, may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a “good” agreement.
So argue the signatories of an open letter, including a variety of officials who were once part of the Obama administration. It's worth reading in full.

The Grace of the Victors

At the outset, I will apologize to anyone who finds the language in this post offensive. Accuracy matters and so I am going to use the words needed to write this post.

You might have heard that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states. It was pretty newsworthy. I wasn't particularly surprised by the ruling -- once the ruling in Lawrence came down in 2003, this day was inevitable. And since I live in a state that has had gay marriage enacted by statute, I've long since accepted the result.

What was striking was not the result, but rather the tone of the commentary I have seen today regarding the outcome. Out of the many posts I saw today on social media, I thought this one was of particular interest. From what I can tell it may have originated at the Daily Kos, but I saw it multiple times from multiple sources:

Very nice sentiment. I was instructed by at least one person who posted this, ahem, image of the following terms of receiving the image:
"It's funny people, so if you want to make snide political comments please go elsewhere. Laugh a little!"
This blog is elsewhere, so we are honoring this request. If you don't find it too snide, I'd like to propose a little thought experiment. Suppose Anthony Kennedy changed his mind and the vote was 5-4 the other way. For the sake of argument, imagine you are on social media and you encounter a meme saying this:

And the merry social media purveyor then instructs you as follows --
"It's funny people, so if you want to make snide political comments please go elsewhere. Laugh a little!"
Do you think people would be laughing? How would you react? Let's take a poll:

Hey, how do you like your meme?
pollcode.com free polls

Friday, June 26, 2015

A rough barometer, but an accurate one

I have enough lefty friends on social media to get a sense of the general mood on the port side. One would have thought the favorable (for them) decision the Supreme Court handed down yesterday in King v. Burwell would have satisfied them. It didn't. Instead, I saw numerous denunciations of Antonin Scalia's dissent. I'd quote some, but most have so many expletives that I'd have to leave the caps lock on my keyboard for an extended period.

Why not be gracious instead? John Hayward knows why:
One of the most important passages of his dissent comes when he tackles the central contention of the majority head-on. Roberts and the concurring justices argue the words “established by the State” are utterly meaningless in the portion of the Affordable Care Act that deals with subsidies. They’re not even a redundant rhetorical flourish, like saying “cease and desist,” because ceasing involves a good deal of desisting. The majority says those words in the ACA simply do not exist, even though they’re right there on the paper.

“Who would ever have dreamt that ‘Exchange established by the State’ means ‘Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government?'” Scalia asks. “Little short of an express statutory definition could justify adopting this singular reading.”

This raises the question of whether King v. Burwell can now be cited as precedent for effectively nationalizing any state resource the federal government covets. Try running through any major piece of state legislation and ask yourself how much sense it makes if “established by the State” now means “established by the State or Federal Government,” or how much chaos we’re in for if Chief Justice Roberts’ highly subjective, political “context” flapdoodle determines what such phrases mean on a case-by-case basis.
It's impolite to point that out, I suppose, but the implications are enormous. I suspect a lot of people are okay with the federal government essentially changing rules on the fly, but it's gonna bite us all in the ass.

Another part of Scalia's dissent speaks to the question I asked yesterday -- if you can get all the goodies, especially the tax subsidies, from the federal exchange, why would the states have to set up their own exchanges?
Far from offering the overwhelming evidence of meaning needed to justify the Court’s interpretation, other contextual clues undermine it at every turn. To begin with, other parts of the Act sharply distinguish between the establishment of an Exchange by a State and the establishment of an Exchange by the Federal Government. The States’ authority to set up Exchanges comes from one provision, §18031(b); the Secretary’s authority comes from an entirely different provision, §18041(c). Funding for States to establish Exchanges comes from one part of the law, §18031(a); funding for the Secretary to establish Exchanges comes from an entirely different part of the law, §18121. States generally run state-created Exchanges; the Secretary generally runs federally created Exchanges. §18041(b)–(c). And the Secretary’s authority to set up an Exchange in a State depends upon the State’s “[f]ailure to establish [an] Exchange.” §18041(c) (emphasis added). Provisions such as these destroy any pretense that a federal Exchange is in some sense also established by a State.

Reading the rest of the Act also confirms that, as relevant here, there are only two ways to set up an Exchange in a State: establishment by a State and establishment by the Secretary. §§18031(b), 18041(c). So saying that an Exchange established by the Federal Government is “established by the State” goes beyond giving words bizarre meanings; it leaves the limiting phrase “by the State” with no operative effect at all. That is a stark violation of the elementary principle that requires an interpreter “to give effect, if possible, to every clause and word of a statute.” Montclair v. Ramsdell , 107 U. S. 147, 152 (1883).

In weighing this argument, it is well to remember the difference between giving a term a meaning that duplicates another part of the law, and giving a term no meaning at all. Lawmakers sometimes repeat themselves—whether out of a desire to add emphasis, a sense of belt-and-suspenders caution, or a lawyerly penchant for doublets (aid and abet, cease and desist, null and void). Lawmakers do not, however, tend to use terms that “have no operation at all.” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 174 (1803).

So while the rule against treating a term as a redundancy is far from categorical, the rule against treating it as a nullity is as close to absolute as interpretive principles get. The Court’s reading does not merely give “by the State” a duplicative effect; it causes the phrase to have no effect whatever.
Why is this important? Back to Hayward:
Another part of the ACA conditions financial assistance to states on whether they are “making progress” toward establishing an exchange. “Does a State that refuses to set up an Exchange still receive this funding, on the premise that Exchanges established by the Federal Government are really established by the States?” Scalia asks. He knows the answer, and he knows how the feckless ObamaCare-supporting majority gets there: by randomly, politically deciding that sometimes the words “exchange established by the State” have meaning, and sometimes they do not.

If not for this “interpretive jiggery-pokery,” as Scalia calls it, the Roberts decision could actually bring ObamaCare crashing down even more thoroughly than ruling the subsidies illegal would have. Among other things, there wouldn’t be any way for weak-kneed GOP leaders to apply a quick, painless-to-Democrats legislative patch to keep the S.S. ObamaCare afloat after dozens of holes were blown beneath her waterline.

Scalia also catches the majority in a rather breathtaking act of dishonesty when they pretend to be surprised and confused that the ACA would make a large number of people theoretically eligible for tax credits at first, then zero those credits out if their insurance was not purchased on an exchange “established by the State.” In fact, as Scalia notes, tax credit laws usually do work that way, for a variety of administrative reasons, including the way people often move between states in the middle of a fiscal year. I strongly suspect the majority only pretended not to be aware of what Scalia says in this passage.
It simply doesn't make sense to impose financial penalties through the statute for states that don't set up their own exchanges and then to say, oh, we weren't really serious about that anyway.

The good news? If my lefty friends are troubled by Scalia's dissent, it means they still have a few wisps of conscience about supporting the larger implications of this decision. Scalia's sin is reminding them of it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A not necessarily rhetorical question

So if you can get subsidies through the federal health care exchanges, what's the point of MNSure? Discuss.

Thanks for the Memory Hole

The Civil War wasn't really between North and South. I'm increasingly convinced that it involved Eastasia:
If the Confederate flag is finally going to be consigned to museums as an ugly symbol of racism, what about the beloved film offering the most iconic glimpse of that flag in American culture?

I’m talking, of course, about “Gone with the Wind,’’ which won a then-record eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1939, and still ranks as the all-time North American box-office champ with $1.6 billion worth of tickets sold here when adjusted for inflation.
That's the idea of Lou Lumenick, a film critic for the New York Post. So, are you up for that?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Us, too!

We don't fly a lot of Confederate battle flags in Minnesota, so it's tough to remove them from public property. But it's always important to keep up with the Joneses in the moral vanity game, so we're now seeing a renewed effort to get the name of Lake Calhoun changed, because it was named after John C. Calhoun, who was a slave owner and defender of the practice at a time when such beliefs were common. We gotta do something, after all.

Calhoun wasn't a very nice guy, so I suppose we could change the name, but if we're in the business of revoking honorifics for people who are on the outs with our contemporary sensibilities, we really ought to do something about Xerxes Avenue while we're at it.

Of course removing the offensive name is only half the fun. The real fun is to bestow the new name. Not surprisingly, most of the suggested new names for Lake Calhoun belong to politicians with the proper sensibilities -- Humphrey, Wellstone, like that. I'm guessing we can come up with something better, though. Here are a few choices, or add your own in the comments:

What should be the new name of Lake Calhoun?
pollcode.com free polls


We're in the middle of airbrushing our history. It's an old practice. There's a pretty good chance you've seen this famous example. The first image shows Stalin with Nikolai Yezhov, who was one of the theoreticians behind the purges of the 1930s:

Yezhov fell out of favor with Stalin and was later executed. And then he was gone:

It turns out there was more to the story than you might realize; indeed, there was another reason that Yezhov had to be airbrushed out of history:

He was pretty prescient, that Yezhov.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

No sense of history

It's a lovely day for another mass extinction. It's coming, and boy howdy are you gonna be sorry:
Earth is entering a mass extinction that threatens humanity's existence, researchers have declared.  
A team of American scientists claim that their study shows 'without any significant doubt' that we are entering the sixth great mass extinction on Earth.
Without any significant doubt. And we have it from a great authority:
And such a catastrophic loss of animal species presents a real threat to human existence, the experts warn, as crucial ecosystem 'services' such as crop pollination by insects and water purification in wetlands is also put at risk. 
At the current rate of species loss, humans will lose many biodiversity benefits within three generations, according to Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, who led the research.

'We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on,' Prof Ehrlich said.
Do you remember Paul Ehrlich? He's been around a while. He's warned us before:
"Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years." 
He said that around 1970. He also said this:
"Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s." 
The starvation was so unbelievable that it never happened. So what happened? Norman Borlaug kicked his ass. So did Julian Simon.

If you're going to be wrong, you couldn't be more wrong than Paul Ehrlich has been over the course of his career. Ehrlich has managed to outlive his critics (Simon) and his betters (Borlaug). There will always be a market for Cassandras. But you have to know the history and you're not likely to get it from the MSM.

il miglior fabbro

I was going to write about Pete Rose, but Brad Carlson has it covered. Hit that link.

Monday, June 22, 2015


We've seen a lot of these halo shots of the Leader of the Free World:

Now we get this image:

I do appreciate the subtlety.

Francis the Talking Mule

I still have to get to Laudato Si, but this business from the Pontiff deserves a swat:
People who manufacture weapons or invest in weapons industries are hypocrites if they call themselves Christian, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

Francis issued his toughest condemnation to date of the weapons industry at a rally of thousands of young people at the end of the first day of his trip to the Italian city of Turin.

“If you trust only men you have lost,” he told the young people in a long, rambling talk about war, trust and politics after putting aside his prepared address.

“It makes me think of ... people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn't it?” he said to applause.
It's a strawman argument -- I can trust in God and still see the value of weaponry. There are a whole lot of Christians who could use a few more weapons round about now, especially in places where ISIS is operating. One would have hoped a Jesuit would understand such things, and Francis does -- he's spoken out on such matters in the past. When he gets rolling, Francis appears liable to say anything.

And to really drive the non-sequitur home, Francis says the following:
He spoke of the “tragedy of the Shoah,” using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

“The great powers had the pictures of the railway lines that brought the trains to the concentration camps like Auschwitz to kill Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody. Why didn't they bomb (the railway lines)?”
So if you want to bomb the railway lines, what do you need? Weapons. But if manufacturing weapons makes you less than a good Christian, you'd better hope that someone else will make the weapons for you. We're gonna need some enterprising pagans, I guess.

I trust in God. Really, I do. If you trust only men, you have lost. Among the men I don't trust is the one currently on the throne of St. Peter.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Oh noes!

This is currently making the rounds:
Eminent Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner, who helped to wipe out smallpox, predicts humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change.

Fenner, who is emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, said homo sapiens will not be able to survive the population explosion and “unbridled consumption,” and will become extinct, perhaps within a century, along with many other species. United Nations official figures from last year estimate the human population is 6.8 billion, and is predicted to pass seven billion next year.

Fenner told The Australian he tries not to express his pessimism because people are trying to do something, but keep putting it off. He said he believes the situation is irreversible, and it is too late because the effects we have had on Earth since industrialization (a period now known to scientists unofficially as the Anthropocene) rivals any effects of ice ages or comet impacts.
Not that Frank Fenner cares very much these days, considering he died in 2010.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A theological Golden Corral

I'm going to read Laudato Si, the Pope's encyclical, before I say too much about it. This much I do know -- if you want to help the poor, and this Pope does, economic development and private property rights help the poor a lot more than central planning ever has.

After-action report

We will learn more in the coming days about Dylann Storm Roof, the 21-year-old man who killed nine people during a Bible study class at a historic AME church in Charleston, SC, on Wednesday night. Based on what's been reported, a few observations:

  • He had a roommate who said Roof had been planning something like this for months. That revelation comes a little late, doncha think?
  • My Facebook feed is filled with images of Confederate battle flags today, all posted by lefty commenters. Weird.
  • While I continue to oppose the death penalty, this guy would be a hell of a good candidate for getting it.
  • The reporting suggests that Roof thought he could start a civil war, or something, by committing mass murder. If Charles Manson couldn't get one started, this dude wasn't going to have much chance. He didn't even have any addled hippie chicks to do his bidding.
The only thing I know for sure -- the victims and their families could use prayers and support. That's a good place to start.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The day you're hired, the bullet's fired, yet again

There is a reason that the Target logo is a bullseye -- everyone in the company is wearing one:

Target Corp.’s transformation once again took a toll on its Minneapolis headquarters, where about 140 employees were let go Wednesday. 
Most, but not all, of those laid off in this latest round of job cuts were in the recently formed “business performance optimization” group, which works on large-scale projects within the company’s core strategic areas. It is one of seven “centers of excellence” that the retailer has been forming in recent months as part of a new corporate structure.
As is usually the case, the sanitized buzzwords were in play:
The eliminated positions were in places “we identified redundancies or opportunities for greater efficiencies,” Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail.
One way to optimize business performance is to get rid of people who don't have a strictly defined role within an organization. What would a "business performance optimization" group do, precisely, within an organization? Are these people financial analysts without portfolio? Are they Six Sigma black belts? Are they consultants? Based on the job title, it's difficult to know. It's not a place you want to be, even if it's part of the "centers of excellence" that Target is apparently trying to establish:
One of the ways [CEO Brian] Cornell has been trying to change the way Target’s headquarters does its work is by organizing seven “centers of excellence” that cross traditional business functions.

In addition to business performance optimization, the other centers are data analytics, customer experience, pricing and promotions, indirect sourcing and procurement, business development and integration, and enterprise items.
In the past, Target put a lot of attention on "customer experience" and was quite good at it, but they've lost their way in recent years. I'm not sure where logistics fits into this matrix, but it will always be Target's greatest challenge. Walmart has won the day because no one is better at getting the product to the point of sale. It's a behind the scenes activity, but it's all that really matters. You can't sell what you can't provide and when I walk into a Target store these days, I see too many out-of-stocks.

Corporate America is a ruthless place. A guy with a spreadsheet and a desire to make his bonus can wreak havoc on a lot of lives. I've experienced this myself -- during my days at Bank of America, a financial analyst based in Charlotte decided that B of A should close its Minnesota operations because this market "wasn't in footprint." It didn't particularly matter that our loan center was outperforming every other loan center in the country. It didn't matter that B of A spent considerable sums on relocation for some and severance pay for others. The person who made the decision didn't take any of that into consideration, because he didn't have to.

It is unfortunate when someone with a spreadsheet disrupts your life, but it can happen at any time. You can't take much for granted and there's no point in taking it personally. The good news for these latest ex-Targeteers is that they all likely have portable skills and there are still a lot of opportunities in this market. If they can explain what their business performance optimization skill set can do for a prospective employer, they should be just fine, eventually.

Charleston tragedy

Just a terrible story out of Charleston, SC:
Police are searching for a gunman who opened fire and killed nine people Wednesday night during a prayer service at a historic African American church in downtown Charleston, S.C., in one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in recent memory.

At least one other person was injured in the assault.

“I do believe this is a hate crime,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said at a late night news conference, without explaining the basis for his conclusion.

Police have launched a manhunt for the gunman, described as a clean-shaven white male in his early 20s, who has sandy blond hair and a small build. Police said he was wearing a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and Timberland boots. He is believed to be the only shooter. Officers in fatigues, some with K-9 dogs, said they were searching “near and far” for the gunman and pursuing “lots of tips.”
Not much to say about this case until we know more. If you're inclined, and I think most of you are, a prayer for the victims and their families seems in order.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mid-year recap

So I believe the head of the Spokane NAACP is in trouble for refusing to provide pizza catering for rural Indiana gay weddings and Brian Williams won the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics but now is known as Caitlyn. I think that's it.

Two unresolved matters

Getting rid of John Nienstedt doesn't end the problems for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I can think of two other cases that need resolution and both are going to be dilemmas for the archdiocese.

The first case to watch will be that of Fr. Michael Keating. Keating was the associate pastor at my old parish in the early 2000s and became a professor at St. Thomas later on. Keating came to the priesthood later in life — he was 46 when he was ordained — and he was considered a real superstar. He's a brilliant homilist, probably the best I've ever heard, and he was much beloved at St. Thomas. The accusations against him stem from a relationship he with a teenaged girl and date back to when he was still a seminarian. Keating is on a leave of absence from St. Thomas and he's fighting the lawsuit. It's going to be a he said/she said scenario for the most part; the interesting question is whether the Archdiocese will want Keating back if he prevails, given everything that's happened.

Another one to watch — the case of Fr. Mark Huberty. Huberty was charged with sexual misconduct because of a relationship with a adult female parishioner, but he won an acquittal from a jury in less than two hours. Although Huberty has been cleared of charges and at least some of his former parishioners want him back, the Archdiocese probably would rather have him move on, given the current environment.

Watch these cases carefully.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Nienstedt faces reality

In the end, crisis management isn't how you handle a moral crisis. It's taken the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis a long time to understand that message, but the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt, and his chief lieutenant, Bishop Lee Piche, makes clear that the time has come for change. The message is unmistakable, and it apparently came right from the top:
Nienstedt, for example, told the priests he had hoped to inform them in person about his resignation at an assembly in Rochester this week, “but the desire of the Holy See to announce this made it impossible to wait.”
Essentially, the Vatican showed up at Nienstedt's desk, handed him a few boxes, and told him to take his personal effects and leave. It's an unceremonious end to his time in St. Paul. I'm not sure who will replace Nienstedt, but it's likely to be a bishop who has little or connection to the archdiocese. It would be good to have a fresh start. In the short term, a bishop from Newark, Bernard Hebda, will take over on a temporary basis, but he'll be going back to Newark eventually. Most likely the Pope has a successor in mind; my guess is that it will be a bishop from a diocese in the Midwest, but not necessarily that close to the Twin Cities.

My take on the matter: while Nienstedt himself was not responsible for what happened before him, he did not do a good job of dealing with the crises he inherited. You can't put Leo Binz or John Roach in the dock for the malfeasance that happened on their watch, but it was incumbent upon him to take that history seriously and get to the bottom of it. Nienstedt never seemed to understand the gravity of that past and when the matter of Curtis Wehmeyer came to light, it was clear that Nienstedt wasn't going to figure it out. He had to go.

At this point, being a Catholic is a bit problematic. It's clear that a lot of the leaders of the Church aren't doing a good job. While I appreciate the reforms that Pope Francis is attempting, especially in dealing with the Curia, he's clearly got too much Argentina in him. But that's another post.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Archbishop resigns

The word just came out -- Archbishop Nienstedt is gone:
Archbishop John Nienstedt and a deputy bishop resigned Monday after prosecutors there charged the archdiocese with having failed to protect children from unspeakable harm from a pedophile priest.

The Vatican said Pope Francis accepted the resignations of Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche. They resigned under the code of canon law that allows bishops to resign before they retire because of illness or some other "grave" reason that makes them unfit for office.
I don't think getting rid of Nienstedt solves much of anything, but he really had no choice. We'll look at this development in greater detail in the coming days.

The endgame awaits

Talks between the Greeks and their creditors aren't going anywhere, so the endgame is coming:
Talks aimed at reaching an 11th-hour deal between Greek ministers and their bailout creditors collapsed on Sunday evening after a new economic reform proposal submitted by Athens was deemed inadequate to continue negotiations. 
The breakdown is the clearest sign yet that differences between the two sides may be too wide to breach, increasing the possibility that Athens will not secure the €7.2bn in bailout aid it needs to avoid defaulting on its debts — including a €1.5bn loan repayment due to the International Monetary Fund in just two weeks.
The Germans aren't amused, either:
In a sign of how far attitudes had shifted, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice-chancellor and head of the country’s Social Democratic party — long seen as a more conciliatory political group — penned an article for Monday’s daily Bild newspaper in which he warned patience towards Greece in Germany was running thin.

“The game theorists of the Greek government are in the process of gambling away the future of their country,” Mr Gabriel wrote, in a thinly veiled dig at Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister who is an expert on game theory. “Europe and Germany will not let themselves be blackmailed. And we will not let the exaggerated electoral pledges of a partly communist government be paid for by German workers and their families.“
Don't anger the Germans, people. It rarely ends well.

The lege goes home

The special session is over at the Minnesota legislature and the governor promises to sign all the bills:
Dayton said he will sign the agriculture and environment bill, even though he described it as “still a bad bill” and many DFL lawmakers opposed it. He said he regrets that it included the House GOP provision to eliminate the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board. Dayton said he will push to restore the board in 2017.

“It’s not going to set environmental progress back in Minnesota, because I won’t let it.”
So where do things stand now that the dust is settling? A few thoughts:

  • Kurt Daudt did a very good job. Yes, it would have been nice to secure a tax cut in this session and it would have been ideal to roll back spending, but that wasn't going to happen. Daudt held his ground on a gas tax increase and stopped Education Minnesota's hostile takeover of the preschool industry. Rebecca Otto now has to earn her keep. That's a pretty good record. He had to negotiate with Dayton and with Tom Bakk and held his own with both. I don't know of anyone else in the legislature who would have done a better job.
  • Tom Bakk is getting a lot of grumbling from the Metrocrats, but I suspect he'll be fine. Lori Sturdevant floated the idea of John Marty as a potential replacement for Bakk, but I don't see that happening. Bakk is a survivor.
  • Dayton is a lame duck. Will he take his ball and go home? We saw quite a lot of Tina Smith over the last month, which wasn't coincidental. I wouldn't be surprised if Dayton resigns before the lege returns to town next winter.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


So do you like standing naked in the public square? Because there's a decent chance you are:
The government employees described being in a “collective panic” about the hack of their personal data.

“You don’t understand how detailed the forms are. It’s over a hundred pages of you listing everything about yourself – who you are sleeping with, who your friends are – it’s like a cheat sheet to your life,” said a State Department employee in Washington D.C. “I just went and changed my bank password because part of it was my elementary school’s name, and that name is in my file.”

The 117-page questionnaire that all federal employees must complete upon being hired asks detailed questions about a new employees personal and private life. The questions, intended to insure that the employees do not have a conflict of interest and to allow the government to vet those around them, can be found online.

“It just seems like if there was ever anything that you should protect, it would be these files,” said the State Department employee.
I'm just waiting for the moment our gubmint announces that the Chinese have hacked the IRS.That'll be sweet.

By the way, this is yet another great reason to vote for a former secretary of state who conducted her business on an unsecured server.

Pretty Fly for a White Gal

Rachel, Rachel, I've been thinking:
Living a lie was full-time work for Rachel Dolezal, the Montana-born white woman who in recent years moved through the world as a black civil rights activist.

Dolezal, 37, head of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter since January, leaned on her two adoptive kid brothers — both African-American — to abet her long-running racial ruse.

She posted a picture of a black couple on her Facebook page, announcing them as her parents — while her real mom and pop were actually white and living in Montana.
So what's more amazing to you:

  • That people pretend to be something they're not?
  • That no one noticed that her Facebook pic came from Shutterstock?
  • That Spokane has an NAACP chapter?
In a world where Caitlyn Jenner dominates the headlines, it's difficult to get too worked up about this particular con woman. If her behavior is cool to the NAACP, or to her employer, Eastern Washington University, it should be cool for the rest of us. I will say this, however: the long-sacred notion of "authenticity" apparently no longer applies.

Jeff Hansen is safe

He has been found and he is safe. I don't know much more than that, but I'm not particularly concerned about the particulars at this point. I'll just go with Luke 11:32

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

Thank you for support and concern -- we take our joy where we can find it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Just askin'

It's not a good thing when Chinese hackers steal all your personal data, as the Associated Press reports:
A major federal union says the cyber theft of employee information is more damaging than it first appeared, asserting that hackers stole personnel data and Social Security numbers for every federal employee.

The Obama administration had acknowledged that up to 4 million current and former employees are affected by the December cyber breach of Office of Personnel Management data, but it had been vague about exactly what was taken.

But J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a letter Thursday to OPM director Katherine Archuleta that based on incomplete information OPM provided to the union, "we believe that the Central Personnel Data File was the targeted database, and that the hackers are now in possession of all personnel data for every federal employee, every federal retiree, and up to 1 million former federal employees."
Bad, indeed. But one thing goes without mention -- 4 million records? How many damned people are in the employ of the federal government? How many federal employees do we need?

Child protection

When I read things like this, I'm really glad my kids are older:
One afternoon this past April, a Florida mom and dad I'll call Cindy and Fred could not get home in time to let their 11-year-old son into the house. The boy didn't have a key, so he played basketball in the yard. He was alone for 90 minutes. A neighbor called the cops, and when the parents arrived—having been delayed by traffic and rain—they were arrested for negligence.

They were put in handcuffs, strip searched, fingerprinted, and held overnight in jail.

It would be a month before their sons—the 11-year-old and his 4-year-old brother—were allowed home again. Only after the eldest spoke up and begged a judge to give him back to his parents did the situation improve.
There's a lot more at the link.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Lightning Round -- 061115

Would like to send this weather to California. Instead, we'll just make it rain:

  • We may know something soon about Jeff Hansen, my friend who has been missing for three weeks. More as we know more, but we believe the news is good.
  • Either we have a budget deal, or we don't. Or we're not sure.
  • Free speech or threat? And doesn't the Justice Department have other things to do than to investigate anonymous web trolls?
  • I believe we're supposed to be alarmed by this -- apparently kids are getting poisoned by E-cigarette juice. It would be helpful to see some comparisons with the frequency of other types of poisoning, but you won't find it in the linked article.
  • The "worst case scenario" for the Middle East. I'm pretty sure it's already happening.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jeff Hansen is still missing

Three weeks now
The trail has been cold. We don't know what happened. It's possible that Jeff decided to go off the grid, I suppose. Sometimes middle-aged men do disappear. Jeff has faced plenty of demons in his life and has had setbacks, but he'd made a lot of progress in the last five years. What we do know is this -- there's an answer to the question of his disappearance. And we're still trying to find that answer. If you see Jeff, or have heard from him, contact the Hopkins Police Department at 952-938-8885.

My old school

Let's start with a little music.

Oleanders growing outside her door
Soon they're gonna be in bloom
Up in Annandale

In Mark Dayton's Minnesota, you need to choose your friends wisely. Apparently the folks in Annandale didn't make the right choice. Strib reporter Ricardo Lopez picks up the story:
Annandale was not the only casualty of a governor’s veto following the regular legislative session, but city officials there say their wound may have been politically motivated.

A small but growing city about an hour northwest of Minneapolis, Annandale has been desperate to upgrade its creaky Internet service, with connectivity so antiquated and unreliable that it goes dark up to five times a month for hours at a time, leaving local retailers unable to process credit card transactions.
Sounds like a problem, all right. Apparently, to get broadband, the folks in Annandale needed to hire a lobbyist to represent their interests.

Tried to warn you
About Chino and Daddy Gee
But I can't seem to get to you
Through the U.S. Mail

That's where it went wrong:
City officials met with Dayton’s chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, to plead their case. In a notarized letter obtained by the Star Tribune, Mayor Dwight Gunnarson and City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp wrote that the governor’s staff said they did not like earmarks.

But at one point in the meeting, city officials said, Tincher’s tone changed. According to the letter, Tincher looked at Dan Dorman, a former House Republican-turned lobbyist who was working with Annandale, and said, “Don’t forget, your firm spent an awful lot of time beating up on Democrats.”

An awkward pause followed. Dorman later said he was taken aback and told Tincher, “I don’t know how to respond to that.”
I'll bet. As an aside, Tincher is not just Dayton's chief of staff. She's also the wife of Adam Duinnick, Dayton's handpicked chairman of the Met Council. So let's just say she's got a little clout. Back to Lopez:
After the meeting, Gunnarson said in the letter that he asked Dorman about the remark. Dorman told the mayor that he thought it was rooted in a bonding analysis his firm, Flaherty and Hood, prepared that showed the bonding proposal favored the metro area. Flaherty and Hood represents a number of outstate jurisdictions.

“I asked if the citizens of Annandale were being punished because of this,” Gunnarson said in the letter, and Dorman replied that he thought so.

On Tuesday, Tincher acknowledged that she made the comment, but in a statement said: “It is completely false to suggest that opposition to Annandale’s earmark was politically motivated.” She added: “Our administration believes in a competitive process to distribute this funding and that it is wrong to allow one community to jump in front of others, simply because they have secured favor with a particular lawmaker.”
It's also worth remembering that the reason the Minnesota House is in Republican hands is that many parts of the state outside of the metro area sent Republicans to St. Paul. The source of DFL power is mostly in the metro area and, not surprisingly, the DFL pays attention to its clients.

So, does Annandale need the help? Back to Lopez:

In recent years, officials from Annandale have worked to improve their broadband network, which they describe as old and decaying.

Hinnenkamp said a local bus company recently tried to upload a document to send to a St. Cloud printing business, but “the upload speed was so slow it would be faster for them to drive the file there.”
Sounds quaint. Back to Lopez:
Annandale officials said they had applied for a grant through the state’s broadband office but heard in February that they were not awarded the funds. They were among 40 applicants for funding last year. Only 17 received funding. They met with officials from the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, the agency that administers the grants, to learn more about why they missed out on the funding. After two years of working the process with no success, they hired a lobbying firm to make their case directly to lawmakers.

“We need to do something for our community as soon as we possibly can,” Gunnarson said. “That’s the reason we went for the earmark.”
It's good to be the governor's chief of staff. It's also fun to pick winners and losers. Governments love doing that sort of thing. You hear politicians talk about rural broadband access from time to time, Back to Lopez:
Danna MacKenzie, executive director of the Office of Broadband Development, said her office opposed the earmark because many communities are in need of broadband development.

“We have met with this group many times and expressed support for the needs of their community,” she said. “We all understand their community does have problems with service … [but] so do many, many dozens of other communities in the state. Each one has a unique set of variables, and Annandale was one of those.”
So will Annandale get the support they need from the Office of Broadband Development, especially after making this particular exchange public? Just a guess:

California tumbles into the sea
That'll be the day I go
Back to Annandale

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Endless supply of goalposts

The focus group must have come back:
Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday surrendered in his fight to undo or delay a new law that strips much of the authority from the elected state auditor, likely clearing the way for a special legislative session soon to resolve the unfinished state budget.

With 9,400 state workers on notice for a July 1 temporary layoff in the absence of new budget bills, Dayton said in an afternoon news conference that he could no longer prolong the standoff with House Republicans over the auditor issue.
Dayton handled his capitulation with his usual grace and goodwill:
“I’ve learned before, I can never match the intransigence of Republican legislators,” Dayton said, specifically noting the 2011 partial state government shutdown that lasted three weeks until the DFL governor finally agreed to a budget that adhered to GOP demands.
Of course, Dayton had to move the goalposts again:
Dayton has not yet called a special session. He said three disagreements remain between him and House Republicans in the clutch of budget bills that would be up in the special session.

Specifically, Dayton wants $5 million total for two programs: one to help Minnesotans with disabilities find employment, the other to prevent homelessness among the mentally ill. He wants House Republicans to drop their insistence on cutting a tax incentive for people who power homes or businesses with solar or wind energy. And he’s seeking changes to a Senate DFL plan intended to help the taconite and forest products industries in northeastern Minnesota with utility rates, which he said would lower electric rates for large businesses at the expense of residential and small-business customers.
That last one seems like a poke in the eye to Tom Bakk, the leader of the DFL-controlled Senate, who has been mostly sitting on the sidelines in this round of negotiations. A few other thoughts:

  • The auditor issue is mostly amusing. The reason that Auditor Rebecca Otto is so worried is that her office probably can't compete with private auditing firms. Both Dayton and Arne Carlson held the auditor office before they became governor, so it's potentially a springboard to the higher office, but there's almost no chance that Otto, a time server with the charisma of a lint brush, would have much of a chance of following that path. If there were a more promising DFL figure in that office, I suspect Dayton's handlers would not have let him sign the bill. I can envision a role for the auditor's office that would mimic the role that James Nobles plays in the legislature, but at this point there's little reason for the office to exist as it performs now, as a backwater patronage holding pen. We did get rid of the state treasurer position a few years back, so eliminating a constitutional office is possible, despite what bien pensant and local media Rolodex pundit David Schultz thinks.
  • Speaking of handlers, have you noticed how prominent Lt. Governor Tina Smith is? You see her in nearly every Dayton photo opportunity these days. A lot of us on the starboard side have speculated that Dayton will not serve his entire term and it's quite interesting that Smith is so visible. I don't recall seeing Yvonne Prettner Solon, Smith's predecessor, standing next to Dayton at much of anything.
  • I remain impressed with Speaker Daudt, who has not taken the bait. He's a lot cooler customer than some of his predecessors in the Republican leadership. 

No plan

Good to know:
President Obama said Monday the United States does not have a complete plan to train and equip Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), saying Baghdad needs to show a greater commitment to building a fighting force. 
“We don’t yet have a complete strategy,” Obama told reporters during a news conference at the G-7 summit of leading industrial nations in Germany.

Obama’s comments are a surprising admission nine months into the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign against the terror group.
Are you surprised?

Monday, June 08, 2015

Still looking for Jeff Hansen

It has been three weeks since anyone has seen our friend, Jeff Hansen.

We're deeply concerned about him. While I am hopeful for a happy result, disappearing without a trace for nearly three weeks rarely leads to a happy result.

Jeff's daughter Molly offers the following details that might be helpful:

He lives in Hopkins, MN, and frequents Minnetonka; St. Louis Park; NE, Uptown, and Downtown Minneapolis; and Cedar-Riverside.

He went to college in Beloit, Wisconsin, and has family/friends in Green Bay, Oneida, Madison, Sun Prairie, and Milwaukee.

He went to grad school in Buffalo, New York, and has friends and connections in Albany, and Manhattan.

He is big into jazz and poetry. He frequently attends poetry readings, local bars, and jazz clubs. Favorite places of his include "Jazz Central Studios" and "New Bohemia" in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood, "Rudolph's Bar-B-Que" in Lowry Hill East, "Muddy Waters" in Uptown, "The Dakota Jazz Club" in Downtown, Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, The Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail, and The Minnesota Bluffs Regional Trail.

He is in a tough spot right now and really needs to be found.

If ANYONE has had ANY contact with him since the beginning of May, PLEASE let me and the Hopkins Police Department know. They can be reached at 952-938-8885.

If you have heard from Jeff, or have seen him, please let either Molly know, or call the Hopkins Police.

Neighbors VII

Water is an issue in New Brighton. Our neighbor to the east, the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, has been shuttered for years. The pollution left behind has been problematic ever since. The Army has been paying New Brighton for years because of the pollution that befouls the city water.

We heard a lot about the site a few years back when the Vikings were looking at it as a potential place to build their new pleasure dome. Faithful readers will recall that I wrote extensively about these developments. As usually happens, Minneapolis won the day and now the gigantic new stadium is rising on the site of the Metrodome. More to come.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

The only thing that matters

The Archdiocese is in the dock:
The Ramsey County attorney’s office filed criminal charges Friday against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for “failing to protect children” from an abusive priest, marking the first time that a U.S. archdiocese has been criminally charged for such offenses.

The charges stem from the archdiocese’s oversight failures regarding former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is now serving a prison term. Wehmeyer sexually abused two boys in 2010 — at times plying them with alcohol and showing them pornography — while he was pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul.
No individual charges are made at this point. That's the larger question. If a crime occurred, individuals committed the crimes. Does the county attorney believe he can convict Archbishop Nienstedt, or his predecessor Archbishop Flynn?

Friday, June 05, 2015

Keep an eye out for Jeff Hansen

My friend Jeff Hansen has gone missing. He was last seen in his apartment in Hopkins on May 20. Here is a picture of Jeff:

Not seen since May 20
I first met Jeff in college and have known him for over 30 years. He's a brilliant man and an accomplished poet, writer, essayist and critic. He has published the online journal Altered Scale and has been an active figure in the poetry scene here in the Twin Cities and a regular denizen of the jazz clubs in town. While Jeff has battled a few demons over the years, it's alarming that he hasn't been in contact with anyone for this long. If you have any idea where he is, please contact the Hopkins Police Department or his daughter, Molly McGuire.

I blame George W. Bush

The nightmare never ends:
China-based hackers are suspected of breaking into the computer networks of the U.S. government personnel office and stealing identifying information of at least 4 million federal workers, American officials said Thursday.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that data from the Office of Personnel Management and the Interior Department had been compromised.

"The FBI is conducting an investigation to identify how and why this occurred," the statement said.
I'm certain that no one is more upset about this than Barack Obama. No one, dammit, no one.


This story has been making the rounds in recent days:
Parents of students at a small Minneapolis private school are demanding the director resign after she led a field trip to a shop that sells sex toys and adult novelties.

“We are not happy with what happened,” said Steve Strawmatt, who has already removed his 10-year-old son from the school.

Strawmatt issued a statement on behalf of about nine sets of parents of kids at Gaia Democratic School who are outraged that director Starri Hedges took about a dozen middle- and high-school-age students to the Smitten Kitten late last week as part of a sex education course.
So you send your kid to something called "Gaia Democratic School" and you expect what, traditional pedagogy? Due diligence, people.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

How we measure progress

Gotta save money:
Community leaders are closing in on options needed to chop $341 million from the Southwest Corridor light-rail line plans by July.

On Wednesday, city and county leaders assessed the possible cuts and the big question: Where to end the line? The group informally dismissed two of four scenarios that would end the line at two stations in Eden Prairie because they wouldn’t save enough money in the $2 billion transit project and would disproportionately affect the southwestern suburb.
Where to end the line, you ask? How about at Target Field?

But they're making progress, doncha know:
It was an important step forward,” said Adam Duininck, who chairs the Metropolitan Council and the committee. “And we’re helping lay a good framework.”
Yep, real progress:
No decisions were made at Wednesday’s meeting, and no options have been formally rejected. The group will meet again on June 24 to continue whittling down ideas before a scheduled July 1 vote.
That's not precisely true, since the option that has been formally rejected is not building the damned thing in the first place.

Good times

Remember this outrageous outrage?

Congressman Joe Wilson got himself good and excoriated for saying that Barack Obama was a liar. Wilson was talking about illegal aliens undocumented workers our neighbors benefiting from what would eventually become known as Obamacare. Well, let's see:
The state Senate on Tuesday approved a hotly debated measure that would allow many immigrants in the state illegally to sign up for special healthcare programs that would offer the same benefits as Medi-Cal.

The action comes just days after lawmakers significantly scaled back the plan, which originally would have offered state-subsidized Medi-Cal to people in the country without authorization. 
State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said his proposal provides “what we can realistically achieve now” for the estimated 2 million people in the state illegally.

“We are talking about our friends. We are talking about our neighbors and our families who are denied basic healthcare in the richest state of this union,” Lara told his colleagues.
Good times.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

I appreciate his honesty

Sheldon Whitehouse is a sitting U.S.senator. It's important to keep this in mind:
Fossil fuel companies and their allies are funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution.

Their activities are often compared to those of Big Tobacco denying the health dangers of smoking. Big Tobacco’s denial scheme was ultimately found by a federal judge to have amounted to a racketeering enterprise.
Often? Really? Go on.
The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.

Thankfully, the government had a playbook, too: the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil RICO lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups, alleging that the companies “engaged in and executed — and continue to engage in and execute — a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO.”
So, if you are skeptical of the scientific claims concerning climate, RICO might be the solution. Get your mind right, kids. Get your mind right.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Oh, yay

Meanwhile, things aren't getting better in Greece:
Greek premier Alexis Tsipras has accused Europe's creditor powers of issuing "absurd demands" and come close to warning that his far-Left government will detonate a pan-European political and strategic crisis if pushed any further.

Writing for Le Monde in a tone of furious defiance after the latest set of talks reached an impasse, Mr Tsipras said the eurozone's dominant players were by degrees bringing about the "complete abolition of democracy in Europe" and were ushering in a technocratic monstrosity with powers to subjugate states that refuse to accept the "doctrines of extreme neoliberalism".

"For those countries that refuse to bow to the new authority, the solution will be simple: Harsh punishment. Judging from the present circumstances, it appears that this new European power is being constructed, with Greece being the first victim," he said.

The Greek leader, head of the radical-Left Syriza government, issued a stark warning that his country will not submit to these demands and will instead take action "to entirely transform the economic and political balances throughout the West."
Extreme neoliberalism? That's a new one. I think that's Michael Kinsley dipped in Sriracha.

It's tough to say how much of this is brinksmanship, but watch carefully.

All righty, then

Jump that shark:
Caitlyn Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at this year’s ESPY awards, ESPN confirmed on Monday.
Kim Howe had no comment.


I can only assume the polling didn't come back as expected:
Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt agreed Monday on a two-year education spending target, resolving the most significant issue of an impasse between the DFL governor and House Republican leadership.

The deal should pave the way for a final accord in the coming days and ratification in a special legislative session as early as Thursday or Friday, averting a shutdown of several state departments and agencies at the end of this month.
Why would one assume the polling came back poorly for the DFL?
“I have no intention to see this go to a June 30 showdown and a possible shutdown. I’m not going to subject people to that,” Dayton said, referring to the 30-day layoff notices the state issued to 9,400 employees on Monday. 
Translation -- I can't get by with blaming the Republicans for this one, even though I tried. Once the special session takes place, we'll revisit the issue. For now, let's just say that Speaker Daudt did a better job than some of his predecessors, especially in the public relations game, since he didn't take the bait.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Neighbors VI

New Brighton has a downtown, or so we are told, but it's easy to miss. The area near the intersection of Old Highway 8 and 10th Street is where you find City Hall and the police and fire departments, along with the New Brighton Family Service Center, a multiuse building that holds a branch of the Ramsey County Library, the Eagles Nest indoor playground and an exercise facility, among other things. There are also a few shops in a suburban office park-style setting. You can get a haircut in downtown New Brighton, and a sandwich, and maybe some financial advice. But you wouldn't find any of the hallmarks of a traditional downtown there; no department stores, no hotels, no traditional storefronts. The largest facilities in the area are St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and a large apartment building about two blocks to the south.

The level of traffic you see in the area is far less than what you find in other parts of town. You find significantly more commerce and businesses along Silver Lake Road, which is a half-mile to the west. In short, it's a downtown in name only. More to come.

Touch of Evil

Not many people have seen Touch of Evil, the Orson Welles film from 1958 featuring Charlton Heston as a Mexican narcotics officer with an American wife, played by Janet Leigh. Much of the plot concerns events along the border, especially the amazing opening shot of a bomb that is planted on the Mexican side of the border that goes off on the U.S. side. The Heston character, in the course of investigating the crime, discovers that Hank Quinlan, and aging, cynical police captain played by Welles, makes a habit of planting evidence to gain convictions. The opening tracking shot is one of the most famous in the history of film:

While the circumstances aren't the same, by any means, the spirit of Hank Quinlan is alive and well in Orange County, California (h/t Gino):
On October 12, 2011, Orange County experienced the deadliest mass killing in its modern history. Scott Dekraai killed 8 people, including his ex-wife, in a Seal Beach beauty salon. He was arrested wearing full body armor just a few blocks away. Without a doubt, Dekraai was the perpetrator. A dozen surviving witnesses saw him. He admitted to the shooting early on. Yet, nearly four years later, the case against him has all but fallen apart.

It turns out that prosecutors and police officers committed an egregious violation of Dekraai's rights—so much so that Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals shocked everyone and removed the Orange County District Attorney's Office, and all 250 prosecutors, from having anything more to do with the case.
What happened? Well, it turns out that Orange County has a way to get evidence that's not exactly above board:
It turns out that Orange County has a secret system of evidence manufacturing and storage that they have used in countless cases, and the collusion is unraveling dozens of cases and may soon unravel the careers of countless prosecutors and law enforcement officers who've maintained it for decades. It's called TRED.
How it works: Dekraai was placed in a cell next to a jailhouse informant, who just happened to be there and was all too willing to testify against Dekraai. This was, apparently, a common practice in Orange County, a way of getting testimony from defendants while their lawyers weren't available. Not surprisingly, prosecutors and law enforcement concealed the practice from the lawyers who were representing the defendants, to say nothing judges and juries who were involved in the cases.

This is a despicable practice for a number of reasons, but what's most irritating is that it's just laziness. In the Dekraai case, there is circumstantial evidence galore and a ton of eyewitness testimony. But to cinch the deal, the prosecution used the tainted evidence and that calls the entire result into question. Worse, there's a decent chance that Dekraai may walk because of the prosecutorial misconduct. And there was no need for it.

There's a lot more at the link, which comes from the Daily Kos. While I don't give Daily Kos much credit for their political analysis, I tend to trust this account. We can't have any Hank Quinlans in law enforcement.