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

Neighbors

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.

Heh

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 “hrod17@clintonemail.com” 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 “hrod17@clintonemail.com” 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:

Indiscriminate
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.

Gasbag

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.