Arguing With Fundamentalists

The “progressive” belief that human activity is, by itself, warming the planet is on par with the fundamentalist Christian belief that the early is 6,000-odd years old; the evidence is decidedly shaky, but it’s hard to argue with them about it, due to their tendency to call you ugly names when you disagree.

Fred Hiatt of the WaPo – published in the Strib, naturally – asks “How does one have discourse with deniers?

The answer for normal people is “civilly”.

The climate-change denialism is a newer part of the catechism.

Just a few years ago, leading Republicans — John McCain, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty among them — not only accepted global warming as real but supported some kind of market-based mechanism to raise the cost of burning fossil fuels.

Now polls show declining numbers of Republicans believing in climate change, and a minority of those believing humans are at fault, so the candidates are scrambling to disavow their past positions.

Call it “growing in office”.

Palin, who as Alaska governor supported efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, in 2009 wrote in the Washington Post, “But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can’t say with assurance that man’s activities cause weather changes.”

Pawlenty similarly acknowledged on “Meet the Press” last year that “the climate is changing,” but added that “the more interesting question is how much of that is man-made versus natural causes.”

When I asked last week how Pawlenty would answer that “interesting question,” his spokesman responded by e-mail: “We don’t know the cause of climate change.”

Of course, we don’t go to politicians for answers to complex scientific questions.

Any more than you should go to agenda-driven journalists:

Climate science is complex, and much remains to be learned. But if you asked 1,000 scientists, 998 of them would say that climate change is real and that human activity — the burning of oil, gas and coal — is a significant contributor.

The idea that “two out of a thousand scientists” “deny” global warming in the same sense that “evolution is just a theory, meaning it’s not real!”.

It’s just those pesky agnostics, to Hiatt:

As the polls on climate change shift, he talks about green jobs and energy independence instead of global warming, as if there’s nothing out there but pain-free, win-win solutions.

To say that Republican irresponsibility makes it more difficult for Democrats to speak honestly is not an excuse. But it is a partial explanation.

If you change a few words, it’s a bit like reading Jimmy Swaggart.

The Party Line

The Strib editorial board takes a whack at balancing the state budget.

And it makes some of the noises you’d expect of an editorial board that trends left, but like most media makes noises of “bipartisanship” and defers to “process”:

Sharing the burden of hard times comes naturally in Minnesota.

That value is preached from the state’s pulpits, is reinforced by a highly inclusive democracy and is demonstrated through countless personal acts each day.

Shared sacrifice should be the overriding principle for Gov. Mark Dayton and the 2011 Legislature as they complete the work of balancing the state budget in the next month.

Here’s the problem; if you read their budget proposal, everyone “shares” the “sacrifice”…

…except the group that caused the problem.

The Government.

Read and decide for yourself.

The Jack Bauer Medal With Chuck Norris Clusters

Unarmed British soldier captures Taliban leader and bombmaker by ripping him off a passing motorcycle and beating him down:

Private Lee Stephens, from Solihull, central England, gave chase to the insurgent before jumping out of his tank and grabbing him from a speeding motorbike as he made his getaway, close to the town of Gereshk, southern Afghanistan.

Private Stephens said that he “goose necked” the man, grabbing him around the neck and dragging him towards his vehicle.

“I jumped out off the wagon and I grabbed the geezer,” Private Stephens said. “It was one left, two right fists. That was it. No weapons, just my hands.”

The captured man turned out to be a bomb maker and the highest ranking Taliban captured by regular British forces.

I hope the Minneapolis Police hire the guy and put him on downtown skateboard patrol.

Instrumentation

Let’s say you need to measure the presence of a chemical in the atmosphere.   Since we’re talking politics, let’s say that chemical is methane gas.

You’ve been smelling methane in the air (because there are politicians nearby, or so you’re told).

You have a methane gauge.  You look at its specs; it says its sensitivity is down to 10 parts per million – which is fairly sensitive.  You take a measurement, and the gauge says zero.

Does it mean that there’s no methane in the atmosphere?

Or does it mean that there are 9.985 parts per million, which is just a tad too low for your gauge’s sensitivity?  Because if that’s the case, then your measurement does not mean there’s no methane – it means your instrumentation can’t detect it.

The point:  if you’re trying to measure something, your results will only be as valid as your instrumentation is sensitive.

Via Gary Gross, we see that Washington County is running a vote fraud investigation, focusing for the most part on 11 felons (so far) trying to vote even though they haven’t gotten that right restored.  There are other items of interest, of course:

[A WashCo prosecutor] said two more people were being charged late Tuesday afternoon. And there were other cases still being investigated. Investigators were also looking into allegations that the same person voted in both Wisconsin and Minnesota in the 2010 election.

Now, with the Voter ID bill coursing its way through the GOP-controlled legislature, the assembled Twin Cities leftymedia has been taking their shots at Voter ID and, more germanely (since 26 states already require some sort of ID to vote including “proressive” cesspools like Hawaii, Michigan, Connecticut,, Delaware and Washington, and two more will require it by New Years, and democracy seems to be standing) the notion that there is just no need for it because “Minnesota elections are already free of fraud”.

From the U of M’s Minnesota Daily:

Supporters claim requiring a photo ID to vote is crucial to prevent voter fraud and ensure the reliability of Minnesota’s voting system. But voter fraud is an extremely minor problem in Minnesota. In 2008, of the almost 3 million ballots cast in Minnesota, there were a grand total of 47 people charged with voter fraud, only four of which were charges of double voting.

Remember the methane gauge?

If you measure convictions, you’re measuring the extent to which county prosecutors and police troubled themselves to investigate claims of voter fraud.  Those 47 chargers of voter fraud were what remained from hundreds of cases referred to them in one county, Ramsey, by the Minnesota Majority.  Those 47 cases were the slam-dunk, open-and-shut cases where a felon had signed a piece of paper saying they acknowledged that they knew they had to stay out of polling places, and that they’d be breaking the law if they tried.

For the rest?  It happens that voter fraud is one of the areas where ignorance of the law is a defense; saying “I didn’t know”, and not having a parole form acknowledging that y9u really did know, is enough to make a county prosecutor close the folder and say “Well, fair enough then!”

Don’t try that with a parking ticket.

So Mark Rithie can say “there are only 47 cases of fraud” with a straight face – because, like the methane gauge, the system isn’t designed to detect and deal with fraud.

And saying “we have no fraud” is the same as our friend at the top of the article saying “we have no methane”.

Trump, The Media, and Bandwagons

For background, I’ll refer you to…:

The Huckabee Corollary the McCain Corolloary To Berg’s Eleventh Law: The Republican that the media covers most intensively before the nomination for any office will be the one that the liberals know they have the best chance of beating after the nomination, and/or will most cripple the GOP if nominated.

If you’re like me, you looked at the polls “showing” Donald Trump “leading” the GOP field and thought “Huckabee Corollary!”.

Nate Silver – fresh from playing a role in engineering the DFL’s “Bandwagon Effect” in the Minnesota gubernatorial election last year – notices the media blitz on Trump without, I suspect, getting the “Why“:

One of the few pieces of statistical evidence that we can look toward at this early stage of the presidential campaign is the number of media hits that each candidate is receiving. Apart from being interesting unto itself, it’s plausible that this metric has some predictive power. At this point in 2007, Barack Obama and John McCain were receiving the most coverage among the Democratic and Republican candidates respectively, and both won their races despite initially lagging in the polls.

In contrast to four years ago, however, when the relative amount of media coverage was fairly steady throughout the campaign, there have already been some dramatic shifts this year. Sarah Palin’s potential candidacy, for instance, is only receiving about one-fifth as much attention as it did several months ago.

In the past, I’ve usually used Google News to study these questions, but I’ve identified another resource — NewsLibrary.com — that provides more flexibility in search options and more robustness in its coverage. (One problem with counting things on Google is that the number of hits can vary fairly dramatically from day to day, for reasons I don’t entirely understand.)

(Another downside to Google News: it seriously overweights the left).

I’ve counted the number of times on NewsLibrary.com in which the candidate’s name appeared in the lead paragraph of the article, and a select combination of words appeared down in the article body. In particular, I’ve looked for instances in which any combination of the words “president”, “presidential” or “presidency” appeared, as well as any of the words “candidate”, “candidacy”, “campaign”, “nomination” or “primary.”

The idea is to identify cases in which a candidate was the main focus of the article (as opposed to being mentioned in passing) and when the article was about the presidential campaign itself (as opposed to, say, Mr. Trump’s reality show). The technique isn’t perfect — there are always going to be a few “false positives” from out-of-context hits — but it ought to be a reasonably good benchmark for the amount of press attention that each candidate is getting.

And the results?

So far this month, however, Ms. Palin has accounted for just 124 hits out of 1,090 total, or roughly 11 percent. Instead, her place has been taken by Mr. Trump, who has accounted for about 40 percent of the coverage.

The decline in media coverage for Ms. Palin tracks with a decline in her polling numbers. Whereas she was pulling between 15 and 20 percent of the Republican primary vote in polls conducted several months ago, she’s down to about 10 percent in most surveys now.  Mr. Trump, meanwhile, whose media coverage has increased exponentially, has surged in the polls, and is essentially in a three-way tie for the lead with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee over an average of recent surveys.

Hm.  What do you suppose the odds were that the mainstream media would pump the hell out of a buffoonish cartoon like Trump at the expense of the serious GOP candidates?

After the MN Gubernatorial election we noted that  the “Bandwagon Effect” is known to have an effect on election turnout,  shown in academic studies on the subject.  As studied, it’s a negative effect – people are less likely to turn out for candidates that the media says are getting drubbed in the polls (like the Humphrey Institute’s polling last fall, which showed Emmer near-tie race as a 12 point loss with all-too-convenient timing.

So why would the media not be building up Trump as a “force to be reckoned with”?  It’s a win/win for the Media and the Democrats (pardon the redundancy); as long as Trump is pictured as a contender, GOP candidates have to waste time and money fighting the strawman with the bad combover.  And if by some freak of fate he gets the nomination (he won’t, because he’s no conservative, but let’s run with it) the media will tear him down promptly, because – let’s be honest – that’s what he’s there for.

This blog will be watching the libs/media and their bandwagonning over the next year and a half.  It’ll be a growth industry.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Here’s what MNDOT spends your tax dollars on; the state telling cities what kinds of signs they can plant along the road:

Two new signs along Highway 57 on either end of town say it all: “Welcome to Historic Mantorville.” The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) “outdoor advertising control agent” who recently conducted a drive-by state sign inspection may have worn out his welcome, however, after notifying city hall that three older signs along the state highway in this small, southeastern Minnesota town violate state regulations and must go, including one for the community’s annual Marigold Days celebration.

“It’s like his job to go around and look at signs,” said Camille Reger, Mantorville city clerk. “I’m just surprised that after how long [the sign] it’s been there that they’re cracking down now. What’s the reason behind it? “

Possible reasons:

a) The state’s roads are in such fantastic shape that MNDOT finally worked its way down to “The Mantorville Signs” crisis.

b) Someone finally got around to it.

c) MNDOT needs to gin up more work for itself, to justify more spending.  To justify more budget.  To justify taxing your sorry ass back to the 1970′s.

State regulations allow cities to post identification signs on state highways at each entrance to town. For years the Marigold Days signs informally served that purpose for Mantorville—until the new welcome signs were erected in 2010. According to a city employee, a MnDOT road sign inspector recently reclassified one of the Marigold Days signs as an advertisement that he believes is also in the right of way. This, despite the fact that the offending sign has been in place for at least 20 years. MnDOT ordered city employees to remove the sign.

Isn’t this a sign that Minnesota has just too damn much government?

Banking On Outcomes

It’s the most iron-clad law in economics; you an not make people to pay more or less for a good or service than the market will bear without distorting the market.  If you force people to pay less than the market would dictate – “artificially lower the price” – the supply vanishes;  if you artificially raise the price, you get an oversupply (and build a black market).

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit iterated the idea to tie it to our last, and most likely our next, bubbles:

“The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.”

Joe Doakes, who lives in the Como Park, works in the real estate business.  And he notes a real-life example of this in Saint Paul.  His example cuts close to home; it’s the foreclosure of a Habitat for Humanity project that I believe I worked on with a previous employer.

And as I put up the fiberglass insulation batts, I thought about the financials involved.  There was a lot of money going into this house – vastly, vastly more than it was going to “sell” for.  And for all that, to my admittedly financially-unsophisticated mind, it seemed like a real house of cards, all dependent on someone whom the credit industry (also admittedly not my favorite people in the world) wouldn’t deem a great credit risk somehow not only becoming a great credit customer, but riding out an economic downturn (which some saw coming, and some studiously ignored).

In this case, it certainly didn’t work:

The sale closed in April 2009 for $153,000. The purchaser gave Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity a first mortgage for $104,040; a second mortgage for $48,960; a “forgivable” third mortgage for $6,000 (doesn’t have to repay if lives there 10 years); and gave a $10,000 fourth mortgage to Housing and Redevelopment Authority of the City of Saint Paul, for a total debt of $168,000, which is $15,000 more than the purchase price and plainly was enough to cover closing costs, taxes, fees, etc.

The owner walked into that house cheaper than s/he could have gotten into [a typical St. Paul-area apartment] – nothing out of pocket, not even a security deposit!

By July 2009, the homeowners association slapped a lien on the townhouse for unpaid monthly association dues, $1,800.

By April 2010, just one year after the closing, the property went into foreclosure. It has not resold, it’s sitting empty, bank-owned.

Now, I’m not going to pick on Habitat itself.  But Joe’s example shows a microcosm of the madness of America’s entitlement culture; subsidizing the “Middle Class” as a destination is like putting money down on a hotel room in Disneyland when you can’t pay for the gas to get there.

Krugman Is The Last Refugee Of Duh

Paul Krugman, four days ago, saying civility is not so important, in a piece called “Civility Is The Last Refuge Of Scoundrel”…:

The easy, and perfectly fair, shot is to talk about the hypocrisy here; where were all the demands for civility when Republicans were denouncing Obama as a socialist, accusing him of creating death panels, etc..? Why is it OK for Republicans to accuse Obama of stealing from Medicare, but not OK for Obama to declare, with complete truthfulness, that those same Republicans are trying to dismantle the whole program?

Beyond that, are we dealing with children here? Is one of our two major political parties run by people so immature that they will refuse to do what the country needs because the president hasn’t been nice to them?

Paul Krugman last January, re the Giffords shooting:

We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. (Her father says that “the whole Tea Party” was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous “crosshairs” list.

Just yesterday, Ezra Klein remarked that opposition to health reform was getting scary. Actually, it’s been scary for quite a while, in a way that already reminded many of us of the climate that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing.

You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.

Krugman’s message; be civil.  To Democrats.

Just Keep Repeating It To Yourself

“Obama is fiscally resonsible.  Obama is Fe fiscally responsible…:”

Federal borrowing is on pace to hit the legal limit on the national debt in less than a week.

“Obama is fiscally resonsible.”

As set in a law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 12, 2010, the legal limit on the national debt is $14.2940 trillion. As of the close of business Tuesday, according to the Daily Treasury Statement released at 4:00 pm today, the portion of the national debt subject to this legal limit was $14.268365 trillion. (The total national debt, including the portion exempted from the legal limit, was $14.3205 trillion.)

“Obama is fiscally resonsible. Obama is fiscally resonsible. Obama is fiscally resonsible.”

Keep repeating it until it’s true.

It might happen in January of 2013.

Sliding Into History

Back in college in North Dakota, I first encountered White Castle on a bitterly cold January Friday night.  A bunch of students from Chicago decided they’d gone long enough without “sliders”.  A few of them decided they’d undertake the sixteen-hour one-way trip back to Chi to get some, and maybe bring some back.   Helpfully, a Minneapolis kid told them there were Castles in the Twin Cities, cutting the trip in much less than half. So they took off, around 11PM.  And came back early the next afternoon, happy.

There are two morals to that story:

  • College kids in North Dakota in the 1980′s who didn’t have girlfriends or parties on the agenda could go really stir crazy.
  • White Castle generates incredible customer loyalty.

One of my English professors, Dr. Brucker, had White Castle as a hobby.  He somehow had wangled a subscription to the White Castle in-house magazine, and knew more White Castle trivia than anyone seemed to need.

I didn’t actually eat one myself until I moved to the Twin Cities.  The Sunday after I moved into my first apartment, not far off of East Lake Street, I wandered up to Lake and 36th, and saw the white tile cube, and figured it was worth a try.

I ordered four cheese sliders and a coke, and sat down.  A few moments later, as I was waiting for my order, a big fella – probably 6’2 and 350 pounds – walked in and loudly and sloppily proclaimed “I just got paid!  Gimme thirty sliders and a large Coke!”.  As I sampled my first sliders – yum! – I watched, just a tad amazed, as the big guy bolted the whole order down and staggered up the street.

Thanksgiving Dinner, in some parts of Chicago.

And back when I was producing the Don Vogel show?  We marked all major celebrations – good ratings books, last days before fun vacations, whatever – with Don flipping me a $20 and sending me to the ‘Castle on White Bear Avenue for sliders and scabs for the whole crew.

Anyway – White Castle just turned 90:

The restaurant chain, famous for its original sliders, first opened its doors March 10, 1921, in Wichita, Kan. The now Columbus, Ohio-based company is family-owned and does not franchise. It also owns its own meat production facilities and bakeries to ensure quality control.

“White Castle is proud to be 90 years young,” said Jamie Richardson, vice president of corporate and government relations. “Since 1921, White Castle has remained true to its original mission and values. Our name says it all — White signifying purity and Castle signifying strength and permanence.”

I do about 1-2 trips a year to White Castle.  One thing that has changed; 25 years ago, it used to be entertaining to watch the guys behind the grill stuffing sliders into the little cardboard boxes like Las Vegas card dealers, banging through a couple a second.  I haven’t seen that in a long time…

Anyway – gassy-but-happy America salutes you, White Castle!

Shrieking Until They Pass Out

Thesis:  When leftybloggers can’t manage a logical argument or, often as not, when the DFL’s press releases haven’t told them how to respond in any other way, then it’s off to the name-calling.

They’re not even especially creative about it.  Have you noticed how many conservatives are “Whiners!”, are “Having a Meltdown!” or are “Freaking Out!”, or “Having a Cow”, in the leftybloggers’ odd little language?

When I saw that “Phoenix Woman” from Mercury Rising had written snivelled like a “Real Housewife of Orange County” who’d gotten a Cadillac instead of a Bentley that “Republicans Are Whiners“, referring to my post the other day that noted that Tea Party turnout last Saturday was low, likely, because it was 33 degrees at noon with a howling north wind, I did what I do whenever “Phoenix” writes something; checked Cucking Stool.  Because there seems to be an incredible degree of synchronicity between the two blogs’ efforts.  Simply incredible.

Sure enough, Kackel Dackel “Spotty” at The Stool had – mirabile dictu - nearly the same premise.  He wrote sniveled like a  prison shower-room boytoy that’d just been passed around a bunch of Aryan Brothers:

With all the whining and bleating bla bla bla teabagger teabagger teabagger bla bla lawn-chair patriots yadda yadda…

The leftyblogs and the media – pardon the redundancy – are taking off their clothes and smearing themselves with excrement and falling into catatonic states because they’ve been told that the movement that destroyed them at the polls five months ago, and that all  the GOP candidates are courting, and that has Amy “Ms. Safe Seat” Klobuchar and Barack “The One” Obama making all sorts of fiscally-responsble, spending-hawk-y noises, has somehow “died”.

Now, “Spotty” pointed out shrieked his larynx into hamburger while bashing his head against the sidewalk that while “only” 150-200 conservatives braved the “cold” to come to the Saint Paul protest, and 300 people turned out to see Michele Bachmann in gorgeous weather in South Carolina, the union protesters in Wisconsin turned out in huge numbers on some mighty cold days in Wisconsin.

He probably didn’t realize it, but he pretty much proved my point.

If you believe in stereotypes – and let’s consider the targets of this post, hey?  – then you accept that conservatives are not “demonstrators”.  We just don’t naturally gravitate toward group protests.  So when 600,000 turned out on Tax Day right after the Obamascenscion, and millions last year after the passing of Obamacare, it was big news; conservatives motivated to come out by an immediate crisis.

Sort of like Wisconsin‘s Madison and Milwaukee’s protesters.   People react to immediate events.

So you can assume, against all actual political evidence, that the movement is collapsing.  Or you can remember that in Saint Paul and South Carolina and across the nation conservatives – the Tea Party – had just won crushing victories, flipping both houses and leaving Mark Dayton impotent and adrift in Saint Paul and likely setting the stage for bigger victories after redistricting, and taking the trifecta in South Carolina.  The crisis isn’t over, not by a long shot, but we blunted it.  And so as of last Saturday, there was just no immediate crisis at hand, and people did other things with their Saturday.   Does it mean they won’t turn up at the polls next year?

You could remember, if you can accept a little more “whining”, that some of the same people were doing their end-zone happy dances about this time last year; the Tea Party rally in Saint Paul was about 1/3 the size of the 2009 rally.

And we know how that turned out, right?

(No, it’s a serious question.  For all I know, they think last November was just a bunch of whining too…)

Scenes From The American Greece

McDonalds’ hiring spree yesterday had many, many thousands of takers.  Mac’s planned to hire 50,000 people yesterday:

McDonald’s didn’t have a complete count on how many applicants showed up Tuesday, but so many arrived on some local McDonald’s doorsteps that restaurant owners were nearly overwhelmed.

“At one point, we had 120 people outside the door, but we were able to get all 120 interviewed,” said Courtney Ristuben at her Citrus Heights location on Sunrise Boulevard and Old Auburn Road [in Sacramento, California].

Halfway through her four-hour afternoon hiring session, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Ristuben and her team had seen 300 job seekers. She anticipated another 300 by dinner time.

The average restaurant nationwide planned on hiring 3-4 new workers.

“We’ve seen 15- and 16-year-olds looking for their first job to people 50, 55 and over, first-time high schoolers to 20 years’ experience looking for anything we have to offer,” Ristuben said.

It’s a sobering sign of the times in Sacramento and across the country.

By all means, let’s jack up taxes!

The Fourth Amendment Is For Pansies

Michgan state troopers are downloading peoples’ “smart phone” info during routine traffic stops:

ACLU learned that the police had acquired the cell phone scanning devices and in August 2008 filed an official request for records on the program, including logs of how the devices were used. The state police responded by saying they would provide the information only in return for a payment of $544,680. The ACLU found the charge outrageous.

To be fair, the ACLU were lucky the Michigan State Police didn’t put them in cuffs first.

“Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide,” ACLU staff attorney Mark P. Fancher wrote. “No less should be expected of law enforcement, and the Michigan State Police should be willing to assuage concerns that these powerful extraction devices are being used illegally by honoring our requests for cooperation and disclosure.”

A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.

“Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags,” a CelleBrite brochure explains regarding the device’s capabilities. “The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps.”

The idea that any contact with the police is “probable cause” for losing all your rights needs to be revisited.  In some places, some cops and prosecutors are running completely amok.

What Do You Suppose The Odds Were?

The office of the effort to recall one of the Fleebaggers has been burgled (emphasis added):

Green Bay police are investigating an apparent break-in at the office of the “Recall Dave Hansen”effort at 1136 W. Mason St.

Petitions, a computer and T-shirts were among the items reported stolen, police said.

I know that when I’m looking to score crack money, nothing draws my eye like page after page of signatures.

The Democratic state senator is among the lawmakers being targeted in recall efforts stemming from Wisconsin’s ongoing budget controversy.

The burglar or burglars broke a window to make entry, police said. The incident occurred between 5 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday, police Lt. David Paral said.

Organizers of the effort, in an email to media, blamed the break-in on “the (opposition) of ‘Recall Dave Hansen.’” Police said they did not have descriptions of suspects.

Total value of the missing items is slightly more than $1,000, Paral said.

Or, depending on how you view Wisconsin politics, several billion dollars.

Of course, we don’t know it was Wisconsin Democrats or Union supporters that pulled off the heist.

Really.  It could be a crack addict who figured she could pawn stacks of signatures.  Maybe she thought they were Packer autographs.

Hey, it could be.

The Dayton Dustbowl: Welcome To Mark Dayton’s Minnesota

I gotta confess, when I hatched the “Dayton Dust Bowl” idea way back last fall, I had no idea it would catch on like this.

But then, I didn’t think Minnesotans were dumb enough to elect a governor whose entire platform was “killing dynamism and growth in Minnesota” and “going back to the seventies”.

But Minnesotans surprised me – not in a good way – and so here we are, having serious discussions about raising taxes during a crippling recession after the idea of “raising taxes during a recession” has gone 0 for 300 worldwide in the past 200 years or so.

The Minnesota Majority, thankfully, is on the case.  About an hour ago, they rolled out…

…the Dayton Soup Truck!

From MNMaj’s press advisory:

“Soup Truck” Launched in Response to Dayton’s Job-Killing Taxation Proposals.

Aims to inform Minnesotans and help them prepare for tough economic times ahead.

Coming soon to a bread line near you.

Unless the GOP wins the budget battle this session, of course.

Coming soon

Please See To This

To: All speakers of English

From: Mitch Berg, Self-Appointed Language Cop

Re: Regarding

Dear English Speakers/Writers,

It’s come to my attention that at least 90% of  you use the word “apropos” as a synonym for “appropriate”.  (Example: “I think it’s completely apropos for people to deputize themselves as Language Cops, with all the powers apropos to the job, including lethal force:).

It is not.  It is a contraction of the French phrase “A Propos”, meaning, roughly, “with regard to…”.   While it shares a linguistic root with the term “appropriate” (as well as “properly”, “property”, “appropriate”, “expropriate” and others), its usage is completely different.

While I do try to be tolerant, please be advised that further incorrect use of “apropos” in speech or writing might lead to you being smacked in the face with a sock full of nickels when you least expect it.

Please see to this.

That is all.

XOXO, MBerg

The Dayton Dust Bowl: “When Did You Stop Beating Your Wives?”

Dayton “wants the GOP to be honest ” about their budget cuts:

Gov. Mark Dayton is renewing his challenge to the Republican-controlled Legislature to come up with a balanced budget without raising taxes — and without hurting the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“They aren’t being honest about the cuts they would have to make to achieve their budget targets,” Dayton told MPR’s Morning Edition on Tuesday. “Tell us the truth about what the results of that would be and then we can discuss whether that would be in the best interests of Minnesotans.”

…in an argument where all cuts, or even cuts to the DFL’s planned increases, are assumed to be catastrophic, and the “best interest of Minnesotans” means “keeping government fat and happy at all costs”.

Lest you thought the DFL had trouble staying on message (emphasis added):

Dayton, a Democrat, has said balancing the budget through $5 billion in cuts would hurt nursing home residents and others, but he acknowledged that something must be done to slow the growth of health care spending. Dayton has proposed some cuts to health and human services spending and has asked health care providers to return profits to the state.

We can’t just throw people out of nursing homes or deny them the care that they need,” Dayton said of cutting health and human services spending. “It has to be done skillfully.”

Interesting how Dayton figures that the budget can be done “skillfully”, but he figures the state’s nursing homes and health care providers are too stupid do figure out how to do their job with a lower budget – the sort of things that Minnesota families do every day when budgets shrink.

The DFL is vamping.  The GOP has beaten them; the only venue they have left is to tell the public that something that walks, flaps and quacks like a duck is really a schnauzer.

Quagmire On Capitol Hill

I know it’s been a tough Legislative session in St Paul.

But I had no idea how tough.  Minnesota Public Radio’s website shows just how bad it’s gotten at the Capitol in St. Paul.  From the website:

Looks like the budget is the least of our problems.

(And I wonder which legislative freshman took out that tank?

The Sherman

It was seventy years ago today that the US Army selected the “T6 Medium Tank” for production as the standard “medium” tank for the United States Army.

The T6 - the first of over 50,000 "Sherman" tanks.

The process of standardization led to the Army’s procurement bureaucracy to give it an “M” designation- “M4″, in this case.  The Army’s public relations bureaucracy also supplied the tank a name – a custom that had started with British usage the previous summer in the Western Desert, where they named US-built M3 Light tanks the “General Stuart”, after the Civil-War-era Confederate cavalryman, a bit of PR to win American hearts and minds to the British cause that came, at least in part, from Winston Churchill’s desk.

They chose “General Sherman”.

And so the vehicle that would serve as the standard tank for the US Army and Marine Corps – and the British, Canadian, Free French, Free Polish, Indian, Nationalist Chinese and part of the Soviet armies – throughout World War 2 and into the Korean Conflict, entered the American lexicon.

And it showed, literally and figuratively, some of the nagging weaknesses as well as overwhelming strengths of the American war effort for the war that, for the US, was still eight months away.

To call something as tough, as subtle, as powerful or as nuanced “as a Sherman tank” is a metaphor that’s passing from common American usage, as the generation that drove them or grew up with those who did drive them ages out of the prime simile-generating years – but for the first forty-odd years after World War 2, the metaphor was pretty well understood.

And a little misplaced.

Designing any military vehicle, from a ship to a jeep to a fighter jet, is a matter of reconciling three key mutually-exclusive factors; mobility, firepower and survivability (at any given technological level), along with some minor factors (cargo space, habitability, ease of maintenance and so on).    For example – it’s a simple matter to build a tank that can go 80mph.  But can it carry a gun?  Or enough armor to make it survive a hit from an enemy tank?  And can you imagine the maintenance nightmares taking care of the engine and suspension capable of that kind of performance?

Likewise, it’s theoretically easy to build a tank that can’t be killed – build a thick armored shell!  But can it actually move in such a manner as to threaten the enemy?  If not, you have basically a semi-mobile bunker.  And if it can move, how big will it have to be to hold a powerful-enough engine, plus the fuel, plus the crew – and some kind of weapon to boot?

The Sherman was a reflection of how that compromise was made in the US in 1941 , and of a vision that, arguably, went very very wrong.

The United States Army was, arguably, one of the most conservative armies in the world by the 1930′s.  Since the Civil War, its primary experience had been fighting Indian tribes and Philipino insurgents and,briefly, the Spanish and for about a year and  a half, a frantic bout of modern industralized war in France during World War I.

When the tank was invented in the last few years of World War I, it was a revolutionary bit of technology, dropped into the most conservative institutions on earth – the world’s various militaries, most of which had absorbed a century’s worth of technological change since 1815 but which in terms of organization and tactical doctrine were not that much different in 1914, or even 1918, than they’d been at Waterloo in 1815.  Every army, in 1920 as in 1815,  had three branches; Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery.  Thus it had always been.  And most of the world’s armies, being conservative, tried to fit the new technology of the tank into the old idiom of the three-branch Army.

And so by the mid-thirties, most armies built two types of tanks; the slow, well-armored “Infantry Tank”, designed to accompany and support troops as they advanced at the speed of the human leg; tanks like the French Char B and British Matilda…

The French Char B

The British Matilda tank, fighting in Libya 70 years ago

…and variations on the “Cavalry Tank” – fast, lightly armed and armored, built to do what the horse cavalry had always done, scouting and raiding and, when the infantry and tanks blasted a hole in the enemy’s front line, dashing through and wreaking havoc among the enemy’s headquarters and supply lines – tanks like the British Mark VI and the French Somua…

British Mark VI Tank

French Somua Cavalry tank - arguably the best tank in the world in 1940 although plagued with the same sort of mechanical trouble that plague all French automotive products to this day.

The United States did the same – indeed, due to the deep divisions between branches, the Army decreed that in the United States, a “tank” served the infantry, and the cavalry used “Combat Cars” – basically, lighter, faster tanks.

US M1 Combat Car - a cavalry "tank" armed with machine guns. It looks like an antique; it's a contemporary of all the tanks above.

Indeed, the US Army in 1940 still had more cavalry on horses than on tracks:

US Cavalry on maneuvers. In 1940

The only exception?  Germany – which had been barred by the Versailles treaty from having tanks at all.  With no ancient military traditions to honor, the Germans started from scratch – by adapting the writings of British military theorist Basil Liddell-Hart…

Basil Liddell-Hart

…who advocated using masses of tanks as a huge armored fist supported by motorized infantry, aircraft and mobile artillery to blast through the enemy lines and strike straight for the enemy’s vitals in a decisive burst of armored fury.  It was a theory that dominated warfare from 1939 through the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – but it was the Germans called it Blitzkrieg. And  they, via his enthusiastic German disciples Guderian and Rommel, would make Basil Liddell-Hart the father of modern warfare.

And since the Germans had no backwash of Napoleonic or Great Plains Indian-fighting  tradition to protect, they started from scratch, building a generation of one-size-fits-all tanks; tanks whose job was neither to support infantry nor to scout the enemy, but simply to break through and wreak havoc.

The German Panzerkampfwagen III tank - the anscestor of the "Tiger" tanks we'll meet later in the story.

Like most theories, it remained an intellectual exercise – until the ten-month stretch in 1939-1940 between the invasion of Poland and the fall of France.  Militaries around the world realized the World-War-I-era calculus was out of date.

And America looked at developments – strategic and technical – in Europe, and realized that not only was their technology a suicidal decade out of date, but their tactical doctrine, which had changed little since the Civil War, was even worse.

And so the Army’s theorists reacted with, by military standards, blazing speed.  They recognized that there’d been a revolution in how wars were fought, and that it needed to be met by revolutionary means.

And they – led by General Leslie McNair, an artilleryman who’d read Liddell-Hart, and developed his own set of theories – went to work.

Lesley McNair

A group of officers led by McNair concocted a revolutionary series of changes in America’s tactical doctrine.  They reorganized the US Army, on the fly, into a whole new force:

  • The Infantry and Artillery would continue to blast holes through the enemy lines – with an aim toward releasing…
  • …the new Armored Force, which would drive through that gap and hurtle cross-country toward the enemy’s headquarters, capitols, supply dumps – strenuously avoiding tank-vs.-tank combat, to be left to…
  • …the newly-formed Tank Destroyer branch – armed with towed and self-propelled anti-tank guns called “Tank Destroyers”.

An early Tank Destroyer - basically a lightly armored half-track with a WWI-vintage cannon.

An M10 Tank Destroyer, later in the war. It looks like a tank, but its armor is only heavy enough to ward off bullets and shell fragments, not tank/antitank shells.

The theory – the tanks would be armed and armored to fight enemy infantry and rear-area troops.  The tank destroyers, being fast (because of their thin armor) would keep the enemy’s tanks at bay.

So the Sherman had about 2.5 inches of armor in front (where it needs to be the heaviest, provided that it’s facing the enemy, like it’s supposed to) and a low-velocity 75mm gun, designed for blooping high-explosive and smoke rounds at enemy infantry (the lower velocity meant devoting less of the shell to structural strength and more to explosives), and not as good for shredding enemy armor as a higher-velocity gun.

And it was with the Sherman and the tank destroyers that the US went to war.

Not all revolutions work out well.

(It wasn’t McNair’s only idea that turned out badly for the US serviceman; the General remains one of the most controversial leaders of the period.  We’ll revisit McNair in a few years).

———-

The Sherman went into action with the British Army in 1942, at the battle of El Alamein.

A Brit Sherman in the Western Desert

It was a huge success; its gun, facing some of the older German tanks that were vulnerable to its short-barreled gun, performed well.

More importantly, the tank – which adopted forty years of American automotive experience – was phenomenally reliable, for a tank.  Especially compared to their British counterparts; British tanks were even less reliable than Brit cars; some British tanks had an average of under 20 miles between major breakdowns.

So the US Army went into D-Day feeling pretty good about its main mount.

But the German Army, in the two years between El Alamein and D-Day, had been fighting a whole different war.  The Russians, with virtually their entire early-war tank force destroyed by the Germans, had deployed a new, even more revolutionary tank – the T34:

The Soviet T34 Tank

The T34 was unbelievably crude by German standards – ideal for use by hastily trained peasant soldiers to learn and maintain (as well as for rough, unsophisticated factories, some of them working in the open air, to build); it wasn’t “reliable” in the same sense that the Sherman was.  But it had a powerful gun,  and its armor was steeply sloped, making all hits into glancing blows, multiplying the effective thickness of the armor plating.  And it had an American-designed suspension that allowed it to be blazingly fast by tank standards.  It caught the Germans by surprise, shredding their Mark III and Mark IV tanks’ armor, and outmaneuvering them as well.

The Germans responded by developing a new generation of tanks – the “Tiger”…:

The PzKw VI "Tiger" heavy tank

…which looked like a traditional German tank, only much bigger, with a four-inch-thick hide and an 88mm gun – the legendary “Eighty-Eight”, a converted anti-aircraft gun – which could easily punch through even the T34′s sloped armor at long range, and the Panther…:

The Mark V Panther

…which was a direct response to the T34; fast, with thick, sloped armor, and a very long, very high-velocity 75mm antitank gun that could tackle the T34 at vastly better than even odds.

And it was these tanks – and upgraded versions of their older ones, with thicker armor and more powerful guns, that the Sherman met in Normandy after D-Day.

And as the Sherman and the rest of the Army slogged its way across Normandy – a two-month bloodbath – it became clear that the pre-war theory was drastically wrong.   The German tanks were not lining up as obliging targets for the Tank Destroyers.   The Infantry couldn’t break through and give the tanks the clean break they needed to make the dash they were designed for.

And so the Sherman found itself fighting German tanks, and anti-tank guns, that had been built to fight the T34 – and it was found grossly wanting.

A Sherman, knocked out in Normandy

The armor, utterly adequate against the early-war German guns, was too thin against the new generation of German tank and antitank artiller; the Panther’s long 75mm gun and the Tiger’s 88 could punch through the Sherman’s armor at any practical range.  The Sherman’s gun could not penetrate the frontal armor of either enemy tank much beyond 500 yards, if at all.

Sherman in British service, destroyed by a German anti-tank gun in Italy.

Worse?  The design of the Sherman’s ammunition stowage – racks of round slots to hold the cannon’s shells, stacked up along the inside of the tank’s hull, above the tracks and next to the turret – was extremely likely to lead to catastrophic ammunition fires if a German shell penetrated the armor.  And when the ammo went up, it turned the tank in seconds into a swirling inferno of sequenced explosions from which the crew rarely escaped alive.  To a lesser extent, the decision to power the Sherman with gasoline engines rather than the less flammable diesel ones led to catastrophic fuel fires if German shells penetrated the gas tanks – a reason that most tanks are diesel-powered today.

A Sherman's ammunition begins to explode

The Army developed a grim bit of math; it banked on losing five Shermans for every knocked out German tank.

Between all of those factors, the Sherman developed a bad reputation.  British tankers called it the “Ronson”, after the cigarette lighter that “lights up on the first try every time”.  Polish soldiers in exile called it the “Rolling Coffin”. Germans called it “Tommy Cooker” – “Tommy” being the slang term for British soldier.

The life expectancy of an Allied tanker in a Sherman wasn’t all that good.

———-

The Sherman had one other key advantage.  It was built in the US, at the peak of its manufacturing power in relation to the rest of the world.

American industry produced something like 50,000 Shermans in all its variants.

Tracks installed on a Sherman at a Chrysler plant in Detroit

So while the math said we’d lose five Shermans for every German tank, we hit them with ten or fifteen of them.

It left enough tanks to supply US needs, and equip most of the British, Australian, Indian and Canadian and Chinese armies, and the Free French and Free Polish armies, with some left over for the Soviets as well.

A Sherman of the Polish Army in Exile, in Italy.

Shermans fought in every theater of the war.

———-

But in August of 1944, the US broke through the German lines at Saint Lo.  ”Operation Cobra” unleashed Patton’s Shermans to blaze across France, showcasing its strengths – its reliability and endurance.  Patton noted that had he been equipped with British or German tanks, he’d have been bogged down with mechanical problems.

The Sherman?  It just kept rolling:

Shermans gobbling up the miles in France

The Sherman was designed to run with engines – repurposed aircraft and bus engines – that were similar to commercial engines that many American troops had been working on for years.  It was built for relatively easy maintenance and efficient manufacture.

So when a US tank company lost five Shermans killing a Tiger, there were five more in action the next day.  And the day after that.

The Sherman’s reliability was legendary, especially compared with the temperamental German designs.  It was said a company of 17 Shermans could count on arriving in action with 16 or 17 tanks in mechanical order to fight.  A company of 14 Tigers or Panthers might get into action at half strength, with the rest back in the repair depot (at best; by D-Day, allied air superiority meant that company would also lose a couple of tanks on the road, or on the railroad tracks that hauled the cranky German tanks any distance).

But when the Sherman ran into serious opposition, it usually meant at least a few blazing tanks and broken GIs.

There were attempts made to upgrade the Sherman.  There were up-armored, up-gunned versions, culmnating in the M4A4E8 – the “Easy Eight” – with more, steeper-sloped armor, a more-powerful 76mm gun, and which stowed the ammunition in racks surrounded by water, down on the tank’s floor, which cut the rate of explosions dramatically, improving survivability.  Earlier Shermans had as much as an 80% chance of catching fire when the armor was penetrated; with an Easy Eight, it was under a quarter.

An "Easy Eight" at a museum. Note the longer, higher-velocity gun, better able to tackle German tanks - although still not nearly good enough.

The British added a very-high-velocity anti-tank gun, the “Seventeen-Pounder”, to the Sherman – the gun was actually too big for the turret, requiring them to move most of the turret’s contents, like the radio, into a box behind the turret:

A British "Firefly" Sherman liberates a piece of Holland.

The adaptation, the “Firefly”, could kill Tigers and Panthers at the same ranges they could kill Shermans.  But its long barrel, in relation to the rest of the Shermans of the day, made it a prime target for German gunners.

The Brits offered the Firefly to the Americans.  We turned it down.  It didn’t fit General McNair’s doctrine.

But American tankers also learned how to use the Sherman’s strengths – speed, turret that could turn three times as fast as the turrets on German tanks – to its advantage.  One US Sherman unit – the 8th Tank Battalion of Patton’s Fourth Armored Division – caught a German Panther unit from the flank and killed 23 of the superior German tanks, with very light losses.  The preferred tactic; keep a “White Phosphorus” smoke round in the chamber to fire at a German tank.  The smoke round had no chance of killing the German tank from the front – but then, either did the regular round.  But it did blind the German tank/s, hopefully long enough for the Sherman to maneuver around to the side of the German tank, where the armor was much thinner.  It didn’t always work -but it gave a well-trained, experinced crew a shot at surviving and winning a face-to-face battle with a German tank.

And America’s greatest tank ace, Lafayette Pool who, with his gunner Willis Oiler, destroyed over 200 German tanks, personnel carriers, assault guns, and other vehicles, including a few “impossible” shots, killing Panthers with a Sherman at ranges up to a mile.

Napoleon Poole and his tank, "In The Mood".

But the fact remained that for many thousands of GIs, the Sherman was a death trap.

——–

For all its faults, the Sherman story didn’t end in 1945.  The Easy Eight version remained the mainstay of the US armored force in the Korean War, where was better able to operate in the primitive conditions than the later, more  modern but more temperamental American tanks.

An "Easy Eight", along the Han River in Korea.

It bested the North Koreans’ T34s in the rare tank-to-tank actions – due more to experience, training and coordination than to merely technical merit.

And in the 1950′s the Israelis – short on funds and friends but long on ingenuity – refitted a group of surplus Shermans with French-built high-velocity guns.

An Israeli "Super Sherman"

Israeli Super Shermans served on the front lines in the 1956 and 1967 wars; the updated weapons and excellent handling by their Israeli crews allowed them to clobber Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi tanks built ten years and a technological generation later.

They also served – on both sides – in the Indo-Pakistani wars, where they fared rather less well:

Pakistani Sherman, knocked out in action against Indian forces, in the 1965 war. Note the three shell holes. That was one badass Indian gunner.

The Sherman served into the eighties and even the nineties in Nicaragua, Yugoslavia, and – in combat – in the pro-Israeli Lebanese Falange militia.

The Sherman was a tank.  And a metaphor, in many ways, for the best and worst aspects of America’s industrial, doctrinal and bureaucratic approach to the war.

A Pattern?

It’s been a running gag among cultural conservatives for the past decade or so; if a drunk Chechen wearing a suicide vest swerves off the road and knocks over a lightpole, the headline will read “SUV DESTROYS CITY PROPERTY”.

And apparently any reference, no matter how oblique, to the “Tea Party” when reporting news is enough to impugn the mass movement that dealt the Democrats their biggest setback in generations last fall.

We ran into this briefly – and comically – last year, when the Minnesota Birkeydependent ran a piece about a “threatening” message that an AFSCME office reported.  On April 15, the day of the Tea Party rally.  From a guy claiming to be a leader in the local Tea Party.  About whom absolutely nobody in the Minnesota Tea Party had ever heard.  Having spoken at (as of last weekend) five of ‘em, I claim some authority there.

Anyway - magically, on the eve of the Tea Party, voila, another threatening message

Officials with Minnesota’s largest public employee union say they have received several threatening phone calls and e-mails in response to their recent “tax the rich” ad campaign.

One voice message left at AFSCME Council 5 headquarters in South St. Paul prompted the union to file a complaint with police.

…from – guess who?:

In the profanity-laced message, a man implied a connection to the tea party movement and a tea party event scheduled for Thursday evening outside of the State Capitol. He also said the union’s days were numbered.

The story doesn’t release the caller’s name.   Or attempt to document in any way the “connection” to the “Tea Party”.

And I’m going to guess he was no more “connected” to the Tea Party than any of the other millions of people who have had enough of Obama and the special interests that float him.

But I suspect that this is going to be an annual tradition, as long as there is a Tea Party; the Twin Cities media dutifully reporting that a big bad tea partier (probably, maybe)  has, er, threatened a union, and they’ve called the police.

Any bets?

Toward Human Rights

I was one of the people eight years ago who rejoiced when a bipartisan sampling of Minnesota Reps and Senators passed the Minnesota Personal Protection Act.

Over the frenzied, and often incoherent, objections of the Metro Left and Media (pardon the redundancy), Republicans joined with commonsense outstate DFLers to affirm Minnesotans’ human right to self-defense, allowing demonastrably law-abiding, sane, unimpaired, trained Minnesotans to carry firearms for their and their family’s protection.  And the next year, when a DFL lapdog with a “judge” title scuppered the law with a frankly incoherent court decision, an even bigger group of legislators passed it into law again.

They were both wondrous days.

But there was a huge hole in the law; while the law removed the government’s discretion from issuing carry permits, it retained shocking amount of it in determining what “self-defense” was.  A Minnesotan who determines, literally as a matter of life and death, to use lethal force in self-defense can have his motives, and his compliance with the county attorney’s interpretation of the “Duty To Retreat” (of which there are 87 varieties in Minnesota, one for each county attorney) analyzed by someone who has all the time in the world to make up his or her mind any way he or she wants.

Today, we made the first step on the j0urney to fix all that.  Rep. Tony Cornish of Good Thunder introduced HF1497 last Friday.   And it makes some absolutely vital changes to Minnesota law:

  • Adds “Stand Your Ground” - The bill would join most states in removing the requirement that a would-be victim of violent crime must retreat from a place where he has a right to be before using deadly force in self defense.
  • Enhances “Castle Doctrine” - The bill clarifies the “Castle Doctrine”, removing the ambiguity from when and under what circumstances an individual may protect themselves while in their homes and vehicles with deadly force. It also creates a presumption that when responding to an apparent home invasion or kidnapping attempt, a person may use deadly force in self defense.
  • Prevents Gun Seizures During a State of Emergency - No more government dragnets to disarm the law-abiding during “emergencies”.  The door-to-door searches for guns after Hurricane Katrina provoked a wave of righteous indignation; never again.  Not in Minnesota.
  • Extends Purchase Permits to Five Years – The bill extends handgun purchase permits from one to five years, lengthens them to five-years. and requires the Minnesota Department of Human Services and state courts to make their background check records available to authorized agencies, including the National Instant Background Check system (NICS) – which was supposed to have been done in 1995.  ! This should speed up legitimate purchases, and make sure state and federal checks produce the same results.
  • Makes the appeal process more robust.
  • Makes Minnesota permits reciprocal with other states, subject to Minnesota law.

This is a vital bill, and very seriously needs to become law.

We need your help.

We need you, The People, to phone and email the members of the House Public Safety committee and help convince them to support this bill and oppose any amendments not authored by Rep. Cornish.  There are many legislators in Saint Paul who don’t remember the power of the concealed carry movement; they need a reminder.

Representative Kelby Woodard (Vice Chair)
651-296-7065
E-mail: rep.kelby.woodard@house.mn

Representative Joe Mullery (DFL Lead)
651-296-4262
E-mail: rep.joe.mullery@house.mn

Representative Kerry Gauthier (DFL)
651-296-4246
E-mail: rep.kerry.gauthier@house.mn

Representative Glenn Gruenhagen (R)
651-296-4229
E-mail: rep.glenn.gruenhagen@house.mn

Representative Bill Hilty (DFL)
651-296-4308
E-mail: rep.bill.hilty@house.mn

Representative Sheldon Johnson (DFL)
651-296-4201
E-mail: rep.sheldon.johnson@house.mn

Representative Tim Kelly (R)
651-296-8635
E-mail: rep.tim.kelly@house.mn

Representative Andrea Kieffer (R)
651-296-1147
E-mail: rep.andrea.kieffer@house.mn

Representative John Kriesel (R)
651-296-4342
E-mail: rep.john.kriesel@house.mn

Representative Ernie Leidiger (R)
651-296-4282
E-mail: rep.ernie.leidiger@house.mn

Representative Carlos Mariani (DFL)
651-296-9714
E-mail: rep.carlos.mariani@house.mn

Representative Joe McDonald (R)
651-296-4336
E-mail: rep.joe.mcdonald@house.mn

Representative Rena Moran (DFL
)651-296-5158
E-mail: rep.rena.moran@house.mn

Representative Bud Nornes (R)
651-296-4946
E-mail: rep.bud.nornes@house.mn

Representative Linda Slocum (DFL)
651-296-7158
E-mail: rep.linda.slocum@house.mn

Representative Steve Smith (R)
651-296-9188
E-mail: rep.steve.smith@house.mn

Bulk email info below the jump:

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Conservatives Tolerate Survival

I’ll cop to it.  I’ve gotten a little impatient with some of the conservative and Republican folks I meet who spin their wheels and fret about why the GOP in Saint Paul and Washington hasn’t slashed spending and cut taxes and privatized Social Security and Medicare and defunded the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and ended the deficit and…

I remind them: we only control 1/3 of the process for passing bills in DC, and 2/3 in Saint Paul.  You’re only as powerful as your last election.  The Republicans were pitifully weak after 2008; we are doing much better this year.  We owe it to our future to do better still in 2012.

And as I make that response, I wonder – are there people on the left who have the same kind of myopia?

Intellectually, of course, I know it; I see it every day.  The biggest recent example: the Wisconsin Supreme Court election aftermath, where the Democrats called a 200 vote win a “reversal of Scott Walker’s mandate!”, but say the new 7,300 vote win for Prosser is “inconclusive”.

But Sally Kohn freezes that same little snapshot in liberal thought in a Strib editorial: “Are Liberals Suckers?

The list of liberal laments about President Obama keeps getting longer: He extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Health-care reform didn’t include a public option. In the frantic final hours of the budget negotiations, instead of calling the GOP’s bluff, he agreed to historic cuts in progressive programs.

And recently, in response to conservatives’ focus on the deficit, Obama said that we have to “put everything on the table.”

What is the problem here? Is it a lack of leadership from the White House, a failure to out-mobilize the Tea Party or not enough long-term investment from liberal donors?

The real problem isn’t a liberal weakness. It’s something liberals have proudly seen as a strength – our deep-seated dedication to tolerance.

“Liberal tolerance”.

It’s tempting to snort back “the movement that brought us campus speech codes, and rigid academic groupspeak, the movement that Orwell caricatured in Animal Farm and warned us about in 1984?  Too “tolerant?”"

And Kohn’s piece gives you little reason to seek a better argument.

In any given fight, tolerance is benevolent, while intolerance gets in the good punches.

Tolerance plays by the rules, while intolerance fights dirty. The result is round after round of knockouts against liberals who think they’re high and mighty for being open-minded but who, politically and ideologically, are simply suckers.

“Chimpy McBushitler”.

“Tom Emmer Hates Gays”.

“The GOP Plan Would Throw Grandma Out In The Street And Shut Down The Schools”.

“We need Nuremberg trials for global-warming “denialists”".

The key flaw – well, one of them – in Kohn’s thesis is that liberals are not tolerant.  While tolerance for dissent is a virtue of classical liberalism – think Jefferson and Payne and Locke and Rousseau, not Nancy Pelosi – it’s a simple fact that not only are modern big-l “Liberals” not especially tolerant, but the things they call “intolerance” on the right are, by and large, not.

Indeed, Kohn undercuts her own ideal: one of the keys to social intolerance is the need to give one’s own side a basis for not tolerating “the enemy”; for saying “we don’t have to tolerate them, because we’re better than they are”. And Kohn does exactly that:

Social science research has long dissected the differences between liberals and conservatives.

“Social science” is to “science” as “mock duck” is to “duck”.

Liberals supposedly have better sex, but conservatives are happier.

She’s half right.  Conservatives have  better sex and are happier.

Liberals are more creative; conservatives more trustworthy.

And, since the 1930s, political psychologists have argued that liberals are more tolerant.

And while I’m admittedly dealing in stereotype here, I don’t believe I’m alone in wondering if there is a group on earth who would be more self-serving in saying “liberals are better people!” than a group labelled “political psychologists”.

Specifically, those who hold liberal political views are more likely to be open-minded, flexible and interested in new ideas and experiences, while those who hold conservative political views are more likely to be closed-minded, conformist and resistant to change.

But those same studies showed liberals to be prone to being influenced, wishy-washy and mercurual, while conservatives are more principled, less narcissistic, tougher negotiators (in a broad sense) and – this is important – better at choosing adjectives to describe the results of “political psychologists’ studies”.

Brain-imaging studies have even suggested that conservative brains are hard-wired for fear, while the part of the brain that tolerates uncertainty is bigger in liberal heads.

Which proves saber-toothed tigers ate more liberals, but not much more.

Kohn finally leaves the realm of junk social science to move on to current events:

Dissecting Obama’s negotiation strategy in the budget fight, Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times, “It looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.”

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has criticized Obama for similarly failing to take a strong position on energy policy. But perhaps the president is only playing out the psychological tendencies of his base.

In the weeks leading up to the budget showdown, the Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of Republicans wanted their elected representatives to “stand by their principles,” even if it meant causing the federal government to shut down.

Among those who identified as Tea Party supporters, that figure was 68 percent. Conversely, 69 percent of Democrats wanted their representatives to avoid a shutdown, even if it meant compromising on principles.

With supporters like that, who needs Rand Paul?

So is Obama losing because he’s “too tolerant”?  Because he didn’t turn his mandate into political results?

I think Kohn, Krugman and Klein would have you forget Obama’s “the eleciton is over, John” jape during  the Obamacare debate.  Or the certitude with which Obama’s majority in Congress jammed down Obamacare.

So is Obama “too tolerante”<  Or has he just turned out to be a weak, wishy-washy leader who squandered an epic mandate?

As Thomas Jefferson put it in his first inaugural address, those who might wish to dissolve the newly established union should be left “undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

But some errors, by their nature, undermine reason.

Writing in 1945, philosopher Karl Popper called this the “paradox of tolerance” – that unlimited tolerance leads to the disappearance of tolerance altogether.

To put the current political climate in Popper’s terms, if liberals are not willing to defend against the rigid demands of their political opponents, who are emboldened by their own unwavering opinions, their full range of open-minded positions will be destroyed.

Liberals are neutered by their own tolerance.

Liberals, as we saw in Wisconsin over the winter and on campuses every spring, are not “overtolerant”, to be kind.

They are on the political decline.  They lost in 2010; national reapportionment will weaken them more this year, and demographics don’t favor them in ten years either.  Things are touch-and-go for 2012, but there is a decent chance they lose the Senate.

Liberals aren’t weak because they’re “tolerant”; they’re not, but that’s irrelevant.  Liberals are weak because they are selling a bill of goods that fewer people are buying.

Apparently The GLBT Movement Is Dead, Too

The Strib’s Bob Van Sternberg apparently was at the Tea Party on Saturday.

He noted correctly that the attendance was down a bit; while there were 5-7,000 at the rally in 2009 and close to 2,000 last year.  There were a couple hundreds there on Saturday:

A mere shadow of its showing in recent years, the annual “tax day” rally at the state Capitol attracted only a smattering of adherents on a cold, wet afternoon Saturday.

Van Sternberg is too modest.

Cold and wet is a May drizzle.

It was 33 degrees at noon, when I spoke, and there was snow on the ground, and a cold wet wind was howling from the north giving wind chills in the teens.  Not prime rallying weather.  More like Valley Forge.

And it’s an off year.  No imminent elections, no serious presidential or Senate campaigning, the Legislature is settled for another year.

But he noted I was there:

“Is the Tea Party dead because it could only bring out a couple hundred people on a cold, snowy day?” asked radio talker Mitch Berg, adding, “No, the Tea Party is watching them. The Tea Party is coming for them.”

After the 2010 Tea Party, some in the media and left (ptr) said “look at the turnout!”.  They were wrong, of course; they multiplied by a couple orders of magnitude and showed up at the polls in November.

By the way, an observer at the Capitol told me that attendance at the annual LGBT rally with Governor Dayton was “way down” from previous years.

Is it because the gay rights movement is dead?

Or is it because it’s an off-year, and the weather was  in the fifties and “wind-swept?”