Saturday, December 20, 2014

Knives Are Dangerous Weapons!

In the nation/state's never-ending quest for the risk-free, the common knife, a tool with a history of many thousands of years,  has morphed from one of man's earliest accomplishments to a deadly threat, especially to the garrison mentality, as we read here. The Ramsey County Courthouse, a location that is ordinarily literally crawling with well-paid and highly-trained law enforcement personnel, can't allow the presence of an edged tool. Sure, there's always the potential that some malhechor could behead a sheriff's deputy in the second floor men's room but how likely is such an event? How often, in previously easy-going times, were judges, witnesses and defendants stabbed during courtroom proceedings? Aren't there other common items that could also be used to inflict mayhem? A honed dinner fork could be used to poke out an eye. A sturdy ball point pen, with some slight modifications, could easily serve a similar purpose. It might be best for all visitors to the court house to strip down to their undies so the coercion complex can go about its business without worry.

Jackson Pollock ‘Naked Man with Knife’, c.1938–40
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2014
Jackson Pollock's "Naked Man With Knife"

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Minnesota Velodrome Looking At Uncertain Future

As this article in Twin details, the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, MN, a northern suburb of the Twin Cities, is facing structural deterioration that will require significant repairs with major expenses in order to stay in operation. An uncovered, outdoor facility built in 1990, the bicycle track has now endured 25 years of humid, muggy summers and frigid, snowy winters that have taken a toll on its surface and substructure. Sunday night many of the riders, fans and other interested souls gathered at the Fulton Brewery in downtown Minneapolis for a fundraiser to assist the effort in keeping the 250 meter track viable for a few more seasons.

The Problem With Background Checks

The Wall Street Journal finally realized what myself and a few others have known for some time, that the adoption of background checks by private business is creating a class of unemployable, unhousable people. Their front page story in this weekend's edition calls attention to the issues faced by business human resources departments that are caught between possible legal responsibilities in hiring felons and mandates by the EEOC that require them to consider those same felons for employment. Tsk, tsk.

Sure, it's a problem for the business community, when the satisfactory or ideal candidate for an open position is a convicted felon. Dissatisfied customers can use the presence of a felon on the job in adverse legal proceedings. Who needs the grief? But this is more than just a hassle for HR departments.

The guys with the real problems are the felons themselves. They've become basically unemployable in the normal economy since they can't pass a background check. Once they fail a background check, they know it's a waste of time to even apply for another position. Employment isn't the only problem for them. Failure to pass a background check usually means they can't get rental housing, either. And having once failed the background check, they can never pass it again. Since this is the case, the unemployable felons (Once a felon, forever a felon.) can only increase in number. It's said that there are now 48 million felons in the US.

Nevertheless, ex-cons need to eat, get out of the rain at night and wear clothes. They're unlikely to commit suicide. In fact, they're more likely to be killed. Having a rap sheet a mile long, Eric Garner was unemployable and lucky to be able to peddle loosey cigarettes to make ends meet. That is, he was until the NYPD put him in a strangle hold.

What's the future in the land of the free and the home of the brave look like for felons, and non-felons as well? First of all, the growing number will create another class that will have to survive outside of the economy. Gray market businesses will spring up to supply their needs and use their labor. Since the only sources of income for background check failures will be the generosity of their friends and family, the dole, black market employment or crime, they'll continue to be an ever bigger problem for the nation/state.This particular nation/state, the US, was founded by Puritans and while their religious outlook has disappeared, their ethics and morality survive to this day, enshrined in the tenets of capitalism. These tenets do not include the number one in Christianity, forgiveness. God may forgive but the nation/state? Never.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Orange County Sheriff Blames Illegal Behavior on Poor Organization and Training

The home of Disneyland and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is also headquarters of the Orange County Sheriff's Office, under the control of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. This agency has come under scrutiny for its extensive use of jail cell informants, awarded money and perks for testimony and recorded confessions, refusal to share information with defense attorneys, and then lying about it. As related here, Sheriff Sandra has the situation under control and it was all just a  little mistake. Everything's OK now.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Optum Pro Cycling Announces 2015 Women's Team

As usual, there are some departures and arrivals at one of the most successful American women's cycling squads in the aftermath of the 2014 road racing season.

Canadian all-rounder Denise Ramsden, originally from the remote community of Hay River, Northwest Territories, has decided to throttle back her racing somewhat, turning down a contract extension with Optum and joining the Trek Red Truck team. Criterium star Lauren Hall and 2013 national road racing champion Jade Wilcoxson are also leaving the team.

Canadian climber Lex Albrecht will be rejoining Optum after having been gone for two years. Veteran Ally Stacher moves over from the Specialized-Lululemon team, time trial specialist Allison Tetrick arrives from Astana-Be Pink, Canadian track rider Jasmine Glaesser and collegian Ariane Horbach are also joining the Minneapolis-based crew that includes triple Canadian champion Leah Kirchmann, NRC national champion Janel Holcomb, Brianna Walle, Maura Kinsella and Annie Ewart.

Ally Stacher
Lex Albrecht
Allison Tetrick

Jasmine Glaesser
Ariane Horbach

The Utility of Macro-Economic Statistics

In this piece on the Cobden Center website Dr. Frank Shostak explains why dubious government economic statistics are meaningless in the free market:

"What possible use can an entrepreneur make out of information about the rate of growth in gross domestic product (GDP)? How can the information that GDP rose by 4% help an entrepreneur make a profit? Or what possible use can be made out of data showing that the national balance of payments has moved into a deficit? Or what use can an entrepreneur make out of information about the level of employment or the general price level?"

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Union Officer Receives Medal Of Honor Now For Actions In 1863

This story in the Washington Post tells us about First Lt. Alonzo Cushing, who was killed in action at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. After years of lobbying, a Wisconsin woman has convinced the powers-that-be to award the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously to Cushing for his efforts in leading his company in the defense of the charge made by the Confederate troops led by Major General George Pickett.

It's nice to know that the US Congress and the Department of Defense have the time to investigate the merits of a soldier's bravery in an incident that occurred 151 years ago. And then take the action necessary to recognize it. Not to denigrate this bravery but what does the award actually signify? Lt. Cushing and his immediate descendents, should he have had any, are unaware of it.

This quote gives some idea of the thinking behind the medal:

“The idea is that it shouldn’t just sit on someone’s mantlepiece and just stay there,” said Jessica Loring. “It needs to be shown so people today can understand the price of making our country free and the sacrifice it takes. We want to bring Alonzo to life in what he did for this nation.”

Does looking at the Congressional Medal of Honor, and perhaps a sepia-tinted photo of the recipient, really help people to understand the War Between the States? Does celebrating the bravery of one particular individual among a cast of thousands give us some insight into the most traumatic era in American history? 

The battle and Cushing's contribution to it didn't do much for the freedom of the Confederates involved. He was just one of over 600,000 American men and boys, from both the north and south, sacrificed on the altar of the nation/state.