Monday, July 31, 2017

What's Charisma?

According to historian Steven Stoll, it's this:

"Charismatic leaders often depend on dedicated interpreters. Charisma is not the ability to communicate, and it is certainly not the quality of being well liked. It is  the capacity to impose an idea on others that they internalize. Charismatic leaders make people see the world as they do--but not always by making reasoned arguments. They foretell obscurely, speak in poetry, and declare irreducible truths without evidence. They don't have friends, since everyone serves the instrumental purpose of advancing their views. So Aaron spoke for his brother Moses and performed the rituals that translated prophecy into religious practice. Jesus needed the disciples to elaborate and spread his message. Sherlock Holmes depended on Dr. Watson to act as a catalyst for his thinking about crime."

Steven Stoll, The Great Delusion, Hill and Wang, NY, NY, 2008, pg. 97.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Prison Guard Impersonates Cop

A group of ATV riders were accosted by an angry individual who attempted to wrestle one of the machines away from its rider, went back to his truck for a gun and badge, and forced the rider down to the ground at gunpoint. When cops arrived the unarmed rider was arrested and charged with assault while the prison guard gets some time off from work.
Perhaps it's no big deal if a member of the coercion complex straightens out a situation. Maybe it's a good thing that guys like this are willing to do their part to maintain order. Or, maybe not.

Addendum:  According to an Aug. 4 entry on the News-Miner website, charges against the ATV rider have been dropped. The prison guard has not been charged.
Braeuer, who worked at Fairbanks Correctional Center since 2006, was placed on administrative leave May 30 after the Department of Corrections learned of the incident. He has since left the agency, and his last effective day was July 28, said DoC public information officer Megan Edge.
Edge declined to comment on the circumstances of Braeuer’s departure from the department, citing confidentiality rules.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Two Photographs, Same Newspaper

Page A2, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
Darrell Sapp/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Associated Press

 PAYING RESPECTS: Hundreds of officers, some from as far away as Colorado, Utah and Texas, attended the funeral of Trooper Michael Stewart III in Latrobe, PA, on Tuesday. The 26-year-old officer died in  a collision with a garbage truck. The cause is under investigation.


Page A8, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
Ebrahim Moroozi/Associated Press

 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops in formation. New US sanctions are partly aimed at cutting off procurement for the force.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

How are we going to handle artificial intelligence?

". . . the fact is that we are rushing ahead into the AI universe with almost no political or policy debate about its implications. Digital technology has become critical to the personal and economic well-being of everyone on the planet, but decisions about how it is designed, operated and developed have never been voted on by anyone. Those decisions are largely made by executives and engineers at Google, Facebook, Amazon and other leading tech companies, and imposed on the rest of us with very little regulatory scrutiny. It is time for that to change."

                                   Jonathan Taplin
                                   Wall Street Journal
                                   July 15-16, 2017

Mr. Taplin is the director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. In June 1971,George Harrison asked Taplin to help him and Ravi Shankar stage a benefit concert Madison Square Garden for the newly created state of Bangladesh, which was undergoing extreme famine conditions. The resulting Concert for Bangladesh, with appearances by Harrison, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and others was the first benefit concert of this magnitude in world history. Producer of a number of movies, Taplin must know his stuff.

"He’s been warning people about AI for years, and today called it the “biggest risk we face as a civilization” when he spoke at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island.
Musk then called on the government to proactively regulate artificial intelligence before things advance too far.
“Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”
“Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” he continued. “It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

                                     Elon Musk
                                     CEO Tesla, Inc.
                                     CEO SpaceX

There you have it, two members of the elite both think that an effective government regulatory apparatus be set up to defend us from what is essentially ourselves. As Pogo once said in the newspaper comic strip of the same name:

There's a long history of government defending us from ourselves. Prohibition immediately comes to mind, the "war on drugs", gambling, prostitution and a myriad of other typical human failings. Of course, you might say that the threat of AI is an existential one, far more serious than teen-age cigarette smoking. You would be correct. But the government and its many agencies and bureaucrats doesn't seem to have been very successful at even managing the other human failings, much less eliminating them. 

Taplin's recipe for control is the typical one for statists, more government control and regulation, led by a "democratic" process that must include, at least in some attenuated form, the will of the people, as if they would be able to correctly assess what the pros and cons of AI might be. Naturally, it's their elected representatives who will decide, after consulting with their donors.

Musk wants to head off any problems with AI, whatever they might be. Maybe gun-slinging robots striding through the cul-de-sac. So we need another FCC or FAA or BLM or USDA to set the parameters of AI before the issues arise.

By the way, the Selective Service still exists and operates with a budget of $24 million although no one has been drafted since 1972.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Draft Horse Action In Chetek, Wisconsin

A bright sun and moderate temperatures made the annual Independence Day weekend draft horse pull at the R-Bar near Chetek and Cameron, WI an enjoyable affair. Eleven 3200# teams and 13 heavy-weight pairs pulled into rural watering hole for the competition. It's a rare opportunity to watch the descendants of the motive force that originally provided the power for much of the country's agriculture and infrastructure construction.
Minnesota teamster Matt Foss and one of his Belgian mares that's in foal. There'll be a leggy draft colt or filly bouncing around in Matt's pasture in October.
Take a look at the space between Diesel's front legs. This veteran powerhouse has been a big part of the successful John Loomis horse pulling operation for a long time.

The Gary Smith team from North Freedom, WI. There's at least 4500 lbs. of horse between the tugs.

 Home town teamster Chuckie Schaaf took second place in the 3200# class with his beautiful team of Belgians.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

North Star Bicycle Festival 2017

The 2017 edition of Minnesota's premier sporting event seemed to reveal a couple of things about cycling in general and the US ladies' peloton in particular. On the basis of five days of racing there's substantial evidence that a younger generation of riders are elbowing their way into the top level of competition at the expense, with some notable exceptions, of their more experienced elders. Another development, seen in the continued success of the Rally cycling juggernaut, is building a superior team of both men and women through the signing of nascent Canadian stars, although this has been going on for some years now.

 Nineteen-year old Rally Cycling phenom Emma White blazed off with the victory in the ladies' general classification. She then went to the USA Cycling Nationals where she won the U-23 time trial and road race, took second in the U-23 criterium and 6th in the pro criterium.

 Cuban speedster Marlies Mejias Garcia of  Weber Shimano Ladies Power won the Stillwater criterium and was on the podium in four of the five stages, also winning the Minneapolis Uptown criterium.

United Health Care's Ruth Winder won both the road race stages of the NSBF and along with White and Mejias dominated the results.

Tayler Wiles of UHC was the queen of the mountains.

Young Australian all-arounder Lauretta Hanson was involved in a crash during the St. Paul criterium.
Former collegian Janelle Cole has made an effective transition to a higher level of competition with her aggressive style.
The winner of the 2016 edition was Brianna Walle, who finished 4th in the GC this time around.

Amber Pierce, a veteran of both the US and continental cycling wars, turned the cranks for Colavita/Bianchi in Minnesota for five days.

The locally-based Rally squad impressed at the North Star affair. Colin Joyce won the men's GC and Ellen White the women's GC. They had great results at the USA Cycling National Championships in Louisville a few days later and the Canadian championships in Ottawa, Ontario as well. In addition to White's success in Derby City, Erica Allar became the US Pro National Criterium women's gold medal winner. The men put four riders in the top ten of the crit field with Eric Young getting a silver, defending champion Brad Huff in 4th place, Curtis White 7th and NSBF GC winner Colin Joyce 9th. Rally rider Brandon McNulty won the U-23 time trial.

Canadian woman Sara Poidevin won the U-23 criterium at the competition in Ottawa with Katherine Maine taking the second spot on the podium. Their Rally team mate Matteo Dal-Cin was the gold medalist in the Canadian men's road racing championship.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Conversation With Champion Alijah Beatty

Alijah Beatty of Washington, IA, was the USA Cycling national amateur 17-18 female  road racing silver medalist in 2016. This year she was the gold medalist in both the road race and the criterium, in addition to finishing fourth in the time trial. Additionally, Beatty made a trip to Europe with a US National Team this spring, competing in the UCI 2.2 Gracia Orlova race in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Is competitive cycling a feature of the neighborhood where you grew up? Were there others in your circle of friends that were into competitive cycling? Many cyclists develop in families where cycling is important. Was that the case with you?
I started cycling when I was 10 years old. My father had started riding 3 years before I had and wanted someone to ride with. As I am the youngest of my family I was the only one who had nothing to do. I started riding with my father and entered my first race at the age of 10. Jingle Cross was my very first race, I entered the kid's race. And after that, I just wanted to race my bike. My father got into cycling by one of our close family friends. Even though my father doesn't race or our family friend they still come to my races and support me.My family is a big part of my cycling, they support me at all of my races!  They help me schedule my races and also get me ready to race.

How old were you when you competed in your first actual race and how did you do?

  As I mentioned before I raced my first race when I was 10 years old at Jingle Cross. I ended up 2nd. The first place was a boy so I felt okay about how I did, but I didn't just want to get second I wanted to win. So I kept racing and I still want to win. It is definitely a driving force.

When and how did you realize that cycling might be a pathway to further opportunities like travel and educational advancement?

Once I started looking at colleges I started to realize that I could continue my cycling career while getting an education. I also thought about not going to college and just pursue cycling for a year and see how it goes. As I weighed my options I decided that getting an education and being able to bike was a more reliable choice. But in the summer I will do as much cycling as I can and get to travel all around the US, North America and the world!

What advice would you give to a youngster in following a course similar to your own?

 Remember to always have fun. Cycling as a jr should not be a job. But the only way to get better, at anything, is to push yourself. You just have to learn how much you can push yourself.


You've recently competed in Europe for the first time. What are some of the biggest differences in racing there and in the US?

One of the biggest differences between womens' cycling in Europe and America would be the number of racers in each race. In America we are lucky if we end up with 30 let alone 50 but in Europe they expect 80 to 100 and in some of our races maybe up to 150. Women over in Europe can make a living cycling where in America women have to have another job one the side. Another thing is that they are very supported. There are big teams of just women and they have very generous sponsors.
When over in Europe racing I noticed that they were very aggressive. Meaning that they wouldn't just let you go in front of them. You had to fight for your position and fight for where you wanted to be they weren't going to give it to you easily.

Who were the riders in Europe that particularly impressed you and why?

 I wouldn't say that there was one rider in specific but the team WM3 was a big team there and they got on the UCI Podium pretty much every day.

How many schools actively tried to recruit you for their cycling programs?

There were maybe 5 or 6 but I was really only looking at 3 main schools. I chose Marian University not just for their cycling program but also for their academics. Marian University has an excellent Nursing program. I would like to become an ER Nurse after I graduate.

How is your training program structured?

My father and my coaches (Charlie and Sherry Townsend) from Northstar Development plan my training schedule. At the current time I am doing a lot of racing and not as much training. Most of my training was in the early season doing long rides and just getting a base.

What are the biggest pluses (and minuses) of being a competitive cyclist?

The pluses would be meeting a lot of people, traveling, when you win just the feeling you get of accomplishing something.
The minuses of course would be training, not being home much, and if you crash that's not too much fun.
But even though there are some downs to cycling the Ups are just so rewarding.

(Photo by Carlos Sabillon)

A trip to Rimouski, Q.C.  involved a competitive cycling minus.