Racism In Liberal Cities

Heh. One might posit that the systemic racism exists because of liberalism and not in spite of it.

MINNEAPOLIS — Residents of Minneapolis swell with pride over their city’s sparkling lakes, glassy downtown, beautifully kept green spaces and bicycle-friendliness that draws comparisons to Copenhagen, Denmark. They see themselves as public spirited, embracing of multiculturalism and inspired by Minnesota’s liberal icons, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone.

The Minneapolis City Council, made up of 12 Democrats and a member of the Green Party, includes two transgender members, both of whom are black. The city has for years held a popular community celebration and parade for Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery.

But there remains an extraordinary racial gap for Minnesotans when it comes to education outcomes and health care. Black families own their homes at far lower rates than white families, among the largest such disparities in the country. And the city’s predominantly white police force, which has been accused of racist practices for decades, rarely disciplines officers with troubled records.

“Minneapolis has ridden this reputation of being progressive,” said Robert Lilligren, who became the first Native American elected to the City Council in 2001. “That’s the vibe: Do something superficial and feel like you did something big. Create a civil rights commission, create a civilian review board for the police, but don’t give them the authority to change the policies and change the system.”

More State Budget Cuts Are Necessary

More, MUCH more, will be necessary.

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – About $70 million in budgetary spending cuts have taken effect across several agencies as the state tries to manage the likely long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The largest cut is with the UW System which saw a $40.8 million budget reduction. The next largest cut was for the Department of Health Services which saw a cut of $7.5 million.

The Evers administration’s planned actions were initially praised by Republicans, but have since drawn some criticism.

“After claiming that he would cut state operations spending by 5%, the plan released by Governor Tony Evers […] shows actual cuts to operations spending of less than 2.5%,” Rep. John Nygren (R – Marinette) said in a statement released this week. “Making matters worse, nearly two-thirds of the cuts are being shouldered by the UW System. While Gov. Evers’ initial announcement was promising, this additional information leaves more questions than answers.”

Riots Roil America

Sigh

Protesters have clashed with police in cities across the US over the killing of an unarmed African-American man at the hands of officers in Minneapolis.

Minnesota’s governor said the tragedy of the death of George Floyd in police custody had morphed into “something much different – wanton destruction”.

New York, Atlanta, Portland and other cities have seen violence, while the White House was briefly locked down.

An ex-Minneapolis policeman has been charged with murder over the death.

Unlike some previous cases, everybody seems to agree on this one. The cop appears to have murdered George Floyd. He has been arrested and is being tried for murder. We all agree that it’s the right thing to do, but people are still rioting.

The protests about this killing are completely justified. It was an outrageous abuse of police power and we have a right to be angry about it. Even as some of that anger spilled over into aggression, it can be understood. But it is also clear that many people are taking advantage of the chaos to just commit mayhem. We have certainly seen that before.

Two other things may be at play here. First, remember that many people are unemployed and have been cooped up for weeks or months. That has an effect on the mood and psyche. Second, it is an election year. Every four years we seem to erupt with racial tension before the presidential election. This year it happened right as Joe Biden was telling black folks that they “ain’t black” if they don’t vote Democrat. How convenient it is, then, that we stoke the racial fires. If it wasn’t this horrible murder, it would have been something else.

Finally, if the riots were moving through your city and the police were intentionally standing down, wouldn’t you want a gun right about now? Government is always there except when you need them the most. Be safe out there.

Officer Who Killed George Floyd is Arrested

Good. Let justice be done.

The former Minneapolis police officer seen in a video with his knee on George Floyd’s neck before the unarmed black man died this week was taken into custody Friday by state authorities, according to John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was taken into custody by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as fires continued to burn from violent protests overnight as demonstrators demanded justice for Floyd.

School Districts Look to Referenda to Fill Budget Holes

OOOOR… now hear me out… they could spend less money. I know! Crazy, right!

The Janesville School District likely faces a deficit heading into the 2021-22 school year, and any referendum it proposes will have to address both building and operational needs, school officials were told this week.

Chief Financial Officer Dan McCrea told the school board Tuesday that even before the coronavirus pandemic, the school district faced a $2.5 million deficit as early as 2021-22.

With state aid cuts expected because of lower state revenue, that deficit probably will be closer to $3.5 million. Unless addressed, it will grow every year.

As a result, Janesville soon will join school districts around the state that must ask local taxpayers for extra money just for operations. The district also must address the needs of its aging buildings that can’t be met in its $1.4 million annual capital improvement budget.

Evers Administration Fails to Follow Law with Unemployment

Another instance of incompetence by the Evers’ Administration or intentional malice? I lean toward the former.

In a Thursday letter to Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said DWD has not provided its plan to abide by a new law created in April requiring that unemployment claims specifically related to the COVID-19 outbreak not be charged to an employer’s unemployment insurance account for the remainder of the year.

The state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund is filled through payroll taxes on employers and used to provide temporary benefits for qualifying workers who lose their job. The amount an employer pays in taxes is directly tied to how much that business draws upon the fund.
Vos and Fitzgerald said in the letter the provision was meant to mitigate large tax increases on employers most impacted by COVID-19. The new law also aims to prevent employers from having to pay higher taxes as a result of pandemic-related layoffs or furloughs.
“The outrageous decision to break the law is made worse by the fact that in so doing, the department is making it even harder for the employers impacted by the health crisis to get their businesses open and bring their employees back to work,” Vos and Fitzgerald said in the letter.

Zuckerberg Breaks with Dorsey

Interesting 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has criticized competitor Twitter for its decision to fact-check tweets from President Donald Trump.

In an interview with Fox News due to be broadcast on Thursday, Zuckerberg claims that it is not the place of private companies to interfere in what people say online.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey immediately fired back saying that the site would continue to call out ‘incorrect or disputed information’ about elections shared by users.

The spat between Zuckerberg and Dorsey came after Trump said he will sign some sort of ‘social media’-focused executive order on Thursday amid the rift with Twitter over the fact-checks on his tweets.

Evinrude Ends Production

Another iconic casualty.

BRP, the parent company of Evinrude outboards, announced last night that it is discontinuing production of Evinrude engines. In its press release, it stated that the COVID-19 pandemic obliged it to stop production immediately. BRP President and CEO José Boisjoli said, “This business segment had already been facing some challenges and the impact of the current context has forced our hand.”

Trump To Issue Executive Order to Clarify Rules Around Liability for Internet Platforms

I’m very wary of things like this.

The order would push the Federal Communications Commission to write rules on when and how platforms can remove content from their platform and still maintain liability protection granted them under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law as it stands largely exempts those publications from being held liable for much of the content on their websites.

The working order, which cites Twitter by name, would encourage the Federal Trade Commission to take action against companies that engage in “deceptive” acts of communication.

Outside of the current kerfuffle between Trump and Twitter, this debate has a deep history with huge implications. The debate revolves around the legal responsibility of people and companies who provide information platforms, carry/transport information, and perhaps operate a monopoly. Let’s take this blog, for example. Am I legally liable for what a commentator writes? In general, no. Part of what bolsters that relative protection is the fact that we don’t censor comments here. With rare exception – direct threat, spam, etc. – commentators can write whatever they want. If we got in the business of curating or filtering comments, then that liability potential increases. If I am curating the content, do I then own it? Someone might argue “yes.”

The discussion has roots back to medieval common carriage laws and norms. Here’s a great paper on some of the history and modern implications. It was written as part of the net neutrality debate, but has application here. Here’s a part:

Looking at the matter from a fresh perspective, it seems important to look at the entire regime of common carriage, not simply interconnection and non-discrimination—or even rate regulation and liability. And what emerges is a bargain that gives special legal liability in return for the carrier refraining from using some market power to further some public good. On one hand, the carrier gives away the right to discriminate on the basis of sender or content and in return receives immunity for liability for the content therein. On the other hand, the carrier agrees to moderate monopoly power against competitors, perhaps provides access to competitors in return for immunity from antitrust suit. Similarly, the increased standard of care reflects the market power of dominant communication and transportation firms enjoy vis à vis individual customers—and can be seen as a return for the privileges common carriers enjoy such as right of access etc.

In this regard, common carriage is a deal. The regulated industry has something the government wants—a universal communications platform that provides a valuable public good, notably free speech to further democratic deliberation. But, in return, the regulated industry receives preferential treatment from the government.

In the case of Twitter and Facebook, Trump is arguing, in his clumsy way, that those companies have surrendered their liability for content when they got into the business of regulating speech. If Twitter, for example, is going to curate, edit, and regulate content, do they also get to continue to enjoy liability protections for that content? If that’s the case, then shouldn’t such liability protections be extended to anyone to generates content?

Twitter, Facebook, and the like are going to have to make a choice. Either they can be agnostic platforms that carry content created by other people, in which case they enjoy certain legal liability protections for that content, or they can be content creators that create, modify, and curate content for consumption based on achieving their political or business objectives, in which case they are liable for the content. They can’t have it both ways.

Rioting In Minneapolis

Yikes 

Stores including Wendy’s, Target, Walmart and AutoZone were looted, ransacked and some set alight before rioters tried to bust open an ATM, as many ignored pleas from the Floyd family’s lawyer and Minnesota Governor Walz to protest peacefully Wednesday night.

Videos showed what was reported to be an apartment building entirely engulfed by flames as rioters stood and watched and the fire department was nowhere to be seen. An AutoZone store was also one of those which was set on fire.

Outside a GM Tobacco store, a group of four men with huge firearms were seen and said they had come to protect local businesses from looters,

During the riots, a woman in a wheelchair was punched in the head and sprayed with a fire extinguisher after trying to block protesters – allegedly with a knife in her hand.

Bureaucrat Brags Despite Failure

Ummm… no.

“No administration has ever faced anything like that before,” said Mark Reihl, DWD unemployment division administrator. “We have done everything possible as quickly as possible to bring as many people on as we could … Frankly, I think we have done a great job in this period of time. Is it as good as we would like? Certainly not.”

I see a lot of excuses and slow action. I see very little leadership or results. Take a look at this MacIver story that tracks their very, very, very lethargic reaction and refusal to think outside of their bureaucratic bubble.

When Safer at Home went into effect, DWD had 57 employees at its unemployment call center, and the phone system could handle 450 calls at a time. On Mar. 26th, the day after the lockdown went into effect, DWD was getting 160 attempted calls a second, over half a million an hour.

DWD reacted by transferring 75 of its 1,606 full time employees to help out at the call center, bringing the total up to 132. It also boosted its call volume capacity up to 690 calls at a time, which meant more people would be able to wait on hold.

DWD’s unemployment line got 1.5 million attempted calls during the first week of Safer at Home, but only 115,679 people successfully filed a claim. Not all of those claims were filed over the phone. DWD begged people to file online, citing a 98 percent success rate for the 19,000 who did.

With the call center completely overwhelmed by demand, Frostman added another 18 people to its staff during the second week of the shutdown. That brought the total up to 150. Even though DWD still had over 1,400 full time employees not working at the call center, it announced plans to hire 85 new employees to help process unemployment paperwork.

Frostman said out of date IT infrastructure was the problem, and it “has forced DWD’s staff to work overtime, nights, and weekends to process unemployment claims to support out-of-work Wisconsinites.”

However, they weren’t taking calls 24/7. Phone lines were only open from 7:30 – 3:30, Monday to Friday.

That doesn’t look like “everything possible as quickly as possible” to me.

Predicted Surge in Deaths Fails to Materialize

Again. It seems like every time the anti-civil rights folks claim there will be widespread death if we don’t strip people of their rights, it fails to materialize. Are they incompetent or do they have ulterior motives? Or both?  From Dan O’Donnell

On May 13th, the day of the Supreme Court ruling, Wisconsin saw 291 new cases of Coronavirus out of 4,363 tests for a positive test rate of 6.3%.  Since the virus has an incubation period of between three and 14 days (with an average incubation of five days), the state would expect a massive spike in both positive tests and the positive test rate by today—two weeks after the state reopened—if the reopening was indeed responsible for such a spike.

There hasn’t been a spike in either.  Five days after the court’s ruling on the 13th, the state saw just 144 positive tests even though there were far more total tests (4,828) done than on the 13th for a positive rate of 2.9% on May 18th.

Eight days later, on May 26th, the positive test rate was 3.6% (279 positive tests out of 7,495 total).  Just twice has the positive rate hit or topped 8% since the Supreme Court’s ruling.  By contrast, in April the positive test rate routinely hit 10% per day.  Two weeks to the day after Wisconsin reopened, neither the number of new cases per day nor the percentage of positive tests has even come close to spiking.

Neither has the number of hospitalizations or ICU visits.   In none of the state’s seven regions has there been even a tiny bump per day.  Instead, the numbers have been remarkably consistent throughout the outbreak, suggesting that the reopening has had little to no effect at all on the hospitalization rate and thus the severity of the disease’s impact.

As if that wasn’t enough to disprove the hysterical predictions of death and destruction made just two weeks ago, the virus has somehow become less deadly since Wisconsin started to reopen.

In the 13 days since the Supreme Court’s ruling, there have been 96 Coronavirus deaths for an average of 7.3 per day.  In the 13 days immediately preceding the Court’s ruling, there were 105 Coronavirus deaths for an average of 8.07 per day.

If Wisconsin signed its own death warrant when the Supreme Court struck down “Safer at Home,” then the signature must have been forged.  In no way has the state become a more dangerous place since it reopened.  The “chaos” that Evers repeatedly predicted has been proven to be as nonsensical a forecast as the death and destruction the Governor and his fellow Democrats insisted would result from an in-person election on April 7th.

Liberty, but …

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

For over 150 years, Americans have taken a day at the end of May to pause and reflect upon the great sacrifices that have been made for the cause of liberty. Decoration Day, now Memorial Day, is a nerve that runs through our national body that aches to remind us of the tremendous price of freedom.

Over 1.1 million Americans have given their lives for the liberties protected by our Constitution and the national aspiration enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. It is a heavy price and a heavy burden that those of us who live under those principles have a responsibility to respect, honor, and defend.

While not without blemish, for no human endeavor is without marring from the weaknesses of the human condition, our nation has spent over 240 years spilling our blood for an idea — not for land, not for treasure, not for dominion – but for the idea that all people have an natural right to be free. Free in their person. Free in their thoughts. Free in their faith. Free in their property. Free.

That right to freedom is part of the spark put in us by God and is the natural right of every human. It is not subject to abridgment or restriction except by consent through a freely elected government. We institute government for the purpose of preserving our liberty. Our government protects our liberty through a well-defined system of laws that were consented to after an adversarial lawmaking process that is intentionally designed with checks and balances to ensure that broad consensus is achieved. Our rule of law is what protects our liberties from the arbitrary use of the police power of government. It is what protects us from tyranny.

Such a rudimentary summary of the concepts of liberty and self-governance should be known by any American with a high school education. They are the tenets of a free society, which over a million Americans have given their lives to preserve.

This is why it is so astonishing that we have so easily surrendered our liberties, suspended the rule of law, and abandoned self-governance over a virus.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” he did not end the statement with “except if there’s a nasty virus.”

In the Wisconsin Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, it reads, “All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” That sentence does not end, “but those rights are void if the governor says so.”

Within days, our government stripped us of our most basic rights to freely assemble, practice our religion, use our property, operate a business, move freely, and even visit our own families. In Wisconsin, this was done on the sole authority and discretion of a single man. In other states, the same thing was done by the pen stroke of a single man or woman. And if a person dared to violate the order by simply having guests to their home or playing outside, the full police power of the state was brought to bear to force compliance. Such an arbitrary and cavalier use of police power is the stuff of totalitarian regimes. It does not belong in America.

When we have finally wrested our rights back from the tyrants, we must reform our statutes to ensure that such power may never be levied again under the color of law. Our nation has faced pandemics before and will face them again, but we must never let a health crisis be used an excuse for the wholesale abandonment of the very principles of liberty upon which our nation was founded.

Federal Money Is Flowing

And everybody is lining up at the trough. As I said before, you can’t push this kind of money out of Washington without corruption and fraud taking a sizable share.

Nearly one out of every five Covid-19-related federal contracts for $1 million or more went to companies that had never won a contract with the federal government before the crisis broke out, according to a CNN analysis of procurement data. While some of the first-time contractors have substantial experience in the Personal Protective Equipment industry, others are small firms with no record of producing or procuring medical equipment, CNN found.
The vendors who’ve won multi-million dollar deals range from a California firm whose previous products include a vodka bottle with an LED screen, to an Ohio tampon manufacturer that has shifted part of its production line from menstrual products to face masks, to a company registered by a former Trump administration deputy White House chief of staff less than two weeks before it was awarded its first contract.
Already, some have failed to deliver: two of the seven largest contracts given to companies that were new to federal contracting have been canceled after the suppliers didn’t deliver promised respirator masks. And questions remain about the quality of equipment delivered by other vendors, including the company formed by former Trump administration aide Zachary Fuentes.

The Swamp Protects Its Own

Rules for thee...

The Department of Justice on Tuesday will reportedly stop its investigation into three of the senators who sold off stocks early in the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecutors are reportedly letting California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler, and Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe know that the investigation into their alleged insider trading, has been closed, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Rules for thee…

but not for me. I also love how he threw a classic “don’t you know who I am” in there.

ELK RAPIDS, Mich. (AP/WLUC) – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s husband urged a business to get his boat in the water in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to social media posts, while she was publicly telling cooped-up residents to resist flocking to popular vacation areas during the coronavirus pandemic.

Personal Facebook posts from NorthShore Dock owner Tad Dowker are no longer available. But The Detroit News reported that Dowker’s staff last week took a call from Whitmer’s husband, Marc Mallory.

“This morning, I was out working when the office called me, there was a gentleman on hold who wanted his boat in the water before the weekend,” Dowker posted, according to the News. “Being Memorial weekend and the fact that we started working three weeks late means there is no chance this is going to happen.

“Well our office personnel had explained this to the man and he replied, ‘I am the husband to the governor, will this make a difference?’” Dowker posted.

Whitmer, a Democrat, and Mallory own a property in the Elk Rapids area in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Covid Claims Another Job

She’s ruined her life because she couldn’t conduct herself civilly. “Ruined” too strong… Perhaps “given herself a cautionary tale to tell her grandchildren.”

A white woman who called the police after a black man asked her to put her dog on a leash in New York City’s Central Park has been fired from her job with an investment firm.

Franklin Templeton announced on Twitter on Tuesday it had sacked an employee, “effective immediately”.

“We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the tweet said.

[…]

Ms Cooper also faced accusations of animal cruelty, after she appeared to choke the animal with its leash while restraining it to call the police. After the video went viral she returned the dog to a shelter.

“The dog is now in our rescue’s care and he is safe and in good health,” the organisation wrote on Facebook.

Her now-deleted LinkedIn and Instagram profiles suggested she might be Canadian.

I highly doubt she is Canadian. Canadians are always nice, aren’t they, eh?

Hemp Profits Fail to Materialize

I was hopeful for this market. I expect it will normalize over time. The key will be whether or not there is an uptick in other uses for hemp beyond consumable products. Hemp can be used for rope, cloth, etc., but it will need to be more than a novelty product to be a sustainable product.

Farmers and manufacturers who wanted to capitalize on the frenzy around CBD, which comes from hemp, were lured into the industry after Congress passed the 2018 farm bill. It legalized cultivation of the crop, a low-potency sibling of marijuana. Hemp acreage in the U.S. more than tripled from 2018 to 2019. McConnell was a driving force behind legalization.

“It was a mad rush,” said Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg.

But the boom has quickly turned into a bust.

In recent months, several CBD businesses declared bankruptcy — including GenCanna, a hemp processing facility in Winchester, Ky., that McConnell visited in April of last year.

[…]

But his hope has so far failed to materialize as the industry struggles on several fronts: The gold rush mentality led to an oversupply, tanking wholesale prices. CBD remains unregulated by the FDA. Consumers are left with conflicting messages about the legality of hemp products while unscrupulous businesses tout CBD as a potential treatment for every illness under the sun, including the coronavirus.

States have written their own jumble of rules to contain the mess. The decline in investor interest in the cannabis sector last year led to financial troubles for businesses focused on expansion over profitability.

“We had really a perfect storm,” Minnesota hemp farmer John Strohfus said. “We had oversupply … and then we had the unfortunate issue of impotence really on the part of the FDA.”

Liberty, but …

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

In the Wisconsin Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, it reads, “All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” That sentence does not end, “but those rights are void if the governor says so.”

Within days, our government stripped us of our most basic rights to freely assemble, practice our religion, use our property, operate a business, move freely, and even visit our own families. In Wisconsin, this was done on the sole authority and discretion of a single man. In other states, the same thing was done by the pen stroke of a single man or woman. And if a person dared to violate the order by simply having guests to their home or playing outside, the full police power of the state was brought to bear to force compliance. Such an arbitrary and cavalier use of police power is the stuff of totalitarian regimes. It does not belong in America.

When we have finally wrested our rights back from the tyrants, we must reform our statutes to ensure that such power may never be levied again under the color of law. Our nation has faced pandemics before and will face them again, but we must never let a health crisis be used an excuse for the wholesale abandonment of the very principles of liberty upon which our nation was founded.

Biden Emerges From Basement

I kind of like seeing our politicians in muzzles.

Democratic US presidential candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden and his wife Jill visit the War Memorial Plaza during Memorial Day, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), 25 May 2020

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has made his first public appearance after more than two months in quarantine amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Wearing a black face mask, the former vice-president laid a wreath at a ceremony in his home state of Delaware.