Author Archives: Owen

10% Responsible for Genocide

What a fascinating case.

The Dutch supreme court has upheld a ruling that the Netherlands was partially responsible for 350 deaths in Bosnia’s Srebrenica massacre.

The court said the state had 10% liability, as this was the probability that its soldiers could have prevented the killings.

Bosnian Serb forces killed a total of 8,000 Muslim men in the town of Srebrenica in 1995.

The Dutch had been guarding a UN safe zone when it was overrun.

It is rare for a state to be held responsible for failures in UN peacekeeping work, but the court emphasised that the Netherlands bore “very limited liability”.

[…]

The court ruled that if Dutch forces had given 350 men hiding in the UN compound the chance to stay, there was just a 10% chance they would not have fallen into the hands of the Serbs, and so the Dutch state should be liable for only that proportion of the damages suffered by the bereaved.

The ruling did not give details on how it calculated the 10% chance of survival.

The final verdict draws a line under years of legal battles between the Dutch state and the plaintiffs – a group of victims’ relatives known as the Mothers of Srebrenica.

The case was escalated to the highest court because the state wanted to be cleared of responsibility, while the Mothers of Srebrenica wanted it to be held accountable for all 8,000 deaths in the genocide.

An appeals court had previously set the liability at 30%, but the supreme court’s ruling has drastically reduced that figure.

This is the Dutch court system ruling that their own people were partially responsible for failing in a UN peacekeeping mission that resulted in a genocide. While noble, war is incredibly ugly and I question the rationale of lawyers assigning percentages of blame decades after it happened – particularly for a NOT doing something. These soldiers didn’t commit a war crime. They merely failed to act to prevent one when they might have been able to.

Dollar Store Backlash

Darn those stores for offering products people want at competitive prices.

New York (CNN Business)As dollar stores sweep across America, they are facing growing scrutiny from opponents who argue that discount chains stifle local competition and limit poor communities’ access to healthy food.

Dollar stores have never been more popular. Yet a wave of cities and towns have passed laws curbing the expansion of Dollar General (DG) and Dollar Tree (DLTR), which bought Family Dollar in 2015. The companies are the two largest dollar store operators in the country, combining for more than 30,000 stores throughout the United States, up from under 20,000 a decade ago. By comparison, Walmart(WMT), America’s largest retailer, has 4,700 US stores.
Advocates of tighter controls on dollar stores say the big chains intentionally cluster multiple stores in low-income areas. That strategy discourages supermarkets from opening and it threatens existing mom-and-pop grocers, critics say.
“The business model for these stores is built on saturation,” said Julia McCarthy, senior policy associate at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and a critic of dollar stores. “When you have so many dollar stores in one neighborhood, there’s no incentive for a full-service grocery store to come in.”
Opponents also express concerns that dollar stores don’t offer fresh produce. Dollar General and its dollar store rivals mostly sell snacks, drinks, canned foods and vegetables, household supplies and personal care products at rock-bottom prices.
However, Dollar General and Dollar Tree argue that they benefit communities by offering shoppers convenient places to grab food and essentials at low prices.
“In rural places without existing grocery stores, having a Dollar General might be viewed as an asset,” said Christopher Merrett, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. Dollar stores bring in new sales and property tax revenue for cities, create jobs and expand shopping options for customers, he added.

Local Woman Confronts Burglar

Good for her.

WEST BEND — A Town of Erin homeowner helped break up a burglary at her house this week after getting into a struggle with the alleged suspect, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has said in a statement posted to the department’s Facebook page.

The 65-year-old woman was reportedly at home by herself when she saw another woman standing outside her door. That person, a 27year-old Milwaukee resident, asked for directions before leaving, per the sheriff’s office statement.

“The alert homeowner immediately noticed that she was missing credit cards, cash and her vehicle keys out of her purse that was located inside her residence,” the sheriff’s office said.

The local resident, who wasn’t identified in the sheriff’s statement, immediately began to search

the area for the suspect and later found her walking nearby.

“The victim confronted the suspect and a struggle ensued,” law enforcement reported, noting the homeowner was bitten in the incident but was able to get take the suspect’s wallet. The suspect then fled on foot again.

When a sheriff’s deputy eventually arrested the suspect, she was found with property belonging to the homeowner. A search of the suspect’s wallet also uncovered drugs and paraphernalia, the sheriff’s office said.

Officials took the suspect — who was also not named in the sheriff’s online report — to Hartford Rescue for treatment of drug withdrawal symptoms. Once there, the suspect allegedly spat on a nurse and grabbed at another nurse, law enforcement said.

Anti-Manspreading Chair

Seems uncomfortable.

Laila Laurel, from Norwich, won a major award for the seat which is crafted so that men sit with their legs closed.

She said the “concept” chair was inspired by her experiences of men “infringing on my space in public”.

But since the award, she said: “I have received a lot of explicit messages from men who seem to be under the impression that I hate all men.”

The University of Brighton student said this “couldn’t be further from the truth frankly”.

[…]

She also made a second chair intended for women which encourages sitters to push their legs apart.

“I don’t take myself too seriously, because for I really want my work to be both important and thought provoking, whilst also being engaging and funny.

“I think humour is a really interesting tool in order to tackle social issues.”

Mom and Daughter Charged With Infant’s Murder

I’m glad to see them taking the death of a child seriously.

(CNN)A mother and daughter accused of murdering a pregnant woman and cutting her baby from her womb were charged Thursday with murder in connection with the baby’s death.

Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and Desiree Figueroa, 24, were charged with the murder of “Baby Ochoa” Yovanny Lopez, said Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County, Illinois, State Attorney’s Office.
The two women appeared in bond court on Thursday, Simonton said. They previously pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery in the April 23 killing of the baby’s mother, 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez.
The baby boy died June 14 after weeks on life support.
Police say the women lured Ochoa-Lopez to their Chicago area home with the promise of baby items, including a stroller. Police say the two women then strangled her and cut the baby from her womb.

Puerto Rico Protests

Ouch

The protests erupted after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published leaked chats between Gov. Rosselló and his inner circle, including profanity-laced, homophobic and misogynistic messages about fellow politicians, members of the media.
Nearly a week after the messages were made public, it’s impossible to walk the streets of Old San Juan without seeing signs of the protests calling for Rosselló’s ouster.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Beclowns Themselves

Follow the “logic”

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has long maintained that the veto power in the hands of the Wisconsin governor is excessive and is contrary to how the legislative process should work in a democracy.

Governors of both political parties have often used their veto power to change the intent of the legislation that lands on their desks and to increase spending.

This amounts to taking powers that properly should reside in the hands of the legislature.

Agreed. So far, so good.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign believes that any governor, when he or she is exercising a line-item veto, must veto each item or appropriation in its entirety rather than using “creative editing” to construct a bill, or a section of a bill, that was not the intent of the legislature.

Still good.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign recognizes the hypocrisy of Republican officials who only now are aghast at the governor’s veto power when they had no problem with that power when the governor was from their own party.

What’s more, the current proposal from Sen. Dave Craig and Rep. Mike Kuglitsch is only concerned with the governor using the veto power to increase expenditures rather than to alter the meaning of legislation.

For this reason, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is neither endorsing nor opposing the Craig/Kuglitsch bill.

Wha!?!? So they agree that the veto should be eliminated, but they don’t like Republicans’ hypocrisy and the amendment doesn’t go far enough. Um, why not support the move in the right direction even if it doesn’t go as far as they want? And who cares about the motive? Better government for the wrong reason is still better government.

House Votes Down Impeachment

Ha!

(CNN)The House on Wednesday easily defeated an effort from a Texas Democrat to impeach President Donald Trump in a vote that highlighted the Democratic fissures when it comes to impeachment.

Rep. Al Green was able to force the vote under House rules — the first that Congress has taken related to impeachment since Democrats took control of the chamber this year — in what amounted to the most direct challenge yet to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handling of impeachment.
The 332-95 vote divided Democrats, with 95 — a little more than 40% of the Democratic caucus — voting against tabling it, or voting to keep it alive. There were 137 Democrats who joined all Republicans in voting to defeat the measure.
Green’s decision to bring up his resolution presented a dilemma for impeachment supporters and moderate Democrats alike, as they’re now on the record for their vote, even if Green’s resolution was only focused on one issue — what he says is the President’s “bigotry and racism” — out of many Democrats are wrestling with on whether to move forward on impeachment.

Storm Area 51

It’s all fun and games until the military turns you into a fine red mist. They ain’t the docile Berkeley police.

As of Wednesday morning, over 1.5 million people said they were “attending” the event, called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The event is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 3 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Another 1.1 million Facebook users indicated they were “interested.”

“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” according to the Facebook page. “If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets [sic] see them aliens.”

Omar’s Anti-Semitism

From Rahm Emanuel

No one is questioning the right of members of Congress and others to criticize Israeli policies. But Omar is crossing a line that should not be crossed in political discourse. Her remarks are not anti-Israel; they are anti-Semitic.

Whether consciously or not, Representative Omar is repeating some of the ugliest stereotypes about Jews—tropes that have been unleashed by anti-Semites throughout history. She is casting Jewish Americans as the other, suggesting a dual loyalty that calls our devotion to America into question.

Regulating Big Tech

Putting aside the outright lie about Google being impartial (that’s been proven wrong time and time again), the next question is, what do we do about it, if anything?

Karan Bhatia, Google’s policy chief who was at the hearing, denied the claims and said it would be bad for business if users didn’t trust the company to be impartial.

Bhatia also said Google had done all it could to remove offensive content on YouTube but the volume of videos being uploaded makes it difficult to police.

Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, told Bloomberg after the hearing that Section 230 was originally put in place to protect smaller tech companies in the 1990s rather than giants.

[…]

But Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said the investigation could easily generate a gratuitous and unhealthy level of government control.

‘Just because a business is big doesn’t mean it’s bad,’ Sensenbrenner said Tuesday. He argued that breaking up big companies could hurt smaller firms around the U.S. and might compound privacy problems.

Veto reform is badly needed

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

When the Wisconsin Legislature passed the state budget, it already had an irresponsible $500 million spending increase for K-12 education. With a stroke of his pen, Governor Evers used his powerful veto to increase spending by another $87 million. Now some lawmakers are proposing reining in the Wisconsin governor’s ability to use a veto to increase spending.

Governor Evers and his comrades have decried the attempt to curb the governor’s veto power as a partisan endeavor. Perhaps it is. And perhaps it would have been a worthwhile reform when one part controlled the legislative and executive branches. Even so, it often takes the abuse of power to spark reform, and this reform is badly needed.

Wisconsin’s governor has the most powerful veto pen in the nation. Forty-four states give their governor some form of line item veto authority, but they all have restrictions. Wisconsin’s governor has the fewest restrictions. He or she can veto numbers, strike out individual words, edit the meaning of sentences, and even arbitrarily reduce appropriated amounts. Up until 2008, when the voters last reformed the veto power, the governor could even strike out individual letters to create new words.

This vast veto authority gives Wisconsin’s governor an extraordinary amount of power to essentially write legislation by carving up what the Legislature sends to his or her desk. While it is true that the Legislature can override a veto by a twothirds majority, it rarely happens due to the high electoral bar.

There is an argument that governors should not have a line item veto at all. The governors of six states and the president of the United States do not have a line item veto authority. When a bill reaches their desks, they must veto the bill in its entirety or allow it to become law.

Our federal Constitution, which also served as a model for many state constitutions, was predicated on the notion that concentrated power is injurious to liberty. That is why our three branches of government are integrated with a complex system of checks and balances that are meant to assure that no one branch, and certainly no one person, can wield too much power.

While in theory, a line item veto can be overridden as easily as a full veto, the real world disproves that theory. Legislation – particularly a budget – is always the amalgamation of a thousand different compromises. Any final piece of legislation has been put through the grinder of legislative committees, public hearings, and two houses of the legislature. By the time it reaches the governor’s desk, a piece of legislation is a network of interdependent priorities and conditions. When a governor vetoes a part of the legislation, it short circuits the network and undermines the legislature’s intent. Since a partial veto only strikes out a piece of the compromise, there are rarely enough votes behind an individual item in a bill to override the governor’s veto.

The constitutional amendment being circulated by Sen. David Craig and Rep. Mike Kuglitsch does not even approach eliminating the governor’s line item veto. Their amendment would simply prohibit the ability of the governor to use a veto to increase spending. The rationale is simple. No single person in government should have the power to spend $87 million on their own authority.

That is entirely too much power for one person to have over his fellow citizens. Our state constitution explicitly grants the power to appropriate money for precisely the reason that spending decisions should be subject to a rigorous legislative process and not be the subject to the arbitrary whims of a solitary governor.

The process to amend the state’s constitution is, rightly, a lengthy one. The amendment must pass both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions. Then the amendment must pass a statewide referendum. Fortunately, the governor is not involved in the amendment process.

Wisconsin’s governor’s veto authority makes him or her too powerful. It was true for Governor Walker. It is true for Governor Evers. It will be true for the next governor. It will be true for the one after that unless we change it. Taking a small step to limit that veto authority is not a partisan issue. It is just a simple reform to make a better government.

Apollo 11 Launched 50 Years Ago Today

Time to indulge your inner space geek.

Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.

Two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for a second burn of five minutes, 48 seconds, placing Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. The command and service module, or CSM, Columbia separated from the stage, which included the spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, containing the lunar module, or LM, Eagle. After transposition and jettisoning of the SLA panels on the S-IVB stage, the CSM docked with the LM. The S-IVB stage separated and injected into heliocentric orbit four hours, 40 minutes into the flight.

Veto reform is badly needed

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

When the Wisconsin Legislature passed the state budget, it already had an irresponsible $500 million spending increase for K-12 education. With a stroke of his pen, Governor Evers used his powerful veto to increase spending by another $87 million. Now some lawmakers are proposing reining in the Wisconsin governor’s ability to use a veto to increase spending.

Governor Evers and his comrades have decried the attempt to curb the governor’s veto power as a partisan endeavor. Perhaps it is. And perhaps it would have been a worthwhile reform when one part controlled the legislative and executive branches. Even so, it often takes the abuse of power to spark reform, and this reform is badly needed.

[…]

The constitutional amendment being circulated by Sen. David Craig and Rep. Mike Kuglitsch does not even approach eliminating the governor’s line item veto. Their amendment would simply prohibit the ability of the governor to use a veto to increase spending. The rationale is simple. No single person in government should have the power to spend $87 million on their own authority.

That is entirely too much power for one person to have over his fellow citizens. Our state constitution explicitly grants the power to appropriate money for precisely the reason that spending decisions should be subject to a rigorous legislative process and not be the subject to the arbitrary whims of a solitary governor.

The process to amend the state’s constitution is, rightly, a lengthy one. The amendment must pass both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions. Then the amendment must pass a statewide referendum. Fortunately, the governor is not involved in the amendment process.

Wisconsin’s governor’s veto authority makes him or her too powerful. It was true for Governor Walker. It is true for Governor Evers. It will be true for the next governor. It will be true for the one after that unless we change it. Taking a small step to limit that veto authority is not a partisan issue. It is just a simple reform to make a better government.

 

Meth-Gator Warning

The latest summer blockbuster.

“On a more or less serious note: Folks…please don’t flush your drugs m’kay. When you send something down the sewer pipe it ends up in our retention ponds for processing before it is sent down stream. Now our sewer guys take great pride in releasing water that is cleaner than what is in the creek, but they are not really prepared for meth. Ducks, Geese, and other fowl frequent our treatment ponds and we shudder to think what one all hyped up on meth would do. Furthermore, if it made it far enough we could create meth-gators in Shoal Creek and the Tennessee River down in North Alabama. They’ve had enough methed up animals the past few weeks without our help. So, if you need to dispose of your drugs just give us a call and we will make sure they are disposed of in the proper way.”

The “methed up animals” is likely a reference to Limestone County’s “attack squirrel” case that made headlines across the country. Deputies say that suspect, Mickey Paulk, fed his pet squirrel meth to make it more aggressive. While on the run, Paulk denied this on Facebook Live and on the radio.

Attorney General Asks for Input

While I applaud the effort at transparency, why would he need to solicit comments from the public about opinions? I thought that the AG was supposed to offer legal opinions based on the law – not public opinion.

MADISON, Wis. – Attorney General Josh Kaul today unveiled a new process and website for all Wisconsinites to provide information and perspectives on proposed Attorney General Opinion topics prior to the beginning of the Department of Justice drafting process. The new Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) webpage, doj.state.wi.us/OpinionRequests gives anyone the opportunity to weigh in on issues facing opinion review.

“With the changes announced today, we are making the AG opinion process transparent and open to input from the public,” said Attorney General Kaul.

With the new website, all commentary submitted will now be open to public review through the public records process. Public records requests can be made through the Department of Justice Office of Open Government by phone, mail or online. More information about making a public records request can be found here.

By statute, the Attorney General must, when asked, provide the legislature and designated Wisconsin state government officials with an opinion on legal questions. The Attorney General may also give formal legal opinions to district attorneys and county corporation counsel under certain circumstances. Wis. Stat. § 165.25(3) and 59.42(1)(c). Please see 77 Op. Att’y Gen. Preface (1988) for a more detailed explanation of the criteria for requesting a formal opinion.

Scott Walker Takes New Job and Won’t Run for Office

I wish him and his family the very best. This sounds like a good gig for his strengths.

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker announced plans Monday to serve full-time as president of a national conservative youth organization and ruled out the possibility of him seeking political office in the next five years.

The board of directors of the Young America’s Foundation elected Walker to become president of the group in early 2021 when YAF’s current president will step down after more than 40 years.

YAF works to promote conservative ideas among young people.

This clears the way for someone to take the mantle in Wisconsin. Who will it be?

Green New Deal Is Designed to Replace Capitalism and Socialism

In case you had any doubt.

Chakrabarti had an unexpected disclosure. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

“Yeah,” said Ricketts. Then he said: “No.” Then he said: “I think it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s dual. It is both rising to the challenge that is existential around climate and it is building an economy that contains more prosperity. More sustainability in that prosperity — and more broadly shared prosperity, equitability and justice throughout.”

Chakrabarti liked the answer. “The thing I think you guys are doing that’s so incredible is … you guys are actually figuring out how to do it and make it work, the comprehensive plan where it all fits together,” he said. “I’d love to get into a situation where everyone’s trying to just outdo each other.” But Chakrabarti couldn’t help adding: “I’ll be honest, my view is I still think you guys aren’t going big enough.”

Ricketts seemed unfazed by the critique. “Well, you know, we’re not done. When it comes to a nationwide economic mobilization, there’s more to come on this front, for one. And other key components we’re going to be rolling forward speak to some of the key justice elements of this … ensuring every community’s got a part of this.”

Of course, the same could be said of much of the environmentalism movement. It has been co-opted by Marxists looking to use the environment as a cudgel to advance their ideology. It’s a shame that they squeeze out so many people who actually care about the environment and want us to use it in a responsible manner without abandoning our advanced civilization.

Also note the arrogance, and impracticality, of socialists. They actually think that a group of wonks sitting in a room designing an economy can produce better results than the cumulative effect of a trillion individual decisions. History disproves that arrogant notion.

Rich People Shouldn’t Be President

Says this guy.

I’ve written before that one of the greatest problems facing this country is a dearth of skepticism toward the extremely rich. Very rich people do not experience life — the tangled web of mutual obligation and care that makes working-class life possible — in the same way as us.

Really think about this: If for years someone is never subject to the will of another, compelled by the experience of scarcity, coerced by want, that person has been deprived of the human experience from which an ethic of mutuality, a capacity for empathy, grows.

Rich people tend to be less generous than poorer people. And the very wealthy are limited in their ability to comprehend the lived experience of others. Being a billionaire — a liberal one like Tom Steyer or a wannabe authoritarian like Donald Trump — should in and of itself be disqualifying for higher office, much less the presidency.

And while being rich isn’t necessarily a qualifier for office, people who have been in powerful positions, and become rich from it, are also accustomed to running large enterprises with competing interests. While nothing completely prepares someone to assume to presidency, such experience certainly helps.

Armed Terrorist Killed While Assaulting ICE Facility

Good.

(CNN)An armed man was fatally shot early Saturday during a confrontation with police after he hurled incendiary devices at a Washington state immigration detention center, Tacoma police said.

The shooting occurred about 4 a.m. local time outside the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Northwest Detention Center, where the armed man attempted to set the building and parked cars on fire, according to police spokeswoman Loretta Cool.
Authorities did not immediately identify the man who was armed with a rifle, saying in a statement the “medical examiner will release the identity of the victim when it is appropriate.”