Not a Metaphor: Minneapolis School Explodes

Again with Minneapolis and a dramatic and deadly failure of infrastructure. In this case, a high school suffered an explosion that entirely removed an adjoining section between two wings architecturally engineered to be structurally independent. Those wings are still fully standing in pictures from after the event. Though not much is known, at the moment it appears the explosion was caused by a “gas leak” – one presumes they mean “natural gas” aka methane.

Look to the Star Tribune for ongoing coverage: you can start with this article. Most reports say there is one confirmed death, though other reports say that there is one strongly presumed death that has not yet been confirmed. The ST article is quite clear that emergency services reported one death as “confirmed” but then downgraded that to “unconfirmed” about 15 minutes later, thus the confusion. There are consistent reports that more than one person is still missing or trapped, in some (at least one?) cases an individual has managed to communicate to emergency services despite being currently unrescuable. The number missing, however, is small. As the ST article is continually updated, the latest news I have is that the number is down to two. Crews are working to clear debris to reach these persons and find any missing ones. However, and let me say this strongly: All coverage I’ve read (4 independent sources so far) says that the students are all safe, all located, all evacuated. Injuries are limited to adults.

A number of years ago, there was a school shooting at a high school significant to my own youth. At the time, a friend was working for the school district and had worked at the high school during part of her employment with the district. Though we are important to each other, I hadn’t kept up with her very well and it had been 10 months since we had spoken, so I wasn’t sure where she might be. It didn’t take long to figure out that she wasn’t hurt (or even present) at the shooting, but there were those agonizing hours when even though I knew it was unlikely she was present or injured, I just didn’t know. For any in the community in a similar position, I offer you my sympathy.

However, the occurrence of this tragedy can’t be seen only through a personal lens. When Minneapolis suffered a freeway collapse, there were many individual tragedies for people killed, injured and traumatized as well as for those who lost someone they loved. Nonetheless, we had a very significant (and still unfinished) discussion about aging infrastructure in the USA. This explosion is likely to provoke similar conversations, perhaps even overlapping ones if part of the explosion’s cause is attributed to an aging and/or poorly maintained facility. If you wish to comment on the causes found and any implications you might derive from those identified causes, please feel free to do so, but also write with some awareness that you never know whether or not someone else reading the comments here might be personally affected.

Ed Brayton Will Have a Field Day With This

So, this cannot compare to The Greatest Political Scandal Ever, but in California, the leader of the Republican caucus of the State Assembly is having an affair with the former leader of the Republican Caucus of the State Assembly. Of course Chad Mayes, the current leader of the State Assembly Republican Caucus (hereinafter SARC), and Kristin Olsen, the former leader, are more-moral-than-thou types, and protect-marriage-from-the-sinning-sinners types to boot. Mayes’ father is a preacher, and Mayes himself graduated from Liberty University.

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Right Thing, Wrong Reason

It’s not that often that one person will say that another lacks a moral compass, or has a moral compass that points in the wrong direction, on the basis of a decision on which they agree.

However the case of Afghanistan’s competitors in the FIRST Global Challenge, an international robotics expo/competition is that rare basis for calling amoral someone with whom I agree. The Afghanistan team, apparently made up entirely of girls, had been denied visas two times already on the basis of the Trump travel ban. A third, last-minute denial would have crushed their dream to meet other roboticist and participate personally in the challenge (though there was a back-up plan where organizers would agree to operate the Afghani team’s robot while the team, like any non-participant, watched a video stream of their own creation). Trump was criticized by a broad spectrum of people familiar with the event, and after several weeks or months of that criticism met with his advisers and very quickly they settled on a course of action where the girls were denied that visa for a third and final time, but given notification that they would be admitted under parole.

Parole is a long-standing procedure that is used much less routinely these days than in times past. Essentially, it allows border control agents to admit a person without a valid visa when travelling to the US on a passport from a country that does not have a no-passport agreement with the States. It is of course still used – people forget their passports, get pickpocketed in airports, or what have you. Normally people are denied entry under those circumstances, but if you know the right people and can have the right calls made on your behalf, it is sometimes possible to be admitted anyway. This procedure can also be used in cases where a person’s status as an asylum claimant is not certain, but turning the person away might result in risk or otherwise be an undesirable course of action. As I (imperfectly) understand how the system is used, it is very rare to be given notice in advance that you will be allowed entry on parole (rather than having that status be in doubt until you are physically present at a border entry point).

But Trump was in a quandary: if he issued visas, then he would be undermining his own policy, currently waiting for review by SCOTUS. How is it possible to insist that this really is a blanket, neutral policy and yet issue these visas? It seems especially dangerous if these Afghanis were described in the way that we are more used to seeing muslims attempting to enter the US described:

Amateur electronic engineers with a collection of circuits, gears, and structural and other elements that could be assembled to serve any number of purposes sought entry to the United States today despite lacking the proper visas. Officials said that they had determined these muslims taken to soldering together unknown devices were intending to travel to Washington DC where they would gather with others with similar skills at a location within walking distance of the White House, the Supreme Court, Capital Hill, and other sensitive locations.

But despite fitting this description to a T, the girls were given advance parole. Why can I not give credit to Trump for admitting the Afghani team? It’s a simple case of right decision, desperately wrong reason. Trump wishes to escape political consequences for his policies’ affects on sympathetic subjects. But if there is truly a national security need to deny entry to all Afghanis, then Trump is putting his personal political convenience before national security.

I believe we all know that there is no such national security need, but Trump defends himself and his policies by pretending one exists. It simply is not possible that Trump actually has a working moral compass and either

  1. Maintains a discriminatory policy without believing that there is a valid national security reason for that policy.
  2. Exempts certain persons on a case-by-case basis, even when they have technical skills that are frequently painted as dangerous by the administration, while believing that there is a valid national security reason to maintain their policy.

These are mutually exclusive and fully comprehensive possibilities. Either the ban is needed or it’s not. If not, the ban is immoral. If it is, then admitting persons who constitute a national security risk is immoral.

And this is all before we get to the fact that sexism likely plays a role in the Trump administration’s assessment that the team should be given entry parole.

Donald Trump is immoral. It’s nice to have it laid out so simply for all to see.

Innaccuracies

While one might think innaccuracies are merely truthful statements by any Ibis, Ramada or Motel 6 employee, the Trump administration clearly had something else in mind:. Criticizing the Congressional Budget Office’s competence, the White House released a video with voice over text. The text reads, in part:

CBO innaccurately estimated 25 million would be covered under Obamacare…

The mind. It boggles.

On the plus side, Trump promised to add jobs and irony meter manufacturers and repair shops have been going gangbusters for over a year now, with demand only continuing to increase. Gotta give Trump credit where credit is due, and I don’t think anyone has ever had an effect on the irony meter industry that’s anywhere near that of Trump.

Republicans Asked WHAT?

In one of the more amusing screams to come out of the lethal circus fire that is the Republicans’ “big tent” these days, we now hear this complaint:

  • Senate Democrats, from Sen. Bernie Sanders to Sen. Joe Manchin, have followed Sen. Chuck Schumer’s lead and refused to negotiate with Republicans on a path forward to replacing Obamacare.

Well, I could mention the fact that refusing to negotiate and refusing to repeal are two different things, but then I’d pour water on this thing when the really exciting explosions are just about to…

 

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Fascist Policing: “Betty Shelby Got Away With Murder”

What can I say?

White police officer Betty Shelby killed Black Terence Crutcher while his hands were raised in the air or being returned to a raised position after attempting to retrieve something (we don’t know what, but it was probably ID) from his car. He had raised his hands and kept them raised while walking to the car to get whatever it was that Crutcher felt necessary. He was exhibiting all the typical signs of submission, and though the cops say he disobeyed orders, cops frequently give contradictory orders (“Hands up! Show us your ID!”) especially when, as here, more than one cop is one the scene at the same time. And, of course, even if Crutcher were to disobey a legal officer given by a cop with the best of intentions and training, and even if Crutcher were to disobey for the most venal of motives, the penalty for disobeying a legal order given my a law enforcement officer is, if I understand the law correctly, something less than the death penalty both under state law and under Tulsa’s city ordinances. Of course, it is possible that I’m simply misunderstanding the specific legal meaning of the phrases “Failure to comply will constitute a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00).” and “shall be punished by a fine of not more than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00)”. Tulsa is in an entirely different country from me after all.

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No means “don’t stop” … if you’re a Republican Senator in NC

This story, of course, deals with highly upsetting content, continue as you will.

In 1979 the NC state supreme court handed down a ruling that made it non-criminal to continue to act as if one had someone else’s sexual consent after that consent had been withdrawn. Worse? It did not matter if the rapist acted violently: if an encounter began with sexual consent, criminal law in NC would treat rape as consensual sex until whenever a rapist decided to stop raping. Prosecution would have to wait for the rapist to begin a separate, uniquely distinguishable act of sexual contact against a person without consent.

It was, in short, the Blue Balls theory of automatism. She was asking for it, writ in legalese alongside the ever popular, He’s a good guy, he just couldn’t help it.

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Define “Intelligence”

Over at Alternet, an article by Steven Rosenfeld claims that the report released by the Trump administration included faked information, information not actually reviewed by or known to Trump when the decision to strike Syria was made, and otherwise misleading crap meant to help Trump politically, but not actually representing Trumps actual reasons for bombing human beings. Contextualizing the information for us, Rosenfeld reminds us this isn’t the first time something like this has happened:

President George W. Bush’s White House fabricated intelligence concerning Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction before his April 2003 invasion of Iraq. What seems to be unfolding at the top ranks of the Trump administration is similar to Bush’s pronouncements and evidence following the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The primary difference between the two situations is that the fake facts of Bush were released in advance of the attack on Iraq while the fake facts of Trump are being released after the attack on Syria.


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Hold My Beer: It’s greatly to his credit…

In my last post, I mentioned (inter alia) that the Physiocrats gave us the phrase “Laissez Faire Economics” through their policy guiding advice against regulations of the trade in grains, flours & breads that were intended to stop hunger. Despite riots in the spring of 1774 and again, more notably, in the spring of 1775*1 (the latter of which*2 were both serious enough and of such obvious focus and origin that they were named Les Guerres des Farines), the Physiocrats argued against regulations and social services that would prevent flour shortages and, as a last resort, simply pass out food to the people when shortages did occur. An individualist capitalist analysis made the authors sure that the wealth of the nation – the wealth of the king – would be increased if only the government could see fit to scrap regulations of the agriculture trade and harden their hearts to the temporary consequences of their wealth-building policies. The Physiocrats didn’t want their gloriously perfect economic regime to be destroyed by such human failings as pity or empathy. Riots? Pshaw. “Laissez faire, laissez passer” they told the King’s government: “let them happen, let them pass by”.

Stabilization: bad. Unbridled self-interest: good.

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