All posts by Greg Laden

What ya gonna do when they come for you?

In Ramsey County, Minnesota (home of Saint Paul) you can be jailed for up to 90 days, and fined up to $1,000, if you are found in a park after hours. “Hours” in Ramsey County parks are from sun up to sun down, so the hours change daily and in pragmatic terms, are subjective.

I can see having a rule about when you can be in the park, and fixing it to sunlight makes sense, and I can even see a modest punishment for offenders. But three months in jail because you thought the sun was still up 15 minutes after sundown? Note to those reading this from the equator: The sun continues to brighten the northern sky long after official sundown, since the penumbra is quite wide in high latitudes.

That was in the Star Tribune, the region’s newspaper of record. In the same issue is an op-ed penned by a local retired cop who has a new job of screaming at clouds. There was a horrific and tragic shootout at a local bar the other day, in which over a dozen innocent bystanders were shot, one killed. It was a shootout among some bad hombres including one with an open warrant. Old Guy Cop made the argument that if only cops were allowed to make “low level stops” (aka pretextual stops) then this shooting could have been avoided. The argument goes like this: Cops were formerly allowed to pull people over for things like busted taillights. In so doing they would also end up finding felons with outstanding warrants, so they were thus kept of the streets. But now with all the “defund the police” talk this isn’t the case anymore, thus the shooting.

Please allow me to clarify a few things. Pretextual stops are not prohibited, though they are reduced in that county and other Minnesota communities as we (the people) pressured our police to do so after a pretexutal stop initiated killing. They have historically (especially when combined with the perambulation version, where citizen pedestrians are shaken down by police officers) are the starting point for (mostly white) cops killing (mostly black) people with their guns, or sometimes, knees or fists. Pretextual stops do cause the apprehension of the occasional bad guy, but not many of them, certainly not most of them. There has been no defunding of police (though to be fair, the concept was implied and not named in the OpEd). The cloud shouting by this ex-cop, who begged to be called a racist in his own OpEd (yes, he’s a racist, there, I said it) was full of misinformation and negative accusations applied to entire categories of people. The contents, factually, would not have been allowed in a news item in a respectable paper. The Star Tribune should not have published it. But they did, and with it I make the following point.

We are a society in which we have come to expect the police to determine the guilt or innocence of individuals they run across on the street, and act accordingly. That 90 day jail sentence for a walk in the park would not likely happen very often. But the fact that it is a crime to be in the park at night allows cops to bust whomever they like, and leave alone those whom they determine either mainstream and acceptable, or perhaps, too dangerous to approach. Then, it allows prosecutors, if they so desire, to try to jail someone for doing basically nothing, presumably on the grounds that they must have done something, even if the cops didn’t nail them for that thing.

My point is that the lack of rigor and humanitarian thinking by the editorial staff of the Star Tribune, which allows them to not notice a senseless anti-civilization rant when they see it, is part of the broader culture of pretending that we have a fair criminal justice system, when what we actually have is a police state that remains mostly benign for mostly white adults, and significantly dangerous for people of color, and others who don’t exist entirely in societies normative silos.

But, there is hope. Ramsey county is considering changing its park rules. Some of our local police departments really are backing off on certain stops. The Hennepin County Sheriff has tried this: Instead of giving people they pull over for a broken tail light a ticket, they give them a coupon to get the light fixed. Thins are changing a little. They are changing at all because we (the people) are putting a great deal of pressure on The Man. But not enough pressure, and things are changing too slowly.

Anthropology and Racism with Greg Laden, by Brycearonee

The Promethian Secular Frontier presents this excellent interview, which I enjoyed greatly, with, wait for it …. me!

Promethean Secular Frontier (PSF) is an educational/secular humanist page meant to provide a community for discussion on various topics ranging from the natural sciences (astronomy, physics, geology, biology/evolution, etc), to social sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, archeology, etc), to philosophy (religion/theology, epistemological, rationalism, morality, etc). Our goal at PSF is to bring concepts that are different for laymen audiences and make them understandable and easily digestible to people seeking knowledge. PSF also wants to create a community that promotes inquiry, skepticism, critical thinking and secular humanism.

Small correction: I was a faculty instructor at Harvard, but actual professor (later) at University of Minnesota.

What is Freedom?

Once upon a time in the Congo, there was a democratically elected President; Some* called him the “Big Man.” The Big Man was elected every seven years by a majority of 97.8%. The people loved him because before he became President, war was everywhere, and just before that, the colonial overlords and punishers were everywhere. You couldn’t get a break. Then after a brief interlude of a different duly elected president who died in an unfortunate execution, Big Man saw to it that there would be no more wars.

Well, not exactly. He had wars, and the people of the Congo were given the opportunity to get jobs fighting in the wars, but they were all in adjoining countries, and they were all paid for by the United States Congress. So no war without taxes, and that was good.

I met Big Man one day. He came and gave a speech, and brought with him his duly elected Congress. They were all women, mostly in their 40s and 50s, and they were adorned with what must have been a million dollars worth of diamond jewelry. Each. Small fires could be set nearby from the sparkle. Anyway, he autographed a copy of his book for me, and in the book, he talks about his great relationship was with the former Director of the CIA, his close personal friend since that unfortunate execution, and later, also a President, but of a different country.

Then one day the people rose up and drove Big Man out of the country, where he died a rich but sick man.

Right after Big Man was driven away, the people of one part of the country, where I had lived off an on for a few years, saw that there was a game park full of antelopes, hippos, and other edible animals.

“This is freedom,” one of them said. “True democracy. We are free to kill and eat all of these animals.” And they did.

If you disagree with what they did, fine, but keep in mind that the upheaval that accompanied the departure of the Big Man, along with some other international supply chain disruptions due to war in the Middle East, had blanketed the land with hunger and uncertainty. Of course the people killed the antelopes, and fed them to their children, and of course they killed the hippos, to sell the meat to the cities, and pawn off the ivory tusks, to make enough money for school, medicine, and to tie one on now and then. In this sense, their newly found freedom to ignore all the laws saved the lives of many, lives that were put at risk due to no fault of their own.

I used to live in a city in Minnesota where the number one police call, the most frequent reason the cops had to “rush” to the scene of a crime, was when someone filled their gas tank at a filling station and drove of without paying. Clerks, they were, these cops. They didn’t really rush to catch the culprits. They stopped by the filling station to fill out a form that would allow the station’s owner to take the theft off as a loss. One day someone suggested that they make a rule that all filling stations would only pump out the gas if it was paid for by a valid credit card at the pump, or in advance inside the building. All the filling station owners wanted this rule, but could not admit that out loud, and could not impose this rule unilaterally. Well, they could impose the rule, but then all the people of that city, freedom-loving each and every one, would not go to that gas station any more, even though most of the townspeople already were paying inside (while buying a pack of smokes and a lottery ticket) or were using a valid credit card outside. It was the principle of the thing.

A resolution to create the law was drafted and entered the process and was about to be passed when someone noticed that his would be a freedom-killing regulation, so it was cancelled. And to this day, the number one call to the cops, and thus, one of the largest expenses to the freedom-loving people of that city, is when someone liberates a tankfull of gasoline and expresses their duly elected freedom by driving off without making payment. Ya gotta love democracy. If this was a communist country like the libs want, those people would have to pay for their gasoline!

A new wave of freedom washes across the landscape, in response to a deadly pandemic. Freedom to embrace the virus, to catch it oneself and to pass it on to others. Freedom to be a contagion. Freedom to wash one’s hands of the morbidity among children and widespread death among the elders, by not washing one’s hands at all! Freedom to breathe. Breathe in the virus, let it breed in one’s tissues, and breathe it out in abundance!

Freedom loving contagions die of the virus at double the rate of those who vaccinate. Distracted from fear and loathing of the imminent replacement by hippo-eating Africans, earthquake-ravaged Haitians, and others, the contagions are replacing themselves, with remarkable sense of duty to the freedom they love and have created for themselves.

Next time someone pulls the freedom card out of the deck, ignore them. They probably don’t know what freedom even is.

If all the vehicles are electric, where will the energy come from?

That is a complicated question I will not answer here. But it also a stupid and misleading question, and that part of it I comment on, in relation to Minnesota specifically:

In Minnesota, between a third and half of the energy we expend is converted into useless heat or work, mainly owing to that fact that converting the source matter into something that produces usable energy has useless heat as a byproduct.

A large (and at this time not accurately accounted for) amount of energy is used moving or refining fossil fuels. Minnesota refines and moves (through pipelines and on trains) more energy-related matter (oil and coal) than any other state that does not also produce such products. We have no oil or gas wells, and no coal, but we are the crossroads for much of that material. If we did none of that, a pretty good amount of energy would be freed up for use elsewhere.

We use energy at an uneven rate throughout the day. If we mostly used electric vehicles, they would be mostly charged at night when demand is currently low.

People sometimes ask: If we stop burning fuel to make things move, and instead use electricity, where are we going to get all that electricity? (When someone asks you that, usually the answer they have in mind and that they are leading yo to, is “nuclear energy! free and clean!” so watch out for that.)

A huge amount of the energy we use now is used to do nothing. It is either turned into heat or it is used to make more of the stuff that we use to use energy. Simplistic questions like “If all the vehicles are electric, where will the energy come from?” this exist outside the actual reality of energy use. Ignore them and learn about energy use and transmission.

Read books like Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. See also: 2030 Report: Powering America’s Clean Economy

Terrorist Attack in Travis County, Texas

MAGA attacked the Democratic Party headquarters in Travis County, Texas.

No one was hurt, not much damage, but it could have been bad. A threat of further attacks was made.

Spiritual and physical terror.

They caught the guy, but they are treating it like he was passing out pamphlets or something:

Spiritual and Physical Terror

On January 6th, 2021, the Republcian Party attempted a violent coup d’etat. The attack resembled previous attacks on state governments, most notably in Michigan, but was carried out on a much larger scale. Security agencies in Washington D.C. were internally hampered as part of the Coup, but managed eventually to put it down anyway. Immediately after the failed attempt to overthrow the government, a second date, for a new attack, was announced by the insurrectionists.

Much of my political life is governed by the regular tic-toc of monthly board meetings in one or another organization. One of those monthly meetings occurred after the January 6th coup attempt but before the announced Republican coup 2.0 date. At that meeting, one of our members talked about verbal attacks and physical threats, including trespassing, damage to property, and invasion in to her home, made against her and her family by one of her Republican neighbors. Others had less frightening stories to tell, but serious concerns nonetheless. Everyone became worried. We went so far as to consider setting up a phone tree and a network of safe houses to which one might flee in the event of a local attack, in particular against people of color, since that seemed to be the trend among the White Supremacists that make up most of the Republican Party.

In short, we were terrorized. Mostly “spiritual terror” with a touch of “physical terror.” Continue reading Spiritual and Physical Terror

History vs Now

At a low but consistent frequency, I see a remark on Twitter or Facebook like: “So, where were all yahoos objecting to the Polio vaccine??!!11!!?? That is a disease we wiped out with a vaccine, that could not have happened if antivax existed then!”

This would be a reasonable lament were it true. I recently read, in Chernov’s Washington: A Life, that George Washington was anti-vax, before he changed his mind based on evidence made clear to him, and then became pro-vax. That was in relation to smallpox, and the “vaccine” was actually “variolation,” which is to modern vaccines what a camel is to a modern RV. Same idea, different technology. Continue reading History vs Now

Covid Contaminants Harm Self

Republican Contaminants are killing Americans at the rate of about one half million per year, because of their pro-Covid stance. But they are killing more of their own.
This is probably not a self correcting phenomenon. Not enough Contaminants are dying of Covid to change election outcomes. But a precinct by precinct study may reveal a small effect.

“John Nolte argued that the partisan gap in vaccination rates was part of a liberal plot. Liberals like Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Fauci and Howard Stern have tried so hard to persuade people to get vaccinated, because they know that Republican voters will do the opposite of whatever they say, Nolte wrote.”

This would be funny if it wasn’t so …. no wait, this is actually just really funny.

Source: New York Times “The Mornting” September 27, 2021, byline: David Leonhardt

Plymouth and Minnetonka MAGA Alert and Voter Guide 2021

Block a MAGA Takeover of the Wayzata School Board

Our Senate District 44 is now overwhelmingly Democratic. All but one small precinct in SD44 votes reliably for DFL candidates.

But sleepy off-year elections are perfect for a minority takeover since so few people vote. All it takes is a fired-up base and an organized plan. This year, the MAGA folks are enraged and they’re well organized to dominate the Wayzata School Board, a “non-partisan” body.

Republicans have recruited small teams of candidates to coordinate their campaigns in order to sweep the 2021 local elections in Minnetonka (council and mayor) and the Minnetonka and Wayzata school boards. Countering this well-organized plan will take fast, assertive action. Continue reading Plymouth and Minnetonka MAGA Alert and Voter Guide 2021

This ain’t the Washita River, General

A growing number of Contaminants (aka Republicans aka Magatrumpers) believe that Liberals and Democrats are pushing vaccines in order to make conservatives and yahoos dislike and therefore avoid vaccines, so that on election day, more Republicans are dead of Covid than Democrats.

Maybe we are doing that, maybe we are not. Not my job to tell you. I am not the mule skinner.

2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Sept 9th: From the National Hurricane Center, pertaining to Larry:

“Larry is forecast to move near or over portions of southeastern
Newfoundland Friday night or early Saturday morning as it undergoes
transition to a hurricane-force post-tropical cyclone. Hurricane
conditions are storm surge are possible in portions of southeastern
Newfoundland where a hurricane watch is in effect. Interests there
should monitor updates to the forecast. Continue reading 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Italian Ate

The Italians are among the most amazing people anywhere in the world. Ask any Italian. But make sure the person you ask is not a Sicilian, or they will kill you.

OK, enough of the Italian jokes. Point it, where I grew up, there was a large and vibrant Italian community. Loud, even. When our state elected the first Italian ever elected to high office as governor, the Italian community rejoiced, and so did everyone else because he was a great governor (a trait that does not necessarily run in family lines, I quickly add). Continue reading Italian Ate

Hurricane Ida is the real thing

Ida is currently menacing western Cuba. It will then pass the long way across the Gulf of Mexico, gaining strength every day. Ida will probably be a Category 3 hurricane by the time it has crossed the gulf. There is a chance Ida could rise in strength to Category 4. It is too early to say for sure, but every single model but one that I’ve seen puts landfall somewhere in Louisiana. The one outlyer model has landfall in Mississippi near the Louisiana border.

Gulf-denizens, start getting ready now. Ida is moving fast. The landfall of the eye, which is NOT when it hits the coast, will be late Sunday or very early Monday.

Update: Latest info from NWS indicates that the storm will strengthn to Category 4 prior to landfall. That would be at about 6AM on the 30th.

Key Messages at 500 PM EDT Fri Aug 27 2021:

  1. Life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions are
    expected to continue through tonight in portions of western Cuba,
    including the Isle of Youth, where a Hurricane Warning is in effect.
    Life-threatening heavy rains, flash flooding and mudslides are
    expected across Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and western Cuba,
    including the Isle of Youth.

  2. There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation
    Sunday along the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi within the
    Storm Surge Warning area. Extremely life-threatening inundation of
    10 to 15 feet above ground level is possible within the area from
    Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mouth of the Mississippi River.
    Interests throughout the warning area should follow any advice given
    by local officials.

  3. Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when
    it reaches the coast of Louisiana. Hurricane-force winds are
    expected Sunday in portions of the Hurricane Warning area along the
    Louisiana coast, including metropolitan New Orleans, with
    potentially catastrophic wind damage possible where the core of Ida
    moves onshore. Actions to protect life and property should be rushed
    to completion in the warning area.

  4. Ida is likely to produce heavy rainfall later Sunday into Monday
    across the central Gulf Coast from southeast Louisiana to coastal
    Mississippi and Alabama, resulting in considerable flash, urban,
    small stream, and riverine flooding impacts. As Ida moves inland,
    flooding impacts are possible across portions of the Lower
    Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys.


INIT 27/2100Z 22.1N 83.2W 70 KT 80 MPH
12H 28/0600Z 23.5N 84.8W 85 KT 100 MPH
24H 28/1800Z 25.3N 86.9W 105 KT 120 MPH
36H 29/0600Z 27.1N 89.0W 115 KT 130 MPH
48H 29/1800Z 28.6N 90.6W 120 KT 140 MPH
60H 30/0600Z 30.0N 91.3W 80 KT 90 MPH…INLAND
72H 30/1800Z 31.5N 91.1W 40 KT 45 MPH…INLAND
96H 31/1800Z 34.4N 89.3W 30 KT 35 MPH…INLAND
120H 01/1800Z 36.0N 86.0W 20 KT 25 MPH…POST-TROP/REMNT LOW