Just to Clarify

Police: Man used handgun as hammer at Missouri school:

A man has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and child endangerment after police say he used a handgun as a hammer while working on a project at a southeast Missouri elementary school.

The unlawful use is not because he used his gun as a hammer; it’s because he had it at the school:

(10) Carries a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use into any school, onto any school bus, or onto the premises of any function or activity sponsored or sanctioned by school officials or the district school board; or

So it doesn’t look like a violation to use it as a hammer. Or a decoration, which is cool, because I have a couple flintlocks on display here at Nogglestead.

Of course, in looking up the statute, I read the first section:

(1) Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use; or

Which means I’ll have to remember not to put my martial arts training weapons in my bag when conveying them to class. Otherwise, according to my reading of the law, I’d be breaking it.

Disposable Diapers A Fundamental Right

The White House wants to bridge the “diaper gap.”

A new plan announced Thursday aims to make diapers more affordable for low-income families. The initiative will give low-income families access to diapers that are up to 25% cheaper than the ones they currently buy. In a press call on Thursday, President Obama said the program was made possible through a collaboration with Jet.com, the makers of Cuties diapers and several non-profits.

You know what families without disposable income and, come to think of it, all families used to do? Use cloth diapers and wash them.

But that’s too icky in the 21st century, I suppose, for a populace accustomed to more and more government programs.

Of course, I’m a hypocrite for opposing this because my mother benefited from government programs and used cloth diapers on me and/or because I use some of my non-tax income to voluntarily buy diapers and accoutrements for people who need them.

A Tale of Two Bills

Missouri Democrats stall religious objections measure

Filibuster to block anti-gay wedding measure drags into 16th hour in Missouri Senate

No, just kidding. It’s the same thing but reported on by two different news outlets in two different cities.

At issue: Whether the state can compel you as an individual person who owns a business to serve members of a protected class.

People without shoes and shirts are not a protected class, so until they unite, you can continue to deny them service. Maybe.

Headline Chasers Gotta Chase Headlines

Last week, a guy in a car hit several residential buildings including a garage. A Republic police officer apparently tried to talk to him, but the fellow put the car in gear and hit the officer. The officer shot the driver of the car, who died at the hospital. The fellow had a history of seizures and might have been out-of-it when he hit the officer.

It’s a tragedy all around: The guy might have been in the throes of epilepsy or something, but the officer had no way of knowing that.

Enter the sharp from the Big City:

A lawyer representing Meikle’s family told the News-Leader he wants Sgt. John Tinsley fired and charged with murder.

“We’re not talking involuntary manslaughter,” said Jermaine Wooten, a lawyer from St. Louis. “He went beyond negligence.”

Blah blah blah. He’s covering himself with glory when he says:

“This is a tragic loss, not only for the family but for the city of Springfield,” Wooten said. “They lost maybe one of their best citizens.”

Springfield, Republic. All the same to someone from the big city.

I have to wonder who reached out to whom here: Whether the attorney, who gained some media coverage for representing the families after a police shooting in St. Louis, reached out to the family or whether they called him.

Meanwhile, in unrelated news, here’s a story from this week where an actual Springfield police officer was dragged by a car 150 feet this week.

So the sharp won’t be angling for a local jury trial, then.

Brian J. Kills Celebrities Dead

This morning, I saw the headline that Vanity died.

Vanity, a former protege of Prince’s and a member of Vanity 6, has died at age 57, TMZ reports.

According to the website, the singer — born Denise Katrina Matthews — had long suffered from kidney failure and recently battled abdominal illness.

The story mentions her in three films: The Last Dragon, 52 Pick-Up, and Action Jackson.

Late last year, I watched two of those films: Action Jackson and The Last Dragon. I even joked that I had to watch Chuck Norris in An Eye For An Eye because I’d seen as many Vanity movies as Chuck Norris movies last year, and I had to break the tie.

And now she’s dead.

It’s like when I started listening to Eydie Gorme, and she died.

Like when I watched Grizzly Mountain last year. Right before Dan Haggerty died.

Jeez, I’m sorry, folks. I don’t know how I’m doing this.

Actually, I suspect I do: It’s my brain seeing patterns when something comes to my awareness (aka the Jeopardy! nexus). I’m always fascinated by how my brain processes patterns.

TO BE CLEAR: I’ve thought about rewatching Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but I have not. So Alan Rickman isn’t on me. Also, I’ve not been reading any legal theory or Supreme Court rulings nor have I suddenly liked David Bowie music. So DON’T LOOK AT ME THAT WAY.

When Your Work Is More Famous Than You Are

American Pie’ singer arrested on domestic violence charge.

The fellow’s name is Don McLean, by the way. But that’s for us trivia buffs now. For everyone else, he’s the American Pie guy who wasn’t Jason Biggs.

(Sad irony here: When fact-checking the name of Jason Biggs here, I typed Jason Silverman because Jason Biggs was the title character in Saving Silverman. So I couldn’t remember the name of a guy and confused it with his work while creating a blog post about a man identified by his work instead of his real name.)

Franking, My Dear, I Do Give A Damn

It’s the election year, so it means it’s time for officials who are running for office to send out Official Communiques with four-color process and their pictures above the fold.

Right, Chris Koster?

I don’t remember getting slick newsletters about how Attorney General and Candidate for Governor Chris Koster has fought to keep my phone line free of calls except for the multiple times daily I get recorded calls for…. well, I’m not sure, really, as I don’t get far enough into them to know what they’re pitching.

I’m also not sure why there are three telephone numbers on the list: My home phone and two numbers I don’t recognize (and never have had, since I’ve only had one phone number in the 417 area code in my life).

I am sure of one thing, though: I cynically believe that this mailing was sent out only because he’s running for another office and wants to (defensibly) use state money to get his face before voters.

Because “Special Interest Groups” Are Groups That Disagree With The Journalist

Missouri business groups voice support for gas tax hike:

Chambers of commerce, heavy construction and engineering trade groups, and municipal and county government associations were among those who testified in favor of the legislation Wednesday at a Senate transportation committee hearing.

That is, groups that would directly or indirectly benefit from increasing taxes on everyone favor raising those taxes.

All right, raising taxes on people who buy gasoline which is a subset of “everyone.” However, the purpose is the same. And they’re not just business groups, they’re business groups who benefit.

The Right Side Of History Apparently Applies To Physics, Too

This physicist has a groundbreaking idea about why life exists

Why does life exist?

Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning, and a colossal stroke of luck.

But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat.

. . .

The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that, under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

As a point of order, this hypothesis tries to explain how life exists, not why.

An Idea Only A Corporation and A Young Journalist Could Love

I bought a Springfield News-Leader yesterday because I needed paper to carve jack o’lanterns on, and this was the lead story, page 1 above the fold: Could a $130 million gondola project alleviate congestion on the Branson strip?:

Director of Public Works David Miller has worked for the City of Branson for 25 years. The entire time, he said, the tourist destination in the rolling mountains of the Ozarks has been looking to alleviate the gridlock that can develop on Highway 76, the theater-studded Branson strip.

As a result, the panacea has long been seen as something off the ground. A monorail has been floated multiple times. “Personal Rapid Transit,” a system of individual automated cars moving along elevated tracks, has been proposed. But funding remained elusive, and projects never got past the concept stage.

Now, a new Missouri-based company has proposed a gondola line — think ski lift, not Venice.

At a Branson Board of Aldermen study session on Thursday, American Gondola pitched an approximately 8.5-mile route from Branson Landing to Silver Dollar City, with stops along the way, at a Branson Board of Aldermen study session. Total project cost has been estimated at $130 million.

$130 million for a single-route bit of annual maintenance cost nightmare that won’t be used in rain or winter and will be vulnerable to acts of nature? That’s an idea only the people who would get paid and the twenty-three-year-olds fresh from all-night college brainstorming sessions could love. Hopefully, the responsible people who govern wouldn’t agree, but I think we’re far beyond responsible people governing at this point.

Maybe the city of Branson can pay per passenger like it does on that boondoggle of an airport it has.

Man, I’ve got to wonder how much of the paper’s reporting budget goes for weekly runs to Colorado for, uh, research. I remember a long time ago when newspapers dug up and exposed government boondoggles and waste instead of promoting it.

And this is why I don’t get a Springfield News-Leader more often. I even refuse free copies when they’re handing them out at the warehouse club or supermarket. They’re not worth the couple of minutes it takes to flip through the 24 pages.

I Live In The Country

Farmer bound over in fork loader assault:

The Joplin Globe reports that Wilson’s sister, Barbara Cole, and her husband, Gary, went to see Wilson in June about selling jointing owned property near Miller. Gary Cole said that as his wife approached, Wilson rolled a large, round hay bale off the trailer, and it almost hit her. Cole said Wilson then drove the dual spears of the hay-fork loader through the windshield of the couple’s pickup truck and chased them. No one was hurt.

I was just in Mount Vernon a week ago, as a matter of fact.

St. Charles Considering Plan To Require Tax Increase In A Couple Of Years

City might take over nonprofit St. Charles art center:

City leaders are considering a takeover of the nonprofit Foundry Art Centre to try to put the financially struggling facility on a more stable footing.

Assigning the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, a city agency, to run the 11-year-old facility is among three options submitted to the City Council this month.

Another is continuing the city’s $110,000-a-year subsidy for five more years, with operations overseen by the center’s existing board. The subsidy was regarded as a temporary stopgap when the council began it in 2013.

The third option is a combination: providing the $110,000 subsidy but earmarking some of it to the convention bureau for “branding and marketing” of the art center.

This plan differs from some city plans, where the city decides it needs to have its own water park/fitness center/whatever to compete with the neighboring suburb and then finds out that the venture does not break even as promised.

Instead, the city here (and the media and noisemakers who like art but cannot be arsed to support the art center enough) want to take over a struggling, under-supported and probably underappreciated and underused facility. Which will cost more than expected, natch, so the city will have to either reallocate funding for it or propose a tax increase and put it on a ballot in April where nobody but the people who love art when someone else pays for their love of art can come out and vote to increase everyone’s taxes so they can go to the local art museum once in a while. Or at least they’ll live in a better city than St. Peters.

So this cycle continues.

Hey, it’s not that I don’t support the local niceties like libraries and symphonies and whatnot. But I put my money, voluntarily, where my heart is (in addition to that money required by law). I am in the friends of three or four local libraries; I support the local historical societies in three counties; and I’ve even briefly attended a local Symphony Guild fundraiser (and there’s a sad story in that, gentle reader, that I might someday tell).

I don’t ask or demand other people subsidize my interests. And, somehow, some people would fault me for that.

Great Moments in 21st Century Journalism aka Reporting on Facebook Posts

The Springfield News-Leader went hot online with this salacious story over the weekend: Owner of Battlefield Mall phone repair kiosk responds to sex trafficking allegations that went viral on Facebook.

You go read it while you can. Basically, a young woman took her phone to the kiosk for repair and got it back; after she did, the claimed there was a sensor on it tracking her calls. She went back to complain and reports a nearby tattooed man was eavesdropping on her. Somehow the tattooed man knew which car was hers in the mall parking lot and was waiting for her near there; fortunately, she had a mall store employee walk her out because she was nervous. Her phone had some odd behavior that seemed indicative to her of….something. Then she was followed as she drove. Just like something on television. So she suspected it was a white slavery or sex trafficking thing.

The News-Leader reached out to her via Facebook, and she didn’t respond.

They got a hold of the owner of the mall kiosk, and he said she’s out of her mind. So the story, essentially, was reprinting a Facebook post from some unknown person along with denials from the person under suspicion.

And the News-Leader ran this as a news story.

The follow-up to the story: Police: Investigation into viral Facebook allegations stalled due to lack of cooperation.

The gist: The woman contacted police, but so did the owner of the kiosk. The woman didn’t respond to the police or the News-Leader and deleted her Facebook account with the viral post.

This, my friends, is 21st century journalism. Haven’t you noticed how many news articles, especially in small city newspapers, describe what the person of interest’s Facebook profile says? It’s as though the kids coming out of journalism schools don’t know how to talk to someone directly, whether via phone or in person, before publishing. This example is just an extreme example of the genre, but it’s definitely on the continuum.

Corporations Expected To Sue At Government Request

In New York, the police are asking private companies to sue individuals because they hope that’s easier than policing or something. NYPD to Disney and Marvel: Get Minnie Mouse and Spider Man out of Times Square:

New York’s police chief is asking Disney and Marvel to crack down on the costumed hustlers of Times Square, but the companies aren’t responding.

Times Square is populated by a variety of rogue characters plying tourists for money. Some of these characters, like Minnie Mouse and Spider Man, are trademarks of Disney (DIS) or Marvel (which is owned by Disney.)

The NYPD confirmed to CNNMoney that Commissioner Bill Bratton asked Disney and Marvel to sue for copyright infringement. But according to the NYPD, the companies aren’t biting.

. . . .

Times Square has a long history of sordid behavior up until the 1990s, when it was overrun by peep shows, prostitutes and street corner crack dealers. But former Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg swept away much of the crime and turned it into a pedestrian haven for tourists and corporations like Toys R Us and Olive Garden.

More recently, Times Square has become the haunt of costumed characters and topless women who get their pictures taken with tourists for tips.

But thing started to go sour in 2013, when Cookie Monster got arrested for allegedly knocking over a toddler when his mother supposedly refused to pay.

There’s been a series of incidents and arrests since then, including accusations of groping by another Coookie Monster, and also Woody from “Toy Story” [sic, which is Latin for “The period at the end of this sentence is missing in the original, it’s not a cut and paste error on the part of the blogger]

So New York has a new administration that has made it harder for police to operate and to discourage malcreants, so the administration is turning to the other stock bad guy, corporations, to make them take action to stop public nuisances.

It’s asking corporations to spend their money (via legal fees and time in tracking down and suing two-bit operators in the public square. Of course, as with anything the government does, the request comes with the implied or else.

Artificial Intelligence Catches Up With 1990s Era English Majors

Back when I was a young man majoring in English and philosophy at the university 1990-1994, I took sport in asking my compatriots in the English department to ask three morals. Not any morals, not even morals that the interrogated actually followed. Just three morals. The question tripped up most of them as they were enlightened in the ways of relativism and would not identify morals at all under threat of possibly being considered a prude somewhere. Now, friends, this is a Catholic (!) university, and the Christian faith has ten prominent morals specified in Exodus and hundreds in other bits of the Pentateuch. Most people could spell out at least three of the Ten Commandments even if they didn’t adhere to them or think they could. But oh so many of those adults would not or could not.

Fast forward twenty years, and these same people are full professors teaching the programmers who have built an AI that gets testy when pressed on morals:

Over at Google, a computer program using a database of movie scripts was asked again and again by researchers to define morality. It struggles to do so, and in a conversation recorded by its human engineers, becomes exasperated and ends the conversation by lashing out at its human inquisitor.

The transcript presented at the link could have been one of the conversations I had while selling doughnuts to support the small literary magazine.

Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics would have counted as three morals, by the way, but neither the English majors in those days nor modern algorithms read Asimov.

(Link via Ed Driscoll at Instapundit, which sounds weird.)

It Makes Sense In A Corporate Marketing Sort Of Way

Brown Shoe to rebrand itself as Caleres:

One of St. Louis’ oldest public companies, Brown Shoe, is stepping out with a new name, Caleres.

Brown has been part of the corporate name since the company’s founding in 1878. Next month, however, that name will be dropped once shareholders approve the change on May 28.

“Brown Shoe doesn’t conjure up the image of who we are today,” Brown Shoe’s CEO, president and chairwoman Diane Sullivan said in an interview. “Our name has to be more than a name — it must be managed as a brand. It’s hard to be emotional about a brown shoe.”

‘Caleres’ conjures up what, exactly?