Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cruising the Web

So we had a bit of excitement at my school this morning. I got to school early and was told that I couldn't enter the building because someone had emailed a bomb threat for our school. The threat had, ostensibly, originated in Moscow. After the Raleigh police brought in a bomb-sniffing dog, we were cleared to open. I spent some time today reading about all the bomb threats there have been against NC schools in recent weeks. It turns out that there have been quite a few. There have been numerous threats against schools in Wake county where Raleigh is located. There has been a 74% increase in bomb threats against North Carolina schools since 2012. And authorities are starting to feel the costs of investigating all these threats.
Holly Springs Police Chief John Herring said his department devoted as much as $3,500 in manpower and equipment to respond to Holly Springs High, and the department wasn't the only one that searched the school for possible explosives.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said his deputies are spending an increasing amount of time chasing threats of bombs or guns at area schools.

"I don't know how many we've had [this year]. We've had a ton," Harrison said.

Russ Smith, senior director of security for the Wake County Public School System, said there were only four bomb threats in the district in 2016-17. Although he doesn't have statistics for this school year, he knows the numbers have jumped.

"There have been a numerous increase in the number of bomb threats, the the number of hoax bomb threats that are coming from overseas and other locations, I guess all geared to causing chaos," Smith said.

WRAL News has covered at least seven threats to Wake County schools in the last five months, three of which occurred in the last two weeks.
I don't have any idea of what is behind this. Perhaps students are just trying to get out of school. Maybe the schools are being overly sensitive to any perceived threat, but who wants to be the administrator who ignores a threat and then has something terrible happen?

It reminds me of when I was in school in the 1970s. I have memories of having regular bomb threats at school. And they were rarely caught. Sometimes we forget how frequent bomb threats and actual bombings were in the 1970s. I found this post an a history forum with a startling statistic.
I'm reading Francis Wheen's Strange Days Indeed, a history of the bizarre events of that decade. One chapter deals with urban terrorism and he states that there were more than three thousand bombings and more than fifty thousand bomb threats in the US in 1970 alone.
That's an amazing claim. I'm not sure if I believe it. Historian Bryan Burrough who has written about radicals of those days reminds us of the frequency of terrorist attacks by radical groups back then.
This was during the 1970s, when protest bombings in America were commonplace, especially in hard-hit cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Nearly a dozen radical underground groups, dimly remembered outfits such as the Weather Underground, the New World Liberation Front and the Symbionese Liberation Army, set off hundreds of bombs during that tumultuous decade—so many, in fact, that many people all but accepted them as a part of daily life. As one woman sniffed to a New York Post reporter after an attack by a Puerto Rican independence group in 1977: “Oh, another bombing? Who is it this time?’”

....As paranoid as Nixon could be, it was hard to argue with his line of thinking: Bombing attacks were growing by the day. They had begun as crude, simple things, mostly Molotov cocktails college radicals hurled toward ROTC buildings during the late 1960s. The first actual bombing campaign, the work of a group of New York City radicals led by a militant named Sam Melville, featured attacks on a dozen buildings around Manhattan between August and November 1969, when Melville and most of his pals were arrested.

Weather’s attacks began three months later, and by 1971 protest bombings had spread across the country. In a single eighteen-month period during 1971 and 1972 the FBI counted an amazing 2,500 bombings on American soil, almost five a day. Because they were typically detonated late at night, few caused serious injury, leading to a kind of grudging public acceptance. The deadliest underground attack of the decade, in fact, killed all of four people, in the January 1975 bombing of a Wall Street restaurant. News accounts rarely carried any expression or indication of public outrage....

The epidemic of bombings eased as the decade wore on, though this wasn’t readily apparent in San Francisco, where explosions remained so prevalent that, after an especially nasty series of attacks in 1976, an FBI spokesman termed the city “the Belfast of North America.’” And the violence actually grew more deadly as the number of underground groups dwindled and grew more desperate; the deadliest year for underground violence was 1981, when eleven people were killed in bombings and bank robberies gone bad.
Brian Michael Jenkins of RAND Corporation has some of the stats from that period.
Nearly 9,840 incidents of terrorism were recorded worldwide during that decade, and more than 7,000 people were killed. During the recent surge from 2002 through 2013, 72,185 terrorist attacks occurred — and nearly 170,000 died because of them.

But in the United States, terrorism has declined dramatically since the 1970s. In that decade, 1,470 incidents of terrorism unfolded within the nation's borders and 184 people were killed. A total of 214 acts of terrorism were cataloged between 2002 to 2013 on U.S. soil, killing 61.

When William Webster became director of the FBI in 1978, more than a hundred terrorist attacks a year were taking place in the United States. By the mid-1970s, terrorist bombs were being set off in the country at an average rate of 50 to 60 a year.
I was just a teenager then, but we followed the news pretty closely in my family and I just don't remember hearing much about all these bombings. I do remember, however, how regularly we had bomb threats at schools. And when we went on to college, the threats continued. It's depressing to see that today's students (and I suspect that most of these threats in Wake County are from students) are catching on to the same plan.

It also struck me how minimal the coverage was in the local media. For example, the story on the local paper's website for our bomb threat today was basically the same message that the school sent out to families. There was no follow-up connecting it to all the other school bomb threats there have been in the area in recent weeks. There was no interview with authorities about what they're doing to investigate all these threats or a round-up of what had happened to those who had been caught. Maybe they just don't want to give people the suggestion of doing more threats, but if that were the case, why even publish the story and have it be the story on the front of the site all day long?

It's not enough that he wants college to be free and wants the federal government to provide everyone with health care, Bernie Sanders not wants to guarantee everyone a job.
Sanders's jobs guarantee would fund hundreds of projects throughout the United States aimed at addressing priorities such as infrastructure, care giving, the environment, education and other goals. Under the job guarantee, every American would be entitled to a job under one of these projects or receive job training to be able to do so, according to an early draft of the proposal.

A representative from Sanders's office said they had not yet done a cost estimate for the plan or decided how it would be funded, saying they were still crafting the proposal.

Sanders joins two other rumored 2020 Democratic presidential contenders who have expressed support for the idea of a jobs guarantee. The push reflects a leftward move in the party's economic policy, away from President Barack Obama's use of public-private partnerships or government incentives to reshape private markets and toward an unambiguous embrace of direct government intervention.
Well, of course, he hasn't figured out yet how to pay for it. He seems to think that there will be unlimited money from taxing rich people to pay for all his ideas of what the federal government should pay for. And Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker are eager to lock up the socialist branch of the Democratic Party by endorsing the idea. There doesn't seem to be any limiting approach to what these guys think the government can pay for.

Apparently, Sanders' theory is that, by offering jobs at $15 an hour, private businesses will have to give workers higher salaries in order to compete for workers. Well, either they'll do that or hire fewer workers or go out of business. Everyone except for leftist economists acknowledges that raising the minimum wage will cost jobs, especially for those at the low end of the pay scale.

David Harsanyi comments,
One imagines that a quixotic proposal like this polls quite well. I mean, who doesn’t want everyone to have a job? You don’t possess a skill-set that enables you to find productive work? You don’t want to learn a new trade? You don’t want to attain a better education? You have no interest in moving to an area where your work might be in demand? You don’t want to start your career with a lower wage even if the long-term prospects of doing so might be worthwhile? Don’t worry. The government’s got an incentive-destroying job opportunity just for you.

And if you’ve been fired for a poor work ethic or for stealing or for making women uncomfortable with your creepy behavior, fear not, Bernie’s got your back. In the rare event that a state worker does misbehave, he or she will be summoned to the “Division of Progress Investigation” (a relic of our 1930s stab at socialism) to “take disciplinary action if needed.” If the DPI runs anything like major public schools systems do, you can imagine this will be a study in meritocracy.
Harsanyi goes on to ponder the way that such a program would play out ideologically.
Of course, it’s more likely that our state-run workforce will be deployed for ideological and political priorities rather than economic ones. If history is any indicator, it will be used to prop up politically useful projects and keep failing industries afloat, undermining creative destruction, innovation, and long-term growth.

You do have to wonder what would happen when local communities that share President Trump’s “priorities” demand to utilize this state labor? What if they want to build sections of a wall on the southern border rather than make solar panels, or whatever progressive priority Sanders has in mind? We’d be hearing about rise of fascism in no time.

Then, there is the mission creep. No doubt, the DC bureaucracy that emerges to run this project will be both nimble and competent. But why only $15? can live on $15 an hour? Well, not a lot of people. Surely these hard-working public servants who keep the infrastructure from crumbling around us deserve a genuine living wage. How about better pensions? As this workforce grows, it won’t possess any special ability other than being able to corral huge numbers of people to demand more.

Most of all, making government responsible for every American’s job prospects would change the dynamics of governance, forever. Not only would politicians be expected to help create the economic conditions that make growth possible, but now they will face another unrealistic expectation. Unemployment will no longer be a function of economic conditions, but rather heartless politicians who fail to create jobs for voters.
Just remember that, if the Democrats take over Congress, this is the type of thing they'll be pushing for. How many Democrats will endorse this idea? If twenty of them liked the idea of universal health care, how many like the idea of federally-guaranteed jobs?

Maybe he should check out the experiment in Finland with what happened when the government guaranteed everyone a basic income. It turns out that the result was what anyone with a knowledge of human nature could have predicted.
For more than a year, Finland has been testing the proposition that the best way to lift economic fortunes may be the simplest: Hand out money without rules or restrictions on how people use it.

The experiment with so-called universal basic income has captured global attention as a potentially promising way to restore economic security at a time of worry about inequality and automation.

Now, the experiment is ending. The Finnish government has opted not to continue financing it past this year, a reflection of public discomfort with the idea of dispensing government largess free of requirements that its recipients seek work.

Finland has actually reversed course on that front this year, adopting rules that threaten to cut benefits for jobless people unless they actively look for work or engage in job training.

“It’s a pity that it will end like this,” said Olli Kangas, who oversees research at Kela, a Finnish government agency that administers many social welfare programs and has played a leading role in the basic-income experiment. “The government has chosen to try a totally different path. Basic income is unconditional. Now, they are pursuing conditionality.”

The demise of the project in Finland does not signal an end of interest in the idea. Other trials are underway or being explored in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Canadian province of Ontario, the Netherlands and Kenya.
Well, of course, San Francisco, a Canadian province and the Netherlands would be attracted to such a failed socialist idea. And adding it on top of other government welfare programs seems redundant.
Health care is furnished by the state. University education is free. Jobless people draw generous unemployment benefits and have access to some of the most effective training programs on earth.

“In a sense,” said Mr. Hiilamo, the social policy professor, “Finland already has basic income.”
Why work when your basic needs are paid for and the government will provide you an income whether or not you sit at home or make an effort to make something of yourself?

This sounds like one of the better nominations that Trump has made.
Neil Jacobs has long been considered a rising star in the weather world. Holding a PhD in meteorology from North Carolina State University, he is best known as the architect of the Panasonic weather model, which, in recent years, produced some forecasts for high-impact events that were the best in the world.

Last year, President Trump plucked him to become one of two deputies to the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and he was confirmed by the Senate this year.

Jacobs now has the opportunity to build and strengthen programs that will help set the direction of weather prediction in the United States for decades to come.

He takes the job at a critical time. Last fall, our nation experienced one of its worst hurricane seasons on record, and the United States already has endured three billion-dollar weather disasters this year.

The primary U.S. weather forecasting system, often called the “American model,” has fallen short of the accuracy of competitors in Europe. While NOAA has invested substantial resources to improve the model, it has not been able to close the gap. Meanwhile, companies in the U.S. private sector are developing new tools and prediction systems from which the agency could benefit.
I remember reading last year that the European model was so much better than the American one in forecasting the weather. That was rather dismaying. It's not as sexy a federal government function as some of the things politicians want to spend money on (hello, Bernie), but this is the sort of proper function for the national government. There's a real opportunity to work together with private companies to get the best of both worlds. The Panasonic weather model which Jacobs designed has been recognized for the top-level work it's been doing.
On balance, forecast data released by Panasonic reveals its forecasts were the most accurate leading up to Irma’s landfall on Marco Island, Fla. (Note that this forecast data, provided by Panasonic, has not been independently evaluated. But Panasonic has posted the data online and welcomes scholars to review it.)

The Panasonic model forecasts were especially good about four to seven in days in advance, the data show, outperforming the European and American GFS models. Its forecast for Irma’s track had a substantially smaller error, on average.
It will be so beneficial to have Jacobs bring that expertise to NOAA.

Andy Ngo points to a pretty amazing correction from the New York Times.

It's rather amazing that the NYT was so unaware of Palestinian support for terrorism. It indicates how clueless some of their reporters are.

This is the guy running
for the GOP nomination for the Senate in West Virginia who would frustrate any hope that the Republicans have of building a bigger majority in the Senate.
Don Blankenship is running for the United States Senate as a proud West Virginian with Appalachian roots, but his primary residence is a $2.4 million villa with palm trees and an infinity pool near Las Vegas.

Mr. Blankenship, a Republican loyalist of President Trump, is running an America First-style campaign and calls himself an “American competitionist,” but he admires China’s state-controlled economy and has expressed interest in gaining Chinese citizenship.

The former coal mining executive is widely known for spending a year in prison for his role in a mining explosion that claimed 29 lives. Yet he is running as a champion of miners and has bought TV ads that challenge settled facts about his role in the disaster.

And even as Mr. Blankenship seeks to join the Republican majority in Washington, a “super PAC” linked to the party establishment is attacking him as a “convicted criminal” and a hypocrite.

No Republican candidate in the 2018 midterms embodies so many contradictions as pointedly as Mr. Blankenship, who was found guilty of conspiracy to violate mine safety standards in federal court and yet has plenty of supporters in coal country.

He is one of three leading Republican contenders heading into the May 8 West Virginia primary, even though he is lugging around enough political baggage to disqualify a candidate most anywhere else.
Come on, West Virginia. Don't blow it.