Learned a new word today

R-J photo of Saturday storm damage.

I learned a new word today. As a person who has worked with words nearly all of his life, I like expanding my vocabulary, even if the new word is a conjured amalgam and does not appear in the 14-year-old dictionary on my shelf.

The word is: “gustnado.” It appeared in a news story in the morning paper about the Saturday storm that blew through the valley. A weather service meteorologist explained that a gustnado is a “cyclonic circulation” toward the ground. “A gustnado is just sort of a quick spin up toward the surface and not really connected with the cloud surface itself,” he said.

According to Wikipedia, “A gustnado is a brief, shallow surface-based vortex which forms within the downburst emanating from a thunderstorm.[2] The name is a portmanteau (a blend of words to form a new word) by elision (omission of one or more sounds in a word) of “gust front tornado“, as gustnadoes form due to non-tornadic straight-line wind features in the downdraft (outflow), specifically within the gust front of strong thunderstorms.” By the way, portmanteau and elision are new words for me, too.

Why they don’t simply call it a whirlwind is beyond me, but the language evolves over the years. For the better, for the worse.

Here is an explainer:

Illinois TV station from a year ago.

Some are more equal than others, under the Biden administration

Discrimination is in the eye of the beholder.

In the eye of President Joe Biden’s administration — as in Orwell’s “Animal Farm” — some are more equal than others.

This week the Justice Department withdrew a lawsuit pressed by the Trump administration against Yale University for allegedly violating federal civil-rights law by discriminating against white and Asian-American undergraduate applicants, according to The Wall Street Journal.

According to a USA Today article from when the federal suit was filed, the Justice Department found that Asian American and white students have “only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials.”

But under Biden the objective is equity, not equality. Equity apparently means equal outcomes, rather than equal opportunities.

Then there is Biden’s executive order that asserts that “[a]ll persons should receive equal treatment under the law without regard to their gender identity or sexual orientation”, including that “[c]hildren should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, locker room, or school sports.”

Biological males could compete in sports against biological females and share locker rooms and showers and overnight accommodations on out-of-town trips.

This topic came up during the hearings for Biden’s nominee for Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona.

The National Review noted that this past year the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights told the state of Connecticut — where Cardona is currently commissioner of education — that allowing transgender student athletes to participate in female sports violated the Title IX rights of female students.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky asked Cardona, “If you’re confirmed, will you enforce that Office of Civil Rights opinion?”

Cardona replied, “I understand that there are a lot of concerns about that. If confirmed, it’s my responsibility and my privilege to make sure that we’re following civil rights of all students, and that includes activities that they may engage in in high school or athletics.”

He went on to say it is “critically important” teachers and schools “respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender.”

Paul countered, “So you don’t have a problem then, of boys running in the girls’ track meets, swimming meets, you name it, you’re OK then with boys competing with girls?”

The Review noted that this past year three female high-school students and their families filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block transgender athletes from competing in girls sports in Connecticut. The three girls, all accomplished runners, argued that they have been personally harmed by a policy allowing biological males to compete against them in their running events, missing their chances at championship titles, state records, and scholarship opportunities.

Bloomfield High transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins the final of the 55-meter dash over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, at a 2019 indoor track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut. (AP pix)

Sisolak wants to bring back company towns

Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, according to the morning paper, is contemplating introducing legislation that would allow the creation of Innovation Zones — basically separate branches of government for companies with lots of land and money that could “impose taxes, form school districts and justice courts and provide government services, to name a few duties.”

What’s another word for Innovation Zones? Oh yes, Company Towns.

Those were rather common from the late 1800s through the mid-1930s, but for some reason they’ve largely disappeared. Perhaps, because they were frequently penny-pinching, brutal fiefdoms.

“Traditional settings for company towns were for the most part where extractive industries existed — coal, metal mines, lumber — and had established a monopoly franchise,” according to an article posted at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Dam sites and war-industry camps founded other company towns. Since company stores often had a monopoly in company towns, it was possible to pay in scrip (a term for any substitute for legal tender). Typically, a company town is isolated from neighbors and centered on a large production factory, such as a lumber or steel mill or an automobile plant; and the citizens of the town either work in the factory, work in one of the smaller businesses, or is a family member of someone who does.”

Many workers were paid in script that could be used only at company stores and lived in housing where the rent payments were set by the company.

One of those dam sites is now Boulder City, where gambling and liquor were prohibited. The housing was called dingbat housing because of shoddy construction, according to a PBS article.

Sally Denton, author of “The Profiteers,” a book about the building of Hoover Dam and its contractors, such as Bechtel, told a Santa Fe newspaper, “Bechtel’s long history of questionable labor practices cannot all be written off to the laissez-faire oversight of previous generations or Depression-era conditions. Although it can always be argued that accidents will happen and problems arise on the most disciplined construction projects, the fact remains that Bechtel has been — and continues to be — a leader in scoring gargantuan government projects but has often lagged behind when its come to worker safety.”

VCU said of company towns: “Although economically successful, company towns sometimes failed politically due to a lack of elected officials and municipally owned services. Accordingly, workers often had no say in local affairs and therefore, felt dictated.”

We wonder, would a company town justice court ever convict the CEO of the company?

Boulder City in the 1930s

Biden plan to help the economy will make things worse

The editorial in the morning paper gets right to the point in explaining the utterly illogical nature of President-elect Joe Biden’s economic “stimulus” plan:

In addition to $1,400 payments to individuals, Mr. Biden’s plan includes federal money to supplement regular state unemployment payments and a $15 an hour federal minimum wage. Consider the bizarre logic of those last two proposals: Mr. Biden seeks to kneecap already struggling small businesses by raising mandated wage floors, thus outlawing certain jobs, while simultaneously creating disincentives for returning to the workforce. This is economic stimulus?

In fact the Congressional Budget Office has said raising the minimum wage to $15 would destroy 1.3 million jobs.

The editorial then notes, “The new president’s blueprint also includes billions for state bailouts, which is no doubt music to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s ears as he prepares to outline his budget proposals in his State of the State address this week.”

Yes, the lede story on the front page reports that Sisolak is projecting a 2 percent shrinkage in the general fund budget over the next two years. But a couple of graphs later on the jump, the story reports that overall state revenue — which includes other state revenue sources and federal government funding — will actually increase 5.1 percent. Poor, poor Nevada government.

How could Trump incite a riot that started before his inciting comment?

Article of impeachment introduced today

According to a text of President Trump’s Jan. 6 speech, he delivered the “fight like hell” comment on the Ellipse near the White House at about a minute and a half before ending his speech, which, according to NPR, was 1:11 p.m. According to USA Today, “Rioters begin grappling with police on the Capitol steps” at 1:10 p.m.

Happy birthday, Bill of Rights

Several years ago I penned this for the Review-Journal.

On this day in 1791 the Bill of Rights were ratified by three-fourths of the states. At the insistence of the Anti-Federalists led by Thomas Jefferson the first 10 amendments were added to the new Constitution.

They might more properly be called a Bill of Prohibitions, since they are not so much a delineation of rights as a list of things the federal government may not take away from individuals and the states and local governments.

Bill of Rights

This is our day to celebrate the First Amendment prohibition against establishing a state religion, despite odd rulings about nativity scenes and posting the Ten Commandments, and the right of free speech and press, despite McCain-Feingold limits on campaign spending and advertising. (Since somewhat overturned by Citizens United.)

This is our day to celebrate the Second Amendment, despite requirements to register handguns and other laws.

We celebrate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unlawful search and seizure, despite the Hiibel case in which Larry Hiibel was arrested for not giving his name to a Humbolt County deputy. (Not to mention civil asset forfeitures.)

There’s the Fifth’s protection against taking of property except for public purposes that was bounced by the Kelo decision that let government take property for private development.

As for the Sixth’s right to speedy and public trial? Forget it. No explanation needed.

The right to trial by jury according to the Seventh? Try that in traffic court, buddy.

No cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth’s prohibition. Lifetime sentences for possession of pot belie that one.

The Ninth’s and 10th’s guarantees that rights not delineated are prohibited to feds? Let’s see the states try to set the drinking age or voting age or speed limits.

There’s still the Third’s prohibition against housing troops in private homes. (Right?)

Happy birthday, Bill of Rights, long may you be respected.

A couple of years ago I ran across the Cato video below. As my ol’ Pappy used to say: Great minds travel in the same plane, while fools just think alike.

Actually, the Third is also suspect as I reported here. The courts have since ruled that cops are not soldiers. They sure look alike and are armed alike.

The real meaning of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is rich in traditions. The turkey. The dressing. The pumpkin pie. The family assembled in prayerful reverence in remembrance of the plight of the early settlers of this country — much of which is complete fiction.

The Plymouth colonists set out to live in an idealistic communal fashion. Everyone would share equally in the products of the colony. But after nearly starving to death in 1621 and 1622, Gov. William Bradford abandoned the social experiment and gave each family its own plot of land, and whatever was produced on it was the rightful property of the owner to consume or trade.

The result was a prosperous harvest in 1623 followed by a feast of Thanksgiving.

Capitalism saved the colony.

The American Institute of Economic Research has posted online its own retelling of the Thanksgiving story, along with passages from Bradford’s recollections from “Of Plymouth Plantation,” translated into more modern spelling.

The AIER notes that the colony was attempting to live in the manner described in Plato’s Republic in which all would work and share goods in common, ridding themselves of selfishness and achieving higher social state. The problem was that hard work was not rewarded and laggardness and sloth went unpunished.

William Bradford

Bradford wrote:

“For the young men that were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could man husbands brook it.”

Before the colony could die off from starvation, Bradford divvied up the land and introduced private property.

The governor wrote:

“And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end. … This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before would a ledge weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

And the result was, again in Bradford’s words:

“By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

This is the real lesson of the first Thanksgiving: Capitalism always triumphs over communist utopian fantasies. Humans will work for their own self interest and, instead of it being greedy and rapacious, all benefit and prosper.

But Americans appear to have elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris anyway.

A version of this blog was first posted in 2011.

Another first in 2020

What a strange year it has been.

The spring was unusually cool, so I planted the vegetable garden later than usual. Then it got extremely hot immediately. The tomato plants produced a few tomatoes but then largely went dormant.

With the cooling of autumn, out popped more tomatoes. But it is so cool they are not ripening.

I picked a half dozen and left them in the kitchen window to ripen, but to no avail.

So, for the first time in my life I fixed fried green tomatoes. Simple recipe I pulled off the net — dredge in flour and Cajun spice, then egg and milk and finally bread crumbs. About the same as you would for wienerschnitzel. Added a dash of Louisiana hot sauce and they were rather tasty.

I have a lot more tomatoes, so there is bound to be more on our table. Perhaps for Thanksgiving.

Judge holds Separation of Powers Clause means just what it says

On Monday a Clark County District Court judge threw out a DUI conviction because the prosecutor in the case also serves in the state Legislature, a violation of the Nevada Constitution Separation of Powers Clause.

Judge Richard Scotti wrote:

Appellant Jennifer Plumlee was deprived of her Constitutional rights of procedural due process because her prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Scheible, also served as a Legislator at the time of the trial, in violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine which doctrine exists as a fundamental feature of American government, and as a express clause in the Nevada Constitution. Nev. Const. Art. 3, Sec. 1. An individual may not serve simultaneously as the law-maker and the law-enforcer of the laws of the State of Nevada.
The plain and unambiguous language of the Nevada Constitution is that: The powers of the Government of the State of Nevada shall be divided into three separate departments, -the Legislative, -the Executive and the Judiciary; and no persons charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any functions, appertaining to either of the others, except in the cases expressly directed or permitted in this Constitution.
Nev. Const. Art 3, sec. 1. This is commonly known as the Separation of Powers clause.It is undisputed that Prosecutor Scheible was a person charged with the exercise of powers within the legislative branch of government at the time of the trial. Further, there is no reasonable dispute that, as prosecutor, she was charged with the exercise of powers within the executive branch. the enforcement of the laws of the State of Nevada are powers that fall within the executive branch of the government of the State of Nevada. See Nev. Const. Art. 5, sec. 7. Prosecutor Scheible was enforcing the laws of the State of Nevada, and representing the State of Nevada, and thus was exercising the powers delegated to her within the executive branch. It is not mere coincidence that District Attorneys are frequently referred to as the State or the government. Deputy District Attorney Scheible did not have the legal authority to prosecute Appellant, thus the trial was a nullity.

The Nevada Separation of Powers Clause has been flouted for decades, as an assortment of bureaucrats have successfully won seats in the Legislature.

The principle was embodied in the founding documents of this country.

James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 47, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote in “Notes on the State of Virginia” in 1784: “All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. … An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”

In a 1967 case, the Nevada Supreme Court flatly stated, “The division of powers is probably the most important single principle of government declaring and guaranteeing the liberties of the people.”

In 2004 then-Secretary of State Dean Heller asked the Supreme Court to remedy the ongoing skirting of the Constitution. Heller asked the court to find that service in the Legislature by unidentified executive branch employees violates the concept of separation of powers and to direct the Legislature to enforce the Separation of Powers Clause.

But the court ruled that doing so would violate — wait for it — the Separation of Powers Clause, because the Constitution also states that the Senate and Assembly are to determine the qualifications of their members, thus the judicial branch telling the legislative branch who its members may be violates the Separation of Powers Clause. Got it?

The court did allow that “declaratory relief could be sought by someone with a ‘legally protectible interest,’ such as a person seeking the executive branch position held by the legislator.”

Since then, the Nevada Policy Research institute has filed a lawsuits on behalf of people seeking the executive branch jobs of lawmakers, but to no avail.

NPRI’s Vice President Robert Fellner said of Scotti’s decision, “As the decision by Judge Scotti demonstrates, the judiciary has an obligation to defend the rights of Nevadans against government overreach and unconstitutional conduct. We are hopeful the Nevada Supreme Court will do just that when our own case inevitably reaches them.”

The Las Vegas newspaper quoted Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson as saying, “Based upon Judge Scotti’s ruling, we are considering our options, which includes going to the Nevada Supreme Court. We haven’t made a decision, but we will be making a decision in the semi-near future.”

Over the years it has been argued that employees of local governments do no violate the Separation of Powers Clause, but Nevada is a Dillon Rule state. The state limits the power of local governments to those expressly granted by the Legislature, local governments are basically subsidiaries of the state. Employees of local governments essentially are serving in the executive branch of state government, and also should be barred from serving as a lawmaker under the Constitution.

Let’s hope the state Supreme Court weighs in soon and settles this significant issue.

A Veterans Day recollection

“At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love, and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting in the most primitive conditions possible across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and the coral islands of the Pacific. They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs. They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. They succeeded on every front. They won the war; they saved the world.”    — Tom Brokaw in “The Greatest Generation

H.A. Mitchell, decorated hero of the Pacific campaign in World War II

My father joined the Army when he was 16. He lied about his age.

He knew what was coming and was there when it came. He was in Pearl City that Sunday morning in 1941 when World War II began.

He spent the rest of the war hopping from island to island with his artillery unit. He said he chose artillery because he wanted to make a lot of noise.

I know he was in the Philippines about the time the survivors of the Death March of Bataan were rescued. The rest is a blur in my memory, though I recall him telling about how they censored letters home lest they fall into enemy hands and give away troop locations — you couldn’t write that the food was “good enough,” because the ship was at Goodenough Island.

He was a decorated hero, but said he refused to wear the Purple Heart so he wouldn’t have to explain exactly where the wound was located.

When he and his war buddies got together they seldom talked about the fighting, only the antics, like climbing on the hood of a truck and stealing eggs out of the back of another truck as it slowly climbed a steep hill.

But one of his friends once let slip that Dad, a bulldozer operator, actually used a bulldozer blade to deflect bullets while rescuing pinned down soldiers.

To hear him and his friends talk, it seemed like they spilled more beer than blood, but somehow still managed to win the war and save the world.

They are the ones Veterans Day is for.

A version of this was first posted in 2012.