Take Care

Benjamin Harrison barely registers a twitch on the needle of “Famous Presidents.” He wasn’t a particularly successful President, even though he had a Party Majority in both Houses of Congress. Somehow or another, things just… didn’t get done.

There were however at least two things that should make him more appreciated. First, he was the driving force behind the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Of course, he also appointed the Supreme Court Justices who would help to gut the legislation, and he never held any of the Congressmen who voted FOR it accountable for its enforcement. So while its remnants are still on the books today, it wasn’t the Trust-busting panacea it was supposed to be when he signed it. Continue reading


Warships in Nebraska


It’s odd to find a submarine or a minesweeper out on the Great Plains but such an example exists at Omaha, Nebraska’s Freedom Park which has long had custody over the old WWII-era (3 Battle Stars) Admirable-class minesweeper USS Hazard (AM-240)and the downright cute Cold War-era T-1-class training submarine USS Marlin (SST-2) since 1971 and 1974, respectively.

Typically high and dry hundreds of miles from blue water, they are now seemingly ready to set sail once more as the Missouri River has crested.

(Nati Harnik/AP)

Hopefully, the water will not get too high there. The park closed as a result of flooding along the Missouri River in 2011 and took four years of restoration and cleanup work to reopen.

From Freedom Park: “We learned much from 2011, & had many discussions of what to do if; so with hi-water predicted again, precautions were done today, in minimum…

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One Nation Under a Groove

By June of 1788, ten States have ratified the proposed Constitution. While the technicalities of Article IX have been met, most people understand that the reality is that for the Union to survive, it must be unanimous. Or at least everybody except Rhode Island, which we will deal with separately.

New York is next up on the clock, and already the sniping between the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the longtime Governor of the State, George Clinton (a Revolutionary War General and close friend of Washington’s) has become both intense and deeply personal. Hamilton is deeply connected to the wealthy landowning elites, while Clinton is much more of an introspective “man of the people.” His policies have endeared him to the Middle Class, while the wealthy landowners (Hamilton) have been cut out of New York’s political spoils.

Of all of the States, New York is virtually the only one that – because of Clinton’s economic policies – emerged from the depression of 1780 in good shape. In fact, the State Treasury has over $3 Million (in 1788 dollars) in surplus. Clinton is wisely using this to improve New York’s economy and – of course – keep the votes of the middle and lower classes. Hamilton, who married the daughter of the man Clinton upset in the 1777 Gubernatorial election, opposes the policies that keep New York’s money in New York and not allowing Congress to take over the impost (tax) money that New York is collecting. In fact, at one point New York reluctantly agrees to hand it over to Congress, but petulant Rhode Island torpedoes the deal by refusing to agree. Of course.

More than anyone though, it is these two men, Hamilton and Clinton, who will face off in New York over the Constitution. Clinton will become the very embodiment – in fact, he is the man for whom the term is coined – of the Anti-Federalist. He is not an anti-nationalist. He believes strongly in the Union and in liberty. But he opposes ratification. Hamilton is co-writing the Federalist Papers. it doesn’t take long before the hotter-headed of the two begins to take shots -metaphorically – at the other in the media. 

When everything is said and done, One of them will become a two time Vice-President, mostly forgotten despite his accomplishments. The other will become a controversial figure and the centerpiece of rewritten history…

George is a big boy…


The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), after a decade with the fleet, arrived at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY), Feb. 21, for a 28-month dry-docking planned incremental availability (DPIA). Bush will be on blocks for the majority of her yard period.

As noted by the Navy, “Dry-docking and maintaining a 103,000 ton, 1,092-foot aircraft carrier is complex work. This DPIA marks the first time George H.W. Bush has not been waterborne since 2006. Requiring an estimated 1.3 million man-days, it will be the most extensive maintenance period for the ship yet and one of the most complex CVN chief of naval operations availabilities in recent NNSY history.”

Hauled out in drydock, she is impressive:

Those anchors, tho.

The shipyard workforce will be providing approximately 775,000 man-days, with ship’s force, alteration installation teams and contractor work comprising the rest.

Now if they can just keep the…

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Mike Trout, Angels deal | MLB.com

Just to be clear, a man who has “the highest WaR* in history” just signed a 12 year $400+Million deal.
In his time in the Majors, his TEAM has won one (1) Divisional Title. They were swept in three games in the divisional round of the Playoffs as he hit just .083.
Ticket prices go up. Concessions go up. And The Red Baron wonders why attendance is down?
Gotta be the lack of a pitch clock, right????
*WaR – “Wins Above Replacement” A meaningless SABERMetrics Stat that proves that individuals don’t win Championships, Teams do…

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels and Mike Trout have agreed to a record-setting 12-year contract worth $426.5 million, according to sources. The Angels have not confirmed the deal. Trout, 27, was eligible to become a free agent after the 2020 season upon the completion of the six-year, $144.5 million deal

Source: Mike Trout, Angels deal | MLB.com

Trout, 27, was eligible to become a free agent after the 2020 season upon the completion of the six-year, $144.5 million deal he signed in 2014. This new contract would add 10 years to his existing deal, making it 12 years total. There will be no opt-out clause in the deal, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Trout’s would be the first $400 million contract in Major League history, surpassing the total value of the 13-year, $330 million contract Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies earlier this month. It also will be the third record-setting contract signed this offseason. Previously there had been just one $300 million contract — Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million extension signed in November 2014 when he was with the Marlins.

When Manny Machado signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres in February, it was the first $300 million contract given to a free agent. Then Harper signed his, signifying the most years given to a free agent and the largest contract by total value in North American professional sports history.

But now Trout’s deal, a 10-year agreement for $360 million added to the $66.5 million remaining on the two years of his current contract, takes the distinction of having most total value. With an average annual value of $35.83 million, it also will have the largest average annual value of any MLB contract, surpassing Zack Greinke’s $34.4 million per year in his current deal with the D-backs.

Angels manager Brad Ausmus was coy when asked about the deal on Tuesday, because it hasn’t become official yet. Trout wasn’t at Tempe Diablo Field but could return to play in a Minor League game on Wednesday or in Wednesday night’s game against the Indians in Goodyear.

“I don’t have a comment,” Ausmus said, before discussing Trout’s impact in the upcoming season. “He’s very important to me. I’m looking at 2019 and he’s the best player in baseball.”

Angels players, however, were thrilled with Trout’s agreement. Several talked to the outfielder on Tuesday morning via FaceTime.

“Mike Trout is the greatest player of all time,” said lefty Tyler Skaggs, who was Trout’s roommate in his first two years in the Minors. “He deserves everything. Five hundred, six hundred, eight hundred [million]. I’m really happy for him. I FaceTimed him today. Very Jerry McGuire-esque.”

“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen,” said right fielder Kole Calhoun. “He told me he wasn’t going to be here today and I said, ‘All right, congrats.’ I knew what was going on. It was just cool, especially for him and his wife and for his mom and dad. Everybody knows a lot about him and his life and what a great guy he is. Couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Trout, a native of Millville, N.J., is a noted Philadelphia sports fan and Harper had been vocal about wanting to recruit Trout to sign with the Phillies after the 2020 season. But Trout is comfortable in Southern California and has enjoyed his time with the Angels, although they’ve made it to the postseason just once in his eight-year career.

• Best players to only play for one team

Veteran Albert Pujols, who previously owned the record for the largest contract in Angels history at 10 years and $240 million prior to the 2012 season, said Trout’s deal shows the commitment of the franchise and owner Arte Moreno to win.

“Trout is one of those players who comes around once every 50, once every 100 years,” Pujols said. “I’m blessed to wear the same uniform as him.”

Reaction around the big leagues was swift and positive, as players were happy to see the consensus best player in baseball get a record-setting extension.

“It’s pretty cool to see that,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. “He deserves every penny of it and more. I mean, the guy’s been the best player in baseball. He’s probably one of the best baseball players ever. I don’t even think there’s anything to question about him signing that deal. He obviously likes it in L.A. And now he’s there forever. That’s pretty cool. I’m happy for him.”

Said Cubs manager Joe Maddon: “He is the best player in the game. He deserves that. If there’s been any concerns about spending money throughout the industry, that kind of maybe squashed it.”

“If there is somebody who deserves it and has earned it, it’s him,” Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “He is the only one everybody will say, ‘He deserves it.’ Anyone who comments in a negative way doesn’t know baseball. He is the best player in the game. He shows up every year and you can always say the same thing about him. He is a humble person who plays the game the right way. He is the face of baseball.”

“Amazing deal for the best player in the game,” Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “It’s cool to see a team go after him and make sure they keep him like that. He’s probably the greatest five-tool player the game has seen.”

Said Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo: “He deserves it. If anybody deserves it, it’s him. You always like to see guys get paid what they are worth. It’s great for him and it’s great for the game.”

Trout, taken with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2009 Draft out of Millville Senior High School, won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, finishing second in the balloting for the AL MVP Award that year. He also finished second in the voting for MVP in ’13, ’15 and ’18, while winning it in ’14 and ’16 and finishing fourth in ’17. He enters the season with 64.3 career WAR, already 99th all-time among position players and more than numerous Hall of Famers. It’s the highest WAR by any player in Major League history though an age-26 season.

“He’s a different animal. A man among boys,” shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “When you think about the Angels, you think about Mike Trout.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

The Myth of Fingerprints | Science | Smithsonian

Over the mountain, down in the Valley,
Lives the former Talk Show host.
Far and wide his name was known.

He said there’s no doubt about it,
It was the myth of fingerprints,
That’s why we must learn to live alone…

-Paul Simon

Police today increasingly embrace DNA tests as the ultimate crime-fighting tool. They once felt the same way about fingerprinting

Source: The Myth of Fingerprints | Science | Smithsonian

At 9:00 a.m. last December 14, a man in Orange County, California, discovered he’d been robbed. Someone had swiped his Volkswagen Golf, his MacBook Air and some headphones. The police arrived and did something that is increasingly a part of everyday crime fighting: They swabbed the crime scene for DNA.

Normally, you might think of DNA as the province solely of high-profile crimes—like murder investigations, where a single hair or drop of blood cracks a devilish case. Nope: These days, even local cops are wielding it to solve ho-hum burglaries. The police sent the swabs to the county crime lab and ran them through a beige, photocopier-size “rapid DNA” machine, a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment affordable even by smaller police forces. Within minutes, it produced a match to a local man who’d been previously convicted of identity theft and burglary. They had their suspect.

DNA identification has gone mainstream—from the elite labs of “CSI” to your living room. When it first appeared over 30 years ago, it was an arcane technique. Now it’s woven into the fabric of everyday life: California sheriffs used it to identify the victims of their recent wildfires, and genetic testing firms offer to identify your roots if you mail them a sample.

Yet the DNA revolution has unsettling implications for privacy. After all, you can leave DNA on everything you touch—which means, sure, crimes can be more easily busted, but the government can also more easily track you. And while it’s fun to learn about your genealogy, your cheek samples can wind up in places you’d never imagine. FamilyTreeDNA, a personal genetic service, in January admitted it was sharing DNA data with federal investigators to help them solve crimes. Meanwhile consumer DNA testing firm 23andMe announced that it was now sharing samples sent to them with the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to make “novel treatments and cures.”

What happens to a society when there’s suddenly a new way to identify people—to track them as they move around the world? That’s a question that the denizens of the Victorian turn of the century pondered, as they learned of a new technology to hunt criminals: fingerprinting.

* * *

For centuries, scholars had remarked on the curious loops and “whorls” that decorated their fingertips. In 1788, the scientist J.C.A. Mayers declared that patterns seemed unique—that “the arrangement of skin ridges is never duplicated in two persons.”

It was an interesting observation, but one that lay dormant until 19th-century society began to grapple with an emerging problem: How do you prove people are who they say they are?

Carrying government-issued identification was not yet routine, as Colin Beavan, author of Fingerprintswrites. Cities like London were booming, becoming crammed full of strangers—and packed full of crime. The sheer sprawl of the population hindered the ability of police to do their work because unless they recognized criminals by sight, they had few reliable ways of verifying identities. A first-time offender would get a light punishment; a habitual criminal would get a much stiffer jail sentence. But how could the police verify whether a perpetrator they hauled in had ever been caught previously? When recidivists got apprehended, they’d just give out a fake name and claim it was their first crime.

“A lot of that is the function of the increasing anonymity of modern life,” notes Charles Rzepka, a Boston University professor who studies crime fiction. “There’s this problem of what Edgar Allan Poe called ‘The Man of the Crowd.’” It even allowed for devious cons. One man in Europe claimed to be “Roger Tichborne,” a long-lost heir to a family baronetcy, and police had no way to prove he was or wasn’t.

Faced with this problem, police tried various strategies for identification. Photographic mug shots helped, but they were painstakingly slow to search through. In the 1880s, a French police official named Alphonse Bertillon created a system for recording 11 body measurements of a suspect, but it was difficult to do so accurately.

The idea of fingerprints gradually dawned on several different thinkers. One was Henry Faulds, a Scottish physician who was working as a missionary in Japan in the 1870s. One day while sifting through shards of 2,000-year-old pottery, he noticed that the ridge patterns of the potter’s ancient fingerprints were still visible. He began inking prints of his colleagues at the hospital—and noticing they seemed unique. Faulds even used prints to solve a small crime. An employee was stealing alcohol from the hospital and drinking it in a beaker. Faulds located a print left on the glass, matched it to a print he’d taken from a colleague, and—presto—identified the culprit.

How reliable were prints, though? Could a person’s fingerprints change? To find out, Faulds and some students scraped off their fingertip ridges, and discovered they grew back in precisely the same pattern. When he examined children’s development over two years, Faulds found their prints stayed the same. By 1880 he was convinced, and wrote a letter to the journal Nature arguing that prints could be a way for police to deduce identity.

“When bloody finger-marks or impressions on clay, glass, etc., exist,” Faulds wrote, “they may lead to the scientific identification of criminals.”

Other thinkers were endorsing and exploring the idea—and began trying to create a way to categorize prints. Sure, fingerprints were great in theory, but they were truly useful only if you could quickly match them to a suspect.

The breakthrough in matching prints came from Bengal, India. Azizul Haque, the head of identification for the local police department, developed an elegant system that categorized prints into subgroups based on their pattern types such as loops and whorls. It worked so well that a police officer could find a match in only five minutes—much faster than the hour it would take to identify someone using the Bertillon body-measuring system. Soon, Haque and his superior Edward Henry were using prints to identify repeat criminals in Bengal “hand over fist,” as Beavan writes. When Henry demonstrated the system to the British government, officials were so impressed they made him assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard in 1901.

Fingerprinting was now a core tool in crime-busting. Mere months after Henry set up shop, London officers used it to fingerprint a man they’d arrested for pickpocketing. The suspect claimed it was his first offense. But when the police checked his prints, they discovered he was Benjamin Brown, a career criminal from Birmingham, who’d been convicted ten times and printed while in custody. When they confronted him with their analysis, he admitted his true identity. “Bless the finger-prints,” Brown said, as Beavan writes. “I knew they’d do me in!”

* * *

Within a few years, prints spread around the world. Fingerprinting promised to inject hard-nosed objectivity into the fuzzy world of policing. Prosecutors historically relied on witness testimony to place a criminal in a location. And testimony is subjective; the jury might not find the witness credible. But fingerprints were an inviolable, immutable truth, as prosecutors and professional “fingerprint examiners” began to proclaim.

“The fingerprint expert has only facts to consider; he reports simply what he finds. The lines of identification are either there or they are absent,” as one print examiner argued in 1919.

This sort of talk appealed to the spirit of the age—one where government authorities were keen to pitch themselves as rigorous and science-based.

“It’s this turn toward thinking that we have to collect detailed data from the natural world—that these tiniest details could be more telling than the big picture,” says Jennifer Mnookin, dean of the UCLA law school and an expert in evidence law. Early 20th-century authorities increasingly believed they could solve complex social problems with pure reason and precision. “It was tied in with these ideas of science and progressivism in government, and having archives and state systems of tracking people,” says Simon Cole, a law professor at the UC, Irvine, and the author of Suspect Identities, a history of fingerprinting.

Prosecutors wrung high drama out of this curious new technique. When Thomas Jennings in 1910 was the first U.S. defendant to face a murder trial that relied on fingerprinted evidence, prosecutors handed out blown-up copies of the prints to the jury. In other trials, they would stage live courtroom demonstrations of print-lifting and print-matching. It was, in essence, the birth of the showily forensic policing that we now see so often on “CSI”-style TV shows: perps brought low by implacably scientific scrutiny. Indeed, criminals themselves were so intimidated by the prospect of being fingerprinted that, in 1907, a suspect arrested by Scotland Yard desperately tried to slice off his own prints while in the paddy wagon.

Yet it also became clear, over time, that fingerprinting wasn’t as rock solid as boosters would suggest. Police experts would often proclaim in court that “no two people have identical prints”—even though this had never been proven, or even carefully studied. (It’s still not proven.)

Although that idea was plausible, “people just asserted it,” Mnookin notes; they were eager to claim the infallibility of science. Yet quite apart from these scientific claims, police fingerprinting was also simply prone to error and sloppy work.

The real problem, Cole notes, is that fingerprinting experts have never agreed on “a way of measuring the rarity of an arrangement of friction ridge features in the human population.” How many points of similarity should two prints have before the expert analyst declares they’re the same? Eight? Ten? Twenty? Depending on what city you were tried in, the standards could vary dramatically. And to make matters more complex, when police lift prints from a crime scene, they are often incomplete and unclear, giving authorities scant material to make a match.

So even as fingerprints were viewed as unmistakable, plenty of people were mistakenly sent to jail. Simon Cole notes that at least 23 people in the United States have been imprisoned after being wrongly connected to crime-scene prints. In North Carolina in 1985, Bruce Basden was arrested for murder and spent 13 months in jail before the print analyst realized he’d made a blunder.

Nonetheless, the reliability of fingerprinting today is rarely questioned in modern courts. One exception was J. Spencer Letts, a federal judge in California who in 1991 became suspicious of fingerprint analysts who’d testified in a bank robbery trial. Letts was astounded to hear that the standard for declaring that two prints matched varied widely from county to county. Letts threw out the fingerprint evidence from that trial.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to use fingerprint testimony again,” he said in court, sounding astonished, as Cole writes. “I’ve had my faith shaken.” But for other judges, the faith still holds.

​* * *

The world of DNA identification, in comparison, has received a slightly higher level of skepticism. When it was first discovered in 1984, it seemed like a blast of sci-fi precision. Alec Jeffreys, a researcher at the University of Leicester in England, had developed a way to analyze pieces of DNA and produce an image that, Jeffreys said, had a high likelihood of being unique. In a splashy demonstration of his concept, he found that the semen on two murder victims wasn’t from the suspect police had in custody.

DNA quickly gained a reputation for helping free the wrongly accused: Indeed, the nonprofit Innocence Project has used it to free over 360 prisoners by casting doubt on their convictions. By 2005, Science magazine said DNA analysis was the “gold standard” for forensic evidence.

Yet DNA identification, like fingerprinting, can be prone to error when used sloppily in the field. One problem, notes Erin Murphy, professor of criminal law at New York University School of Law, is “mixtures”: If police scoop up genetic material from a crime scene, they’re almost certain to collect not just the DNA of the offender, but stray bits from other people. Sorting relevant from random is a particular challenge for the simple DNA identification tools increasingly wielded by local police. The rapid-typing machines weren’t really designed to cope with the complexity of samples collected in the field, Murphy says—even though that’s precisely how some police are using them.

“There’s going to be one of these in every precinct and maybe in every squad car,” Murphy says, with concern. When investigating a crime scene, local police may not have the training to avoid contaminating their samples. Yet they’re also building up massive databases of local citizens: Some police forces now routinely request a DNA sample from everyone they stop, so they can rule them in or out of future crime investigations.

The courts have already recognized the dangers of badly managed DNA identification. In 1989—only five years after Jeffreys invented the technique—U.S. lawyers successfully contested DNA identification in court, arguing that the lab processing the evidence had irreparably contaminated it. Even the prosecution agreed it had been done poorly. Interestingly, as Mnookin notes, DNA evidence received pushback “much more quickly than fingerprints ever did.”

It even seems the public has grasped the dangers of its being abused and misused. Last November, a jury in Queens, New York, deadlocked in a murder trial—after several of them reportedly began to suspect the accused’s DNA had found its way onto the victim’s body through police contamination. “There is a sophistication now among a lot of jurors that we haven’t seen before,” Lauren-Brooke Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the New York Times.

To keep DNA from being abused, we’ll have to behave like good detectives—asking the hard questions, and demanding evidence.


Do you know why I don’t worry about Global warming or volcanoes or recycling? Because we are all going to die. Evolution is as certain as a sunrise (for the next few billion years, anyway). Nobody gets out alive and humanity will come to an end someday, regardless of how many taxes we raise or plastic water bottles we bury. NASA reminded us of this fact this week. with a 107 kiloton calling card from nature…

I am continually amazed at people who tell me that they believe in the Constitution and the rights that it guarantees are the first people in line to do the opposite when it suits them. Take @DevinCow, ahem, Congressman Devin Nunes. He once wrote a book filled with platitudes and promises about how much he loves liberty and the rights we have protected by the Constitution.

Until those rights start offending him personally. Then it’s off to the court to file a $250 Million lawsuit against Twitter…