Guest Post: Attacking the Judiciary

I just got an email from, taking Judge Aaron Persky to task for giving Brock Allen a six month jail sentence in the Stanford rape case, and asking me to sign a petition demanding that the “Committee on Judicial Performance” remove the Judge Persky from the bench:

“Judge Aaron Persky’s failure to hold Brock Turner accountable for the rape and his dismissive comments at sentencing show that he cannot be trusted to dispense justice. He must be removed from the bench immediately.”

While anyone who wants to can post a petition on MoveOn’s website, I’m surprised that MoveOn has inserted themselves into this issue by actively promoting the petition.

The State of California Commission (not Committee) on Judicial Performance has authority only to investigate complaints of judicial misconduct. The petition not only fails to allege judicial misconduct, it fails to even allege judicial error

The petition’s allegation that the Judge failed to hold Brock Turner accountable is wrong on its face. Even the claim about “dismissive comments” is baseless–a casual reading of the Judge’s statements, as reported by legitimate media outlets, reflects his analysis of all the relevant factors as required by California sentencing guidelines.

It seems to come down to a bunch of people who’ve read social media posts on the case, and are outraged because… justice! (Beyond the petition at MoveOn, there’s one at calling for Judge Persky’s impeachment, and a website advocating his recall.)

What concerns me is that the people pushing for Judge Persky’s removal don’t consider the unintended consequences of that action. How is removing judges for rulings in abortion cases, LGBTQ civil rights cases, or tax cases any different from removing a judge for an unpopular ruling? If victim’s rights advocates can drive a social media campaign to remove a judge they don’t like, what’s to stop abortion foes, religious extremists, or billionaires from doing the same thing?

Over the last week or so, Donald Trump has been widely criticized for his racist attacks on Judge Curiel. Yet, is his demand that Curiel be removed from the Trump U case any different from social media demands that Persky be removed from the bench? Despite the former being blatantly driven by Trump’s personal self-interest, and the latter couched in cries for victim justice, they have the same goal: to subvert the judiciary.

The only important difference between the two is this: Trump’s attack on Judge Curiel has already failed, and backfired against him. The social media attack on Judge Persky may yet succeed, and result in long-term damaging consequences to our justice system.

Evan Yares


Guest Post: Mercury Rising

Mercury once again began transitting between the Earth and sun after dawn this morning. It appeared as a tiny silhouetted dot against the sun.

I was short on time so all I did was set up my “PST” (a 40mm aperture Personal Solar Telescope.) It has a narrowband hydrogen alpha filter which allows you to see prominences.

NASA Image: Satellites to See Mercury Enter Spotlight on May 9So I saw the tiny dot — a little bigger than I expected — about halfway across the face of the sun.

What was more interesting is that there were no prominences I could see, nor did I see much in the way of sunspots. Solar activity is the lowest today that I have ever seen. In point of fact, this is simply anecdotal reporting because I don’t regularly observe the sun, but I do have that PST and I do use it occasionally.

Maybe I should study the sun. One thing I am sure of (and there is data to back me up): Solar activity is down since the turn of the millenium.

Activity was quite high in the 90s. We saw aurorae as far south as Texas back then. And I sunburned like crazy in the ’90s and even 80’s. The current status is nothing like that. By the way, there also hasn’t been any significant global warming since solar activity slacked off.

Gee… could there be a connection?

–Bob Post

Will Pediatric Care Be Maintained in our Community?

In Another Doc Gorn we saw that Dr. Laura Bellstrom closed her pediatric practice in St. Albans, Vermont. She’s number four in a county that had 11 pediatricians at the beginning of the year.

Will pediatric care be maintained?

Yes, it will. NMC and local physicians have been working to ensure that the greater Franklin County community will continue to be well-served by dedicated, caring Pediatricians and Family Practice Specialists. We had hoped to make an announcement of our efforts after all of the contracts were signed, but a recent press release from the Vermont Pediatric Association has created confusion and additional concern in some patients, so I need to take this opportunity to explain how we are proceeding.

The latest round of cuts to the Medicaid reimbursement to physicians has made it even more challenging for private practice physicians to stay in business and has increased the financial losses hospitals carry for the physicians they employ. This hits particularly hard in areas such as ours which have a high percentage of residents on Vermont’s expanded Medicaid program. For Pediatrics, it is a dramatic impact. I believe this has been a driving force in the decisions of four local Pediatricians to leave practice in our area and move out of state, close practice, or seek employment in Chittenden County.

Fortunately, a strong core of Pediatricians and Family Practice specialists continues to care for our community as they have for decades. Pediatrics is a vital preventive, primary care service. With the changes in the healthcare system threatening the sustainability of private practices, NMC has had to get involved to help maintain access to this necessary care.

For weeks, we have been in discussions with the physicians of Mousetrap Pediatrics (Dr. Chip Chiappinelli, Dr. Deanne Haag, Dr. Roya Mansoorani, Dr. Stacy Strouse, and Dr. Heidi Zvolensky) regarding employing them as “Northwestern Pediatrics.” They are currently reviewing the final contracts and have a letter drafted to send to their patients explaining the transition. We have worked closely with them to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible for their patients. We are currently working through the details of medical records transition, billing transition, etc. The great news is, we expect that these trusted physicians will continue to care for their patients. The office locations in St. Albans, Enosburg, Swanton, and MVU will stay the same. Their telephone numbers will stay the same. Nearly all of the familiar faces in the offices will stay the same. This will be a strong step in ensuring access to exceptional Pediatric care in our community continues.

At the same time, we are working with our Medical Staff to recruit additional physicians and advanced practice providers to our community. I am thrilled to announce that one of our strong pediatrician candidates has recently signed a letter of intent to join our staff in 2016. We also have additional strong candidates reviewing the opportunity and we are working to see if one of the physicians might reconsider with the stability of employment at NMC now a possibility.

At 1.9%, our projected operating margin to keep NMC healthy for Fiscal Year 2016 is lower than it has been in years. It is razor thin.

While this is promising news for our community, it is at the same time concerning for our hospital. We offer more “stability” than private practice, but we are not immune to the negative impact of reduced reimbursement. At 1.9%, our projected operating margin to keep NMC healthy for Fiscal Year 2016 is lower than it has been in years. It is razor thin. Taking on additional losses due to reduced reimbursement threatens that margin and our stability. We made this point to the Green Mountain Care Board, the State’s regulators of healthcare, at our budget hearing. Earlier in December, we made this point to our local Legislators, who act on the Medicaid budget. As we reform Vermont’s healthcare system, we must make it less costly through prevention of illness, elimination of waste and duplication, and prudent investment — not through underpayment of the physicians and advanced practice providers caring for the people of our communities.

I look forward to finishing our work with the Pediatricians and our Medical Staff to preserve and expand access to care in our community for children. I apologize to the patients of Mousetrap that this communication was necessary in advance of the letter from your physician; we just could not let parents who were hearing rumors continue to worry as we worked. If you have any questions regarding access to care for children in our community, please call NMC’s Community Relations Office at 802.524.1280. We will do our best to answer your questions and ensure you have the access to care you and your family need.

— Jill Berry Bowen

Jill Berry Bowen is the Chief Executive Officer of Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, Vermont. NMC is a 70-bed, private, not-for-profit, accredited community hospital. Dick Harper served on the NMC Board of Incorporators for a decade. This op-ed also appeared in the St. Albans Messenger.


Is Congress Incompetent?

I am furious.

If you have a car older than 2001, or a lawn mower or generator or snowblower or outboard motor… get ready for even more fuel-derived annoyance. My guess is that most gas stations will be reset to put 50% more ethanol into your gasoline than you were already contending with, losing even more fuel economy, clogging fuel systems and trashing catalysts on your car (so you won’t pass emissions.)


Because Congress is incompetent!

EPA has set the ethanol usage mandates for 2016 and they will require more than 10% ethanol on average to be blended into gasoline; to facilitate this they have approved use of E15 (15% ethanol i.e. 50% more than current blends) in cars newer than 2001. (I have two cars older than that, plus small engines e.g. lawnmowers. E10 has been enough trouble… E15 will be more.) This regulation impacts the poor more than it does the rich, since they can’t afford newer vehicles. (I have older vehicles for other reasons.)

Even with all this, the volume of ethanol used will be less than the enabling legislation (Renewable Fuels Act of 2007) requires.

So … who writes the laws? The EPA? Or Congress?

This predicament is the fault of Congress. They wrote legislation based on projected consumption rates (since the real reason was to guarantee a market for distillers!) We are not using gasoline at those rates, so EPA is increasing the percentage to keep the volume up for the distillers. This means people will get less MPG and have even more damage to their engines (especially small engines and older cars.)

Congress needs to amend the Renewable Fuels Act now to cap the ethanol at 10%. (Actually there is a lot more… but I thought we should start here.)

–Robert L. Post

More info:
US breaks 10% ‘blend wall’ for ethanol in gasoline
EPA finalizes renewable fuels mandate for US refiners through 2016


Guest Post: Rufus Rants about Racing

Now the nonsense starts following the death of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr.

Kevin Ward gestures at Tony Stewart
According to this story, some tracks are making it a rule that a driver can’t get out of a wrecked car unless directed to do so by safety personnel.

Sorry, boys. The rule you already had — the driver must get off of the track immediately after exiting a wrecked car — is the right rule. Wrecked cars sometimes catch fire. You do not want to sit in them patiently. Get out, get off the track. Kevin Ward got half of that right. The other half is what got him killed.