Real life difficulties, please stand by

March 31, 2012

Or get a cup of coffee, or an ice cream cone, and relax.

1937 map of area near Porlock, Somerset, England

Porlock is a village in Somerset, England. I wonder, where does he get the "Porlock, Jr." moniker? This is a 1937 map of the village, Wikipedia image.

It’s been a rough couple of months, personally, away from the blog.  So I’ve got the two lowest-posting months in the history of Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, back to back.

Regrets, and apologies to faithful readers (especially to Porlock, Jr., who is having some bizarre difficulties leaving comments which may require a trip to WordPress HQ in San Francisco to work out — any excuse to visit the City by the Bay, eh?).

I’ll try to clean out the drafts-to-be-posted bin, and otherwise get some life in the old Tub for you, faithful readers.  It’s not that there aren’t things that need to be blogged, nor that I haven’t had anything to say about events.  Not enough time to get everything else done, and find time to write.  I’ll try to mend that issue.  Thanks for hanging with us.

Wish me luck with the off-blog stuff, will you?  Thanks.

Spectacular San Francisco Famous Downtown Land...

San Francisco at night, photo by Jon Sullivan, Creative Commons copyright; image via Wikipedia


No attempted political smear like an old attempted political smear

March 30, 2012

This New York Times photo feature is making the e-mail and Facebook rounds of Republicans and anti-Obamaniacs:

Obama carrying Zakaria's book, in 2008 - NY Times photo by Doug Mills

Then-candidate Barack Obama carrying a copy of Fareed Zakaria‘s best-selling book on why America has an optimistic future, The Post-American World, on the campaign trail in 2008

Should have noted, it’s making the rounds yet again.

In the note I got most recently, the sender posted this — probably a copy and paste message:

This picture will stun you

If each person sends this to a minimum of 20 people on their address list, in three days,
all people in The United States of America would have the message.
I believe this is one proposal that really should be passed around.
________________________________________________________________

THIS WILL CURDLE YOUR BLOOD AND CURL YOUR HAIR

Description: cid:image001.jpg@01CCB96D.4D1AFD50

The name of the book Obama is reading is called: The Post-American World, and it was written by a fellow Muslim.

“Post” America means the World After America ! , Please forward this picture to everyone you know, conservative or liberal. , Democrat or Republican, Folks we need to be aware of what our president is thinking–or planning
We must expose Obama’s radical ideas and his intent to bring down our beloved America!

Oy.  Where to begin with the factual corrections?

First, Zakaria is not exactly a Muslim extremistHe was born in India, a secular nation which practices religious diversity by law, his mother a former editor of The Sunday Times of India, his father a member of the popular Indian National Congress, the party of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, and Manmohan Singh, to mention four famous Prime Ministers of India.

Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International...

Fareed Zakaria, [then

Second, Zakaria is a highly-respected journalist with great experience in international affairs.  He’s a former columnist for of Newsweek, and was editor of Newsweek International (is that American enough?).  Currently he has a column in Time, and a regular slot on CNN, Fareed Zakaria GPS, after a program on PBS and assignments for ABC.  You probably know the man by sight, and he doesn’t scare you in your living room.

Third, it’s not about “after” America — it’s about life in the world after several other nations figure out the U.S. secrets to success (freedom and trade), and apply them to become, like the U.S., a world power.  Not the world “after America,” but the world after the domination of America and Pax Americana.  The note in the New York Times said:

Writing in the Book Review a few weeks ago, Joseph Joffe said about Zakaria’s book:

Zakaria’s is not another exercise in declinism. His point is not the demise of Gulliver, but the ”rise of the rest.” After all, how can this giant follow Rome and Britain onto the dust heap of empire if it can prosecute two wars at once without much notice at home? The granddaughters of those millions of Rosie the Riveters who kept the World War II economy going are off to the mall today; if they don’t shop till they drop, it’s because of recession, not rationing.

“Not another exercise in declinism.” Want to bet the people passing the photo around didn’t bother to read Zakaria’s book?  Heck, they didn’t even bother to check it out on Amazon, or Wikipedia.  Anyone who thinks this photo sinister clearly could use a good read of the book — if they can read.

Fourth, Zakaria’s book has an entire chapter on keeping the U.S. from falling into decline — it’s not a book to”bring down our beloved America,” but is instead a book aimed at doing the exact opposite.  Zakaria outlines how the U.S. can maintain influence and power in a world where superpower influence is problematic rather than an enormous advantage at all times, and a world where trade is better than war.

Fifth, The Post-American World got a lot of praise from conservative, Republican- and Libertarian-leaning people when it was published.  The pedestrian Wikipedia explained:

The Post-American World, at 292 pages long, was described as “a book-length essay”[5] and a “thin book that reads like one long, thoughtful essay”.[6] Written with an optimistic tone, it features little new research or reporting, but rather contains insights and identification of trends.[5] The reviewer for The Wall Street Journal described the tone as “infectious (though not naive) sunniness…but without Panglossian simplicity”.[1] The American Spectator reviewer noted that the prose had a journalistic style[7] while the reviewer for The Guardian noticed the writing sometimes displayed “news magazine mannerisms”.[8]

Zakaria’s view on globalisation was said to be similar to journalist and author Thomas Friedman.[9][10] Friedman reviewed The Post-American World and called it “compelling”.[11] The review in American Conservative compared this book with Rudyard Kipling‘s poems “Recessional” and “The White Man’s Burden“, both written at the height of British power and warning against imperial hubris.[12] The American Spectator review listed it as adding to similar themed books, comparing it to Oswald Spengler‘s The Decline of the West (1918), Arnold Toynbee‘s A Study of History, Paul Kennedy‘s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987), and Robert Kagan‘s The Return of History and the End of Dreams (2008).[7] Kagan labeled The Post-American World as “declinist”;[13] however, Martin Woollacott of The Guardian labeled Zakaria an exceptionalist.[8] The Commentary review added the works of Samuel P. Huntington and Francis Fukuyama to the list of comparisons and suggested there is now a sub-genre of books that consider the decline or demise of American hegemony.[14]

Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, Commentary — any self-respecting, halfway well-read neo-conservative would have all of those sources on her desk today.

Having read Zakaria’s book should be an indication of American patriotism.  Dwight Garner’s comment at Art Beat, a blog of the New York Times, said the photo was a “stylish book-ad,” and he meant it as a compliment.  He closed off his note:

Anyone know what book John McCain is — or should be — carrying around?

Grand question.  I’ll wager McCain knows the book, if he hasn’t read it.

But what about Mitt Romney?  I’ll wager he didn’t bother to read it.  Rick Santorum?  Surely not.  Newt Gingrich probably read it quickly, over-analyzed it, found some minor issue of historical interpretation to disagree with, and pronounced it not worthy of actual citation.

The people who try to raise fears with the photo?  They probably don’t read newspapers, don’t have library cards, and they hope to hell you’re too busy updating your Facebook profile to know anything at all about reality and world history.  Would they send the photo around if they had Clue #1?

Sixth, the book came out in 2008.    Even the paperbacks are in new editions with revisions, it’s been out so long.

How desperate are the Obama-obsessed folk?  They’re so desperate they are recycling hoaxes from 2008.  Worse, they find people willing to be hoaxed all over again, forgetting they got hoaxed back then.

Voter identification?  How about a voter sanity check?  Given a choice, a sane person might say “let illegal aliens vote, instead” — they know more about America and what makes it great than the perps of this hoax.

Is it significant that Zakaria has not been shy about criticizing serious policy errors promulgated by Republican candidates for president?  Nah.

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Quote of moment: Will Rogers on motivating students to learn

March 28, 2012

Thomas Jefferson urged a Constitutional amendment to institutionalize education as a federal function, part of his grander scheme to lift humanity out of the muck with education as the skyhook.

Will Rogers pointing into camera, Will Rogers Museum image

Will Rogers, photo courtesy the Will Rogers Museum

Will Rogers said:

Why don’t they pass a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as Prohibition did, in five years we will have the smartest people on earth.

♥ The Quotable Will Rogers, Joseph H. Carter and Larry Gatlin, Gibbs Smith 2005, page 35.

Rogers probably read Mark Twain a lot, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, don’t you think?

Joseph H. Carter heads the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma.  Larry Gatlin is the performer, who did show on Will Rogers that inspired the book.  This collection of Rogers’ quotes is loaded with information, but citations are not easy to get.  We trust that these two guys would be unlikely to misreport — but I’d still like to get a better citation on this quote.  Among other problems for scholars, in his lifetime Rogers wrote about a newspaper column each day, and he often collected columns into books that sold well but are now out of print.

Perhaps the amazing thing is that more bon mots are not misattributed to Will Rogers, especially the funny ones.

More:

Sculpture of Will Rogers on a horse on the gro...

Sculpture of Will Rogers on horseback, on the grounds of the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma. This is a nice place to pause for a couple of hours on a drive along Interstate 44, a bit northeast of Broken Arrow. Wikipedia image


Dogwood Canyon amble for the blossoms

March 26, 2012

It was billed as a “hike” that might take 2.5 hours, but David Hurt, the grand benefactor of Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, was the guide — at the two hour mark we had just ambled to the blossoming trees in their still-semi-secret location.  Amble, not a hike.

Great day to be outside.

Dogwood Canyon's benefactor David Hurt - 03-25-2012 import 672

The voyage is at least half the fun.

Dogwood Canyon's benefactor David Hurt - 03-25-2012 import 672

After more than a year of serious drought, some of North Texas experienced high rainfall in the past three months. Spring-fed streams and seeps on Cedar Hill and across the Escarpment flow well for the moment, lending hope to wild bird breeding. On some entangled bank . . .

David Hurt demonstrating plant differences, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center - 03-25-2012 import 688 - photo by Ed Darrell
Poison ivy along the trail, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center - 03-25-2012 import 697 - Photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

Poison ivy along the trail. Keep away.

David Hurt demonstrates differences in oaks, 03-25-2012 import 694 - photo by Ed Darrell

Is it eastern red oak, or something else? How to tell?

David Hurt demonstrates how yellow-cheeked warblers use Ashe junipers to nest - 03-25-2012 import 708 - photo by Ed Darrell

Hurt showed how to make a nest from loose bark strips from Ashe juniper trees. Golden-cheeked warblers, a threatened species, require this bark for nesting, and it can come only from mature Ashe junipers. The birds need this nesting material close to a good stand of deciduous trees, where they catch their food.

Dogwood blossom at Dogwood Canyon, Cedar Hill, Texas 03-25-2012 import 737 - Photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

The dogwoods in bloom! An early spring, and lots of water, pushed the trees to leaf out before blossoming started -- usually the blossoms come first. The drought last year probably hurts blossoming this year. Blossoms are not yet at their peak.

Dogwood blossoms, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center 03-25-2012 import 744 - phot by Ed Darrell

Exquisite aroma and beauty from the dogwood blossoms - not the carpet of white we saw in a previous year. Still just the shock of finding these little beauties in Dallas County adds to their splendor. Dogwoods do well in East Texas, where it is wetter and the soil is acid. Here on the escarpment it is generally dry, hotter, and the soil is thin and alkaline. That the blossoms show up at all is a stunning oddity, a stroke of fortune emblematic of the unique place that is Dogwood Canyon.

Guided hikes — the only way to get to see the blossoms — are planned for Wednesday and Saturday this week.  Hikes are limited to 20 people, with two planned for Wednesday, and one for Saturday, March 31.  For reservations call Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at (469) 526-1980.

Previously in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


Annals of DDT: Canada’s Earth Tones on the history of DDT’s harms

March 26, 2012

Earth Tones, a Canadian science program, covered the history of DDT control.

[Below the fold, because it plays automatically.  Grrrr.]

Read the rest of this entry »


“Cash On the Barrelhead,” Emmylou and Rodney Crowell in Germany, 1977

March 22, 2012

I had not realized there were so many versions of this old song.  Looking for the Country Gentlemen, I find Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band, featuring Rodney Crowell on guitar and some great steel player (who?).  Recorded from a German television broadcast, 1977.

My favorite line:  “That’ll be cash on the barrelhead, son.  This old grey dog, she gets paid to run.”

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More good news about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): CBO says it will save money

March 22, 2012

President Barack Obama's signature on the heal...

President Barack Obama's signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. CBO projections in March 2012 indicate savings under the bill will increase beyond earlier projections, offsetting increased costs from continuing economics woes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember, without the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. was experiencing health care cost inflation of about 15%annually.

You might not know it if you read conservative blogs, watch Fox News, or listen to the Republican candidates for president — all of whom seem to have their fact panties on wrong — but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the bill will reduce federal spending, still, even after accounting for recent changes in law and changes in the economy that will increase costs of the bill’s provisions.

Yeah, Obamacare saves money.

The new law will  not eliminate the problem of people not having insurance coverage to guarantee access to health care, a sad result of Republican efforts to cut the bill’s effectiveness.  But it’s a great first step to making America better, healthier, and economically more sound.  Here’s the blog post from the CBO discussing the bill, and CBO’s continuing studies of the effects of the law:

CBO Releases Updated Estimates for the Insurance Coverage Provisions of the Affordable Care Act

March 13, 2012

In preparing the March 2012 baseline budget projections, CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have updated estimates of the budgetary effects of the health insurance coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—the health care legislation enacted in March 2010. Those provisions:

  • Establish a mandate for most legal residents of the United States to obtain health insurance;
  • Create insurance “exchanges” through which certain individuals and families may receive federal subsidies to substantially reduce the cost of purchasing health insurance;
  • Significantly expand eligibility for Medicaid;
  • Impose an excise tax on certain health insurance plans with relatively high premiums;
  • Establish penalties on certain employers who do not provide minimum health benefits to their employees; and
  • Make other changes to prior law.

The most recent previous estimate of those effects was prepared in March 2011. For more details on the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA, you can see CBO’s cost estimate for the health care legislation, which was issued in March 2010.

The Estimated Net Cost of the Insurance Coverage Provisions Is Smaller Than Estimated in March 2011

CBO and JCT now estimate that the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of just under $1.1 trillion over the 2012-2021 period-about $50 billion less than the agencies’ March 2011 estimate for that 10-year period. (For comparison with previous estimates, these numbers cover the 2012-2021 period; estimates including 2022 can be found below.)

The net costs–specifically the combined effects on federal revenues and mandatory spending–reflect:

  • Gross additional costs of $1.5 trillion for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), tax credits and other subsidies for the purchase of health insurance through the newly established exchanges and related costs, and tax credits for small employers,
  • Offset in part by about $0.4 trillion in receipts from penalty payments, the new excise tax on high-premium insurance plans, and other budgetary effects (mostly increases in tax revenues).

Those amounts do not encompass all of the budgetary impacts of the ACA. They do not include federal administrative costs, which will be subject to future appropriation action. Also, they do not include the effects of the many other provisions of the law, including some that will cause significant reductions in Medicare spending relative to that under prior law and others that will generate added tax revenues relative those under prior law.

CBO and JCT have previously estimated that the ACA will, on net, reduce budget deficits over the 2012-2021 period; that estimate of the overall budgetary impact of the ACA has not been updated.

Gross Costs Are Higher, but Offsetting Budgetary Effects Are Also Higher

The current estimate of the gross costs of the coverage provisions—$1,496 billion through 2021—is about $50 billion higher than last year’s projection; however, the other budgetary effects of those provisions, which partially offset those gross costs, also have increased in CBO’s and JCT’s estimates—to $413 billion—leading to the small decrease in the net 10-year tally.

Over the 10-year period from 2012 through 2021, enactment of the coverage provisions of the ACA was projected last March to increase federal deficits by $1,131 billion, whereas the March 2012 estimate indicates that those provisions will increase deficits by $1,083 billion.

The net cost was boosted by:

  • An additional $168 billion in estimated costs for Medicaid and CHIP, and
  • $8 billion less in estimated revenues from the excise tax on certain high-premium health insurance plans.

But those increases were more than offset by a reduction of:

  • $97 billion in the projected costs for the tax credits and other subsidies for health insurance provided through the exchanges and related spending
  • $20 billion in the projected costs for tax credits for small employers, and
  • $107 billion in deficits from the projected revenue effects of changes in taxable compensation and penalty payments and from other small changes in estimated spending.

The Revisions in Estimates Reflect Legislative, Economic, and Technical Changes

The major sources for the differences between the March 2011 and March 2012 projections are the following:

  • New Legislation. Several laws were enacted during the past year that changed the estimated budgetary effects of the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA.
  • Changes in the Economic Outlook. The March 2012 baseline incorporates CBO’s macroeconomic forecast published in January 2012, which reflects a slower recovery when compared with the forecast published in January 2011 (which was used in producing the March 2011 baseline).
  • Technical Changes. The March 2012 baseline incorporates updated projections of the growth in private health insurance premiums, reflecting slower growth than the previous projections. In addition, CBO and JCT made a number of other technical changes in their estimating procedures.

The Number of the Nonelderly Uninsured Is Higher Than Previously Estimated

CBO and JCT’s projections of health insurance coverage have changed since last March. Fewer people are now expected to obtain health insurance coverage from their employer or in insurance exchanges; more are now expected to obtain coverage from Medicaid or CHIP or from nongroup or other sources. More are expected to be uninsured. The extent of the change in insurance coverage varies from year to year.

Compared with prior law, the ACA is now estimated by CBO and JCT to reduce the number of nonelderly people without health insurance coverage by 30 million to 33 million in 2016 and subsequent years, leaving 26 million to 27 million nonelderly residents uninsured in those years (see Table 3 at the end of the report). The share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance is projected to rise from 82 percent in 2012 to 93 percent in 2016 and subsequent years. That share rose to 95 percent in CBO and JCT’s previous estimate.

According to the current estimates, from 2016 on, between 20 million and 23 million people will receive coverage through the new insurance exchanges, and 16 million to 17 million additional people will be enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP as a result of ACA. Also, 3 million to 5 million fewer people will have coverage through an employer compared with the number under prior law

Estimates Through Fiscal Year 2022

This report also presents estimates through fiscal year 2022, because the baseline projection period now extends through that additional year. The ACA’s provisions related to insurance coverage are now projected to have a net cost of $1,252 billion over the 2012-2022 period; that amount represents a gross cost to the federal government of $1,762 billion, offset in part by $510 billion in receipts and other budgetary effects (primarily revenues from penalties and other sources).

The addition of 2022 to the projection period has the effect of increasing the costs of the coverage provisions of the ACA relative to those projected in March 2011 for the 2012-2021 period because that change adds a year in which the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid and subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges will be in effect. CBO and JCT have not estimated the budgetary effects in 2022 of the other provisions of the ACA; over the 2012-2021 period, those other provisions were previously estimated to reduce budget deficits.

If we could get another stimulus program to goose the economy into quicker recovery, the cost savings would likely grow much faster.  What conservative budget chopper wouldn’t prefer that solution?

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House Español: Barack Obama firmando la Ley de Protección al Paciente y Cuidado de Salud Asequible en la Casa Blanca (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How did your favorite media outlets report the CBO cost projections?

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Possibly more ‘possum

March 19, 2012

More shots of our rather tame, wild neighbor.

Possum on the fence in Dallas IMGP8930 - Ed Darrell photo, creative commons

S/he may have been trying to reach the safety of the area under the heat pump -- but the dogs caught on, and "treed" it on the fence. I worried about rabies, but it seemed healthy.

I’m torn, really — are they cute, or really ugly?

Possum in Dallas IMGP8937 - Ed Darrell photo, creative commons

Walt Kelly would have been pleased at its familiarity with the idea of a mugwump, as it demonstrates, here.

A possum's tail IMGP8935 - Ed Darrell photo, creative commons

The hairless, "rat" tail is one of the least attractive features. How much cuter would it be with a furry tail?

Possum on the fence - IMGP8933 Ed Darrell photo, creative commons

He does have a very cute, pink nose, however. You could get used to dealing with these little guys.


Wegman Report plagiarism doesn’t bother George Mason University officials

March 18, 2012

Over at Desmogblog, John Mashey details problems with George Mason University’s conclusions that plagiarism did not really occur in  a report written for Congress that plagiarized several different sources.

If true, not only did GMU violate its own policies on duration, but on process, because they have ignored numerous well-documented complaints, including about 4 papers with Federal funding.  This process involved VP Research Roger Stough, Provost Peter Stearns and President Alan Merten, so it was certainly visible inside GMU.

See No Evil,

Hear No Evil

Speak No Evil … except about Ray Bradley [the fellow who filed the plagiarism complaint], who has yet to receive any report.

The attached report enumerates the problems that GMU managed not to see, shows the chronology of a simple complaint that took almost 2X longer than specified by policy and finally produced an obvious contradiction. People may find GMU’s funding and connections interesting, including similarities and relationships with Heartland Institute.  Finally, readers might recall the WR was alleged to be an attempt to mislead Congress, so this is not just an academic issue.

No e-mails stolen to expose the problem, but still no action against those who deny climate change occurs and will plagiarize papers to make their point.  It’s a not-pretty pass.

I suspect reporters get MEGO syndrome reading the stuff, but Desmogblog points to real problems, real difficulties in science, that deserve to be covered better than they have been.

Go read Mashey’s report and follow the links.

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Odd site to defend Peter Gleick’s exposing of Heartlandgate, citing the law that will let him skate

March 18, 2012

Much angst among Heartlandgate perpetrators over the increasingly obvious fact that Peter Gleick not only shouldn’t be prosecuted, but can’t be prosecuted under federal law, for duping Heartland employees into revealing their true intentions, to lie about global warming so people won’t “believe” it and support solutions.

Peter Gleick - World Economic Forum Annual Mee...

Peter Gleick, lifetime of informing the public accurately at a researcher's greatly diminished salary; Heartland Institute is spending thousands of dollars to convince people he changed suddenly. Who to believe? Here's Gleick at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009 (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

But this odd site cut through the clutter and posted the words of the relevant law, establishing Peter Gleick’s lack of criminality:

18 U.S.C. 1343:
Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both….

Did you catch that, Dear Reader?  Gleick would be guilty of federal wire fraud had he asked the perpetrators of Heartlandgate to send him money or property.

But all Gleick asked for was a copy of their agenda for a meeting, and the supporting data.  No money, no property.  Nothing of value.  Nor did he intend to use, nor could he use, any of that information to get money or property.

You noted, of course, the site is one promulgated by the Heartland Institute itself.

(Did they really mean it that way?  Probably not.)

(By the way — you may want to read the actual law from an authoritative source like the Cornell University Law Library’s Legal Information Institute (LII), and not a version filtered by people who deny global warming, nor its severity, nor its causes, or who don’t work to hoodwink gullible politicians.)

Peter Gleick:  Deep Throat of the climate denial scandals.

How can you tell whether you should be concerned, Dear Reader?

For example, if you’re a teacher, should you be concerned that in Heartlandgate, the Heartland Institute reveals itself to be working to “dissuade” science teachers from teaching science?  Or, if you’re just a concerned citizen, should you be concerned that you’ve heard precious little about the analysis of the documents released, from major news outlets?

If you are in any degree confused about who to believe in this issue, or worse, if you are convinced that there is a pattern of skirting of the laws by scientists (contrary to the evidence), you should be concerned that you’re not getting the full story.

More, Resources, Further reading:


Vote Irish for the presidency in 2012: O’Bama it is!

March 17, 2012

I’d forgotten about the birthers’ greatest nightmare — Obama’s got Irish blood in him!

Democratic Underground features a series of photos of President Obama with an Irish cousin at one of my favorite old haunts in Washington, the Dubliner.

President Obama at the Dubliner, March 17, 2012 - Democratic Underground image

President Barack Obama drinks a Guinness with his ancestral cousin from Moneygall Ireland Henry Healy, center, and the owner of the pub in Moneygall Ireland, Ollie Hayes, right, at The Dubliner Restaurant and Pub and Restaurant on St. Patrick's Day, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Washington

Many great memories of the Dubliner.

In 1974, when I interned at the Senate, it was just a small bar on the first floor of the Commodore Hotel.  Rocky Johnson of Sen. Mike Gravel‘s office, one of my roommates, introduced me to Guiness.  The Dubliner was the most reliable source in D.C. at the time.  The bartender was a guy named Paddy.  It was never crowded — and they had good fish and chips with a fine, imported malt vinegar. I wasn’t exactly a regular, but I made several visits.

Ironically, for my summer job that year with the Louis August Jonas Foundation, we had a trip to D.C. planned with about 16 “boys from abroad” and the designated hotel was the Commodore — it was cheap and met our needs, being close to the Capitol.  I was asked to chaperone, and happily went.   So Freddy Jonas, the great benefactor of the foundation and Camp Rising Sun, and I could sneak down to the Dubliner for a nightcap.  Michael Greene, the foundation’s executive director, warned me that Freddy would always ask if you wanted a second drink, but Freddy would not take one himself — and so, of course, neither should staffers.

One night while Freddy and I were capping off the evening we ran into a friend from interning, Avis Ortner, a rodeo barrel rider who had starred in a Kodak commercial series, and who worked in a Washington law firm.  She and Freddy struck it off very nicely.  I was surprised at how much Freddy knew about horses, and the questions he had about rodeo riding.  At some point in the evening he asked me if I were going to have a second drink, and of course I declined.  “Well, you only live once.  Avis and I are having a second one, and you should join us.”  People who knew Freddy well still don’t believe me when I tell them the story.  But it’s true.  It’s the magic of the Dubliner.  [Is Avis still cleaning up at bridge in D.C.?]

I was back in D.C. in 1975, again with the Jonas Foundation bunch, and again at the Commodore.  The Dubliner had a successful year, and had taken over the small cafe/dining room next door to bar.

In 1976 I visited again, and after a very successful year the Dubliner kicked out the gift shop of the hotel and opened a second bar there.  It was crowded on weekends.

In 1979 I moved to D.C.  Within a couple of years the Dubliner bought out the Commodore.  You couldn’t get a seat at the bar most nights.  St. Patrick’s Day 1980 the line wrapped around the block, and though the place never had a great stage, the live act was the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem, if I recall correctly.

Reconstruction and massive redecorating made the hotel into a great stop.  Eventually the bar company sold the hotel, but kept the location.  After Kathryn and I got married, we’d walk over to the Dubliner for lunch at least a couple of times a month, and the fish and chips at the Dubliner got better.  I may have done in half the cod from the Grand Banks all by myself.

We’ve been in Texas now since 1987.  I miss the Dubliner.  Obama’s lucky he could get in, on St. Patrick’s Day.  I hope he appreciates his luck.

(Kenny’s in Baltimore tonight — more irony.  Girl Talk on Federal Hill (I think it’s an outdoor concert performance).  Better than waiting in line at the Dubliner.  Go when the crowds aren’t there, and you can savor the place.)


Playing with the ‘possum in the backyard

March 17, 2012

No, not “playing possum.”  Playing WITH the ‘possum.

The mostly-dachsund harasses any animal that may wish to take up residence under our shed — or, in some cases, under the heat pump.  The animals usually stick around for a while, though, because there is so much good stuff to dig up there.  For our part, we don’t mind when they dig up and dispose of the grubs, most of the time.

But these creatures — a possum, a raccoon a couple of years ago, armadilloes from time to time, or even rats (before Smokey the cat took them out, one by one) — eventually wander off, mostly unseen by us because they’re nocturnal.

Yesterday morning both dogs went nuts, and when I looked out, I realized they had something treed.  Between the mostly-dachsund and the border setter, they average out to a couple of beagles, and they can tree something if they want to.  Can’t get it, but they can tree it.

Possum on the fence IMGP2893 (2) photo by Ed Darrell creative commons copyright

It's an election year, so why shouldn't one of Pogo's cousins be on the fence?

It’s probably the same one I saw a few weeks ago when taking coffee grounds to the compost pile (maybe the caffeine is keeping this guy up days, eh?).  Kenny caught him crossing the alley late one night, in the headlights, of course.

I brought the dogs in, and turned them out an hour later, thinking the guy had plenty of time to get to his daytime hiding place.

They treed him again. (Actually, that’s the second treeing, pictured above.)

Later they got him on the fence in a different part of the yard.

Possum in dallas, peeking through the photinia

Possum caught in the early morning, peeking through the Chinese photinia (not red tip). Flash photography confuses the little guys, I think.

By this time I worried that the critter might be suffering from an illness — like rabies, which tends to make nocturnal animals come out in daylight, and be mean.

But there are no other symptoms.  I was relieved this morning to find new digs from the critter.  If he, or she, is digging for food, it’s probably not rabid.

In his jaunts around the world last year Kenny mentioned how ugly possums are, to one of his friends from Britain, who immediately took issue.  Cute?

Turns out Kenny’s friend was referring to the Australian possum, which is quite cute.

Australian ring-tailed possum, photo by kookr

Australian ring-tailed possum, photo by kookr. Australia has 27 different species of possum, all of them cuter and more cuddly than their American cousins.

Ours is not an Australian import.

I hope the bob whites come back, too.  Maybe it was just the drought that discouraged them last year.

It’s been a good year for wildlife, at least those with wings.  One day last week we had a tree full of cedar waxwings, passing through.  Blue jays and white-winged doves flew around them, and into the same tree.  There were a bunch of robins out — making eight weeks of sightings of the things, which leads me to understand some sizable population is staying in the Dallas area now, instead of just migrating through as they would, formerly.  On the live oak, the yellow-belly sapsucker probed for new grubs.  And on the trunk of the red oak the waxwings gathered in, another woodpecker, wholly oblivious to the cacophony, looked for emerging insects itself.   On local roads I’ve seen a bobcat — first for Texas, for me — and a few coyotes (while cousin-in-law Amanda has video of what looks to be wolves, in California!).  We haven’t gone out to look at the snowy owl in Rockwall, but there’s a chance of adding a rarity to the life-list.

With luck, we’ll get the toads, soon.  We should do well — Kathryn’s worked hard to make the yard a refuge for wildlife.  We’re mostly organic, so there should be no poisons to accumulate in any insect-eating critters.  We feed birds, several different species, and we have water for animals in front and back yard.  The National Wildlife Federation will certify your yard as a backyard wildlife habitat.  Working to get there is most of the fun; watching the wildlife is the gravy.

Backyard wildlife study is great fun.

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Where are the birth certificates for Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul?

March 15, 2012

Odd as hell.  It’s like Obi Wan Kenobi pulled the old mind-wave trick (“You don’t need to see his identification”), and the birthers suddenly forgot what they’ve been saying, doing and threatening, for three years.

Have you heard any of the most frantic, frenetic, dedicated birthers ask for the birth certificates of Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum?

Why all the tough questions for the Democrat, for the non-lunatic, for the Chicago guy, for the kid from the single-parent household, and none for the White Anglo-Saxon Catholic/Mormon/Lapsed Lutherans?

Where’s the birth certificate for Joe Arpaio?  Could he be so tough on immigrants because, secretly, he is one, and hopes not to be discovered?

I think, perhaps, they weren’t really concerned about citizenship qualifications to be president, except to “get” Obama.  If they can’t figure out a way to win — and therefore beat Obama — by cheating, they don’t want to play at all.  Even Leo Donofrio is folding his tent.

If only Congress would get the message that America’s president is president of all of America, and their efforts to bring down the nation to “get” Obama are not working, and should be stopped, I’d be a lot happier guy.

Minor update, March 17, 2012:  Sorta as I feared/expected/realized-from-years-of-experience, the birthers are letting the current group of Republicans slide, so far as I, or they, can tell.  Most of them are completely unaware that at least one candidate has a foreign-born father, most of them don’t know where or when the candidates were born or naturalized, and of course, because the Republicans are not Obama, they don’t really care.  One birther claims to be sure that “others” are looking hard into these questions, experts.  Shades of that other Harrison Ford movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark:”  What experts?  “Top experts.”  And shame on me for even asking the questions calling their bluff.

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Campaign 2012: Texas State Board of Education, those who do not know history . . .

March 15, 2012

Texas Freedom Network SBOE play on Santayana

I get e-mail from people who work for good schools, the Texas Freedom Network:

Texas Freedom Network

TFN Launches SBOE 2012 Campaign

Ideologues on the State Board of Education are doing everything they can to keep our children in the dark (ages). They:

  • censor American history, including what students learn about separation of church and state
  • reject established science and dumb-down instruction on evolution
  • ignore the recommendations of teachers and scholars who know what Texas kids need to learn to be successful today

Ignorance is not a Texas value. Texas needs a new SBOE.

So what can you do?

Every 10 years all 15 seats on the SBOE are up for election at once. This is that year.

Throughout this election year, our campaign will help you:

  • Get informed about SBOE elections
  • Get involved in your community
  • VOTE for candidates that restore sanity to the SBOE

Take the first step: sign the pledge and join the SBOE 2012 campaign at tfn.org/educate.

Regards,
The Texas Freedom Network
tfn.org

P.S. Take another step toward fulfilling part of your pledge by clicking here to send this message to a friend.

P.P.S. For even more campaign updates, like TFN on Facebook and follow #SBOE2012 on Twitter.

Good idea.

For years, when people asked me about my opinions “in the really important races” I’d first ask them which school district they lived in, usually pointing out that I don’t know their district.  Local school board races are probably the most important most people will vote in (or fail to vote) in their lifetimes.  Since coming to Texas and fighting the Texas State Board of Education, I wonder sometimes if the state board races aren’t even more important than your local school board.  Santayana’s Ghost agrees with the sentiments on the TFN logo above.

If you don’t already use the site, you ought to at least check out the TFN Insider, TFN’s blog which covers the Texas  SBOE better than most media in Texas.


Belated birthday wishes to Albert Einstein!

March 15, 2012

Did you do what I did yesterday?  I got so wrapped up in Pi Day festivities that I forgot to offer birthday wishes to Albert Einstein.

So, an encore post.

E=mcc - logo from AIP

E=energy; m=mass; c=speed of light

Happy Einstein Day (a day late)! Almost fitting that he was born on π Day, no? I mean, is there an E=mc² Day?

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, to Hermann and Pauline Einstein. 26 years later, three days after his birthday, he sent off the paper on the photo-electric effect; that paper would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in another five years, in 1921. In that same year of 1905, he published three other papers, solving the mystery of Brownian motion, describing what became known as the Special Theory of Relativity and solving the mystery of why measurements of the light did not show any effects of motion as Maxwell had predicted, and a final paper that noted a particle emitting light energy loses mass. This final paper amused Einstein because it seemed so ludicrous in its logical extension that energy and matter are really the same stuff at some fundamental point, as expressed in the equation demonstrating an enormous amount of energy stored in atoms, E=mc².

Albert Einstein as a younger man - Nobel Foundation image

Albert Einstein as a younger man - Nobel Foundation image

Any one of the papers would have been a career-capper for any physicist. Einstein dashed them off in just a few months, forever changing the field of physics. And, you noticed: Einstein did not win a Nobel for the Special Theory of Relativity, nor for E=mc². He won it for the photo electric effect. Irony in history.

106 years later Einstein’s work affects us every day. Relativity theory at some level I don’t understand makes possible the use Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which revolutionized navigation and mundane things like land surveying and microwave dish placement. Development of nuclear power both gives us hope for an energy-rich future, and gives us fear of nuclear war. Sometimes, even the hope of the energy rich future gives us fear, as we watch and hope nuclear engineers can control the piles in nuclear power plants damaged by earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

If Albert Einstein was a genius at physics, he was more dedicated to pacifism. He resigned his German citizenship to avoid military conscription. His pacifism made the German Nazis nervous; Einstein fled Germany in the 1930s, eventually settling in the United States. In the U.S., he was persuaded by Leo Szilard to write to President Franklin Roosevelt to suggest the U.S. start a program to develop an atomic weapon, because Germany most certainly was doing exactly that. But Einstein refused to participate in the program himself, sticking to his pacifist views. Others could, and would, design and build atomic bombs. (Maybe it’s a virus among nuclear physicists — several of those working on the Manhattan Project were pacifists, and had great difficulty reconciling the idea that the weapon they worked on to beat Germany, was deployed on Japan, which did not have a nuclear weapons program.)

Einstein was a not-great father, and probably not a terribly faithful husband at first — though he did think to give his first wife a share of a Nobel Prize should he win it in the divorce settlement. Einstein was a good violinist, a competent sailor, an incompetent dresser, and a great character. His sister suffered a paralyzing stroke. For many months Albert spent hours a day reading to her the newspapers and books of the day, convinced that mute and appearing unconscious, she would benefit from hearing the words. He said he did not hold to orthodox religions, but could there be a greater show of faith in human spirit?

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

When people hear clever sayings, but forget to whom the bon mots should be attributed, Einstein is one of about five candidates to whom all sorts of things are attributed, though he never said them. (Others include Lincoln, Jefferson, Mark Twain and Will Rogers). Einstein is the only scientist in that group. So, for example, we can be quite sure Einstein never claimed that compound interest was the best idea of the 20th century. This phenomenon is symbolic of the high regard people have for the man, even though so few understand what his work was, or meant.

A most interesting man. A most important body of work. He deserves more study and regard than he gets.

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