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.

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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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