Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Steal the Show

Nice Catch!

Maryland Bill Would Forbid Import of Fracking Waste Water

A Montgomery County delegate has introduced a bill that would ban the treatment of wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing. House Bill 296, sponsored by Delegate Shane Robinson, only bans importing wastewater for treatment or storage from other states.

The bill does not address fracking water that could be created in Maryland, although there is currently no hydraulic fracturing taking place in the Free State. In order to get the natural gas trapped in Marcellus shale to the surface, chemicals, water and sand are pumped underground to break apart rock formations and free the gas. The process is called hydraulic fracturing.

“A person may not ship or transport into the state, or store, treat discharge or dispose of in the state, flow back or other wastewater resulting from hydraulic fracturing activities occurring in another state,” the bill reads, in part.

“The Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Prohibition Act is a great first step toward protecting Maryland residents from the dangers of fracking,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It is almost impossible to know what chemicals are being used in the fracking process, and if these chemicals have been treated properly before being discharged into watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay,” Hauter said. Food & Water Watch is a public-interest organization that remains independent of corporate and government influence, according to its website. “Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced,” the website states.
I'm agnostic on the wisdom of banning the importation of fracking waste water from neighboring states, because, frankly, I can't imagine why it would happen at all, unless costs for treating and disposing of it here were vastly cheaper than in neighboring states, and I can't imagine that.   I might imagine some place like Blue Plains be willing to take fracking water for a price, and being able to treat and dilute it to non-detectability.  It's hard to imagine it as an economically viable scheme however.

However, when someone tells me they want to do something sustainably, I instinctively check to see if my wallet is still there...

Maryland Gets Bill for "Bay Diet"

Maryland officials have filled in the blanks on their draft Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, and attached an eye-popping pricetag - $7.5 billion over the next five years, and nearly double that by 2025.

The cost estimates aren't a total shock, as state officials have previously ballparked restoration efforts at around $15 billion when all was said and done.

The plan calls for reducing in-state nitrogen discharges and runoff to the bay by 22 percent and curbing phosphorus nearly 15 percent. The reductions would not fall evenly, with a 30 percent cutback in phosphorus expected from retrofitting storm-water runoff controls in existing communities and a 38 percent drop in nitrogen from septic systems proposed.

Even though the O'Malley administration has given itself more time to finish putting bay cleanup measures in place - dropping its 2020 deadline back to 2025, with all the rest of the bay states - Maryland officials still project getting the lion's share of the pollution reductions under way in the next five years. The plan forecasts 78 percent of the nitrogen cutbacks and 98 percent of the phosphorus curbs will be set by 2017.
It's not clear to me from the article whether the bill represents only the portion the State of Maryland will have to cover, or contains costs incurred by counties, localities and farmers and private businesses and individuals.  My guess is the former.   Shockingly, not everyone seemed happy with the costs...

Builders poll shows little support for raising taxes to clean Bay:
In a survey commissioned by the Maryland State Builders Association, fewer than one-quarter of voters agreed the state should increase taxes and fees to pay for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Of the 808 voters interviewed for the telephone poll, which was conducted by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies from Jan. 9 through 15, 70.2 percent said the cleanup should be paid for with existing funds only; 23.4 percent favored raising taxes and fees. Although the interviewer asked respondents simply whether they thought the cleanup should be paid by new charges or only existing funds, 1.7 percent said both should be used, 1.5 percent said neither should be used, and 3.2 percent gave no answer.

Nearly 74 percent said they “agree” the state “needs to do more to help new construction in the state to create jobs and recover from the current economic downturn.” Almost 24 percent said they “disagree,” and 2.5 percent gave no answer.

Asked whether “Maryland government places too many environmental regulations and restrictions on businesses in the state,” 47.4 percent said they agree and 43.8 percent said they disagree. Almost 9 percent gave no answer.

Asked to choose whether “taking steps to clean up the Chesapeake Bay” or “taking steps to create jobs and improve Maryland’s economy” should be a higher priority for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, 84.4 percent chose creating jobs and 12 percent selected cleaning up the Bay.
I wouldn't accuse the Maryland State Builders of creating an objective poll (the questions are clearly slanted to evoke anti-spending emotions), but I'm not surprised at the results.  Everybody want to save the Bay, but nearly everybody hopes someone else is going to have to pay the bill and suffer the inconveniences.

Enjoy the Warm Winter, Maryland

Someone somewhere else is getting cold

I'm Changing My Name to Fannie Mae

by Arlo Gutherie

Found here.

Buffett to be Exempt from "Buffett Tax"

Billionaire Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is once again thrilling the political class by volunteering other people to pay higher taxes. Long-time observers recall his opposition to former President George W. Bush's efforts to reduce the tax rate on dividends. Since Berkshire pays no dividends, Mr. Buffett had little at stake but enjoyed the opportunity to pose as if he were a rich guy eager to cough up more dough to Washington.

In the current debate, President Obama is pushing the "Buffett Rule" to ensure that high-income earners pay higher tax rates. But even if it's enacted, don't expect the Buffett Rule to have much impact on Mr. Buffett. By an amazing coincidence, the sage of Omaha is already positioned to shield most of his rising wealth from such a tax. ...

[T]he Buffett Rule ... at its heart is a way to raise taxes on dividends and capital gains. Berkshire still doesn't pay a dividend, and as for capital gains taxes, well, Mr. Buffett has already made clear that he'll largely avoid them by transferring his fortune to the Gates Foundation and to charitable trusts controlled by his family.
Figures.  It's must be great to have friends in high places...

Found at TaxProf Blog, by way of Insty.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Useful Youtube Trick

I ran across this at Aces ONT tonight, and I think everybody should learn this.  It will revolutionize how you use Youtube:
There is however a much easier solution that that all YouTube users can make use of to skip ahead a certain percentage of the video. All that needs to be done is to press a number between 1 and 9 on the YouTube video page after you have clicked on the video. Nothing happens if you try to press the numbers once the video starts playing on the side. You need to click on the video, which pauses it, to use the functionality.
It worked fine for me with the video playing.

Maetenloch even provided this convenient video to test it on:  I suggest a 6, but YMMV...

Alex Trebek: With a Really Big Rectal Thermometer...

The Contestant Answer:  How do you take a dinosaur's temperature?

Or, you could measure the isotopic composition of it teeth..
How warm (or cold) these long extinct creatures were remained an enduring mystery — until now.   Using a new approach, a team of researchers led by the California Institute of Technology (also known as Caltech) figured out how to take the body temperatures of dinosaurs by analyzing the concentration of certain isotopes preserved in the mineral bioapatite, found in teeth.

The researchers studied two stable, but slightly heavier, isotopes of carbon and oxygen — carbon-13 and oxygen-18. The isotopes tend to bond with each other, or "clump," at lower temperatures, and the lower the temperature, the more carbon-13 and oxygen-18 will clump. By analyzing the clumping of those isotopes, the researchers were able to determine fairly precise temperature values — to within a range of 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit (1 to 2 degrees Celsius).

The animals, as it turned out, were relatively warm — although not necessarily warm-blooded. They could have been cold-blooded (based on the definition for that metabolic design), but with warm body temperatures because of their large size — a phenomenon known as gigantothermy.

"What our study resolved is that at least some dinosaurs were physically 'warm', and so — in the simplest sense — were warm-blooded," Eiler said. "But we need more information to tell how they were warm-blooded — whether through carefully controlled endothermy, like mammals and modern birds, or through some other physiological strategy, like the 'gigantothermy' used by some large ectothermic animals. We are actively working on the measurements of smaller dinosaurs that will resolve this issue."
 So even after they answered the immediate question, how warm was a dinosaur, they didn't get the answer to the ultimate question, were dinosaurs truly warm blooded in the sense that we are.  My best guess is yes.

Maryland "Bay Diet" Available for Public Comment

If you want to read and comment on Maryland's plan to implement the Chesapeake Bay restoration plan:

If you don't comment, you don't have the right to complain afterwards...
On December 15, 2011, Maryland provided EPA with a preliminary draft of the State’s Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). The purpose of the preliminary draft was to provide EPA with an opportunity to confirm that the proposed strategies would meet the Bay TMDL goals. Based on results from EPA, updated draft documents are available below for public review and comment from January 26, 2012 through March 9, 2012.

Comments on the draft Phase II WIP should be submitted in writing to MDE no later than March 9, 2012 by email (preferred) to: wipcoordinator@mde.state.md.us or by post to: Tom Thornton, Maryland Department of the Environment, 1800 Washington Boulevard – Suite 540, Baltimore MD 21230-1718.

Executive Summary
Executive Summary.pdf
Main Report
WIP Phase II County Plans (Section III)
Local Plans
Appendix A:  Statewide Narrative Strategies to Meet Interim Reduction Targets
Appendix B:  Phase II WIP Strategy Results
Appendix C:  Cost Analyses and Funding Studies
Appendix D:  Federal Facility Contributions to MD's Phase II WIP
Appendix E:  MD State Agency Phase II WIP Reports
Appendix F:  Final Target Loads for Significant (Major) Facilities
Appendix G:  NPDES Dischargers
Appendix H:  Analysis: Meeting the Required Water Quality Response

Farmers Sue EPA Over Bay Diet

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load regulation (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay watershed establishes new controls on land use that trespass into territory Congress legally reserved for state governments, according to the opening brief for summary judgment, filed Friday, Jan. 27 by the American Farm Bureau Federation in the case, “AFBF vs. EPA.” ...

“It imposes detailed pollutant ‘allocations’ among sources throughout the Bay’s vast watershed,” the brief charged. “These mandatory allocations of allowable pollutant loading among farms, towns, and homeowners amount to nothing short of a federal TMDL implementation plan. This plan directly encroaches on state authority over land and water quality planning – not only in states bordering the Bay, but in states hundreds of miles away. EPA’s action is not authorized under the (Clean Water) Act.”

The brief also charges that the EPA’s TMDL is based on flawed technical analysis and computer models that have proved to be fundamentally unworkable, and not appropriate as a basis for any regulatory program.

“(EPA) used those models for purposes beyond their predictive capabilities and relied on key assumptions that are demonstrably false,” the brief stated. “Those modeling defects are fatal, even if EPA had the authority (which it does not) for the Final TMDL.”

A major economic study has also indicated that enforcement of the EPA’s Bay plan would be expensive – a fact magnified by the nation’s current fiscal challenges. In 2004, a “Blue Ribbon Panel” report estimated that achieving water quality standards for the Bay would cost $28 billion in total upfront capital costs, plus $2.7 billion in subsequent annual costs.
It should be no secret to any regular reader of my blog (all three of you, optimistically), that farmers feel that the "Bay Diet" plans being formulated to help clean the Chesapeake Bat falls unfairly on their shoulders.  They have a reasonable chance of showing that the modelling is inaccurate (models are always wrong, the only question is by how much and in what direction), but whether that would prevent implementation is unknown to me.  The procedural argument, that EPA's actions are not authorized by the Clean Water is relatively new to me; maybe it's been out there, but not much discussed in the Bay centric articles that I have seen.

It will be interesting to see how this works it's way through the courts.

South Korea Threatens North with... Pop?

The Republic of Korea has installed large loudspeakers facing North Koreans, who have threatened to destroy the ROK'n'roll sound systems and also transform Seoul into "a sea of flame" should the speakers remain standing. These strong words haven't deterred South Korea — in fact, they appear to be expanding their efforts to include music videos. In an interview with the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, a psy ops official for the ROK's Joint Chiefs of Staff had this to say about the loudspeaker propaganda initiative:
It will take months to set up the big screens to use in psychological warfare operations and a wide range of contents will be shown [...] I don't know whether songs by girl groups will be included, but there is that chance since pop songs were used in the past.

I surrender!

A Cool Illusion

I'm not sure it's really an illusion.

Just an alternative interpretation of ambiguous visual data

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Welcome to Global Climate, uh, Unchange

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

Meanwhile, leading climate scientists yesterday told The Mail on Sunday that, after emitting unusually high levels of energy throughout the 20th Century, the sun is now heading towards a ‘grand minimum’ in its output, threatening cold summers, bitter winters and a shortening of the season available for growing food.
I think it's too early to be calling for a global cooling period, but the cards are starting to look stacked in that direction.  A few years ago, when global warming was all the rage, I counseled people to wait 20 years before making that call. It hasn't been 20 years yet, and it looks like it's falling apart. Now I should warn people to hesitate before making the opposite prediction.

Baby Eats Snake

Coin-marked Snake
Or at least gave it a good try...

Toddler chews head off snake
A sleepy snake came to a rather untimely end after having its head half chewed off by a fearless toddler in an Arab town in northern Israel, the child's family told AFP on Friday.

Thirteen-month-old Imad Aleeyan, who has six teeth, was found chewing on the head of the 30-centimetre snake by his mother, who alerted the neighbourhood with her screams.

"I was making his milk and I looked over and saw he had a snake in his mouth," said his mother, Ghadir Aleeyan, who lives in the town of Shefa'Amr, 15 kilometres (9 miles) east of the port city of Haifa. "I started to scream. I couldn't believe my eyes," she told AFP. "I nearly died of fright."
More than a mouthful

A neighbour who had rushed to see what was going on yanked the half-dead reptile out of the boys mouth and killed it, she said. "When he pulled it out, Imad started crying," she said, describing the snake's head as "very badly chewed" when it emerged from the boys mouth.
OK, let's acknowledge from the outset that kids just aren't civilized yet by the time the only have six teeth.  Still, that's a pretty tough little bugger to grab a snake and start chewing on it.  Sounds like he's beyond milk, Mom. You better get a little more red meat into his diet before he starts chewing on the next door neighbors.  Fortunately, the kid chose a non-poisonous snake to nosh on.
Dr Boaz Shacham, an expert on amphibians and reptiles, told AFP that from looking at images of the smashed-up serpent online, it appeared to be a coin-marked snake (Hemorrhois nummifer), a non-venomous species which resembles a viper. Such snakes grow up to 1.3 metres in length, he said, suggesting it was a "very young" specimen.

"It probably didn't bite the child because of the cold," said Shacham who is the head of the herpetology collection at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
There's nothing wrong with eating a little snake.  We had rattlesnake a few times back in California and while it's nothing special (tastes like chicken, as the cliche goes), it's at least nutritious.  I wonder if snake is a clean "haraam" (forbidden) food item under Islam?  A little research suggests it is...

What Ever They're Against, I'm For - Part Deux

The girls from Femen (the Ukrainian Women's rights group known for their topless protests against, well, darn near everything) have decided to go to Davos, to protest the World Economic Forum.  In fact, three bare chested women were arrested yesterday in the protests, as amply documented here (NSFW link).

This puts me in a bit of a conundrum, because while I wish to support whatever it is Femen opposes in the interest of having them continue their protests, I'm not sure I can honestly muster support for the Davos forum, especially in view of the fact that this years gathering seems to be bound and determined to "fix capitalism".

Much as the average liberal will tell you how "real communism has never been tried", I would argue that real capitalism has never been tried either.  The idea of free market capitalism arose long after the idea of national governments arose, so governments have always been there first, to "regulate", i.e. obtain revenue, graft, and to favor friends, or even worse in many cases, stupid ideas and products that won't sell.

However, the Femen women have also decided to protest nuclear power, (caution, NSFW) which I firmly support, so I have to give one up to the girls on that one.

Keep up the bare good work, ladies!

Wombat-Socho at The Other McCain features this and my other cuties posts this week in his giant compendium of Rule 5 posts "Patience."

Beach Report - 2/27/12

And still another marvelous day, especially for January; a little cooler, a little breezier than yesterday, but still a fine day.
A Seagull landing in the water nearby.
Is it "Sitting Eagle" or "Flying Eagle"
I guess that answers that question.  I was about to try to take a picture of the eagle sitting with the full zoom, when it decided to take off.  After this, it went off and harassed some seagulls for a while.  The ultra zoom makes it kind of grainy.
A divot in the sand where some bird had gone in and rooted around for something to eat.  I'm pretty sure it's the swans, from the size of the holes and the fact that we see them mostly near where the swans hang out.
A better than average sharks tooth in it's original site in the beach.  I would call this a Lemon Shark, from the groove in the root, but I wouldn't bet real money on that.
Georgia found this complete fossil ray plate, probably an Eagle Ray (Aetobatus arcuatus). Compared to sharks teeth, these are relatively fragile, and are usually found broken. These "spoon" together in the mouth to form a solid plate the ray uses to crush food.
The swans are still here.  We didn't see any yesterday, and I was wondering if they had given up on our pathetic winter and gone north again.

Hawaii Proposes Universal Internet Surveillance

Hawaii may keep track of all Web sites visited
Hawaii's legislature is weighing an unprecedented proposal to curb the privacy of Aloha State residents: requiring Internet providers to keep track of every Web site their customers visit.

Its House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing this morning on a new bill (PDF) requiring the creation of virtual dossiers on state residents. The measure, H.B. 2288, says "Internet destination history information" and "subscriber's information" such as name and address must be saved for two years.
What dastard would propose such an intrusive measure; sounds like Bushco!
Democratic Rep. John Mizuno of Oahu is the lead sponsor; Mizuno also introduced H.B. 2287, a computer crime bill, at the same time last week.
Oh, never mind; you wouldn't object if you didn't have something to hide.

Speed Archery

And cute to boot.

Wombat-Socho at The Other McCain features this and my other cuties posts this week in his giant compendium of Rule 5 posts "Patience."  Also listed by The Classical Liberal in "Rule 5 and Tequila."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Are You Willing to Buy a Whale?

Saving the Whales (And Eating Them Too?)
A temporary worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986, but given its exceptions and loopholes, more whales are being killed annually than before the ban. Something is awry. If the efforts of whale huggers worldwide aren’t working, then could markets be the solution? Three American scientists recently resurrected an idea first floated by ecologist C.W. Clark in 1982 to save the whales by setting a price on their heads. The article appeared in the journal Nature. Much like carbon credits, conservationists could buy whale quotas, pocket the credit, and save as many whales as money could buy. A minke might fetch $13,000, whereas fin whales might be priced at $85,000.

It’s an intriguing proposal—one that made me wonder if we’d soon be eating whale again. Well, barring the unforeseen and unlikely overturn of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, don’t expect to see whale margarine or “beef of the deep” making a comeback.
Will this 12 wt fly rod be enough?
Of course, another example of such credits would be nutrient credits such as the ones proposed for Chesapeake Bay and similar systems (which have not been implemented yet).  Depending on how they are implemented, I suppose anti-pollution activists could put their money where their mouth is, and outbid potential polluters for the nutrient credits and prevent their use.  Funny thing is, I've never heard that proposed.

Book Review - "Archangel" by Aaron Worthing

Archangel is a authored by blogger Aaron Worthing, who blogs at his own site, "Allergic to Bull", and has occasionally provided content at Patterico's Pontifications and Big Government.  He describes himself as a:
Pseudonymous blogger at Allergic to Bull. He considers himself just a regular, sort-of cranky, moderately conservative lawyer, living in the greater Washington, D.C. area and ruminating on law, life, and the local spectator sport known as politics.
Archangel is his first novel.  I saw Instapundit mention it one day, and always on the hunt for kindle material to fill up the commute with, I bought it partially to help encourage a fellow (and much better known) blogger, and out of curiosity.  Not being a member of Amazon Prime (I haven't been able to persuade Georgia that it would pay), I paid full fair, $9.99 (free to Amazon Prime members).

Archangel bills itself as an "A Novel of Alternate Recent History."  Other than a brief foray to World War II, most of the novel takes place after Sept. 11, 2001.  An alien baby, is orphaned on earth (sound familiar yet).  With "special powers", both native and technologically enhanced, the alien is raised by an earthly family, and learns to disguise itself as a human, living as a fireman to help the species it is among.  Then it finds itself in the World Trade Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

I won't give away much more of the plot, except to say characters include major political players in the post 9/11 era, and a few of the blogger types.  The New York Times comes in for a great deal of abuse, as it pursues it's own political agenda against the government. The book is quite a political piece, and makes no pretense of  bipartisanship.  I'm afraid it will only appeal to those on the political right.

The book has a bit of a "cartoonish" quality to it.  The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and both types get what's coming to them in the end.  But then, at the beginning of the book is a disclaimer that the work was not written with the endorsement, knowledge or consent of Marvel, D.C. or another comic book company, so that's clearly a feature and not a bug.

I enjoyed it, but I think the $9.99 price is really too much for a collection of digits by a first-time author.

A Bluebird Day at the Beach

Is it really January?  It just seems wrong, but I'm not complaining.  And there was a pair of bluebirds out sitting on the cable around the beach parking lot.
It was 50 F and rising, the tide was low, the wind was minimal, and the sky was blue. Utterly gorgeous. 

Georgia looks for fossils, while Skye looks for ground hogs.  While we didn't see any today, I've heard people report that they saw one out and about.

"Flying Eagle" was around.  I go this picture of him/her taking off

We found a lot of shark's teeth today.  Here is one of the many really small ones I picked up, not much larger than a grain of sand.

Georgia had the hot hand for quality, though, starting with this fragment of a cow shark tooth.

My best of the day was this large, but worn Snaggletooth.

But just as we were getting ready to leave, Georgia found this Mako tooth.  A little worn, with some missing root, but still a pretty decent find.  Overall we found some 45 sharks teeth, and four Black Drum's teeth.  A respectable haul.

Hit Job on Rubio Rebounds on Reuters

Reuters is still kicking itself over an article about Republican golden boy Senator Marco Rubio that yielded five corrections yesterday and may have warranted more.

One senior staffer at Reuters described the episode to me as a "fiasco," another as a "disgrace."

It was so bad, in fact, that the editors and writer involved have been asked not to talk about it. (I reached out to editors David Lindsey and Eric Walsh, but have not heard back.)

The article, by David Adams, had intended to detail why Rubio was an unlikely pick for Vice President: "Rubio may not be as coveted as Gingrich or Romney would have it appear as they press for votes in Florida, where more than 450,000 Hispanics identify themselves as Republicans," Reuters David Adams wrote. "Despite his reputation as a watchdog over federal spending, Rubio, 40, has had significant financial problems that could keep him from passing any vetting process as a potential vice presidential choice, Republican and Democratic strategists say."

But after pressure from the Rubio staff, Reuters was forced to issue corrections that quickly became a larger talking point than the article itself.

Rubio's staff reached out to the editors and the writer early yesterday, prompting Reuters to issue two corrections. But the Daily Caller's Matt Lewis, who spoke with Rubio's staff as well, wrote an item suggesting that there were at least seven errors:

1. “Rubio also voted against Sonia Sotomayor, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee who is of Puerto Rican descent…”

(Rubio wasn’t even in the senate then.)

2. “He soon had [his house] appraised for $735,000 and took out a second mortgage for $135,000.”

(Rubio did not take out a second mortgage. He took out a home equity line, which is a line of credit secured by the value of the home.)

3. “In 2008, despite earning a declared $400,000 – including his $300,000 salary from the Miami law firm Broad and Cassel – Rubio failed to make a payment on his home for several months”

(Rubio never failed to make payments on his mortgage on his home. He did miss a payment on a second house that he co-owns in Tallahassee because of miscommunication with the bank and the other owner; but it was remedied immediately and was not caused by any financial problems.)

4. “During the same period he did not make payments on a $100,000-plus student loan from his days at the University of Miami, the disclosures said.”

(As far as I can tell, this is simply untrue. He has never missed a payment on his student loans.)

5. “He frequently had used his party credit card for personal use, and later reimbursed the party for about $16,000.”

(Rubio paid American Express directly. The party never paid any expenses, and therefore there was no need to reimburse them.)

6. “Before joining the Senate last year, he was caught up in an Internal Revenue Service investigation of the Florida Republican Party’s use of party-issued credit cards.”

(Rubio’s office tells me they have never been contacted about an IRS investigation.)

7 “Rubio owes far more on his $384,000 Miami home than it is worth, and at times has had difficulty paying his mortgage”

(Senator Rubio has never missed a payment on his Miami home.)
At some point malpractice slides into actual malice.  I would think that beyond three "errors" in a single article has gone way beyond that point. And to be honest, these don't look much like errors; it looks more like they were willing to assert facts not in evidence in hope that they wouldn't be checked.

Reuters has now issued 5 corrections but no apologies...

Rule 5 Saturday - Alica Witt

For today's Rule 5 post, starring at age 8 as Alia Atreides in the 1984 science fiction catastrophe classic "Dune", based on Frank Herbert's mammoth novel of the same name, Alicia Witt is a native of Massachusetts.  Hey, you can't help where your parent chose to bear you.  You can only move later.

This might be carrying the soulless ginger thing a little far
She completed high school at age 14, and moved to Hollywood almost immediately.  In 1990 she had a role in the TV series "Twin Peaks"

 Since then, she's been more or less continually employed in films, TV and stage acting, with a little dabbling in singing.  Most recently she has been seen in CSI:Miami, Friday night Lights, the Mentalist, and Lawn Order: Criminal Stupidity Intent.

 Little known fact:
On June 14, 2004, Witt modeled what is believed to be the most expensive hat ever made, for Christie's auction house in London. The Chapeau d'Amour, designed by Louis Mariette, is valued at $2.7 million (US) and is encrusted in diamonds.
It's a shame to hide that red hair.

OK, that's enough - just some more pictures of Alicia below the jump.

Too Late for That, I'm Afraid

The word is “fracking” — as in hydraulic fracturing, a technique long used by the oil and gas industry to free oil and gas from rock.

It’s not in the dictionary, the industry hates it, and President Barack Obama didn’t use it in his State of the Union speech — even as he praised federal subsidies for it.

The word sounds nasty, and environmental advocates have been able to use it to generate opposition — and revulsion — to what they say is a nasty process that threatens water supplies.“It obviously calls to mind other less socially polite terms, and folks have been able to take advantage of that,” said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who works on drilling issues.
As I wrote in my very first post of fracking, "It's Not Just a Curse on Battle Star Galactica."

This reminds me a bit of some of the other culture wars over terminology; "anti-abortion" vs. "pro-life" , "politically correct" vs "diverse", etc.  I've got no problem with using fracking.  It's a good contraction from the actual term for fracturing.  And it's too late to shake it, you might as well live with it, and try to turn it positive.  Associating it with lowering gas prices would help make it a popular word in a hurry.

Sort of related: Obama Deserves No Credit for the Oil and Gas Boom
"The one person who deserves no credit for this [oil and gas] boom is Barack Obama. In fact, this Administration has bent over backwards to make oil and gas production and exploration as difficult as possible. According to the Institute for Energy Research (IER), the Obama Administration has been issuing BLM oil and gas leases at the lowest pace of any president in the last 30 years – in fact at half the rate of the Clinton White House and 80% slower than in the Reagan era, dragging their feet to please the environmental lobby (see top chart above).
 That looks like a pretty long-term trend, that perhaps Obama has exacerbated.

Friday, January 27, 2012

$1000 a Year, on Coffee

Workers Spend $1,000 Yearly on Coffee
In a telephone survey of 1,000 Americans who were currently employed, ages 18 or older, the participators were asked how much money they spend on "work-related" expenses.

Despite recent tough economic times, results showed that 50 percent of the American workforce regularly spent money on coffee. This totaled, on average, $1,000 a year on coffee alone.

Broken down ever further, it was found that more men splurge on coffee than women (54 percent versus 45 percent). And the younger crowd, ages 18-34, spent almost twice as much on coffee than their older co-workers ($24.74 versus $14.15 weekly).
I can see that.  A bad Starbucks habit (once a day or more) and expensive tastes could easily get to over a $1000 a year.  I'm probably fortunate there's not a convenient source of expensive coffee at work.


Two spans of the Eggner Ferry Bridge at US 68 and Kentucky 80 were destroyed Thursday night by the Delta Mariner, which was too tall to pass beneath the structure. No injuries were reported on the bridge or in the boat, which was carrying rocket components from Decatur, Ala., to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Too tall to pass under the bridge?  I'm guessing that Captain's license just became worth less than a Greek Government bond.
Robert Parker was on the bridge Thursday night and said he had to slam on his brakes when he saw a section missing ahead of him.

"All of a sudden I see the road's gone and I hit the brakes," said Parker, who lives in Cadiz. "It got close."

Parker said he stopped his pickup within five feet of the missing section. He said he didn't feel the vessel strike the bridge but "felt the bridge was kind of weak."
I think that might have been his knees...

USDA Shifts Plant Zones

On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture unveiled what most gardeners have known for years: a new plant hardiness zone map that shows generally warmer low temperatures for winter than the department’s previous map from 1990.

In the Washington region, the District and other communities bordering the Potomac River or the Chesapeake Bay are now in the warmer half of Zone 7, which formerly reached only as far north as Tidewater Virginia. Most of Virginia and Maryland are in the cooler side of Zone 7, with a low temperature range of zero to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Before, the areas found themselves in the colder Zone 6, along with much of the Appalachian piedmont.
Online only and interactive, the new map reveals wholesale shifts in zone boundaries since the last one was compiled as a wall map 22 years ago. Some areas turned out to have colder winters — the western slopes of the Sierra Nevadas and Pierre, S.D., for example...
It's pretty well known that either the first or second warmest year in the last century was in 1998, and since then the climate arguably cooled slightly.  The original map was drawn during the increase in temperatures from a relatively cool period in the 1970s when scientists were concerned that the world might be slipping back to an ice age.

Agriculture officials stressed that the new map is not a tool to measure climate change and that many of the boundary shifts are the product of better and more complete data and sophisticated computer algorithms.
However, it's pretty clear that  Washington Post writers must not read their own products, at least with any care:

Cuccinelli must not be much of a gardener
If we’re up to our camellias in alligators, why are Virginia’s right-wing politicians continuing their persecutions of academics who suggest that global warming is real and man-made?

Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli has made a second career out of persecuting former University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann, who says mankind is responsible for global warming, a view held by most scientific experts. After Cuccinelli saw his attempt at subpoenaing Mann’s records quashed by a court, his conservative comrade, Del. Bob Marshall of Prince William County, teamed up with the American Traditions Institute to get some of the records through the Freedom of Information Act.

Scientific evidence apparently means little to Cuccinelli or Marshall. What does it matter? Cuccinelli is running for governor and Marshall for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Playing to the wing elements pays dividends.
So, even though the new map is not supposed to be taken as evidence of climate change, you can if it can be used to attack a Republican, at least if you're the Washington Post.

The reason Cuccineli is after Mann is that there's pretty good evidence that Mann has played fast and loose with Freedom of Information  Act (FOIA) requests, requesting other scientists to destroy evidence, and withholding information.  Political or not, those are valid reasons for investigation.

O'Malley Bets Big on Green Agenda

The success of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's 2012 agenda largely will hinge on his ability to push a series of environmental initiatives through a legislature wary of the financial implications of his green energy blueprint. O'Malley is already facing resistance over his plan to double the state's "flush" tax, which would cost Marylanders an average of $60 a year to aid Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.

And he is expected in the coming days to announce a proposed increase in the state's 23.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax, a charge that has remained the same for decades. "Personally, I'd like to see us get away from a commodity tax, especially when it's a commodity that we hope that green cars and hybrids and plug-ins will reduce the consumption of," O'Malley previously said.
That seems contradictory, increasing the tax to raise revenue, while hoping to get away from the tax altogether. Nothing is more addicting to government than revenue, and getting rid of a commodity tax by raising it seems like stopping a smoking habit by adding a pack a day.  

I do agree, however, that if (and this is a big if) electric cars, or alternative fuel cars (natural gas or propane cars whose fuel was untaxed were to become important, a new source of revenue for transportation needs would need to be found.  However, my guess is that politicians would simply tax those sources directly, rather than getting it from an unrelated source, like say, the $#!* tax.
The governor has long argued that, if the state is to remain economically competitive, it must kick-start green energy projects in the nascent stages of production overseas -- which have yet to take off domestically over concerns about expenses -- and curb dependence on traditional energy sources.

And the governor recently restarted his bid to develop an offshore wind farm on the Atlantic Coast, modifying a proposal last year that was the source of his biggest legislative defeat. The General Assembly last year balked at passing the cost of wind power onto electricity ratepayers. This time around, O'Malley has recommended capping the wind subsidies at $2 more per month than normal electricity costs.

It remains to be seen whether that shift will entice offshore production or sway skeptical lawmakers, but O'Malley is eager to deliver on one of the bedrocks of his national pitch to the Democratic base.
Meanwhile, around the country, and world, wind power systems are failing to meet their expectations and being idled, as are their manufacturing plants.  Much like weeds, power sources will survive and thrive where conditions for their survival are good, and labor and money will be wasted trying to force them to exist where conditions are not conducive.

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Survivor

Monkey long believed extinct found in Indonesia
Scientists working in the dense jungles of Indonesia have "rediscovered" a large, gray monkey so rare it was believed by many to be extinct. They were all the more baffled to find the Miller's Grizzled Langur — its black face framed by a fluffy, Dracula-esque white collar — in an area well outside its previously recorded home range.

The team set up camera traps in the Wehea Forest on the eastern tip of Borneo island in June, hoping to captures images of clouded leopards, orangutans and other wildlife known to congregate at several mineral salt licks. The pictures that came back caught them all by surprise: groups of monkeys none had ever seen.

With virtually no photographs of the grizzled langurs in existence, it at first was a challenge to confirm their suspicions, said Brent Loken, a Ph.D. student at Simon Fraser University in Canada, and one of the lead researchers.The only images out there were museum sketches.

"We were all pretty ecstatic, the fact that, wow, this monkey still lives, and also that it's in Wehea," said Loken.

The monkey, which has hooded eyes and a pinkish nose and lips, once roamed the northeastern part of Borneo, as well as the islands of Sumatra and Java and the Thai-Malay peninsula. But concerns were voiced several years ago that they may be extinct.
 I think it's cool when species thought to be extinct are re-found.  It reaffirms my faith in primate fallibility...

NASA Forecasts Lowest Sunspot Cycle in Recorded History

Solar Cycle 25 could be one of the weakest in centuries.

The Sun's Great Conveyor Belt has slowed to a record-low crawl, according to research by NASA solar physicist David Hathaway. "It's off the bottom of the charts," he says. "This has important repercussions for future solar activity."

The Great Conveyor Belt is a massive circulating current of fire (hot plasma) within the Sun. It has two branches, north and south, each taking about 40 years to perform one complete circuit. Researchers believe the turning of the belt controls the sunspot cycle, and that's why the slowdown is important.

"Normally, the conveyor belt moves about 1 meter per second—walking pace," says Hathaway. "That's how it has been since the late 19th century." In recent years, however, the belt has decelerated to 0.75 m/s in the north and 0.35 m/s in the south. "We've never seen speeds so low."

According to theory and observation, the speed of the belt foretells the intensity of sunspot activity ~20 years in the future. A slow belt means lower solar activity; a fast belt means stronger activity. The reasons for this are explained in the Science@NASA story Solar Storm Warning.

"The slowdown we see now means that Solar Cycle 25, peaking around the year 2022, could be one of the weakest in centuries," says Hathaway.
 What this article is not saying is that the strength of sun spot cycles has been observed to correlate strongly with global climate, with weak cycles being associated with colder climate, with such events as the Maunder and Dalton Minimums.  The reason is unclear (the actual decrease in total solar energy is very small) but may be related to the strength of the solar magnetic field, and how it shields the earth from cosmic rays, which help seed clouds, and reflect light and heat back into space.

Another thing they also fail to mention is that the solar magnetic field is weakening, and if it continues to weaken at it's current rate, sunspots may no longer be visible to the eye, similar to the situation in the Maunder Minimum.  This may occur as early as 2015-2017.

It would appear that there is an excellent chance that the earth will be entering a period where solar forces suggest a lower than average temperature regime.

Previous posts on the cosmic ray-climate linkage:

Solar Magnetic Activity Linked to Climate Via Cosmic Rays
Solar Breakdown - AAS Predicts Solar Minimum
CERN Head Censors Scientific Thinking
Dalton or Maunder?
CERN Study Finds-Climate Cosmic Ray Link

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Thick is Your Bubble?

A quick quiz to determine how deep into the cultural elite you are embedded.

Me?  Only moderately.  I might buy a pick up, but I won't watch a full episode of Oprah...

How Thick Is Your Bubble? » Online test maker

On a scale from 0 to 20 points, where 20 signifies full engagement with mainstream American culture and 0 signifies deep cultural isolation within the new upper class bubble, you scored between 9 and 12.

In other words, even if you're part of the new upper class, you've had a lot of exposure to the rest of America.
Yep, I found this at Ace's. 

Another Food Myth

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University tracked the body mass indexes of 19,450 students from fifth through eighth grade. In fifth grade, 59 percent of the children attended a school where candy, snacks or sugar-sweetened beverages were sold. By eighth grade, 86 percent did so.

The researchers compared children’s weight in schools where junk food was sold and in schools where it was banned. The scientists also evaluated eighth graders who moved into schools that sold junk food with those who did not, and children who never attended a school that sold snacks with those who did. And they compared children who always attended schools with snacks with those who moved out of such schools.

No matter how the researchers looked at the data, they could find no correlation at all between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available.

“Food preferences are established early in life,” said Jennifer Van Hook, the lead author and a professor of sociology and demography at Penn State. “This problem of childhood obesity cannot be placed solely in the hands of schools.”
Oh, look, a cup cake!
I hereby predict that lack of evidence will not stop the nanny statists from trying to impose their vision of the correct diet on unwilling students.

At my High School they actually had a vending machine that dispensed apples.  I don't believe I ever saw anyone buy one.

 Wombat-Socho at The Other McCain" lists this, and other slightly naughty posts in his weekly Rule 5 round up, "Lily was Here."

Want SAV Back in the Bay? Don't Bother...

Large-scale SAV restoration discouraged until water quality improves
A scientific review has offered advice about trying to plant large-scale underwater grass beds in the Chesapeake: Don't bother. At least not until the Bay's often-murky water gets clearer.

The recent report by the Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee recommended that efforts to replant large underwater grass beds be discontinued until environmental conditions improve, although it said small-scale projects in carefully targeted areas should continue.

The state-federal Bay Program in 2003 had set a five-year goal of planting 1,000 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, in the Chesapeake in the hope of jump-starting the growth of underwater meadows in areas that had often been barren for decades.

But the goal, estimated to cost more than $30 million, was never fully funded. The $5 million which was spent, mostly by federal agencies, resulted in the planting of fewer than 150 acres by 2008, most of which died.

The report nonetheless said that scientists demonstrated they had the technical expertise to harvest large amounts of seeds and plant large, multi-acre projects. Those techniques work: Virginia Institute of Marine Science researchers planted 37.8 million eelgrass seeds on 309 acres in four different bays in the Virginia seaside starting in 1999. These beds are now 4,200 acres.

But in the Chesapeake, almost all of the restoration projects died, apparently because of poor water clarity and high summer water temperatures. Eelgrass, the focus of much of the work, needs clear and cool water to survive.
This corresponds to my feeling on the ability of humans to restore ecosystems; if an organism has the ability to easily live in the area, it's very difficult to keep it out, but if conditions aren't right, you can waste an awful lot of time and money trying to make it.

Death Valley's Big Popper

In California’s Death Valley, death is looking just a bit closer. Geologists have determined that the half-mile-wide Ubehebe Crater, formed by a prehistoric volcanic explosion, was created far more recently than previously thought—and that conditions for a sequel may exist today.

Up to now, geologists were vague on the age of the 600-foot deep crater, which formed when a rising plume of magma hit a pocket of underground water, creating an explosion. The most common estimate was about 6,000 years, based partly on Native American artifacts found under debris. Now, a team based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has used isotopes in rocks blown out of the crater to show that it formed just 800 years ago, around the year 1200.

That geologic youth means it probably still has some vigor; moreover, the scientists think there is still enough groundwater and magma around for another eventual reaction. The study appears in the current issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
A steam explosion is what pops popcorn.

Bigfoot: To Shoot or Not?

If You Spot Bigfoot, Should You Shoot Him?
In the new Animal Planet reality TV show optimistically titled "Finding Bigfoot," a team of experts examines video of an alleged Sasquatch spotted in the Canadian Rockies. The video, shot by a man named Todd Standing, shows something large and dark, standing atop a wooded ridge and then ducking back behind a bush. It could pretty much be anything, and when the experts concluded that the subject was probably not a Bigfoot, Standing expressed his frustration: "No video is ever going to be evidence, ever. It's never going to be good enough…"
But definitive proof is a very high standard. Most Bigfoot enthusiasts — and the general public — would be satisfied with nothing less than the rock-solid definitive proof offered by a living or dead specimen.
 Not unless it's preparing to eat me...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Agree, Kill the Apostrophe

It's time...
....I have referred to the apostrophe as the forgotten letter in English. It is an anomalous letter, because it absolutely never corresponds to a sound (I think, though see this post), but it is an obligatory part of the spelling of indefinitely many words (most obviously, all regular genitives and all negated and cliticized auxiliaries). The existence of a few older location names that lack the apostrophe means nothing about its prospects; it's as unimportant as the existence of a peculiar set of nouns that do not take the apostrophe in their genitives (the personal pronouns her, his, its, my, our, their, and your). What drives the error-hunters wild is that it not only gets missed where it was putatively needed, it also gets inserted where it is not allowed (recall the awful incident of the mistakenly apostrophed lunch bus that the BBC parked most insensitively under the windows of the Linguistics and English Language offices at my university). But there are no signs of it dying out. Rosen's suggestion that we are on any such path is totally off base...
It would improve my spelling.

I'll Have the Fried Fish

They say there is mounting research that it is the type of oil used, and whether or not it has been used before, that really matters. The latest study, published in the British Medical Journal, found no association between the frequency of fried food consumption in Spain - where olive and sunflower oils are mostly used - and the incidence of serious heart disease.

Spanish researchers followed more than 40,000 people, two-thirds of whom were women, from the mid 1990s to 2004. At the outset they asked them how often they ate fried foods, either at home or while out. They then looked to see whether eating fried foods regularly increased the likelihood of falling ill from having coronary heart disease, such as a heart attack or angina requiring surgery.

Dividing participants into four groups, from lowest fried food intake to highest, they found no significant difference in heart disease. There were 606 incidents linked to heart disease in total, but they were split relatively evenly between the four groups.

The authors concluded: "In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death."
The evidence is starting to mount that the whole dietary paradigm of high carbohydrate, low fat, low meat diet has been a mistake.  Carbohydrates are more likely responsible for the increase in arterial plaque that plagues modern people than lipids.  That's not to say that eating lots of fat can't make you fat, it can, but still, the major problems with metabolic diseases probably arise though consumption of excessive carbohydrates.
Commenting on the findings in the BMJ, Professor Michael Leitzmann of the University of Regensburg in Germany said two other studies - one from Costa Rica and another by an international team - had also failed to find strong evidence of a link.

He said: "Taken together, the myth that frying food is generally bad for the heart is not supported by available evidence.
So maybe have the fried fish and skip the fries.

Wombat-Socho at The Other McCain" lists this, and other slightly naughty posts in his weekly Rule 5 round up, "Lily was Here", as does The Classical Liberal in "Sexy Little Thing".

O'Malley Declares War on Internet

From the bill‘s list of what would be taxed:
As Gus points out, it isn’t clear to which blogs this would apply. Would it be only blogs behind a paywall like those of Gus’s employer The Baltimore Sun (kudos to Gus for using that word – there were rumors of a crackdown on the usage of it by Sun staff when the paywall started.)

Presumably it could include some of the pay RSS feeds Amazon does for Kindle as well. There’s also an Amazon tax like other states have tried, according to Sentementes.

Depending on how the bill would attempt to tax blogs there are definite free speech questions.
Six percent of this blogs income would certainly fill the states coffers to the lip...

O'Malley Continues His War on $#!*

Undeterred by accusations he's waging "war on rural Maryland," Gov. Martin O'Malley has revived legislation aimed at curbing sprawling development built with septic systems.

The governor's septics bill, part of his legislative package introduced Monday night in Annapolis, tries a new, more complex "tiered" approach. It replaces his controversial proposal last year to ban large housing projects using "onsite sewage disposal," which officials say is a growing source of the nutrient pollution fouling the Chesapeake Bay.

The new plan would take off on Maryland's 15-year-old Smart Growth policies and impose increasingly stringent restrictions on the use of septic systems the farther new housing would be built from existing cities, towns and unincorporated communities. It's an approach recommended by a 28-member task force he appointed to study the issue after legislative leaders shelved his earlier bill. ...

Instead of banning such development outright, the bill would encourage counties and municipalities to put more growth on centralized sewer systems, while discouraging septic-based construction on farmland and in watershed areas where officials say it's likely to pollute streams and the bay.
Ah, we're going to try putting the frog in the pot and then turn on the stove, instead of trying to force the frog into boiling water.  It might work.

I still maintain that a large part of O'Malley's internal rationale for this "war on septic systems" is that pushing people into cities with more municipal services (like septic) makes them more dependent those services, and more likely to vote to keep them, and the party that promulgates them.
Of all the things to depend on, isn’t government the smartest choice? You could depend on yourself, but come on. You know yourself; you fail all the time. You could depend on your friends and family, but they’d eventually get sick of you. But government will always love you and always be there. Long after you’re dead and forgotten, there will be government.
From Frank J who blogs at IMAO.