Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kent County Commish Clubs CBF over Conowingo

Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian on Tuesday blasted the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for its deafening silence and lack of advocacy in addressing pollution coming from the Susquehanna through the Conowingo Dam — a point where many experts, and even CBF, say is the single largest source of sediment and nutrient pollution into the Chesapeake.

Fithian also blasted CBF for criticizing the Kent Commissioners’ decision to join the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, a seven-county coalition dedicated to addressing a fix at the Conowingo before the operator, Exelon Power, is approved for relicensing in 2014.
...“We were heavily criticized by all the so called experts,” Fithian said at Tuesday’s Commissioners’ meeting. “I would get calls at 7:30 in the morning, still in the shower, from people like the Chesapeake bay Foundation, who tried to tell us not to join the coalition.”

“I found that extremely puzzling to me that [an organization] whose motto is to “Save the Bay” would not want to take a look at something that was so important,” Fithian said. “I can’t understand it, and I probably never will.”
I understand that the counties are desperately trying to find someone, anyone, to pay a much bigger share of the 'Bay Diet' costs, estimated at $25 billion (with a "B")  over ten years, but I think they're barking up the wrong tree here.  Conowingo has been a net benefit to the Bay in terms of pollution (never mind our stupid shad and herring), and the counties should be praying that Exelon finds a way to continue the dams nutrient trapping function that Conowingo has provided for so long.

Unfortunately, I don't see an easy solution arising soon.

Help! I Think She's Trying to Make Me Sick!

Study finds leafy green vegetables top source of food poisoning; more deaths tied to poultry
A big government study has fingered leafy greens like lettuce and spinach as the leading source of food poisoning, a perhaps uncomfortable conclusion for health officials who want us to eat our vegetables.

"Most meals are safe," said Dr. Patricia Griffin, a government researcher and one of the study's authors who said the finding shouldn't discourage people from eating produce. Experts repeated often-heard advice: Be sure to wash those foods or cook them thoroughly.

While more people may have gotten sick from plants, more died from contaminated poultry, the study also found. The results were released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans — or 48 million people_ gets sick from food poisoning. That includes 128,000 hospitalization and 3,000 deaths, according to previous CDC estimates.
 We had chicken and a green salad for dinner....

Park Service Seeks Greater Access to Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay report calls for more access to water

The National Park Service and the six bay watershed states, including Pennsylvania, released the plan Wednesday. The plan recommends expanding places where visitors can get to the water by more than 20 percent.

Plan authors found more than 1,000 sites where people can launch boats, fish, swim and view the bay and its tributaries. But they also found many areas with little or no access. Those include nearly 60 miles of the south side of the tidal James River in Virginia. Stretches of the Susquehanna, Rappahannock, Potomac, and Nanticoke rivers also had limited or no access.
I grew up on the left West Coast, where substantially more of the total land is owned by the Federal and State Governments and access to ocean front is far more common than it is in Maryland.  One of the important factors in our original choice of communities was water access (well, that and price).

More access to the Bay would be a good thing, but 20% isn't nearly enough; a 50% increase would be a good start.  On the other hand, if people really wanted to use the Bay, owners of bay front property would find a way to make a profit on it.  And that would be good thing.

Why (Some) Women Prefer Assault Rifles

I'm strictly neutral on the debate as to whether a shotgun or an assault rifle is superior for home defense.  Both will suffice. One good thing about the shotgun is that it's easier to rationalize to the police after the fact (unless you kept it loaded with double ought buckshot).  But there's no doubt that the "scary black gun" effect as an intimidation factor has some merit.  Of course, you could go for the combination effect:

Midnite Music - Even Scandies Get the Blues

Erja Lyytinen, Scandinavia's answer America's young women blue players.

It's Tuesday and Wombat-Socho has his grand weekly Rule 5  post up at "The Other McCain."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Found in picture dump at Theo's.

Also; wind power is exempted from laws protecting eagles and other birds from incidental death as a result of the operations; exemptions not granted energy producers using oil, natural gas or coal.
Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder why he is “targeting” oil and gas companies by prosecuting them for the unintentional death of birds. The senators said on the Senate floor Wednesday that they sent Holder a letter asking him why he is prosecuting oil and gas companies for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) by killing birds, yet he is not going after wind energy companies.

“This is not even handed enforcement of the law,” Vitter said. “What that is, is targeting one type of energy producer.”

Vitter said that the MBTA was only intended to go after the intentional killing of birds, not unintentional acts. He said Justice pursued an MBTA case against three oil and gas companies for the death of just seven birds.
“Oil and gas producers are being targeted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” Vitter said. “This wasn’t about trying to kill these birds, it was about a completely incidental killing of these birds … but that’s not what criminal sanctions under this law are about … owning a cat could be subject to criminal prosecutions if this precedent is set.”

Vitter pointed out that wind energy producers kill far more birds than oil and gas companies, but that all of the bird deaths have been unintended. He also said that as far as he knows no wind energy companies are being prosecuted for the killing of birds.

“These are important matters,” Alexander said. “The rule of law is one of the fundamental characteristics of this nation and the Department of Justice is enforcing a law against oil and gas companies and not wind energy companies.”

The Civil War over the Susquehanna

John Arway, director of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, said in a statement Tuesday that the Department of Environmental Protection isn't sharing scientific information about the decline in fish populations in the river and isn't putting the Susquehanna on a path for cleanup.

The commission said smallmouth bass populations have drastically fallen off; young fish are dying and older fish are developing lesions. The agency said the state should ask the federal Environmental Protection Agency to designate part of the river as "impaired," which would make it eligible for more funding and studies to determine the source of the problem.

Arway suggested the DEP was basing its decision affecting the Susquehanna on politics, and he urged others concerned about the river to take their concerns to Congress "since DEP has decided not to list the river as an impaired water and will not place it on a path for cleanup as was done for the Chesapeake Bay."
Susquehanna SM Bass showing "Black Spot" lesions
But much of the goals of the Bay cleanup, aka 'Bay Diet' are aimed at the Susquehanna.  However, those goal are largely aimed at reducing nutrients.  But changes in agricultural and municipal septic in concert with the 'Bay Diet' are also likely to help clean up the toxics, or whatever is affecting the fish.

Department Secretary Michael Krancer said Monday that the Fish & Boat Commission request that the river be listed as impaired "is based on very limited, piecemeal data and is not supported by the existing data or the law."

Krancer said DEP recognizes problems among smallmouth bass, including die-offs of young fish, lesions on adult bass, and fish with mixed sex organs.

"The actual cause of these issues has not yet been determined or linked to any particular water quality issue, but DEP is dedicated to finding the answer through a disciplined scientific approach," Krancer said.
As opposed as the "do something now, even if it's wrong" approach that many favor? To ask the Feds to designate the river as impaired is to likely give up any ability for the state to influence the clean up of the River.

Counties Refusing Cities Land Use Demands

An alternative title to the article by Chesapeake Bay Foundation Bloggers:

Rural Counties Refuse to Follow Anti-Sprawl Law
This starkly contrasting pair of maps reveals something troubling about Maryland’s efforts to reduce pollution into the Chesapeake Bay by limiting suburban sprawl.

The large green areas on the map at left are the farms and forests of Frederick County that should be protected from large development projects under a 2012 law called the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act, according to the Maryland Department of Planning.

The law encourages growth in existing towns and areas to be served by sewer, and is designed to prevent construction of major housing projects in rural areas using outdated septic tank technology, which creates about 10 times more nitrogen water pollution for Chesapeake Bay tributaries. In the map at right, however, most of Frederick County’s green areas have been stained lemon yellow (meaning open to large developments) on the Frederick County’s version of the planning map – meaning that the county doesn’t want to follow Maryland’s new guidelines for protecting farms and forests.

Maryland Planning Secretary Richard Hall recently presented these maps to a state senate committee to illustrate how two of the state’s fastest growing areas -- Frederick and Cecil counties -- have deliberately refused to follow the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation of 2012 (which is sometimes called the “septic bill.”)

“In those two counties, especially, they’ve essentially ignored the law, therefore allowing major subdivisions on septic systems almost across the whole rural part of the county,” Hall said. “This, in effect, neutralizes any impact from the legislation.”

Several of the state’s other rural counties appear to be watching Frederick and Cecil counties, to see if they can get away with ignoring the new law. And Governor Martin O’Malley’s Administration is studying what, if anything, the state can do about it.
This gets to the heart of what I believe is the central divide of American politics; urban versus rural.  Urban people have relatively high dependence on government services, and, at least the ones that bother to vote, feel that government should have a strong role in regulating their lives.  Rural folk have less reliance on government services, more reliance on their own abilities, friends and families.

Maryland is a state dominated by urban politics, most specifically Baltimore and the urban areas surrounding and largely dependent on Washington D.C. Our governors are often the ex-mayors of Baltimore, and in elections, the urban areas support for democrats and liberals often edges out the suburban and rural support for republicans and conservatives in statewide elections.

This is a case where the urban governor has promulgated, and the largely urban legislature has passed laws that impact heavily on the more rural section of the state, and frankly, they resent it.

Rick Perry Wants to Amend the Constitution

The Texas Constitution that is:

Perry proposes amending Texas Constitution to allow state to return excess taxes
Gov. Rick Perry will use his State of the State address to call for amending the Texas Constitution to allow the state to return tax money it collects but doesn't spend back to its citizens, according to an excerpt of the speech released to The Associated Press.

Perry, who is scheduled to deliver the speech Tuesday morning to a joint session of the Legislature, will tell lawmakers that he has "never bought into the notion that if you collect more, you need to spend more."

"Today, I'm calling for a mechanism to be put in place so when we do bring in more than we need, we'll have the option of returning tax money directly to the people who paid it," the governor plans to say. "Currently, that's not something our constitution allows. We need to fix that."
Tuesday marks the seventh time Perry has given the State of the State since taking over for George W. Bush as governor in December 2000. Two years ago, he declared there would be "no sacred cows" immune to deep budget cuts as the state struggled with a $27 billion budget deficit amid an economy still feeling the effects of The Great Recession.

Lawmakers responded by passing deep cuts across-the-board, including slashing $5.4 billion from public schools.

The economic picture has since brightened substantially, with sales tax receipts up, unemployment down and the oil and gas industry humming. Yet early draft budgets proposed in the Texas House and Senate were so austere that they would leave about $5.5 billion in projected state revenue unspent and do nothing to restore the 2011 cuts.
Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen in your blue state.They'll find something they need to spend it on, count on it.

Midnite Music - Classical Beauty

Ana Vidovic plays Bach

It's Tuesday and Wombat-Socho has his grand weekly Rule 5  post up at "The Other McCain."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Riverkeepers Sue to Kill Nutrient Trading

Fresh off their Chickenshit losses, the Riverkeepers are now going after the energy companies for using legally permissible tactics for meeting their pollution goals:

NRG Chalk Point Power Plant on Patuxent River
Groups File Notice Letter to Sue NRG Energy for Massive Pollution
Today Food & Water Watch, Patuxent Riverkeeper and Potomac Riverkeeper – represented by Public Justice and Columbia University School of Law Environmental Law Clinic – announced the filing of a Clean Water Act notice of intent to sue the energy company NRG Energy, Inc. for water pollution violations at three of its coal-fired power plants—violations revealed in documents obtained by Food & Water Watch. ...“It’s critical to enforce the Clean Water Act to the letter if we want a clean Bay,” said Michele Merkel at Food & Water Watch. “Here we have three sources of pollution who are unable to meet their discharge limits, so instead of upgrading their technology, they’re attempting to mask their violations by entering into a convoluted scheme of credit transfers and offsets. None of those maneuvers, however, changes the fact that these facilities are exceeding their permit limits.”
This is easily the most refreshingly biased article on environmental issue I've found on the Chesapeake Bay in some time.  I say refreshingly because I've become bored with articles that try to disguise their essential bias against industry, energy production and agriculture.  This one makes no bones about their opposition.

What concerns them is the use of nutrient trading (also called cap and trade) to satisfy the requirements of the 'Chesapeake Bay Diet.'  In nutrient trading, the amount of a nutrient (let's say nitrogen) allowed to be released into the Bay is capped at the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) divided up among the polluters in proportion to their output, and then the polluters are allowed to buy and sell nutrient credits.  In this case agriculture, who can make reductions relatively cheaply, chooses to sell it's rights to power producers, which face a much more expensive process for remove nitrogen from their waste stream.  Then the power companies continue to pollute, and pay agriculture for the privilege, while agriculture reduces their nitrogen use, and offsets their loss in production with money from the power company.

If the TMDL is not being met, we need to find out why, but the nutrient trading scheme is currently past of the system being used to meet the TMDL.  The Riverkeepers never wanted the "cap and trade" system; they wanted each polluter to suffer for their own sins.
“NRG, one of the worst polluters in the Bay area, should never be allowed to cover up its illegal discharges by obtaining credits from agricultural operations, the other biggest offenders in terms of nutrient pollution,” said Jessica Culpepper, the Public Justice attorney representing the plaintiffs on the Notice Letter. “What’s happening at NRG with these three power plants underscores everything wrong with the Bay TMDL plan and makes a mockery of the Clean Water Act.”
Will they get slapped around again for overreach, or will this suit succeed?  Stay tuned.

Eat a Snakehead, Save the Bay

WASHINGTON - Snakehead fish and other invasive species were on the menu Monday night at a sold-out charity dinner in Georgetown.

"Not really pleasing to look at, but once you get past that, you're in for a very good meal," is how Redskins legend John Riggins describes snakehead. Riggins served as a special guest at the "Snakeheads At The Harbour!" event at Tony and Joe's Seafood Place.  "I'm here because we have to - I don't want to say eradicate - the snakehead belongs someplace on this planet, just not in the Chesapeake Bay," said Riggins who hosts a show on the Sportsman Channel called "Riggo on the Range."

John Rorapaugh is with seafood supplier Profish that put on the event. He says the whole idea is to get more snakeheads on people's plates. "It's an invasive that everybody agrees on. We want it out of our ecosystem. It's top of the food chain," he says...

"Everything that it eats is living. It attacks. We've found everything from turtles to birds to every type of fish in their ecosystem in their bellies," he says.
But not everything about the snakehead is bad:
"It's a very clean taste. It has the taste of a saltwater fish, not a freshwater at all. That's what's so appealing about the fish," says Rorapaugh.

The dinner featured a five-course meal, with each course prepared by a different chef.

"I'm doing kind of a Mexican style snakehead. I skewered it and marinated it in chimichurri and then I made some avocado tomatillo sauce and cactus relish," said Chad Wells, executive chef at The Rockfish in Annapolis. Wells says he's been experimenting with snakehead for about three yeas, and has cooked it many ways. "I've made everything from po' boys to just like fried snakehead nuggets, grilled snakehead. We've made it like sushi. We've smoked it," he says.

Other offerings included Applewood Smoked Invasive Blue Catfish, Bush River Maryland Yellow Perch, Chilled Choptank Sweet Oyster and Spanish Mackerel Crudo.
I just signed up for a Snakehead charter trip to  Matawoman Creek later this summer with Capt. Mike.  Maybe I'll be able to report on how Snakeheads cook up and taste after that.

Man Arrested for Holding Baby...

Police have arrested a Colerain man after he posted a photo of himself on Facebook holding his 1-year-old daughter and a BB gun. Domonic Gaines, 22, was arrested after the incident which occurred at his home on Suliner Drive Sunday.

According to reports, police initially believed that Gaines was holding a handgun in the photo. However, police say the gun in question turned out to be a BB gun.

The photo depicted Gaines holding his daughter, Paradise Gaines, along with the BB gun. Police say that the close proximity of the gun to the child created a substantial risk of physical harm.
All part of the campaign against guns, and men.

Your Tuesday Morning Eye Opener

A photography lesson (or two). First, using strobes in daylight:

And second, flattering portrait angles.

Now, go out and practice, practice, practice!

It's Tuesday and Wombat-Socho has his grand weekly Rule 5  post up at "The Other McCain."

Computers Pass Test for Humans

"Every culture has a rule of reciprocity, which roughly means, if I do something nice for you, you will do something nice for me," Nass says. "We wanted to see whether people would apply that to technology: Would they help a computer that helped them more than a computer that didn't help them?"

So they placed a series of people in a room with two computers. The people were told that the computer they were sitting at could answer any question they asked. In half of the experiments, the computer was incredibly helpful. Half the time, the computer did a terrible job.

After about 20 minutes of questioning, a screen appeared explaining that the computer was trying to improve its performance. The humans were then asked to do a very tedious task that involved matching colors for the computer. Now, sometimes the screen requesting help would appear on the computer the human had been using; sometimes the help request appeared on the screen of the computer across the aisle.

"Now, if these were people [and not computers]," Nass says, "we would expect that if I just helped you and then I asked you for help, you would feel obligated to help me a great deal. But if I just helped you and someone else asked you to help, you would feel less obligated to help them."

What the study demonstrated was that people do in fact obey the rule of reciprocity when it comes to computers. When the first computer was helpful to people, they helped it way more on the boring task than the other computer in the room. They reciprocated.

"But when the computer didn't help them, they actually did more color matching for the computer across the room than the computer they worked with, teaching the computer [they worked with] a lesson for not being helpful," says Nass.
But just because people were "nicer" to computers that were more helpful doesn't mean they really meant it.
Very likely, the humans involved had no idea they were treating these computers so differently. Their own behavior was invisible to them. Nass says that all day long, our interactions with the machines around us — our iPhones, our laptops — are subtly shaped by social rules we aren't necessarily aware we're applying to nonhumans.

"The relationship is profoundly social," he says. "The human brain is built so that when given the slightest hint that something is even vaguely social, or vaguely human — in this case, it was just answering questions; it didn't have a face on the screen, it didn't have a voice — but given the slightest hint of humanness, people will respond with an enormous array of social responses including, in this case, reciprocating and retaliating."
 Humans even have trouble turning off a robot that begs them not to.

Monday, January 28, 2013

East Coast Fish are Stupid

Scientists and engineers set targets for the transport capacity of fish passages. And yet, the study lays bare that those targets are being missed by orders of magnitude. For instance, the first Merrimack River dam aims to let 300,000 river herring pass through; the mean number for the years 2008 to 2011 was 706 per year. The goal at the first Connecticut River dam is 300,000 to 500,000 fish. There, the mean for those same years was 86. And for the Susquehanna, the goal is 5 million river herring spawning above the fourth dam, which passed an average of seven herring from 2008 to 2011. This means that very few fish are reaching quality breeding grounds, which has likely contributed to the decimation in river herring populations.
It's not like fish ladders never work. American shad climb ladders in Western U.S. rivers with apparent ease, says co-author Karin Limburg, a shad expert at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. But for reasons no one completely understands, they're not helping fish at these mainstem dams in the East. Many fish have trouble finding the passages in these large waterways, Limburg says.
I guess all the smart ones were moved to the West Coast, since American  Shad were introduce to the West from Eastern populations.

Maryland Proposes Lawn Fertilzer Regulations

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced that new regulations for lawn fertilizer applications along with proposed changes to Maryland’s non-agricultural commercial fertilizer application requirements were published in today’s Maryland Register. MDA will offer a 30-day public comment period ending February 25.

“Lawn fertilizer accounts for approximately 44 percent of the fertilizer sold in Maryland,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “While Maryland farmers are required to follow nutrient management plans when fertilizing their fields, additional stakeholder involvement by both lawn care professionals and homeowners is needed if Maryland is to meet new nutrient reduction goals outlined in its Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to restore the Bay.”
Significant provisions of the proposed regulations (in green).
Establishes a training, certification and licensing program for lawn care professionals
Oh goody, a new rent seeking interest group, dependent on increasing regulations.
Requires lawn care professionals to obtain soil tests for each new customer and once every three years thereafter
At least this will put some chemists to use, doing worthless tests.
Establishes maximum application rates for nitrogen, water soluble nitrogen and enhanced efficiency controlled release fertilizer
And what will be the enforcement involved in making sure that individual homeowners abide by these restrictions, and what penalties will be imposed for violations?  The new Dept. of Lawn Care?  Will they have assault weapons?
 Establishes application guidelines for natural organic or organic products containing phosphorus
Giving preference to one form of an element over another?  The Chesapeake Bay plankton don't care what form the nutrients are in.  They will use them.  This is just  politically correct bow to the misnamed (and misguided) "organic everything" movement.
 Requires both homeowners and professionals to use best management practices when applying fertilizer, observe fertilizer blackout dates and follow University of Maryland recommendations when fertilizing lawns
Again, what are the enforcement provisions?  Are they going to send enforcement agents driving around the suburbs after the blackout dates, or merely rely on snitches?
Prohibits lawn care professionals and homeowners from applying lawn fertilizer to impervious surfaces or frozen ground and establishes setbacks next to waterways
I confess; I have sinned! I have used fertilizer to deice my driveway on rare occasions.  In my defense, all the fertilizer would run off into my lawn, and any not absorbed by the lawn would have run off into the forest buffer behind my house.
30-Day Public Comment Period Open through February 25. The proposed changes as submitted to the Maryland Register are available on MDA’s website at: Comments may be sent to Jo A. Mercer, Ed.D., Administrator, Nutrient Management Program, Maryland Department of Agriculture, 50 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401. Dr. Mercer may also be contacted at 410-841-5959, or Faxes may be sent to her attention at 410-841-5950. Comments will be accepted through February 25, 2013. A public hearing has not been scheduled.

Does the Endangered Species Act Doom the Potomac Sturgeon?

Convinced that one of the Potomac’s signature fish might be gone for good, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin has thrown its support behind a Maryland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife plan to use 60 domesticated Atlantic sturgeon, mostly from New York’s Hudson River, to restock the Potomac.

But the effort to bring them back has its own troubles. Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fishery service listed four varieties of Atlantic sturgeon populations as endangered — the New York Bight, Carolina, South Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay listing has all but dashed the hope of restocking using the Hudson River sturgeon kept at a Maryland hatchery. To preserve the genetic purity of protected animals under the Endangered Species Act, rules prohibit mixing wild and tame species, no matter how much they look alike.

Long story short, Hudson sturgeon aren’t allowed to potentially mess around with their wild cousins in the Potomac. The result is that the Potomac will almost certainly lose its oldest, largest and most distinctive fish.
Not that there is a viable population of sturgeon in the Potomac now:
The last time fishermen caught an adult Atlantic sturgeon in the Potomac, “The French Connection” was a hit movie, Ike and Tina Turner topped the record charts with “Proud Mary” and an American Motors Gremlin four-door sold for $2,000. Forty-three years later, river watchers are only noting unreliable sturgeon sightings.
Now, Gene Hackman is beating up homeless bumsTina Turner is leaving the United States for Switzerland (our loss and their gain) and the Chevy Volt is being subsidized by the public to the tune of $10,000 each.

If only the Librarian of Congress had the authority to grant exemptions from the Endangered Species Act for egregious stupidity...

Now That They've Finally Solved All the Big Problems

our legislators are going after the small ones, or rather, delegating that authority to their librarian!

PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.* 

While this is not exactly my biggest worry (I still carry a pay by the minute flip phone, or as I call it, a stupid phone), this is just insanity.  First, why is it a crime at  all.  Who really owns the phone, you or the cell phone company you brought it from?  Sure you may have a contract that demands that you use that company for a certain period of time, but how that should bind past the end of the contract and why would it be a violation of criminal law?

Second, what in the hell is the Librarian of Congress doing making something a crime, with a penalty of 10 years in jail and a million dollar fine? Are our Senators and Congresspeople out doing something so important that they can't be bothered (well, yes, probably running for reelection)?  The answer is that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is such a nightmare that Congress included a clause allowing forcing their Librarian to interprete parts of it:
When did we decide that we wanted a law that could make unlocking your smartphone a criminal offense?

The answer is that we never really decided. Instead, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 to outlaw technologies that bypass copyright protections. This sounds like a great idea, but in practice it has terrible, and widely acknowledged, negative consequences that affect consumers and new innovation. The DMCA leaves it up to the Librarian of Congress (LOC) to issue exemptions from the law, exceptions that were recognized to be necessary given the broad language of the statute that swept a number of ordinary acts and technologies as potential DMCA circumvention violations.
Impeach the Librarian!

Our Legislators are So Ignorant...

On the very same day that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in active combat zones, a Democratic congresswoman from New York argued that assault weapons are actually difficult for women to handle and should therefore be banned.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy — a strong proponent for women serving in military combat roles — appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight Thursday to make the case for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban. To that end, McCarthy argued that women should use traditional rifles rather than assault rifles because the former would would be “easier for a woman” to use.

"Normal" rifle:

Scary black "Assault Rifle":

Now which one do think is easier to use and more effective for home defense?

Dogs Like Socks

Midnite Music - Walkin' Blues

It's Tuesday and Wombat-Socho has his grand weekly Rule 5 post up at "The Other McCain."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

ABC News Curiously Uninterested in Underage Prosititues

When a Democratic Senator is being investigated for soliciting them:

ABC Gives Sen. Menendez Six Minute Interview With No Questions About FBI's Hooker Investigation
On Friday it was revealed that the FBI is investigating Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) for allegedly sleeping with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

Despite this, when Menendez was given a six-minute interview with Martha Raddatz on ABC's This Week Sunday, he was not asked one question about the investigation or the allegations

With a total of six minutes of air time, Raddatz didn't ask one single question about the FBI's investigation of Menendez.

Can you imagine her ignoring such an issue if she were interviewing a Republican? That probably would have been the first order of business if not the entire six minutes.

As such, why the double standard?
In the word's of Three Dog Night, "Don't turn on the lights, 'cause I don't want to see!"

Sunday Beach Report 1/27/13

I got the girls to consent to go to the beach about noon today, after it had a chance to warm up to all of 35 F.  Not bad, as there was no wind, and plenty of sun.
But in the shadows of the cliff where the sun doesn't hit except in the early morning while it's still cold, the snow still lingers.
I'd all but given up on the eagles.  I hadn't seen them for several weeks, but when Skye and I got down to where we usually see them, the pair of them were there in one of their usual trees.  Maybe they've been vacationing or something.
 An unfamiliar duck.  Based on what I've been able to glean, I'm reasonably sure it's a female Common Goldeneye.  If you look at the picture full size (click on it) it appears to have a golden eye, and the plumage is about right.
A long zoom shot of a big one coming up the Bay.  Georgia commented how it seemed to be riding high, as if it were empty.
 However, a close look (click on the image) shows that this is an illusion caused by the mirage.  You can see, and almost read the lettering in the reflection below the true waterline.  Even the "bulge" on the bow that many ships have, and show when light, is only the reflection of the upper curve.  The name on the side "Wallenius Wilhemsen" is not the ships name, but the Norwegian/Swedish name of the shipping company.
The fossil du jour. I'm not entirely sure which shark this is from, but based on the hint of the extra cusps on the sides, I'm tentatively calling it a Sand Tiger shark (Carhcarius taurus).

Topless Protest at Davos Summit

The attention whores mongers at Femen have decided to bite the hand that feeds them, and protest the Davos World Economic Forum, where the elites from government, media and entertainment industry gather to celebrate, well, how special they all are:
Police in the Swiss resort of Davos quickly arrested the three topless women demonstrators near the heavily guarded grounds of the World Economic Forum (WEF) as they repeatedly chanted, "Poor because of you!".

"In this building now there are a lot of men but only a few women, the same way as in each parliament and in each congress," protester Inna Shevchenko told reporters on her way to the venue where business and world leaders gathered for the 42nd annual WEF meeting.

I have to say, girls, I ordinarily support anything you oppose, on the grounds of keeping the protests alive, but I have yet to see anything useful come out of a Davos meeting, and much that's concerning and annoying. Maybe you're getting better at picking causes.

There's a better video of the protest here, which I can't figure out how to embed.Oh wait; Youtube comes through again!

Midnite Music - Blackest Day

Late Friday sometime, I got word that an internet acquaintance, "Crackhead", rarely known by his real name Steve, had passed away at home.  Unlike many of the people I've associated with through the fishing message boards, Steve and I never met in person, but I felt I knew him as a friend.  He was funny, and insightful, but he struggled with manic depression, and had good times and bad times. He strove hard to be good to his kids. I fear it wasn't a natural death, but I've yet to hear for sure. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Good night, Crackhead.  May you find the peace that nature did not grant you.   Thanks to Jane for picking the music.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snow Day at the Beach

Skye and I put off this morning's walk until after lunch.  We had a tad more snow last night, maybe another half inch at most.
 It was just above freezing, maybe 35 F tops, and the wind as medium, around 10, from the East.  Out on the open beach, the sun melted most of the snow, but in shadows of the cliffs, it lingered longer.
Skye was into "stalking wolf" mode, when she wasn't trying to talk me out of a treat; mostly successfully.
 Just too cute.

Court Rejects EPA Biofuel Rule

The court basically ruled that refiners couldn't be fined if nobody could or would make the biofuels demanded by EPA:

EPA Cellulosic Biofuel Regulation Rejected by Court
An Environmental Protection Agency rule mandating refiners generate or purchase advanced biofuels was overturned by a federal appeals court in Washington, after producers failed to make any commercial supplies last year...

“Apart from their role as captive consumers, the refiners are in no position to ensure, or even contribute to, growth in the cellulosic biofuel industry,” the court said in a 14-page ruling. According to the court, the EPA rule tells producers, “Do a good job, cellulosic fuel producers. If you fail, we’ll fine your customers.”
When you put it that way, it does seem pretty ridiculous.


The guitar Jimi is playing doesn't seem to be plugged in.  Is this like Beyonce's lip sinking scandal?
ndrix playing guitar on the left. It doesn't appear to be plugged in.
Found at Althouse.

Student Uses AR-15 to Save Self, Roomie

While Democrats attempt to ban "military-style assault weapons" like the AR-15, a Rochester Institute of Technology student used that very gun to thwart home invaders and save his roommate’s life. Article from Breitbart:
Christopher Boise heard noises in the basement of his apartment; when he went to investigate, he found two intruders. One of the men trained a gun on him. Boise screamed, which woke his roommate, Raymond, who grabbed his gun bag and took out his AR-15.

One invader opened Raymond’s door only to see the barrel of the gun.

"By the time I had it out and ready, one of the men came at my door, slowly opened it, saw that there was a barrel on the other side and from there backed out," Raymond said.

The men fled the apartment without taking anything. No shots were fired in the confrontation.

"I'm happy he saved my life. I was very thankful he had his (gun)," said Boise.

A few weeks ago, a 15-year old boy used his father’s AR-15 to stop two home invaders when he and his sister were home alone.
While it's useful to have stories like this out there, to counter act the "you don't need a military style assault rifle", "they're only to kill people", "a gun is more likely to kill it's owner than to save a life" etc, etc, etc, there is a larger point to be made.

While mass murders and massacres like Newton may cost 10s or 20s of lives at one time, guns can save lives, quietly, one or two at a time, and not make a major splash in the media.  A crime stopped is a crime that's not likely to be on NBC at 5 PM, or touted by Piers Morgan.

Would the student and his roommate have been killed by the intruders had he not had the AR-15? It's probably unknowable.  But guns in private hands are used to stop hundreds of thousands if not millions of crimes annually, some fraction of those were statistically certain to become murders.  Probably many more than are killed by long guns in the average year.

Is an AR-15 (or similar scary black gun) essential to this function?  Again, in individual cases, it might not be clear (would this intruder have backed off against a snub nose .38 revolver? Maybe, maybe not), but certainly, an AR-15 would be an intimidating weapon to face on the other side of the door. 

And, in general, they are poor weapons for the average criminal, since they are not particularly concealable and likely to draw attention in public; the last thing a criminal wants.

And if you only read one (other) pro-gun article, read this one by David Mamet, playwright and ex-liberal.

And no, the chicks with gun pics aren't totally gratuitous.  Home self defense is for everyone, not just boys.

The DaleyGator picked this up in their post "DaleyBabe Megan Ratzlaff and other Rule 5 greatness." Also picked up by the Classical Liberal in his Rule 5 post "Pistol Grip Pump." It's Tuesday and Wombat-Socho has his grand weekly Rule 5  post up at "The Other McCain."

Rule 5 Saturday - Time to Castle - Stana Katic

Today's lucky Rule 5 loser winner is Stana Katic, Canadian born actress currently playing the woman cop Kate Beckett,, romantic interest, and foil for the title character in Beacon Pictures and ABC Studios "Castle."  It's interesting how on TV cop shows it seems to be nearly mandatory for the immediate supervisor of the police to be women.  The only exception I can think of currently is Tom Selleck on "Blue Bloods", and you know he's a reactionary misogynist.

But I don't blame Stana for that (say, isn't that an anagram for Satan?), a girl in Hollywood has to take the jobs they offer.

Her name is Croatian Serb; her parents emigrated from Yugoslavia to Canada.  She grew up on both sides of the border, graduating High School in Illinois, and going to acting school in

I addition to Castle, she has played in "Heroes", "24", the bond film "Quantum of Solace" and a memorable role (at least to me) as the good, sexy vampire in The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice, a properly campy fantasy type flick.

Buddy TV likes her a lot. In 2009, 2010, 201, 2012 she ranked as their 24th, 39th, 1st, and 8th sexiest women.  Over rated?  I report, you decide.

I Gotta Try This One!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Nuclear Disasters for Wildlife

Wolf in the Pripyat Marshes
Life after Chernobyl: Sergei Gaschak’s photography from inside 'the zone' 
Sergei Gaschak’s photography offers an unparalleled glimpse at animal life inside “the zone”, the area of Ukraine and Belarus that has been officially closed off to human habitation since the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe of 1986. Using camera traps to take photographs mechanically, as well as taking photographs personally, Gaschak has captured what few have been able to see with their own eyes – the remarkable diversity of wildlife within the zone.

One of the first rescuers on the site of the nuclear disaster, Gaschak has devoted recent years to photographing lynxes, otters, owls and other wildlife, and has even discovered the footprints of brown bears. The exclusion zone stretches for miles around the site of the reactor, and includes Pripyat, which was once a thriving Soviet town of 50,000 inhabitants but has remained a ghost town since the disaster, a time warp of perestroika-era Soviet life.

More than 300,000 people evacuated the region in the aftermath of the explosion, and only a few hundred stubborn pensioners have returned, defying government bans on settlement inside the zone.

At the time of the disaster, there were few wild animals living in the region around the nuclear plant. But as the humans moved out in the wake of the catastrophe, large mammals appeared and thrived. While the animals showed incredibly high levels of radiation, they still looked normal. There were no giant wolves or three-headed deer.

According to a book on animal and plant life in the zone, A Natural History of Chernobyl, the only abnormalities found in animals has been albino spots and deformities in barn swallows.
Organisms are actually pretty good at dealing with moderate levels of radiation, having evolved for a billion years or so, bathed in a light dose continually. You and I might not wish to hazard the fairly slight additional risk of cancer that one would face in "the zone", but wildlife have no such prejudices; they thrive where the food is and people are not.

One would think that Sierra Club et al. would all over creating such refuges all over the world.

A Modest Proposal

There's a lot of kerfluffle out there about SecDef Paneta's recent announcement that forthwith, women will be free to pursue the full gambit of positions in the United States Armed forces (until now, they had been restricted from physical combat roles.

Liberals and feminists claim it is necessary for several reasons.  First to provide for career advancement possibilities in today's military, in which combat experience, or at least leadership in a combat unit, is a a definite career positive. To prove that women are as good as men, and can do anything men can do, and probably better.   They would have us believe that the aggressive instincts in primarily men in the military are cultural and can be overcome by training. To claims that the physical tests required for male front line combat troops would eliminate all but a small fraction of women from eligibility, they say the tests are bullshit, and that women can operate in combat just fine, given an appropriate weight pile of gear.

Conservatives and us misogynists would tell you that while women may be as good as men, they are not equal, that women's lesser strength on average (the highest women score near the average strength for men on military entrance tests), and would not be able to carry the gear needed, and perhaps to pull a comrade (especially a 250 lb male comrade, not counting gear).  That women have a different brain construction and chemistry, and they are more nurturing and less violent.  That men would ignore their military goals to protect women in the ranks, even if told ordered not to, and that sexual tensions will be deleterious to good military order. That the raison d'etre of the military is to maximize combat efficiency, and not to provide good careers for diversity purposes.

Why discuss things theoretically when you can do a test?

Get some of the women officers who feel constrained by the no combat rule, and put them in charge of an all female battalion. Give them permission to recruit/shanghai anybody and anyone in the service they want for the battalion as long as they are female, and allow them to set their own standards for strength and physical fitness.  Allow them to design their own set of gear, such that it doesn't overly stress smaller and on average weaker bodies of the women. 

And send them into battle.  Give them the same air support that front line troops get now.  But make them do the same job with the same equipment and support.

Can they do the job as well as a similar group of men? If so, the idea is worth pursuing.  If not, why go through the effort?

O'Malley Appoints Waterman 'Admiral of the Chespeake'

Maryland Watermen’s Association founder celebrates 40 years of service

Governor Martin O’Malley has designated Larry Simns Admiral of the Chesapeake for his work as the chief advocate for Maryland’s watermen and their communities, and for his role in promoting changes to better ensure the sustainability of commercial fishing in the State. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin presented the award to Simns’ family, on January 18 at the 39th East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City.

“I want to congratulate Larry for his outstanding leadership and the Maryland Watermen’s Association on their 40-year anniversary,” said Governor O’Malley. “Larry has served as the voice of the men and women who work tirelessly to ensure that our local restaurants, markets and citizens have consistent and quality local seafood. He has been vital to the livelihood of our State’s watermen and we congratulate him for helping to promote responsible fishing practices and understanding the need for a balanced fishery that supports both the industry and our natural world.”

Simns, president and founder of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, has worked as a commercial waterman and charter boat operator for more than 60 years. He founded the Association in 1973, serving as president and laboring on behalf of Maryland watermen who make their living by their catch. A fourth generation waterman from Rock Hall, Simns’ lifelong love of the Chesapeake and working on the water began at the age of six, when he became employed by his great-grandfather, Captain Willy Stevens, to row the boat while Captain Willy ran his trot line.
It may seem sometimes that I hate commercial fishermen.  It's not true; as they say "Some of my best friends are" ... commercial fishermen.  However, speaking as a dedicated sports fisherman, there's just no doubt that we are in competition with commercial fishermen for a limited resource, and the commercial guys get a leg up in the times they are allowed to keep fish, and the type of gear they are allowed to use.

But my beef with coms is not that they get to fish with much more efficient gear; that's OK to a point, there are many less of them; it's that they are way too good at what they do, and work too hard.  The history of fisheries is replete with stories of commercial fisherman discovering a new population of fish to market, and simply fishing it into oblivion.  When it gets harder to catch fish, instead of relaxing, and letting a few escape, as simple fisheries models would easily demonstrate, they work harder, and invent better gear, and finally the fish disappear.  It almost happened with Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass, and it would happen again if it weren't heavily regulated.

Larry Simns has been an effective leader of the commercial fishermen in Maryland.  Although he affects a folksy "oh shucks" demeanor, he has been an effective force for keeping the watermen politically connected.

Congratulations, Larry, and don't let it go to your head.

Help, I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up at the Beach

 After a long morning, Skye and I got ourselves together, and headed off to the beach.  There is still some snow, and lot's off ice after the Wednesday night/Thursday morning snow.  It was cold (duh!) but still, and the mirage was working well.  Here the Dominion LNG platform floats over the bay

In zoom view, you could almost be fooled into mistaking it for a UFO.

A flock of Starlings (nasty invasive species) flit over the north jetty, and over the Bufflehead ducks.  You can see the ice on the jetty from when strong winds blew water up onto it during the sub freezing weather.

And a ship floats down the bay, with all but the highest parts of it superstructure out of the water...

A small Mako Shark's tooth I found frozen into the beach.
Sand and wind drifting in the wind make some unusual patterns together.  We're expecting a little more snow, starting sometime this afternoon, which will cover it all up again.
Poor Skye ventured out onto a small patch of frozen stream, lost her footing and fell.  I had to catch up with her (she was a ways ahead going back, as usual), and grab her collar and pull her up to the snow so she could get her footing back. She's so arthritic these days, that the walks are sometimes pretty tough.  But she still wants to go.

The harbor is starting to freeze.  A few more days like this and it could be completely iced over, and it could start to ice off the beach, too.  But the forecast is for some warmer weather later this weekend, so it probably won't get the far.

Human Dog Co-evolution - Pass the Potatoes, Please

Learning to love grains, potatoes was key to the evolution of dogs

Another article on the process by which dogs came to be associated with humans, starting from wolves.  In a previous post, I discussed how it was likely that dogs weren't formally domesticated by humans, that is captured from the wild, imprisoned and bred for specific domestisted traits (like not eating the human babies), but rather co-evolved with humans, starting as a camp scavenger.  The new article shows that in the process of evolving from wolves to dog, dogs have acquired genes than enable them to better utilize the human diet rich in vegetable matter, in particular, starch.  As Joel likes to say, wolves became dogs because humans have good garbage.

The researchers compared the DNA sequences of the wolves and the dogs (which are subspecies of the same species, Canis lupus) and identified 36 genomic regions in which there are differences that suggest they have undergone recent natural selection in dogs.

In particular, dogs show changes in genes governing three key steps in the digestion of starch. The first is the breakdown of large carbohydrate molecules into smaller pieces; the second is the chopping of those pieces into sugar molecules; the third is the absorption of those molecules in the intestine.

“It is such a strong signal that it makes us convinced that being able to digest starch efficiently was crucial to dogs. It must have been something that determined whether you were a successful dog or not,” Axelsson said.

The change is at least partly the consequence of dogs having multiple copies of a gene for amylase, an enzyme made by the pancreas that is involved in the first step of starch digestion. Wolves have two copies; dogs have four to 30.
But not only were dogs evolving to be able to better use starch; so were humans!  So it was in fact, co-evolution; as people became more settled, and starches became more important in their diet, both species evolved to take advantage of it.
As it happens, amylase “gene duplication” is also a feature of human evolution. Humans carry more copies of the amylase gene than their primate ancestors. People also produce the enzyme in saliva, which allows the first steps of digestion to occur while food is still in the mouth. That, in turn, rewards chewing and increases the palatability of food.
What else is different about dogs genetically?
The researchers found 19 genome regions containing nervous system genes that are significantly different between wolves and dogs. Eight regions contain genes governing brain development.

How those genetic mutations explain dog behavior is a topic of future research. However, the fact that so many are involved in brain maturation supports the theory that dogs are really wolves that never grew up.
The "neoteny" argument for the production of dogs, and other domestic animals, and even humans has been around for a a very long time.  I posted on it here: Dogs as Retarded Wolves.

I do have one slight bone to pick with the article.  I doubt potatoes had much to do with the evolution of dogs (which I repeated in my title, of course).  Potatoes are developed from tubers in the Andes, and were not present in Europe, Asia and Africa until after the Spanish conquest of South America 400 years ago, so wolves were not scavenging potatoes for camps in Eurasia, where most canine/human co-evolution is believed to occur.  People brought already "domesticated" dogs with them when they populated the New World rather than domesticating the local wolves.

Wombat-Socho has this one in with his great (in more ways than one) list of Rule 5 posts "Neuroengesang" at The Other McCain.