Saturday, November 30, 2013

Now These are True Friends

Swiped from Maggie's Farm.

'Comet of the Century' Isn't

Comet ISON breaks up turning the corner around the sun:

OK, I admit it; I was too lazy to get up and see ISON on the few mornings that it was likely to be visible on its inbound trip, hoping to get view at a more comfortable hour on the outbound trip.  However, after a near encounter with the sun (1 million miles), it appears to have broken up into a cloud of stardust which is expected to not be especially spectacular on the way out.
Comet ISON is fading fast as it recedes from the sun. Whatever piece of the comet briefly survived its Thanksgiving Day brush with solar fire is now dissipating in a cloud of dust.

This development makes it unlikely that Comet ISON will put on a good show after it exits the glare of the sun in early December. Experienced astrophotographers might be able to capture the comet's fading "ghost" in the pre-dawn sky, but a naked-eye spectacle is out of the question.
We'll just have to wait for the next "Comet of the Century."

I Can't Stay Much Longer, Melinda

Rule 5 Saturday - Marvelous Saffron Burrows

This week's Rule 5 extravaganza goes for Saffron Burrows, a British actress best known for  Deep Blue Sea (1999), Enigma (2001)(NSFW link), Troy (2004), Reign Over Me (2007) and The Bank Job (2008) and The Guitar (2008) (NSFW link).  She has also been active in TV, with recent roles in The Crazy Ones and, Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
She started as a model, which seems to be a familiar career arc now, acting being something you can do after the looks start to fade a little and the calls don't come as often.
Her personal life is, well, complicated.
For a number of years, Burrows was involved with film director Mike Figgis, and starred in some of his films, including Miss Julie. She was involved with bisexual actor Alan Cumming for several years, while Cumming was separated from his wife. She was romantically linked with Irish actress Fiona Shaw. The two appeared together in the National Theatre's production of The PowerBook, a play based on the novel of the same name by Jeanette Winterson, in which they played lovers.

In 2006, the Independent on Sunday listed Burrows as the 90th most influential gay person in the UK. In a 2003 interview, actor Alan Cumming said, "I was really lucky that the first relationship I had after [my divorce] was with Saffron, who's really... understanding and a broadminded person. And who's now, as I'm sure you know ... well, she bats for both teams too."

Friday, November 29, 2013

Year Three

Time flies, whether you're having fun or not. It was three years ago today I started this blog:

First Post

I've had fun. I hope you have, too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Light blogging today, we're traveling.

Brits on Thanksgiving

They also don't know much about the layout of the United States, either:

While I do know where Scotland and Wales are, I do have some sympathy for them on the states thing, there are a couple that I can loose track of.  As for their national holidays, isn't Guy Fawkes Day the day the invented to celebrate the Occupy movement?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Maryland Increases Striper Kill for 2014

From Shawn Kimbro's Blog, via Facebook

Maryland DNR Drops a Thanksgiving Turkey
“Let’s kill as many as we can before we have to save them.” That seems to be the attitude of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Tuesday, just before closing for a five day Thanksgiving weekend, DNR fisheries dropped a turkey on recreational striped bass anglers by announcing a 14% increase in harvest in the Chesapeake Bay. At a time when striper stocks are steeply declining and states up and down the Atlantic seaboard face impending cuts mandated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), Maryland & Virginia are grabbing more fish. Here’s a link to the press release and a quote:
Determination of the Available 2014 Chesapeake Bay Commercial Striped Bass Quota

For 2014, it was decided that fishermen could safely harvest 8,652,528 pounds of Striped Bass – without detriment to the Bay population. The previous year’s quota was 7,589,937 pounds and for the first time in many years the quota has been increased in the Bay. This increase of approximately 14% is attributed to a large number of fish from the 2011 year class (fish that hatch and enter into the population in a given year) which are just now reaching the legal minimum size of 18 inches.
He's not happy...
Here’s their thinking as I understand it: We’ve had one good spawning year for stripers out of the last six. That was 2011. Those fish are just now growing to be 18-inches long, the lower limit for harvest in Maryland. Since there will be more legal fish in the Bay, they think it’s okay to kill more, especially since we usually come in below the quota the ASMFC currently sets for the state. Never-mind that once new ASMFC standards are adopted, surveys will show that striped bass have been overfished six out of the past nine years, or that overfishing is likely to occur in 2014. The attitude in Maryland seems to be that we should kill as many fish as we can before they grow up and leave the Chesapeake Bay and before the ASMFC forces reductions.

Did I say I was pissed? I hope you are too. I believe the 2011 year class is the future of the striped bass fishery. It’s the fish you and I will be trying to catch for the rest of our lives. This 14% increase isn’t likely to change because it’s already been announced and commercial quotas are set for Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River. One thing should change though, and that’s the attitude of Maryland fishing managers. The days of managing for maximum harvest have to end. We can’t just keep killing fish simply because they’re here in the Bay and their heads are finally big enough to get stuck in a gill net. Please talk to everyone you can – your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, your pastor, and especially your politicians to make sure they know about the great striped bass grab of 2014. Share on social media and do everything you can to spread the disheartening news. You can bet that DNR managers will be working all this very long holiday weekend to clean up their justifications and polish their excuses. Speaking of polishing, maybe this isn’t a turkey after all but something that smells a lot worse. You can’t polish a turd, and this decision stinks.

I Thought Lightning Strikes Were Traditional in Florida

Steven Lippard was in his driveway Saturday in Palm Beach County when he began bleeding.

The family initially thought he may have been hit by a golf ball or a bird, but then found several small rocks nearby.

The rocks were taken to Florida Atlantic University. Initial tests showed the rocks were metallic and could have come from space. Experts are now doing more tests to confirm the possibility.

Meteorite strikes around the world are incredibly rare but have happened in the past.
My understanding is that meteorites that have struck a building are very valuable to collectors, and that meteorites that struck a person are incredibly valuable as a result.  I hope the Lippards recognize this and get them back from FAU after they've been tested.  They might fund an entire college education. Or a hell of a party.


Two men save shark from choking on moose

Derrick Chaulk was driving by the Norris Arm North harbor and thought he saw a beached whale. But when he went closer to investigate, Chaulk realized it was a Greenland shark.And it was choking.

"[The moose] had the fur and all the liner on it -- it was about 2 feet long, maybe," Chaulk said.
Greenland Shark

Chaulk and another man, Jeremy Ball, started pulling on the moose, reported.

"A couple yanks and it just came right out," he said.

Chaulk and Ball then pushed the shark back into the water. After being still for a few minutes, water starting coming off the shark's gills and it headed back out to sea.

"It was a good feeling to see that shark swim out, knowing that you saved his life," Chaulk said. "There was a few people up on the bank watching and once that shark swam out and lifted his tail, and then swam all the way out, everybody just clapped."
Either that was the world's smallest moose, or something got lost in the translation from the original Cannuck. That said, Greenland shark's are one of the largest predatory sharks, and are known to occasionally pick off very large prey.

MSNBC Gets Rid of One Obnoxious A$$hole, Keeps Another

As we may or may not care or remember, a while back, Alex Baldwin, the left wing moon bat actor and TV personality (I love the Viking commercials) recently got into hot water, when he reputedly lost his temper at a paparazzi and called him cocksucking faggot.  This earned him a two week suspension from his once a week gig as a political commentator at MSNBC, which appears to have quietly become permanent.  Two takes on this:

Not surprisingly, Stacy McCain is less than charitable...

Alec Baldwin MSNBC Show Cancelled, Disappointing Dozens of Viewers
Those c*cksucking f*gs at the low-rated liberal network have cancelled the low-rated show of the obnoxious blowhard, and it’s important that I report this, because otherwise nobody would notice.
I would try to condense the post, but that's it.

While Ann Alhouse, who likes him, at at least as an actor, makes some excuses for him...

Who killed Alec Baldwin's TV show? 
So, it wasn't just the use of the epithet on the street, it was inside stuff, staff versus star. The star felt entitled to use hairspray, and the staff member trumped him with her cancer. Her sensitivity, premised on cancer, is obviously — in the larger scheme of things — more important than his frivolous vanity over his hair, but in the production of a TV show, getting the on-camera talent to look right is actually more important than accommodating a particular employee's needs. If she can't work around hairspray, she shouldn't have a job in the room where the hair is being done.
Yes, kick him around for having "cocksucking faggot" in his head where it could pop out when he was trapped and fighting on the street, but don't fire him. We're left with the most boring and bland people blabbing on TV, including MSNBC's own little snake Martin Bashir.
Which does, indeed bring us back around to the essential double standard at MSNBC, a color commentator like Baldwin can be let go for a casual off the cuff comment in a moment of rage, while Martin Bashir, the so-called journalist, can get get away with wishing that someone would forcibly shit in Sarah Palin's mouth, on air, in a clearly though out, and scripted performance.

The Great Flood of Obamacare Schadenfreude

As I reported yesterday, we were on the verge of being on the receiving end of the first real "winter storm" of the season.  It arrived as predicted, with increasing rain all day yesterday, culminating in hard rain and wind last night.  It's still raining off and on this morning, the rain gauge shows something like 3 inches, so 4 inches total is not outside the realm of possibility.   If the naming convention The Weather Channel tried to ram down meteorologists throats last year still holds, I suppose this was Winter Storm Atlas, although I haven't heard the term used.

EDIT! No, wait, the storm that killed cows in South Dakota was Atlas, this one is Boreas.

Now about that Obamacare schadenfreude deluge, again, I was afraid the happy sad news on Obamacare had peaked, and I might have to give up this thread, but if anything, the flood seems to be gaining momentum

Sara Palin vindicated; there are "Death Panels" in Obamacare: Mark Halperin: Obamacare Contains "Death Panels"
MALZBERG, HOST: A lot of people said you weren’t going to be able to keep your health care, but also they focused on the death panels, which will be coming, call them what you will, rationing, is part of it...

HALPERIN: No, I agree, and that’s going to be a huge issue, and that’s something else on which the president was not fully forthcoming and straightforward.

MALZBERG: So, you believe there will be rationing, a.k.a. death panels?

HALPERIN: It's built into the plan. It's not like a guess or like a judgment. That's going to be part of how costs are controlled.
Is the Embattled IRS the Next Obamacare Nightmare?
...Lurking down the road, however, could be another crisis when the IRS moves center stage in the next year or two to assume responsibility for enforcing 46 new tax-related provisions and tasks associated with Obamacare. Those include imposing new taxes on medical devices and Medicare, overseeing new itemized deductions for medical expenses, and imposing penalties on uninsured Americans who fail to purchase coverage on the new exchanges.

As a result, the agency has struggled to collect the hundreds of billions of dollars a year that the government is owed but not paid, Nina E. Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, said in her annual report to Congress last year.

J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, warned in March testimony that the IRS was being overwhelmed by new responsibilities in areas not traditionally associated with the tax-collection agency. The IRS will be obliged to create numerous new computer programs to handle the added workload, although the agency has had mixed success in the past in creating software to implement changes in the tax law.
We know how well the government does a planning, procuring and implementing large software projects, don't we.  More opportunities for graft, and rewarding friends,

Speaking of software debacles.  RIGGING THE FUTURE: Obamacare Creates 50 New State Databases With No Function Beyond Gathering Potential Voter Information, Real or Fraudulent
Since the passage of Obamacare, all fifty state Medicaid agencies have been forced to create a new standalone database that contains nothing besides the contact information of Medicaid applicants who used

Some of these new databases mail out voter registration forms automatically. You cannot refuse them.

No worthwhile verification occurs before the forms are mailed. Apply for Medicaid and the form will be mailed to you, be you a verifiable citizen or Ayman al-Zawahiri on a computer in Pakistan.

Further, these new databases are accessible by groups like Organizing for Action, the reconstituted ACORN, and malevolent figures like Chris Tarango.

And no reasonable purpose exists for creating the databases besides making them available to the aforementioned Democratic activists.
But we are supposed to trust that they will not be put to partisan use, right.

Just a reminder, if you like your plan you can keep it (read the fine print):

The Supreme Court will take another bite of the Obamacare apple and decide whether the "Fluke" mandate ("free" contraception for all, over religious objections) is legal:
President Barack Obama's health care law is headed for a new Supreme Court showdown over companies' religious objections to the law's birth-control mandate.

Amid the troubled rollout of the health law, and 17 months after the justices upheld it, the Obama administration is defending a provision that requires most employers that offer health insurance to their workers to provide a range of preventive health benefits, including contraception.

Roughly 40 for-profit companies have sued, arguing they should not be forced to cover some or all forms of birth control because doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

Both sides want the justices to settle an issue that has divided lower courts. The high court could announce its decision whether to take up the topic as early as Tuesday, following its closed-door meeting.

Arguments probably would take place in late March with a decision expected in late June.
Not a matter I have great interest in except opposing the growth of government rules and mandates into all personal choices.

Now for some real schadenfreude: Democrats Fear Obamacare Will Cost Them The Senate
One top Democratic pollster: "If there's nothing you want to fix, there's something wrong with you."
"There's only so much muddying up you can do on an issue as important as this," said Tom Bowen, former political adviser to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "People elected politicians who disagree with them as long as they know where they stand. You have to have some flexibility, but trying to sort of shade who you are—that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence."

For Democrats, the politics of the health care law are creating a death spiral of their own. For the White House to protect its signature initiative, it needs to maintain a Democratic Senate majority past 2015. But to do so, Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to insulate vulnerable battleground-state Democrats, who are all too eager to propose their own fixes to the law that may be politically satisfying, but could undermine the fundamentals of the law.
Caught between the rock and the hard place, eh?  Good.

But even worse better,  The New Republic thinks the Obamacare is a threat to liberalism itself:
There’s a term of art that the Obama White House uses to describe its neurotic supporters who instantly race to the worst-case scenario: They are known as “bed-wetters.” Two months into the dysfunctional life of, however, that seems a perfectly appropriate physiological reaction.

Liberalism has spent the better part of the past century attempting to prove that it could competently and responsibly extend the state into new reaches of American life. With the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, the administration has badly injured that cause, confirming the worst slurs against the federal government. It has stifled bad news and fudged promises; it has failed to translate complex mechanisms of policy into plain English; it can’t even launch a damn website. What’s more, nobody responsible for the debacle has lost a job or suffered a demotion. Over time, the Affordable Care Act’s technical difficulties can be repaired. Reversing the initial impressions of government ineptitude won’t be so easy.
Nope, it won't.  And that's a good thing. Hoopity-Doo and Much Ado, Obamacare Snafu Puts Dems Down Two
From Democrats +8 to GOP +2 in CNN's latest poll. The Real Clear Average of all recent polls has the GOP up by +1, a seven-point swing in two weeks.

From the CNN poll:
Democrats a month ago held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates.
But the Democratic lead has disappeared. A new CNN/ORC poll indicates the GOP now holds a 49%-47% edge.
The Obamacare "Winners" and "Losers" seem to be realizing who, exactly, is who:
"It looks like the biggest shifts toward the Republicans came among white voters, higher-income Americans, and people who live in rural areas, while Democrats have gained strength in the past month among some of their natural constituencies, such as non-white voters and lower-income Americans," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"If those patterns persist into 2014, it may indicate that Obamacare is popular among those who it was designed to help the most, but unpopular among the larger group of voters who are personally less concerned about health insurance and health care," Holland said.
And since we've already seen that people were overwhelming happy with their healthcare prior to Obamacare, the independents in the middle that control US politics to a great extent have now found a reason to expel the democrats, at least we can hope.  But, as they say, don't get too cocky yet, kid.

Why voters are finished believing Obama's health care promises
...For years, GOP warnings about Obamacare were about something that had not yet arrived. People had not experienced Obamacare, did not have friends who had experienced it and didn't fully understand what it was. Many tuned out the Republican alarms.

Now that has changed. Millions of Americans are unhappy with what they have experienced under Obamacare — canceled policies, higher premiums and sky-high deductibles. They are also much more likely to believe predictions of future problems. They've seen what has already happened and now know it can get worse.

So how can it get worse? So far, Obamacare has upended the individual market for health insurance, which covers about 10 million people. The next step, according to the respected health care analyst Robert Laszewski, will likely come in the small-employer market, meaning businesses with anywhere between two and 50 employees. That covers about 45 million people.

"Obamacare is impacting the small-group insurance market in many of the same ways as the individual health insurance market," Laszewski writes. Under Obamacare, the small employers who offer their workers health coverage will be "required to comply with the same essential benefit mandates, age rating changes, and pre-existing condition reforms the individual market faces. That means essentially all small group policies cannot continue as they are — they have to be discontinued."
One of the selling points that it was supposed to "bend the cost curve" and make health care in the United States cheaper.  Turns out (of course) that it's just another lie:
In his 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama promised that his health-care reform plan would save a typical family $2,500 in annual premiums by the end of his first term. This was Mr. Cutler's prediction, and it was based on projected rapid returns from larger federal investments in health-information technology, new reinsurance subsidies for high-cost workers, and savings on administrative costs for health insurance.
...CMS actuaries find that any positive effects of the ObamaCare delivery system experiments on the cost of health care "remain highly speculative." When they compare their September 2013 projections with earlier estimates in April 2010, these actuaries find that the law would increase national health spending higher than previously expected by an additional $27 billion in 2019 alone.
And in the future? According to health-care actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health-care spending will begin spiraling upward again starting next year, as the Affordable Care Act takes full effect. It will reach $5 trillion in 2022, or 20% of GDP, or $14,664 per capita. By 2022, ObamaCare alone is projected to increase cumulative health spending by roughly $621 billion, according to CMS.
All that chaos and it's going to cost more.  Such a deal!

Who Will Treat Those New Medicaid Patients From the Obamacare Exchanges?
When it announced the underwhelming Obamacare enrollment figures (PDF) to-date on November 13, the department of Health and Human Services said that 106,185 people had "selected a Marketplace Plan," but that 396,261 persons had been "determined or assessed eligible for Medicaid/CHIP" (Children's Health Insurance Program).

That's a problem. A 2012 survey (PDF) by Jackson Healthcare, a medical staffing company, found that, while 64 percent of physicians nationally are taking new Medicaid patients, "A majority of physicians across many specialties said they could no longer afford to accept new Medicaid patients due to declining reimbursements. States where physicians were least likely to accept new Medicaid patients were New Jersey, California and Florida."

In fact, last week, the Courier-Post, a south New Jersey paper, reported that Medicaid patients in that state may be signed up for medical care, but they're having serious problems finding providers:..
How long before the left starts calling for the conscription of Drs. in to the "War on Health?TM"

From more tips for talking to your crazy uncle about Obamacare (assuming your uncle in a moonbat liberal, of course):
“That would be great. Except that I’m going to be washing dishes and cleaning up for a bit. How about you go into the guest room and use the computer in there to sign me up. As soon as you’re done, you can have some pie.”

The key is to get them to make a commitment not to come out until they’ve finished signing you up. Remember their conversation tip — Ask them to make a plan, and commit to it. Ask them to commit to finishing the sign-up before they come out of the room.

Since nobody can actually sign up for Obamacare, they’ll be busily trying to operate the web site for the duration of your visit. And the beauty of the disaster zone that is the Obamacare website is that whether you plan to visit for hours or days, the crazy family member will be out of your hair. For added giggles with the sane portion of the family, be sure to follow the last tip — Don’t forget to follow up: “Have you signed up yet?”

Every time you pass the room, knock on the door loudly and ask them that exact question. Once your crazy uncle is holed-up with a laptop in the guest bedroom, you and your more tolerable relatives can enjoy the rest of the holiday in peace.
Democrats, of course, are busy turning over stones in hoping of finding an Obamacare success story or two to highlight:
Acknowledging the pressure from that political fallout, Democrats are making a concerted effort to find people and places the law is working for in an effort to counter GOP attacks. Top Senate Democrats began asking rank-and-file senators this week to use the Thanksgiving recess to identify constituents benefiting from the law, in hopes of exploiting those examples when the Senate reconvenes in two weeks.

The political blowback from the troubled launch of the federal Web site has been especially concerning to Senate Democrats, who have been divided on how to deal with the implementation missteps. ...

As a counter, Democratic senators are being asked to use social media — especially the Twitter call-out #GotCovered — new “Got Covered Today” sections of their Web sites and specialized e-mail addresses to highlight people who “had a positive experience” enrolling for new health plans.

Any new success stories “will provide us with the ammunition we need to rebut Republican claims that the law isn’t working,” the memo said.
And if you can't find 'em, maybe you can buy them: ‘Non-partisan’ group paid $1 million to produce positive Obamacare stories
Families USA (FUSA) — an organization that describes itself as a “national nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans” — was given a $1.1 million grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on October 4, 2013, to gather “success stories” of Americans dealing with Obamacare and distribute them to the media who often refer to them as an “independent” group. This is part of a greater upcoming effort to bolster the perception of the lowly health care law.
However, the organization is a far cry from “non-partisan” and is extremely close to the Obama Administration and Enroll America – the group leading the efforts to sign people up for Obamacare.

Philippe Villers, the president of Families USA,  serves as the Secretary and Treasurer of Board of a little-known group called the Herndon Alliance. The Herndon Alliance originated in Herndon, VA in 2005 and produced research the left used to sell the overhaul of the United States health care system and counteract opposition as the president was making a push for Obamacare.  As Lachlan Markay of the Washington Free Beacon noted, they are credited with crafting President Obama’s, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” message, and are even backed with money from George Soros’ Open Society Institute.
Just one last shot, for the Star Trek crowd:  So the Left Wants Our Help in Getting Them Out of the Mutara Nebula?
Stop for a minute and think about all of the times you’ve had to ask for help in your life. Maybe you messed up and got into a tight spot. Maybe something bad happened to you that was completely beyond your control. Things got bad enough that you had to ask for help – how did you approach it? Did you insist that you had done nothing wrong and that the actions and ideas that got into trouble were any less than brilliant? Did you continue by throwing vile insults at the person you’re reaching out to and continuously telling them if they don’t fix your mess that they had no part then they somehow would become responsible for your bad decisions? You probably wouldn’t, and neither would I. You would think that after having their belief system so thoroughly clowned by reality that the left in this country would be somewhat repentant and humbled? I would too, but that just hasn’t been the case. Not only do any leftists show no regret over Obamacare, but I think they actually managed to get more arrogant than ever. There’s no need to recap every misdeed the left has committed in the passage of and implementation of Obamacare. And now they are genuinely sincere in their belief that it’s up to the conservatives to fix their mess and attach their names to the stink coming off of this abomination that so beautifully embodies leftist thought.

Why the Mutara Nebula reference in the title of this post? The movie “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” featured a final battle of Kirk vs. Khan. Kirk led his damaged Enterprise to flee into a Nebula, where interference caused by the Nebula would even the odds of their duel in space...
Just like in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” with a starship at his disposal (both houses of Congress) and Project Genesis (the presidency) under his control Khan still would not heed the warnings of his helmsman (The American people) who urged Khan not to chase the Enterprise into the Nebula (force through Obamacare) that would render their sensors and shields (the mainstream media) useless…

“No sir, you have Genesis! You have whatever yo-”

“FULL POWER! Damn you!”

If we’re able to get Obamacare repealed before it’s able to fully metastasize in our health care system that law may turn out to be Obama’s Mutara Nebula. And as we’ve come to learn about our president, “He’s intelligent but not experienced. His pattern indicates two dimensional thinking.”

Well, that's enough for today, or maybe enough for forever, who knows? However, I promise to take tomorrow off for some real Thanksgiving.

The Naked Weathercast

If nothing else, Doria Tillier is a woman of her word.

The 27-year-old French news broadcaster promised ahead of a decisive World Cup game between the French national team and Ukraine that she would present the weather naked if France made it through the night.

“I promise you that if we qualify tonight for the World Cup, I vow – here, in front of the whole of France – that I will tomorrow do my forecast naked,” she said, according to The Telegraph
She won...

Kind of a disappointment, eh? You can do better by watching almost any Latin American TV weather report. There are a ton of them on YouTube. Who cares that they're weather reports for weather that's already happened, and in a language you may not understand?

That's Cutting it a Little Close

At least for my taste:

Another example of why you can't ever have too many horsepower.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

See Comet ISON Without Getting Wet or Cold

NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, is monitoring Comet ISON as it approaches the sun. NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft are parked in Langrange zones, known as the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points, each centered about 93 million miles away along Earth’s orbit.

The latest movie from the STEREO-A spacecraft’s Heliospheric Imager shows the comet moving in from the left side over a two-day period from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22, 2013. In addition to Earth and Mercury, Comet Encke can also be seen moving through the middle of the view. The sun sits outside the field of view of this camera, located to the right, off-screen, hinted at by the steady stream of particles, called the solar wind, moving in from the right.
 Found at Watts Up With That.

EPA Finds Medicine in $#!*

I'm a little reluctant to help push EPA's cause du jour, but I agree that the abuse of prophylactic antibiotics, both in human medicine, and in factory farming is a big problem:

Antibiotics, hormones increasingly found in livestock and poultry manure
Growing scientific evidence shows that pathogens, antimicrobials and hormones are increasingly appearing in livestock and poultry manure across the United States, according to a literature review prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

These “contaminants of emerging concern”—so named because their risks to human health and the environment may be unknown—could pose threats to plants, animals and people if rain, spills or storage failures push contaminated manure into rivers and streams.

...Manure can contain pathogens, for instance, that could infect humans if allowed to contaminate our drinking water or food crops. It can contain antibiotics and vaccines that could facilitate the development of antimicrobial resistance. And it can contain natural and artificial hormones that, even in low concentrations, could affect the reproductive health and fitness of fish, frogs and other marine life.
Modern antibiotics revolutionized medicine in the second half of the last century, saving countless lives.  However, increasingly, microbes have become immune to them, leading to diseases like MRSA (methecillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection) which are difficult to cure.  We are in serious danger of losing our ability to fight infectious diseases.  There is no reasonable doubt that the overuse of antibiotics both in human medicine and animal farming have contributed to the problem.  Stopping this abuse, and preventing it in the future with new antibiotics is one of the most important gifts that we could give to upcoming generations

Tuesday's Just As Bad Obamacare Schadenfreude

They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad.  Today marks the approach of a massive winter storm, which threatens to screw up Thanksgiving travel plans for millions of people up and down the East Coast.  We expect it to be mostly a rain event here, with most of it coming down tomorrow, up to 4 inches worth, but with snow or ice west of I95, it may well influence our hope to travel to Pittsburgh to see the kids.

So how's Obamacare hanging?  The administration admits that the Obamacare website "won't be perfect" on Dec. 1, in the same sense that Hurricane Katrina was not the perfect hurricane when it struck New Orleans, having weakened to a mere Category 3 storm:
Administration officials said Monday that some visitors to ObamaCare's federal enrollment site would experience outages, slow response times or messages to try again later during the month of December.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) delivered the message in the latest attempt to downplay expectations surrounding Nov. 30, the administration's self-imposed deadline for fixing

CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said errors that persist past this weekend would be "intermittent" and, in line with a promise made by the White House, would not affect the vast majority of the site's users.

But Bataille acknowledged that some people would still experience "periods of suboptimal performance" by the system due to either heavy traffic or technical issues that are still being addressed.
Enrollments in states, such as Colorado, continued to lag expectations:
Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act through Colorado's health insurance exchange is barely half the state's worst-case projection, prompting demands from exchange board members for better stewardship of public money.

The shortfall could compromise the exchange's "ability to deliver on promises made to Colorado citizens" and threatens the funding stream for the exchange itself, according to board e-mails obtained by The Denver Post in an open records request.
Oregon is taking application by fax; and having trouble with keeping up:
KOIN 6 News confirmed Cover Oregon has added dozens of extra fax lines to handle the paper applications being sent in by fax. On Wednesday, King said they had received about 24,000 paper applications. That number now is closer to 30,000. But many people complained of busy signals when trying to send in their application by fax. Michael Cox, the Cover Oregon spokesperson, said their office has one fax number but it’s an electronic interface that can handle more than one call at once. When a fax comes in it takes two seconds per page to be transferred into the server. When the paper applications began, Cover Oregon was only able to take 500 applications per day. It was upped to 1000, and this week increased to 1500 per day.
Democrats continue to get more restive:  As deadline nears, ticking clock on Democratic patience
“The president and his team have repeatedly assured us that the system will be working by Dec. 1. That’s when I start looking at what we have to do in our oversight function to hold the administration accountable for making it work.” Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat said Thursday, adding that he’s contemplating whether to ask the president to fire members of his staff. “I’m thinking about those options. But my biggest concern is fixing the system and making it work.”

Asked whether he was mad at the president, Braley hesitated for a few seconds amid the din of a Capitol hallway.

“Yes,” he said.
When you're in a hole, keep digging!  Blue Cross subsidiary got no-bid Obamacare website contract:
A Blue Cross Blue Shield subsidiary received a no-bid contract for last-minute Obamacare website work, according to newly released documents.

Blue Cross subsidiary Novitas Solutions received a nearly $12 million no-bid contract from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on August 9 to help build the financial management and accounting facets of the online Obamacare exchanges. Novitas landed the no-bid contract as the Obama administration rushed to find a last-minute contractor to save the beleaguered website before it launched, according to House Energy and Commerce Committee documents.
Meanwhile, much like the actual weather, the real storm continues to grow on the horizon, as where many are preparing to reduce benefits in anticipation of the "Cadillac Tax.
employers prepare for the effects of Obamacare,
Aaron Baker, 36, his wife Billie and their two young children are covered under a generous health insurance plan offered by the private Midwestern university where he’s worked for 10 years. When they opened their benefits notice this year, they were pleased to see their $385 premium is only up by four dollars next year. However, they were shocked to discover that instead of covering the first dollar they spend with no deductible, the Baker’s plan now includes a $1,000 deductible and a $2,500 out of pocket maximum. They also will still have small co-pays for services.

According to the enrollment notice, the changes are “to relieve future health plan trend pressure and to put the university in a position to avoid the excise tax that becomes effective in 2018.” The 40 percent excise tax—often called the “Cadillac tax”— is part of Obamacare and is levied on the most generous health plans. It’s designed to bring down overall health costs by making companies and workers more cost-conscious. The thinking is that if consumers have to pay more expenses themselves, through higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, they’ll avoid unnecessary or overly costly procedures. And that is supposed to make care more affordable for everyone.
And they told us if we liked out plan, yada, yada yada.  And most of us liked our plan...

A recent poll of Amricans on healthcare reveals that most are (still) pretty happy with theirs, but think that everyone else is unhappy with their own.  This is the media generated myth that the progressive desire for healthcare is founded on:
A review of recent research on healthcare cost, coverage, and quality reveals that Americans continue to be much more positive about their own personal healthcare situations than about the healthcare situation nationally. This suggests that Americans may be responding negatively to the new healthcare law at least partly because the majority don't perceive personal problems with their healthcare that urgently need addressing.

But not to worry, if you belong to one of the administrations favored groups, you too, just might be exempted from the damage caused by Obamacare: GOP blasts union 'bailout' under O-Care
A top Senate Republican is blasting regulations he argues will exempt unions' multi-employer health plans from a key tax under ObamaCare. Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) pointed to a section of a 255-page regulatory filing and said it would amount to a "bailout" for the labor moment, which has grown increasingly dissatisfied with the new healthcare law.

"Despite endorsing ObamaCare and working fervently to get it passed, unions are now experiencing the ugly reality of this law, and they want out. This exemption is crony capitalism at its worst," said Thune, who is behind a bill to block ObamaCare exemptions for unions.

The Obama administration recently indicated that it would propose exempting certain self-insured, self-administered insurance plans from two of the healthcare law's three-year reinsurance fees.
Because equal protection under the laws is one of the administrations core values...

While the administration begins moves to protect its well paid union base, others in the coalition aren't being as well taken care of: CNN analysis: No Obamacare subsidy for some low-income Americans.
One of the basic tenets of Obamacare is that the government will help lower-income Americans -- anyone making less than about $45,900 a year -- pay for the health insurance everyone is now mandated to have.

But a CNN analysis shows that in the largest city in nearly every state, many low-income younger Americans won't get any subsidy at all. Administration officials said the reason so many Americans won't receive a subsidy is that the cost of insurance is lower than the government initially expected. Subsidies are calculated using a complicated formula based on the cost of insurance premiums, which can vary drastically from state to state, and even county to county.

That doesn't change the fact that in Chicago, a 27-year old will receive no subsidy to help offset premiums of more than $165 a month if he makes more than $27,400 a year.
But then, low income people aren't very reliable donors for elections campaigns, so who cares?

The Chicago Tribune (by way of HotAir), apparently:  Man, the number of ObamaCare losers really seems to be piling up, doesn’t it?

If President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders think the outcry against Obamacare is fierce now, watch if millions more Americans get blindsided with the news that they’ll be forced into these dysfunctional government online marketplaces. Some will face higher premiums or higher deductibles…

Tens of millions of people who have coverage through large American companies aren’t losers … yet. The administration granted those businesses a one-year reprieve from the Obamacare mandate to provide coverage or pay penalties. That ends for 2015, and employers are already calculating what to do. Some may cut jobs, or employees’ hours, to avoid offering costly insurance coverage. Other companies may dump everyone into the federal exchanges and pay penalties that are almost certain to be less than what coverage would cost.
One cancer victim who lost her insurance to Obamacare:

Tom McGuire, at One More Minute, notes that the Administration may have bought itself even more problems by putting off the enrollement period for 2015 insurance
The geniuses at Team Obama have moved back the health insurance enrollment period for 2015 until after the election, presumably to avoid headlines about sticker shock (this assumes healthCare.Fail is up and running, or at least limping, by then.)

But wait! As Marc Thiessen noted a few days back, other deadlines more or less assure a new ObamaCare meltdown next October regardless of this attempt to hide the ball:
But let’s say, by some miracle, Obama’s plan does work, and many in the individual market now losing their plans get to keep them for a year. That just means they will start getting cancellation letters 90 days before the end of the year. In October 2014. One month before the midterm elections.

That is a political disaster for the Democrats.
Per this recent Congressional Research Service report on cancellations that 90 day requirement is the law:
Issuers may also uniformly terminate coverage for a group of individuals, if it is done without regard to health factors. To do so, issuers must:

•provide 90 days’ prior notice to individuals that the coverage is being discontinued.
So Team Obama has "solved" the sticker shock problem but left themselves a new one. Beginning in October, people whose plans are non-compliant will get cancellations effective Jan 1, 2015. But these people will be in limbo for six weeks since they won't be able to enroll in replacement plans until mid-November. People will spend the month of October wondering what their new insurance might look like in terms of pricing, deductibles and networks, and hearing "Trust us" from Team Obama.
Stacy McCain asks Do Democrats Think They Can Spin Their Way Out of the ObamaCare Catastrophe?
One of the things you may have noticed in the past couple of weeks is that some liberal pundits are claiming that ObamaCare is essentially a public relations problem: The program is just wonderful, but there have been some P.R. problems with the rollout.

Democrats need to learn that denial is not the name of a river in Egypt
Anyone who doubts the devastating impact of ObamaCare’s failure need look no further than NY-23 where Democrat Martha Robertson is trying to run away from her previous support of the policy. This is a “purple” district that, on paper, should be competitive for Democrats, but Robertson’s campaign is in complete meltdown mode. And speaking of complete meltdown . . .
We are starting to see a broad polling trend for Barack Obama, and it should have the White House worried — but maybe Obama’s fellow Democrats in Congress even more. The latest CNN poll confirms what the Washington Post/ABC poll first noticed, and what the CBS poll corroborated — Obama’s approval decline involves more than just his performance. The Americans public is souring on Obama as a person and as a brand, and that spells real trouble for his agenda . . . .
There are limits to what media spin can accomplish, and trying to tell people who lost their insurance that this is good news, that the president had a good reason to lie to them — that won’t sell.
Of course they do, it's worked before.

The administration has put out a call for all 'true believers' to engage their family members in discussion about the benefits of Obamacare over Thanksgiving dinner (it's probably not a good idea to get between conservatives and their turkey while they're holding carving knives)...

...but fortunately, The Ace of Spades has provided the counterarguments:

Ace of Spades' Talking Points for Talking With Your Obnoxious Progressive Family Members About Obamacare This Thanksgiving
1. Hey remember when you said that Obamacare was going to work great, and then, when people asked you how it actually worked, you sort of implied they were stupid for not knowing, and yet you never provided any evidence that you had any idea of how it was supposed to work yourself? Yeah, you were wrong to do that.

2. Remember when you called me crazy for saying Obama wanted to "spread the wealth around," based on not a scrap of evidence except for Obama himself saying he wanted to spread the wealth around? Yeah, there's a NYT article that says that Obamacare is fundamentally a redistributive program -- which means it "spreads the wealth around." Yeah you were wrong on that, too.

3. Remember when you said that it was only "REPUBLICAN LIES!!111!!" that Obama's "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan" promise was itself a lie? I hate to keep coming back to this point, but you were way wrong on that one too.

4. Remember the "if you like your doctor" pledge? Yeah I feel like a broken record here, but you were wrong.

5. Remember when you gleefully, giddily declared the end of the Republican Party and a new era of Proud Progressive dominance? Yeah, the current political Big Story is whether or not Obamacare will wind up discrediting progressivism for just an election cycle or two, or as much as a generation. It looks like you were wrong about that.

6. Remember when you were so confident, arrogant, snotty, sneering, and dismissive about legitimate and informed concerns about Obamacare? You were wrong. And you weren't just wrong on the facts, but you were wrong on a human level. You very nearly screamed your ignorant opinions and shouted down dissent. You sneered at people as ignorant who actually knew more than you did, and you indulged in entirely-unwarranted moral preening about your alleged concern for the poor. Despite the fact that you never do anything to actually aid the poor. Apparently shouting at relatives is your idea of "charity."

Yeah you were wrong. You are wrong.

I know you won't apologize, but at least keep your stupid mouth shut this year and let us all digest in peace.
Stay safe out there!

Mine Must Be Mighty Perky

Coffee may help perk up your blood vessels
DALLAS, Nov. 20, 2013 – The caffeine in a cup of coffee might help your small blood vessels work better, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013.

A study of 27 healthy adults showed – for the first time – that drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee significantly improved blood flow in a finger, which is a measure of how well the inner lining of the body’s smaller blood vessels work. Specifically, participants who drank a cup of caffeinated coffee had a 30 percent increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period compared to those who drank decaffeinated coffee.
My fingers do seem to be working better than they were a few minutes ago.

“This gives us a clue about how coffee may help improve cardiovascular health,” said Masato Tsutsui, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher and a cardiologist and professor in the pharmacology department at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan.

The study adds to a growing body of research about coffee, the most widely consumed beverage worldwide.  Previous studies showed that drinking coffee is linked to lower risks of dying from heart disease and stroke, and that high doses of caffeine may improve the function of larger arteries.
It doesn't just open your eyes.
Study participants were people who did not
regularly drink coffee, ranging in age from 22 to 30. On one day, each participant drank one five-ounce cup of either regular or decaffeinated coffee. Then researchers measured finger blood flow with laser Doppler flowmetry, a non-invasive technique for gauging blood circulation on a microscopic level. Two days later, the experiment was repeated with the other type of coffee. Neither the researchers nor the participants knew when they were drinking caffeinated coffee.

The researchers noted blood pressure, heart rate, and vascular resistance levels. They also took blood samples to analyze levels of caffeine and to rule out the role of hormones on blood vessel function.
Hey, don't take that blood; I haven't wrung all the caffeine out of it yet.

Compared to decaf, caffeinated coffee slightly raised participants’ blood pressure and improved vessel inner lining function. Heart rate levels were the same between the two groups.

It’s still unclear how caffeine actually works to improve small blood vessel function, although Tsutsui suggests that caffeine may help open blood vessels and reduce inflammation.
I need to go get another cup.

Over at The Other McCain, Wombat-Socho has posted the weekly master list  "Rule 5 Sunday: Quiet Splendor."

No Plan B for Fat Chicks

The European manufacturer of an emergency contraceptive pill identical to Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, will warn women that the drug is completely ineffective for women who weigh more than 176 pounds, and begins to lose effectiveness in women who weigh more than 165 pounds. HRA Pharma, the French manufacturer of the European drug, Norlevo, is changing its packaging information to reflect the weight limits. European pharmaceutical regulators approved the change on November 10, but it has not been previously reported.
So, Alex posted this on Facebook.   What do you call a fat computer? Adele. Block over to see answer.

This development has implications for American women. Some of the most popular emergency contraceptive pills sold over-the-counter in the United States—including the one-pill drugs Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and My Way, and a number of generic two-pill emergency contraceptives—have a dosage and chemical makeup identical to the European drug. Weight data from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that at 166 pounds, the average American woman is too heavy to use these pills effectively.

This is patently unfair. Isn't it every American woman's right, from birth to death, to use whatever form of birth control they want?  Somehow I'm sure this is all the patriarchy's fault.
These pills, which use a compound called levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancies, are the most effective morning-after pills available without a prescription. Other pills sold in the US require a prescription, are less effective at preventing pregnancy, or cause side effects such as nausea or vomiting. Plan B One-Step, which retails for $50, is the only emergency contraceptive drug in the United States available to women of all ages without a prescription.

Emergency contraception advocates reacted to the news about Norlevo with dismay. "There's a whole swath of American women for whom [these pills] are not effective," says James Trussell, a professor of public affairs at Princeton University and a senior fellow with the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank for reproductive health issues.
Another casualty of  America's war with calories.

Data for the years 2007 to 2010 show the average weight of American women 20 years and older is 166.2 pounds—above the weight at which emergency contraceptive pills that use levonorgestrel begin to lose their effectiveness. The average weight of non-Hispanic black women aged 20 to 39 is 186 pounds, well above the weight at which these pills are completely ineffective. A CDC survey published in February found that 5.8 million American women used emergency contraceptive pills from 2006 to 2010.
So, chubby chasers (and you know you're out there) or even normal men around 2 AM, willing to settle, you might just want to be extra sure to have a condom at hand and be willing to use it.