Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Train Wreck Spills Burning Oil into the James River

CSX train carrying oil derails in Virginia in fiery blast
photo by Paula Mays

A CSX Corp train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia on Wednesday, spilling oil into the James River and forcing hundreds to evacuate.

CSX said 15 cars on a train traveling from Chicago to Virginia derailed at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Fire erupted on three cars, the company said. Photos and video from the scene showed high flames and a plume of black smoke. It was the second oil-train accident this year for CSX.

About two hours after the derailment, CSX said the fire had been extinguished. City officials said there were no injuries, but 300-350 people were evacuated from the area. Around 6:00 p.m., residents were allowed to return to their homes.

The fiery derailment a short distance from office buildings in the city of 77,000 was sure to bring more calls from environmentalists and activists for stricter regulations of the burgeoning business of shipping crude oil by rail.

JoAnn Martin, the city's director of communications, said three or four tank cars were leaking, and burning oil was spilling into the river, which runs to Chesapeake Bay. She said firefighters were trying to contain the spill.
Too bad they weren't able to move that oil in a pipeline, which is much less likely spill.

Can Oysters Save the Bay?

Study: Oysters Save $300k in Clean Up Services
Whether or not you like to eat oysters, you should have an appreciation for them if you live here in the Coastal Bend.

Here's why: each year, they save you and me at least $300,000 in bay water clean up.

The best part is, they work for free!
By way of comparison, the dockside price of the oysters harvested in the Bay in the 2009-2010 season was approximately $9.5 million, $4.4 million in Maryland and $5.1 million in Virginia.
"We know that oysters can filter an enormous amount of water and make it very very clear for us, you can think of them like little mini water treatment plants," explained Texas A&M University Marine Biology Professor Jennifer Pollack.

She shared with us video of those 'mini water treatment plants' in action in Chesapeake Bay. In a very short span of time, they're able to clear the water they're in.
She must not have tortured the data hard enough to have come up with a number that small.  Perhaps if she used the dollar per lb of nitrogen removed that farmers are being forced to make for the "Bay Diet" she could have come up with a much larger number. The costs of the Bay Diet are estimated at $25 billion (with a "b") in public money over 10 years, and much more in compliance costs.
Pollack participated in a study that found in Copano Bay and Aransas Bay alone, they're services are worth $300,000 a year, but that amount is much higher if you consider all the water around us, she explained.

"They work for free," Pollack said.
Not if you count the cost of oyster restoration in the Bay, estimated to cost $2-7 billion (with a "b") for the future.

Actually, this $300,000 figure is for Coprano and Aransas Bays (Texas), smaller than Chesapeake bay a fair amount, and should be scaled accordingly.  If the Texas Bays are 1/10th the size of the Bay, the value of the oysters in the water and the value in baskets are on the same order of magnitude.

I'd love to see the "value" of oysters on the bottom be greater than the value of oysters in a bushel basket, but I don't see it as likely in the near future.

But here's a thing to try.  Pay the watermen to leave the oysters in the water for the next 5 years, at the same amount of money they made harvesting them for the average of the last 10 years, discounting what boats and fuel cost them (if they aren't using them, they don't need to get paid for them).  Let's find out if the Chesapeake oyster can stage a rebound and take it's historical place in the ecosystem, taking algae out of the water, and converting it to oyster biomass.

Sentence Him to a Week on a Crab Boat. . .

. . . Preferably in the Bering Sea in January. Although, it's pretty miserable in August in Chesapeake Bay, and while the crabs are small compared to those Alaskan monsters, they're a lot faster and have a nasty pinch.

Florida State’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston has been suspended from the university’s baseball team after being issued a citation for stealing crab legs.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that Winston was caught shoplifting at a Tallahassee Publix Monday night and was issued a citation.

Major Michael Wood said during a press conference that Winston told authorities that he just forgot to pay the $32 for the crab legs and other seafood items.

“Jameis Winston has not been arrested for any crime. He was issued a civil citation,” Wood said.

Wood added that Winston was very cooperative with authorities. Winston must complete the pre-diversion program or he will be facing a petty theft charge. He also must complete 20 hours of community service.
He should be required to learn the value of that which he would steal, and the lengths people go to to get it to him.

A Half Full Glass of Obamacare Schadenfreude

Still raining here today, for the third day in a row, expected to last most of the day and culminate in T-storms and a threat of tornadoes (now don't get all worried, in 30 years we've only had one close call). Meanwhile, Obamacare Schadenfreude keeps rolling over the countryside.

By way of Stacy McCain: A Typical ObamaCare Nightmare
. . .The very worst has been suffered by small businesses (both owners and employees) and by self-employed independent contractors. Statistics cannot adequately express what at an unprecedented nightmare many people have gone through. One of these ObamaCare victms, blogger Rich Vail, describes his frightening ordeal:
Last fall we received a letter saying that because of the myriad of changes that HHS had ordered health insurance companies to make to individual policies that were purchased on the open insurance market, that our health insurance would be cancelled…and it was despite they lies presented by President Obama and Sen’s Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski. “If you like your insurance, you can keep it, period.”
Because last year was a pretty good year for me, we don’t qualify for subsidies…so my insurance which had costs us $132 per month rose to $137 per week. We had the choice of paying that or the rent…
The problem now is that I have four fractured ribs…
Not that we needed many more but -  Why Public Opinion of Obamacare Remains Negative
Despite millions of Americans getting covered by Obamacare—which Democrats had long said would improve the health law's favorability ratings—public opinion remains negative.

Some 48 percent hold an unfavorable view of the Affordable Care Act, compared with 38 percent favorable—numbers that are virtually unchanged from previous months—according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, released Tuesday.

In the time between the March and April polls, enrollment exceeded the administration's own expectations and was largely considered a successful start for the health law's exchanges.

"People's opinions are pretty set, and so divided by political party, that we think people are still judging the law through their partisan lens," said Liz Hamel, director of the foundation's public opinion and survey research. "Eight million is a lot of people, but in terms of the share reporting on public opinion of the law, it's a small share."

Over time, public opinion has remained steady, with the exception of a bump in the number holding negative views after October's messy launch of It'll take time for sentiments to change as consumers use their new coverage, but for Obamacare to see positive ratings, Hamel said, people will also have to like that coverage.

Why the uninsured are sitting out Obamacare - Short answer; it costs more than they want to pay
Price of fixing, upgrading Obamacare website rises to $121 million
Fixing the Obamacare website to get it ready to handle a second round of enrollments will cost the federal government $121 million, according to Accenture, the contractor hired to repair the glitchy website after the original contractor, CGI Federal, was fired in January.

The deal, which Accenture announced on its website Tuesday, costs more than the $93.7 million it took CGI Federal to build in the first place.

It’s also $30 million more than the government projected for fixes just a few months ago, when it called in Accenture on an emergency basis to try to keep President Obama’s signature domestic law on track.

“There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Obamacare website expenses,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican. “Developers are still being brought in to finish building, some states are abandoning their own failed sites, and federal taxpayers are still being handed the bills for it all.”
How many more million will it cost to incorporate Oregon's insurance plans, after the the Beaver state threw in the towel after spending $300 million on their own site?

Even the Washington Post is rebelling against the Administration's claims of victory: The White House’s Obamacare victory lap looking more like a false start
As we have noted, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows approval of the law and of Obama's implementation of it have dropped after a momentary boost. Americans disapprove of the law overall 48-44 and disapprove of Obama's implementation 57-37.

What's perhaps more telling is that, despite the rare good news of the past few weeks, their perceptions of the law remain basically as-is -- that is, pretty dim. To wit:
  • Americans say 50-41 that the implementation of the law has been worse than they expected rather than better.
  • They say 44-24 that the health-care system is getting worse rather than getting better as a result of Obamacare.
  • They say 29-14 that the quality of care is getting worse rather than better.
  • They say 47-8 that their health-care costs are increasing due to the law rather than decreasing.
  • They say 58-11 that the overall cost of health care in the United States is increasing rather than decreasing.
Almost all of these numbers are basically unchanged from in recent months. The one exception would be a slight uptick in the percentage of people who say the law is making things better (from 19 percent in December to 24 percent today).

But even with that, the law's long-term prognosis -- (ahem) so to speak -- hasn't changed, with Americans still seeing it as more expensive than it needs to be for both themselves and the country. And nearly twice as many still say the law is making things worse rather than making things better.
My very own congressman (for whom I did not vote) is a half full kind of guy. Steny Hoyer: ObamaCare is going to be, at worst, neutral in the midterm elections
Well. That’s certainly — uhm — bullish of him.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer predicted on Tuesday that Obamacare will not prove to be the massive political liability for Democrats that Republicans hoped ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
“I think health care at worst is going to be a neutral in this election,” said Hoyer (D-Md.) during a press conference. “This is not the holy grail of this election.” …
He even predicted that Democrats could pick up seats during the November elections. …
“We have good candidates, we’re raising good money,” Hoyer said, citing competitive races in Florida and Arkansas.
And that’s despite this morning’s WaPo/ABC poll showing President Obama’s approval rating hitting new lows and a public largely unenthused by ObamaCare’s ostensible victories. Democratic strategist James Carville, however, was somewhat less bullish about the situation on Fox News this evening:
While Democratic commentator James Carville this a half empty sort of condition:

Obamacare to Target Recently Released Prisoners
California Obamacare Director Peter Lee said he plans to provide the "human touch" during the next open enrollment period by targeting low-income and minority communities as well as prisoners who have recently been released from incarceration, reports California Healthline.

As Breitbart News reported earlier this month, several cash-strapped states are looking to dump health care costs onto the federal government by signing up prisoners for Obamacare.

Lee says enrollment efforts are "only just beginning" and that Covered California plans to tap 250 grassroots organizations to sign more people up on the highly unpopular Obamacare program.
Nothing like forcing people already under state control to enroll to boost enrollment.  At least the majority will be men between 18 and 34.  

‘Repeal and replace’ is not the last hope for conservatives
. . . But as I noted above, there is good reason to believe that a “repeal and replace” approach won’t beat Hillary, because it will be too disruptive of people’s pre-existing health insurance arrangements.

This prospect shouldn’t depress conservatives, however. Indeed, Obamacare’s exchanges—if heavily reformed—could serve as the foundation for sweeping entitlement reform, reform that could expand coverage, lower health costs for most Americans, and make Medicare and Medicaid permanently solvent.

To those frustrated conservatives who think that repealing Obamacare is our last fiscal hope, I say: “No. There is another.”
He must be a full glass sort of guy.

Cheerleading for the Minimum Wage

The left, led on by Preznit Obama is cheerleading for an increase in the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.  Why?  Mostly to force the Republicans to vote against it to save the jobs of a million or so people who will vote against them for saving their jobs anyway.

Not Harry Reid
Harry Reid slates minimum wage vote
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday set up a long-shot Wednesday vote on a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Senate Democrats will need 60 votes to open debate on the legislation written by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to gradually increase the wage and eventually peg it to inflation — a level of support that appears unattainable.

Democratic aides expect as many as 54 members of the 55-member Senate Democratic caucus to support the procedural vote Wednesday, with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) predicted to vote against. That party unity will be a key cog in Democrats’ election-year plans to portray Republicans as against working Americans by opposing the $10.10 rate, which the GOP says will result in widespread job loss, citing a report by the Congressional Budget Office earlier this year.
None of them are Harry Reid
Demonstrating the incredible hypocrisy of their position, the White House refused to even discuss paying interns for their time: White House Ignores Calls To Pay Interns
Even as it pushes Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, the Obama administration is resisting calls to pay interns who serve in the White House.

The White House declined multiple opportunities to comment on whether it would rethink its position on not compensating the roughly 300 interns who work there each year. Also met with silence was Stephen Lurie, who elevated the issue in a recent Washington Post op-ed. In it, he told the president: "Unpaid internships contradict your commitments and your economic agenda."

"It is pretty indefensible from a publicity point of view, given the nature of their outreach on a lot of other economic subjects," Lurie said of the lack of a response from the administration, which dates back to April 3. "There is not a huge constituency they have to answer to. Who are they going to piss off by not answering? Right now it is just young people and economic-justice advocates."

With the Senate set to vote this week on minimum wage legislation, however, the politics of unpaid internships may get a little trickier for the administration.

Already there is a lively ethical debate surrounding the practice, one that the White House has not been immune to. Previous stories have taken it to task for its intern policy, though the White House does not hide the fact from applicants that the positions are unpaid.
Not Cathy Rampell
In my (sorta former) business, science, I never ran into "unpaid" interns. The National Science Foundation, as well as other governmental and private organization provided ample funds to pay intern stipends, at least for summer. However, I do fully understand what would motivate students to take unpaid internships with politicians. In politics, connections are everything, and making them early is good for the career. This, however, gives wealthy, and pre-connected students an enormous advantage over the rest. The best known intern in history, Monica Lewinsky, didn't need to be paid because her father was already a wealthy Clinton donor.

But what I really wanted to post was this perfectly awful piece by Catherine Rampel I saw in the Washington Post this morning: Pity the cheerleaders. Really.
It’s hard to have too much sympathy for cheerleaders. They’re pretty, perfectly proportioned and popular. If they didn’t persecute you personally in high school, a Hollywood facsimile probably at least bullied one of your favorite fictional protagonists.
Catherine Rampell preparing to strangle a cheerleader
Based on that, I expected Catherine Rampell to be butt ugly, but it turns out she's just a typical young whiny feminist, indeed, relatively attractive for being in that crowd.  But one could see why she might be a bit jealous of the girls who got to be cheerleaders.
Which perhaps explains why such scant attention has been paid to the plight of National Football League cheerleaders, who appear to be frequent victims of both wage theft and other, far weirder indignities (including elaborate rules about how to wash their vaginas; more on that later).
Meow. . .
In the past few months, veterans of the Ben-Gals (who cheer for the Cincinnati Bengals), Raiderettes (Oakland Raiders) and Jills (Buffalo Bills) have filed lawsuits alleging that teams paid the cheerleaders less than minimum wage and subjected them to intrusive and belittling conditions.

Some of the allegations, like those regarding wage theft, seem pretty straightforward. Raiderettes, for example, were paid $125 per game day but often nothing at all for the other appearances and rehearsals they were required to attend, one suit alleges. Factoring in all those time commitments, cheerleaders were reportedly paid as little as $5 an hour.
Sure, but does this make them any different than say a band that plays out?
The teams say the cheerleaders are “independent contractors,” a designation that would exempt them from minimum-wage laws. The IRS says you can classify an individual as an independent contractor rather than an employee if you have “the right to control or direct only the result of the work” but the worker controls “what will be done and how it will be done.

Yet to look at the rules and contracts required as a condition of cheerleaders’ pay, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that these “independent contractors” had control over anything, really.

The teams set the schedule and location for rehearsal and (often unpaid) promotional and charity appearances. A cheerleader’s hair color, makeup and level of tan-ness are dictated by the teams. In some cases the teams require the “contractors” to patronize specific salons to achieve the desired cosmetological results (and the cheerleaders have to pay for these services out of pocket, which the suits say cost hundreds of dollars each season).
 A band has to show up when the customer wants them to, too.  It might be more convenient to play in the day; but the bars business is at mostly at night. Looked at the price of a good Gibson Les Paul lately?  You might even have to buy better or matching clothes for the band, out of your own funds, of course.
Cheerleaders say they were subjected to weekly weigh-ins or “jiggle tests” to assess whether they jiggled too much (in the wrong places, of course). Raiderettes deemed “too soft” could be benched the next game without pay — but would still be required to attend the entire game and participate in pregame and halftime activities anyway.
What they don't say is who is conducting the jiggle tests and weigh ins.  I doubt very much it's anyone really close to the football team. I suspect it's the head cheerleader or someone like that, probably a woman or several women (they seem to want to avoid individual responsibility) enforcing the standards.

Then there are all the other really bizarre, often retrograde requirements that some teams have to regulate not only the cheerleaders’ professional appearances and performances but their private lives as well.

Here’s a selection of rules from the Buffalo Jills’ handbook, as published on Deadspin. It includes an entire section titled “General hygiene and lady body maintenance,” quoted here with typos intact:

“Do not be overly opinionated about anything.”
I have a sneaking suspicion that this might have been Catherine Rampell's downfall as a cheerleader. And except for opinion writers for newspapers (and bloggers, of course) it's generally good advice; why piss off half your potential clientele over something irrelevant to to job?
“When menstruating, use a product that right for your menstrual flow. A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus build up. Products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.”

“Do not linger in restrooms having conversations and applying make up at length while other people are using the facilities.”

“When you wash, remember where your hands have been while washing, do not transfer dirt or germs to other areas of your body.” . ..
Again, all probably good advice (how the hell would I know?), and probably a bit over the top; I never found anything like that in the Academy of Natural Sciences or Smithsonian Institution's Employee guide, but then, they assumed we were more or less well edumacted people.  And smell was sometimes a problem, especially after a few hours in a salt marsh.
I’m sure plenty of non-opinion-expressing, right-size-tampon-using women would kill for the chance to replace these disgruntled cheerleaders and bounce around in crop-tops before an adoring crowd. But that doesn’t mean employers are entitled to mistreat the lucky few ladies they do hire.
And there we have it.  The women who cheer lead for NFL teams do it primarily for something other than money.  Maybe they just love cheerleading, and they like to dress up and dance.  Maybe they do it for access to the football players (hypergamy and all).
One of the points of labor law is to offer basic protections to workers for whom the balance of power vastly favors employers: people such as migrant farm workers, burger-flippers and, yes, pretty cheerleaders. Even workers who face great competition deserve to be shielded from abuse and exploitation by their bosses — perhaps especially so when those bosses come from a taxpayer-subsidized, multibillion-dollar industry like the NFL.
So, after all that, she's really just another pseudo-socialist trying against all odds to reduce "inequity" by coercion.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I like my cheerleaders, and seeing as how I never pay more than my cable bill to see football, it wouldn't be a lot of skin off my nose if the cheerleader got paid as much as the athletes themselves. But it's not gonna happen.  What controls the wages of cheerleader is two markets; the financial market of the professional football business, in which the cheerleaders are a relatively small factor (I might go to a game to see the cheerleaders for $5, but I'm sure not paying NFL ticket prices to go), and the social market among women who want to be cheerleaders.  Which is a market that is saturated with pretty women wanting to get in regardless of the low wages.  Catherine Rampell would do better to stick to her day job.

Wombat-socho is either a week behind or on time with this weeks massive two weeks worth "Rule 5 Sunday: The Portland Double-Dip Edition."

This is Just Nuts!

I've seen some places with bad bugs on boating trips before, but that is just insane. I'm surprised it didn't kill the boat motor.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fish Kill in Baltimore Harbor

Maryland DNR Investigates Fish Kill in Baltimore Harbor

State officials are investigating a wide-ranging fish kill spotted Monday, stretching from Fells Point in Baltimore harbor out into the Chesapeake Bay. Authorities have yet to pinpoint a cause, though warm weather tends to bring a die-off in local waters almost every year.

Dead fish were seen floating off Fells Point in the city and beyond the Patapsco's mouth at Cox's Point in Essex and near Bodkin Point in northern Anne Arundel County, according to Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. State investigators estimated the kill at "up to 1,000" fish, mainly Atlantic menhaden, said Apperson. But others said the number seemed higher. Educators with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Living Classrooms Foundation also reported seeing dead or dying shad in Baltimore harbor.
. . .
Though unusual because it's so early, this fish kill so far pales in comparison to one that smelled up the Patapsco and parts of the bay a little less than two years ago. Officials estimated that as many as 100,000 fish died in that episode in late May 2012. That spring and summer saw 97 fish kills reported statewide, the most recent year for which figures are available.
. . .
State scientists have seen some algae blooms around the bay already, but breezy, cool weather has generally stirred up the water enough to keep oxygen levels from dropping to dangerous levels for fish, said Bruce D. Michael, resource assessment director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Educators with the two foundations say they sampled the water after seeing dead fish and found oxygen levels were not too low. A water-quality monitor at Masonville Cove off the Middle Branch of the Patapsco showed similar readings, but it did record a spike Monday in levels of chlorophyll, an indicator of algae growth in the water.
David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, said he saw a "pretty extensive algae bloom" a few weeks ago that spread beyond the Inner Harbor.

Others noted that heavy rain nearly two weeks ago turned the waters here and elsewhere around the bay brown with storm runoff, which carried a combination of dirt and those pollutants algae feed upon.

A "pulse" of pollution like that could provide fodder for an algae bloom, said William C. Dennison, a vice president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. All it would take then would be a few sunny spring days warming the water enough to stimulate aquatic plant growth, he said.

Dennison suggested the strong winds last Wednesday may have stirred up the pollution washed into the water by the recent storm, making it available to algae just as warmer, clear weather arrived at the end of last week.

"That's a recipe for fish kills," he said.

For now, though, all agree there's not enough information to say with any certainty what caused this fish kill.

"Our guys …they're baffled," Bond said of Living Classrooms' staff.
It does seem kind of early for a fish kill caused by lack of oxygen, and I don't think we've had the kinds of sudden temperature changes that would cause heat shock or winter kill.  On the other hand, it was Baltimore Harbor, which  still receives a remarkable amount of pollution from an awfully wide variety of sources.

Congratulations on 25 Years of Perpetuating the Patriarchy. . .

Just kidding. To Stacy McCain, on the occasion of he and his wife's 25th wedding anniversary:

25 Years, Sexy Lady!
When I first met Lou Ann, I was living in a one-bedroom apartment south of town on U.S. 41, and the living room walls were decorated with posters for James Bond movies. The first time I had her over for dinner — I cooked hamburger steak, pinto beans and turnip greens with biscuits — we got into a conversation (which is to say, I was lecturing) about how soap operas and romance novels mislead women with totally unrealistic expectations of what love is like. Lou Ann responded by referring to the James Bond posters: “So, that’s realistic?” And I was like, “Hey, you don’t understand. That stuff totally happens. James Bond is a super spy!”

So that’s how I became “Super Spy,” while an old Isley Brothers tune inspired me to nickname Lou Ann “Sexy Lady” . . .
She must be a gem to tolerate you for that long.  I say this with some authority as Georgia and I have a few years on you, having celebrated our 40th last August.

Beach Report: Five Ospreys and a Knife

Georgia and I took a brief semi-respite from the rain to take a quick stroll on the beach.  Upon getting out of the car, an Osprey flew over our head carrying a fish.  Further out, four more were jockeying for space and making osprey noises, all apparently eyeing the same patch of water for a fish of their own.  You can barely see the four in the photo if you click on it to see it full size.
 Georgia watching the Ospreys
It was a pretty short walk, since we couldn't pass the stream at Calvert Beach without getting our feet wet.  Just before leaving the beach, I saw a glint of metal in the surf, and picked this up. A Buck 110T folding field knife. A quick rinse at home removed all the sand; I was surprised how none got stuck in the folding mechanism, and except for a little coloring of the brass bolsters, and a couple very small rust stains on the blade, it's in perfect shape. A bit heavy to carry routinely, though, at 7 ounces.

Rainy Tuesday Obamacare Schadenfreude

A cloudy, rainy day here with at least one more to go.  Appropriate for yet another story about the failed Oregon Obamacare website.

Oregon Make it official, dumps non-performing website in favor of Federal one
The Oregon board overseeing the state’s deeply flawed health insurance exchange unanimously approved the Obama administration’s plan Friday to take over the marketplace, making Oregon the first state to drop its enrollment Web site for

Directors of the exchange, Cover Oregon, voted Friday to drop its enrollment Web site, which hadn’t fully recovered from a failed launch Oct. 1. Oregon, which was awarded $305 million in federal grants to build the exchange, remains the only state not allowing full online enrollment in Affordable Care Act health plans.
Well, you can't expect loggerd to make a working website, can you?

The actual song starts around the 2 minute mark.

Following yesterday's story (or was the the day before?) of how Obamacare is destroying the one doctor practice.  A Doctor's Declaration of Independence - It's time to defy health-care mandates issued by bureaucrats not in the healing profession.
. . .The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dictates that we must use an electronic health record (EHR) or be penalized with lower reimbursements in the future. There are "meaningful use" criteria whereby the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tells us as physicians what we need to include in the electronic health record or we will not be subsidized the cost of converting to the electronic system and we will be penalized by lower reimbursements. Across the country, doctors waste precious time filling in unnecessary electronic-record fields just to satisfy a regulatory measure. I personally spend two hours a day dictating and documenting electronic health records just so I can be paid and not face a government audit. Is that the best use of time for a highly trained surgical specialist?

This is not a unique complaint. A study commissioned by the American Medical Association last year and conducted by the RAND Corp. found that "Poor EHR usability, time-consuming data entry, interference with face-to-face patient care, inefficient and less fulfilling work content, inability to exchange health information between EHR products, and degradation of clinical documentation were prominent sources of professional dissatisfaction."
. . .
We could change the paradigm. We could as a group elect not to take any insurance, not to accept Medicare—many doctors are already taking these steps—and not to roll over time and time again. We have let nearly everyone trespass on the practice of medicine. Are we better for it? Has it improved quality? Do we have more of a voice at the table or less? Are we as physicians happier or more disgruntled then two years ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago?

At 58, I'll likely be retired in 10 years along with most physicians of my generation. Once we're gone, who will speak up for our profession and the individual physician in the trenches? The politicians? Our medical societies? Our hospital administrators? I think not. Now is the time for physicians to say enough is enough.
We're from the government and we're here to help you. But first, fill out this thousand page form, and sign it under penalty of perjury.

Rove not happy with Obamacare white flag
AUSTIN, Texas – Caught on a flight from Washington to Texas Sunday, Karl Rove, the guru of the GOP political establishment, was not pleased with a statement by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, a member of the House Republican leadership team, which sounded like a surrender in the fight to overturn Obamacare.

Asked if the comment by Republican leadership acquiescing to the continuation of the Affordable Care Act was helpful to GOP chances in November, Rove said, “It doesn’t. It absolutely doesn’t.”

Rove had not had a chance to read the article in the Spokane Spokesman-Review that quoted McMorris Rodgers as saying it is unlikely Republicans will kill the Affordable Care Act should they take the Senate and hold the House in November. He indicated he tried to read it when he saw the headline on the Drudge Report but could not access the story because the paper’s servers were overloaded.

“If she’s saying that there are some provisions of the law that are worth keeping, like pre-existing conditions, that makes sense,” said Rove. “Nobody is talking about scrapping everything. There are some things worth keeping.”
A hundred monkeys typing 2000 page just might write something worth keeping, too.

Best Campaign Ad Ever

But I'm a careful voter; I must see her competition for comparison.

Pirate's Cove linked with the weekly "Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup" and links post. Wombat-socho is either a week behind or on time with this weeks massive two weeks worth "Rule 5 Sunday: The Portland Double-Dip Edition."

My Eyes Are Up Here!

Wombat-socho is either a week behind or on time with this weeks massive two weeks worth "Rule 5 Sunday: The Portland Double-Dip Edition."

Monday, April 28, 2014

Good News - Electricity to Get More Expensive, Less Reliable

I've had the first article sitting in the browser for days, just waiting for inspiration. The second just pushed it over the line, although they have similar themes.  Curiously, the first is from the left-wing Los Angeles Times, and the second from the right-winged Heartland Institute.

U.S. electricity prices may be going up for good

One recent study predicts the cost of electricity in California alone could jump 47% over the next 16 years, in part because of the state's shift toward more expensive renewable energy.

"We are now in an era of rising electricity prices," said Philip Moeller, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who said the steady reduction in generating capacity across the nation means that prices are headed up. "If you take enough supply out of the system, the price is going to increase."

In fact, the price of electricity has already been rising over the last decade, jumping by double digits in many states, even after accounting for inflation. In California, residential electricity prices shot up 30% between 2006 and 2012, adjusted for inflation, according to Energy Department figures. Experts in the state's energy markets project the price could jump an additional 47% over the next 15 years.

The problems confronting the electricity system are the result of a wide range of forces: new federal regulations on toxic emissions, rules on greenhouse gases, state mandates for renewable power, technical problems at nuclear power plants and unpredictable price trends for natural gas. Even cheap hydro power is declining in some areas, particularly California, owing to the long-lasting drought.

"Everywhere you turn, there are proposals and regulations to make prices go higher," said Daniel Kish, senior vice president at the Institute for Energy Research. "The trend line is up, up, up. We are going into uncharted territory."

New emissions rules on mercury, acid gases and other toxics by the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to result in significant losses of the nation's coal-generated power, historically the largest and cheapest source of electricity. Already, two dozen coal generating units across the country are scheduled for decommissioning. When the regulations go into effect next year, 60 gigawatts of capacity — equivalent to the output of 60 nuclear reactors — will be taken out of the system, according to Energy Department estimates.
You know what else happens when you reduce the amount of available electricity?  It gets less reliable:

America's Power Grid at the Limit: The Road to Electrical Blackouts
Environmental policies established by Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are moving us toward electrical grid failure. The capacity reserve margin for hot or cold weather events is shrinking in many regions. According to Philip Moeller, Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, “…the experience of this past winter indicates that the power grid is now already at the limit.”

EPA policies, such as the Mercury and Air Toxics rule and the Section 316 Cooling Water Rule, are forcing the closure of many coal-fired plants, which provided 39 percent of US electricity last year. American Electric Power, a provider of about ten percent of the electricity to eastern states, will close almost one-quarter of the firm’s coal-fired generating plants in the next fourteen months. Eighty-nine percent of the power scheduled for closure was needed to meet electricity demand in January. Not all of this capacity has replacement plans.

In addition to shrinking reserve margin, electricity prices are becoming less stable. Natural gas-fired plants are replacing many of the closing coal-fired facilities. Gas powered 27 percent of US electricity in 2013, up from 18 percent a decade earlier. When natural gas is plentiful, its price is competitive with that of coal fuel.

But natural gas is not stored on plant sites like coal. When electrical and heating demand spiked in January, gas was in short supply. Gas prices soared by a factor of twenty, from $5 per million BTU to over $100 per million BTU. Consumers were subsequently shocked by utility bills several times higher than in previous winters.
Electrical blackouts have become far more common now than they were in my youth, though possibly my perception is warped by having grown up in the weatherless regime of Southern California, although I recall similar reliability in NorCal and Oregon.

Shockingly, I blame the government.  Power producers would be happy to produce and sell all the power they could, and produce systems that deliver it reliably and without interruption if they could. However, there is a strain in modern government in the United States that no industry flourish if they can help it.

Certainly the Malthusian enthusiasms of the environmental movement are responsible for a large fraction of this.  No method of power production is good enough, clean enough to satisfy their demands. It's not so much that they love the environment, it's just that they hate humanity.

Cheap, reliable electrical power is most of what separates us from the 19th century. I, for one, don't want to go there.

At the Very Least, a Sandpiper

Fearing the start of the expected rain (which is still some time away), we got out to the beach relatively early, before any other errands. It's still warm, but windy and a bit choppy, and entirely overcast.

Fossil hunting was poor; we managed seven teeth, but none of any great size.
The big event of today (not that big) was the appearance of this little guy; a Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla).
Least Sandpipers are the smallest of the small sandpipers known as “peeps”—not much bigger than a sparrow. They have distinctive yellow-green legs and a high-pitched creep call. Look for them on edges of mudflats or marshes, where they walk with a hunched posture and probe for little crustaceans, insects, and other invertebrates. This common but declining shorebird migrates thousands of miles between its arctic breeding grounds and wintering grounds as far south as Chile and Brazil.
I guess he (or she, to be politically correct) is just stopping by to top off his/her tummy on the way to the Arctic.

MD Charter Boat Hits Submerged Object, Sinks, All OK

42 Foot Charter Boats Headed to Eastern Shore From Ridge Sinks

On Monday, April 28, 2014 two local Charter Fishing Boats the “Eva Marie” and “Gerry C” left Durry’s Marina in Ridge headed to the Eastern Shore for a fishing Trip.

Once the arrived on the Eastern Shore, the 42 foot “Gerry C” struck something in the water causing the propeller to break away from the boat leaving an 18″ hole.

All the crew members and passengers were able to escape prior to the boat sinking.
The water temperature out there is around a chilly 60 F, so it would not be a good time to have to get in the water to flee a sinking boat.

Hitting an underwater obstruction is one of the few serious threats to boating here in the relatively kindly Chesapeake Bay.  Logs float with almost nothing visible, or get stuck in the sediments in shallow water protruding towards the surface.

It's good to hear that they got off the boat without problems, although it's a helluva a way to waste a good fishing day.

Hat tip to Barefoot.

Eine Kleine Obamacareschadenfreude

Facing the start of a 3-4 day rainy period here.  Good for the garden, but not for outdoor photography.

Not much happening in Obamacareschadenfreude, just this article about how Obamacare is hurrying the demise of the single doctor practice:

Obamacare deals blow to one-doctor medicine

Despite the predictions of fortune tellers in politics and think tanks, we won’t know for years whether the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, will ultimately leave people sicker or healthier, richer or poorer.

Yet already the law, coming on top of previous legislation, is speeding the demise of an American small-business institution; the one-doctor medical practice.
Their problems began in the late 1990s. Government cost controls steadily eroded revenues while simultaneously boosting costs, by stacking on requirements for paperwork and accounting.

Some doctors adapted by figuring out ways to see more patients. Others just accepted falling incomes.

Now federal health care policy has delivered a major blow to productivity. In a slow-motion version of the problems that crippled online insurance “exchanges” for months, doctors who see patients under Medicare and Medi-Cal programs have been forced by the phase-in of a 2009 federal "stimulus" law to install expensive, complex software systems that sharply reduce time for patients.

For many doctors, it’s the final straw. Surveys suggest that older physicians are retiring in high numbers. Younger ones are closing practices and taking jobs with integrated health systems. . .
Sure it's driving the doctors out of business and depriving patients of time with their doctors, but it's much so more convenient for the bureaucrats.

Looks Like Fun Doesn't It?

But I'll bet they haven't heard of the man eating dolphins of the Sea of Cortez. Of course, we don't know they eat people; they've never been caught at it. . .

Midnite Music - "Let it Out"

She's even got three Pips.

Wombat-socho is either a week behind or on time with this weeks massive two weeks worth "Rule 5 Sunday: The Portland Double-Dip Edition."

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Today's featured garden visitor was a Nessus Sphinx moth (Amphion floridensis), one of a number of day flying, nectar sipping moths that are often called Hummingbird moths because of the way they hover and sip nectar:

The two bright yellow rings on the abdomen are diagnostic.  

I even shot a short video of it as it zipped from flower to flower.  Some of it's even approximately in focus:


I let Trevor talk me into going fishing this afternoon.  Fishing wasn't quite as good as the last time I went, and the size tended to be a little smaller, but we did catch over 10 fish a piece

As dusk started to fall, Trevor hooked something that didn't fight like a striper.  Eventually he pulled up this nice, slimy stinky (they really do have a different odor) shad.  I don't know my shad well enough to know if its a Hickory Shad, or an American Shad, but whichever, it was the biggest shad I've seen caught at the infamous "Location X."
We did a couple drifts after the sunset, but it was pretty clear the best of the action was over.

Obamacare Schadenfreude - Stop Dragging My Heart Around!

I keep thinking it's time for this thread to die, and talk about something important, like how an Obama supporting, 80 year old millionaire team owner told his black-hispanic girlfriend (he's married) that he'd really rather prefer it if she were to continue sleeping around with the black athletes and entertainers, she should refrain from bringing them to his basketball games and putting them on Instagram. As Glen Reynolds might say, 21st century relationships. . .

But the Obamacare Schadenfreude keeps on coming:

Behind the scenes, much of is still under construction
The Obamacare website may work for people buying insurance, but beneath the surface, is still missing massive, critical pieces — and the deadline for finishing them keeps slipping.

As a result, the system’s “back end” is a tangle of technical workarounds moving billions of taxpayer dollars and consumer-paid premiums between the government and insurers. The parts under construction are essential for key functions such as accurately paying insurers. The longer they lag, experts say, the likelier they’ll trigger accounting problems that could leave the public on the hook for higher premium subsidies or health care costs.

It’s an overlooked chapter in the health care law’s story that has largely escaped scrutiny because consumers aren’t directly affected. Yet it bolsters the Republican narrative that the government has mishandled the implementation of Obamacare. . . 
It's almost like they didn't really expect it to work and expected to replace it with single-payer.

Rand tells docs Dems will be begging for Obamacare cure
Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is predicting that a revolt against Obamacare will pressure congressional Democrats in tough midterm fights into approving GOP-proposed changes to the controversial health insurance mandate.

“I think the Democrats may well beg us for change because they’re getting slaughtered at the polls right now because they said if you like your doctor you can keep him or her and that wasn’t true,” Paul, a former ophthalmologist, told a conclave of eye doctors in Boston yesterday.

“The Democrats will look like they’re trying to do something to fix Obamacare,” he said.

He said Democrats may agree to change the 30-hour-a-week full-time mandate that has prompted some employers to drop workers down to part-time status. He also called for an expansion of health savings accounts, though he conceded it’s unlikely Republicans will ever be able to fully repeal Obamacare.

Paul railed against the red tape created by the more than 130,000 proposed new codes for medical diagnoses during his speech at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

“We’ve turned over health care to people that don’t know the difference between a cataract and a Cadillac,” Paul told the crowd at the annual meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators.
That's what I like about Rand Paul; he's such an optimist.

Obamacare Love And Trepidation As Told On The Websites Of Congressional Democrats
Want to know how Democrats really feel about campaigning on Obamacare? Go to their websites.

The pages touting lawmakers' reelection, or advertising the work they do in the House or Senate, often show how closely they want to associate themselves with the health care law. The Huffington Post undertook the task of looking at those pages for 186 House Democrats up for reelection (we didn't count those who've announced retirements), as well as 20 Democrats running for Senate (including three current House members and a few clear frontrunners who don't currently hold federal office).

The results tell the story of a party still skeptical of the law's political benefits, but overwhelmingly committed to upholding President Barack Obama's signature piece of legislation. . . 

Even the usually reliable pro-Obamacare Washington Post has an article predicting chaos and price increases in the new healthcare markets: Affordable Care Act plans pose actuarial and rate challenges for insurers
. . .“We’re working with about a third of the information that we usually have,” said Brian Lobley, senior vice president of marketing and consumer business at Pennsylvania’s Independence Blue Cross. “We’ve really been combing the data to get a first look.”

At stake are price increases that buyers on the federal exchange,, and other online marketplaces will encounter when they get renewal notices this year. Forecasting success or failure could also affect whether insurers stay on the exchanges, a key pillar of the health overhaul.

The 2014 enrollment period closed at the end of March for most consumers. But carriers selling medical plans on must file initial 2015 rate requests with federal regulators in late May or June — even though they have little idea about the health and potential costs of their newly enrolled members. Deadlines also loom for state-run exchange filings.

WellPoint, the biggest player in the online exchanges, is talking about double-digit rate hikes for 2015. Such increases would give ammunition to Republican critics before the November elections.

Analysts’ expectations vary, but nobody is predicting decreases.
. . .
“It’s still too early to draw conclusions,” said Amy Yao, Blue Shield’s chief actuary. “I have the best actuarial team in the whole country. Even with that, it’s less than 50 percent confidence” that they’ll hit the rate-setting sweet spot for 2015, she said.
And Glen Kessler, the pro-Obmacare fact checker spinner for the Washington Post calls out the Presidents team for spinning the bad news on the demographics of the the enrollment claims:

Spinning Obamacare success: The president highlights a less relevant number
Last summer, in background briefings for the media, the administration set an ambitious goal: 40 percent of the enrollees would be between the ages of 18 and 34. That added up to 2.7 million of the anticipated 7 million enrollees.

But the early numbers for Affordable Care Act were a bit grim, as reporters homed in on the percentage of enrollees between 18 and 34. In February, as the percentage edged up from 24 percent to 27 percent, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touted what she called a “65 percent rate of growth.” (She was counting the increase in the raw number of young-invincible enrollees.) But the percentage stayed stuck at 27 percent in March.

So you can see why there might be some excitement about a figure of 35 percent, as it sounded rather close to the original 40 percent goal. Indeed, the 35 percent figure was first spread a few hours before the president’s remarks by state insurance commissioners, who had met privately with the president at the White House.

“They shared the 35 percent under 35, but no details on that number, and they did not disclose the 18-34 (28 percent) figure during the meeting,” said an official with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

In other words, the stage was set for reporters to zero in on the under-35 number when the president cited it at the start of his news conference. . .
Verdict: Two Pinocchios
Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people.
Mr. President, Stop dragging my heart around!

Avril Puts Her Foot In It

By way of Ann Althouse, news that Avril Lavigne, Pop Princess and one time Rule 5 selection has stirred the wrath of the chronically offended with this new video:

Why? Apparently she's making fun of, or appropriating, or something from Japanese Pop:
Do you not see what's so cliven about it? Well, then, you might want to submit to Vox, the website that explains everything to the point needed by an adequately intelligent but generally pretty busy person:
Stone-faced, expressionless Japanese sidekick dancer ladies? Check. Inexplicable sushi-eating and photo-taking scenes? Check. Centering the song on a weird, creepily sexual dubstep chorus that rhymes "Hello Kitty" with "you're so pretty?" Congratulations, Avril — you've hit some kind of Orientalist Japanese Stereotype trifecta....
Ann isn't buying it, and neither am I. This is the same type of opprobrium that fell on Katy Perry when she did her Geisha themed video at the AMA awards.

So, apparently, white people are only permitted to act like white people, now. But she's French Canadian, so at least she can act like a Canuck too, eh?  I think Avril has the answer to them in this video . . .

More hilarity ensues when Professor Althouse discovers "PonPonPon".

Stacy McCain asks "It’s 2014: Why Aren’t You Racist Yet?"

More Avril below the fold (I keep a few in reserve for "emergencies"):

A Pig and His Salad

And in a few short weeks, they can fry it it up and crumble it over the salad, too!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

That'll Get Your Attention

Another reason not to go boating in thunderstorms.

And Yet Still More Butterflies

A few more.  From yesterday morning, a Henry's Elfin that, unusually enough, landed in the grass long enough to get a pretty decent photo:

And from this afternoon,  the elusive (at least to me) Falcate Orangetip.  A small white butterfly in the "whites and sulfurs" family that can easily be confused with the more common "Cabbage White" (if butterflies have a weed, that's it), the males have distinctive orange wingtips (whoda thunk).  I've gotten better pictures of the females in the past, but never the male.

Finally, a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail came and spent a while sipping nectar from our phlox.

I even tried a short video:

Foreign Policy, 140 Characters at a Time

Ace has a truly epic rant against the tendency of our current administration, and by extension, the liberal establishment, who seems to think that Vladimir Putin can be repulsed in the Ukraine if shown sufficient disapproval in the form of tweets:  

Yeah, that'll send him reeling:

#Unseriousness: While Putin Plans for a Real War in Ukraine, Obama's People Are Focused Like Lasers on Winning the Only War That Matters, the Facebook/Twitter War — Ace
Before getting to the "Promise of Hashtag," let's be clear about the seriousness of this moment: Ukraine's deputy foreign minister said Friday he fears an imminent Russian invasion.
"We have the information we are in danger," Danylo Lubkivsky told reporters at the United Nations.
He spoke as an official in Ukraine confirmed that pro-Russian forces had detained a team of military observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The official said the team would be released after further investigation.
The stakes are high.
How does Obama's Smart Power team meet this moment, as Russia threatens a military campaign to crush the Ukraine?

By waging a Social Media Campaign.
Yes, that's really a State Department spokeswoman, Jan Psaki.
What signals does such a message send?

First, that Obama is not actually concerned with deterring Russia from invading Ukraine, but rather that he is only interested in being seen as being concerned about it.

If Putin didn't already know before (and frankly I doubt he didn't), this "response" by the U.S. State Department tells him that Obama has no permanent alliances, only permanent interests, and that permanent interest is pretending at strength for domestic political purposes.

He doesn't care what it means for the future or the world if Russia takes Ukraine. He only cares about what it might mean for the morale of his disciples and the November elections.

Obama is practically begging Putin to give him some sort of face-saving political cover to benefit Obama and Obama alone -- in exchange for which he'll let Putin have the Ukraine.

Actually, he'll let Putin have the Ukraine even if Putin doesn't offer him that. That's the "begging" part of it.
. . .
Can you imagine what a hard-headed, black-hearted old KGB spy thinks when he looks out at America and sees it conducting foreign policy via a time-wasting medium primarily popular with 12 year old schoolgirls?

This is exactly the sort of feeble (and feeble-minded) response that Reagan termed "provocative weakness."

It is better to be a weakling and say nothing at all than to open one's Twitter account and remove all doubt.

Update (AP): Actual quote from the State Department’s actual spokesman: “They have not been following their hashtag with actions.”




Ace has another rant worth reading on the Ukraine which posted immediately after this one: "F*** the EU," Revisited
"F*** the EU," top State official Victoria Nuland said on a phone call.
This phone call had been covertly recorded by Russia and was then leaked to the press, which should have been a signal that Russia, at least, was taking this more seriously than Obama's team was.
The F-bomb is deployed because Nuland’s frustrated that the EU isn’t doing more to pressure Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin-backed Ukrainian president whose recent deal with Moscow instigated the last few months of protests.
Why wasn't the EU doing "more" to pressure Yanukovych, Putin's choice for President?
Here's the thing: Because the EU was thinking hard about the Ukraine and realistically about itself.

The EU didn't want to force Yanukovych out of power, nor encourage the Maidan movement to force him out of power, because they knew that Russia would react as Russia has in fact reacted.

And the EU knew this about themselves: They were not prepared to do a damn thing about a Russian invasion.

So the EU made a cynical, self-serving decision to not encourage or support the Maidan movement, because they knew they would not be doing anything down the road to support the Maidan movement when the movement actually needed support.
. . .
And what has the US done, by contrast?
We encouraged the Maidan protestors to hit the gas pedal on their revolution, but as Russia has done all the things that only a child could fail to predict that Russia would do, we have been surprised at every turn by the inevitable.

Now this got Obama some good press in February, back when supporting Maidan seemed like the right move for American Social Media Foreign Policy, and was, at that moment, a cost-free gesture.

But now the check is coming due, and what do we do to support the revolution we encouraged?

We offer Tweets.

UPDATE: From Smitty at The Other McCain - Guess Which Clip Is The U.S. State Dept?