Thursday, December 31, 2015

Boaters Survive Capsizing in Cold Potomac

Survivors From Capsized Vessel Incident Reunite with Rescuers
Two survivors of a Dec. 20 capsized vessel incident were reunited with their rescuers Wednesday at Coast Guard Station Annapolis.

Brad Stemcosky and Charlie Frend met with responders from the Coast Guard, Maryland State Police, Maryland Natural Resources Police and Saint Mary’s County.

Stemcosky and Frend, both of whom are experienced boaters, got caught in inclement weather, resulting in their boat taking on water and capsizing.

The two men spent approximately 75 minutes in the 50-degree waters of the Potomac River. They were wearing their life jackets when their boat capsized. Stemcosky had a handheld radio, which he used to call mayday.
Damn, that's a long time in 50 degree water. 

Watchstanders from Coast Guard Sector Baltimore‘s command center received the initial mayday calls and they dispatched a Maryland State Police aviation unit, a boat crew from Coast Guard Station St. Inigoes and a boat crew from the St. Mary’s County 2nd District Volunteer Fire Department Rescue Squad.

The Coast Guard watchstanders vectored in the Maryland State Police helicopter crew, who located the survivors, and they directed the boat crew from St. Mary’s County Fire Department on scene to rescue the men.

“It was an outstanding job by all agencies involved,” said Cmdr. Michael Keane, the chief of response for Sector Baltimore. “Brad and Charlie are good, prudent mariners and their efforts in ensuring they had the right safety gear, wearing their life jackets and having a handheld VHF radio was critical in ensuring we had the ability to coordinate all these resources to go and save them in a timely manner. I’m very pleased — this was an outstanding response and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
A while back I reported that we seemed to be headed towards a record number of  boating fatalities in Maryland this year. While I haven't heard of any new ones since then, we've probably gone well over the mark by now. It's good to see the rescue folks win one. Now, maybe I should buy that hand held radio.

DOJ Declines to Prosecute VA Fraudsters

Department of Justice declines to prosecute VA executives for using their official positions for their own financial benefit even after the Inspector Generals recommends their prosecution

Not Cleaning house: Justice Dept. won’t press charges against disgraced VA execs
We seem to be nearing the end of the saga of Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves, the two Veterans Administration executives who were found to have gamed the system for plumb positions and generous relocation payments, though it’s probably not the outcome many government watchdogs may have wished. Not too long ago, Ed covered the story of how VA officials were reluctant to fire people accused of such misbehavior, regardless of how egregious the charges may be. Shortly after that, the policy was explained by Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson who said, “You can’t fire your way to excellence.”

But surely when you get a referral to prosecute someone at the federal level, that’s the tipping point, right? Once the review is finished and your own watchdogs have sent the case over to the Justice Department to have them prosecuted, it’s time to turn the screws. As it turns out… not so much. (Government Executive)

The Justice Department will not pursue criminal charges against two former Veterans Affairs senior executives accused of using their positions of authority for personal gain.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia declined a referral for criminal prosecution from the VA watchdog related to Diana Rubens, former director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Philadelphia office, and Kimberly Graves, former director of VBA’s St. Paul, Minn., regional office…
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has notified the VA’s Office of the Inspector General of this decision and referred the matter to the VA for any administrative action that is deemed appropriate,” the office said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has no further comment on this investigation.”
This seems a good time to remind everyone of precisely how Sloan Gibson approached this question from the beginning.
“I’m not going to recommend, I’m not going to propose a disciplinary action that is based upon media coverage, or an opinion that is expressed in the IG report, if it is not supported by the evidence,” he said, adding that he knew his decision not to fire Rubens and Graves wasn’t going to “sit well, with virtually everybody.”
He’s not going to go around taking action based on an opinion expressed by the Inspector General’s office. Then why is it exactly that we have an office of the Inspector General in all the various cabinet departments in the first place? Their “opinions” are not worth the paper they are printed on, apparently, and can simply be disregarded. Of course, turning a report of misconduct over to the Justice Department these days doesn’t seem to be a very productive course of action anyway, so perhaps Sloan is on to something here.
You know, if the the VA were a fantastic humming machine, delivering its services expeditiously and well, I might allow a couple of errant supervisors to retire gracefully, rather than face the music.

But to neither fire the offenders nor prosecute obvious offenses seems like a slap in the face, not only to veterans, but to those federal workers who actually do their job while abiding by all most of the rules.

Justice; I don't think that word means what you think it means.

I Hate Colds

They are the closest thing to a Romero type zombie disease. They turn you into a mean spirited, dull witted shambling hulk, emitting various highly infectious fluids, capable of inflicting the syndrome on fellow humans with a touch, a breath, a cough or a sneeze. The only good part is that you don't hunger for brains (merely sweet things and hot liquids) and it's usually over with no further ill effects in a week or so.

Georgia and I both came down with colds on Monday this week. We think we acquired this on Christmas day at dinner with friends. One of them had a bad cold, and although we maintained all the proper precautions, it seems likely that the virus jumped to us.

On Sunday night, we both remarked on mild sore throats, but by Monday morning it was clear that some virus or another was making us its host, and since then our symptoms have progressed more or less in parallel, runny noses, then coughs which have gotten deeper and more croup like. Neither of us are experiencing any remarkable aches or pains, just a general malaise and lack of energy. Skye II is very resentful that we don't want to get out more.

We have stopped going to exercise, more to avoid infecting everyone else that because of the lack of energy, but I can't say that didn't make the decision easier.

The common cold is no common virus, rather it is the symptoms of a large number of different viruses (the plural viri or virii are the result of in incorrect interpretation of Latin):
 The most commonly implicated virus is a rhinovirus (30%–80%), a type of picornavirus with 99 known serotypes. Other commonly implicated viruses include human coronavirus (≈15%), influenza viruses (10%–15%), adenoviruses (5%),human respiratory syncytial virus, enteroviruses other than rhinoviruses, and metapneumovirus. Frequently more than one virus is present. In total over 200 different viral types are associated with colds.
This explains why one person can get "the cold" over and over. Even with full immunity to the viruses you previously suffered through (not always true), there are plenty more to go around, and once the population "herd" immunity drops below some critical level, it can propagate through the population again. It also explains why kids get so many more colds than adults (other than their disgusting hygiene); they simply aren't immune to a lifetime's worth of colds.

How do you catch a cold?
The common cold virus is typically transmitted via airborne droplets (aerosols), direct contact with infected nasal secretions, or fomites (contaminated objects). Which of these routes is of primary importance has not been determined; however, hand-to-hand and hand-to-surface-to-hand contact seems of more importance than transmission via aerosols. The viruses may survive for prolonged periods in the environment (over 18 hours for rhinoviruses) and can be picked up by people's hands and subsequently carried to their eyes or nose where infection occurs.
So, basically, anything you touch that a zombie another sick person has touched can give you a cold. Strict hygiene and hand washing can help, but it's damned hard to keep that up 100%. If Romero style zombies spread that easily, zombie movies would be about 10 minutes long.

Was your Mom right; should you wear warm clothes outside to avoid a cold?
The traditional folk theory is that a cold can be "caught" by prolonged exposure to cold weather such as rain or winter conditions, which is how the disease got its name. Some of the viruses that cause the common colds are seasonal, occurring more frequently during cold or wet weather. The reason for the seasonality has not been conclusively determined. This may occur due to cold-induced changes in the respiratory system, decreased immune response, and low humidity increasing viral transmission rates, perhaps due to dry air allowing small viral droplets to disperse farther and stay in the air longer.

It may be due to social factors, such as people spending more time indoors, near an infected person,  and specifically children at school. There is some controversy over the role of low body temperature as a risk factor for the common cold; the majority of the evidence suggests that it may result in greater susceptibility to infection
So, while she may have had a point, going outside was probably better for you, just because of diminished exposure to sick people. Half a point to Mom.

Are there any other ways to avoid a cold?
Zinc supplements may help to reduce the prevalence of colds. Routine vitamin C supplements do not reduce the risk or severity of the common cold, though they may reduce its duration. Gargling with water was found useful in one small trial.
I'm a trace metal biologist/chemist, and I'm not convinced by zinc. What does that tell you?

So, you have a cold. What can you do but wait it out? I'm afraid the news isn't too good.

No medications or herbal remedies have been conclusively demonstrated to shorten the duration of infection. Treatment thus comprises symptomatic relief. Getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to maintain hydration, and gargling with warm salt water are reasonable conservative measures. Much of the benefit from treatment is, however, attributed to the placebo effect.
 If you think they help you, they probably aren't doing much harm.
Treatments that help alleviate symptoms include simple analgesics and antipyretics such as ibuprofen  and acetaminophen/paracetamol. Evidence does not show that cough medicines are any more effective than simple analgesics and they are not recommended for use in children due to a lack of evidence supporting effectiveness and the potential for harm.  In 2009, Canada restricted the use of over-the-counter cough and cold medication in children six years and under due to concerns regarding risks and unproven benefits. In adults there is insufficient evidence to support the use of cough medications. The misuse of dextromethorphan (an over-the-counter cough medicine) has led to its ban in a number of countries.
 Those shelves lined with cold treatments? Mostly a waste of money.
In adults antihistamines may improve symptoms in the first day or two; however, there is no longer-term benefit and they have adverse effects such as drowsiness. 
Drowsiness is an adverse affect? Sleeping is one way to pass the time. . .
Other decongestants such as pseudoephedrine are effective in adults. Ipratropium nasal spray may reduce the symptoms of a runny nose but has little effect on stuffiness.
Due to lack of studies, it is not known whether increased fluid intake improves symptoms or shortens respiratory illness, and there is a similar lack of data for the use of heated humidified air. One study has found chest vapor rub to provide some relief of nocturnal cough, congestion, and sleep difficulty.
 So you go the doctor for some antibiotics, right?
Antibiotics have no effect against viral infections or against the viruses that cause the common cold.  Due to their side effects, antibiotics cause overall harm but are still frequently prescribed. Some of the reasons that antibiotics are so commonly prescribed include people's expectations for them, physicians' desire to help, and the difficulty in excluding complications that may be amenable to antibiotics. There are no effective antiviral drugs for the common cold even though some preliminary research has shown benefits.
Mostly a waste of doctor's time, your (or your insurance companies) money, and risking the rest of the world with possible increased antibiotic resistance. But once in a while you might stave off a nasty secondary bacteria infection.
While there are many alternative treatments used for the common cold, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the use of most.  As of 2010 there is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against honey. As of 2015 there is tentative evidence to support nasal irrigation.  Zinc has been used to treat symptoms, with studies suggesting that zinc, if taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, reduces the duration and severity of the common cold in otherwise healthy people. Due to wide differences between the studies, further research may be needed to determine how and when zinc may be effective. Whereas zinc lozenges may produce side effects, there is only a weak rationale for physicians to recommend zinc for the treatment of the common cold. Some zinc remedies directly applied to the inside of the nose have led to the loss of the sense of smell.
Georgia is a believer in the zinc hypothesis, and did a full course of zinc lozenges over the first three days. I gave up after a few the first day. Our colds are still progressing in parallel. I worry about the loss of smell side affect.
Vitamin C's effect on the common cold, while extensively researched, is disappointing, except in limited circumstances: specifically, individuals exercising vigorously in cold environments. There is no firm evidence that Echinacea products provide any meaningful benefit in treating or preventing colds. It is unknown if garlic is effective. A single trial of vitamin D did not find benefit.
If you eat enough garlic, you won't be around enough people to get sick, right? Unless they're Italian (or maybe Chinese).

So, once you have your cold, you might as well stick around home to avoid infecting others, stay hydrated (does liquor count?), bundle up, and binge watch something on TV until it goes away.

WTF Happened in 2015?

According to Ozzyman. NSFW language.

And about those Albanians:

Science Becoming More Bombastic

Study: hyperbole is increasing in science
From Nature:

‘Novel, amazing, innovative’: positive words on the rise in science papers

Analysis suggests an increasing tendency to exaggerate and polarize results.
Philip Ball

Scientists have become more upbeat in describing their research, an analysis of papers in the PubMed database suggests.

Researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands say that the frequency of positive-sounding words such as ‘novel’, ‘amazing’, ‘innovative’ and ‘unprecedented’ has increased almost nine-fold in the titles and abstracts of papers published between 1974 and 2014. There has also been a smaller — yet still statistically significant — rise in the frequency of negative words, such as ‘disappointing’ and ‘pessimistic’.

While the study is only in the life sciences and biomedical literature, I certainly observed the same thing happen in the environmental field. The more people competing for limited resources, the more outlandish the claims need to be to rise above the hum.

BTW, the word bombastic comes from Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus Von Hohenheim, known more succinctly by the name he chose himself, Paracelsus (above or beyond Celsus). He wasn't exactly a shrinking violet when it came to claims of importance. He did, however, contribute greatly to the conversion of alchemy to chemistry and the modernization of medicine.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Romp Around the News with Wombat-socho

The Wombat is back in news business with the recent resumption of his more or less regular "Live at Five" post. An interesting collection of news you might not run into in your daily paper or your chosen network, and I'll focus on the things I find interesting or amusing. From today's "LIVE AT FIVE: 12.30.15":

MISSOURI ASKS RIVERBANK RESIDENTS TO MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND AS FLOODING CONTINUES - Residents of several states have paid an extremely high price for the warm, wet weather we've been enjoying.

Carrier Harry S. Truman Has Close Call With Iranian Rockets - In my world, the Iranians would just have had a close call with an American aircraft carrier.

Elodie Yung
ELODIE YUNG HEATS UP DAREDEVIL‘S SEASON 2 AS ELEKTRA - Might have to binge watch this one.

Norks’ Top Official In Charge Of ROK Relations Dies In Car Crash - I suppose it's remotely possible for a top North Korean official to die "accidentally", but I wouldn't want to put real money on it.

Texas asks Supreme Court not to review immigration case - I guess they don't feel confident of Justice Kennedy's opinion.

Former NY Governor Pataki Drops Out Of GOP Race - Who?

O’Malley’s Iowa Event Draws One Voter - Why so many?

Crude Slumps Towards $37 As Weak Outlook Prevails: - Yep, and gas is under $2 a gallon here. The Saudies are trying to kill fracking, and only partly succeeding. In the meantime, the rest of us are saving money.

Home Prices In Twenty U.S. Cities Rose In November - Mostly on the left coast.

Buffett Subsidiary Faces Renewed Misconduct Claims - Noted rich guy and democrat accused of taking advantage of minorities in "manufactured homes" sales.

Sonni Pacheco, the ex-Mrs. Renner.
Jeremy Renner Finalizes Divorce, Will Pay $13K+/Month In Child Support - Avengers star has revenge taken for poor marriage choice.

Whole Foods Pays $500K To Settle Pricing Dispute - With gross profits of about $5 billion (with a "b") in 2015, that's around 20 minutes work.

DuPont To Cut 1700 Jobs In January - Uncle Dupy has been a solid supporter of environmental science in the past few years, mostly as a result of their pollution in the previous 50.
Jobs to be cut include 80 percent of the 250 scientific professional positions in DuPont's Central Research and Development unit, though some of the Ph.D. principal investigators and their associate investigators may escape layoffs and be reassigned to product groups where most DuPont scientists now work. The scientists expect to learn their fate Jan. 4.
Rocco Says Madonna Treated Him As A Trophy, Not A Son - She's so sweet! But then, he's a teenager and presumptively a jerk.

Thousands In Scotland Without Power As Storm Strikes - How's that wind power working now?

Al-Qaeda Training Camps Reappearing In Afghanistan? - Remember how Obama said that Afghanistan was the "right war" that we were ignoring? Statement expired.

Burkina Faso’s First New President In Decades Sworn In - A small, and rare victory for representative government. I had to look this up to remind myself that it used to be called "Upper Volta".

Russia Names Chechen As Mastermind Behind Nemtsov Assassination; Cover-up Suspected - Suspected?
Diane Lane

Bloggy Stuff

EBL: Nature Vs. Nurture - Starring Diane Lane
3. Be more open-minded to only ideas I agree with.
Proof Positive: In Defense Of Samuel L. Jackson - Just saying what all the liberals were thinking.

Twitchy: Baltimore Leads 2015 With Highest Murder Rate Per Capita; 23 Were Children - To quote Insty quoting someone else:
"What I love about the Obama era is all the racial healing"

"Sara Winter"

American Thinker: Clinton’s Bimbo Eruptions Vs. Trump’s “Sexism” - No comparison. See Katherine Timpf (that goofy girl on the Greg Gutfeld show) ‘I will not stop talking about this’

Conservatives4Palin: The Democrats’ Theme For 2016 Is Totalitarianism - The rush to repeal the first and second amendments this year has been unprecedented.

The Gateway Pundit: Breaking Poll – 40% Of Blacks Back Trump, 45% Of Hispanics - Somehow I'm not shocked. They aren't any smarter than most people.

The almost always sensible Megan McArdle: The Force Awakens Has A Perfection Problem - Of course Rey is a Mary-Sue. Almost all women characters are Mary-Sues. Only men have flaws.
Abrams has replicated the structure of that story, but he has forgotten to give the other two main characters any actual reason to be there. Ten minutes of rewrite could have removed them entirely without significantly damaging the plot.
The Lonely Conservative: Video – 2015, The Year Students Went Completely Insane 
Grabien put together this video montage showing how US college students went completely insane in the year 2015. Hopefully none of those appearing here are going to be future US leaders, if so the country is doomed.
To be fair, the same thing happened back in the 60's. Maybe it's a solar cycle or something.

Wombat-socho has the ginormous "Rule 5 Sunday: Happy New Year!" ready for browsing at The Other McCain.

The First and Last 100 Days of the Next Clinton Presidency?

Smitty at The Other McCain outlines a scenario by which Hillary will win the election, only to resign in the first year, to be replaced by a VP of Barack Obama's choice: This Blog Gives Her Majesty 90 Days In Office #HillaryClintonHealthConspiracies

Let me lay out a few thoughts.

Her Majesty and BHO are bound by Benghazi, though 13 Hours might change that situation.
  1. BHO is concerned about his “legacy” (I’ll wait while you vomit).
  2. Her Majesty only really cares about being sworn in as POTUS. Past the pomp & circumstance, actually carrying out the office could prove a Royal Bore.
  3. She actually has enough health issues to make a full administration problematic.
  • She ran interference for BHO over Benghazi in 2012, when the truth kryptonite would have wilted Superwimp.
  • BHO runs legal interference, stifling any proper Benghazi inquiry for her campaing, with the proviso that she permit him to name the VP (Corey Booker? Deval Patrick), who is really going to be the President anyway.
  • Her majesty enjoys the first 100 days of honeymoon, so that she doesn’t look as bad as William Henry Harrison.
  • Then she retires for medical reasons, securing the Obama legacy.
Like alcoholism, diabetes, head trauma or menopausal "don't give a shits"?
Note that this is a Trump-free conspiracy theory. I still maintain that he is a mercenary, building up a large voter base to sell to whoever is writing the fattest check. If Hillary, he goes independent, or takes the GOP nomination and his speeches start giving it the Full Tarantino until the GOP implodes entirely.
Tin foil hat mask territory? Maybe, but stranger things have happened.

Studying Tangier Island to Death

On the Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island Is Drowning In Red Tape
. . .Tangier Mayor James Ooker Eskridge has been giving tours and talking with the media for years. But today he has the eyes and ears of Norfolk Army Corps of Engineers newest district commander, Colonel Jason Kelly.”

“Has that been the plan, I mean really just retreat is that the way over the years you handle the erosion. Just relocate?”

“Yup. Yeah, there used to be a community up here and I don't know how many families that lived up here and they had a schoolhouse up there. The other community out here and they're all under water now.”

Later, at Tangier's school auditorium, nearly half the town came to hear news of the jetty and breakwaters. Three years ago Gov. Bob McDonnell was here to celebrate funding for the jetty project. What islanders misunderstood was the money was for a study. Today, the Corps was announcing the study was nearly complete. The jetty won't be built for another two years. Tangier school teacher Duane Crockett expressed the town's frustration.

“What is there left to study, we are washing away. I've contacted every state official. Every national official that I know to get in contact with concerning this.” . . .
Mankind has been building jetties to hold back the sea for millennia. The Romans and Carthaginians were well known for it. The amount of study required for such a structure should be minimal by now.

But money spent on studies goes to well connected constituencies; the Army Corp, the engineering firms, the environmental effects groups in industry and academe. Money for building jetties just goes for rocks and constructions companies, and the burly men who drive the barges and operate the heavy equipment. And they mostly vote the wrong way.

Wednesday Fishing Video

Darcizzle takes on a big Tarpon.

Linked at Pirate's Cove in the weekly "Sorta Blogless Pinup" and links. Wombat-socho has the ginormous "Rule 5 Sunday: Happy New Year!" ready for browsing at The Other McCain.


Pataki about to drop 2016 bid

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

EPA Disapproves of MD Pollution Trading Plans

Or at least it's house organ, the Bay Journal* does: Maryland moves toward trading, as many watch warily
When Larry Hogan bested Anthony Brown to become the third Republican governor of Maryland in half a century, environmentalists were concerned about who he might choose to lead the Maryland Department of the Environment. Many breathed a sigh of relief when Hogan appointed Ben Grumbles to the top job at MDE.

Grumbles, a career environmental regulator, had spent five years as assistant administrator for water at the EPA. Prior to that, Grumbles, an attorney, had a nearly two-decade career on Capitol Hill and had also served as Arizona’s top environmental official.

In Grumbles, the environmental community was getting a secretary who understood the complexity of regulation, knew the law, and could work with a Republican Administration to get the money and support needed to enforce the law.

But one issue troubled some in the environmental community. They suspected Grumbles was in favor of nutrient trading and would soon push a policy that outlined how Maryland would enter into such a market.
And why does the environmental community oppose it?
At its core, trading means that polluters can “pay” to pollute by offsetting their pollution with credits they buy from others who are polluting less than they are allowed to under requirements. So, for example, a Baltimore power plant that cannot meet its emissions permits without a significant investment can instead invest a sum in, say, buffer strips on an Eastern Shore farm. It may also be that the buffer strip, or the bioreactor, or whatever the practice is, actually can reduce more pollution more cheaply than the power plant can following its permit to the letter.

Critics say that’s the problem. Such a trade is excellent news for the Eastern Shore residents who get to look at a new stand of trees and cleaner water. It’s not quite as rosy for the Baltimore children who have to breathe more dirty air.
The problem is freedom. Having polluter choose who has to make the most reductions using market forces just bugs the EJWs (Environmental Justice Warriors). They much prefer the top down approach where they get to tell someone to stop producing. Never mind that you get the same amount of pollution reduction over all.
*Publication is made possible through grants from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office, the Campbell Foundation for the Environment, the Town Creek Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chesapeake Bay Office, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and by donations from individuals. Views expressed in the Bay Journal do not necessarily reflect those of any governmental or grant-making organization.
And if you believe that final sentence, I'd be happy to sell you a carbon credit.

Not Feelin' the Bern

The always, usually, almost invariably sensible Megan McArdle politely dismantles a typically ignorant economic "argument" by Bernie Sanders: Bernienomics 101
The day after Christmas, Bernie Sanders asked a question on Twitter: “You have families out there paying 6, 8, 10 percent on student debt but you can refinance your homes at 3 percent. What sense is that?”

Finance types may snicker. But I’ve seen this question asked fairly often, and it seems worth answering, respectfully, for people whose expertise and interest lie outside the realm of economics.

The short answer is: “Loans are not priced in real life the way they are in Sunday School stories.” In a Sunday School story, the cheapest loans would go to the nicest people with the noblest use for the money: single mothers who need money to buy their kids a Christmas present, say.

That’s splendid for the recipient. But what about the lender? Let’s say you had $150 that you really needed to have at the end of the month, say to pay your rent. Would you want to lend it to the single mother whose income is stretched so tight that she needs to borrow money for Christmas presents, or would you want to lend it to some heartless leech of a securities litigator with an 800 credit rating who happens to have left his wallet at home? C’mon. You know the answer; you just don’t want to say it. If you really need the money -- if you cannot afford to turn your loan into a gift -- then you lend it to the better credit risk with the higher income, not the person who may find themselves too short to pay you when the loan comes due. . . 
Found via Wombat-socho's "LIVE AT FIVE: 12.29.15"

Now I guess I should stop Bernie bashing, since he is unlikely to win the nomination.

Morning Music? - "Call of the Mountain"

I like folk, I like (some) metal, but folk metal?

Eluveitie (/ɛlˈveɪti/ el-vay-ti) is a Swiss folk metal band from Winterthur, Zurich, founded by Chrigel Glanzmann. The band was formed in 2002 and their first EP, Vên, was released in 2003. Vên was a studio project of Glanzmann's, but its success led to the recruitment of a full band. They describe themselves as "The new wave of folk metal" . . .

Eluveitie use traditional instruments amidst guitars and both clean and harsh vocals. The lyrics are often in the extinct ancient language Gaulish. The name of the band comes from graffiti on a vessel from Mantua (ca. 300 BC). The inscription in Etruscan letters reads eluveitie, which has been interpreted as the Etruscan form of the Celtic (h)elvetios (“the Helvetian”), presumably referring to a man of Helvetian descent living in Mantua.

Insane if True

This law California just passed may signal the END of our Republic.
As the late Chicago columnist Mike Royko said as far back as 1979, “If it babbles and its eyeballs are glazed, it probably comes from California.”

Apparently, not much has changed. California has passed a number of laws to take effect January 1st, and while some of them are disconcerting to say the least, there is one in particular that is downright jaw-dropping.

As Breitbart reports, high school students will no longer have to actually pass high school to receive a diploma. This takes the participation trophy concept to a new disgusting low.

SB 172 says: High school seniors will receive their diploma whether or not they pass or even take an exit exam; the law also applies retroactively to students who have graduated since 2004.”
So just hang in there, kids. Well, high school diplomas haven't been worth much for a while, anyway.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Maryland May Slow Roll Oyster Restoration

State seeks to delay Eastern Shore oyster restoration
The state of Maryland is seeking to put the brakes on an oyster restoration project on the Eastern Shore, dismaying environmentalists who fear a delay could hinder efforts to boost oyster populations.

Earlier this year, crews began building artificial reefs on the Tred Avon River in Talbot County to provide new homes for lab-created baby oysters. The work is planned to continue until there are enough new reefs to support a thriving oyster population.

But Department of Natural Resources officials confirmed Thursday that they are asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of putting down rock to create the reefs, to place the project on hold.

The state first wants to finish an overall review of oyster restoration efforts, expected to be completed in July, according to DNR spokesman Stephen Schatz.
OMG, they want to find out if it's working before they dump more money into it? Government isn't supposed to work like that!
Officials with the Corps of Engineers could not be reached for comment Thursday. Federal employees worked a half-day for the Christmas Eve holiday.

The possibility of a delay has worried the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Officials there were under the impression that oyster restoration work would keep going even as the state's review of oyster projects was conducted.
Back in the good old days, we scientists tended to be strongly in favor of actually monitoring restoration efforts. Of course, that was because we expected to be paid to do it.

New Dam Bill Would Affect Chesapeake

An energy bill moving through Congress could strip Maryland of its rig
hts under the Clean Water Act to require a permit for Exelon Energy Corporation to operate the Conowingo Dam, which discharges 40% of all the nutrient and sediment pollution into the Chesapeake Bay from the Susquehanna River.

"[The bill] would strip states of their authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to develop license conditions to protect water quality," wrote Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles in a Nov. 25 letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opposing the bill.
. . .
Under the proposed North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would become the lead agency, with the authority to overrule state regulators.

The bill comes as Exelon is trying to renew its operating license with FERC for another 46 years, but under Section 401, FERC cannot issue a license to Exelon without a water quality permit from Maryland.
An amusing twist on the usual state's rights arguments. In this case, the state wants to continue to have the right to impose special conditions on the dam to ensure their own environmental objectives, and is afraid the feds might not make that a priority:
Last year Maryland Department of the Environment moved to deny Exelon a water quality permit when the energy giant failed to address the dam's impact on the state's ability to comply with an EPA mandate to meet Clean Water Act standards for the Bay by 2025. Exelon is currently operating under a temporary license.

"Maryland's interest in protecting water quality is as important and relevant today as ever, particularly now as FERC considers the relicensing of the Conowingo hydroelectric dam," Grumbles wrote. "The Susquehanna River provides approximately 50 percent of the fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay and is an important driver of the Bay's water quality."

"Without appropriate conditions Maryland may not be able to meet its commitment to achieve EPA's Total Maximum Daily Load [reductions] for Chesapeake Bay," Grumbles wrote. 
Conowingo is a major point of debate in the battle over the Bay Diet. Farmers like to point to the fact that a substantial fraction of the Bay's nutrient pollution washes over the dam on it's way south. This is hardly the dam's fault, except that because it has filled up in recent years, and it's retention capacity for sediment has essentially been reached. If the dam weren't there at all, there would be no such capacity. At the same time, the regulators would rather focus on agriculture than the dam (and sewage, and urban storm water) because the farmers will have to pay for their own costs and the cities will need (or at least expect) federal funds.

Lingering 0bamacare Schadenfreude

Is it realy the final Obamacare Schadenfreude for 2015? Stay tuned.

Obamacare plans put big dent in customers' wallets
A new study reveals that many Obamacare customers pay more than 10 percent of their incomes toward coverage. And the share of income eaten up can be much greater for some people, particularly if they use a lot of health services under their plan.

One in 10 Obamacare customers who earn between just two and five times the federal poverty level will have coverage costs that exceed 21 percent of their incomes, an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute found.

And the median Obamacare customer who earns in that range spends more than 10 percent of their income on monthly premiums and out-of-pocket health expenses, the analysis found.
If only someone had warned them. . .

Combining news and O-Care Schadenfreude: Hillary Admits Obamacare Means People Lose Full-Time Jobs

If only someone had warned them. . .

More in-depth analysis at HotAir.

Major Insurance Company Abandons Obamacare
Obamacare received a major blow this week when Cleveland-based insurance company HealthSpan announced it will no longer sell Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans, is disbanding its physicians' network, and has notified its brokers it will stop paying commissions for small group and individual customers.

According to HealthSpan spokesman Chuck Heald, the ACA was a big money loser for the company:
HealthSpan will stop selling individual and small-group health plans on the ACA's exchanges to focus more on Medicare and employer plans, Heald said. HealthSpan jacked up premium rates for 2016 individual and small-group plans anywhere from 9% to 32% to account for the sicker-than-expected exchange population. HealthSpan also had to pay more than $17 million into the ACA's risk-adjustment program in 2014, which did not fit into its original forecast, and the insurer has estimated another $19 million in risk-adjustment payments to the government for 2015.
HealthSpan, which insured 166,600 ACA customers as of Sept. 30, has already laid off some of its employees responsible for servicing those accounts.
If only someone had warned them. . .

Administration spin turn signup failure into success: Federal Health-Insurance Exchanges See Nearly Six Million Apply for 2016 Coverage
Nearly six million people have signed up for 2016 insurance coverage on the federal exchanges since the November start of open enrollment, a pace that Obama administration officials said Friday outstrips last year’s and indicates the health law’s success.

Analysts had been concerned that higher premiums and deductibles might scare off new enrollees. But, according to the administration, 2.4 million of the roughly six million people who signed up as of Dec. 17 were new customers. Administration officials said that is about a third more than had signed up last year ahead of the deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1.
That's good right?
Sign-up trends are still below earlier projections, and the goals set by the architects of the law. When the law passed, more than 20 million people were expected to have coverage through the exchange by 2016, according to initial projections from the Congressional Budget Office. On Friday, the administration said it wasn’t ready to comment on whether the 10 million projection will be revised.

“I am still feeling concerned about low enrollment this year,” said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at Avalere Health. “Surely, the administration will hit its 10 million goal, but I am not sure enrollment will be a lot higher. I am not ready to call this a big success,” she said.
If only someone had warned them. . .

Monday Morning Mistake

Hot girl web cam dance fail
Posted by Humor on Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I hate when that happens; how about you?

Wombat-socho has the ginormous "Rule 5 Sunday: Happy New Year!" ready for browsing at The Other McCain.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Get Off My Lawn!

Utterly brilliant - by Ralph_the_Rex

Probably the best thing on the internet right now - by IG @Ralph_The_Rex

Posted by FrightProps on Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sunday Beach Report, 12/27/15

Skye II insisted that we do something, anything with her this morning, so we decided to go for beach walk. The insanely warm winter weather persists; our deck thermometer shows 70, although the NOAA site shows 62 at Cove Point over the water. The wind is strong at 15 knots SW, though, so we only feel the wind blowing off the land.
We're not having rain, for a change, but the clouds to the north look threatening.
While the sky to the south looks pretty clear.
 A good day to sail.
 One brave girl was even out paddle boarding. At 50 F, falling off would be no fun at all.

Well, was it good for you?

Year's End Final Update

In our last episode we saw how the Bernie Sanders campaign had peeked at Hillary's private donors on the DNC data base, and then abjectly apologized to her majesty. Now we learn that the "Sanders staffer" guilty of the intrusion had been recommended to the Sander campaign by the DMC itself:

Bernie Sanders vs. DNC gets even more fun: DNC recommended fired staffer
The fight between Bernie Sanders and the DNC over the data breaching scandal is getting even more sexier. One adviser tells Yahoo News fired national data director Josh Uretsky was recommended to them…by the DNC itself!
“It’s not as if we conjured this guy Josh from thin air. This is an individual … who was recommended to us by the DNC and NGP VAN,” the adviser said.
According to the adviser, one of the references that Uretsky gave when he applied to work with the campaign was the DNC’s National Data Director Andrew Brown, who works closely with the shared voter file program.
“Andrew Brown spoke to us and gave him a positive review, as did [ ex-NGP VAN COO ] Bryan Whitaker,” the adviser said.. . .
It’s pretty interesting to see these allegations come out, especially because Sanders’ campaign is still pushing the “DNC is helping the Clinton campaign” idea. If it’s true, then the new allegations levied by Sanders’ crew may give credence to this. The DNC scheduled all but one of the 2015 debates on a Saturday, when most people were watching college football, suggesting they really are “in the tank” for Clinton.
Paranoia about moles is common in political campaigns, suggesting that such behavior is fairly common and well known on the inside. Did the Clinton campaign set up this scandal?

Meanwhile, Hillary's strategy of portraying herself as the the kindly Hispanic grandmother is not working out so well: Hillary Clinton Is ‘Not My Abuela,’ Critics Say
Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president has been savvy about talking to young voters in the parlance of the social web, using emojis, sleek graphics and other formats. But the list “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” seemed to backfire this week.

After Mrs. Clinton shared news of her daughter’s second pregnancy, a “content strategist” for her campaign posted the list, an effort to appeal to young Hispanic voters by pointing out how she was just like their abuelas, or grandmothers: She cares for all children. She reads to her grandchild before bedtime. She doesn’t tolerate disrespect.

Her critics were not impressed. Soon, the hashtag #NotMyAbuela was circulating as a critique of what some saw as a tone-deaf move to pander to a powerful but marginalized bloc of voters. Her critics pointed out that Mrs. Clinton did not grow up poor like their relatives, and was not separated from loved ones by country borders. Others just made their points with the magic of memes. . . 
Hillary’s Hispandering Problem
Hillary Clinton can’t help herself. Handed a news cycle victory on a silver platter by vulgar and mean-spirited remarks by Donald Trump, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee flopped again. The problem this time was her attempt to exploit the announcement that daughter Chelsea is expecting the former First Family’s second grandchild. As I wrote earlier today, I think we’d all be better off if everyone, including the candidates, stopped treating politicians like celebrities. But the slip-up here wasn’t just the transparent effort to capitalize on a happy event in her personal life. Seeking to maximize the Democrats’ obvious advantage with Hispanic voters in an election cycle in which most Republicans have taken an anti-immigrant stand, Clinton began to promote herself to that community as everyone’s “abuela.” The response, even from Hispanic Democrats, wasn’t very positive.
Meanwhile, Hillary's email scandal prepares to enter its fourth year: Hillary Clinton Was Asked About Email 2 Years Ago
Hillary Rodham Clinton was directly asked by congressional investigators in a December 2012 letter whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state, according to letters obtained by The New York Times.

But Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response.

The query was posed to Mrs. Clinton in a Dec. 13, 2012, letter from Representative Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Mr. Issa was leading an investigation into how the Obama administration handled its officials’ use of personal email.

“Have you or any senior agency official ever used a personal email account to conduct official business?” Mr. Issa wrote to Mrs. Clinton. “If so, please identify the account used.”

Mr. Issa also asked Mrs. Clinton, “Does the agency require employees to certify on a periodic basis or at the end of their employment with the agency they have turned over any communications involving official business that they have sent or received using nonofficial accounts?”

Mr. Issa’s letter also sought written documentation of the department’s policies for the use of personal email for government business. Mrs. Clinton left the State Department on Feb. 1, 2013, seven weeks after the letter was sent to her.
Hillary's continual policy of stall, deny, lie and obfuscate certainly indicates the course a second Clinton administration would pursue.

Speaking of which: Heavily redacted Benghazi emails released on Christmas Eve
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a handful of sensitive documents Thursday morning dealing with terrorism suspect Anwar al-Awlaki and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The Christmas Eve document dump includes 16 pages of heavily blacked-out emails about the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans.

The DNI emails about Benghazi are heavily redacted and appear to contain little new information. Several of the emails discuss the drafting of an assessment of the threat level ahead of the attack, which was being prepared for Congress in the months after four Americans were killed in the attack.

Other emails include periodic press clippings about the state of Benghazi in the years after the incident, which were meant to give staffers “situational awareness.”

Another document released Thursday is a memo to the State Department that shows the DNI signed off on a proposal to revoke al-Awlaki's U.S. passport about seven and a half months before he was killed by the U.S. in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
While al-Awlaki will not be missed, I think that having the administration assassinating American citizens abroad without judicial review is a really bad precedent. We know Obama and Hillary consider Republicans greater enemies than the Islamic terrorists.

Not being able to make it on her own, Hillary is bringing out the big dog: Looks like Bill Clinton is going to take a larger role in Hillary campaign
It looks like Hillary Clinton’s campaign is turning into a real family affair, as both Chelsea and Bill Clinton are now getting more involved. The younger Clinton’s entry into the campaign isn’t a real surprise, because it’s been known for several weeks she’d start headlining events in January. But it looks like Hillary Clinton is really hoping Bill Clinton will put her over the top in states like Iowa and South Carolina because she considers him a “secret weapon.” Via The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Clinton is a revered figure in Democratic circles and was a key surrogate for Mr. Obama in his 2012 re-election bid. A survey conducted in part by The Wall Street Journal last year said he was by a margin of more than 2 to 1 the most admired president of the past quarter century.
Marc Lasry, a friend of Mr. Clinton’s and head of New York hedge fund firm Avenue Capital Group, said: “President Clinton campaigning for Hillary is a huge asset. People love seeing him and he’s able to explain things to people in a way that’s unique.”

Bill Clinton’s popularity is no joke, he does know how to play a room and get along with everyone. One thing screenwriter Mark Hughes wrote at Quora is how Clinton uses his charisma to make people feel important (or manipulate them) to get done what he thinks needs to get done. Clinton is a smart guy, even if his personal history and political stances are questionable at best (and that’s being way too nice). The way he made President Barack Obama basically walk off the podium in 2010 shows how he’s able to take over a news conference and draw people in. Even Politico noted Obama was completely outmatched by Bill Clinton’s presence.
I guess presidential campaigns call for heavy lifting that women just can't do. . .

Time to Work Off Some of Those Christmas Cookies

Wombat-socho has the ginormous "Rule 5 Sunday: Happy New Year!" ready for browsing at The Other McCain.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Can the Redskins Re-Pluck the Eagles?

The 7 and 7 Redskins take on the 6 and 8 Eagles tonight at 8:30ish. They beat the Eagles back on Oct. 4, and tonight's game is crucial to any Redskins playoff hopes. The Washington Post is starting to say positive things about Kirk Cousins, so maybe a little skepticism is in order.

Eagles from the 20. Pass to the 38 for a first down. And then another at the Redskin's 45. Another first down. Then Redskins encroachment penalty. And then a pass to the end zone draws an interference call, and the Eagles make a TD from the 6 yard line. Kick is good, 7-0 Eagles.

Meanwhile, there has been a major development in the Redskins name controversy. You may remember how the FTC (encouraged by public statements from Preznit Obama) decided to revoke the Redskins trademark rights on the name Redskins? A ruling in favor of an Asian rock band called "The Slants" puts the FTCs ruling in jeopardy, when U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the government cannot ban trademarks just because it determines them to be offensive:
In a major decision that could bolster the Washington Redskins’ legal defense of its name, a federal appeals court said Tuesday that the U.S. government can’t ban offensive trademarks, arguing that the practice violates the First Amendment.
Redskins from the 20. They go three and out.
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington came in a case involving an Asian American rock band called the Slants. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had rejected a trademark for the Oregon-based musicians because it considered its name a slur. But the majority of the 12-judge court concluded that no matter how disparaging the band’s name may be to Asian Americans, the First Amendment still protects the musicians’ speech — “and the speech of other trademark holders.”

North Carolina Cuts Striper Limit for Remainder of Year

Striped bass bag limit for inland waters cut for rest of the year

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has reduced the recreational bag limit for striped bass in the Albemarle Sound Management Area to one fish per day through New Years Eve.

A reduction in the creel limit was put in place to allow recreational harvest of rockfish to remain within the 68,750 pound annual harvest quota established last year, according to NCDMF director Louis Daniel, III.

The change, implemented on Dec. 24, is in effect through New Years Eve at 8 p.m., when the recreational striped bass season will close for all sounds and rivers north of Oregon Inlet except the Roanoke River, which falls under a different management plan.

Starting midnight on Jan. 1., the 2016 season will open bag limit will be two fish per day. The minimum length requirement of 18 inches remains in effect.
That seems like a rather minor adjustment to make, to just reduce the take from two fish to one fish per fisherman per day during a time of year when fishing is pretty low to begin with. It's also interesting that the rec fishermen in North Carolina are allowed to keep 18 inch fish, while we in Maryland, where most of the fish come from, are only allowed 20 inch fish and above. Of course, our season much longer, and MD has a huge quota

Rule 5 Saturday - A Blue Christmas with Leighton Meester

This week's Rule 5 winner is Leighton Meester. What kind of name is that anyway?
Meester was born in Fort Worth, Texas, to Constance (née Haas) and Douglas Meester, and lived most of her life in New York City and Los Angeles. Her ancestry includes German, Dutch, English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh.
That didn't narrow it down much. Not enough consonants to be Welsh, though.
At the time of her birth, her mother was serving time in a federal prison for her involvement in a drug ring that smuggled marijuana from Jamaica to the USA.
That must be a fun baby album.
She is mostly known for her starring role as Blair Waldorf in the teen drama series Gossip Girl (2007–12). She has also appeared in the 2010 country drama film Country Strong, the 2011 thriller The Roommate, the 2011 romantic-comedy Monte Carlo, and the comedies The Oranges (2011) and That's My Boy (2012). Meester made her Broadway debut in 2014 in Of Mice and Men.

In addition to her acting career, Meester has also ventured into music. In 2009, she was featured on Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" and released her first single "Somebody to Love" with Universal Republic. Her second single "Your Love's a Drug" was released in 2011. Meester also recorded songs for various soundtracks. Her debut album, Heartstrings was independently released in 2014.
This week, GOODSTUFFs BLOGGING MAGAZINE (221st Issue) contains an overload of Ann Margret and udder assorted treats. Linked at Pirate's Cove in the weekly "Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup" and links. Wombat-socho has "Rule 5 Sunday: The Week Between" and "FMJRA 2.0: Walking In The Shadow of The Big Man" ready at The Other McCain.

Friday, December 25, 2015

And May All Your Christmas Earworms be Bright

Why you can't get Christmas jingles out of your head: Experts reveal how certain songs get stuck in our minds
'An earworm tends to be a short snippet of a piece of music, usually a tune, often from the chorus, that you play through in your mind repeatedly, as if it were stuck on loop,' Elizabeth Margulis, director of the Music Cognition Lab at the University of Arkansas, told

  • Hearing the same song played over and over again.
  • Seeing an old friend, the smell of a Christmas tree or hearing a specific noise.
  • Memories, stimulus and other personal associates will give you an ear worm.
  • Your mood plays a role into getting a song stuck in your head.
  • A wondering mind is a playground for earworms.
According to the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, 91 percent of people claim to have an earworm at least once a week and about a quarter of them more than once a day.
Count me among the afflicted. I would estimate I get at least one a day. I just got rid if "Feliz Navidad". . .  Or did I?
Scientists are baffled by this phenomenon and have trouble studying it, as there is no method to determine when someone will fall victim to this manifestation. There is also no rhyme or reason to the types of Christmas songs, happy or sad, that get stuck in your heads the most.

'There are many possible triggers, memory, a special situation one is in, even randomly, perhaps,' David Poeppel, professor of psychology and neural science at New York University, told 'Sometimes people remember things that are associated with a happy memory, sometimes sentimental moments elicit a memory, sometimes truly sad things are associated with a piece of music.' 'It cannot be pre-judge, and the same person can have compelling memories of both very joyful and very sad music.' Poeppel also suggests it could be a location, or a situation that elicits a particular strong emotion.
I don't think emotion is a very strong trigger for me, but certainly it helps if I've heard the song so many times the neural pathways are well worn.
Some theories believe earworms are associated with memory, outside stimuli and personal associates we take away from them, according to a report in Atlas Obscura.

'The trigger can be quite oblique; seeing a picture of a snow globe, for example, might be enough for 'I'm dreaming of a White Christmas' to pop up in your mental soundscape,' said Margulis. 'Because Christmas songs tend to be so familiar, they're particularly liable to get hooked.'
 Nope; lets stay with "Feliz."

In 2006, Simon Brown from Fraser University studied his own earworm and found they could be used as a basis for understanding how conscious experience can be split into multiple parallel streams.

Another idea suggests that the more we hear a song, the more it's likely to get stuck in your head.

This can explain why 'Santa Baby' is stuck in your head after a day of shopping -- every store you went into was playing it.

'Songs tend to get stuck when they've been heard recently and repeatedly,' said Margulis. 'It's likelier to happen when the tunes feature some optimal mix between predictability and surprise.'
Since I play music a lot, it's pretty common for me to hear or play the same song over and over.
In a study from Lucerne University of Applied Science and Arts and University of Sheffield, researchers observed 50 different music features and found that earworm songs usually have notes with longer durations but smaller pitch intervals.

The study also suggested those with neuroticism and small levels of obsessive compulsion will be invaded by earworms more often and for a longer period of time.
 Uh oh. Well, nothing I hadn't heard before.
James Kellaris, a professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati who's conducted research on influence of music on memory, wrote in an email to Science Friday, 'In addition to traits of songs and traits of people (such as being mildly neurotic or having high exposure levels to music), situation comes into play as a third factor.'

'It appears that earworms are more likely to bite when the victim is tired, stressed, or idle.'
I can't think of an easy answer. A near death experience can kick out an ear worm, but don't recommend that on an on going basis. I find I can replace one with another, though, so at least you can hear one you like.

Wombat-socho has "Rule 5 Sunday: The Week Between" ready at The Other McCain.