Saturday, February 28, 2015

None So Blind as Those Who Will Not See

In this case they may be one and the same: Unfortunate Metaphor Alert: IRS Assigns Blind Worker To Lerner Case
An explosive revelation from J. Christian Adams:
An IRS employee tasked with trying to restore and obtain emails on Lois Lerner’s IRS computer’s hard drive was legally blind. Stephen Manning, the deputy chief information officer for strategy and modernization at the IRS, submitted an affidavit in the True the Vote vs. IRS litigation regarding the persons and procedures used to attempt to recover Lois Lerner’s hard drive containing emails pertaining to Tea Party targeting.
The affidavit can be read here. Paragraph 14 describes the educational background of the person searching for data on Lois Lerner’s hard drive:
Now, somebody I know is going blind, and it’s not a pleasant thing. So stipulate that we’re not piling on somebody doing their job. Somebody has to do it. Stevens, Smith, Doherty & Woods are unavailable.

However, it strikes me that, if you had an interest in rebuilding an organization’s credibility, there are better means than this to do it.
It can't help but slow the search, and that's what's important, after all.

Linked at the Daley Gator in "THE BEST OF THE BLOGS, DID YOU EVER NOTICE EDITION.", at Free North Carolina  in "IRS Assigns Legally Blind Employee To Seek Lerner Email", and by  The    Feral Irishman in Linkarama . . .

Three Billion Dollars Worth of Obamacare Schadenfreude

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money:

Lawless: Treasury throws unauthorized $3 billion to insurers under Obamacare, won’t say why
It’s right there in the Constitution: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

Which is why this latest episode of lawlessness from the administration is so particularly galling. “The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations,” The Washington Examiner’s Philp Klein reported on Thursday.

That’s right. The payments insurers receive, dubbed “cost –sharing subsidies,” are designed to offset the costs incurred when they pick up the out-of-pocket expenses for low-income individuals covered by Affordable Care Act plans. If insurers had to cover these costs themselves, Obamacare would be infeasible. So, the federal government picks up the tab for the newly insured as they go about receiving “free” health care.

There’s just one tiny, unconstitutional problem: Congress never authorized the distribution of those funds. “[B]ut the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway,” Klein reported.
In a Feb. 3 letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Ryan, along with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., asked for “a full explanation for, and all documents relating to” the administration’s decision to make the cost-sharing payments without congressional authorization.
In response, on Wednesday, the Treasury Department sent a letter to Ryan largely describing the program, without offering a detailed explanation of the decision to make the payments. The letter revealed that $2.997 billion in such payments had been made in 2014, but didn’t elaborate on where the money came from. Over the next decade, cost-sharing payments to insurers are projected by the Congressional Budget Office to cost taxpayers nearly $150 billion.
Click through to Klein’s report and read the whole thing. This pattern of behavior from administration officials is staggering in its lawlessness and sets a dangerous precedent.

“A second grader knows that only Congress can appropriate funds. And even though CMS apparently agrees with that, the managers at HHS don’t,” The American Thinker’s Rick Moran opined. “Unfortunately, unless both the House and Senate order the insurance companies to return the funds – and President Obama signs the bill – HHS is going to get away with this.”
A second grader may or may not know it, but the Obama administration clearly has no intention of playing by the rules for the next two years.

Ted Cruz: Obamacare defunding fight wasn't winnable
In a wide-ranging speech to the Club for Growth winter meeting Friday night, Sen. Ted Cruz looked back on his 2013 crusade to defund Obamacare — an effort that consumed Washington, led to bitter Republican party infighting, and resulted in a partial government shutdown — and concluded it was a fight he probably never could have won.

"Is it likely we would have altogether defunded Obamacare then?" the Texas Republican said. "Probably not. That would have taken an almost perfect storm. I was never Pollyannaish about the political factors it would take for that to happen."

As the 2013 battle began, Cruz said victory was within reach if Republicans simply stuck together. But Friday night, he explained that what was actually possible was "a middle ground compromise" in which President Obama would have been forced to give way on some aspects of Obamacare. Such a compromise "would have provided some significant relief to the millions of people losing their jobs, losing their health insurance, losing their doctors because of Obamacare," Cruz said.
It is kind of easy to conclude you couldn't do something after you've failed to achieve it.  That's OK if you learn from the battle.

And the Washington Post continues to work the refs: Obamacare threatens to end John Roberts’s dream of a nonpartisan Supreme Court
Roberts, 60, jokes about the “odd historical quirk” that gives the chief justice only one vote. But he has learned to use the tools that come with the job: He shapes the discussion at conference; he writes the court’s opinion, or assigns it strategically, when he is in the majority; he’s happy to settle for nonthreatening, incremental changes that may bloom later into something more. And last term, what Roberts has described as the chief justice’s “particular obligation to try to achieve consensus” paid off. The share of unanimous decisions soared to 66 percent, a level not seen since the 1940s. The share of 5-to-4 decisions, high during Roberts’s tenure compared with those of other chief justices, fell to 14 percent, the lowest since he joined the court.

And then here comes Obamacare II. In King v. Burwell , to be argued Wednesday, plaintiffs say the text of the law must be interpreted in a way that would neuter it, canceling health insurance subsidies for about 7.5 million Americans in at least 34 states. Can Roberts’s portrayal of the Supreme Court as above politics survive another round with the most partisan issue of the decade?
Not if they decide against Obamacare, according to the Post. Consensus is great, when it results in gains for their side.

Saturday Rule 5 - Cat Deeley

This week's Rule 5 special features Cat Deeley, English model, actress, singer and "television presenter". In other words, Brian Williams with curves, and probably more honest:
Catherine Elizabeth "Cat" Deeley (born 23 October 1976) is an English television presenter, actress, singer and model. Since 2006, Deeley has been the host of So You Think You Can Dance in the United States, for which she received three nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program.
On SM:TV Live she often acted as an apparently slightly unwilling assistant whenever the show featured a guest appearance by a magician. During her time with the show, she regularly found herself appearing and disappearing, and being crushed, stretched, levitated, impaled and guillotined. However, by far the most common illusion was for her to be sawed in half, an illusion she participated in several times in its various forms. In one performance of this illusion, she became the first British celebrity to participate in the Clearly Impossible version of the illusion, where she was divided in two inside a clear-sided box that allowed her entire body to be seen at all times during the sawing-through and separation.
Gotta look for the video of that!  Nope; can't find it, but here she is being schmoozed by Craig Ferguson.

In his 179th issue of his Blogging Magazine GOODSTUFF is featuring the young Pam Anderson, former Baywatch babe and Playboy centerfold, as well as Jane from Tarzan. Also linked at Pirate's Cove in the weekly "Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup." Wombat-socho has the big "Rule 5 Sunday: Post-CPAC/Blogbash Edition" post ready at The Other McCain.

Now That's How to Deal With Invasive Species

A grouper attacks and consumes a poisonous lionfish in the Caribbean.

This video is believed to be the first photo documentation of a grouper making an open water kill of an invasive lionfish without encouragement of any kind by a diver. Footage by Jim Hart, co-founder and executive director of Lionfish University.
There is some question as to whether the grouper is driving the lionfish out into open water, or whether the lionfish is following the grouper.  It's clear to me, that as in most biological questions, the answer is both. The grouper is clearly showing a gustatory interest in the lionfish, but the lionfish is responding by pointing its poisonous spines at the grouper and advancing, in and attempt to intimidate and drive off the grouper.  This brings the lionfish out of cover, and enables the grouper to suddenly strike, stun and eat the lionfish, hopefully without getting stung, although I don't know how severe the toxin would be to another fish.  Enough to be discouraging, certainly.

This grouper clearly has a system for eating lionish. Let's hope other groupers watch and learn and the technique spreads.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Feds Show Incredible Generosity to Bay Farmers

US funds totaling $1.75 million to assist Va. farmers, further Chesapeake Bay cleanup
Virginia is receiving $1.75 million in federal funds to support the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

Announced Thursday by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the funding is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

The funds will be used over the next four years to expand the use of fencing and other practices to prevent farm animals from wading into streams and fouling the water. The money will be used in areas where tributary streams drain into the bay.

The governor's office said most of funding will be paid directly to farmers.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will receive $300,000. It will be distributed to the Department of Forestry and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to provide technical assistance on forested buffers on agricultural land.
Kidding, just kidding. The Bay cleanup is expected to cost the governments over $25 billion (with a "b") up to 2025.  There will be more funding aimed at agriculture, but as near as I can see, the various parties involved have decided to blame most of the Bay's problems on nutrients from agriculture, but aim most of the government support to urban issues, stormwater, sewage overflows etc.

Why? It's easier to force individual farmers to clean up on their own, than to force cities and urban counties to do it. Cities are where the votes are.

Federal Workers Caught Stealing Gas

I noticed this one in a back page of the Washington Post this morning:  Federal workers caught stealing gas with taxpayer money
Since 2010, federal employees have illegally stolen $2.4 million in gas, amounting to about 260 cases of government workers across the country stealing fuel, according to an investigation by NBC4 Washington’s Scott MacFarlane.
Doing the obvious division, that a little less than $10,000 each over 4 years, or $2.5k per year. That's a lot of gas! Would you donate $2,000 to us for our annual gas bill? I didn't think so.
The GSA gas cards are assigned to a specific vehicle in the federal fleet of over 205,000 cars, buses, vans and trucks. According to the GSA’s Web site, the vehicles cannot be used for “activities outside of your agency’s mission including private business or personal errands.” Or to “transport members of your family, personal friends, or non-government employees in the vehicle outside of your agency’s mission, or without specific permission from the head of your agency or his or her designee.”

Each vehicle is assigned corresponding credit cards, but federal workers have been frequently found using the card for personal use, to earn some cash, and then forging data to try to cover it up.

The GSA inspector general’s most recent semiannual report to Congress, covering April through September 2014, listed a number of instances of federal workers caught stealing gas.
The eternal problem with spending in the Federal government is how to make it work smoothly without incurring too much fraud. Credit cards are widely held by federal workers, and with only a little laxity of supervision, can be readily used for personal purposes and billed to the government. My experience is that travel in the feds is hyper bureaucratic and discouraging to majority of honest worker, but with gaping holes through which bad actors can easily slide.
For example, Homeland Security Department contractor Jeffery Franklin pleaded guilty in May for using “multiple GSA Government Fleet Credit Cards to fuel his personal vehicle.” He was sentenced to six months in jail, a year of probation, and had to pay $3,920 in restitution. He cannot work for the federal government for three years.
I guess the possible furlough coming to the DHS won't be affecting him much.

RIP: Mr. Spock

Spock and Leila taking a selfie
Known, in an alternative universe, as Leonard Nimoy: Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83
Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.
I met him once, when he expressed an interest in buying the tropical fish store I worked at as a teenager. He was not wearing his "ears" at the time. He wisely decided to spend his Hollywood money elsewhere.

A great alien, a so so singer:

Wombat-socho has the big "Rule 5 Sunday: Post-CPAC/Blogbash Edition" post ready at The Other McCain.

IRS IG Investigating Lerner's Email Disappearance

IRS watchdog reveals Lois Lerner missing emails now subject of criminal probe
The IRS’s inspector general confirmed Thursday it is conducting a criminal investigation into how Lois G. Lerner’s emails disappeared, saying it took only two weeks for investigators to find hundreds of tapes the agency’s chief had told Congress were irretrievably destroyed.

Investigators have already scoured 744 backup tapes and gleaned 32,774 unique emails, but just two weeks ago they found an additional 424 tapes that could contain even more Lerner emails, Deputy Inspector General Timothy P. Camus told the House Oversight Committee in a rare late-night hearing meant to look into the status of the investigation.
“There is potential criminal activity,” Mr. Camus said.

He said they have also discovered the hard drives from the IRS’s email servers, but said because the drives are out of synch it’s not clear whether they will be able to recover anything from them.

“To date we have found 32,744 unique emails that were backed up from Lois Lerner’s email box. We are in the process of comparing these emails to what the IRS has already produced to Congress to determine if we did in fact recover any new emails,” Mr. Camus said.
It will be instructive to see how the incoming Attorney General Loretta Lynch deals with the "justice" Department's probe of the IRS.

What is a Dane Doing in a Desert?

Modeling swimsuits. A trip to the desert with Rule 5 honoree Nina Agdal.

Some desert music to listen to:

Linked at Proof Positive in this week's "Best of the Web." and at Pirate's Cove in the weekly "Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup." Wombat-socho has the big "Rule 5 Sunday: Post-CPAC/Blogbash Edition" post ready at The Other McCain.

The Giant Disco Ball in the Sky

Strange lights on dwarf planet Ceres have scientists perplexed

A dwarf planet is shining two bright lights at a NASA spacecraft right now, and our smartest scientists are unsure what they are.

As bizarre as that sentence sounds, that's the situation with Ceres — the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, officially designated as a dwarf planet (the same category as Pluto).

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is approaching Ceres ahead of a March 6 rendezvous. The picture above was taken February 19, from a distance of just under 29,000 miles, and shows two very shiny areas on the same basin on Ceres' surface.

Previous Dawn images from further away showed a single light on Ceres, which was just as mysterious. Then, to the amazement of every astronomy geek, the one light turned out to be two — reflecting roughly 40% of the light hitting them.
. . .
So what could the bright spots be, other than alien castaways signaling at us with flashlights?

The most obvious contender is ice, although ice would reflect more than 40% of all light hitting it. The difference may be accounted for by the resolution limit of Dawn's camera at this distance. Scientists have previously detected water vapor coming from the surface of the dwarf planet, making ice — a more likely option.

Scientists have also suggested the bright areas could be patches of salt. On the other hand, the location of the two bright spots so close together may be an indication that they have a geologic origin, such as some sort of volcanic process, possibly even ice volcanoes.
So the aliens on Ceres had a snow storm, and put road salt on it?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Enviromental, Social Justice Concerns Slow Maryland Shit Burning Power Plant

MD manure-to-energy plant appears to be going nowhere
Maryland was supposed to be deep into the planning stages for a manure-to-energy plant by now, a plant that was a key component in the state’s strategy to reduce pollution from poultry manure.

The state signed a contract in October 2013 with Maryland Bio Energy, a subsidiary of California-based Green Planet Power Solutions, to construct a power plant on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The plant was to turn 175,000 tons of poultry manure — about 75 percent of Maryland’s Eastern Shore’s excess manure — into electricity. The state and the University of Maryland signed on as customers. A federal subsidy was in place. The plant was to be built in the fall of 2015 and to generate energy by 2016.

Its construction would have given poultry growers a safe place to take manure they could not use as fertilizer because of new rules designed to reduce pollution from phosphorus. Many of the Eastern Shore’s fields are saturated with phosphorus, and poultry manure is phosphorus-rich.

Instead, the state’s manure-to-energy plan appears stalled. Neither Green Planet Power Solutions nor Maryland Bio Energy have applied for the necessary air permits from the Maryland Department of the Environment, according to officials there. That permit review alone would likely take 11 months — the amount of time that the MDE estimates when public concern mounts in a public review process.
Getting rid of Maryland's excess chicken shit, so that farmers won't spread it on their fields and contribute to the eutrophication of the Chesapeake Bay? What could possibly be wrong with that?
Several environmental groups, including the Assateague Coastkeeper and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, oppose various aspects of the proposed plant. They are concerned about high ammonia emissions and health consequences.
What? You mean burning shit is even dirtier than burning coal, Maryland's traditional way of generating power? Whoda thunk?
Several local environmentalists are concerned about that site because it’s close to an African-American neighborhood. There is a growing concern in the Chesapeake Bay watershed — and everywhere else — that minority and lower-income communities have disproportionately borne the brunt of industrial processes, whether they are massive chicken operations or incinerators. Somerset County planning director Gary Pusey said the company would need a special exception to operate a manure-to-energy plant there. That application process would take at least six months, he said, and could take longer with public opposition.
We could satisfy the social justice people by claiming some land in  Montgomery (Maryland's wealthiest) to erect the shit burning power plant, and then truck or railroad thousands of tons of chickenshit through the suburbs to the power plant? I'm sure that will go over well.

Fortunately It Never Snows in Venezuela

So they can use coca leaves, or something. Venezuela Is Running Out of Toilet Paper
Cash-strapped Venezuela, which has the second-largest oil reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia, and relies on oil for 95 percent of its export revenue, has been hit particularly hard by plummeting global prices. Still, it’s hard not to read a commodity-sharing deal proposed by nearby Trinidad and Tobago as anything but humiliating.

At a news conference Tuesday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar suggested that her government would “purchase goods identified by the Government of Venezuela from T&T’s manufacturers, such as tissue paper, gasoline, and parts for machinery,” and trade them for Venezuelan oil. It’s not clear if the Venezuelans are open to the deal, but they certainly need the goods.

Amid skyrocketing inflation and a contracting economy, Venezuelan consumers have been faced with widespread shortages of products. Nicolás Maduro’s government blames hoarders looking to destabilize the government, but businesses and economists say it’s the result of government price controls that discourage production and restrictions on foreign currency and make it difficult for manufacturers to purchase raw materials.
Matilda, she take me Charmin and run Venezuela.

Another glorious victory for socialism.

Gov. Hogan Proposes New Phosphorus Regulations

Ag groups back Hogan's PMT
In an effort to strike compromise between the agriculture and environmental communities, Gov. Larry Hogan released his own phosphorus-limiting regulations Monday.

“The Governor’s proposal is certainly an improvement over previous phosphorus management proposals,” said Minority Whip Sen. Steve Hershey, R-36-Upper Shore. “It’s a compromise between the stakeholders and a sensible approach to reducing phosphorus on farmland.”

The Phosphorus Management Tool regulations start with what was proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley in November and alter it several ways. It is also part of a broader “Maryland Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative,” which, according to the governor’s office, “will further Maryland’s efforts to improve water quality, strengthen the agricultural industry, and bolster rural economies.”

Hogan’s proposal delays PMT implementation by one year, starting in 2016 with full implementation by 2022, which takes it from a six-year implementation to seven years. According to the governor’s office, it allows farmers two years to develop nutrient management plans using the new PMT and the existing Phosphorus Site Index before management changes are required.

The proposal also immediately bans the use of phosphorus on sites with a Fertility Index Value — the amount of phosphorus present in the soil — greater than 500 until full implementation in 2022. This is done to immediately stop the use of phosphorus on fields with the highest likelihood of it leeching into the Chesapeake Bay.

Hogan’s PMT proposal also includes details to collect soil test phosphorus data from every farm in Maryland every six years starting in 2016. That would give the Maryland Department of Agriculture soil fertility data to monitor trends in phosphorus levels and identify potential areas to redistribute manure.
This doesn't seem like much of a pull back from the regulations promulgated by O'Malley, and rescinded by Hogan. It gives farmers an extra year to get into the program. Since these things always get written at the last minute anyway, that's probably a negative. But it goes after phosphorus saturated soil immediately, and since that's what the enviros are screaming about the most, that seems to be a concession.

Git 'er done.

Supreme Group Gropes Its Way to a Grouper Decision

Split Supreme Court sides with fisherman in grouper-tossing case
A divided Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that prosecutors should not have used a far-reaching federal law passed in the wake of the Enron scandal to go after a Florida fisherman convicted of tossing undersized grouper off his boat.
 From a previous blog post on the subject:
"The issue is that the crew of the Miss Katie was caught with undersized fish. A marine fisheries officer wrote them a ticket and put the fish in a box that the captain was ordered to turn in when he got ashore. Rather than do this, they threw out the undersized fish and replaced them with bigger ones."
The court ruled 5 to 4 that Congress did not mean for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which prohibits the destruction of “any document, record or tangible object” meant to impede a federal investigation, to include “all objects in the physical world.”

The decision was a blow to the government — not because of the case of fishing captain John Yates — but because prosecutors have used the “tangible object” language to go after other activities meant to cover up crimes, such as moving a corpse and painting over blood splatter.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said within the confines of Sarbanes-Oxley, which was passed after Enron’s outside auditor Arthur Andersen had systematically destroyed potentially incriminating documents, tangible objects cover “only objects one can use to record or preserve information.”

In explaining the court’s decision, Ginsburg noted from the bench that the law covers “falsifying” any tangible object.
A fish was tangible the last time I touched one.
Ginsburg’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with the outcome but filed a separate opinion.

Alito did not say exactly what he found objectionable in Ginsburg’s opinion, but agreed that three things — the “statute’s list of nouns, its list of verbs and its title” — led to the conclusion that the term tangible objects should not be stretched to include fish.
As I said when I blogged this case on it's way to the Supremes, I'm a little torn. While I think poachers should be busted, I am not in favor of overly elastic law being stretched to cover everything. The arresting authorities should have busted them on the spot, seized the fish, issued a summons and maybe escorted them to the dock. To leave them in possession of the disputed fish without making sure the charges would stick is insane.

More Grubtastic Obamacare Schadenfreude Drinking Coffee

Not much to do but sit and watch the snow come down and drink coffee, or update the Obamacare Schadenfreude and drink coffee. Either way I get to drink coffee.

Jonathan Gruber in Trouble Again for Alleged Dishonesty, and This Time It Could be More Serious
A Vermont state audit alleges problems in how Jonathan Gruber – who gained notoriety for his remark about the “stupidity of the American voter” in selling the public on Obamacare — billed the state for consulting work, and now the matter is before the state’s attorney general.
. . .
Vermont state auditor Doug Hoffer’s report released Monday said Vermont health officials missed “obvious signs” of problems in the billing invoices. The audit said state officials “failed to exercise due diligence,” the Burlington Free Press reported.

Gruber’s contract with the state was for $400,000. Gruber declined to comment to the Burlington Free Press.

The audit said Gruber submitted two consecutive invoices to the state of Vermont, one in September and another in October, with the exact figures each month – 100 hours for Gruber at $500 per hour, and 500 hours for his research assistants at $100 per hour. But only one research assistant worked on the project, according to the audit. It specifically singles out Robin Lunge, director of Vermont’s health care reform, and Michael Costa, deputy director of state’s health care reform.
Does anyone seriously think Gruber spent 100 hours on Vermont's Obamacare in one month, let alone two? Not I, unless going around and drinking coffee with important people counts.  Which it probably does. Now a single research assistant doing 500 hours a month for two consecutive months? That I believe. Someone has to do the paperwork. . .

Jonathan Gruber, 3 others removed from Connector Board
Governor Charlie Baker has removed the four members of the Massachusetts Health Connector Board appointed by his predecessor, including controversial MIT economist Jonathan Gruber.

Gruber said the decision was unrelated to the controversy that erupted last year on his comments about “the stupidity of the American voter.”

“All that was communicated to me is that the governor would like to have his own set of people on the Connector,” Gruber said. “It’s not about me or any of the individuals.”
See what happens when you tell the truth?

I'm sure Dr. Gruber will be happy to have more time to be with his family.

And a couple via Instapundit:
Republicans suspect the White House is hiding ObamaCare fallback plan. “Some Republicans say they simply do not believe that the Obama administration isn’t developing a fallback plan in case the Supreme Court dismantles a piece of the healthcare law this summer. Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), has repeatedly said there is no plan B if the high court rules that subsidies for insurance cannot be distributed through the federal exchange”

Well, everything else they’ve said about ObamaCare has been a lie, so it’s a safe bet.
Of course they're lying; it's what they do, it's what they are.
MEH. I SAY BURN IT TO THE GROUND. Fears of Chaos Mount Over Obamacare Case. But all this “chaos” talk is just an attempt to frighten the Court into not doing anything. And hey, why not? They successfully bullied Chief Justice Roberts on ObamaCare last time.

It's Snowing Again!

Dammit! We're up to about 3.5 inches of gloppy snow and the end is not yet near.

6 AM Eye Opener - Emily Ratajkoski

A View for the Beach's Girl of Summer 2014 is preparing to contest for 2015 with this video from SI Swimsuit:

Swiped from Theo's. Wombat-socho has the big "Rule 5 Sunday: Post-CPAC/Blogbash Edition" post ready at The Other McCain.

Woolly Rhinoceros Found Dead in Sibreria

Long Time Dead:World’s First Baby Woolly Rhino Discovered In Siberian Ice

The remains of a baby woolly rhino have been discovered by a hunter in the Siberian permafrost, marking the first time a juvenile of the species has been found. The extinct creature is so well preserved that it even retains its fleece.

The rhino was discovered in one of the largest and coldest regions of Russia, the Sakha Republic, which is also known as Yakutia, according to the Daily Mail. A local hunter, Alexander Banderov, stumbled upon the remains in a ravine last September, originally believing he had found a reindeer. It was only the woolly rhino’s horns that made Banderov realize he had uncovered something quite different.
Cool! Hat tip to Paul Murdoch.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"it's Just Fish"

An editorial in the Balmer Sun: It's Just Fish
That, according to reporting by The Sun's Catherine Rentz, is the attitude of many on Tilghman Island about the jail sentences handed down to some of those involved in a massive 2011 poaching operation. Everybody's doing it, the local thinking goes, so what's the big deal?
. . .
As Ms. Rentz reported, William J. "Billy" Lednum recently reported to federal prison to serve his year-and-a-day sentence stemming from a single poaching incident so huge that it prompted regulators to cut Maryland watermen's 2011 rockfish quotas by 5 percent. His co-conspirator, Michael D. Hayden Jr., is due to be sentenced this week. Their two helpers, Kent Sadler and Lawrence "Danny" Murphy, have both also received stiff sentences — fines and restitution plus 30 days in jail for Mr. Sadler, probation for Mr. Murphy.

What they did was to set illegal anchor nets in the bay out of season — so many nets and so early that they were filled with more than 10 tons of rockfish when National Resources Police began pulling them up on the first day of the February 2011 season. It took authorities four boats, including a 73-foot icebreaker, to haul all of it away. Officials closed the February gill net season after only eight days and reopened it for just two days at the end of the month. In all, regulators found about 13 tons of poached fish that month, a haul so egregious that it prompted tough new regulations on commercial fishing, including requirements that boats report when they leave and return to dock, increased audits and stiffer penalties for violations.
. . .
Poaching represents a real threat to efforts to understand the dynamics of the rockfish population and to set appropriate and sustainable levels for its harvest. Unless scientists know with some accuracy how many fish are being taken, they cannot fully understand how the population responds to management. Thus, the more fishermen evade the catch limits, the less successful efforts to allow the rockfish population to restore itself will be, and the stricter regulations will become.

Watermen may complain that government regulators are trying to stamp out their way of life, but it's actually people like Messrs. Lednum, Hayden, Sadler and Murphy — and those who encourage and abet them — who are doing that. Tilghman Islanders may find it shocking that people are going to jail over some fish, but it's quite clear that nothing else has gotten their attention. Messrs. Lednum and Hayden had been fined more than 20 times between them, and their poaching only got bolder. Unfortunately, from the sound of things, the message still isn't getting through. We certainly hope it does before poachers force the bay's striped bass fishery to shut down again.
A few stiff sentences may actually make the outlaw watermen of Chesapeake Bay think twice. I doubt poaching, either commercial or recreational will ever be entirely eliminated, but making it sufficiently expensive will help a great deal. Also, as the new "electronic" surveillance system in the Bay will make it harder to get away with it.

To Steal a Line From Greg Gutfeld

I Hate These People!

The hackers and whatever bastards write malware. I spent 2 hrs cleaning Georgia's lap top today.

Since my desktop is in the computer hospital getting a heart hard disc transplant, I used  hers last night for a while. Flash kept crashing in Chrome, which is annoying but not damaging, and I set off to upgrade flash, thinking I was doing a public service. Unfortunately, in my rush, I ignored good sense (and perhaps aided by malware already present) and got to a malware site instead, which promptly installed four malware programs, including one which took over the Chrome browser, and directed all searches through it's own search engine, which strongly favors ads, adware and malware.

First, I installed Spy Bot Search and Destroy, which took care of a couple, but not the browser issue. We shut the damn thing down for the night while I figured out what to do, using the IPad. I finally found a solution that did not involve downloading new and questionable software.

This afternoon, after we got back from the gym, I sat down with the instructions, and set to work. After uninstalling the offending programs, I had to manually close any related processes, edit the registry to remove lingering code (a scary procedure, which can go badly wrong), and then remove redirects in the browser, and reset Chrome to its default settings. But, knocking on wood, and crossing my fingers, it seems to have worked.

All in all, it was a pain in the ass, and a needless time suck.

And that's why I hate these people

12 Reasons to Hate and Fear the IRS

Nothing really new here. The IRS scandal continues grinding along, with the IRS, the "Justice", and the Obama administration obstructing and obfuscating the progress to a standstill. But the TaxProf  had this article on his blog today, and it's a pretty concise and "linky" summary of the scandal, which should never be allowed to drift below the event horizon.

12 IRS Embarrassments, 6 Questions Each Taxpayer Should Ask

  1. Internal emails show these groups were targeted because IRS employees thought them “icky.”Other emails showed that Lois Lerner was conspiring with the Department of Justice to prosecute conservative groups on trumped-up charges.
  2. Lerner herself refused to testify to investigating committees and was held in contempt.
  3. That didn’t stop her from defending herself to Politico magazine and complaining about being “harassed” for her role.
  4. Then, the IRS claimed it had lost the most crucial batch of Lerner’s emails.
  5. Oh yeah, and her Blackberry was destroyed too.
  6. Six months later, the Tax Inspector General may have found those lost emails. (Still no word yet on what was in them.)Scandal events aside, the IRS showed its general incompetence in many other ways.
  7. IRS workers campaigned for political candidates while on the job.
  8. The agency awarded bonuses to its own employees who owed taxes.
  9. Guess who was audited ten times more often than the average taxpayer? Supporters of the Tea Party.
  10. The IRS illegally shared confidential, protected information with the FBI, the White House, and more.
  11. And it has the nerve to constantly ask for a raise.

Obama Kills 42,000 Jobs

Obama vetoes Keystone pipeline bill because … it infringes on the executive branch’s prerogatives
A tip o’ the cap to O, after waging unauthorized war in multiple countries, rewriting various parts of the ObamaCare statute, and proclaiming by royal decree that amnesty hath come to America, for having the mammoth balls here to complain that Congress is stepping on his turf.

The bit about “circumventing longstanding processes” is a reference to the loooooooong State Department review — six years and counting — of whether Keystone, which would create more than 40,000 jobs during its construction, is in the “national interest.” That review is supposedly what’s being “cut short” by the bill on Obama’s desk. Although Sean Davis is right: In an era of unilateral presidential lawmaking, Congress attempting to set policy with bipartisan support (this one got 63 votes last month) itself qualifies as “circumventing longstanding processes.”
My advice to the republicans in congress is to go nuclear early and often.

Watching Josh Earnest defend the 6 year delay is priceless.

Get Your Kicks on Rt. 66

I apologize for a hasty 6 AM Eye Opener, but my desktop computer shit the bed last night, and I'm having to make do with Georgia's borrowed laptop.

Wombat-socho has the big "Rule 5 Sunday: Post-CPAC/Blogbash Edition" post ready at The Other McCain.

The Apartment from Heck

ng to eat

With that many fat happy spiders, you have to wonder what they're findi

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's Getting Hot

UN IPCC climate head Rajendra Pachauri resigns amid sexual harassment allegations
From the “the hornier they are the harder they fall” department: The head of the United Nations climate change panel (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.
The BBC reports as of 12 noon GMT today:
The head of the United Nations climate change panel (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.
A spokesman for Mr Pachauri told the IPCC that he had resigned from his position with immediate effect.
Indian police are investigating a complaint from a 29-year-old woman working in Mr Pachauri’s office in Delhi.Mr Pachauri has denied the allegations.
Lawyers for the woman say the harassment included unwanted emails as well as text and phone messages.
On Monday, the 74-year-old had pulled out of a high-level IPCC meeting in Kenya because of “issues demanding his attention in India”, as an IPCC spokesman put it.
The IPCC has since confirmed that the meeting will instead be chaired by its vice-president Ismail El Gizouli.
Mr Pachauri had chaired the IPCC since 2002. In 2007 he collected the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the organisation for its work in the scientific assessment of the risks and causes of climate change.
Where there's fire, there's smoke.

Now That It's Too Late to Affect the Election . . .

George Zimmerman won’t face civil rights charges in Trayvon Martin’s death
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that George Zimmerman will not face federal criminal civil rights charges for shooting and killing teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.

Zimmerman fatally shot Martin while the unarmed African American 17-year-old was walking in Sanford, Fla. The shooting became a national flashpoint, sparking a discussion of race relations that continues to reverberate since the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and other incidents across the country.

The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country.”
Obama and Holder drug this process out for political purposes. Zimmerman should get hundreds of thousands of dollars from the "Justice" Dept. for their using him to inflame racial hatred.

Feed 'Em Peanuts

Peanut allergy, an occasionally life-threatening condition that has prompted changes in food consumption rules everywhere from pre-schools to airlines, can be sharply reduced by feeding peanut protein to children at risk for the condition beginning when they are infants, researchers reported in a landmark study Monday..

The findings could have implications for other potentially dangerous childhood allergies, such as those to milk and eggs, and, if follow-up research shows the approach is safe, might be a response to the rapid spread of peanut allergies in the western world, experts said.

"This is really quite an important study," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, which partly funded the research. "We have been frustrated in what to do about it, and most of the tendency has been, since it's such a scary phenomenon...that parents and even pediatricians have taken the avoidance approach--keep them away from peanuts."

But in fact, the study contends, feeding small amounts of peanut protein to infants between the ages of four and 11 months who are at risk for peanut allergies dramatically reduced the incidence of the condition at the age of five, when they were compared to a group of children who did not consume peanut protein. Among the larger of two groups of children in the study, for example, 13.7 percent of those who avoided peanut protein developed the allergy while just 1.9 percent of those who consumed it did.
For years, mothers have been keeping toddlers away from peanuts and all kinds of other foods on the advice of government scientists for fear of stimulating food allergies. In all likelihood, this advice has served only to make food allergies more prevalent.This after the recent pull back of the cholesterol recommendations show how you should take their words with a large grain of salt (whose hazards have also been overrated.

Crab Feast!

An old Maryland tradition:

Octopi are pretty amazing creatures.

Midnite Music - "Don't Get Bitter"

Wombat-socho has the big "Rule 5 Sunday: Post-CPAC/Blogbash Edition" post ready at The Other McCain.

More Katy Guillen and the Girls:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Did Dark Matter Do In the Dinosaurs?

An interesting new theory on the demise of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous.

Every so often, the fossil record shows, ecological disasters wipe large numbers of species off the face of Earth. These mass extinctions occur roughly every 26 million to 30 million years—about the same interval at which our solar system passes through the plane of the Milky Way. Putting two and two together, some researchers have proposed that clouds of dust and gas in the galactic plane might disrupt the orbits of far-flung comets and trigger planet-smacking collisions. A new study suggests an additional culprit may lie behind those times of woe: dark matter.
Dark matter is a theory that there is some form of mass forming matter in the universe which interacts poorly with normal matter except through gravitation. It is essentially a way to balance the books between the mass needed to make galaxies behave the way they do, and the mass of visible stars (and associated star systems). At this point we know almost nothing about the properties of "dark matter" except that if it exists it must not interact with the matter we know and love very well, and there must be a lot of it associated with galaxies.

Some of Earth’s past mass extinctions have been caused by the impacts of extraterrestrial objects, such as the asteroid that struck near Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and wiped out the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. Others have occurred during extended periods of geological disruption that include region-smothering volcanic eruptions. Both kinds of catastrophes seem to occur on a cycle of about 30 million years, notes Michael Rampino, a geoscientist at New York University in New York City. “It’s always been a mystery as to how extraterrestrial impacts could cause these long-lived geological effects,” he says. But invisible dark matter, he proposes, could trigger both extraterrestrial impacts and geological upheavals in one fell swoop.
 OK, we're listening.
Scientists still don’t know what dark matter is, but its gravitational pull on other objects in space shows that there’s a lot of it out there. Researchers estimate that in the plane of the galaxy, each square light-year contains about one solar mass of dark matter. Like the clouds of dust and gas that astronomers can see, clouds of dark matter may be perturbing the orbits of distant comets, causing them to fall into the inner solar system where they can strike Earth.

But those clouds could directly affect Earth as well, Rampino says. As the solar system passes through this purported haze of particles clogging the galactic plane, some get trapped by Earth’s gravity, Rampino suggests. These particles orbit Earth’s core and eventually fall to the center of the planet, where they interact with normal matter or one another, releasing energy that gets transformed into heat.
Which is a great  story theory which presumes that dark matter can interact with normal matter well enough to create heat. But since we don't know anything about it, that's just a SWAG (scientific wild ass guess).
In the time it takes for the solar system to cross the galactic plane, interactions with dark matter could raise the temperature of Earth’s core by hundreds of degrees Celsius, Rampino reported online this week in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Then, over millions of years, that heat could be carried to Earth’s surface via massive plumes of hot buoyant rock that, in turn, create volcanic hot spots or slowly rip apart continents—possibly altering global climate or making huge swaths of the planet so inhospitable that millions of species perish.
The added volcanism could be the origin of the Deccan Traps, an enormous volcanic out burst which also occurred around the time of the Cretaceous extinction, which has been considered as a potential source of environmental stress that ended the dinosaur domination.
The idea that dark matter might cause both extraterrestrial impacts and geological upheavals “is intriguing,” says Dennis Kent, a geophysicist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. “One of those sources of environmental disruption might be tolerable,” he notes, but together they might pack a one-two punch that is too much for many ecosystems to bear. Indeed, he adds, some rather large impacts that weren’t accompanied by widespread geological devastation—such as an object that slammed into what is now the Chesapeake Bay nearly 35 million years ago, leaving a now-buried crater—don’t seem to have caused significant ecological damage.
I'll go with "intriguing" too. Until we know a lot more about dark matter, this is really just a just-so story. Like the cave-girls.

Wombat-socho has the big "Rule 5 Sunday: Post-CPAC/Blogbash Edition" post ready at The Other McCain.

More Dam News

There are a couple of articles on the Conowingo Dam issue that's been plaguing the Bay for, literally, as long as I've been here:

Capacity report holds no surprises for Conowingo Dam
A study released by the U.S. Geological Survey echoes much of what has already been found of the Susquehanna River and its relationship to the Chesapeake Bay.

The 28-page report authored by Michael Langland shows the storage capacity for sediment behind the Conowingo Dam has reached its saturation point.

“The Conowingo Reservoir is at — or very near — filled to capacity,” Langland said Thursday.

As dire as it sounds, Langland said the situation is not an emergency.

“It doesn’t mean that the dam is filled to the top,” he said. “It means the capacity to trap is nearly extinguished.”

A study released in November by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that, while there is an enormous sediment build-up, it is the content carried by the sediment that is the greater threat to the health of the bay.

Langland said the USGS report “is an expression of the (Corps of Engineers) report.” He added no decisions are made in either document.

“That has to be debated and decided by the people with the purse strings,” Langland said.
Watching this develop has been like watching the Titanic approach the iceberg, only slower. When I arrived in Maryland in 1985, it was commonly acknowledged that the pool behind Conowingo Dam was filling, and it was only a matter of time before it lost it's ability to retain sediments. In fact, I think they said 20 years. So the time is here, and nothing has been done.

So what to do? I know! Let's order another study! That'll put it off another couple of years.

UM scientists launch new Conowingo pollution study
Expected to take two years, the new study announced this week by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science comes on the heels of a joint federal and state assessment that the sediment buildup behind the dam is playing a relatively small but still significant role in degrading the upper bay.

That review, which took three years, concluded that dredging enough silt from behind the dam to restore its pollution-trapping capacity would cost up to $3 billion, and would provide only modest and temporary help.

A coalition of mostly rural counties, though, has argued that dredging would do more to help the bay than other costly and unpopular cleanup measures communities are being required to carry out, such as curbing storm-water runoff and dealing with pollution from household septic systems.
Here's my take on this mess. Conowingo Dam has been providing an accidental service to the Chesapeake Bay since it erected in the 1920, stopping sediment from the Susquehanna from entering the Bay.

Dredging behind the dam is expensive, approximately $3 billion (with a "b"), and the costs are likely to be borne by the states and feds.  The other way to get the amount of nutrient reduction from the Chesapeake Bay required to make the "Bay Diet" restrictions is to force the farmers to make expensive changes in how and when they fertilize.

So, given that you have the power to decide who has to pay, do you pay it yourself, or make the other guy (agriculture) ante up? The question practically answers itself.

In the grand scheme of the "Bay Diet" $3 billion is relatively small; the government share of the Bay Diet is expected to be $25 billion, and rising in accordance to Cheops' Law.

Obamacare Schadenfreude for Babies

Obamacare is for the kids, right? Not so fast.

ObamaCare exchange not allowing addition of newborns to policies
With all of the new bad news coming out this week from ObamaCare, here’s another horror story about the exchange from Utah that exemplifies the incompetence of government bureaucracy. One basic and nearly ubuquitous feature of health care — and indeed of family life — is the birth of children. Health insurance plans have made it simple to add children to family plans for decades, allowing new moms and dads to have the costs of childbirth covered ex post facto, as long as the covered individual notified the insurer within a set period of time, usually 30 days. Now, however, the federal exchange requires an extra step that turns the process into a needless catch-22 — and leaves families exposed to devastating financial damage.
Maggie and John, Shawnsi and Robin each got paired with their own health insurance company thanks to the act and now, naturally, they want to add their children to their policies.
Federal law does not allow their insurance companies to add the kids directly. Each mother must go back to the healthcare marketplace to add their child.
All three families attempted to add their newborns within the 30-day window of the child being born, as is required, but each was denied.
“The marketplace said it was required we had to go through CHIP,” Maggie said.
CHIP stands for the Children’s Health Insurance Policy. It is a program offered by the state of Utah to help insure kids whose parents can’t afford it. But each of these families do fine for themselves financially so they don’t qualify for CHIP.
CHIP (actually, the P stands for Program) is the federal-state welfare program that insures the children of low-income Americans. Why do new parents have to apply to CHIP at all, if they know they can’t qualify — and if they already have family health insurance? Why bother with this extra bureaucracy if parents clearly make too much money to enter the program, and don’t want to apply anyway? Presumably, this is an attempt at saving money in the exchanges, although certainly not for families, who may have to pay up to 5% of their income for coverage. (The ObamaCare exchange coverage is capped at 9.5% of income for family plans.) HHS is filtering additions of newborns specifically to keep them from enrolling in exchange plans if possible:
. . .
After KUTV began making calls, the three families in this story mysteriously had the obstacles removed for their coverage. It’s not what you know in government-run bureaucracies, but who you know … and who you embarrass. That’s one great reason among many to get government out of the business of running marketplaces rather than just regulating them.
Separation of Church and State? Not when it come to the church of Obamacare: HHS Pushes Church Talking Points, Bulletins to Promote Obamacare
In an effort to sign up as many consumers as possible for insurance under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), the Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to partner with churches and other faith-based groups, even publishing sample church bulletin inserts, flyers, and scripts for announcements, as well as "talking points." These materials are part of the "Second Sunday & Faith Weekend of Action Toolkit," which is available on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

From the beginning, HHS has sought to develop partnerships with faith-based organizations to promote the Obamacare. This "toolkit" has been available since 2013. However, the details of these partnerships have largely escaped the attention of the national media. The Second Sunday & Faith Weekend of Action program encourages churches to use the second Sunday of each month during open enrollment to hold informational meetings and sign-up events. The sample bulletin insert appears as follows:

Because it was so well planned: Obamacare deadline extended a week for some. Do you qualify?
The Obamacare deadline for 2015 has been extended to Sunday, Feb. 22, for people who say they attempted to sign up but were delayed by busy call centers and technical issues. In some cases, Obamacare signup delays also were brought on by winter storms.

If you started, but never finished, enrolling for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act before the Feb. 15 deadline, you’ve got another week to wrap things up.
The deadline for so-called Obamacare in 2015 has been extended to Sunday, Feb. 22, for people who say they attempted to get signed up but were slowed down by busy call centers or technical issues on

“We know many of you worked hard to enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace,” read an announcement Tuesday on the federalDepartment of Health and Human Services website. “Despite your best efforts, you may not have been able to complete your application and select a plan.”
Gum Will Be on Democrats' Shoe if Court Upends Health Law
So whom will the public blame if the court knocks out subsidies on the federal exchange? As this past election made clear, the public associates the ACA with the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. They know it passed without a single Republican vote and blame Democrats for its deficiencies. The ACA has been enduringly unpopular from its passage in 2010 to the present. The Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll reports that over the past four years, 42 percent is the highest favorability rate the act has received. Unfavorable opinions have been consistently higher.

Many Americans are still seething over the loss of insurance plans they liked and could afford. Everyone remembers the chaotic rollout of the website and many report continued problems signing up. They know that the drafting of the law was sloppy and that it was passed in a rush, skirting normal congressional procedures.

While most Americans may not understand the legal subtleties, they realize that Obamacare only survived the earlier Supreme Court challenge to the individual mandate because Chief Justice John Roberts was willing to manipulate the statutory language in order to save it. They will not be surprised or disappointed if this time the court refuses to rewrite the seemingly clear statutory language limiting subsidies to exchanges created by states and not exchanges created by the federal government.

Remarkably, the Obama administration has refused to discuss contingency plans and Democratic senators have said they don’t believe Democrats need to prepare for a potential adverse decision. Any administration regulatory fix will be limited by the language of the court’s decision, and it is unlikely the subsidy issue could be corrected without legislative action. Congress could amend the ACA to allow subsidies on federal exchanges, but Republicans who have spent the last five years opposing the ACA won’t let that happen. State governments could act to establish exchanges, but they have already shown they are unwilling (red states) or unable (Oregon, a blue state, ditched its malfunctioning exchange and went federal) to do so. It is not easy to set up an exchange, and an ACA provision providing money to do so has expired.

Democrats seem content to sit on their hands in the belief that the public will blame Republicans for challenging the ACA and for not having an alternative. But contrary to the Democrats’ narrative, Republicans have proposed ACA replacements which were dead on arrival in the previous Democratic-controlled Senate.
An optimistic point of view. Unfortunately it doesn't take into account the almost total domination of the MSM by liberals, who will solidly spin this as a Republican problem.

Because Nothing Says "Party!" Like a Good Roll in the Mud

Bloco da Lama (“Mud Block”)

On a carnival´s Saturday, 15 years ago, some friends played with mud in in the mangrove of “Praia do Jabaquara” (“Jabaquara´s Beach”) when they realized that they were unrecognizable. They went out in the city´s Historic Center streets like that, causing a great impact.

This was the rising of one of Brazilian carnival´s most bizarre blocks: The Mud Block. On the following year, a larger group gathered and left in a block on a carnival´s Saturday, representing a prehistoric tribe: muddy from head to toes, covered in rags, carrying skulls, lianas and bones and yelling uga, uga, rá, rá! Because it has grown so much in 15 years, the organizers and Paraty´s Tourism Secretary have been making campaignes with the participants, through local media and informative leaflets, about the importance of not smudge walls, cars or people that are passing by the streets, and, by that, honoring the name of the block and helping to preserve the tradition.

Every year, newspapers, magazines and TV shows surrender to the creativity of this block and dedicate stories to it. The Mud Block makes its route through “Praia do Jabaquara” (“Jabaquara´s Beach”) and, some years, the block is authorized to enter the Historic Center.

When there´s not even one negative spirit wandering around Paraty´s Carnival, the block says goodbye with a bath in the river or in the sea, leaving a message of peace so the city carnival can be as it has always been: a party of joy.
Now this is a tradition we can bring to America in the name of diversity. I even know a few good places around the state of Maryland where you can find some nice, black stinky mud to roll in.

Wombat-socho has the big "Rule 5 Sunday: Post-CPAC/Blogbash Edition" post ready at The Other McCain.

Let's Go Surfing Now, Everybody's Learning How

Even the dolphins.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A New Bully on the Block

Georgia gets a lot of pleasure out of feeding the birds. We have a "squirrel proof" feeder hanging off the back deck filled with a mixture of Safflower and Sunflower seed all the time, and it is visited by a steady stream of Carolina Wrens, Chickadees, Finches, Titmice, Cardinals, with occasional Nuthatches, Woodpeckers and even a couple of Mourning Doves, which are just a bit heavy for the feeder.

It also really does keeps the squirrels frustrated, as long as you hang it out of reach. Other birds, including Bluebirds and Blue Jays visit a water dish we try to keep thawed. A dollop of freeze dried meal worms daily is set out to attract Bluebirds, who never actually get any because the wrens and squirrels gobble them too rapidly.  We've tried deterring the squirrels by soaking the meal worms in hot pepper sauce. It helped for a few days, but now the squirrels come by in sombreros.

We were in Wallyworld a couple days ago looking at bird food, and Georgia decided to buy some peanut butter suet in an attempt to broaden the mix of visiting birds. The first morning, it started to look promising, as the Blue Jays found it, and started steadily chiseling off chunks, However, shortly this guy showed up, and the scene changed dramatically:

Yes, this Mockingbird loves the peanut butter suet, and declared the whole back porch to be his exclusive property, sitting on the deck or in the apple tree overlooking the deck, and systematically chasing off any birds trying to feed on the feeder, drinking water, taking meal worms or eating the suet. Even though he doesn't seem to care about the seed in the feeder, or the meal worms.

I don't think we'll be buying anymore peanut suet after he and the squirrels finish off this block.

Ice and Snow at the Beach 2/22/15

We got a break in the freezing weather with the passage of a rain storm last night and this morning. This afternoon when the clouds cleared we headed off to the beach. The rain had not completely destroyed the ice and snow yet, and with another cold shot due tomorrow, it's likely to rebuild.
 It was a pretty low tide, and there was a fair amount of beach exposed. We found a few teeth, 15 to be exact, though none worthy of the "top shelf."
There was a large raft of ducks hanging just south of the the harbor. They didn't look or behave like Buffies or Old Squaws, our most common winter ducks.
 And the zoom lens shows them to be a mixture of Canvasbacks and Ruddy Ducks. The Ruddies are in the foreground and the Canvasbacks are together behind them.
 The break in the weather had quite a few people out
Just another interesting ridge of ice pushed up by the waves and tides.