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2010 February — Why Now?
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Posts from — February 2010

Drive By Blogging

One of the Florida newspaper sites, possibly the Orlando Sentinel Local Puppy Trainer, features random Flickr albums. They had an album of signs yesterday that included this warning sign at a gardening store:

“Parents: Unattended children will be given expresso and a free puppy.”

Jimi was reincarnated as a finch. The BBC has an article on a new art exhibit that features Gibson Les Paul guitars, cymbals, and wild finches. Play the video and wait for the little dude with the twig at about 1 minute in.

February 28, 2010   4 Comments

Two Years In A Row

Last year it was extratropical storm Klaus which cost over $5 billion, and this year it’s Xynthia

At least 50 people have been killed in storms that have lashed parts of Spain, Portugal and France, officials say.

Forty-five of the victims died in France, where many drowned or were hit by parts of buildings or falling trees.

Winds of up to 140km/h (87mph) caused chaos as they moved from Portugal up through the Bay of Biscay.

The storm system is moving north-eastwards and areas of France bordering Belgium and Germany are on alert for heavy rain and high winds.

They recorded winds of 120 mph at the top of the Eiffel Tower and it is pulling in supersaturated air that will cause major flooding. This may be the new “normal” for winter in Europe.

February 28, 2010   2 Comments

Another Reporter Taken In

Jim Axelrod on CBS starts out with a good story in The Great American Paycheck Squeeze:

“We’re living through one of the worst times for wage growth ever,” said Larry Mishel, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit Washington think tank. “From 2002 to 2007, the hourly compensation of a typical college graduate or a typical high school graduate went up zero – didn’t grow at all.”

“Between 1989 and 2007, before the Great Recession, of all the income growth that was generated, the bottom 90 percent [of Americans] got only 15 percent of it. The upper one percent got 55 percent. And the upper tenth of the upper one percent, the one out of 1,000 households, got about a third of all the income growth.”

But then he had to find someone to offer an opposing view, because all stories have to be “balanced”:

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February 28, 2010   2 Comments

Chile – Some Numbers

While the death toll has passed 700, the operation has to be hampered by aftershocks.

In the 24 hours following the initial earthquake there have been 100 seismic events, more than one every 15 minutes. Seven of them were between 6.0 and 6.9, 81 between 5.0 and 5.9, and 12 between 4.6 and 4.9. That means the people looking for survivors in buildings that failed, can expect to be inside when the next aftershock occurs, and possibly become trapped by debris.

Earthquakes are not single events – there are always aftershocks. That’s why you don’t immediately go back inside after one. That was just the first and the worst, but there will be encores.

February 28, 2010   2 Comments

What A Total Jerk!

Jim Bunting is a pitiful excuse for a human being. He draws his full salary, but doesn’t bother to show up for votes. When he does show up, it’s just to cause trouble while claiming to be defending “his” conservative principles:

He [Bunting] said lawmakers kept talking about fiscal discipline and the nation was facing a debt crisis. “If we can’t find $10 billion somewhere for a bill that everybody in this body supports,” he said, “we will never pay for anything.”

It’s amazing that Bunting didn’t seemed worried about the debt when he backed the Iraq War, only when it came to ordinary people who need some help.

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February 27, 2010   8 Comments

Iditarod Preview

Iditarod map even yearsNext Saturday is Susan Butcher Day in Alaska, which means the start of the Iditarod.

As this is an even year, the race will use the northern loop from Ophir to Kaltag, and pass through lovely places like Galena [a former Air Force facility that put the COLD in Cold War].

If you had been paying attention there will be some familiar names among the 75 teams including Hans Gatt and the rest of the top six finishers in the Yukon Quest, as well as Sam Deltour of Belgium and Gerry Willomitzer of Whitehorse.

In addition to Sam Deltour the foreign mushers have Newton Marshall of Jamaica [completed the Yukon Quest last year], and Wattie McDonald and John Stewart of Scotland.

There are eight mushers in the Canadian contingent, four from the Yukon, two from Alberta, and one each from British Columbia and Ontario.

The real question is weather. The same pattern that has been sucking cold air into Florida has been pulling mild air into Alaska. I had Arctic Survival in March of 1968 and it didn’t get above -40°, so temperatures above freezing at Nome are definitely not what I would have expected. The Yukon Quest was held a week earlier than in past years and the temperatures were moderate, so people may have to consider changing the dates to even earlier in the winter.

February 27, 2010   13 Comments

Chilean Earthquake

Central Chile was rudely awakened at 3:34AM local time [6:34 AM UTC] by an 8.8 earthquake in the trench [subduction zone] off the coast at Maule.

Since then there have been almost two more than three dozen aftershocks from Valparaiso south to Araucania, including a 6.9 off the coast at Bio-Bio at 5:01AM local [8:01 AM UTC].

Because of the location and strength of the earthquake, a tsunami alert has been issued for the Pacific that extends to Australia.

The BBC reports that the current death toll is 78 122. The relatively low number is a result of the standards put in place following most powerful earthquake in the 20th century, an 9.5 in Chile in 1960. [BBC map of the area affected.]

Update: the death toll is now over 200. In addition to the 70+ aftershocks in Chile, the quake was the probable cause of a 7.0 earthquake near Okinawa on the opposite side of the Pacific plate. The tsunami was only 6 feet [1.8 meters] when it reached Hawaii, and was lost in the bad weather off the US Pacific coast.

February 27, 2010   11 Comments

Equal Opportunity?

The McClatchy headline tells the story: Obama aides to meet with atheists on White House grounds

The president isn’t expected to make an appearance at the meeting with the Secular Coalition for America or to unveil any new policy as a result of it.

Instead, several administration officials will sit down quietly for a morning meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus with about 60 workhorses from the coalition’s 10 member groups, including the American Atheists and the Council for Secular Humanism. Tina Tchen, the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and representatives from the Justice and Health and Human Services departments will participate.

Somehow I don’t think PZ Myers is going to be impressed with this bit of outreach. If you have the time to waste with the Republican Congressional leaders, you should have the time to talk to the homeless in Lafayette Park, or even atheists. It’s not like Obama has gotten any support from religious leaders.

I have no idea why the writer used the term “workhorses” in this article. That is simply weird.

February 26, 2010   Comments Off on Equal Opportunity?

Oh, No, Not A Haircut!!!

McClatchy reports that Rubio’s charges to GOP credit card included $134 haircut.

When will they learn? Everyone knows that an expensive haircut is the kiss of death for a politician. Forget about all of the seemingly bogus charges on the credit card, the haircut proves that Marco is a latté swilling elitist. For that kind of money you are talking “salon” and “stylist”, not a barbershop. 😈

Actually I think the repairs to his minivan are a bigger deal, but that’s just me. I don’t think the tea party crowd are going to be thrilled with the credit card charges. There are a lot of Republican donors already PO over the way the ROPF was spending their donations.

Speaker of the Florida House is becoming the title you have before you end up with a number on a prison uniform.

February 26, 2010   4 Comments

Oh, Yeah, This Will Work…

We have seen a brutal drop in foreign tourists along the Gulf Coast since they changed all of the rules after 9/11. It became too expensive, and too traumatic to consider dealing with the US border for a vacation. It’s almost to the point that if you hear someone speaking a foreign language around here, it’s safe to assume that they’re undocumented, because they are the only ones who have figured out the new system.

So, now the “powers that be” have noticed and decided to do something about it: Bill for U.S. travel promotion organization headed to president’s desk

A $10 fee charged to visitors from countries included in the Visa Waiver Program who don’t have to apply and pay for visas will partially fund the public-private organization. These visitors will pay the fee every two years when they register online using the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

That’s right, make the people who want to come pay for ads begging them to come.

It is a giant PITA to come to the US from the civilized world, and they don’t want to address any of the problems of the system, but they want those willing to put up with the aggravation to pay for advertising.

A news flash – everything is not a marketing problem with a marketing solution.

February 26, 2010   9 Comments

Congress Can Act When It Wants To

When it comes to infringing on the Fourth Amendment’s rights: The PATRIOT Act was extended by a voice vote in the Senate on Wednesday, and by the House on Thursday, without any changes to address privacy concerns.

It’s just bills that address the problems of the people of the United States that they can’t pass.

February 26, 2010   Comments Off on Congress Can Act When It Wants To

Friday Cat Blogging

Lap Warmer

Friday Cat Blogging

You need a bigger lap.

[Editor: Sox is a very welcome addition as the weather has again turned cold down here. It would be nice if he were smaller or lighter, but he is definitely warm.]

Friday Ark

February 26, 2010   7 Comments

The Jelly Doughnut Gang

Apparently the Mossad has had a reorganization under the Likudniks and has stopped doing operations similar to John le Carré novels in favor of scripts for Peter Sellers movies. Along the way they have screwed up the lives of about three dozen people by stealing their identities and forging the passports of the few nations in the world who might be considered their friends. This is not a good time to be an Israeli ambassador in an English speaking nation.

On a lighter note, I did enjoy this exchange in the Australian Parliament during Question Time on the matter:

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he wants to know why the Government has not ensured that Australia’s passport system is more secure.

But Mr [Foreign Minister Stephen] Smith says Mr Abbott should not seek to score political points over the matter because the passports in question were issued in 2003.

“Last time I looked, in 2003 you were a minister in a previous government,” Mr Smith told Mr Abbott.

“You were … a member of the executive which oversaw the issuing of that passport.

“You should think very carefully before you speak on these matters.”

If the Democratic leaders in Congress would do this sort of thing more often, and not have to wait for junior Congresscritters like Alan Grayson, we might get something done, but the leadership may look upon this as a feature and not a bug in our system. 😈

February 25, 2010   10 Comments

They Don’t Get It

Local fishermen have gone to Washington, to complain about the restrictions on fishing, especially red snapper in the Gulf.

The fish population is down, and everyone knows it, but won’t admit it. In addition to years of over-fishing, you have the expanding dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi caused by agricultural run-off in the Midwest, and well as a lack of water in the rivers during the last couple of years of drought in the Southeast. The drought conditions have eased, but the bays haven’t been scoured clean.

We have ever more frequent incidents of red tide, and other problems that affect the population of the Gulf.

The reality is that if we don’t give the fish time to recover, the fishing industry is dead, and not just for a year, but forever. It is happening around the world, and the global climate change isn’t going to improve the situation. We have to clean up our act and our oceans. Nobody wanted to back off when this would have been relatively painless, so the pain is going to come. The only reason the industry hasn’t already collapsed is because of the net bans put into the Florida constitution in the 1990s. Many of the same fishermen who are complaining in Washington, fought those bans, too.

February 24, 2010   5 Comments