Monday, August 31, 2015

If You're Going To Quote My Blog - Do It HONESTLY!

I have no problem, none at all, with other bloggers quoting my words from one or more blog posts. If they want to use them to try to show I have a "lame" argument, fine. Just do me one favor and make sure the quote is: a) correct and complete, and b) unchanged from the context intended.  If either or both of those isn't done then I don't consider the tactics used to be "cricket"  and I don't regard the counter arguments as valid. Instead, they are egregious and based upon a distortion of the original.

A case in point concerns a post of mine on gun insanity from several days ago, in which I argued that had the Roanoke killer Vester Flanagan  ONLY been armed with a knife, he'd never have been able to inflict the level of damage he did with his Glock 9mm. Evidently, a pro-gun enthusiast blogger didn't cotton to my take and tried to use my own quote against me - to show my argument was "lame".

Problem is, his method was dishonest. For while he correctly quoted the first segment, i.e. "If gun sales were as limited in this country as in others, Flanagan might not have been able to carry out his foul deed", he totally left out the context and the specific hypothetical condition: i.e. that Flanagan was armed only with a KNIFE.  That was the hypothetical I applied, not that he could get a "bomb" or do anything else, like "getting a gun from a ghetto" (?!) Hence, it wasn't kosher or cricket to change the conditions to try and shoot down the argument in a more facile way! (Resorting to the "straw man" fallacy.)

It's tempting, of course, to interject red herrings like "bombs" - gun types do it all the time.  But they either take the rest of us for lacking common sense, or they lack it. A bomb, after all, has to be carefully assembled and one screw up and kA-BOOM. The guy is blown to bits without completing his goal. In the end, given the complexities, it'd always be easier to choose a knife than a bomb. So, it's a red herring to drag a bomb into the mix when the hypothetical condition sets out a knife.  Obviously, Mr. Pro Gun couldn't squirm out of the given hypothetical so dragged in a bomb. (And compounding the original offense even more egregiously, dragged in a "gun from the ghetto" in the next breath!)

As I noted, given THAT hypothetical condition - which the gun blogger carefully excluded- it is doubtful Flanagan would be able to kill two people and severely wound a third. The time factor, as well as the inconvenience of having to use a manual weapon up close and personal - as opposed to neatly discharging a powerful firearm from a distance -would likely have prevented it. And I stand by that.

As I noted in my corollary to the pet chant: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people"

Yes, BUT IF guns didn't make killing so easy then people wouldn't kill so many people.

And, like it or not, Mr. Pro Gun was not able to disprove that, again using the hypothetical given and without resorting to 'add ins' that I never cited.

The hard, logical fact that gun aficionados refuse to accept is that guns DO make killing easier. Expeditious is probably the best word. Also, from the stats I cited, 70 percent of gun murders happen in the home, not outside it. - or done by nuts. The persons doing the killing were always originally in the proper state of mind but "lost it" in a fiery argument. Then turned the gun on one or more loved ones. These are stats the gun guy has yet to refute, and also, whether HE personally would do such a thing or not is immaterial. He is one guy - I am writing of thousands of documented, actual cases from  2009-2014.

Again, I don't mind anyone contradicting me, or arguing in an opposite way - but I do expect if you use any quotes from my blog you do so honestly, and not twist them around - or omit sections- to try and make your own arguments less onerous.

I don't believe that's asking too much!

Of Dead Lions And Swarming Migrants - Why We Need To Get A Handle On Overpopulation NOW!

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A Lion's head ready to be packed and dispatched by air to a trophy hunter's 'cave' in the USA
calais, migrant, britain, welfare, economic, immigration, population ...
African migrants congregate near Calais to try to make a break through the "Chunnel" to get to Great Britain

The identification of 71 bodies of Syrian and Afghan migrants, stuffed into a Hungarian meat truck with Slovakian licenses just inside the Austrian border,  has raised awareness of the peril of human smuggling, and also the dastardly nature of it  - much of the sordid business conducted by unscrupulous rogues. It also has brought to attention the tidal wave of migrants and refugees flooding into Europe in search of a better life.

It is also doubtful that many people will make the connection between lion trophy heads dispatched to trophy hunters' homes in the U.S. and African migrants pouring into Europe - but there is a connection, and it's overpopulation. Overpopulation in the African continent - which for years has gone unaddressed - especially in making contraception widely available.  Now the 'chickens' have come home to roost, first with humans' expanding numbers encroaching on lion territory and second, national populations now so dense - and with vanishing opportunities - that it drives people to find refuge abroad, mainly in Europe.

In the WSJ piece, 'Humans, Lions Struggle to Co-Exist', Aug. 8-9, p. A7, it was noted:

"Africa's human population is the fastest growing in the world. In roughly the same period as the lion decline (42 percent over 21 years), the number of Africans has doubled to nearly 1.2 billion people. The population will double again to 2.5 billion by 2050 according to the United Nations."

In fact, short of a global catastrophe, it is projected to reach 5.8 billion by 2100. That means nearly 1 of every 2 people on Earth will be African. Where will the resources be to support them? The jobs? The water? The life quality? Fact is, that population growth is unsustainable and means either vast numbers will perish, likely of disease, war or famine - or they will do everything they can to go to places with greater opportunity and resources- like Europe and the U.S.

Already, as the second image shows, European locations are being swarmed by desperate Africans, from Eritrea, Uganda, Somalia, Nigeria and other countries - as well as by Syrians seeking to escape their civil war.

The WSJ piece further emphasizes that while the African population boom "has centered on increasingly crowded cities and migrants risking their lives for better opportunities on other continents" it is also "stressing rural populations".

The consequences are serious and portend that disaster lies ahead unless something is done to slow the population. Because in truth, Africa cannot solve its growth simply by dispatching its surplus population overseas, and  besides those overseas native populations are already chafing at their own austerity-limited resources being consumed by outsiders.

In Africa's case, as the article goes on, more people "has meant more forests being turned into pastures, more locals hunting lions' prey for their own meals - leading to starving lions- and more herders killing lions rather than risking cattle." It also means more stressed African nations, i.e. see those identified below,
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allowing trophy hunters to come in and claim their "prizes" for money - ostensibly to support conservation, but more accurately to support assorted African power regimes and bureaucratic kingpins.

How bad is it? As the WSJ article notes, Central and West Africa have already suffered the loss of 66 percent of their lion population. In W. Africa, lions  - because of burgeoning human numbers - are now confined to less than 1 percent of the 4.5 million square miles of sparsely forested land where they used to roam.

In Mozambique alone, human number inside the giant Niassa Reserve have grown from 21,000 in 2001 to 35, 000 in 2012 leading to increasing clashes with the park's lions, and many deaths  - often from hunts, or being caught in snares.

Clearly, Africa's uncontrolled population growth is driving the mass slaughter of lions. It doesn't take a math genius or ecologist to see that.

Then there is the migrant issue, which now has the attention of most European Union nations. How bad is it? According to another WSJ piece by Simon Nixon ('Crisis At EU's Borders Becoming Next Big Threat to Cohesion', Aug. 17, p. A5), Germany alone reckons that 800,000 migrants have arrived this year. These numbers are also testing the level of German hospitality - already stretched by the nearly 1 million Turks in the country, and which we saw nasty evidence of anti-immigrant, pro-Nazi blowback when we visited Munich in May, 2013. See e.g.

The EU border agency Frontex, Simon Nixon notes, "estimates that more than 100,000 mirgants crossed into the EU in July alone, compared with 270,000 for the whole of last year."

Again, these migrations can't go on, and the Europeans won't accept millions piling onto their shores in the coming years,  when the originating nations can't or won't control their own numbers. In the meantime the EU is desperately trying to establish a quota law for all members of the EU such that each member nation takes in its fair share. However, the eastern European nations are thus far having none of it - demanding their own limits. For example, Slovakia right now insists on only 200 migrants, maximum, and all must be Christians- no Muslims. This position is a non-starter for Angela Merkel and the Germans, but the eastern EU members insist they lack the resources of Germany and the UK to support thousands.

In Greece alone, those entering from (mainly) Syria enter a no man's land with precious few supporting resources - even food and water. The existing tent cities housing thousands are almost exclusively dependent on volunteers top assist. Greek austerity is a major component in the lack of assistance, and the migrants currently stuck there only hope they can move on to northern Europe soon.

Meanwhile, if the African continent sports 2.5 billion by 2050 will the Europeans really let 1 billion flood their shores from the Sahel region and equatorial Africa, swarming in rickety boats across the Mediterranean ? If you believe so, you are dreaming.

According to EU law NOW, when the flood is around 100,000 a month max, those migrants claiming refugee status (as most do - according to Nixon, ibid.) are "entitled to be fed and housed while their cases are being investigated".

That is sure to change if the incoming numbers get much higher, again - not out of any innate nastiness - but because in a world of limited resources charity only goes so far. As Nixon points out:

"For a country such as Greece, in the midst of a financial crisis, the drain on resources has been too much, leading to angry scenes at reception centers."

Things will not go much better in other EU nations if they face austerity- and the slowing of the world's economic growth portends this given the ongoing degradation of energy sources.

The solution is clear, and the U.S. and EU know it too. They must collaborate to make artificial contraception widely available and make sure Africans know how to use it. This is not, as some knot heads argue - a device to "control black numbers"  - but rather to control the numbers of humans in the most overpopulated and fastest growing region on the planet. Who will not find salvation outside their places of origin, if they fail to take control of their own numbers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Coin Debasement - Began With LBJ

July 23rd passed by this year and it's doubtful many people took notice, or pondered the significance. If you asked 100 people if the date had any special meaning to them- 99 would surely give a blank stare and say 'No' or 'Not sure'.  After all, who but a numismatics freak (coin, currency collector) would be aware it was the 50th anniversary of the Coinage Act of 1965 which stripped  all U.S. coins of silver and made legal tender out of base metal slugs.

Don't believe me? Dig into your pockets and pull out quarters. Check the dates on them. If 1964 or earlier they're the real deal.  If you look at the sides of the coins you won't see any copper rim or core to which the rest of the coin is bonded.  Now, take a quarter from 1965 or later and take a good hard look and that nasty copper band will be seen - all around the coin periphery.

For whatever reason we now know the debasement of our coinage began with LBJ. Perhaps it ought to be fitting that the same asshole who engineered the killing of John F. Kennedy, and launched the Vietnam War under a pretext, should also be responsible for passing the single act that debased our coinage.

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JFK half dollar from 1964 - before being debased to  80 % silver on the outside and 19 % on the inside

For those not into numismatics or the history of U.S. coins, the original Coinage Act established the U.S. mint and declared the dollar as "the money of account" for the new Republic. It defined the dollar as 371 ¼ grains of silver or the equivalent in gold.  At the same time, the penalty for debasing coins struck under the law was death  (hmmmmm.....too bad LBJ couldn't have been sent back in a time machine to face the music for debasement that he escaped in the assassination.)

That was because since Alexander Hamilton's day our coinage, including dimes, quarters and half dollars, had contained 90 percent silver. When LBJ signed the 1965 Act the value of the dollar was almost the same as it was in 1792, 0.77 ounces of silver.

However, after the 1965 Act, the dimes and quarters would contain no silver - but only be composites: with faces of the same alloy used in nickels but now bonded to a core of pure copper. Debasement! Meanwhile, the new half dollar would have 80 % silver on the outside and 19 % on the inside

What was LBJ's rationale? Clever to say the least! He claimed that on account of "a worldwide silver shortage the only really prudent course was to reduce our dependence on silver to make our coins". He then made more egregious claims such as "silver coins will never disappear or even become rarities".  Really? Then why do so many collect them now?

LBJ insisted the new coins would be used along side the old ones and no one would be any the wiser. Well, not to numismatics freaks, especially as the pre -1965 coins have mostly disappeared from circulation. (Though occasionally, when I check my change, I do pick out an odd 1964 quarter, which I then stow away to save with others- as I want to recall what non-debased coins looked like!)

Meanwhile, those misers who opt to spend silver or gold coins they've hoarded are subject to a capital gains tax.

That's not all. The value of the dollar itself started sinking soon after the 1965 coinage act and by 1980 the dollar - originally valued at 0.77 ounces of silver- had sunk to 0.02 ounces of silver. Today it is valued at just 0.l06 ounces of silver.

Can states go their own way and commence minting their own pre-1965 type coins again? Nope. The U.S. Constitution prohibits states from coining money themselves or making anything but gold or silver coins legal tender. And btw, the coins are taken to be collector's items not the genuine, legit article.

Sadly, LBJ screwed this country in more ways than one. No wonder the Kennedys hated his guts.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Another Study Shows Global Warming "Pause" Never Happened

Yet another climate research paper has disclosed that there really was no global warming "hiatus" or pause. It was a matter of inconsistent data treatment, particularly in processing sea surface temperatures - especially as measured by buoys. First reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013, the claim resulted from an erroneous interpretation resulting from a disproportionate use of buoys the past several decades. As is now known, these buoys tend to give cooler readings than measurements taken from ships. This was noted by Thomas Karl, Director of the National Centers for Environmental Information of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NOAA) and lead author of the recent paper which appeared in the journal Science.

This error was likely compounded in conjunction with the misinterpretation of Hadley UK Center future projections on climate that I've already discussed at length, e.g.

I would even venture to say that the preponderance of false judgment by too many (mainly conservatives like George Will eager for a counter poise) resulted from the misinterpretation of data in that cited Nature paper by Noel Keenlyside et al from 2008.  But the new results independently show the warming pause to be bogus.

As Karl noted, quoted in Eos Transactions - Earth & Space Science (July 1):

"The biggest takeaway is there is no slowdown in global warming".

Indeed, he added that warming the past fifteen years is the "strongest it's been since the latter half of the 20th century". Putting an exclamation point on that, July this year has been the hottest July since records were initiated.

A good summary of the paper may be accessed at:

Why the measurement difficulty? Well, because the data gathering and process of analysis are inherently complex.  In order to achieve such a measurement as how Earth's average global temperature is increasing, there's a lot of "sausage making".  First, scientists must combine thousands of measurements from Earth's surface, taken by land instruments, ships. buoys and orbital satellites.

Second, each of these has its own random errors, all of which must be identified. Not only must researchers comb through the data to eliminate these errors, they must also correct for any differences in how each type of instrument measures temperature.

Thus, the authors of the Science paper had to dig into NOAA's global surface temperature analysis data to examine how sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were being measured. SSTs are measured in various ways:

- collecting ocean water in a bucket and measuring its temperature directly

- measuring the temperature of water taken in by a ship engine as a coolant

- using floating buoys moored in the various oceans

Each technique records slightly different temperatures in the same region so scientists have to adjust the data. In the past couple decades the number of buoys has increased - adding 15% more coverage to the ocean. But because buoys tend to read colder temperatures than ships at the same locations, a measurement bias is introduced which must be corrected for. This was the primary task set out by Karl et al.  They corrected for the bias by adding 0.12C to each buoy temperature.

By then combining the ocean data with improved calculations of air temperatures over land around the world, Karl and colleagues found that overall global surface warming over 2000-14 was 0.116C per decade or more than twice the estimated 0.039C starting in 1998 that the IPCC had reported.

Over and above all of this, as noted in the Sci-Am link below, from a statistical perspective:

"The pause does not actually exist, since observations over 15 years are not significant enough to be called a climate trend."

But by then the erroneous take had "jumped the shark", as it were, and the conservo media was blind to everything else including the inevitable corrections!

See also:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Time To Get Control Of The Gun Insanity

"There is evidence that if guns weren't so widely available.... if  we could just put some space - a time out - between the person that's upset  because he got fired, or after the domestic abuse or whatever other motivation may be working on someone who does this...maybe we could prevent this kind of carnage." - Hillary Clinton yesterday

Alison Parker (24)  and Adam Ward  (27)) were two up and coming stars, reporters for their Roanoke, VA station  WDBJ- 7. They were in the middle of an interview of the head of the Chamber of Commerce when an unhinged nut, Vester Flanagan, opened fire at 6:45 a.m. with 14 shots, killing both. Yet another tragedy,  now after Charleston, Newtown, Aurora and Virginia Tech. When does this insanity end?

Of course you can expect the usual chant from the NRA gun lobby and its assorted followers, to wit:

"Guns don't kill people. People kill people".

But they totally ignore the corollary:

"People wouldn't kill as many people if killing with guns wasn't so easy"

That's the core of it: the ease of killing another with a weapon that doesn't even require you get up close and personal, like using a machete or knife.  If gun sales and distributions were as limited in this country as they are in others, Flanagan might not have been able to carry out his foul deed - say if he only had access to a knife. Yes, he'd likely have inflicted damage but there would at least have been time for the two others shot to react - if only to dodge the knife thrust  which, let's face it, is a lot slower than a bullet traveling at hundreds of feet per second.

All this is firmly supported by a new study from the American Sociological Association just out this week which shows:

- Despite only having 5 percent of the world's population the U.S. has had 31 percent of all mass shootings since 1966

- The U.S. is also first in the world for civilian gun ownership with 88.8 firearms per 100 people. (The next highest rate is Yemen at 54.8 per 100 people)

The other canard that the gun nuts will offer  is that well, it's nuts doing most of the shooting and hence all the gun laws in the world won't stop it but will stop law abiding citizens from the freedom to own Glocks, AK-47s and AR-15s as well as Bushmaster .223s.  But this is false.  The unholy truth is that most shootings are  NOT ideological or random but rather domestic (in people's homes) - either suicides or one spouse (usually male) killing the other after a fiery argument.  Again, the availability of guns makes it easier to solve disagreements in the most expedient and catastrophic way.

This was documented last night on Chris Hayes' All In. Melissa Jeltsen of the HuffPo affirmed we are missing the big picture, especially on mass shootings, but also regular shootings.  She noted the reason our perceptions are distorted is because most mass shootings we hear about happen in public. Hence, we believe the greatest risk is in public spaces - whether schools, theaters or malls. But this is false.

Assaying all mass shootings between 2009 and 2015, she found that 70 percent occurred in the home. Of these, 57 percent involved a family member or current or former intimate partner. 81 percent of the victims were women and children. These killings were not done by 'crazies' but usually normal people who simply lost it in the midst of a heated argument and reached for the weapon nearest and dearest - a gun. Maybe the perp was a gun collector or maybe he just owned one for "protection" - but ultimately it was turned not on an intruder but on his own loved one.

This is the lie we need to expunge - that shootings are only 'random' and done by psychos - in order to pass more rigorous gun control laws including demanding a fully 30 day waiting period for detailed NSA, FBI background checks. If we can do it for terrorists, we can do it for potential gun owners whose killings now vastly outnumber those of terrorists.

Apart from these sociological findings, a historical perspective on the 2nd amendment and gun ownership is also useful.  In a worthwhile book entitled 'Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right To Bear Arms in America', a professor of constitutional law at UCLA - Adam Winkler- has masterfully documented how guns were regulated from the earliest days of our Republic. As an example: laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, in Indiana in 1820 and in Tennessee and Virginia in 1838. Similar laws were later also passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma.

The then governor of Texas in 1893 was heard to proclaim:

"The mission of the concealed weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law abiding man".

WOW! How times have changed!

Meanwhile, Winkler showed that congress passed the first set of laws regulating, licensing and taxing guns in 1934. Though the law was challenged and wound up in the Supreme Court, in 1939, the crazies lost. FDR's Solicitor General framed the argument correctly to the Court:

"The Second Amendment grants people a right that is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only exists where the arms are borne in a militia or some other military organization provided by law and intended for protection of the State."

The SC decision was unanimous.

While this sane and sober take prevailed for several more decades, it started to unravel by the 1970s as various Right wing (wouldn't you know?) groups coalesced to challenge gun control based on spurious "private gun ownership" interpretations, and successively overturned laws in state legislatures - much like the abortion opponents are now doing (as in Virginia, where its AG Cuchinelli 'read the riot act' to state health clinic administrators ordering them to cooperate with a new state edict to limit safe abortions, "or else"). But we need to know this is how these vipers succeed.

Undissuaded by the gun crazies' arguments, especially that the 2nd amendment granted every man the right to keep and bear arms on his own, Chief Justice Warren Burger responded that this interpretation was "one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

Well, it's good Justice Burger didn't live long enough as to see the arrival of automatic weapons and the claim that the 2nd amendment provided for the ownership of those too!

Finally, kudos to Walmart for formally ending sales of all military-style assault rifles in U.S. stores. You don't need a damned assault rifle to hunt, and if you do need one - you shouldn't be out hunting but strapped down in a psycho ward, on thorazine and lithium.

See also:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Union of Concerned Scientists Exposes The Fraudsters On Climate Change

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Part of the document retrieved from the fossil fuel doubt merchants on when "victory will be achieved."

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)  includes thousands of genuine research scientists devoted to educating the public on actual scientific findings and what they portend, and exposing the science charlatans who seek to cloud the public mind to unfolding realities. One of the latter is that the planet is indeed getting hotter with the month of July now in the record books as the hottest ever. This as yet more research (published in Science) shows the warming "pause" never happened and hundreds of fires scorch the West with over seven million acres burning - giving a horrific preview of the world to come in the era of the runaway greenhouse (except in that case the fires will ravage the whole country and last through the year)

Their other achievement has been accessing documents that prove the climate deniers (exposed in the Naomi Oreskes' book The Merchants of Doubt) have been determined to hoodwink the public on climate change - its validity and its peril.

See also:

Readers will recall how I've exposed Willie Soon as one of these merchants of doubt, see e.g.

But as the latest UCS Bulletin noted, Soon is only a small part of a much bigger story, as disclosed in the UCS Report, The Climate Deception Dossiers.  The latter is the product of a year's review and analysis of a wide range of internal corporate and trade group documents.

As with the case of fracking, the perpetrators will never own up to their slimy dishonest tactics themselves, or the damage they're doing. You have to expose them by exposing their actual documents that they themselves wrote and - in essence- wherein they've admitted the havoc they're wreaking.

Like the climate deniers, the frackers were exposed in Naomi Oreskes' book, particularly the PR Departments that serve the frackers and their political backers lot.    As for documents retrieved, in one, from Southwestern Energy, the diagram clearly shows that the gas well has a cement barrier with a casing that prevents gases from migrating upwards. But this isn't a Powerpoint about well casings but rather about how cement and casings fail and allow methane gas and other substances to migrate into aquifers.  Thus, we see from their own documents how cement fails.

In the case of the climate deceivers, the UCS team drew on evidence culled from 85 documents pried loose by leaks, lawsuits and FOIA requests. It almost reminds one of the extraordinary efforts that had to be invested to pry loose the JFK assassination documents (after the JFK Records Act) that showed the fell hand of the CIA and NSA in the assassination. 

What the UCS team unearthed is absolutely appalling. Spanning three decades, the documents reveal a mammoth cover up on a par with the cover up and disinformation in the Kennedy assassination. The UCS obtained documents expose that the world's largest fossil fuel companies: BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, Shell  and Peabody Energy - were fully aware of the reality of climate change but continued to spend tens of millions of dollars to sow doubt and promote contrarian arguments they knew to be wrong.

Taken together, the documents show that the six companies, in conjunction with the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas industry's premier trade association - and a host of front groups - colluded to intentionally deceive the public.

One eye -opening formerly secret document revealed that scientific experts commissioned by the fraudulent "Global Climate Coalition" - had actually warned that heat-trapping gases were indeed causing global warming. But as the segment of attached document shows, these charlatans didn't want to hear it. It was more important to bamboozle the gullible public - who'd then be set against those of us with the scientific facts.

Thus, the GCC ignominiously ignored its own scientists and continued to conduct a public relations campaign to undermine national and international efforts to address global warming in a serious fashion. Among the chestnuts used by these fraudsters:

"the role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood."

Another tactic was to attribute the main cause of global warming to "solar activity" - a canard that's long since been dismissed in the astrophysics, solar physics and climate science communities. See e.g.

Those who want to access all 340 pages of the 'Climate Deception Dossiers' can go here:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Ashley Madison Hack: Please Tell Me Gov't Workers Can't Be THIS Dumb!

The news of the hack at Ashley Madison, an internet cheat site, must have 37 million prospective marital cheats biting their nails - given the self-righteous hackers (only out to expose moral perfidy) have all their email addresses.  But the people who must really be shaking in their boots are all the federal workers who actually delivered their real email accounts to the site.

An investigation by the AP discovered many with sensitive jobs in the White House as well as law enforcement agencies according to a report in the Denver Post ('Government Employees Used Work Internet to Access Cheating Website', Aug. 21, p. 9 A) "used Internet connections in their federal offices to access and pay membership fees to the cheating website Ashley Madison"

The results included (ibid.) "at least two U.S. assistant district attorneys, an information technology administrator in the Executive Office, a division chief, an investigator and a trial attorney in the Justice Department and a government hacker at the Homeland Security Department"

While few actually used their government email accounts to pay for services, "the AP traced their government connections - logged by the website over 5 years - and reviewed their credit card transactions to identify them. They included workers at more than two dozen Obama administration  agencies, including the departments of State, Defense, Justice, Energy, Treasury, Transportation and Homeland Security. Others came from House or Senate computer networks".

Fortunately, the Associated Press has had the good sense not to identify any of the government workers because none are elected officials or have been accused of a crime.

At first I couldn't believe what I was reading. Did gov't workers really have that much time on their hands, to fool around? Did they not know or understand how the Repukes have been on the warpath for donkey's years to cut Government down to the size of "being able to drown it in a bathtub" (words of Grover Norquist)

Didn't they know that the 'pukes and their collaborators - mainly in the conservative extremist media - would now be going hammer and tongue to justify reducing government even further, given the AP's exposure of such frivolous nonsense?

Those of us who've vigorously defended government as a counterforce to the expansion of wealth and corporate power - to be in defense of citizens - now look like we have egg on our faces.  We look like we've defended slackers and n'er do wells.

And the fallout for the cheat site users isn't over. Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted (ibid.)  those who used military emails are in jeopardy given adultery can be a criminal offense according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Meanwhile, one anonymous investigator quoted in the DPost piece, vowed he would not be a victim of blackmail so, if prompted, he'd reveal his actions to family and employer.

In his words (ibid.):

"I've worked too hard all my life to be a victim of blackmail. That wouldn't happen"

Fair enough, but why risk your lifetime of work achievements in the first place? And over a stupid cheaters' website.

Such questions will be asked a lot in the coming weeks, and hopefully these federal workers will have decent answers including why so many used actual email account addresses as opposed to dummy accounts.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Wall Street Journal Exposes The Nonsense Regarding Birthright Citizenship

Who would have believed the Editors of the WSJ would for once write an editorial with which I could agree? But they did. No bloviating about the evils of Obanacare, the scourge of entitlements, the wrong-headedness of the Iran nuclear deal or the folly of Obama's student loan solution. For once the WSJ editors and I were in agreement ('Born in the USA', Aug. 21, p. A14).

This was regarding the matter of "anchor babies" and birthright citizenship that several GOP candidates, especially Donald Trump, have been sowing nonsense about. Trump, in a recent bombastic tirade deplored that fact that "300 Mexican babies were being born each day" in the U.S. and he wanted to stop it.  These :anchor babies" were growing up to take American college spots, as well as jobs.

As the WSJ put it, regarding Trump's gibberish on the 14th amendment:

"Donald Trump fomented the mayhem when he told Bill O'Reilly on Fox News that the Fourteenth Amendment is unconstitutional . 'It's not going to hold up in court, it's going to have to be tested' e said. The distinguished legal scholar added that 'I don't think they have American citizenship, and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers some would disagree - but many of them would agree with me- you;re going to find they do not have American citizenship"

And, of course, this is exactly what those 20,000 Trump turkeys at the stadium in Mobile, as the WSJ noted "nearly half the GOP field apparently believes Mr. Trump has found a winning political message."

The WSJ Editors then proceed to educate these turkeys:

"The Fourteenth Amendment begins, 'All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside'. This is the common law doctrine of juris soli, and the meaning of the language is straightforward..


"'Jurisdiction' defines the territory where the force of law applies and to whom - and this principle is well settled to include almost everyone within U.S.  borders, regardless of their home country or the circumstances of their birth....By the circular restrictionist logic, illegal immigrants could not be prosecuted for committing crimes because they are not U.S. citizens."

This is a crucial point and shows  the nuttiness of the Trump et al "restrictionist" position. Because clearly, if they are not under jurisdiction according to the 14th amendment, then they would not be technically under the force of law  where born or residing, so could not be prosecuted for crimes - since they would not be citizens. Only U.S. citizens can be so prosecuted.

The WSJ editorial notes that "in 1898 the Supreme Court confirmed the Amendment's original meaning ...and it reaffirmed it as recently in 1982 in Plyler vs Doe."

The WSJ then hoists all these bozos on their own petards:

"If the candidates are as  committed to the Constitution and the rule of law as they say they are, then they should propose a constitutional amendment on birthright citizenship. Refresher: This requires a two -thirds majority vote of both houses of congress and ratification by 38 states. Getting Mexico to pay for a wall along its border is more plausible."

One can almost sense in the sarcasm the ridicule the Journal holds for all the wacko GOP candidates who hold this sappy position. Confirmed with this send off:

"The futility of ending birthright citizenship is part of the cheap political appeal. Republicans can pose as MacGruff the Border Crime Dog, signal that they are also mad as hell and slipstream on Mr. Trump's poll numbers....The immigration hawks are correct that birthright citizenship is unusual among nations - but since when did Republicans dump their belief in American exceptionalism?"

Damn! I just knew there had to be a situation where the American exceptionalist rot would come back to haunt the 'pukes - and the WSJ exposed it!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Does Titan's Atmospheric Makeup Fluctuate With the 11-Yr. Solar Cycle?

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Titan observed at infrared and UV wavelengths. Note the purplish haze at the periphery identified as the methane atmosphere.

Astronomical periodicities are of great interest in astronomy, and perhaps the most noteworthy entail the resonances found in respect of planetary orbits. For example, in the case of Jupiter, gaps in the asteroid belt correspond to discrete resonances with Jupiter's orbit, i.e. defining cases for which asteroids orbit twice for each Jupiter orbit, three times for each Jupiter orbit and five times for every three Jupiter orbits. These gaps, called "Kirkwood Gaps" are of great interest in seeing the effects of periodicities in the asteroid belt.

Now, there appears to be evidence that Saturn's moon Titan, exhibits periodical fluctuations of its methane atmosphere in terms of the solar 11-year cycle.  Titan is the only moon in the solar system that has an atmosphere as thick as Earth's consisting of 98 percent nitrogen and roughly 1.4 percent methane.

But now we know it isn't "fixed". Observations made over nearly one third of Saturn's 29-year orbital period by NASA's Cassini space craft disclose Titan's atmosphere has a chemical makeup that fluctuates according to the Sun's 11-year cycle of magnetic activity.

Westlake et al (Journal of Geophysical Research, Space Physics, 2014) have analyzed Cassini data from 41 flybys of Titan, some at altitudes of less than 1,000 km when the spacecraft dipped into the upper fringes of the atmosphere.  The team found that the amount of methane varied widely over time, dipping from mid-2006 to 2008 then gradually recovering for two years before crashing to one half its 2006 peak by 2011.

These fluctuations were found to correspond neatly to the 11- year solar cycle in which the Sun's rotation gradually winds up the magnetic field into tightly wrapped coils giving rise to sunspots as well as flares. The latter are capable of emitting ultraviolet and x-radiation that can tear methane molecules apart.

After reviewing the Cassini data, the authors hypothesize such destruction of methane occurred from 2006-08 during the final phase of the previous solar maximum. On reaching the solar minimum in 2008, the "quiet" Sun then allowed Titan's methane to recover its previous levels. The methane levels began declining again after solar activity began increasing toward the next maximum in 2013.

The Westlake at al case is also bolstered by the Voyager 1 mission, the last to make similar measurements, when it swooped by Titan in 1980 during the famous Cycle 20 maximum. It found similarly depleted levels of methane.

Interestingly, through the use of 3-dimensional models, Westlake at al were also able to trace the movements of the different chemicals through Titan's atmosphere. They found that during solar maximum the broken down methane remnants combined to form heavier hydrocarbons that rain down into the atmosphere. 

Not surprisingly, though it takes mere weeks for Titan's methane levels to plummet it takes years to build them back up. The authors predict they won't return to their previous peak until sometime later this year.

The Predicament of St. Paul's School - Caught Up In Unwanted Controversy Over Its "Senior Salute"

Owen Labrie - next to his lawyer - hangs his head during part of the court  proceedings.

Former writer Tracy Clark- Flory reported on my FB page that:

"Students and graduates of St. Paul’s School, which is embroiled in a high-profile rape case, are passionately defending the elite institution on social media with spectacular levels of arrogance and tone-deafness. They're dissing “haters,” implying that criticism of the school is inspired by jealousy and essentially giving the media the middle finger"

This is in the midst of the trial of Owen Labrie, a recent St. Paul’s graduate charged with raping a girl who was 15 at the time on the roof of a campus building. The first full day of testimony was Wednesday, when the accuser took the stand, tearfully describing how she told Labrie “no, no, no” before he allegedly penetrated her.

Labrie's lawyer, Jay Carney,  described Labrie's and the girl's rendezvous as part of a ritual known as the "senior salute" - a St. Paul's tradition.. The lawyer  actually intimated that  girls were generally honored to have such attention visited on them since it's a venerable tradition and right of passage.. Even as the clip played on CBS News I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Seriously?

At the same time there is the vigorous defense - aggressive and preemptive I would say - of so many seeking to defend this elite bastion. But this is understandable. The school has a long and venerable history - since 1856 (not as long as Harrison College, f. 1733) and has turned out some fine people. If one checks its website one will find a place packed with high end resources for its boarding students. It is a high caliber academic venue every bit as impressive as Harrison College in Barbados or Choate, JFK's prep school (now Choate- Rosemary Hall following a 1971 merger). Hence, its associates - past and present students as well as teachers- would be vexed to behold so much negative attention in the media. No elite bastion, educational or other,  wants to see its good name dragged through the mud of unproven allegations.

The problem inheres in all places of educational and social privilege which also bear proportionate levels of accountability, and responsibility. I would also add to that,  a proportional sense of noblesse oblige, i.e. 'Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly' . That means even when under fire - or when one's beloved institution is under fire- one conducts himself with grace and class.

Sadly, what Flory- Clark references is more an ignoble,  knee jerk response  that is undignified for the residents and graduates of St. Paul's.  I.e. that the reactions hitherto are  all part of a media-driven feeding frenzy fed by a bunch of vipers and jealous proles who couldn't get into such an esteemed school if their lives depended on it. Maybe that explains  some small subset of the reaction,  but surely not all.

But anyway, St. Paul's is not unheard of in my own history. I actually have fond memories of a St. Paul's science teacher - Walter Hawley (and his wife Lenore)  who would sail his yacht 'Cordelay' into the Bridgetown Careenage in the 1970s and invite my wife Janice and myself aboard for great food, conversation and wine. Walter and I would  also smoke a cigar or two while discussing our respective interests in astronomy - me, solar flares and sunspot morphology, and him, variable stars. . Best of all, it would always be under pristine starry skies before light pollution and Sahara dust diminished the night sky quality in Barbados. We'd  treasure such interludes because it provided us the opportunity to talk serious astronomy - especially of variable stars - which was one of Walter's abiding interests. We'd often stay on his yacht until the wee hours picking out naked eye variables and estimating their magnitudes - at least until wifey began to get seasick from the yacht's yawing and pitching.

We'd also invite him and Lenore to our own Harry Bayley Observatory to  see assorted nebulae, open and globular star clusters, as well as planets (and variables), in our 12 1/2 " (at the time) reflector.  He'd be speechless at the sights and on some occasions we'd be able to set up to do some spontaneous astrophotography.

Let me say Walter was the embodiment of a true gentleman and scholar and how I used to picture a St. Paul's person - whether teacher or student. (He also directed the school's Astronomy Club at the time) . He was a person of class, keen intelligence and ethical quality and I am sure - if any  foul deed had allegedly taken place in his era to expose the school to a jaundiced media eye- would not have reacted with the sort of comical and pathetic “Looking down on the haters #spsfam,” nonsense we behold now.

No, he'd have been too much of a gentleman with judicious temperament to do that and would've advised rising above it.. He'd have exhorted the school's faithful not to give vent to their baser emotions, but to 'ride it out' and take the high road, as befitting a noble institution.  He'd have surely advised against lowering oneself to the level of one's detractors - whatever the stimulus.

A pity that more "St. Paulians" don't seem to grasp that now, allowing false privilege and a sense of exaggerated entitlement to trump that precious attribute of noblesse oblige. Because, in the end, it's the demonstration of noblesse oblige in trying times that defines the truly elite institution.

Friday, August 21, 2015

If There's A Drone-Airline Collision and Crash, Blame CONGRESS!

No, it wasn't terrorists but rather a motley crew of half-assed drone operators who disrupted air traffic across the nation last Sunday unleashing a swarm of rogue drones near major airports.  The near misses included a white drone startling the pilot of a Jet Blue flight before it landed at LAX, then a quadricopter whizzing just below an Allegiant Air flight and in D.C. a Cessna pilot reported a drone cruising at 1,500 ft. in restricted airspace above the capitol. Then in Louisville, a silver and white drone nearly collided with a training aircraft and over Chicago United Flt. 970 reported a drone passing close by. Twelve near misses in one freaking day!

The news (WSJ, Aug. 14, p. A3, Denver Post, Aug. 20, p. 14A) that there have been 700 close calls with commercial aircraft so far this year (defined as being close enough to see the little bastards) has to have any sober air traveler worried. Because he'd  realize it's only a matter of time before one of the little fuckers collides with a passenger jet or is sucked into an engine causing a catastrophic event with possibly hundreds of lives lost.

The 700 number, through August 9th, according to the FAA,  vastly eclipses the 238 for all of last year. So what the hell gives? What gives is it's "drones gone wild". Thanks to a congress full of poltroons, cowards and venal weasels there are now more than 1 million consumer drones vying for airspace - as if besieged air traffic controllers don't have enough objects to worry about on their screens.

Already the FAA has fined drone operators in 20 cases of drones flying too close to aircraft, but this is like a slap on the wrist. The FAA head meanwhile promises "tough countermeasures" and "strict enforcement" but let's face it - these words are mostly hot air given none of the drones are unregistered  and can't be GPS-tracked. The operators almost have to turn themselves in in order to mete out any punishment. What we really need is for Homeland Security - which is to protect air travel over the U.S. - to have sophisticated weapons available to disable these intruders. If we are expending so much to defend against terrorists we must do the same for these damned rogue drones, and not wait for a disaster.

This is all the more pressing as the Washington Post recently obtained hundreds of near miss reports from a gov't official who objected to the FAA secrecy on the matter. Including that the rogue drones had penetrated some of the most guarded airspaces in the country. That these intrusions could be allowed, and moreover be kept secret (out of a feeling of FAA impotence) is abominable.

If there is, god forbid, a drone -airliner calamity, what then? Then I blame not only the irresponsible drone operators but congress!

The existence of the relevant bill was first reported on Feb. 4, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal  ('U.S. Skies Could See More Drones', p. A7)and it came as a shocker of sorts. First, because it disclosed yet another federal agency (FAA) held hostage to the corporatist-industrial complex, attempting to find new avenues for drone production since the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan were ending.. And second, because it disclosed how secretive this corporate-benefiting information  and cronyist legislating really is.

Medea Benjamin made reference to the spectacle of congressional corporate compliance and being bought out by the drone makers, as she said:

"They’ve been able to write the drone legislation and get their lackeys in Congress to push it through and get the president to sign it.”

In other words, the congressional rats and whores placed the bottom line of corporations over citizen welfare. But this is what we expect in a Neoliberal corporatocracy.  In the case of the FAA bill, worth some $63 billion to the drone lobbyists, we've now beheld the sour fruit:  U.S. skies inundated with a million unmanned drones sharing airspace with commercial planes.

The WSJ piece insists "the FAA and the drone industry are working to educate users that explains the rules, including that drones generally can't fly above 400 feet or within 5 miles of an airport."

But given the close calls, it appears the campaign isn't making a dent. Operators continue to flout the rules, and some aviation "experts" aren't helping the matter by claiming that "drones don't pose a threat to large commercial aircraft". I dispute that, given at least two commercial aircraft have been brought down by small birds being sucked into engines. And make no mistake, a 4-5 lb. drone is every bit as large, in fact larger, than most birds. So this take is bollocks. 

Meanwhile, as it's the 'wild West' in the skies, our congress critters are stuffing their pockets and mouths on all the largesse brought to them compliments of the pro-drone lobbyists.

But if there is one airliner-drone collision resulting in a crash that costs lives, the bastards ought to be made to attend each and every funeral! Also, in the case of any serious injuries - pony up the money to pay for all the hospital bills!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When 'The Donald' Is Finally Dumped Where Will His Trumpsters Go?

Phil Stahl's photo.

Let's get down to reality here, as Lexington notes in his recent Economist column ('Anger Management', Aug. 15, p. 24), , Trump doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of either getting nominated or becoming President in a 3rd party run. As Lex  notes,  Trump's only claim to fame is being a "splenetic and bombastic property tycoon". The only reason he's riding the polls so high is - again according to Lexington - because he has "grassroots conservative followers"  who only measure success by anger and blowhard Trump delivers it in spades.

These Trumpite follower blowhards  - also with their own anger management problems (according to Lex)-  remain sure:

"that Obama is bent on destroying their country and cannot understand why Republican leaders have not done more to thwart his agenda despite controlling both chambers of congress. They are reluctant to accept that governing in a large, messy democracy involves compromise, or that the concerns of hard core conservatives do not always enjoy majority support."

The last sentence is especially important, and indeed, if this was a fascist Dictatorship with the GOOPs in charge, they'd have more leeway to do what they want. And Trump also would if he surmounted all odds (about the same as aliens landing on the WH lawn) to be nominated President and then win the general election. But it isn't going to happen because Bernie Sanders has more chance of attaining the Oval office. Bernie Sanders, think of him what you will, has an actual policy agenda that is realizable and do-able.

Trump's  policies as Lexington mocks, are "a mess of boastfulness and absurdity" such as his plan for ISIS ("we go in knock them the hell out and take the oil") which truly, only a bright kindergartner would applaud or believe attainable. Meanwhile, his daft plan to send all immigrant kids back to Mexico - who were born here - would require repeal of the 14th amendment. The cost to send all Mexicans back is estimated at up to $200b. None of his dopey, angry bird followers appear to process any of this.

The second point on "majority support" is also relevant. As none other than Karl Rove noted in a WSJ op -ed five weeks ago, the latest tally of political identification shows conservatives have fallen from 36% of the population to 28 percent, and liberals (or progressives) have climbed from 26 % to 35 percent.  Thus, it is absurd for conservatives to believe any of their nutty proposals have a chance of passing with such an imbalance in the electorate. Unless, of course, they can get enough moderates or independents to climb on board their nutso wagon. But given the Donald's very high unfavorables (59 percent by one recent poll) outside of his Trumpster gaggle, that isn't very likely.

As Lexington also points out, noting the divide between serious voters and Trumpsters:

"Some Trump fans simply relish the skunk-at-the picnic aspects of Trump's presidential bid. They do not care that his policy platform is a mess of boastfulness and absurdity."

This is spot on and is somewhat akin to a mean-spirited schadenfreude. But in this case the level of political insight is about at the level of a kindergartner who laughs when his teacher accidentally sits down on a 'pooper cushion' that a wicked kid has placed on her seat.

It's gross, cruel and the kids love it. But they're kids, about five years old, and to some degree can be excused for their kid-brained prank. After all, they've not yet reached the age of reason. As for adults, we expect them to have more common sense and sobriety, especially in the national political arena.

Trump has no chance to win, no matter what his groupies might believe, because first, loyal Repubs are outraged (as Lex notes) that he wouldn't agree to the pledge put forward at the last debate. The Red State gathering in Atlanta, in fact, has viewed Trump as beyond despicable because of this disloyalty. (Ibid.)

If Trump runs as a 3rd party candidate, meanwhile, he runs the risk of peeling off just enough support from the Repuke candidate to hand the election to Hillary or Bernie.

As for winning the general, no way in hell. The trouble for Trumpsters is that their numbers are more than outweighed by sane, serious voters, as opposed to their own  'skunk -at -a picnic' types.

The true and relevant question isn't whether Trump will win, because he won't. It is as Lexington put it:

"When Republicans ditch Donald Trump how will they confront his supporters?"

My suggestion, for what it's worth?  Give the Trumpsters a prescription for a really good anti-psychotic or better yet free passes to a sanitarium. They will need it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Female Viagra" In A Little Pink Pill? - Women Had Best Not Bet Their Sex Lives On That PR Claim

Image for the news result

Evidently, millions of American women, suffering from low libido (some of them even in their twenties as shown last night and this morning on the news) can't wait to be able to buy what is being marketed as "female Viagra" which is nothing of the sort. Ladies, if you are counting on this pink pill to boost your sex drive you may be sadly disappointed, and before you buy it  (est. $75/month) you need to separate marketing BS from scientific reality.

Viagra, like Cialis,  belongs to a drug class known as PDE5 inhibitors.  Recall the chemical pathways here: the cavernous nerves close to the prostate gland secrete nitric oxide which stimulates release of an enzyme (cyclic GMP) inside the penile smooth muscle cells. This promotes relaxation of smooth muscles and erection. An enzyme known as PDE5 prevents this, since else there may be a prolonged erection. Hence, a PDE5 inhibitor works to suppress secretion of the PDE5 enzyme.

Men use it to get a "boost" before sexual contact, and it generally takes from 1-2 hrs. to work. The experience and effects are entirely "below the belt", i.e. in the genital region. Most males are good for several hours after taking the blue pill because the blood flow assures good connection. Male prostate cancer survivors are also asked to take it - if only to prevent deformation of the penis (say after radical prostatectomy) to enable O2 to get into the tissues.

Indeed, the pre-op use of PDE5 inhibitors is now widely indicated by oncologists for endothelial preconditioning, whereby the endothelium (the lining of the erection spaces) is in some way protected by pre-treatment. Typically, the patient then gets a prescription for a PDE5 inhibitor the day the Foley catheter is removed post-surgery/.  He is then "told to take a full dose of Viagra (100 mg) or Levitra (20 mg) once per week with adequate accompanying stimulation.

These genital mechanics and chemical aspects have not one iota to do with the "little pink pill" called Addyi now on offer to women suffering from low libido. And to believe so is to delude oneself, and hence Addyi is NOT "female Viagra". Moreover, there are more significant side effects while the main one for Viagra may be some indigestion and temporarily blurry vision and higher blood pressure.

The main difference from Viagra is that Addyi works on specific hormones in the woman's brain such as dopamine, serotonin. The increase in libido arrives after the relative strengths of these brain chemicals are "adjusted" by Addyi. There is NO concomitant blood flow to the genital region as there is for males. Also it can take much longer for the effect to kick in. As One Dr. Berman put it this morning on CBS Early Show, "the drug's risks are greater than its benefits" and also:

"It increased the number of sexually satisfying events by less than one event per month".

So, if a woman suffering from hypoactive sexual desire disorder now has sex once a month, Addyi can expect to help her increase that to twice a month. Also,  she can't take it just before a planned encounter like a man can take Viagra. No, she needs to take it "weeks or months" before the effects kick in, according to sex therapist Leonore Tiefler quoted in today's Denver Post.

Meanwhile, she will have to be on guard for the most common side effects, including:

- Dizziness
- Nausea

And when combined with alcohol, it can cause fainting. Thus the FDA is also requiring a strong warning to women that they should never drink alcohol while taking the drug and stressing the risk that it can cause sudden fainting - a special danger for drivers.

 Fortunately, this pink pill  which goes by the name flibanserin, is only supposed to be issued to specially trained doctors and pharmacists to dispense it. They are also  to keep track of any problems with women taking the drug. Only trained physicians will be allowed to write prescriptions for the pill.              
Alarmist? Hardly. Dr. Susan Wood, a former FDA official now at George Washington University, said she was disappointed by the approval.  She said:

"This is a product that is neither very effective nor particularly. safe. It won't benefit many women and at the same time the approval comes with a lot of restrictions, setting a precedent that a drug for women's sexual health has to be treated in a very special way."

Women desperate for a low libido "cure" would be well advised to take notice. When will this sexual salvation be ready? Sprout Pharmaceuticals' CEO Cindy Whitehead said this morning the planned roll out date is October 17th.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is The Big Bang "Busted"? Not At All!

In  a recent issue of the Mensa Bulletin (June, p. 22) writer Dan Duda presents an article ('Is the Big Bang Busted?')  that basically invokes a highly speculative approach to reach a "conclusion" that dovetails with his "personal feeling that the Big Bang is a questionable theory". Fortunately, he does go on to concede this is "in spite of a significant amount of scientific evidence that supports it".

Significant indeed! Ii includes the presence of the uniform 2.7K cosmic microwave background radiation which a number of physicists (e.g. Steven Weinberg) have shown can only be traced back to the Big Bang. In fact, it was the discovery of this microwave radiation that earned Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson the Physics Nobel Prize, see e,g,

That Duda doesn't even mention this is incredible, given any decent science writer would have to be aware of the finding. And yet, Duda prefers to consider way out speculative (and mostly irrelevant) theories like simulated universes, as well as oddball cosmological theories like that recently trotted out by Ahmed Farag Ali (?) of Benha University and Saurya Das of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.

My complaint is that even the intelligent and scientifically literate reader - say of the Bulletin, will come away even more confused, as opposed to educated. The National Science Board (a part of the National Science Foundation) has produced an annual survey of American beliefs about science called the Science and Engineering Indicators since the 1980s.   Americans - as reflected in the AP survey -  both seem to find the Big Bang confusing and worse, to have faith-based conflicts with the scientific conclusions of cosmology.
I attribute a lot of this to fake scientists - actually pseudo-scientists (like Jason Lisle) - who gain a peanut gallery following as well as prominence in the fundagelical religious sphere then profess to spiel on scientific issues like the Big Bang and the age of the Earth, confusing and undermining their followers.

Duda doesn't drag in specious religious bunkum but he does clutter his article with unusual complaints and fanciful conjectures that don't really have a bearing on the Big Bang,

For example, he cites a 1991 book 'The Big Bang Never Happened', wherein author Eric J. Lerner states:

"The Big Bang theory predicts that no object in the universe can be older than the Big Bang. Yet the large scale voids observed cannot have been formed in the time allowed."

Uh, yes they can! As I noted in an earlier post on these voids, e.g.

"Though the Hubble expansion limit is often cited as about 13.7 billion light years, this only refers to the extent that the radiating objects, galaxies, clusters, quasars etc. occur within our light cone. However, owing to the actual expansion of space itself, registered as a "comoving distance", the universe is really some 93 billion light years in diameter, so the actual edge of the observable universe is some 46.5 b light years distant."

In other words, those ancient, vast voids can definitely be accommodated. Duda's problem,  like that of the author he cites, is the failure to distinguish between the age of the cosmos registered within our own light cone and the physical extent defined as a comoving distance and actual expansion of space itself.  

In addition, Duda's citation of Lerner's 1991 work would have missed the discovery of the relic structures of the Big Bang (by George Smoot and his collaborators at the University of California at Berkeley,) in 1992. The investigation made use of data obtained from NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. The data exposed very small temperature differentials (dT), from which density variations could be deduced. (In principle the temperature variations of the form dT/T are taken as a proxy for density fluctuations (dr / r)  in the early universe). These variations were also  found consistent with the postulated characteristics of an inflationary cosmos, as opposed to an always uniformly expanding cosmos. Indeed, an inflationary phase would feature an exponential rate of expansion by way of doublings over very small time periods.

The inflationary phase, with expansion rates in some cases exceeding the speed of light,  see e.g.

which could also have enabled the formation of the cosmic voids.

Duda's devotion of almost half his article to quantum aspects and collapsing wave functions is admirable, but really has no bearing on general relativity or the Big Bang. It is true that there could be a quantum 'tie-in' but the underlying theory - referred to quantum loop gravity - is still in its infancy.

Speculative excursions are indeed fascinating, especially in cosmology, but they shouldn't be used as filler for an article purported to be evidentiary or factual. A better title for Duda's piece would therefore have been: "Speculative alternatives to the Big Bang Theory".

Monday, August 17, 2015

Do Not Call Bernie "Bernice" - He Didn't Authorize Any Apology to the Black Lives Matter Bums


It appears some brash right wingers, obsessed with the posturing of false machismo, have taken to calling Bernie Sanders  "Bernice" on their blogs, and also averring he's become "a bitch for Black Lives Matter". Do not believe this bullshit for one damned second. Bernie did not offer any apologies to these Black Lives renegades - who find it easier to pick on liberal candidates than risk their heinies going after right winger Repubs.

Nor did Bernie authorize any apology as he made clear on "Meet the Press' yesterday. What happened is that a clueless black staffer, suffering from a variant of Stockholm Syndrome and repressed black guilt (on behalf of all white "libos") went rogue and wrote an email himself.

Can the right wingers process the concept of "going rogue"? Huh? Do they not recall Trump's lawyer going rogue a few weeks ago when the issue of Trump's alleged rape of his first wife, Ivana,  came up? Recall the daft lawyer, in an NBC interview, told the media on his own that the Donald couldn't be guilty because "there is no such thing as marital rape",  instantly contradicting decades of settled state and federal law. A case that the Donald had to butt in and make clear the words were NOT his. (The lawyer was fortunate he wasn't fired like the Donald normally does on 'The Apprentice')

Hence, candidates cannot be held to account for what their loose nut staffers do. Sanders has too much on his plate to be keeping an eye on every little detail and expects his hired staffers to be professional enough adhere to normal standards without micro-management.

The goofball who dispatched the "apology" was Marcus Ferrell,  who e-mailed the 'Black Lives Matter' bullying black racists,  asking them to have a meeting with the Senator. The putz wrote:
"I apologize it took our campaign so long to officially reach out. We are hoping to establish a REAL space for REAL dialog between the folks on this email and our campaign."
The email also said that the campaign wants to "have a more formal interaction with the movement. We wanted to let you know that we hear you, we want to do a better job speaking out on the issues, and as a sitting U.S. Senator, possibly introducing legislation and making a constitutional change."
But when asked whether he felt an apology to Black Lives Matter was necessary the Vermont senator told Meet the Press: “No, I don’t. I think we’re going to be working with all groups. This was sent out without my knowledge."

Marcus Ferrell, in the ideal world, would be fired on the spot for writing so many words that he effectively portrayed as coming from Bernie. That isn't kosher, not at all. Problem is, if Bernie sent that idiot packing the Black Lives bums would be squawking "racial prejudice!" - and saying Sanders really was intolerant.

But what they miss is that everyone ought to be intolerant of assholes - no matter what their color.

As for Sanders hiring Symone Sanders, a young Black woman, as his national press secretary.  (Symone Sanders is a member of the National Urban League's Young Professionals Network in Arlington, VA.)  this was a masterpiece of strategy to deal with the Black Lives Matter clowns using a genuine black activist - not a Tea Party fakeroo like Marissa Johnson.

  She, in fact, came up with the idea for Sanders supporters to chant "we stand together" if there were any disruptions to any future Sanders' event.

This is a great idea and if it doesn't work, Bernie can always hire guards to keep the riff raff away.  In the meantime, Righties willing to call girly names based on false perceptions need to get a grip on reality - and maybe do more background checking.

See also:

An Aging Bull Market Headed For The Dumpster - Are You Ready?

A subset of the 23 Bull Markets and their durations in days. The longer the Bull Market the closer it gets to its expiration date.

Jason Zweig, he of the "Intelligent Investor" column of The Wall Street Journal, had some excellent advice for those still in the stock market: buckle up and hold on. Zweig begins by asking if people recall that between October, 2007 and March, 2009, the U.S. stock market dropped in price by 57 percent. It was a time of angst as 401ks were wiped out left and right and victims had to either notch down their retirement plans, or plan for longer working years.

Zweig then adds, with little consolation:

"If you think stocks can't fall by at least 50 percent again you are wrong. ...And if you think you won't over react when it does you had better test that belief now before it's too late to find out you were kidding yourself".

This isn't just blowing smoke or sparking reckless jitters. Anyone who knows anything about markets knows the existing Bull is already breeding a monster asset bubble just right for the bursting. And let's not forget it was George P. Brockway in his 'End of Economic Man' who noted that all Bull markets end and most do it in spectacular crash fashion with ordinary investors the ones most often left without the shirts on their backs. The more inflated the asset bubble underling the Bull, in this case fed by QE 'crack', the bigger the crash. Nate Silver in fact already pointed out two years ago how this one is in dangerous territory given the 21 % increase at that time.

Now, new research, based on Bull lifetimes, shows they can be seen in terms of comparative human life spans. And we know the older a human gets the closer he is to croaking time.  According to Michael Ball of Weatherstone Capital Management (Denver Post Business, Aug. 12,  p. 13A), the current bull market run (in days) is equivalent to an 88.3 year old person.  Let's face it, that's pretty close to 'kick the bucket' time.

As he put it (ibid.):

"We are very late into a normal bull market life span. Problems will come up sooner rather than later."

As may be seen from the attached graphic, this bull market at 2,262 days already ranks as the fourth longest in modern history.  By comparison, the bull that led to the stock market crash of 1929 lasted for 2,932 days (equal to 94.4 human years). On the more encouraging side, that bull saw a 497 percent gain in 8 years, while the current one has seen a 180 percent gain in 6 years. Maybe, indeed, we should hope for a correction soon - which could come as soon as the first Fed interest rate increase.

But other factors are also weighing on the stock market including slowing global growth, declining corporate  earnings and rising bond yields.  Stock valuations, as gauge by the P/E or price to earnings ratio are also way too "rich", having already crossed into the top 10 percent of bulls.

Who are the most likely to 'take a bath' when crunch time hits? Ball points out a certain subset of baby boomers who haven't been content with the low yields from pedestrian savings instruments like money market funds and have exposed themselves much more in risky equities. Of course, indexed funds (like those of Vanguard) are always a safer bet than managed funds, but in a major correction or crash of 50 percent or more, no one's money will be safe.  If you have a half mil tied up in the markets can you afford to lose $250,000?

Ball also notes that those investors who've already been mauled by two bear markets in 15 years won't easily be able to wait out this bull to see if it turns into a bear. They may have to redeem early, take their money and run as it were. Probably a better choice than having to eat cat food and kibbles the rest of your days.

Ball's final parting words for anyone who wants to hear them?

"It's a prudent time to take some money out of stocks."


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gov. Hick "Drinks" From Toxic Polluted Animas River - To Prove It's Safe

No photo description available.
Gov. John Hickenlooper takes a big swig from a bottle full of water taken from the Animas River. What? Does the Guv think we're all idiots?

Neolib Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper must think we're all idiots as he reprised his stunt of drinking polluted water - now from the Animas River - to show it's "safe". This after 3 million gallons of toxic effluent full of cadmium, mercury,  manganese, copper, zinc, arsenic and other crap was accidentally dumped into Cement Creek (near the Animas) after an EPA contract team botched a mine investigation effort.

More than 160,000 abandoned hard rock mines litter the U.S. and some 33,000 of them have polluted nearby water sources already. There are at least 230 such mines here in Colorado, leaking thousands of gallons per minute, including the Gold King Mine near Silverton.  It is estimated that every two days an amount of  collective effluent leaks out of all CO mines that's equal  to the 3 m gallons blown out from the Gold King Mine by accident.  A congressional research report in 2006 estimated it would take from $20 billion to $54 billion to clean them all up. The money to try to clean up the Gold King Mine area - site of the recent blowout - came out of the EPA Superfund budget which is a little over $1 billion.

The operation was botched because the team mucking around had no clue of the immense mass of toxic waste behind a rock seal. So the EPA's hired contract workers (they lack the manpower in the agency itself)  chipped away too hard, whence the seal collapsed accompanied by a massive blowout  - and the rest as they say is history.

Anyway, as Hick did earlier with a glass of fracked water, he tried to pull off another stunt with cameras clicking, after two Denver media idiots double dared him to ingest the sludgy water. If he did it with the grungy fracked water why not here? Images captured him drinking from a water bottle filled with the latest muck, but no one with a respectable IQ believed he really did it without resort to some trickery.

Sure enough, a team of Denver Post reporters spied the wanky Guv dropping iodine tablets into his bottle to ostensibly protect himself from giardia and E. Coli. Of course, the real carcinogens and poisons like arsenic and mercury are another story. Hopefully, our irrepressible Guv has cancer insurance or is at least has signed onto the Colorado medical exchange.

But Hick insisted his stunt was for a good cause, as he put it:

"The point I was trying to make is that the river is back to normal"

But State Senate President Ellen Roberts suggested the Guv's stunt "sent the wrong message" while also implying he was a moron. Hickenlooper was also evidently chided by a deadly serious EPA official for suggesting the water quality was anywhere near back to normal - and also for performing the stupid PR stunt that the less intelligent might try to emulate.

In the future it would great to get more insight from the Governor, especially on Colorado's pollutants whether from old mines or fracking.

Hopefully,  he will leave his "water bottle filled with toxic sludge" monkey shines and stunts at home next time. Most of us would prefer - when these sort of events happen - serious examination of the facts as opposed to stupid PR ploys to appeal to the mentally backward.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Problem With 'Black Lives Matter': They're Cowards And A-Holes

Image source: KIRO-TV
Black Lives Matter activists get in Bernie Sanders' face recently in Seattle. Do they have the balls to do that to Trump, Jeb Bush or Scott Walker?

"These newly ignited firebrands do know that their bullshit is more likely to be tolerated among liberals than among, say, those who gather at a rally for Donald Trump, let alone at a Tea Party gathering, and surely let alone an Oathkeepers ammo swap.

So they hit Bernie, and they call people racists who are really not their main problem. They pitch a fit if someone doesn’t repeat their slogan verbatim, and they hold themselves aloof from any possible criticism because, after all, they’re holding all the race cards by virtue of their skin color."

Jaime O'Neill, 'Asshole Lives Matter', on

After seeing several times more the assault by 'Black Lives Matter' activists on Bernie Sanders in Seattle - and YES,  I call it what it is -  I am convinced Sanders now needs to have a retinue of guards at the ready like some other candidates. It is simply not good enough to found most of your protests on the lowest hanging, most vulnerable 'fruit'.  And it is the epitome of ill manners to disrupt a meeting or speech and inconvenience thousands of others for your own pet cause, no matter how important you believe it to be.

As I pointed out in an earlier post,  these nuisance protesters from 'Black Lives Matter' really need to adjust their own reality goggles and keep their powder dry for the 17 Repukes. As opposed to attacking their own ideological, economic allies  with "friendly fire". Note: I do not deny their right to protest and vigorously,  only to do so in a cowardly, selective fashion by going after the lowest hanging fruit - a 73 year old Socialist who is only in this race at progressives' behest and because Elizabeth Warren refused to run.

Thus, it would have far more redounded to their credibility (and gravitas)  to get in the face of Donald Trump, Jeb Bush or Scott Walker first.  THAT would have shown: a) they are serious in their claims they are out to flag and disrupt every candidate, and b) they have the courage of their convictions akin to their 1960s civil rights protester forbears, i.e. at sit-ins in Selma and Montgomery.

Would they risk more by going after the REAL racists and hardline GOOPrs  first? Of course! But that is the point of serious protest as opposed to easy posturing, yelling and grand standing - as originally  demonstrated by Martin Luther King, Jr.  When you bloviate self-righteously that your group is out to honestly protest and "disrupt all", it means nowhere near as much as actually putting skin in the game - before you disrupt elderly candidates who are really on your side.

Note also they couldn't get one inch past Hillary's Secret Service detachment, which shows me they are only interested in  disrupting soft, friendly, easily accessible targets. In Hillary's case, they weren't able to disrupt her confab and had to settle for a special, private meeting. So already they've shown they will "take what they can get" so equal treatment of all candidates becomes a matter of expediency and convenience- which is cowardly. If they are going to disrupt a Sanders' event they ought to do Hillary the same honor -else grant Sanders a special meeting as they allowed for Hillary. But to accept the private meeting with HRC because they couldn't or wouldn't get past her Secret Service contingent is cowardice of the highest form.

 As liberal talk radio  host Bill Press put it on Chris Hayes 'All In' three nights ago: "They are making the perfect the enemy of the good."    Adding:

"You target the people who disagree with you, not your friends."  Bingo!

Alicia Garza, co-creator of Black Lives Matter sounded all full of herself and sanctimonious on the same 'All In' episode, assuring Chris Hayes she was an equal opportunity disrupter. To which I say ''Bull shit!' She also promised that  "all candidates will be disrupted", but I will believe it when I see it.

That means Garza immediately ceasing with the easy Dem disruptions and dispatching her troops after Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker,  and Mike Huckabee! 

But I seriously doubt she or her organization will do that because I don't believe they have the courage of those 60s protestors to really put skin on the line in their disruptions.  Grandstanding by interrupting an elderly Socialist Jew - in the midst of Libs who're too damned polite and politically correct to do anything but stand down-  is lots easier than going after the Donald, or a Bush. In those situations the mob, racist supporters would put those black "activist" lives in real jeopardy.

Maybe also these 'Black Lives Matter' folks ought to keep tighter reins on who joins their ranks. Evidently they had no problems letting in  a former Tea Bagger And Xtian evangelical puppet - Marissa Johnson - who had the fucking nerve to call the gathered  pro-Sanders whites "racists and white supremacists". As Jaime O'Neill noted in his recent blog article,  "not so long ago she identified with the Tea Party and Sarah Palin."  Can a pro-Palin, knuckle dragger idiot change colors or stripes overnight? I doubt it.

See the first link below for more on this. Other libs may shy away from calling these assholes out, but I won't and clearly Jaime O'Neill doesn't either!

See also:


You know things aren’t going well when black women get up in your event and start reciting old Destiny’s Child,”