Saturday, March 3, 2012

Is America In Moral Decline?

An editorial in The Economist takes a look at the issue, and highlights some interesting information:
Here's one for the declinists: the number of Americans not affiliated with any religion has increased, while the number of those attending worship services has declined. And here's another: out-of-wedlock births have increased in America so that now at least four in ten children are born to unmarried women. This is something Mr Santorum has focused on during the campaign, and he is right in pointing out that the children of unwed mothers in America tend to do worse in terms of health, schooling and income later in life.
But here's where the real debate over America's moral position comes into focus. As the New York Times notes, out-of-wedlock births are increasing in much of the developed world—for example, over half of babies in Iceland and Sweden are born to unwed mothers. But according to Wendy Manning, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University, "In Sweden, you see very little variation in the outcome of children based on marital status. Everybody does fairly well... In the US, there’s much more disparity."
So out-of-wedlock birth need not correspond to worse outcomes for children. And if it didn't in America, should we still consider out-of-wedlock births a moral problem? One could ask a similar question about religion. While rates of religious participation may be declining in America, young people today have similar moral beliefs as their parents and grandparents. So is the decline in religious observance a moral problem?
When it comes to out-of-wedlock births, the issue is complicated because discouraging these types of the births may be a more efficient way of securing children than the type of nanny-state intervention that can be found in a country like Sweden. But in general, I think the debate over America's moral position comes down to this: Republicans want the best outcomes based on solutions that fit into preconceived notions of what society should look like. So even if there are few tangible harms that point to our moral decay, any move away from their vision of society is evidence of declining virtue. Democrats, on the other hand, are more concerned with outcomes, even if that means upending the way things were (or accepting that they have been upended and cannot be restored). 
The whole column is worth the read.  This will probably be an issue I'll revisit soon.

Weather Harms Fish Fry Attendance

The violent weather system which walloped Marysville, Indiana also put a damper on our fish fry attendance.  I don't think the tornado siren going off an hour before we opened encouraged many elderly parishioners, our main customer base (and the Republican party's electoral base), to come out to eat. We had about 120 pounds of fish thawed out, and probably only served about 70 pounds. We ended up taking about 30 pounds of uncooked fish home with us, and gave away about 20 pounds of cooked fish to the men's shelter down the street. While we struggled to break even on the night, I'll take that any day over what the folks of Marysville and other towns went through.

I'll say it again, Mother Nature is a bitch.

Battle of Nassau

Continental Marines land at New Providence

March 3, 1776:
 American Revolutionary War: The first amphibious landing of the United States Marine Corps begins the Battle of Nassau. The Battle of Nassau (March 3–4, 1776) was a naval action and amphibious assault by American forces against the British port of Nassau, Bahamas, during the American Revolutionary War (also known as the American War of Independence). It is considered the first cruise and one of the first engagements of the newly established Continental Navy and the Continental Marines, the progenitors of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The action was also the Marines' first amphibious landing. It is sometimes known as the Raid of Nassau.
Departing from Cape Henlopen, Delaware, on February 17, 1776, the fleet arrived in the Bahamas on March 1, with the objective of seizing gunpowder and munitions that were known to be stored there. Two days later the marines went ashore and seized Fort Montagu at the eastern end of the Nassau harbor, but did not advance to the town, where the gunpowder was stored. That night, Nassau's governor had most of the gunpowder loaded aboard ships that then sailed for St. Augustine. On March 4, the colonial marines advanced and took control of the poorly-defended town.
The colonial forces remained at Nassau for two weeks, and took away all the remaining gunpowder and munitions they could. The fleet returned to New London, Connecticut in early April, after capturing a few British supply ships, and notably failed to capture the HMS Glasgow in an action on April 6.
That doesn't sound like a glorious first battle, but it is an interesting bit of history I didn't know about.  Notably, the Continental Navy and Continental Marines were each disbanded by the United States after the war was over:
The Continental Marines were the Marine force of the American Colonies during the American Revolutionary War. The corps was formed by the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775 and was disbanded in 1783. Their mission was multi-purpose, but their most important duty was to serve as on-board security forces, protecting the Captain of a ship and his officers. During naval engagements Marine sharpshooters were stationed in the fighting tops of the ships' masts, and were supposed to shoot the opponent's officers, naval gunners, and helmsmen.
In all, there were 131 Colonial Marine officers and probably no more than 2,000 enlisted Colonial Marines. Though individual marines were enlisted for the few American naval vessels, the organization would not be re-created until 1798. Despite the gap between the disbanding of the Continental Marines and the current organization, the United States Marine Corps celebrates November 10, 1775 as its birthday.

Keystone XL And Infrastructure Design

James Hamilton writes about the recently announced Keystone XL extension from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico:
The Wall Street Journal reports that the 435-mile segment could carry 700,000 barrels/day from Cushing down to the coast, and the company expects that segment of the pipeline to be in service by mid to late 2013. This would be in addition to the 400,000 barrels/day that Enbridge is hoping to send from Cushing to the coast through the Seaway Pipeline by the first quarter of next year, with 150,000 of that already flowing by the middle of this year. Even so, the Wall Street Journal reports:
Even the Gulf Coast leg and Enbridge's project may not be enough to relieve the bottleneck at Cushing. Alex Pourbaix, president of TransCanada's oil-pipelines division, said he believes at least two million barrels a day of oil will need to flow between Cushing and the Gulf Coast over the next decade to relieve the bottleneck there.
Confirmation of that assessment comes from the observation that, despite the news, the price of a January 2014 Brent futures contract is still selling at a $7 premium to Jan 2014 West Texas Intermediate.
TransCanada separately reported that it is also reapplying for permission to construct the rest of the original Keystone expansion, and the company seems hopeful that the objections to the original proposal have been resolved:
TransCanada will continue to work collaboratively with the State of Nebraska on determining an alternative route for Keystone XL that avoids the Sandhills. TransCanada has been working on assessing the routing in Nebraska since November 2011, following the State Department's notice to delay a decision on a Presidential Permit until an adjusted route that avoids the Sandhills was developed....
Reapplying for the Keystone XL permit is supported by words used in President Obama's statement January 18, 2012 when he said the denial of the permit was not based on the merits of the pipeline but rather on an imposed 60-day legislative timeline to make a decision on the project.
I wanted to take a better look at the pipeline map, to see where that eastern portion ran to, so I went to the TransCanada website, where they had a nice interactive map.  There are several things I don't really understand about the pipeline design. 

First, why did they build the original Keystone Pipeline from Hardisty to Steele City where they did?  Was that to avoid the Ogallala Aquifer, was it to follow an existing pipeline route, or was it for some other reason?  If they were planning on building the pipeline in stages as they currently show, why wouldn't they have planned for both pipelines to follow the same path?  Did the Bakken development sneak up on them, so now they want a pipeline nearer to that field?  Did they only plan on the first leg of the pipeline, but the oil sands developed faster than they expected?  Something caused them to take that obviously more expensive route the first time around.

Secondly, the opening of the pipeline from Steele City to Cushing occurred in February 2011, almost at the exact same time that Brent and West Texas Light Sweet prices diverged significantly.  It would seem like phase three of the Keystone project, the recently announced pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf, might have been better if built as phase 2 or phase 2A (concurrently with the pipeline from Steele City to Cushing.  Building the line to Cushing before there was infrastructure to get the oil out of Cushing seems like pretty poor planning.  This misstep had to have cost the Canadian and North Dakota producers, and therefore consumers, a pretty penny.

Finally, with landowners fighting the project in Nebraska, why wouldn't they have moved quickly to relocate the pipeline through South Dakota over to the original pipeline location, where I would think they would have an easier time acquiring right-of-way, if they didn't already have enough to fit two pipelines.  Were they too stubborn, too lazy or too confident they could get lawmakers (read Republicans) to steamroll the opposition and let them force their way through where they drew their lines?  I'll go with all of the above. 

To me, it looks like the planners for the Keystone pipeline vastly underestimated oil supply from the tar sands and the Bakken, and badly predicted the effect the Steele City to Cushing pipeline would have on the pipeline system at Cushing.  They also seem to have vastly overestimated the political skills and intelligence of the current Republican party (it is almost impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the current party) and badly misplayed their hand with the Obama Administration.  Once the Republican governor and U.S. Senator from Nebraska came out in opposition to the pipeline route across the Ogallala Aquifer, TransCanada should have quickly established a new route skirting the north side of the auqifer in South Dakota.  Instead, they put their money in the Republican stack of chips on the political poker table, then sat back and watched as the Republicans sat at the table with their cards facing Obama.  He cleaned them out on this deal because the Republicans are idiots.  They think they are dealing with a dumb guy they can easily manipulate, and no matter what decision he makes, they'll be able to use their propaganda machine to make him look bad.  Also, their constant renegotiations on deals Speaker Boehner has worked out with Obama came back to bite them in the ass.  They forced Obama to agree to make a decision on the pipeline in 60 days because they only envisioned Obama agreeing to allow the pipeline or Obama rejecting it and they would able to take advantage of either move politically.  Instead, he rejected it with the obvious excuse that TransCanada hadn't even come up with the alternate route they promised they would.  It is hard to approve a route that doesn't exist. 

In the end, the vast number of miscalculations by TransCanada in the pipeline planning lead me to be wary of their promises that there wouldn't be any environmental issues in the Ogallala aquifer caused by the pipeline.  The gang that couldn't shoot straight makes me a little nervous.

Icelandic-Canadian Monetary Union?

From the Globe and Mail:
Canadian ambassador to Iceland Alan Bones had planned to deliver remarks to a conference on the future of the Icelandic Krona, making it clear that if Iceland decided to adopt the Canadian dollar, with all its inherent risks, Canada was ready to talk.
But his speech, slated for Saturday, was abruptly cancelled when news of the remarks was reported in Iceland and Canada, led by The Globe and Mail.
“Once we got wind of [the speech] and it went through the approval channels, we decided it was not an appropriate venue,” said Joseph Lavoie, Foreign Minister John Baird’s press secretary. “It’s a political event. So that the decision was made that it’s not an appropriate event for him to speak at . . . While he may have thought about delivering those remarks, those remarks won’t be delivered.”
Mr. Lavoie pointed to a statement issued late Friday by the department as the government’s official position.....
There’s a compelling economic case why Iceland would want to adopt the Canadian dollar. It offers the tantalizing prospect of a stable, liquid currency that roughly tracks global commodity prices, nicely matching Iceland’s own economy, which is dependent on fish and aluminum exports, and in the future, energy.
There’s also a more sentimental reason. They’re both cold, Arctic countries.
“The average person looks at it this way: Canada is a younger version of the U.S. Canada has more natural resources than the U.S., it’s less developed, has more land, lots of water,” explained Heidar Gudjonsson, an economist and chairman of the Research Centre for Social and Economic Studies, Iceland’s largest think tank.
Why would Iceland want to do that?  The only thing that got them out of their economic disaster was the ability to devalue their currency.  Canada is doing great on the China resource boom, so their currency is extremely strong right now.  But if China's economy tanks and commodity prices collapse, the Canadian dollar is going to plummet.  So the fact that both are commodity-based economies would make the currency moves very procyclical.  I would think the short term benefits of joining with the Canadians could very well be outweighed by the potential costs of such a currency adjustment.  The article makes the point that Iceland is the smallest country with its own currency, but I would think the freedoms provided by controlling your own currency would outweigh the difficulties.

I also like the line about Canada being a younger version of the U.S.  I've always gotten a little brother vibe from Canada's relations with the United States

Friday, March 2, 2012

Some Fish Fry Music

It's time to go fry fish, and I couldn't find any good fish fry songs other than these two I posted last year, so I went with another tune which at least mentions a church:

Bockfest Is This Weekend

If you find yourself in Cincinnati this weekend, you might want to head to Over-the Rhine and visit Bockfest.  Maybe you can take the historic brewery or church tours in between rounds of Bock.

A Prophecy, Or Coded History?

Adam Gopnik reviews Elaine Pagels' new book on the Book of Revelation:

In a new book on those end pages, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation” (Viking), Elaine Pagels sets out gently to bring their portents back to earth. She accepts that Revelation was probably written, toward the end of the first century C.E., by a refugee mystic named John on the little island of Patmos, just off the coast of modern Turkey. (Though this John was not, she insists, the disciple John of Zebedee, whom Jesus loved, or the author of the Gospel that bears the same name.) She neatly synopsizes the spectacular action. John, finding himself before the Throne of God, sees a lamb, an image of Christ, who receives a scroll sealed by seven seals. The seals are broken in order, each revealing a mystical vision: a hundred and forty-four thousand “firstfruits” eventually are saved as servants of God—the famous “rapture.” Seven trumpets then sound, signalling various catastrophes—stars fall, the sun darkens, mountains explode, those beasts appear. At the sound of the sixth trumpet, two hundred million horsemen annihilate a third of mankind. This all leads to the millennium—not the end of all things but the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth—which, in turn, finally leads to Satan’s end in a lake of fire and the true climax. The Heaven and Earth we know are destroyed, and replaced by better ones. (There are many subsidiary incidents along the way, involving strange bowls and that Whore of Babylon, but they can be saved, so to speak, for the director’s cut on the DVD.)

Pagels then shows that Revelation, far from being meant as a hallucinatory prophecy, is actually a coded account of events that were happening at the time John was writing. It’s essentially a political cartoon about the crisis in the Jesus movement in the late first century, with Jerusalem fallen and the Temple destroyed and the Saviour, despite his promises, still not back. All the imagery of the rapt and the raptured and the rest that the “Left Behind” books have made a staple for fundamentalist Christians represents contemporary people and events, and was well understood in those terms by the original audience. Revelation is really like one of those old-fashioned editorial drawings where Labor is a pair of overalls and a hammer, and Capital a bag of money in a tuxedo and top hat, and Economic Justice a woman in flowing robes, with a worried look. “When John says that ‘the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth,’ he revises Daniel’s vision to picture Rome as the worst empire of all,” Pagels writes. “When he says that the beast’s seven heads are ‘seven kings,’ John probably means the Roman emperors who ruled from the time of Augustus until his own time.” As for the creepy 666, the “number of the beast,” the original text adds, helpfully, “Let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person.” This almost certainly refers—by way of Gematria, the Jewish numerological system—to the contemporary Emperor Nero. Even John’s vision of a great mountain exploding is a topical reference to the recent eruption of Vesuvius, in C.E. 79. Revelation is a highly colored picture of the present, not a prophecy of the future.
This is pretty much the interpretation I've always heard from the Catholic Church.  My St. Joseph Edition of the Bible has a note saying the 666 probably refers to Nero.  I hadn't ever heard this part:

What’s more original to Pagels’s book is the view that Revelation is essentially an anti-Christian polemic. That is, it was written by an expatriate follower of Jesus who wanted the movement to remain within an entirely Jewish context, as opposed to the “Christianity” just then being invented by St. Paul, who welcomed uncircumcised and trayf-eating Gentiles into the sect. At a time when no one quite called himself “Christian,” in the modern sense, John is prophesying what would happen if people did. That’s the forward-looking worry in the book. “In retrospect, we can see that John stood on the cusp of an enormous change—one that eventually would transform the entire movement from a Jewish messianic sect into ‘Christianity,’ a new religion flooded with Gentiles,” Pagels writes. “But since this had not yet happened—not, at least, among the groups John addressed in Asia Minor—he took his stand as a Jewish prophet charged to keep God’s people holy, unpolluted by Roman culture.
 That's an interesting take on it.  Anyway, it is notable that since the beginning of the Church, people have been expecting Jesus to show up anytime.  My guess is that the wait will outlive me.  The rest of the article is equally challenging to religious history.

The Arrival Of A Chunk of Mars

In the early morning of July 18th, 2011, something unusual happened in eastern Morocco.  The sky lit up, glowing and changing colors.  They couldn’t possibly have known it at the time, but a few well-placed nomads were experiencing something that’s only happened a handful of times in recorded history: They were witnessing the terrestrial arrival of a piece of Mars.
The Meteoritical Society’s bulletin reads like a police report:
“At about 2 am local time on July 18, 2011, a bright fireball was observed by several people in the region of the Oued Drâa valley, east of Tata, Morocco.  One eyewitness, Mr Aznid Lhou, reported that it was at first yellow in color, and then turned green illuminating all the area before it appeared to split into two parts.  Two sonic booms were heard over the valley.  In October 2011, nomads began to find very fresh, fusion-crusted stones in a remote area of the Oued Drâa intermittent watershed, centered about 50 km ESE of Tata and 48 km SSW of Tissint village, in the vicinity of the Oued El Gsaïb drainage and also near El Ga’ïdat plateau known as Hmadat Boû Rba’ ine.”
It’s unclear what “several people” were doing awake at 2 AM, but their unusual morning was just the beginning.  In the coming months, meteorite prospectors, collectors, and scientists would travel the world in a high stakes quest to acquire a most unusual chunk of rock.
The story details how a meteorite hunter tracked it down and verified it came from Mars.  I didn't know it would be such a big money object.

A Customer Complaint

From a BBC history of blue jeans, via The Awl:
A 1920 letter in the Levi's archive from miner Homer Campbell of Constellation, Arizona, describes how he wore his jeans every day for three years:
"Please find enclosed one pair of your overalls which I am sending you that the head of your fabric department may determine what is wrong. I purchased these from the Brayton Commercial Co of Wickenburg, Arizona, in the early part of 1917 and I have worn them every day except Sunday since that time and for some reason which I wish you would explain they have gone to pieces. I have worn nothing but Levi Strauss overalls for the past 30 years and this pair has not given me the service that I have got from some of your overalls in the past. I know that it is your aim to present a superior article on the market and consider it my duty to help you in any way I can. Please consider this and let me know if the fault is mine."
Six days a week for three years.  That's a pretty tough pair of jeans.  They just don't make them like they used to.  I'm sure they didn't come from the store stone washed.

Wilt Hits Triple Digits

Frank Deford on Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game, 50 years ago today:
It's often difficult to measure the quality of an individual achievement in a team sport, and yes, on March 2, 1962, Wilt's Warriors were playing the Knicks, the worst team in the league, whose starting center was injured. It was a meaningless game, but still and all: 100 points in any game in the NBA! In all of Division One college ball, only one guy has gone for a century and that was Frank Selvy of Furman — and that was 58 years ago.
Yet, curiously, Chamberlain's accomplishment has needed time to become accepted for the wonder that it is. There were, maybe, 4,000 people in attendance, and many of those had primarily come to see members of the Baltimore Colts and Philadelphia Eagles football teams scrimmage at basketball in the preliminary.
Chamberlain averaged 50 points a game that season, and his act seemed old. Scoring 100 points didn't even merit the front page in New York newspapers. Chamberlain was often dismissed as just a "goon," as tall players were often called then.
The greatest public certification you could receive in 1962 was to be invited to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS. Wilt was accorded that honor, but unbeknownst to him, only to be made a fool of, when a dwarf named Johnny Puleo was assigned to run out and pretend to bite the giant's leg. Scoring 100 points? The audience only roared, mocking the big freak.
How ancient that game seems now: no TV, barely a photograph. I was with Wilt a couple of times, years later, when pandering fans would come up and tell him they saw him score the 100 — in Madison Square Garden. Wilt didn't bother to call them out. "Thank you, my man," he would politely reply.
What the hell was the deal with the dwarf?  It is truly remarkable how little attention was paid to that game.

Does Climate Change Spread Disease?

In the case of Schmallenberg virus, British scientists think so:
Climate change is raising the risk of diseases such as Schmallenberg in the UK and northern Europe, say scientists.
Schmallenberg virus affects sheep and cattle, and is probably carried by midges. It was identified in Germany last year, and in the UK in January.
Until 1990, Europe's midge-borne viral diseases were found only in Spain and Portugal; but two have emerged within the last six years in northern Europe.
Experts say the path of Schmallenberg is currently impossible to predict.
Schmallenberg virus - named after the German town where it was first identified - causes fever and diarrhoea in adult animals, but they recover.
However, infection during a critical stage of pregnancy leads to lambs and calves being born with deformation of limbs, spine or brain. Many are stillborn.
Currently it has been found on 83 farms in the UK, mainly in the southeast.
That doesn't sound good.  It looks like climate change will cause a number of odd changes to agriculture in the not too distant future.

Merav Opher And The Edge Of Space

The new view: Because of interactions with the interstellar magnetic field, the heliosphere is pushed in along its southern hemisphere and bulges out along its northern one. Distortions in the solar magnetic field become so extreme at the edge of the heliosphere that it breaks down into magnetic bubbles of plasma 100 million miles wide. Courtesy NASA

Txchnologist (h/t Ritholtz):
Opher’s more recent work has revealed what may be an even more complex level of structure in the outer heliosphere. The leading edge is called the heliosheath. It has usually been pictured as a relatively thin, smoothly flowing layer of energized plasma.
But an analysis of Voyager data by Opher and Maryland’s Drake in 2011 suggests that the heliosheath is actually a thick cluster of plasma “bubbles” 100 million miles across. The sun’s magnetic field becomes increasingly pleated and folded in the plasma of the outer heliosphere, Opher explains; in the heliosheath, pieces of the magnetic field may detach themselves and reconnect into the self-organized structures of the bubbles.
If Opher’s suggestion holds up to further observations, it could force astronomers to rethink some of their ideas about cosmic rays. “The heliosheath is a shield,” she explains: its plasma stops some highly energetic particles called cosmic rays from entering the solar system. If the heliosheath’s structure is inconsistent, then the shield has holes in it. It might be stopping fewer cosmic rays than has been assumed—or it might be stopping more, if the bubbles absorb the particles more efficiently. A change in either direction could affect astrophysical models about phenomena that produce cosmic rays and the levels of radiation bathing planets around other stars, for example.
Frustratingly, the magnetic signatures for the bubbles are so weak that they hover near the detection threshold of the Voyager magnetometers. The best way to verify the bubbles’ existence would be to launch a new probe to the outer heliosphere—one that might have the benefit of a faster propulsion system and instrumentation that isn’t 35 years out of date.
For that reason, Opher has tried as much as possible to rally support for just such a mission. To her, she says, it’s like the Voyagers are “screaming urgently, ‘Send a better instrument! There’s so much to learn!’”
Way beyond my pay grade, but pretty cool.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Rouge Tool and Die Plant

Ford Rouge - Tool & Die Plant Tour Video from M-1 Studios on Vimeo.

With Friends Like These...

Andrew Sullivan on Netanyahu and a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities:
What to make of all this? I'd say, as I did earlier today, it's a further escalation of Netanyahu's attempt to use US domestic politics to back a war on Iran. First we get McCain et al on Israeli soil backing the Israeli prime minister against the US president and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Then we get the report that Israel is preparing to strike alone. Now we hear via Haaretz that Netanyahu is demanding that Obama threaten a US military strike if Iran does not back down on its secluded nuclear research, rather than repeat the "all options are on the table" diplo-speak. Could this confusing set of signals have something to do with this:
A new poll of Israeli public opinion found surprisingly low levels of support for a military strike against Iran -- and especially if Israel has to go it alone. Just 19 percent of Israelis believe that Israel should strike Iran's nuclear facilities if it must do so without American support. A significantly higher number -- 42 percent -- support a military strike if Israel has American support. Thirty-four percent do not support a military strike at all.
So Israelis are deeply conflicted on this - something you won't find reported every day on the op-ed page of the Washington Post. That's why Netanyahu desperately needs US cover for an attack; and is furious he cannot simply push them around as he was once wont to do.
How on earth do Republican politicians get away with siding with Israel versus the Obama Administration?  How can they put Israel's interests (supposedly) ahead of their own country's?  If Democrats did the same thing, they'd be attacked as traitors.  Other than religion, what makes Israel so much more special than anyone else?  This sick march to war so many people are on really pisses me off.  Iran is no real threat to Israel, no matter what crazy things they say.  Remember Saddam Hussein and "the mother of all wars?"  How did that work out for him?  More importantly, how did that work out for us?

Foaling Time In The Bluegrass Region

Morning Edition:
The horse that wins the Kentucky Derby in 2015 may come into the world tonight in the Bluegrass State.
From January into June, about 8,000 registered thoroughbred colts and fillies will be born in Kentucky. As 3-year-olds, a few may be Triple Crown contenders.
NPR's Noah Adams just spent time near Lexington, Ky., with Eduardo Terrazas, who runs a boarding farm and expects to deliver 51 foals this season.
As Noah reports for Morning Edition, the first things you notice when you meet Terrazas are his eyes — "smiling and very tired; when the babies are coming it's hard to find any time to sleep." Terrazas says that "for two nights in a row, I think I only slept one hour one day and about two hours the next day. ... I deliver every foal."
On the night Noah is there, a mare has trouble. Her breathing is heavy. The placenta is thick and "she's not going to be able to break her bag," Terrazas says. The horse needs his help. Terrazas uses scissors to move things along.
After some tugging and some gushing, a colt is born. Minutes later, the little guy is standing — "trying to figure out what legs are for," as Noah says. And Terrazas is soon brewing a pot of coffee. For him, barn coffee is always the best. He'll need it. There's a mare in the stall next-door who needs attention.
Video after the jump:

Chart of the Day

From the Dish:

Support for Gay Marriage in California

It's only a matter of time before the sanctity of marriage folks lose a referendum.  After that, it's game over for them.  There will still be backwater states with gay marriage bans for thirty years or so until the Supreme court strikes them down, but the majority of folks will live in states where gay marriage is legal.  If a state like Ohio REALLY wanted to attract and retain business, they'd get rid of their ban and welcome everybody with open arms.  Instead, the states with such bans will push large numbers of very creative people to move to states where they are welcome.

Did Stone Age Europeans Discover America?

The Independent (h/t nc links): 
A remarkable series of several dozen European-style stone tools, dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.
The new discoveries are among the most important archaeological breakthroughs for several decades - and are set to add substantially to our understanding of humanity's spread around the globe.
The similarity between other later east coast US and European Stone Age stone tool technologies has been noted before. But all the US European-style tools, unearthed before the discovery or dating of the recently found or dated US east coast sites, were from around 15,000 years ago - long after Stone Age Europeans (the Solutrean cultures of France and Iberia) had ceased making such artefacts. Most archaeologists had therefore rejected any possibility of a connection. But the newly-discovered and recently-dated early Maryland and other US east coast Stone Age tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago - and are therefore contemporary with the virtually identical western European material.
What’s more, chemical analysis carried out last year on a European-style stone knife found in Virginia back in 1971 revealed that it was made of French-originating flint.

New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.
That would have been quite a trip back then.  I'll let the scientists battle the veracity of that theory.

The Altruism Problem

At Civilization Systems (h/t Ritholtz):
Are castes, cronyism and corruption a product of our altruism? This natural social drive to care about others is very ancient and stronger than we think. Why should this fundamental of sociability be a problem?
Biological altruism is not about being nice... or at least not always.
Its function is rooted in defining in-group from out-group and is roughly tied to Dunbar's Number (a hypothetical natural human community size related to cognitive limits).

While intellectual and cultural factors truly can and do expand the boundaries of our conception of the in-group....

There will always, by necessity be a disconnect between our lizard brain's reaction vs our reasoning brain's reaction to that fuzzy but very real boundary.

(And its always important to remember that our reasoning brain evolved to serve the lizard brain rather than the other way around.)

You will be more emotionally impacted by the death of your dog than the death of a 100,000 people far away you've never met.

No point in feeling guilty about that... if it were otherwise you'd never be able to function. You'd be prostrate from the onslaught of constant grief. And no society could function with such constant distraction.
Just a little thought for the day.

Changes For Chickens

Ari LeVaux discusses the return of backyard chicken flocks, while mentioning the United Egg Board's compromise with the HSUS:
The age-old debate over which comes first seems close to being resolved in favor of the chicken. After years of hens being treated as little more than egg-dispensers, concern is growing for the well-being of the layers themselves. Meanwhile, the practice of personal flock-keeping is on the rise. Across the country, and in many parts of the world, chicken-first approaches are supplanting the simple quest to create the cheapest eggs possible.
In the industrial egg factories where most of America's eggs are laid, the newly introduced Egg Products Inspection Act would, if passed, make life easier. The bill grew from a compromise between United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States. It would mandate replacing the nation's 280 million chicken-sized battery cages as they're called with group cages equipped with amenities like dust baths and perches, while banning some of the cruelest practices associated with egg farming.
While bonds may be loosening for the jailed birds on life's lowest perches, the ranks of the privileged few are growing. Chicken society's one-percenters, the personal flocks of subsistence and hobby chicken farmers, have reached a size that actually resembles a percentage point. And now, finally, the scattered tribes of backyard flocksters have a bible to call their own: The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery, with a forward by his colleague, the outspoken chicken farmer Joel Salatin.
I need to bolster my flock.  The raccoons and coyotes put a pretty good hurting on them last year.

Happy Birthday Ohio

March 1, 1803:
 Ohio is admitted as the 17th U.S. state.
On February 19, 1803, President Jefferson signed an act of Congress that approved Ohio's boundaries and constitution. However, Congress had never passed a resolution formally admitting Ohio as the 17th state. The current custom of Congress declaring an official date of statehood did not begin until 1812, with Louisiana's admission as the 18th state. Although no formal resolution of admission was required, when the oversight was discovered in 1953, Ohio congressman George H. Bender introduced a bill in Congress to admit Ohio to the Union retroactive to March 1, 1803. At a special session at the old state capital in Chillicothe, the Ohio state legislature approved a new petition for statehood that was delivered to Washington, D.C. on horseback. On August 7, 1953 (the year of Ohio's 150th anniversary), President Eisenhower signed an act that officially declared March 1, 1803 the date of Ohio's admittance into the Union.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grantham Blasts Capitalism Run Amok

Jeremy Grantham makes the case that Marx may have actually been right about capitalism.  A few of his points:
 Economic theory ignores natural laws. It suffers an “absolute inability to process the finiteness of resources. ... Capitalism wants to eat into ... limited resources at an accelerating rate with the subtext that everyone on the planet has the right to live like the wasteful polluting developed countries do today.” • It’s not just inexpensive oil we are running out of: The “loss of our collective ability to feed ourselves, through erosion and fertilizer depletion — has received little or no attention.”
• Americans are too optimistic: “They adopt a hear-no-evil approach to life and listen exclusively to good news. ... There are always a few experts lacking in long-horizon vision, simple common sense, or whose co-operation has been rented, like “expert” witnesses at a murder trial, who can be dragged out to reliably say that everything will always work out fine.”
• Governments must step in. “To interfere with Marx’s apocalyptic vision, we need some enlightened governmental moderation ... before capitalism gets so cocky that we have some serious social reaction.”
• Where Marx and Engels got it wrong was in thinking workers would unite. “It’s going to be hard to have a workers’ revolution with no workers. Organizing robotic machine tools will not be easy.”
I must say, I agree with each of those points.  Too bad most businesspeople don't realize there's a problem.

Bodog Gets Busted

LA Times:
Sports gambling site has been seized by the government and its founder indicted, making it the latest in a string of prosecutions directed at PokerStars, Absolute Poker and Full Tilt Poker last year.
Bodog founder Calvin Ayre – along with Canadians James Philip, David Ferguson and Derrick Maloney – were indicted Feb. 22 by a federal grand jury in Maryland.
The indictment, accusing the quartet of conducting an illegal sports betting business and conspiring to commit money laundering, was unsealed Tuesday by the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore.
Authorities seized the website’s domain name Monday. The site on Tuesday showed the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations seals as well as a note about the seizure.
Prosecutors allege that Ayre – once ranked on Forbes’ billionaires list and deemed an eligible bachelor by People and Star magazines -- ran Bodog with his team for at least 6-1/2 years.
Gamblers – many in the U.S. – were paid with funds moved through accounts in Europe, Canada, Malta and elsewhere, prosecutors allege. More than $100 million was sent through checks and by wire via payment processors, according to the indictment.
I've somehow managed to avoid any online wagering.  I think it has to do with losing track of most sports these days, and hating to lose money.  I was really close to getting a TVG horse racing gambling account back when I had free TVG for six months.  Inertia and lack of cash prevented it, though.  Anyway, it looks like the feds are coming down hard on internet wagering, so watch out.

Rick Santorum And The First Amendment

George Packer:

The outcry over Obama’s policy on health insurance and contraception has almost nothing to do with that part of the First Amendment about the right to free religious practice, which is under no threat in this country. It is all about a modern conservative Kulturkampf that will not accept the other part of the religion clause, which prohibits any official religion.

Santorum, like most conservatives these days, says he is a constitutionalist. Jefferson wrote, and Madison worked to pass, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, which held that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” Jefferson included an even stronger phrase that was eventually struck out by amendment: “the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction.” Presumably, all of this originalist nonsense makes Rick Santorum heave, gag, vomit, and puke.

What makes me throw up is the story of Hamza Kashgari. It’s a shame that every American doesn’t know his name. He’s a young, slender, philosophical-minded columnist and blogger from Saudi Arabia who, earlier this month, dared to tweet phrases of an imagined conversation with the Prophet Mohammad: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you…I loved the rebel in you…I will not pray for you.” Within twenty-four hours, more than thirty thousand furious replies had been posted on Twitter. Within a few days, more than twenty thousand people had signed on to a Facebook page called “Saudi People Want Punishment for Hamza Kashgari.” (So much for Arab liberation by social media.) One commenter wrote, “The only choice is for Kashgari to be killed and crucified in order to be a lesson to other secularists.”

Kashgari backed down, apologized profusely, and continued to be attacked. He went into hiding. Clerics and government officials threatened him with execution for blasphemy. He fled to Malaysia, hoping to continue to fly to New Zealand, where he would ask for asylum. But Malaysian officials, behaving against law and decency, had him detained at the airport and sent back to Saudi Arabia, where he was promptly arrested. Since mid-February there’s been no word of Kashgari. The Saudis have said they will put him on trial. What a pity there’s no First Amendment to protect him.
Santorum's position is so misguided, I just don't understand how so many people can vote for him.  He is wrong in so many ways.  Religious liberty is extended to all Americans, regardless of faith.  I don't understand how the same party which is pushing for laws banning Sharia law are also arguing that all employers have a right to eliminate contraceptive coverage for their employees in the company insurance plans.  The nice thing with the Republican strategy is that it ends up undermining the employer-based health insurance system, which is the first step toward single-payer health care.  Republicans are clearly their own worst enemies, and in the battle over the First Amendment, they are walking a very fine line.

Judge Weighs Regulator Restrictions On Speculators

McClatchy (h/t nc links):
A federal judge on Monday refused to halt efforts by a key regulator to limit excessive speculation in the trading of oil contracts — which is driving up oil and gasoline prices — but hinted that he might soon rule in favor of Wall Street and let speculation go unchecked.
Robert Wilkins, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, declined a request for a preliminary injunction to halt the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from implementing a congressional mandate to limit how many oil contracts any single financial speculator or company can control.
However, Wilkins told both the CFTC and lawyers for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the International Swap and Derivatives Association that he expected to make a ruling soon on whether to hear the case. His line of questioning left both sides with the impression that he was concerned about how the regulatory agency has proceeded.
The two influential lobbies for Wall Street sought the injunction hoping to thwart what are called “position limits,” which were ordered by Congress as part of the landmark Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. The act was the broadest revamp of financial regulation since the Great Depression. The limits sought to prevent excessive speculation not just in oil but across the broad range of commodities, including farm products and metals.
Judge Wilkins expressed concern that Congress would direct the agency to impose market-wide limits without detailed study beforehand. President Barack Obama nominated Wilkins to the bench and the Senate confirmed him in 2010.
I don't understand why Congress won't reinstall position limits.  Ok, I do understand why, but it would be nice if they did.  Unfortunately, banks have invented ways around the limits even if they were in place.  Maybe Congress ought to require executive castration for future Wall Street bailout funds.  Well, maybe not quite that drastic, but they ought to require serious changes in business.

The Future Of NASA

Neil DeGrasse Tyson sounds like my drinking buddy this weekend:
He sees this "force of nature" firsthand when he goes to student classrooms. "I could stand in front of eighth-graders and say, 'Who wants to be an aerospace engineer so you can design an airplane 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the one your parents flew?' " Tyson says. "That doesn't usually work. But if I say, 'Who wants to be an aerospace engineer to design the airplane that will navigate the rarefied atmosphere of Mars?' because that's where we're going next, I'm getting the best students in the class. I'm looking for life on Mars? I'm getting the best biologist. I want to study the rocks on Mars? I'm getting the best geologists."
But spending for space programs isn't where Tyson would like it to be. In just one year, Tyson says, the expenditure of the U.S.'s military budget is equivalent to NASA's entire 50-year running budget.
"I think if you double [the budget], to a penny on the dollar, that's enough to take us in bold visions in a shorter time scale to Mars, visit asteroids, to study the status of all the planets," he says. On Venus, for example, scientists have observed a "runaway greenhouse effect," Tyson says. "I kind of want to know what happened there, because we're twirling knobs here on Earth without knowing the consequences of it."
Today, Mars is bone-dry; it once had running water. "Something bad happened there as well," he says. "Asteroids have us in our sight. The dinosaurs didn't have a space program, so they're not here to talk about this problem. We are, and we have the power to do something about it. I don't want to be the embarrassment of the galaxy, to have had the power to deflect an asteroid, and then not, and end up going extinct. We'd be the laughing stock of the aliens of the cosmos if that were the case."
Actually, my buddy was making the case that his daughter (my Goddaughter) was going to be an astronaut establishing a space colony on the moon or Mars or some other place to save the human race.  I argued that considering the support system on Earth that would be required to support life in space, we were much more likely to save the human race here than there.  Tyson seems to split the difference and says we need to find out what happened on Venus and Mars to prevent the same things from happening here.  I just don't think manned flights to Mars are feasible, and if they were, they wouldn't be a good investment.  I think the current program of unmanned probes and space station experiments is a pretty good investment.

A Warning For Republicans

While Mr. Santorum’s recent lobbying effort to sway social conservatives to his side may have worked with evangelical Christians, it did not tempt Catholic voters – their vote divided between him and Mr. Romney. Nearly half of Catholic women voters in Michigan went for Mr. Romney, compared to less than a third for Mr. Santorum.
Voters in Michigan had concerns about Mr. Santorum’s electability, hurting his opportunity of snatching the state away from Mr. Romney. Only about a quarter of Michigan primary voters said Mr. Santorum was the candidate most likely to defeat President Obama in November, and electability ranked among the most important factors for voters.
The economy was the overarching issue for Michigan voters, and nearly half of those who said the economy was their main concern were supporting Mr. Romney.
Catholics (CNN showed 44% of Catholics and 41% of the electorate voted for Romney) and women went for Romney over Santorum.  Republicans in Congress might want to take note.  Republicans are already going to lose the black and Hispanic votes, don't drive out the women too.

Well Played, Mauer

February 29, 1504:
 Christopher Columbus uses his knowledge of a lunar eclipse that night to convince Native Americans to provide him with supplies. For a year Columbus and his men remained stranded on Jamaica. A Spaniard, Diego Mendez, and some natives paddled a canoe to get help from Hispaniola. That island's governor, Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres, detested Columbus and obstructed all efforts to rescue him and his men. In the meantime Columbus, in a desperate effort to induce the natives to continue provisioning him and his hungry men, successfully won the favor of the natives by correctly predicting a lunar eclipse for 29 February 1504, using the Ephemeris of the German astronomer Regiomontanus. Help finally arrived, no thanks to the governor, on 29 June 1504, and Columbus and his men arrived in Sanlúcar, Spain, on 7 November.
Wasn't that trick used in A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court?  I guess Twain just borrowed from history.

Happy Leap Day

Enjoy the day. Hopefully you'll run into Leap Day William before he gets hungry:

Chart of the Day

The Republicans demographic hole, from the Dish:

The rising electorate is unmarried women, young people and minorities.  Some folks need to get their heads out of their asses, because their electoral base is getting old and dying.  Fighting against birth control isn't winning over the young folks.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mr. Obvious Headline of the Day

From the NYT website: Romney Says His Gaffes Are Hurting His Campaign.  The actual story headline is Romney Admits Mistakes as Michigan Votes in Crucial Primary.  I liked the first one better.  Honestly, I'm not sure which is worse, how pitiful Mitt Romney is when he tries to come across as a normal human being, or the fact that he may lose to Rick Santorum's crazy Catholic anti-sex hate train.  I mean really, wanting people to go to college is being a snob?  Seriously?

A Guide To The Twin Cities

Katie Heaney on Minnesotans:
If there’s one thing that Minnesotans love talking about, it’s how great Minnesota is. People from Minnesota are, in real life, what people from New York are like on television—there isn’t anywhere else that matters, unless it’s to serve as our mortal enemy (I'm looking at you, Wisconsin). We're like the world's friendliest braggarts. I grew up here and, in my role as a state proselytizer, I've so far managed to convert two Chicago-born college friends into Minnesotans, and it’s only a matter of time before I get to the rest of you.
Should you get a chance to visit the Twin Cities, here are some things you might enjoy doing. But first, a few notes about this guide. I don’t talk much about the nightlife here, because then I’d have to tell you that I can’t tell the difference between any two bars in Uptown. I won’t tell you about music venues, except to mention the legendary First Avenue (any Minnesotan who writes about Minneapolis without mentioning “the legendary First Avenue” is immediately exiled to Wisconsin), because I’m just not cool enough. What I can tell you about is the weird stuff, the super Minnesotan stuff, the stuff that makes me happiest to stick around.
The Minnesota State Fair, number one on the list, is for those of you who visit around Labor Day.
The part about the world's nicest friendliest braggarts cracks me up.  The Twin Cities are nice, I'll give them that.  But every time I've visited, it's been hotter than hell.

About The Blogging

I haven't managed to write much original on the blog recently.  I've been busy with work and haven't gotten around to it.  Plus, I've been utterly puzzled by the Republican primary, and can't figure out what on earth is going on there.  I'll try to get some more stuff up soon.

Small Distiller Hits Hot Market

Des Moines Register:
Mississippi River Distilling Co. plans to release its second batch of Cody Road bourbon on Friday. The first batch was released in December and sold out across Iowa and Illinois with three days, and 120 bottles were sold at the Le Claire distillery in less than four hours.
This time, Mississippi River Distilling made 899 bottles, with 90 bottles on sale at  the distillery’s retail shop starting at 10 a.m. Friday. Sales will be limited to one bottle per person.
The company said the Iowa Alcohol Beverage Division is limiting retailers to six bottles per store, per week.
“Unfortunately, this batch likely won’t last much longer than the first,” said owner and distiller Ryan Burchett.
Burchett and his brother, Garrett, said they plan to increase production and have more bourbon on the shelf by late this year.
Fans can help increase production by adopting a bourbon barrel for $400. After a year of aging, the adoptive parent can help bottle the bourbon and receive six bottles and an empty barrel in return. Starting this week, 100 barrels will be available for adoption.
As a business owner, it must be amazingly frustrating not to be able to meet the market demand.

EPA Greenhouse Gas Rules Face Court Challenge

Scientific American:
Three federal judges will hear arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday at the D.C. Court of Appeals from groups seeking to overturn the regulations and also convince the judges that the science used by the EPA is wrong.
The EPA's raft of recent clean air rules has divided the power industry between companies that have moved toward cleaner energy, including Exelon and NextEra and those who generate most of their power from coal, including Southern Co and American Electric Power.
Environmental groups and activists concerned about global warming support the EPA regulations because the U.S. Congress has not enacted legislation to cap emissions.
The petitioners, who combined a dozen separate similar lawsuits under the name the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, will target four EPA rules:
* The "endangerment finding" - the scientific finding made by the EPA in December 2009 that found that greenhouse gases endanger public health, enabling the agency to regulate them under the Clean Air Act.
* The "tailpipe rule" - the May 2010 rule, which set greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for new light-duty vehicles.
* The "timing rule" - the April 2010 rule that will require generators and industrial plants to apply for permits to cover greenhouse gas emissions once the rules for vehicles kick in.
* The "tailoring rule" issued in June 2010, which set a timeline to start requiring those industrial and utility sources to apply for permits according to the scale of their emissions.
On Friday, the EPA proposed that only the largest polluters would be required to hold carbon permits. The move was aimed at reducing burdens on states and local government permitting agencies.
All I can say about the new rules is that on the business side, they only targeted large industrial generators.  Neither of the businesses which I file paperwork for were close to being regulated.  They don't even have to report emissions of greenhouse gases.  In the end, businesses and consumers have to pay for their externalities.

The Patriote Movement

The flag of the Patriote movement of Lower Canada 1832-1838

February 28, 1838:
 Robert Nelson, leader of the Patriotes, proclaims the independence of Lower Canada (today Quebec) The Patriote movement was a political movement that existed in Lower Canada (present-day Quebec) from the turning of the 19th century to the Patriote Rebellion of 1837 and 1838 and the subsequent Act of Union of 1840. It was politically embodied by the Parti patriote at the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. The movement was at once a liberal reaction against colonial control of the government of Lower Canada, and a more general nationalistic reaction against British presence and domination over what had previously been an exclusivley French territory. It was inspired by the American Revolution, the decolonization of the Americas, as well as the political philosophy of classical liberalism. Among its leading figures were François Blanchet, Pierre-Stanislas Bédard, John Neilson, Jean-Thomas Taschereau, James Stuart, Louis Bourdages, Denis-Benjamin Viger, Daniel Tracey, Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan, Andrew Stuart, Wolfred Nelson, Robert Nelson, Thomas Storrow Brown, François Jalbert and Louis-Joseph Papineau. Its ideals were conveyed through the newspapers the Montreal Vindicator, Le Canadien, and La Minerve.
The movement demanded democratic reforms, such as an elected Legislative Council, as opposed to the current council whose members were appointed for life by the British Crown. Le Parti Patriotes also sought to place control of the regional budget into the hands of such an elected assembly, thus supporting Lower Canada's position as semi autonomous within the empire. In 1834 Louis-Joseph Papineau drafted the Ninety-Two Resolutions to Great Britain to obtain these and other aims. The Resolutions were in great part denied by the Russell Resolutions, which resulted in a radicalization of the Patriotes and their moving closer to demands of outright independence and a Lower Canada republic. Many of its followers ended up taking part in an armed insurrection known as the Lower Canada Rebellion which was put down by the British army and its volunteer militia.
I didn't realize Quebecois Separatism went back that far.

Philly's Little Secret- The Big 5

The Big 5 matchups are one of my favorite college basketball traditions, and Brandon Lilly gives them their due:
The Big 5 started in 1955 when the athletic directors at La Salle, Penn, St. Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova decided they would all play the vast majority of home games at the Palestra on Penn’s campus in doubleheader formats. Out of this arrangement, the city series was born, an annual round-robin tournament between the five schools. Several major cities have multiple major programs, but none of them play each other with any regularity. Yet for all but an eight-year stretch in the '90s, the Big 5 schools have dutifully faced each other, playing for a largely mythic city championship and bragging rights at Sonny Hill League summer games.

Although all five teams harbor a healthy dislike for each other, these are largely bloodless rivalries. Unlike Duke and Carolina, or Alabama and Auburn, Big 5 fans traditionally have not woken up every morning hating any one team in particular. (St. Joe’s fans would no doubt cite Villanova as their biggest rival, but this feeling is largely unrequited, as Nova fans are more likely to rattle off four or five Big East schools as their chief enemies before getting to the Hawks.) Rather, the five are more like a family; Penn of the Ivy League is the smart older brother, St. Joseph’s the loud and obnoxious younger sister, and La Salle the slightly senile grandfather prattling on about how great things were back in the day. (Drexel is the unloved stepchild from a previous marriage, or perhaps the family pet. Sorry, Drexel.) Temple and Villanova are mom and dad — the twin pillars of the city’s college hoops establishment. But all five schools have had moments in the sun.
La Salle has largely become an afterthought in the city series, but it hasn’t always been like this for the Explorers. In 1954, the year before the Big 5 started, the Explorers won the national championship behind Tom Gola. The team returned to the finals the next year, only to fall to Bill Russell and San Francisco. The school continued to field successful teams throughout the '70s and '80s, but fell into mediocrity in the '90s. An attempt to land Kobe Bryant by hiring his father as an assistant coach failed, and it has been nearly 20 years since the Explorers were invited to the Big Dance.
Perhaps no school takes the Big 5 as seriously as St. Joseph’s. The Hawks hate Penn because they are Ivy League snobs. They hate Temple because they have state school money, a history of success, and the Owls' former coach once sent in a guy to commit hard fouls and ended up breaking one of their guy’s arms. They mainly hate La Salle because they just have a lot of hatred and no one is spared. But the team they really hate is Villanova, because St. Joe’s and Villanova are practically the same school, except Villanova is better at everything. St. Joe’s went to the Final Four in 1961 and came within one missed shot of repeating the trick in 2004, but Jameer Nelson’s shot hit the front rim and the dream died. The Hawks have only made the tournament once since then.
It seems appropriate that I root for St. Joe's, considering as much of my sports rooting interest is aimed at rooting against teams I hate as it is rooting for teams I like.  Actually, it is probably more rooting against teams I hate.  I was as disheartened as most Philly fans when Nelson and St. Joe's came up short against Oklahoma State in 2004.  Even worse, Xavier missed the opportunity to knock off Duke in the same round.  Two A-10 teams in the Final Four would have been awesome, especially with one knocking off much hated Duke.

Chart of the Day

From the Dish:

So according to this, Ron Paul gets the majority of the military political donations and Obama gets most of the rest?  That is pretty amazing, but after 10 years of war, not completely surprising.

Obama Does "Sweet Home Chicago"

This is from last week, but I wasn't paying close attention:

James Fallows says this is something he can't see Romney or Santorum being able to do. The president would have locked in my vote in the fall if he'd have broken out his Elwood dance moves:

Will Oil Prices Crater?

Chris Cook thinks so:
The smartest kids on the block knows that gasoline prices much over US$4 per gallon will be both deflationary and lethal to President Barack Obama’s re-election chances. So that won’t happen other than briefly.
I am by no means the only commentator who has pointed out the complete counter-productivity of these oil sanctions. The smart kids are well aware that oil sanctions are completely useless, and simply enable China to fill its strategic reserves at a discount to the market price at the expense of Greece and Italy in particular.
But the US has been quite happy to let the EU – as useful idiots – take the economic hit. The high oil prices caused by all this noise and nonsense are actually a net benefit to Iran – which rattles its sabre loudly as elections approach.
The effect of a managed decline in oil prices to, and probably over-correcting well through, $60 a barrel – which is coming fairly soon – will be extremely beneficial to the US in two ways.
Firstly, it will be catastrophic in particular for Iran, Russia and Venezuela – not exactly on the White House party list – whose hugely oil-dependent revenues will collapse. The ensuing economic mayhem will open these countries up to regime change and to rescue plans which Wall Street will be dusting off.
Secondly, the US population will be laughing all the way to the gas station as gasoline prices fall – at least temporarily – below $2.50 a gallon and release purchasing power into the economy, thereby doing the president’s re-election chances no harm at all.
What will then happen is that members of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries will panic and genuinely reduce their production. The Saudis/Gulf Cooperation Council will again orchestrate the inflation of the oil price – as they did in 2009 – comfortable in the knowledge that they have been able to hedge against this temporary fall in prices at the expense of the speculators currently pouring in to the market.
That’s the game plan as I see it of the smartest kids on the block. What could ever go wrong?
It is interesting to see he thinks today's speculators will be left holding the bag.  I don't think the higher prices are sustainable, but will the crash come with an economic slowdown?  I'm just afraid this will ripple through the livestock and grain markets as well.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Moerlein Lager House Opens

Cincinnati Equirer reports on the opening, which occurred at 11:00 this morning:
The restaurant, which cost about $10 million to build, seats up to 1,400 inside and features three kitchens. There is 14,000 square feet of dining and entertainment space on two levels, and it opens on to Jacob Schmidlapp Event Lawn, a green space that can hold 3,000.
The restaurant also includes:
• The Beer Barons and Brewers Hall of Fame, which will honor Cincinnati’s founding brewers, beginning with Christian Moerlein.
• Murals of Cincinnati’s beer barons, painted by Jim Effler, a Cincinnati artist who has designed labels for Moerlein bottles.
• A private dining room named after John Hauck, founder of a West End brewery.
“It’s meant to celebrate our past and take Cincinnati brewing into the future,” Hardman told the Enquirer earlier this month.
Wow. $10 million?  This mural looks pretty cool (h/t Cubs Dad):

I hope it makes it, but $10 million is a lot of money to make up.  They do have quite the beer selection.

Possible Good News On Climate Change?

Cloud-top height fell 1 percent on average between March 2000 and February 2010, according to measurements from the multi-angle imaging spectroradiometer mounted on NASA’s Terra satellite. That 1 percent means a reduction of 30 to 40 meters in the average maximum height of clouds, during the 00s.

While the short record means it’s difficult to draw any strong conclusions from the data, it does hint towards a longer-term trend. Roger Davies, the lead researcher on the project, warns that it’s something that should be monitored in the coming decades to determine how significant it is for global temperatures.
If there is indeed a consistent reduction in cloud height, and this isn’t just natural variability, then Earth would begin cooling to space more efficiently, reducing the surface temperatures and slowing the effects of climate change. “We don’t know exactly what causes the cloud heights to lower,” Davies said in a press release. “But it must be due to a change in the circulation patterns that give rise to cloud formation at high altitude.”
One can hope, but all the other changes will probably cancel this out.

Brigham Young As City Planner

From a 2002 Lawrence Wright article in The New Yorker:
Saints compare their headquarters in Salt Lake City—an imposing complex of buildings set against the Wasatch Mountains—to the Vatican. Brigham Young, who founded Salt Lake City, mandated that streets be numbered according to their distance from the pale neo-Gothic granite temple that stands at the center. Young’s regimented thoroughfares are a hundred and thirty-two feet wide—wide enough to turn around a train of oxen, he decreed—so there is a lot of high-desert sky between buildings. In this setting, the handsome state capitol nearby looks a bit captive.

Temple Square, the ten-acre heart of Mormonism, is a serene enclosure. The Tabernacle, home to the celebrated choir, stands in the middle of the complex, facing the multi-spired Temple. Simplicity is the sensibility at work in this cloister. Although Mormon temples are often impressive pieces of architecture, the icons and crucifixes and frescoes that adorn many Christian churches are notably absent here—as if decoration were an affront to the pragmatism that Mormons pride themselves upon. Even the occasional stained-glass window shies away from depictions of religious passion in favor of geometric patterns. Across North Temple Street is a new conference center, a million two hundred thousand square feet in size—nearly ten times as large as the old Tabernacle—which can seat more than twenty-one thousand people.
The urban planning part of that is pretty interesting.  132 foot-wide streets are crazy wide.  As for the influence of the church on the state, I am sure Utah is a very nice place to live, but I am glad I don't live there.

The Hellstrom Chronicle?

Dave Tompkins highlights the 1971 Oscar winning documentary:
Last summer, a moth from St. Louis installed itself in the right ear of Matt Holliday. The Cardinal left fielder was removed from the game, and the moth from his ear, but not without difficulty. They were both taken to a dark room in the clubhouse where a doctor unsuccessfully tried inveigling the creature by penlight. Then came the tweezers, sacrificing the moth's aerial equipment in the process. Though invasive, the incident was fairly mild in terms of major league lepidoptera attacks. In a 1985 game between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pirate third baseman Bill "Mad Dog" Madlock inhaled a moth and missed the throw to first by a mile. Talking to Sports Illustrated, Phillies catcher Ozzie Virgil said that night at Veterans Stadium was like playing in a "furry blizzard," as if the moths were rioting for more 1,500-watt bulbs.
Moths can have babies in your clothes, in Astroturf, and, incredibly, under piano keys, but for the most part they are benign creatures. More humans have been endangered by flame-drawn moth similes than by moths themselves. Yet the moth never appeared more menacing than on the marquee poster for The Hellstrom Chronicle, an insect apocalypse that received an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1971. Originally released in the guise of an ecological horror film, it's now available on Blu-ray, so you can watch ants dismember each other to free jazz. (The lost head of a red soldier, its antennae still twitching to the beat, is a nice touch.) One critic called it "ideal and ingenious family entertainment … full of sex and violence."
Who can beat a lead in like that.

Reichstag Fire

Firemen work on the burning Reichstag

February 27, 1933:
 Reichstag fire: Germany's parliament building in Berlin, the Reichstag, is set on fire. The Reichstag fire (German: Der About this sound Reichstagsbrand ) was an arson attack on the Reichstag building in Berlin on 27 February 1933. The event is seen as pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany.
At 21:25 (UTC +1), a Berlin fire station received an alarm call that the Reichstag building, the assembly location of the German Parliament, was ablaze. The fire started in the Session Chamber, and, by the time the police and firefighters had arrived, the main Chamber of Deputies was engulfed in flames.
Inside the building, a thorough search conducted by the police resulted in the finding of Marinus van der Lubbe. Van der Lubbe, council communist and unemployed bricklayer, had recently arrived in Germany, ostensibly to carry out his political activities. The fire was used as evidence by the Nazis that the Communists were beginning a plot against the German government. Van der Lubbe and four Communist leaders were subsequently arrested. Adolf Hitler, who had been sworn in as Chancellor of Germany four weeks before, on 30 January, urged President Paul von Hindenburg to pass an emergency decree to counter the "ruthless confrontation of the Communist Party of Germany".[2] With civil liberties suspended, the government instituted mass arrests of Communists, including all of the Communist parliamentary delegates. With them gone and their seats empty, the Nazis went from being a plurality party to the majority; subsequent elections confirmed this position and thus allowed Hitler to consolidate his power.
Meanwhile, investigation of the Reichstag fire continued, with the Nazis eager to uncover Comintern complicity. In early March 1933, three men were arrested who were to play pivotal roles during the Leipzig Trial, known also as the "Reichstag Fire Trial": Bulgarians Georgi Dimitrov, Vasil Tanev and Blagoi Popov. The Bulgarians were known to the Prussian police as senior Comintern operatives, but the police had no idea how senior they were; Dimitrov was head of all Comintern operations in Western Europe.
Historians disagree as to whether Van der Lubbe acted alone or whether the arson was planned and ordered by the Nazis, then dominant in the government themselves, as a false flag operation. The responsibility for the Reichstag fire remains an ongoing topic of debate and research.
I think we ought to weigh whether any large political provocation might be a false flag operation.  They are not common, but the potential damages of such an operation are tremendous.