Daily Archives: February 23, 2012

Maryland Bill Passes Senate

The Maryland house recently passed their same-sex marriage bill, and now, moments ago, the Senate has done the same thing. Governer Martin O’Malley is expected to sign it.

Go Marry-Land!


Maryland would join the District and seven states in allowing same-sex marriages. Supporters have cast the bill as a major advance in equal rights. Opponents have called it a misguided attempt to redefine the institution of marriage.

Despite one of the largest Democratic majorities in any state legislature, backers of gay marriage in Maryland had to overcome fierce opposition from blocks of African American lawmakers and those with strong Catholic and evangelical views to cobble together coalitions big enough to pass both chambers.

Is the Heartland "Strategy Memo" a Fake? Let's try using science!

As you know, there is much discussion about whether or not a “strategy memo” leaked from the Heartland Institute is a fake. We are told by a trustworthy source that this policy memo was leaked to him, and that he then tricked the Heartland Institute to supply him with additional documents, which he then used to verify the “strategy memo” based on cross reference of factual information. Only after the apparent veracity of the memo was determined did that individual, Peter Gleick, release all of the documents to the public.

Subsequently, a number of untrustworthy sources, such as Heartland related people and the usual gaggle of Science Haters, have insisted that the original strategy memo is a fake. One set of evidence used to suggest this is that the memo was different from the other documents in several ways: It was a photocopy or a fax with different formatting, etc. This of course is evidence of nothing. There is nothing that requires that all of the documents associated with a particular institution, or even a particular event such as a board meeting at an institution, be created, formatted, and distributed with the same look, feel, and technology. It it obvious to me that if this is the case of Heartland getting caught red handed, they might then be grasping at straws.

However, we can use science to address this question further, and this is exactly what Shawn Otto has done. In a piece posted moments ago (here and soon to be at Huffington Post) Shawn carries out an analysis using a standard and widely respected software system to compare a sample of Gleick’s writing, some samples from Heartland, and the “strategy memo.” In this analysis, the memo is entered as an unknown, and the software shows the difference between that unknown document and the known document. Read Shawn’s analysis to see the details; the conclusion is that the strategy memo was more likely written in house at Heartland than by Peter Gleick.
Continue reading Is the Heartland "Strategy Memo" a Fake? Let's try using science!

House vs. Senate: Where to find the tea?

Have you ever noticed that lower level of a bicameral legislature is often populated by out of control yahoos who aren’t very good lawmakers, while the upper level is more often populated by individuals who seem less willing to totally embarass themselves at every turn? A great example of this unfolded recently in New Hampshire, with some gun-related legislation.

The house crafted a number of bills related to guns:

  • A bill allowing people to carry loaded weapons, including crossbows, in their cars, by redefining what “loaded gun” is.
  • A bill that lets people carry guns on campuses, public sports venues, and the state psychiatric hospital
  • A bill that allows people to carry concealed firearms without a permit
  • Two other bills, I don’t know what they were.

All the bills were quickly rejected by the Senate. Of these bills, Senate President Peter Bragdon said, “We spent a grand total of 6 minutes on 5 bills because we want to focus on the issues that are important to the New Hampshire people.”

Live free or else!

Waterworld Discovered in Space

… Well, everything is in space, but I mean outer space!

Observations by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have come up with a new class of planet, a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere. It’s smaller than Uranus but larger than Earth.

Zachory Berta of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and colleagues made the observations of the planet GJ1214b.

“GJ1214b is like no planet we know of,” Berta said. “A huge fraction of its mass is made up of water.”

The ground-based MEarth Project, led by CfA’s David Charbonneau, discovered GJ1214b in 2009. This super-Earth is about 2.7 times Earth’s diameter and weighs almost seven times as much. It orbits a red-dwarf star every 38 hours at a distance of 1.3 million miles, giving it an estimated temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Details here

How to steal a checkbook

Find a daycare center with a largish parking lot, so people dropping off their kids often park a little ways away from the entrance.

Focus on women who are dropping off their kids. Watch for purses (known in some subcultures as “pocketbooks” or “bags” … it’s like a “manbag” only for girls). Most women carry one. If you see a woman bringing the kid(s) to the daycare without the purse, that means there is a purse in her car. Also, if you’ve watched the daycare for a few days you’ll know the minimum amount of time you’ll have to extract the purse from the car. Continue reading How to steal a checkbook