Monthly Archives: June 2014

The US Chamber of Commerce and the SCOTUS: You'll want to see this.

The Constitutional Accountability Center has released it’s annual report The Corporate Court.

…Let’s begin with the numbers. This Term, the Chamber was involved in 17 cases overall—directly representing one of its member companies in Canning, litigating as a party in UARG, and filing amicus briefs in 15 other cases. The Chamber’s 17 cases represent just under a quarter of the total cases set down for argument this Term.

All told, the Chamber racked up a record of 11 wins and 5 losses—or a 69% winning percentage. (One of its cases—Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action—settled before oral argument.) That means that, since Samuel Alito succeeded Sandra Day O’Connor on the Court in January 2006, the Chamber has won 70% of its cases (85 wins and 36 losses), compared with only 43% in the late Burger Court (15 of 35 from 1981-1986) and 56% in the stable Rehnquist Court (45 of 80 from 1994-2005). …

First 2014 Atlantic Tropical Storm??? IMPORTANT UPDATE

Maybe yes, maybe no. Good chance, yes.

It is too early to call, but the blob I mentioned the other day has turned into a spiral and is starting to get organized. Forecasters at NOAA think there is an 80% chance this low pressure phenomenon will be a tropical storm by the 4th of July. They are also, somewhat vaguely, saying that it will move south, then northward, then northwest, which puts the storm off the coast of the US Mid-Atlantic or Southeast somewhere. Given that the storm is not moving in a consistent direction steered by well defined one directional forces, this should be very hard to predict this early.

This afternoon there should be an aircraft taking a closer look, assuming development continues. By tomorrow mid day, I suspect, we’ll know a lot more, between the collection of new data, the runs of more models, and the behavior of the proto-storm itself.

But yes, this could be Atlantic Storm 1, Arthur, a menacing off coast storm but almost certainly NOT a hurricane, as it will be moved too far north to really turn into one.

UPDATE: The NWS is now more certain about the disturbance turning into a Tropical Storm:

1. Shower and thunderstorm activity has increased in association with
a low pressure area located about 125 miles east of Melbourne,
Florida. Environmental conditions are becoming more conducive for
, and only a slight increase in organization would result
in the formation of a tropical depression
. This system is moving
southwestward at around and 5 mph but is expected to turn westward
tonight and northward by Wednesday near the east Florida coast. A
turn toward the northeast near the southeastern U.S. coast is
expected by Thursday. An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft
is en route to investigate the disturbance. If this system becomes
a tropical cyclone, a tropical storm watch could be required for
portions of the central or northern Atlantic coast of Florida.

* Formation chance through 48 hours…high…80 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days…high…80 percent.

UPDATE 2 (Monday evening): Check out Paul Douglas’s blog at Star Tribune for details. It is still too early to have high confidence, but there is a good enough chance that there will be a named storm menacing the US Southeast/Mid Atlantic coast on or around the 4th that if you live in that area you might consider the waterproof bratwurst for your picnic.

For reference, here is the list of storm names for the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season:


Who Are The Most Influential African Americans, Ages 25-45?

The Root 100 2014 is seeking your nominations. DEADLINE IS MONDAY. They are

…just about ready to celebrate the innovators, the trailblazers and the influencers in the African-American community who have caught our attention in the past year. [They] will announce The Root 100 of 2014 and celebrate these 25-45-year-olds who are paving the way in politics, entertainment, business, the arts, social justice, science and sports. Right now, it’s your turn to submit nominations for those you think deserve this coveted honor.

There will be many well-known figures on the list, but, each year, The Root 100 seeks to recognize those whose accomplishments may have gone unacknowledged on a national level. Our honorees are ranked according to a scoring system that measures reach and substance. Last year, our No. 1 honoree was then-NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, with about-to-be U.S. Sen. Cory Booker in second place. Both men’s public profiles have changed, so stay tuned to see what happens in 2014.

Other 2013 honorees included MSNBC’s new host Joy-Ann Reid, chef Marcus Samuellsson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson.
We will spend the next weeks collecting names, debating our choices and putting all the names through the stringent criteria we use to determine the best of the best.
The deadline is June 30th for you to weigh in. Submit the names of those you believe are making a difference in the black community. Just fill out The Root 100 2014 nomination form below.

Go HERE to nominate. I suggest a STEM related person.

Jumping the Shark. Or not.

I propose that there are four five categories of TV series distinguished on the basis of how long they run and the quality, or lack thereof, of the show more or less objectively defined (to the extent that one can do that).

1: Shows that jumped the shark

31gNwOQP1BL._SX342_These are shows that become redundant, lose their writing quality, or for some other reason reach a point where they get bad. That point is, of course, the “Jumping-the-Shark” moment. The phrase “Jump the shark” of course comes from an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie, water skiing, jumps over a shark. That was apparently a bad episode and is thought to mark the decline of the show from something a lot of people liked to something that needed to end. But then it didn’t end.


<li>Grey’s Anatomy</li>
<li>Happy Days</li>
<li>Lie to Me</li>
<li>Lost Girl</li>
<li>Northern Exposure</li>
<li>The Cosby Show</li>
<li>Twin Peaks</li>
<li>Will & Grace</li>

2: Shows that are inherently immortal(ish)

Martha-Jones-doctor-who-for-whovians-28291065-307-390These are shows that have a formula that allows them to remain high quality indefinitely, and for which the writing and directing and overall production value remains at high quality. It is hard to decide if a show that has been running for some time belongs in this category, or if they will someday jump the shark. But the examples given here have been on a long time and seem to lack sharks. The Simpsons, for example, has been running a very long time and last time I checked was still as funny as it ever was. Doctor Who, of course, regenerates, and the time element of the equation for that show is different for all other shows because on Doctor Who time is a wiggly wobbly timey wimey thing.


<li>The Simpsons</li>

<li>Law and Order(s)</li>
<li>Doctor Who</li>
<li>The Big Bang Theory</li>
<li>Son of Anarchy</li>
<li>That 70s show</li>
<li>Star Trek, original series</li>
<li>Red Dwarf</li>


<li>Family Guy</li>

3: Shows that were killed ended during their prime

Primeval460 These are shows that might have been of category 1 or 2 above had they been allowed to continue, but were terminated while they were still good, but after a longish run. I like to think these shows would have been in category 2, but that certainly not need be the case. It is sad or disappointing when they do end, but that they were shut down while still good is actually a good thing even if it hurts a little.


<li>MI 5</li>
<li>Breaking Bad; Seinfeld</li>
<li>The West Wing</li>
<li>The Dick Van Dyke Show</li>
<li>Moonlighting </li>
<li>six feet under</li>
  • Star Trek, original series
  • 4: Shows that die a young and undeserved death

    Bletchley_Circle-About-artThese are shows that has promise, were good, but for marketing or other reasons ended after one or two seasons even though they should not have. I believe it is necessary to have an arbitrary distinction between categories 3 and 4. I’m going to set that at a maximum of three seasons. I could be talked into four seasons.


  • Arrested Development
  • Deadwood
  • Firefly
  • House of Cards (if rumors are true that it will have only two seasons)
  • Kung Fu
  • Legend
  • My so-called life
  • Primeval US version
  • The Bletchley Circle
  • Torchwood (if we take 4 seasons as the cutoff)
  • Almost Human
  • Revolution
  • 5: Shows that die a young and richly deserved death

    tumblr_mkyjcvy2u01rprai1o1_500_by_aledunk99-d628gf3“These are mostly uninspired ripoffs of something that was successful a season or two earlier.” (John McKay) It is hard to find examples of these shows because they are obscure, and they may occupy a similar obscure space to gems that were also terminated early. In other words, for me, if I’ve not seen the show I can’t identify it as NOT having filled a niche somewhere. I’ve not seen any of the examples given here but they seem like good candidates.


    <li>Heil Honey I'm Home!</li>
    <li>Almost Human</li>


    A key feature of this nomenclature is the distinction between categories 3 and 4. In looking for examples of shows that ended way to early (after one or two seasons, mainly) I discovered that those who have talked about this on the internet seem to make no distinction between a show that runs 12 years and then ended but “we want it back” and one that runs only a few seasons. I think they are very different.

    Please enter your suggestions or complaints below. Not that there would ever be a difference of opinion about any of this.

    Climate Change Increases Wild Fires

    First let me check … are all those denialists who have been claiming that wild fires have become rare done talking yet?

    OK fine.

    Yes, depending on where you go and what you look at we are having a problem with wild fires in the US and elsewhere (i.e., Australia). Part of this is probably due to weather whiplash. Periods of heavier than usual rain means more fuel grows, periods of dry make the fuel ready to burn, maybe even add some extra windy conditions, and the fires are worse than usual. This leads to landslide conditions being worse later on when the unusual rains occur.

    Anyway, Climate Hawks Vote has taken note of this and made a meme, the picture above, that I thought you might want to see and share. Also, click here to see how media coverage in California is changing vis-a-vis wildfire and climate change.

    Atlantic Hurricane Season Teaser

    There is a stormy thing in the Atlantic that may become a Tropical Storm. It is really just a blob right now, but there is a roughly even chance that over the next two to five days it will form a tropical storm.

    No matter what, this blob will menace the US east coast, though it is way too early to say if this will be a big deal or not. It is not entirely clear which direction it will be moving in over the medium term. We will be keeping and eye on it.

    Evolution Book For Young Children: Grandmother Fish

    In a previous life (of mine) my father-in-law, an evolutionary biologist, kept an oil painting of a fish on the wall of the living room. At every chance he would point out, to visitors or to anyone else if there were no visitors, that he kept a portrait of his distant ancestor hanging in a prominent location, pointing to the oil painting. It was funny even the third or fourth time. It isn’t really true, of course, that this was his ancestor. It was a bass, more recently evolved to its present form than humans, I suspect. But it is true that the last common ancestor of humans and fish was a lot more like a fish than like a human.

    I know it is hard to find good books about evolution for kids, and it is even harder to find a book for really young kids. A book needs to be written for the audience, engaging, entertaining, and all that — it needs to be a good book — before it can also teach something. A book that teaches but sucks as a book doesn’t really teach much.

    Recently, Jonathan Tweet of Seattle Washington sent me a draft of a book he was working on that is such a thing, a good book that teaches about evolution and targeted to young kids. He had sent the book around to a number of experts for two reasons. First, he wanted to make sure he wasn’t saying anything wrong vis-a-vis evolution. Second, he wanted to make sure he got his facts straight at another level so he could provide useful and accurate footnotes for the adults who might read the book for the kids. I had a comment or two, but really, he already had his ducks in a row and the book, with the notes, was in good shape. It had evolved, as a project, very nicely.

    The book is: Grandmother Fish: a child’s first book of evolution. From his blurb:

    Grandmother Fish is the first book to teach evolution to preschoolers. While listening to the story, the child mimics the motions and sounds of our ancestors, such as wiggling like a fish or hooting like an ape. Like magic, evolution becomes fun, accessible, and personal. Grandmother Fish will be a full-size (10 x 8), full-color, 32-page, hardback book full of appealing animal illustrations, perfect for your bookshelf. US publishers consider evolution to be too “hot” a topic for children, but with your help we can make this book happen ourselves.

    Jonathan made a kick-starter to raise 12,000 to produce the book. He’s already reached that goal and is now edging towards the stretch goal of $20K.

    You can visit the kickstarter site HERE. You can download an early draft of the book. Personally, I plan to make this a Christmas gift for several friends and relatives who have kids the right age, assuming it is available by then. You can also see a several videos by the author and illustrator.

    You can go to the Kickstarter site now and invest in any one of several different products that will be sent to you.

    You may know of Tweet’s other work on Dungeons & Dragons and similar projects.

    I recommend the book, strongly. Thank you for writing it, Jonathan.

    Who Founded Greenpeace? Not Patrick Moore.

    Who are the founders of Greenpeace? Not Patrick Moore.

    Patrick Moore is a Hippie for Hire. He makes the claim that he co-founded Greenpeace, and charges a fee to show up at conferences or other venues, or sit on boards, to provide a story that anti-environmentalists, global warming deniers, and others, like to hear. The part where he takes your money to lie, as far as I can tell, is true. The part about how he co-founded Greenpeace is apparently not true.

    Here’s what Greenpeace has to say about Patrick Moore:

    Patrick Moore.  Did Patrick Moore found Greenpeace? Greenpeace says no.  They have evidence.  So no, he probably did not.
    Patrick Moore. Did Patrick Moore found Greenpeace? Greenpeace says no. They have evidence. So no, he probably did not.

    Patrick Moore, a paid spokesman for the nuclear industry, the logging industry, and genetic engineering industry, frequently cites a long-ago affiliation with Greenpeace to gain legitimacy in the media. Media outlets often either state or imply that Mr. Moore still represents Greenpeace, or fail to mention that he is a paid lobbyist and not an independent source…

    For more than 20 years, Mr. Moore has been a paid spokesman for a variety of polluting industries, including the timber, mining, chemical and the aquaculture industries. Most of these industries hired Mr. Moore only after becoming the focus of a Greenpeace campaign to improve their environmental performance. Mr. Moore has now worked for polluters for far longer than he ever worked for Greenpeace.

    Most importantly, given Patrick Moore’s insistence that he is a founder of Greenpeace, is this statement by the organization:

    Patrick Moore Did Not Found Greenpeace

    Patrick Moore frequently portrays himself as a founder or co-founder of Greenpeace, and many news outlets have repeated this characterization. Although Mr. Moore played a significant role in Greenpeace Canada for several years, he did not found Greenpeace. Phil Cotes, Irving Stowe, and Jim Bohlen founded Greenpeace in 1970. Patrick Moore applied for a berth on the Phyllis Cormack in March, 1971 after the organization had already been in existence for a year.

    Greenpeace even kept a copy of the letter Patrick Moore sent to them asking for a birth on a boat to engage in a nuclear protest, dated to long after the founding of Greenpeace. Here it is:


    How could Patrick Moore have founded Greenpeace if he wrote this letter?

    Media Matters addressed the question “Who is Patrick Moore?” and “Who Founded Greenpeace?” and “Did Patrick Moore Found Greenpeace?here. In that piece they discuss Patrick Moore’s anti-science and anti-environment stand on climate change. They note:

    Moore has repeatedly claimed that he left Greenpeace because their policies shifted to the radical left, saying for instance in his testimony, “I had to leave as Greenpeace took a sharp turn to the political left, and began to adopt policies that I could not accept from my scientific perspective.” But Greenpeace has a different view of the situation, saying “what Moore really saw was an opportunity for financial gain. Since then he has gone from defender of the planet to a paid representative of corporate polluters.” [U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 2/25/14; Greenpeace, 10/10/08]

    This refers in part to the Greenpeace Statement on Patrick Moore:

    Patrick Moore often misrepresents himself in the media as an environmental “expert” or even an “environmentalist,” while offering anti-environmental opinions on a wide range of issues and taking a distinctly anti-environmental stance. He also exploits long-gone ties with Greenpeace to sell himself as a speaker and pro-corporate spokesperson, usually taking positions that Greenpeace opposes.

    While it is true that Patrick Moore was a member of Greenpeace in the 1970s, in 1986 he abruptly turned his back on the very issues he once passionately defended. He claims he “saw the light” but what Moore really saw was an opportunity for financial gain. Since then he has gone from defender of the planet to a paid representative of corporate polluters.

    Patrick Moore promotes such anti-environmental positions as clearcut logging, nuclear power, farmed salmon, PVC (vinyl) production, genetically engineered crops, and mining. Clients for his consulting services are a veritable Who’s Who of companies that Greenpeace has exposed for environmental misdeeds, including Monsanto, Weyerhaeuser, and BHP Minerals.

    And so on.

    So, on answer to the question “Who Founded Greenpeace?” one accurate and truthful answer is “Not Patrick Moore.” In answer to the questions “Did Patrick Moore found Greenpeace?” or “Is Patrick Moore a co-founder of Greenpeace?” the answer is “no” to both.

    Minnesota's Amazing June Weather

    We are breaking all sorts of records here in Minnesota this June, and not the records for drought (or, for once, cold). It has been raining and storming a lot, and not just in one place as happens now and then. The rains have been widespread and intensive. The flood levels of most rivers are not breaking records because those are set in the earlier Spring snow-melt driven flooding, but this time of year all the creeks, kills, and rivers should be receding not rising.

    The situation is so interesting and important that our local public TV political weekly put the weather on top of the show and interviewed meteorologist Paul Douglas about it. Starting just after 3 minutes. Note especially his very important comment at 7:13!!!:

    But don’t worry, we’ll be fine.