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Gender: Male
Hometown: Texas
Home country: United States
Current location: Red Hell Texas
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2011, 03:57 AM
Number of posts: 76,962

About Me

Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Why Sanctions on Russia Don’t Work

MOSCOW – The Western approach to Russia is predicated on the supposition that continued pressure on the country will cause President Vladimir Putin’s regime to make concessions or even crumble. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The assumption underlying the efficacy of Western sanctions is that the sharp economic deterioration that results from them will turn the Russian public, particularly the financial and political elite, against the Kremlin. Putin will not be able to withstand mounting dissent from affluent urban areas and the country’s burgeoning middle class.

Meanwhile, the thinking goes, military pressure – in the form of potential lethal aid to Ukraine – will similarly mobilize ordinary Russians against Putin. Unwilling to see their boys die for the Donbas, they will form an anti-war movement that will force him to rein in his territorial ambitions. Pressed at once from above and from below, the Kremlin will be have to change its policies, and perhaps even begin to democratize.

What Western policymakers fail to understand is that such an approach is less likely to undermine the regime than to cause Russians to close ranks behind it. Opinion polls show that Russians perceive Western pressure and sanctions to be aimed not at Putin and his cronies, but at Russia and its citizens. In January, 69% of Russians supported the Kremlin’s policy in Ukraine, according to a poll by the independent Levada Center.

Read more: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/russia-sanctions-backfire-by-andrei-kolesnikov-2015-03

The myth of Europe’s Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age is generally seen as a major event in European history. Analysing a variety of recent weather reconstructions, this column finds that European weather appears constant from the Middle Ages until 1900, and that events like the freezing of the Thames and the disappearance of English vineyards have simpler explanations than changing climate. It appears instead that the European Little Ice Age is a statistical artefact, where the standard climatological practice of smoothing what turn out to be white noise data prior to analysis gives the spurious appearance of irregular oscillation – a Slutsky Effect.

The Little Ice Age – dated from the mid-14th century to the early 19th – plays a large role in historical analyses. Anthropologist Brian Fagan suggests that this climate swing demoralised the European peasantry, allowing for the rise of despotic leaders (Fagan 2000). British and Dutch canals and rivers frequently froze, allowing French land forces to invade the Netherlands while the Dutch fleet was ice-locked. But was it really an ice age, or have historians been “fooled by randomness” (Taleb 2005)?

In recent research we attempt to discover how much European weather actually worsened during the Little Ice Age. Our conclusion – using a variety of standard temperature reconstructions – is that there is little evidence that a European Little Ice Age ever occurred (Kelly and Ó Gráda 2014).

Figure 1. The European Little Ice Age as Slutsky Effect: Netherlands summer temperature, 1301-1980. The top panel shows the data smoothed with a twenty-five year moving average and gives the appearance of marked cold episodes between the 15th and 19th centuries. The lower panel shows the actual data which are almost entirely random with a constant mean and variance.

Instead, European weather between the 14th and 19th centuries resembles white noise: uncorrelated draws from a distribution with a constant mean and variance (although there are occasional decades of markedly lower summer temperature), with the same behaviour holding more tentatively back to the eleventh century. Our results suggest that the existing consensus over a Little Ice Age in Europe is a statistical artefact, where the standard climatological practice of smoothing what turn out to be random data prior to analysis gives the spurious appearance of irregular oscillations. This is an example of the ‘Slutsky effect’ where filtering of purely random variations can produce spurious cycles.[1]

Read more: http://www.voxeu.org/article/myth-europe-s-little-ice-age

American Pravda: What Was McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?

[font color=green]The story begins with commentary about Tokyo Rose and how she was tried for treason for her radio broadcasts. Considering that McCain's father was a four-star admiral it is possible that McCain received preferential treatment while he was a POW and by the press after his release.[/font]


My earliest recollections of John McCain are vague. I think he first came to my attention during the mid-1980s, perhaps after 1982 when he won an open Congressional seat in Arizona or more likely once he was elected in 1986 to the U.S. Senate seat of retiring conservative icon Barry Goldwater. All media accounts about him seemed strongly favorable, describing his steadfastness as a POW during more than five grim years of torture by his Vietnamese jailers, with the extent of his wartime physical suffering indicated by the famous photo showing him still on crutches as he was greeted by President Nixon many months after his return from enemy captivity. I never had the slightest doubts about this story or his war-hero status.

McCain’s public image took a beating at the end of the 1980s when he became one of the senators caught up in the Keating Five financial scandal, but he managed to survive that controversy unlike most of the others. Soon thereafter he became prominent as a leading national advocate of campaign finance reform, a strong pro-immigrant voice, and also a champion of normalizing our relations with Vietnam, positions that appealed to me as much as they did to the national media. By 2000 my opinion had become sufficiently favorable that I donated to his underdog challenge to Gov. George W. Bush in the Republican primaries of that year, and was thrilled when he did surprisingly well in some of the early contests and suddenly had a serious shot at the nomination. However, he then suffered an unexpected defeat in South Carolina, as the large block of local military voters swung decisively against him. According to widespread media reports, the main cause was an utterly scurrilous whispering campaign by Karl Rove and his henchmen, which even included appalling accusations that the great war-hero candidate had been a “traitor” in Vietnam. My only conclusion was that the filthy lies sometimes found in American politics were even worse than I’d ever imagined.

Although in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I turned sharply against McCain due to his support for an extremely bellicose foreign policy, I never had any reason to question his background or his integrity, and my strong opposition to his 2008 presidential run was entirely on policy grounds: I feared his notoriously hot temper might easily get us into additional disastrous wars.

Everything suddenly changed in June 2008 when I read a long article by an unfamiliar writer on the leftist Counterpunch website. Shocking claims were made that McCain may never have been tortured and that he instead spent his wartime captivity collaborating with his captors and broadcasting Communist propaganda, a possibility that seemed almost incomprehensible to me given all the thousands of contrary articles that I had absorbed over the decades from the mainstream media. How could this one article on a small website be the truth about McCain’s war record and everything else be total falsehood? The evidence was hardly overwhelming, with the piece being thinly sourced and written in a meandering fashion by an obscure author, but the claims were so astonishing that I made some effort to investigate the matter, though without any real success.

Read more: http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-when-tokyo-rose-ran-for-president/

Angie’s List ‘delays’ plans for expansion in Indianapolis, Seattle mayor bans city employees from tr

Angie’s List ‘delays’ plans for expansion in Indianapolis, Seattle mayor bans city employees from traveling to Indiana

The fallout over Indiana’s new “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” continues, with Angie’s List CEOP Bill Oesterle announcing today (Saturday, March 28), that his company is canceling plans for a $40 million expansion in Indianapolis because of the law.

According to TheNewCivilRightsMovement.org, Angie’s List has been headquartered in Indianapolis since it was founded in 1995. The corporation, worth $315 million, had planned to move its headquarters across town, adding 1,000 new jobs over five years.

In a statement released Saturday, Oesterle said the company’s expansion is “on hold until we fully understand the implications {of the RFRA} on our employees, both current and future.” Oesterle also said that the company “is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents.”

The statement said Angie’s List will “begin reviewing alternatives,” and the IndyStar reported that the company has “hinted that moving some parts of the company out of state is ‘on the table.’”

Read more: http://www.dallasvoice.com/angies-list-delays-plans-expansion-indianapolis-seattle-mayor-bans-city-employees-traveling-indiana-10192767.html

Texas, Rick Barnes officially part ways

A day after reports surfaced that UT men's basketball coach Rick Barnes wouldn't be returning for an 18th season in Austin, the school made the move official Sunday morning.

According to a release from the university, Barnes and UT "have mutually agreed to part ways" after 17 seasons that saw him amass a record of 402-180 while guiding the Longhorns to five Sweet 16s, three Elite 8s and one Final Four, all from 2002-08.

Barnes' recent teams, however, haven't come close to reaching those heights, as UT was regularly bounced from the NCAA Tournament by the first weekend, including this season's opening-game loss to Butler. Just two seasons ago, the Longhorns missed the Tournament all together and were one-and-done in the College Basketball Invitational, losing to Houston at home.

While details regarding financial compensation were not immediately available, the 60-year-old Barnes had four years remaining on his contract, with an annual salary of $2.55 million. His deal does include a $1.75 million buyout should he be fired this month, and that amount would have dropped to $1.5 million had UT waited to make the announcement official on Wednesday.

Read more: http://www.chron.com/sports/longhorns/article/Texas-Rick-Barnes-officially-part-ways-6166332.php

Thousands of Low-Income Women Aren't Getting Cancer Screenings or Birth Control

Photo: Francisco Montes
[font color=green]Note: That isn't a longhorn on the sign.[/font]

A new state report confirms what basically everyone who wasn't a die-hard anti-abortion activist or politician predicted a couple of years ago when Texas lawmakers kicked Planned Parenthood out of its widely successful program for giving uninsured, low-income women cancer screenings and birth control.

According to new numbers out of the state Health and Human Services Commission, critics that said the program would serve a lot less women if it shunned Planned Parenthood's family planning clinics (meaning even more women across the state won't get life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings or birth control) were dead-on right.

HHCS's numbers show that in 2011 more than 200,000 women were enrolled in the state's original Women's Health Program, a Medicaid waiver program that was 90 percent paid for by the feds. But the program got caught in the crossfire as the ideological battle over abortion rights raged in the Lege. Conservatives, indignant that Planned Parenthood's family planning clinics (which don't provide abortions) got state money under WHP, changed the law so that "affiliates" of abortion providers (re: Planned Parenthood) would be banned from the program.

A couple problems with that. First, Planned Parenthood was in fact the dominant provider in the program at the time, serving somewhere around 40 percent of WHP clients. Women's health advocates across the state urged lawmakers to reconsider, fearing existing healthcare providers wouldn't be able to absorb the clients orphaned by the state's Planned Parenthood ban.

Read more: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/news/2015/03/fewer_low-income_women_are_getting_cancer_screenings_and_birth_control_since_texas_gave_planned_pare.php

Texas Finds a New Drug Dealer

Texas prison officials said Wednesday they've acquired a new "small supply" of pentobarbital, the barbiturate Texas uses to execute prisoners by lethal injection, according to the AP. That means Texas has at least enough lethal-injection drugs on hand to kill all four prisoners slated for execution in April.

And, as is becoming standard practice in death penalty states across the country, Texas won't disclose the supplier of its new batch of death drugs.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice earlier this month revealed that it only had only enough pentobarbital on hand to get through two scheduled executions. The drug crunch faced by Texas and other death-penalty states is due in large part to drug manufacturers that years ago stopped selling states drugs for use in lethal injections. Texas and other death-penalty states were left scrambling to find drugs that could be used to carry out executions.

Around 2011, Texas ditched an until-then commonly used three-drug execution cocktail because manufacturers of a critical component, the sedative sodium thiopental, refused to sell the drug to prison officials. TDCJ eventually switched to its current drug of choice, pentobarbital, but even that soon became difficult to acquire, so Texas had to turn to so-called compounding pharmacies, which aren't regulated by the FDA.

Read more: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/news/2015/03/texas_finds_a_new_drug_dealer.php

A Cow, a Car Crash and the Absurdity of Tort Reform in Texas

Tobias Akerboom via Flicker

One night in August 2011, a half dozen cows escaped their pasture and wandered onto a semi-rural stretch of road in Amarillo. The driver of an approaching pickup slamed on the brakes, but not quite soon enough to keep the truck from entering a terrifying barrel roll. Bobby Tunnell, the front-seat passenger and the driver's father, suffered gruesome injuries to his head, spine and torso. He was pulled from the truck shortly before it exploded.

Almost five years and $700,000 in medical bills later, Tunnell is in the midst of a legal fight with the cows' owner, which is taking place in Dallas County for various reasons but mainly because his attorney worries about the average Amarilloan's bias against trial lawyers. Tunnell claims the cows' owner, Richard K. Archer, negligently allowed his cattle to wander into the road and thus is liable for damages. Archer disagrees, partially because he says he took reasonable precautions (i.e. building and maintaining an electrified fence) to keep his cows on his property but mostly because he's a retired doctor, and Texas' 2003 tort reform law makes it damn near impossible to successfully sue doctors. Specifically, Archer argues that the case should be dismissed because Tunnell didn't present an expert report with the case within 120 days of filing the lawsuit, as is required in medical malpractice claims.

From the perspective of the fair and decent administration of justice, the latter argument put forth by Archer is absurd. Even the architect of Archer's legal strategy, Amarillo attorney Philip Russ, agrees. "I think it's a stretch to get to that point." But while he acknowledges that such an argument "may not be fair," Russ contends that he's merely applying the law as the Texas Supreme Court has decreed it should be applied.

Russ leans on handful of decisions handed down by the high court in recent years. Two involve slip-and-fall claims that, because they occurred at health care facilities and not say, a Jack in the Box, were deemed "health care liability claims" and not simple negligence cases. A lawsuit against a nursing home suffered a similar fate on almost identical grounds. More recently, in a 2012 decision centered on a psychiatric technician who sued the Houston mental hospital where he worked after being injured during a patient outburst, the court ruled that a claim "need not be directly related to the provision of health care" for it to fall under the 2003 tort reform law.

Read more: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2015/03/a_cow_a_car_crash_and_the_absurdity_of_tort_reform_in_texas.php

Texas Democrats File Bills to Protect Voting Rights

Voter Identification

Several Democrats in the House and Senate filed over twenty bills this session to allow additional forms of photo ID that you could use to vote. Here’s a sample:

HB 295/SB 170 - These bills would allow for students to use their school IDs to identify themselves for voting purposes. Introduced by Rep. Canales and Senator Uresti.

HB 303 – Also filed by Rep. Canales, this bill would place a picture of the voter on the Voter Registration card, and this card could be used as ID for voting purposes.

HB 536 – Filed by Rep. Nevarez, this bill would allow the elderly (people above the age of 65) the ability to vote with an expired ID.

HB 733 – Filed by Rep. Israel, this bill allows for student and veteran IDs to be accepted for voting purposes.

Voter Registration

Registering to vote is a burdensome process, but especially if you don’t know any registrars. Texas currently has some of the worst voter turnout in America. We can change that trend if the laws regarding registering to vote are simplified.

HB 444 – Filed by Rep. Johnson, would implement a statewide online voter registration system.

HB 3267/SB 1449 – Rep. Herrero and Sen. Ellis each introduced bills that would allow anyone who renews their driver’s license, or other form of ID, to automatically be registered to vote.

HB 448 – Filed by Rep. Alonzo, this bill would implement a same day voter registration system in Texas. Same day voter registration has been shown to increase turnout in the states that have put these types of laws in place.

HB258/SB 143 – Another issue Texans have while registering is that if they are denied, they have to go to the County Registrar to figure out why. Sen. Garcia and Rep. Miles have introduced legislation where the registrar’s office would send a letter to the address provided to let the applicant now why their voter registration was denied.

More at http://progresstexas.org/blog/texas-democrats-file-bills-protect-voting-rights .

Top 10 Weird Facts About Ted Cruz

Dear America,

We here in Texas want to let you know a little bit about the people that a very small fraction of our voters have elected - because it ain't all yellow roses.

With that in mind, here are some things you probably don’t know about Ted Cruz...

10. Ted Cruz Was Born in Canada

Born in Canada (to a Cuban-American father), he officially renounced his citizenship in 2014.

9. Ted Cruz Hates Avocados

There are many offensive things that he has said, but in a state where guacamole is a national treasure, this could be the most offensive. The Dallas Observer said "this is what happens when we elect a Canadian."


6. Thinks the United Nations Wants to Destroy Golf Courses

Ted Cruz thinks the United Nations is trying to eliminate golf. Seriously.

The complete list at http://progresstexas.org/blog/top-10-weird-facts-about-ted-cruz

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