Facing Down the T00b, I

I’m back in North Puffin, adapting to the changes I experience after living in the Conch Republic. In either place, I like to watch CBS’ Face the Nation with my Sunday morning brunch.

Brunch, whether here or there, usually takes the form of pamcakes or waffles with maple syrup and bacon or sausage. Some Sundays I have eggs and English muffins with bacon or sausage instead.

Sunday, I didn’t get much of any of that.

Regular readers may remember that I’m a news junkie.

FTN is, I think, the longest-running news-ish program on the air with analysis of the newsmaking (mostly) political issues of the day. John Dickerson who took over from Bob Schieffer asks reasonably tough questions of politicians and other newsmakers and then has a roundtable discussion of current events with a pretty well balanced panel of correspondents.

The program ran for 30 minutes when it first aired in 1954; it expanded to the current 60 minute format in 2012 which added the time needed for the roundtable discussion. Sadly, there is a purposeful break between the first and second halves of the program to allow the local affiliates to switch over to “paid programming” if they want. WCAX, the local affiliate in Vermont, so wants.

About 81% of the affiliates do air the second half-hour contiguously with the first although WFOR, the CBS Miami station, bounces it back and forth with their “side channel,” My 33, for no apparent rhyme nor reason. A few broadcasters air the second half on a tape delay after primetime following their late local newscasts. WCAX currently chooses Person of Interest reruns for that later time slot.

The power went bloop at 10:43 a.m. here and stayed off almost until noon. That’s unusual, particularly in good weather. Swanton Village, our local utility, has the best “up-time” record in the state and maybe in New England.

We haven’t been out to shop yet so there are no eggs in the house.

Uh oh. No pamcakes. No waffles. Not even a fried egg and a muffin even if I could have cooked. And no news. I ended up with frozen sausages and toast and jam and a book at about 12:30.

Anyway, FTN airs from 10:30 until 11:00 or 11:30 in the East. The power went bloop halfway into the first half and stayed off almost until noon. Thank goodness for online transcripts. I was able to read all about it to write the next piece, Facing Down the T00b II, later in the day.


The Science Isn’t Wrong

But it ain’t right, either. Mayday! Mayday!

“The science is fixed,” Science Friday host Ira Flatow keeps selling^H telling us.

In the “Robot Sadism” episode of Science Friday, associate producer Christie Taylor went to JPL to find out how to build a wheel that lasts.

In 2013, rover operators had noticed a gaping hole in Curiosity’s left front wheel as it moved across the Mars landscape. After some investigation, they realized “it wasn’t just one little mishap that caused a puncture or one particularly awful rock,” said engineer Patrick DeGrosse. “It was just the first symptom.”

Mr. DeGrosse is a member of the Tiger Team that tests copies of Curiosity’s wheels here on Earth.

Size of a Football Field on EarthIn the Mars Yard, a not-even-football field-sized test track in Pasadena, a test rover demonstrated whether the wheels slip or get bogged down or can climb a rock. (Do click the pic to see.) “Physics equations can’t tell you any of that,” Ms. Taylor said about the myriad of tiny interactions with the surface of Mars.

“You don’t sit down at your computer and draw up the complexity of sand grains and rocks and what all those friction coefficients are and how they tumble over each other when a wheel hits them. We’re just not at that stage yet,” Mr. DeGrosse said.

We’re not?

And yet, the science is fixed! We can map the earth and the GPS in our car will always direct us to the next location!

The science is fixed! We can cure the common cold!

The science is fixed! The sun’s corona is millions of degrees hotter than the surface and we don’t yet know why.

The science is fixed! 70-95% or humans are right-handed but we still cannot describe why we use one hand instead of the other.

The science is fixed! The planet Saturn has a massive, continuous hurricane up near the pole. Earth’s hurricanes are powered by warm ocean and wind down as they hit land or cold water. Saturn has no oceans and is really cold. Huh.

The science isn’t wrong. But the political and lay interpreters ain’t right, either.

And that’s the lesson for today.


Headlining It

As promised, President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday that calls for a full review of the H1B visa program — that’s the highly-skilled immigration visa program — and include more language for government agencies to buy from US companies. The way different media players chose to spin it in the headlines is interesting:

NYTimes: Planned Trump Order Will Discourage Hiring of Low-Wage Foreign Workers
Recode: Trump will sign an executive order reviewing high-skilled H-1B immigration visas
USA TODAY: Trump to sign ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive order
CNNMoney: Trump administration moves to combat H-1B visa fraud

The quoted headlines did come from the White House briefing. Each took a different fact and emphasized it.

That was yesterday. Today, the visa kerfuffle is forgotten in favor of a congressional seat up for grabs in Georgia.

CNN: Ossoff falls just short in Georgia special election
NYTimes: Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, Narrowly Misses Outright Win in Georgia House Race
WND: Republicans force runoff in Georgia race

It’s true. Jon Ossoff received almost half the votes. But that’s less than half the story.

From the NYTimes: “Jon Ossoff, a Democrat making his first bid for elective office, narrowly missed winning outright in a heavily conservative House district in Georgia on Wednesday, throwing a scare into Republicans in a special congressional election that was seen as an early referendum on President Trump.

“Ossoff received 48.1% of the vote, just short of the 50% threshold needed to win the seat, and he will face Karen Handel, the top Republican vote-getter, in a June runoff.”

[Blah blah Stuff about Mr. Ossoff blah blah]

From the NYTimes, paragraph #127: “As Mr. Ossoff faces Ms. Handel in a head-to-head race on June 20, it is unclear whether he will be able to sustain the success he enjoyed on Tuesday, in an 18-person field.”

Wait. What?

An 18-person field?

And that wasn’t the second lede?

Both sides shot themselves in the foot; Republicans just used a bigger gun. 192,084 people voted. In addition to Mr. Ossoff and Ms. Handel, the ballot included three candidates — Republican Bob Gray, Republican Dan Moody, and Republican Judson Hill — who pulled 28.4% of the vote between them. Seven other Republicans, four Democrats, and two Independents split the remaining 7,100 (3.7%) votes.

The real story here?

1. Democrats came close in a nationalized race about the first 100 days of Donald Trump, all in a now-tightly split district.
2. Out of state progressive activists led by the ultra-liberal blog Daily Kos pumped $8.3 million into Mr. Ossoff’s campaign; out of state conservatives did the same for the top three Republican contenders. $14 million was spent on advertising in the race, most of it fueled by that out-of-state money.
3. 18 people ran in what one consultant called a “bar brawl.”
4. CNN quoted Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas.

I had to read 11 different reports to assemble even that information.

The mainstream media takes the facts on the ground and “presents” them in a way that will rile their readers or at least get them to “click through.” And then they wonder why we don’t trust the news any more.


It Was |<---THIS--->| Big!

Croc Takes Pet Fish Back to the Pond

We have three more stories from the animal kingdom this week.

NBC reported that “Thousands of dead bees” washed up on the popular Lowdermilk Park Beach in Naples last month. Naples is a southwestern Florida city; it has beaches on the Gulf of Mexico and is known for its golf courses, high-end shopping, and thousands of St Albans, Vermonters.

According to news reports, either the swarm got tired and fell into the sea or were hit by pesticides. Naples beach goers had to watch where they stepped after several people’s feet were stung along the shoreline.

A bee expert told WBBH that seeing bees wash up at the beach is very unusual.

Ya think?

An orange critter dubbed the “Trump-a-gator” is turning heads in Hanahan, South Carolina. The Trump-a-gator lives in and around a local pond. Neighbors say the gator keeps growing and that it gets more orange every year. It’s not a natural color.

Researchers believe something stained its skin although that would require repeated application of artificial tanning chemicals similar to Mr. Trump’s potions.

“All reptiles shed their skin in some way shape or form,” according to AnimalQuestions.org but alligators and crocs are unusual. “While snakes are known to shed all of their skin off at once, and lizards will shed in patches as they grow, the alligator and crocodile’s skins are scaly and often will come off in individual scales instead… A healthy alligator will continue to shed its scales regularly, and may even be seen rubbing up against trees and rocks to assist the creature in rubbing off the dead skin.”

Coincidentally, Hanahan school colors are orange and blue.

Speaking of reptilian sightings, Facebook reported that a crocodile that was captured this afternoon at Sunset Park in Key Colony Beach here in the Florida Keys. “Anybody have any pictures or info about it???”

After the expected missing dogs and ominous ticking clocks cracks, the croc grew is size in a matter of hours. “Great … fish stories …” one poster said. “It will be 10ft by tonight …”

KCB Officer Chuck Griffith told me yesterday that this report was correct; there was indeed a 4-5 foot croc caught at Sunset Park last month. It’s not common, he said, but they are around.

There have been a lot of fish stories in the fake news of late. It takes some brainpower to separate the real thing in the “You ain’t gonna believe this” list.


Dam, Sam!

Question of the Day: How complacent have California dam operators become under the ‘permanent drought’ of global warming?
found on the Interwebs

This is a story of bad reporting, bad management, and bad boondoggles.

Damage to the spillway keeps worsening at America’s tallest dam at Oroville, California. Dam operators opened the flood gates to keep the state’s second-largest reservoir from overflowing even more disastrously although they know that increasing the flow would erode a big part — perhaps the entire bottom half — of the spillway. That’s about “150 yards of concrete,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported February 10, “that will have to be painstakingly rebuilt during the dry months.” Repair costs, “state officials said, will likely top $100 million.”


Oroville Dam-SpillwayLake Oroville was at 99% capacity by Friday with only 3.5 feet left to fill. The good news is that the larger spillway, made of reinforced concrete, was peeling downward and not threatening the integrity of the 770-foot-high dam itself.

Wait. What good news? 666 THOUSAND DOLLARS A YARD??? That’s even more than a Florida highway boondoggle!

“And Californians think they should run the country…” Rufus said.

That has to be stupid reporting. I reckon the hole is actually 150 yards long, not 150 cubic yards. Still, the equivalent of less than a tenth of a mile of Interstate highway repair (that’s about what we’re talking about here) ought not cost $100 million.

“What did they piss away on the 18-mile stretch?” Rufus asked.

Good question. The Florida Department of Transportation is famous here in the Keys for its decade-long, costly boondoggles.

The Stretch was a two-lane highway identified as U.S. 1. It carries 99% of the traffic between Florida City on the mainland and Key Largo and points west, all of it along the former right-of-way of the Key West leg of the Florida East Coast Railway. It was rebuilt to save lives and to facilitate the increased volume of traffic, particularly during hurricane evacuations.

It is now a two-lane highway divided by a concrete barrier that separates northbound and southbound lanes.

Construction took place in three stages which tied up the main entry to the Keys for years. The first ten miles, down at this end of the road, chewed us up from Key Largo to about mile marker 116. That cost $153,565,133. The second phase extended from mile marker 116 up to Florida City but the D.O.T. skipped a three-mile segment in the middle. No one knows why. Those five miles of paving took about three years, from 2008-2011 and cost $111,827,749. The middle three miles, from mile marker 121 to mile marker 124, was later in 2011 at a cost of $17,043,687. The “additional engineering and administrative costs” brought the total cost to $330 million for the entire project or more than $18.3 million per mile.

In the real world, a new six-lane Interstate highway costs about $7 million per mile in rural areas or $11-12 million per mile in urban areas.

Back to Oroville. That’s in California which is apparently even more expensive than Florida.

The Butte County sheriff issued evacuation orders yesterday for everyone living below the dam, some 188,000 people, because the crumbling emergency spillway could give way and unleash floodwaters onto rural communities along the Feather River.

Wait. What?

Didn’t they tell us the spillway was peeling downward and not threatening the integrity of the 770-foot-high dam itself?

The California Department of Water Resources said on Twitter at about 4:30 p.m. PST that the spillway next to the dam was “predicted to fail within the next hour.”

Wait. What?

Didn’t they tell us the spillway was peeling downward and not threatening the integrity of the 770-foot-high dam itself?

The damaged spillway remained standing several hours later; it’s still there.

There’s no word when evacuation order will be lifted.

“I figure the 188,000 people in Oroville, Yuba County, Butte County, Marysville and nearby communities probably voted for Trump,” Rufus said.

The water level has now dropped. The dam itself is fine.