Friday, April 29, 2011

Copyrights And Attribution

Having discovered that an article of mine was copied, lock, stock, and HTML tags, from this site to another one, I'd just like to make clear what my position on use of my work by others is.

Caption: A screenshot of the article copied by Today's NJ. As you can see, there is no attribution at the top of the article. The only attribution at the bottom was the "Posted by Cujo359" line that appears at the bottom of the original article.

Image credit: Screenshot of Today's NJ page by Cujo359

I don't pretend that what I write here is the product of genius, or necessarily even intrinsically useful, but it is my work. Any time I use someone else's work, I try to adhere to my understanding of U.S. copyright law, which is that I can quote excerpts without permission, and if I'm writing something that is a criticism or analysis of that work, I can quote more. However, I always ensure in one way or another that the person or organization responsible for that work is credited. If the work is available online, I link back to it.

All I ask is that anyone using my work do the same.

I'm sure that there will be times when people want to republish something I write here, for reasons I can only guess at. As the copyright holder, I only require two things, that you attribute that work to me both with an obvious notation and a link back, and if that work makes up the bulk of a commercial product, that I be compensated accordingly.

And by "the bulk of", I do not mean one little article on a blog that has dozens already.

I don't think any of that is difficult to understand, but if you have any questions, you can either comment here or e-mail me at the address in the "About Me" section.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On The Day I Was Born...

On the day I was born
The nurses all gathered 'round
And they gazed in wide wonder
At the joy they had found
The head nurse spoke up
Said "leave this one alone"
She could tell right away
That I was bad to the bone.

Lyrics: "Bad To The Bone"
Image credit: Screenshot from this George Thorogood video by Cujo359

So, does anyone think that the White House's release today of the President's "long form" birth certificate is going to settle the argument about whether he was born in America? Go ahead, raise your hands. Good, now keep them up, because the next question is "Who here has no idea how conspiracy mongering works?"

You see, the next step in the conspiracy mongering process is to start asking loaded questions about the new evidence.
  • What does the President have to hide? Check
  • The document simply must be a fake. Look how long they took to release it. Check
  • It's all a big conspiracy on the part of Obama, the state of Hawaii, and the military-industrial complex. Check
  • There are still all those unanswered questions. Check
Caption: Hey, what's that guy trying to pull? This isn't a real long form birth certificate! It's a photocopy! And who puts screenshots into JPEG format? Everyone knows that screenshots only really come in PNG. It's a fake. It's a double fake!!!

Image credit: Screenshot of White House PDF of the alleged long form birth certificate allegedly taken by Cujo359

Which leads to the title of this article. You can bet now that there will be various "concerned" people looking up the medical and clerical staff, asking them if they remember anything about that day. I'm just imagining some hospital staffer commenting, a bit like the nurses surrounding George Thorogood's mythical baby self, that she knew he'd be a bad one.

Or something like that.

(h/t to commenter Ramsgate for two of the items on that checklist.)

Maybe Not Done Yet...

Caption: A space shuttle readies for launch. Before long, the only thing this one will be launching is museum souvenir shop sales.

Image credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

A couple of spaceflight-related articles caught my eye today. The first is this one via NASA Satellite Report:
After 30 years of spaceflight, more than 130 missions, and numerous science and technology firsts, NASA's space shuttle fleet will retire and be on display at institutions across the country to inspire the next generation of explorers and engineers.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday announced the facilities where four shuttle orbiters will be displayed permanently at the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program.

NASA Announces New Homes for Space Shuttle Orbiters After Retirement
One will be stationed in New York, one in Los Angeles, one at the Smithsonian, and one, perhaps not surprisingly at the Kennedy Space Center. It's a pretty good distribution, I'd say.

Of course, it would be a lot more inspiring to future engineers and scientists if the U.S. was spending money on developing new rockets to replace the Shuttle. That's not happening, at least not if you consider the logical replacement for the Shuttle to be another space plane. It was looking last year, with the cancellation of the Constellation Program like the Obama Administration was going to abandon any plans for follow-on rocket development. It now appears that fear may be unfounded. This language is from the NASA Authorization Act (NAA), which was passed last October:
The Space Launch System shall be designed from inception as a fully-integrated vehicle capable of carrying a total payload of 130 tons or more into low-Earth orbit in preparation for transit for missions beyond low-Earth orbit. The Space Launch System shall, to the extent practicable, incorporate capabilities for evolutionary growth to carry heavier payloads. Developmental work and testing of the core elements and the upper stage should proceed in parallel subject to appropriations. Priority should be placed on the core elements with the goal for operational capability for the core elements not later than December 31, 2016.

NASA Authorization Act, 2010 (PDF)
Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait notes:
A few weeks ago, NASA announced the White House NASA budget request for FY 2012 (PDF), stating that $1.8 billion dollars be spent on designing a new rocket system to replace the Shuttle (and the canceled Constellation program).

Rocket Envy
I'm a bit skeptical that present-day NASA, with its DoD-like development methods, can bring a project like this to operational status in less than five years. What's worse, the Administration is already cutting back - that $1.8 billion Phil Plait mentioned is $850 million less than the NAA called for just seven months ago. There's also no guarantee that the next President will support this development, should Obama lose in 2012. Apparently, I'm not the only one who is skeptical, as Spaceflight Now reports:
[A]n interim report delivered to Congress in January said NASA would be unable to meet the legislative deadline under current budget projections, even if the rocket and capsule used hardware recycled from the retired space shuttle and cancelled Constellation programs.

That report was released before the Obama administration unveiled its fiscal year 2012 budget request in February, which cut more than $1 billion from the heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule next year compared to the funding blueprint authorized by Congress last fall.

NASA To Set Exploration Architecture This Summer
Caption: A retouched photo comparing the current Space Shuttle with the proposed Space Launch System. The main tank and the solid rocket boosters of the Shuttle will be reused, with a new main engine and upper stage. At least, that's the plan. There's no actual design yet.

Image credit: NASA

As long as the funding is available, though, they should be able to do it eventually. The concept of the Space Launch System is to reuse the Shuttle's main fuel tank and solid rocket boosters (SRBs), with a new engine and upper stage. There's an artist's conception, but as yet there's no real design. That's another reason I'm skeptical it will only take five years.

The "rocket envy" Plait refers to is the recent announcement by the Chinese government that they, too, would be developing a heavy-lift rocket similar in payload capacity to the new NASA Space Launch System:
China is studying the feasibility of designing a powerful carrier rocket for making a manned moon landing and exploring deep space, Liang Xiaohong, vice head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told Xinhua Thursday.

The rocket is envisaged to have a payload of 130 tonnes, five times larger than that of China's current largest rocket, said Liang, who is attending the annual session of National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body.

China Planning Powerful Carrier Rocket For Manned Moon Landing
Note the article title - China is planning on putting people on the Moon. If the schedule in that article is to be believed, they may be trying to do it in a decade or so. There's a lot of distance between here and there, though, and not just the literal 250,000 mile round trip. A rocket five times the size of the ones China has built so far is likely to be a big engineering project - new engines, new guidance systems, and probably some rethinking of the structure are going to be required. We did a similar thing when building the Saturn V rockets for our Moon landings back in the 1970s, but we had our own rocket engineers as well as some of the former German rocket designers. In contrast, the new Space Launch System looks to be more closely based on existing technology.

Caption: Back when America was serious about its space program, the Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket inches toward the launch pad on its crawler platform. May 20,1969.

Image credit: NASA

If there's one thing that is likely to keep funding for the NASA rocket program going, it's the possibility that the Chinese will have a heavy lift rocket of their own first. One thing you can count on with our government is that they don't want to be seen "losing" space to some foreign country. Think of China as the new Soviet Union. Fear of the Soviet Union's space technology was what got us to the Moon. Maybe fear of the Chinese will get us back there someday.

Whatever works, I guess.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quote Of The Day

In a sort of followup to this article yesterday about the "birther" conspiracy theory that claims President Obama is not really a natural-born U.S. citizen, this bit of sanity makes it as the quote of the day:
"I think we just really need to move on. Everybody's had two years to prove, if they wanted to, that he was not born in Hawaii. They haven't come up with any of that kind of proof.

"So, it just seems to me that it's more political rhetoric, and that it takes the ball off the kinds of subjects that we all ought to be discussing, and that would be jobs and the economy."
Who is this calm voice of reason in what is shaping up to be another political season of crazy? Is it some poor, embattled liberal government executive who's just trying to make things work in a bad economy? Nope. It's Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona. You know, the one who thought that undocumented Mexican workers were leaving a trail of headless bodies through Arizona on their inexorable path to taking away all our gardening and domestic helper jobs. (See NOTE 1)

Explain that one to me. I dare you.

NOTE 1: OK, maybe I exaggerated a little.

Awww, Cute!

Because when in a world where things like this happen, there's not much point in having an intellectual discussion about politics:

Funny Pictures - Cat and Dog are Friends
Image credit: I Can Has Cheezburger

Thanks, I needed a hug. Could you retract the claws, please?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Another Depressing Fact

Caption: The short form of Barack Obama's birth certificate, which is valid proof of birth everywhere except in the minds of a few froth-mouthed idiots.

Image credit: click here for full size

Writing this almost two years ago:
The sad thing about conspiracy theories is that once they get started, they never really die. The 9/11 "Truthers" are a case in point. The evidence that they were wrong has been presented so many times, in so many ways, that you'd have to be deliberately ignoring it not to see it. No doubt, there are still people who believe that the Clintons had Vince Foster killed.

Now, we have a new conspiracy theory for a new age. The adherents of this theory believe that Barack Obama isn't a natural born U.S. citizen, and therefore not qualified to be President.

Another Wacko Conspiracy Theory Is Born
And yet, as Taylor Marsh notes, we now have at least one "serious" Presidential candidate who says he thinks that Barack Obama isn't a natural-born American citizen. This is beyond absurd.

Let me quote from the individual whose job it was to check the validity of birth records in Hawaii, back in 2008:
There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s official birth certificate. State law (Hawai‘i Revised Statutes §338-18) prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.

Therefore, I as Director of Health for the State of Hawai‘i, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawai‘i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.

Statement By Dr. Chiyome Fukino
For convenience's sake, I added the link to the law the document refers to.

As the non-partisan organization Fact Check pointed out back in 2008:
We beg to differ. staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as "supporting documents" to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.

Born In The U.S.A.
That link has photos taken by Fact Check's reporters of the original birth certificate.

Politifact also looked into the allegations. Here is their conclusion, also from 2008:
At, we're all about original sources. We don't take anyone at their word or take the reporting of other media organizations as proof. We go to the heart of the story, the source of the truth — original, corroborating documents.

When the official documents were questioned, we went looking for more answers. We circled back to the Department of Health, had a newsroom colleague bring in her own Hawaii birth certificate to see if it looks the same (it's identical). But every answer triggered more questions.

And soon enough, after going to every length possible to confirm the birth certificate's authenticity, you start asking, what is reasonable here?

Because if this document is forged, then they all are.

Obama's birth certificate: Final chapter
The pathetic excuse that Obama didn't publish the long form of his birth certificate is some of the most feeble grasping for straws that I've witnessed in American political discourse. No one who isn't convinced by the evidence produced so far is going to be convinced if that form ever makes it into the public record. As Fact Check notes:
The certificate has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport: "your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records." The names, date and place of birth, and filing date are all evident on the scanned version, and you can see the seal above.

Born In The U.S.A.
In sum, the short form indicates that someone in officialdom has checked the long form, and it's as legitimate as any form can be in a U.S. government bureaucracy.

As National Public Radio points out, there was plenty of corroborating evidence for his birth in the local newspapers: and Politifact and a number of independent fact checking groups have also pointed out that there are two contemporaneous birth announcements in newspapers, The Honolulu Advertiser and The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, announcing the birth of Barack Obama on August 4th, 1961.

What Impact Do 'Birthers' Have On GOP's 2012 Field?
Which, as far as anyone who is in the least bit sane is concerned, is enough. I'm as skeptical as the next guy, but there comes a point where skepticism becomes obstinacy, and that's where these people are now. Note how often the words "in 2008" and "in 2009" come up just in this short article. This matter was settled long ago.

I wish Barack Obama weren't the President. The man is worse than useless. If you want a list of reasons, check this list, or just check the Barack Obama keyword here, and have at it. But the man was born in the United States, and he was elected President by a wide margin. That makes him at least as qualified for the office as his predecessor, whose legitimacy seems to be beyond question to nearly all of the people who don't want to believe Obama belongs in the White House.

It's absolutely depressing to realize that I will probably have reason to write about this subject two years from now, because people refuse to listen no matter how obvious it is that I'm telling the truth. The same fools will believe the same nonsense two years from now, just as people keep believing that George W. Bush knocked down the World Trade Center, and that progressives will get what they want some day by supporting Democrats hard enough.

The human ability to ignore basic facts would be absolutely awe-inspiring if it weren't so damn depressing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Have To Do What?

There was a time when I could keep track of when Easter happens, but that was when I was using an ephemeris program regularly. These days, it's hard to remember when the first full moon after the first day of spring happens.

It seems like every year I write something on Easter, just to counteract all the religious nonsense. Thanks to not remembering when it occurred this year, and thanks to having other things to do, I just didn't have the time this year. Thankfully, there's a rich treasure trove of thoughts on this day from people whose view of things is similar to mine. Here's an old Mr. Deity episode on the subject:

I love Jessie's expression as Mr. Deity is explaining things to him. The guy can really play being out of his depth, which anyone with any sense would be in that conversation.

Happy Zombie Jesus Day, or happy first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, whichever applies.

Sunday Photo(s)

Last week, we saw cherry trees from Federal Way. This week, it's various fruit trees from Bothell. There were still a few cherry trees blooming when I was up in the area photographing them, but other fruit trees were starting to bloom as well.

Image credit: Cujo359, unless otherwise noted.

Dana Hunter was along taking photographs of her own, and she caught this lovely image of cherry blossoms against the blue glass of a nearby office building:
Image credit: Dana Hunter

Which seems like as good an image as any to end this article with.

Click on the images to enlarge, and have a good Sunday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day, 2011

Once again, it's Earth Day, which is a day to inspire people to think about the planet we live on, and our place in it.
Caption: Mt. Rainier from the BPA Trail, last December.

Image credit: Cujo359

I like to remember the wisdom of George Carlin on this day:
[T]here is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We've been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we've only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we're a threat?
The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does.

George Carlin's "The Planet Is Fine"
Earth Day, whether its organizers are aware of this or not, is really about preserving our place on this planet. It's about making it safe for us for as long a time as possible. The planet, as Carlin said, will be just fine whether we're here to enjoy it or not.

There's lots that you can do to make the world more livable, with little or no expense. No, you don't have to build a solar panel array in on your roof, or live like a hermit. What we all need to do is true to reduce our use of resources wherever possible.
  • Buy a shopping bag instead of always taking home disposable paper or plastic bags. Many grocery stores in the U.S. now offer a small discount if you bring one of these, though some have given up the practice, because they've seen so little effect on demand for disposable bags. Mine have paid for themselves several times over already.

  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs in overhead lighting. In parts of the country where air conditioning is used a good portion of the year, replace them everywhere you can. You save four fifths of the electricity used to create light, and in hotter parts of the country, you'll save money on air conditioning, as well.
    Caption: A typical compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb replacement for an incandescent light bulb socket.

    Image credit: Lamps Plus (see NOTE 1)

    In lights you use a lot, CFL's will pay for themselves in less than a year. Since they last several years, that means a net savings on your electricity bill.

    While CFL's don't work on dimmer circuits, there are many places in the house that they can be used.

  • While we're on the subject of light bulbs, turn off the lights you're not using. One of the big reasons oil prices are going through the roof right now is that much of the world is using more energy. Much electricity, particularly of the peak demand sort, is generated using oil. Saving energy means less greenhouse gas, and less dependence on foreign oil.

  • Caption: A reusable bag for bulk coffee. Use this until it won't close anymore, and you can lower energy, materials, and landfill use.
    Image credit: Photo by Cujo359 (See NOTE 2)

    If you buy food in bulk, as I buy coffee, try using the little bags until they don't work anymore. I usually get a half dozen or so uses out of a bulk coffee bag, which means that there are at least five of those bags that I don't throw out. That's energy and materials saved, and less landfill required to get rid of them.
Those are just a few things we ordinary folks can do to make the Earth more hospitable to us. If you've already done that, there are plenty more suggestions.

NOTE 1 This image came from the Lamps Plus site, because it was labeled as being reusable. I got a picture, and they got a link. Lamps Plus did not contribute to, endorse, or even know of this article's existence. Similarly, no endorsement of Lamps Plus is intended by the author of this article.

NOTE 2 Did you read NOTE 1? Most of that applies here, except that I took the picture of the Tully's bag. Tully's is the owner of the "Tully's" trade name, and if they object I'll just fuzz out their trademark and leave everyone to wonder what brand of coffee I like.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

So Long, Sarah Jane

Caption: Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) tries to calm down the newly regenerated Doctor (Tom Baker) in the Doctor Who episode Robot

Image credit: Screenshots of Doctor Who episode "Robot" by Cujo359

I heard about this from a friend this evening:
Doctor Who star Elisabeth Sladen, who was also in spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, has died aged 63.

Sladen appeared as Doctor Who assistant Sarah Jane Smith in the BBC television sci-fi series between 1973 and 1976, opposite Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

The Liverpool-born actress appeared in four series from 2007 of The Sarah Jane Adventures on children's channel CBBC.

Sladen had been battling cancer for some time and leaves actor husband Brian Miller and daughter Sadie.

Doctor Who Actress Elisabeth Sladen Dies
Even in the late 1970s and early '80s, one of the few places women would be featured in the roles of strong, independent characters was in television science fiction. Sarah Jane Smith was such a character. She was a smart, centered professional who didn't take guff from either The Doctor or Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Caption: Sarah Jane enjoys putting Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) off-balance.

In some ways, Sarah Jane was a prototype for many of the Doctor's later companions. Rather than always needing to be rescued by the Doctor or his male companions, she would sometimes be the one to rescue them. In a time when few TV writers seemed to know how to make strong female characters work, Elisabeth Sladen managed to take what they produced and carry it off. Her character was so popular that a recent reappearance on the new Doctor Who series was the basis for a spin-off series featuring Sarah Jane.

There are quite a few science fiction fans who will mourn her passing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Photo(s)

Early spring in the Pacific Northwest brings with it the blooming of various fruit trees. For a few weeks in late March and early April, the parking lots of mini-malls and business parks look spectacular. Over the last few weeks I've been taking photos of them, and here is the first group of them.

The only trouble with trying to photograph them is that they don't last very long, and in the Northwest it's a rare day in early spring when you can see the sun. Still, as I was able to do last year, I found a few cherry trees out enjoying the sun.

These were taken in various spots in Federal Way, Washington.

Here are some blossoms I photographed on one of our more typical spring days:

Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

Here's a mini-mall along Pacific Highway:

A professional park on 1st Avenue South:

and a big tree in a residential area:

Cherry trees are quite common in residential areas, even in suburbs with small lawns.

Click on the pictures to enlarge. Enjoy your Sunday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Moving With The Times

Caption: A screenshot of the mobile version of my previous article.

Image credit: Screenshot of Blogger mobile preview by Cujo359

If you just can't wait to get home to read my latest rantings, now there's a version of this blog that is sized for an iPhone or other mobile telecomputing device. As I understand it, there's no difference between how you access the blog, it automatically figures out what the device is based on screen size, or something.

So, if you enjoy the heady rush of reading nonsense on a blurry 3 inch by 5 inch screen, give it a try, and let me know how it works.

If you're a blogger who is hosted on Blogspot, you can try this out by going to the draft version of Blogger and trying it out.

(h/t to Dana Hunter for pointing this out to me.)

Judging A Player

Caption: San Francisco left fielder Barry Bonds swinging in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, Aug. 26, 2006.

Image credit: Kevin Rushforth/Flickr

It looks like the once amazing career of Hall of Fame player Barry Bonds is about to come to a sad end:
Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice Wednesday in Federal Court in San Francisco. A mistrial was declared on two other counts.

The case, of course, was about performance-enhancing drugs. Our sibling blog L.A. Now explains: "Bonds was charged with four federal felony counts for denying under oath to a grand jury in 2003 that he had knowingly used steroids or human growth hormones and for maintaining that his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, had never injected him."

Barry Bonds Convicted Of Obstruction Of Justice: Two Books Tell The Backstory
Yes, he was already retired, but the arguments about who was the greatest of all time at this or that go on forever. Bonds was, after all, the game's most prolific home run hitter. He was one of only a few players who both stole 40 bases in a year and hit 40 home runs, baseball feats that require very different skills. One of the few other players who ever managed that feat was his father, Bobby Bonds. Well, almost. Bobby missed that mark by one home run.

It almost goes without saying that Bonds would have been a great ballplayer even without taking steroids. It seems unlikely he could have beaten Hank Aaron's home run record, but that's not terribly relevant. To illustrate why, let me take you back to an earlier time.

Mike Schmidt was probably the greatest ballplayer of his era. He was certainly one of the best home run hitters, and one of the best fielders. Yet he ended his career with fewer than 600 home runs, not even in the top five when he retired in 1989 (he was the seventh all time then). He might seem, just looking at that statistic, one of the lesser stars of the game all, Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson, and Reggie Jackson all hit more, and they were all part of the modern era. Since he retired, Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa have all hit more than 600 homers. But just looking at that stat ignores the most important aspect of judging any player's career: the time in which he played.

Baseball has had a deceptive sameness to it over the century or so that it has been played. Ever since the modern rules were put in place early in the 20th Century, the game's basic statistics and accomplishments have changed little. Equipment has changed, and there have been minor adjustments to the height of the pitching mounds, and other things, but anyone watching a game in 1910 or 2010 would understand what was going on with either.

Still, as I wrote, that sameness is somewhat deceptive. For starters, in 1910, the population of the U.S. was about 100 million people, a third of its current size. African Americans weren't allowed to play in the Major Leagues. They had their own league. Most of the rest of the world didn't play the game, or didn't play it well enough to produce players who were good enough to play in the majors. There were fewer teams, but they had a far smaller population from which to find talent. Thus, the talent itself is much better, on average, than it was back then.

The other thing that has changed is that managers have learned to run the games better. Teams are much better at training players, and rehabilitating them when they are injured or get into some personal difficulties or have health issues. Relief pitching has become a specialty, and players are substituted in much more technical ways than they were in the past. Teams want to make sure the have utility infielders and left-handed pinch hitters almost as much as they want to have home run hitters.

So, even though the game is fundamentally the same, there's a whale of a difference between the Major Leagues of 1910 and 2010. And, thanks to various factors, the 1970s and 1980s, Schmidt's era, is rather different from Barry Bond's.

Schmidt, who played his career with one team, the Philadelphia Phillies, was the dominant hitter of his time. He led the National League in home runs in eight seasons, more than anyone. He led the Major Leagues in home runs six times, more than anyone except Babe Ruth. He also won numerous Gold Glove awards for his defensive play at his position. Given that there was a larger pool of talent in the 1970s and 1980s, it is hard to credit the idea that he was somehow in a less talented league than Mays or Killebrew. And while there have certainly been some refinements in how the game has been managed since, it's hard to think that he was facing less talented pitching than A-Rod or Junior were. He was one of the most dominating players of his era, by any measure you can think of. Yet, as I've noted, he has been eclipsed by several players since then, including Bonds.

Similarly, Barry Bonds was one of the most dominant players of his era. He probably would have been anyway, even without the steroids. The only thing that seems less likely is that he would have hit as many homers, but it's always possible that he might have lasted a little longer had he not taken them. In any event, he played in an era when steroid use was pretty common. Other top hitters of the time, including Rodriguez, Sosa, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire (who also surpassed Schmidt's home run total) all have admitted using steroids. Others, such as one-time Mariners second baseman Bret Boone, were accused of abuse after large improvements in their hitting in the middle of their careers. Schmidt, in one of his more candid moments, admitted that, had he played during that time, probably would have taken them, too.

A couple of years ago, I wrote that I don't have much use for the government's obsession with steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. There's little medical research that shows whether steroids are harmful; mostly there are scary stories of shrunken testicles and anger management issues. Until there's more data, I'm not inclined to think that the Congress' and the Department of Justice's interest in this is anything more than bread and circuses. While I think that baseball needs to make sure that it doesn't have a steroid abuse problem, it's hard to see it as anything more than a sign of the times we live in. It's also pretty clear that baseball didn't start paying attention to steroid abuse until it was impossible to ignore the problem. Players will use whatever they can to make their performance better. Blaming Bonds for that condition is a bit like blaming the rivets on the Titanic for sinking the ship. It was part of the problem, but it wasn't why it got a chance to be a problem.

It's pretty clear that steroids were part of the game when Bonds played. He still played better than the competition. That's probably what we should remember him for.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Budget Speech

There should be a picture of a wolf here Caption: Just waiting for the sleigh to pass by again.

Image credit: Arrr!.

Glenn Greenwald states what should be blindingly obvious. Referring to how the continued erosion of core Democratic values during budget negotiations, with no visible counterpoint of the GOP not getting what it wants, has brought out the usual progressive pundits explaining how President Obama is getting his ass handed to him:
All of that has led to a spate of negotiation advice from the liberal punditocracy advising the President how he can better defend progressive policy aims -- as though the Obama White House deeply wishes for different results but just can't figure out how to achieve them. Jon Chait, Josh Marshall, and Matt Yglesias all insist that the President is "losing" on these battles because of bad negotiating strategy, and will continue to lose unless it improves. Ezra Klein says "it makes absolutely no sense" that Democrats didn't just raise the debt ceiling in December, when they had the majority and could have done it with no budget cuts. Once it became clear that the White House was not following their recommended action of demanding a "clean" vote on raising the debt ceiling -- thus ensuring there will be another, probably larger round of budget cuts -- Yglesias lamented that the White House had "flunked bargaining 101." Their assumption is that Obama loathes these outcomes but is the victim of his own weak negotiating strategy.

Obama's "bad negotiating" is actually shrewd negotiating
[links from original]

I'm not criticizing Greenwald, mind you, when I say it's obvious. The problem is that we live in a political environment where the obvious needs to be repeated endlessly. Robert Reich provides another example of why it's necessary in his bit of advice to the President:
When I was a small boy I was bullied more than most, mainly because I was a foot shorter than than everyone else. They demanded the cupcake my mother had packed in my lunchbox, or, they said, they’d beat me up.
I hope the President decides he has to take a stand, and the sooner the better. Last December he caved in to Republican demands that the Bush tax cut be extended to wealthier Americans for two more years, at a cost of more than $60 billion. That was only the beginning — the equivalent of my cupcake.

Why the Right-Wing Bullies Will Hold The Nation Hostage Again and Again
Jeebus Frickin' Crispies - just how dumb do you reckon Barack Obama is? The man got himself a law degree, then got himself elected a state senator from Chicago, and then President without even the most rudimentary idea of how human psychology works? George W. Bush was easily the most mentally deficient President of my lifetime, yet I have no doubt that even he knew all this.

As if that wasn't enough, Professor Krugman had to chime in with this bit of wisdom:
Overall, way better than the rumors and trial balloons. I can live with this. And whatever the pundits may say, it was much, much more serious than the Ryan “plan”.

Update: I should probably say, I could live with this as an end result. If this becomes the left pole, and the center is halfway between this and Ryan, then no — better to pursue the zero option of just doing nothing and letting the Bush tax cuts as a whole expire.

The Budget Speech
The difference between Obama and the GOP proposal appears to be that the President won't "privatize" Medicare, but will instead ask Medicare to figure out how to keep costs from rising about as much as gross domestic product (GDP) does. Since the recently passed health care "reform" bill did little to reform health care, I think it's safe to assume that money will come out of Medicare patients somehow. Oh, and he will cut some from defense, but the bulk of cuts will be in domestic programs. Any clues where $60 billion a year in savings is going to come from, in the portion of the budget that is by far the smallest? Me neither.

Oh, and this is the "left pole", Professor, by definition. That's how it works in DC. I've explained before why it works that way, but it comes down to this - there's no money to be made in DC helping the poor and the middle class. As long as that's true, and the suckers, umm, I mean progressives, continue to vote Democratic, there's no reason for Democratic politicians to do otherwise.

And there will be plenty of progressive pundits handy to make sure that doesn't change.

Is it any surprise that one of the leading synonyms for "ineffective" these days is "progressive"? We should be happy that Obama did a little more than a man who not only clearly doesn't understand how a national economy works, but doesn't want to.

Nevermind that we're still going the wrong way, and the wolves never seem to have enough to eat. At least we're not driving so fast that we'll get in an accident.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Items Of Local Interest

A couple of items of interest mainly to people of the "Other" Washington, the one that's not along the Potomac River, from around the blogroll...

Caption: The North Portal of the Stillwater Water Treatment Project, in Bothell, Washington, under construction. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Image credit: Cujo359

First, there is a new wastewater treatment project near the north end of Lake Washington called the Stillwater Project. It's run into a few of the issues one would expect a project that builds tunnels through sand and silt would come up against. Dana Hunter tries to sort it all out:
All of you geotypes are probably shouting, "Glacial erratic!" about now. Seattle's got lots, random boulders dropped by the Cordilleran Ice Sheet during its stay. According to the articles I found, the tunnel-boring machine's been encountering quite a bit of sandy soil, which it sometimes proceeds to remove too much of. Not to mention running in to boulders. Tunneling through all of that glacial outwash, till, and random erractics has got to be an absolute nightmare, and goes a long way toward explaining why the project's run over on both time and money.

Local Geology Kicks Project's Arse
The geology of this area doesn't always lend itself to big subterranean projects, a thing that may come into play when the Alaska Way Viaduct is replaced with a tunnel.

The other story has to do with ongoing mortgage fraud, which our state attorney general seems to think is worth fighting, as Yves Smith reports:
LoanSafe reports that the Washington state attorney general, Rob McKenna, has uncovered a likely widespread violation of state law, that foreclosure trustees lack a physical presence as required and a means for borrowers to contact or visit them to submit last minute payments or present documentation. McKenna’s interest appears to result from the fact as with servicers, the foreclosure trustees are not accessible to borrowers and not responsive when there may be legitimate reasons to halt or delay a foreclosure.

Washington AG Investigates New Foreclosure Abuse Front: Trustee Non-Compliance
I'm not a big fan of McKenna's, but it's good that he's looking into this. As Naked Capitalism and others have documented, the ongoing fraud by financial institutions has cost many Americans their homes through no fault of their own. It's emblematic of what's going on in DC that a Republican state's attorney general is doing more to combat this than the federal government's Department of Justice, which is run by a supposedly Democratic administration.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Corrente Needs Help

Image credit: PuppyDogWeb.comj

A recent addition to the SnS blogroll is Corrente, a political blog that, as Ian Welsh says, often hits well above its weight when it comes to both analysis and reporting of the goings on in Washington, DC. It was an omission that was long overdue to be corrected.

Right now, though, Corrente needs help to stay online. I'll let Lambert Strether, the founder, explain:
Readers: Once again I find I need your help, and not only to keep the hamsters in kibble. First, I've been singing for my supper with a new venture to make Corrente permanently sustainable; see below for the soft launch. But I also need to deal immediately with a personal situation that's temporary (I hope) but still approaching the desperate.

However, before I get to the new venture, let me briefly report on the state of Corrente.

If you like the blog and you can afford to help, please do. Corrente is one of the good ones, and it would be a shame for it to disappear.

Sunday Photo(s)

Quite some time ago, I promised that I would have more pictures of the Seattle Aquarium up soon. Well, maybe some day. Meanwhile, these are some pictures I took of Seattle's Elliot Bay after seeing the aquarium. This is a water fountain just to the south of the aquarium:

Image credit: All images by Cujo359

This the Seattle skyline from the next pier south:

and this is the container port near the Duwamish Waterway:

Art, buildings, and post-industrial transportation - what could be better?

Click on the pictures to enlarge. Have a good Sunday.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Future Is All But Past

Bumped to keep this article on top today.

This song was playing in my head when I got up today:

It was a love song to America that was produced by the rock band Styx while I was in college. In some ways, it seems almost hopefully naive now, and yet strangely prescient:
Once long ago, a word from your lips
And the world turned around
But somehow you've changed, you're so far away
I long for the past and dream of the days
With you, madame blue

Suite madame blue, gaze in your looking glass
You're not a child anymore
Suite madame blue, the future is all but past
Dressed in your jewels, you made your own rules
You conquered the world and more, heaven's door, oh

Elyrics: Suite Madame Blue
Great art can often have meanings its creators never intended. Back then, it seemed that America was destined to lead the world to a better place. We'd just gone to the Moon, for what now looks like the last time. We'd taken care of a disturbing aberration in our nation's commitment to being a government of laws, or so we thought. What that song and Watergate both turned out to be was a harbinger of our decline into the frightened and corrupt nation we are now. (Isn't it just a sign of the times that I used the keyword Democrats to find that last link?) As Bob Herbert wrote in his final column in The New York Times:
Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Losing Our Way
America was never perfect - just ask the people whose ancestors were here before Columbus accidentally bumped into the place. But, back when I was growing up, we wanted to be better. We clearly don't anymore.

What a difference a few decades can make.

An Anniversary

Speaking of the history of spaceflight, I know someone who was born the day after Yuri Gagarin went into space:
Image credit: found it here

Seems like yesterday...

Happy Birthday.

UPDATE: Looks like blogging friend Suzanne became a grandmother today. Congratulations. Julianna Renee picked an auspicious day to enter the world.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Greenwald Connects The Dots

There should be a picture of a wolf here Caption: The symbol of Democratic Party politics these days, because I can't find a public domain picture of a woman in a sleigh throwing her children to the wolves.

Image credit: Arrr!.

In an essay at Salon Tuesday, Glenn Greenwald connects the dots for all those people who think that the way to make the country more progressive is to vote for the Democratic Party, no matter what:
About that point, Rachel [Maddow] said this:
A Democratic President kicks his base in the teeth on something as fundamental as civil liberties -- he puts the nail in the coffin of a civil liberties promise he made on his first full day in office -- and he does it on the first day of his re-election effort. And Beltway reaction to that is. . . huh, good move. That's the difference between Republican politics and Democratic politics. The Republicans may not love their base, but they fear them and play to them. The Democratic Party institutional structures of D.C., and the Beltway press in particular, not only hate the Democratic base -- they think it's good politics for Democratic politicians to kick that base publicly whenever possible.

Only the base itself will ever change that.
How will that happen? How can the base itself possibly change this dynamic, whereby politicians of the Democratic Party are not only willing, but eager, to "kick them whenever possible," on the ground (among others) that doing so is good politics? I'd submit that this is not only one of the most important domestic political questions (if not the most important), but also the one that people are most eager to avoid engaging. And the reason is that there are no comforting answers.

The impotence of the loyal partisan voter
I'll just break in here to say that I agree with him that this is the most important single political question. None of the solutions the current crop of conservatives are offering is going to get us out of the mess we're in. There may be times when conservatism has something to offer, but that's definitely not true now. Their economic ideas, which are, of course, parroted by Democratic politicians who want to appear "serious", are nonsense. So are their ideas on health care and education. In all three areas, the world has conducted a laboratory experiment on those ideas, and they've been demonstrated to be the utter failures that anyone with any sense could have told them they were.

We're paying the price for those ideas already.

Anyway, back to Greenwald:
One thing is for certain: right now, the Democratic Party is absolutely correct in its assessment that kicking its base is good politics. Why is that? Because they know that they have inculcated their base with sufficient levels of fear and hatred of the GOP, so that no matter how often the Party kicks its base, no matter how often Party leaders break their promises and betray their ostensible values, the base will loyally and dutifully support the Party and its leaders (at least in presidential elections; there is a good case that the Democrats got crushed in 2010 in large part because their base was so unenthusiastic).

In light of that fact, ask yourself this: if you were a Democratic Party official, wouldn't you also ignore -- and, when desirable, step on -- the people who you know will support you no matter what you do to them? That's what a rational, calculating, self-interested, unprincipled Democratic politician should do: accommodate those factions which need accommodating (because their support is in question), while ignoring or scorning the ones whose support is not in question, either because they will never vote for them (the hard-core right) or will dutifully canvass, raise money, and vote for them no matter what (the Democratic base). Anyone who pledges unconditional, absolute fealty to a politician -- especially 18 months before an election -- is guaranteeing their own irrelevance.

The impotence of the loyal partisan voter
Progressives get kicked in the teeth for the simple reason that they keep taking it. If progressives want power, they need to start telling Democratic politicians that their support is not unconditional, and sticking to that promise when the time comes, instead of caving in. If progressives don't like what a Democratic politician is doing, they have not just the right, but the obligation, to make that politician unemployed.

I've pointed most of this out before, if not all of it. Here's a succinct quote:
[DC Democrats] aren't taking politics to the right because that's where America is going. They're taking politics to the right because that's where the money is. Those big corporations aren't going to drop campaign funds into the campaign coffers of the kind of politician who will watch out for the little guy. Despite blog activism and Act Blue, there's not much money there, and I doubt there will be as long as the income disparity continues as it is in America.

They're also taking politics to the right, as I've pointed out many, many times, because progressives don't demand that their politicians be progressives, where conservatives aren't foolish enough to accept progressivism from their politicians. Politicians will chase the power that can go elsewhere. Progressives don't change their votes - they can always be counted on to vote out of fear of the Other Guys, and any national politician who doesn't know that was probably appointed to his job.

On Moving Rightward
Or, as Wonk The Vote put it last year:
The only way the Democrats will learn to stop punching a hippie is if the grassroots will stop voting for them. This is why I am an independent. It’s not because I have forgotten how terrible the GOP is. It’s because I want the Democratic party to be an actual alternative to the GOP. I don’t want to be punched by two wings of the same corporate-controlled political system. I certainly won’t vote for one “party” over the other to continue punching the grassroots.

If you don’t want to be punched, don’t vote for a hippie-puncher
It really is that simple. To quote a cliche, it's not easy, but it is simple.

There are worse things than having Republicans run things for a while. One of those worse things is the situation we're in now, thanks to two decades of progressives not exercising their power to decide - a country in which there is no hope that either major party will do what needs to be done to stop our slide into permanent economic depression and perpetual war, with all the attendant problems if racism, crime, and loss of civil liberties.

It's nice of Glenn to try to connect the dots for progressives. Sadly, I think they're too stupid to recognize the picture, even when someone else has already done all that complicated math.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Today Is National Skepticism Day

It's that day again:

funny dog pictures Image credit: I Has A Hot Dog

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, there's a good chance that it is. That's probably a good thing to remember every other day of the year, too.