Dan Valentine – “Born and bred in Texas”

May 21, 2010

By Dan Valentine

Last night, in the wee hours, I sat bolt upright in bed and shouted, “Texas! He must have been born and bred in Texas!” Melody’s brigadier dad, the guy who thought I was gay because I didn’t drive.

I resided in southeast Texas – Friendswood, Galveston, Houston, Jamaica Beach, Clear Lake, etc. – for some five years without a car. Most times I was the only pedestrian within a five-mile radius. Everyone in Texas drives. They’d drive to the bathroom if the stall doors were wide enough. Many, many times I’d be strolling along, in my own mind, when a car full of kids would swing over, the windows rolled down, and scream, “Faggott!” and race off down the street, gleefully giggling to themselves Or, they would slow down and honk their horn suddenly, scaring the hell out of me, then speed off.

Dan Valentine in storm-ravaged Texas

Dan Valentine, in Texas

My friend’s grandfather lived with us when we resided in Friendswood. One time I came home and was flipping through the mail in the kitchen, when I heard him speaking on the phone, talking to his sister. “I don’t know what he does.” I opened up a bill. “He put a small down payment on the house.” I opened up another bill. “He doesn’t drive.”

Her grandfather – his first name was – was born in Georgia. He’d been a carpenter. He was going on 80. He was suffering from CPOD, Chronic Destructive Pulmonary Disease. A grand ol’ man. The best of years of my best friend’s life were spent living with him and her grandmother in Florida.

He once gave me the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given. Sometimes, not often, at night after writing all day, I would buy a pint of rum/gin/scotch/vodka/whiskey–whatever was cheapest; there was a liquor store down the block–and I would enjoy a drink or ten, standing by the kitchen counter, and talk about his granddaughter. Stories, experiences we’d had together, etc.

Before he died, he told his granddaughter (this, she told me later): “Y’know, Dan really, really loves you.” A truer and nicer thing anyone could have said about me.

I don’t drive. My brother never drove. My sister didn’t learn how to drive until late in life. My dad discouraged it, to say the least. He had covered too many traffic deaths as a young reporter.

But back to Texas. Hurricane Rita! Late September, 2005.

Some 3 million people were evacuated within a 500-mile radius–the largest evacuation in American history. Wikipedia. After the tragedy of Katrina and New Orleans, authorities were taking no chances.

My friend’s mom and step-dad–they had moved to Houston to be with their daughter–packed some things, stopped by to pick up Guy and his much needed supplemental oxygen canister, and sped off for Oklahoma.

My friend has a yellow Jeep. She’d always wanted one. It’s easy to pick out on the highway. She still has an Obama sticker on the back, next to a “I Like To Swim” sticker, below a “Democracy Now” sticker, by a sticker from “The Bulldog”, a coffee shop in Amsterdam. We love bulldogs!!!

Everything is about the dogs in my friend’s life. They come first and foremost. At one time she/we had five! At the time of Rita, she had three–Daisy (a veteran from D.C. and Manhattan), Bogie, and Rosie.

We packed their things–food, water, toys, blankets. The TV was on in the living room. as background music, with tales of chaos.

Texans were driving in multi-car caravans, causing grid-lock. What’s a car caravan? It’s a Texas thing. During a hurricane. When there is little time. You grab your most prized possessions. And make a run for it.

In Texas, the most prized possession is–you guessed it–a car. No, two cars (a car for work, a car for play). No, three cars (two-doors, four-doors, no-doors). Plus a pick-up or two and an SUV for dumping one’s trash in a river or lake.

So you’ve got family after family in lots of cars, traveling, oh, so slowly, bumper to bumper, not wanting to get separated from each other. It can cause a problem. One car runs out of gas, all the cars in the family stop. They’re not leaving one of their babies behind.

Back to the chaos. A bus, with elderly evacuees, caught on fire, killing 24, their oxygen tanks exploded. Cars were running out of gas. Gas pumps were empty.

Ten thousand homeless were left to fend for themselves.

My friend, with me in the front passenger seat, a dog in my arms and lap, two dogs in the back, are just about to leave when we get a call from her step-dad. He had pulled off the road for a doughnut, maybe it was flapjacks–and God bless him for it–and had learned that the Hilton was open and was accepting guests. And their dogs! The mayor had a suite, had set up headquarters there They’d rented a room for themselves, rented a room for us and the dogs.

The bar was open, the restaurant was open, dogs everywhere. In the lobby, in the elevators. A dog lover’s dream.

Lesson learned: Follow the mayor. If he ain’t leaving …

Rita made landfall on Saturday, September 24, a category three. It missed Houston.

Hurricane Ike, on the other hand, that was another story. But I’ll leave that for later.

Liveblogging the Texas State Board of Education

May 21, 2010

Or, should that be “Texas State Soviet of Education?”

Steve Schafersman (of Texas Citizens for Science fame)  is live blogging for the Texas Observer, here.

Texas Freedom Network blogs it here.

Did I forget to mention that earlier?


Annals of Global Warming: NOAA team finds oceans heated up since 1993

May 21, 2010

News from NOAA and NASA:

The upper layer of the world’s ocean has warmed since 1993, indicating a strong climate change signal, according to a new study. The energy stored is enough to power nearly 500 100-watt light bulbs per each of the roughly 6.7 billion people on the planet.

“We are seeing the global ocean store more heat than it gives off,” said John Lyman, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, who led an international team of scientists that analyzed nine different estimates of heat content in the upper ocean from 1993 to 2008.

John Lyman and Gregory Johnson show instruments used to measure ocean temperature - NOAA photo, 2010

From NOAA: John Lyman (left) holds an expendable bathythermograph or XBT, a device that was dropped from ships to obtain temperature. Gregory Johnson (right) holds an ARGO Float, an autonomous, free-floating ocean device that collects a variety of data, including temperature. (NOAA photo, 2010)

The team combined the estimates to assess the size and certainty of growing heat storage in the ocean. Their findings will be published in the May 20 edition of the journal Nature. The scientists are from NOAA, NASA, the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom, the University of Hamburg in Germany and the Meteorological Research Institute in Japan.

“The ocean is the biggest reservoir for heat in the climate system,” said Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and one of the scientists who contributed to the study. “So as the planet warms, we’re finding that 80 to 90 percent of the increased heat ends up in the ocean.”

A warming ocean is a direct cause of global sea level rise, since seawater expands and takes up more space as it heats up. The scientists say that this expansion accounts for about one-third to one-half of global sea level rise.

Combining multiple estimates of heat in the upper ocean – from the surface to about 2,000 feet down – the team found a strong multi-year warming trend throughout the world’s ocean. According to measurements by an array of autonomous free-floating ocean floats called ARGO as well as by earlier devices called expendable bathythermographs or XBTs that were dropped from ships to obtain temperature data, ocean heat content has increased over the last 16 years.

The team notes that there are still some uncertainties and some biases.

“The XBT data give us vital information about past changes in the ocean, but they are not as accurate as the more recent Argo data,” said Gregory Johnson, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “However, our analysis of these data gives us confidence that on average, the ocean has warmed over the past decade and a half, signaling a climate imbalance.”

Data from the array of Argo floats­ – deployed by NOAA and other U.S. and international partners ­– greatly reduce the uncertainties in estimates of ocean heat content over the past several years, the team said. There are now more than 3,200 Argo floats distributed throughout the world’s ocean sending back information via satellite on temperature, salinity, currents and other ocean properties.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us on Facebook.

Note: Full name of the paper is Robust Warming of the Global Upper Ocean. Authors are John M. Lyman, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University of Hawaii at Manoa and NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle; Simon A. Good, Met Office Hadley Centre; Viktor V. Gouretski Klima Campus, University of Hamburg; Masayoshi Ishii, Climate Research Department, Meteorological Research Institute, Japan; Gregory C. Johnson, NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle; Matthew D. Palmer, Met Office Hadley Centre; Doug M. Smith, Met Office Hadley Centre; and Josh K. Willis, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Map showing 3,200 free-floating Argo floats, instruments used to measure ocean temperature - International Argo Project

From NASA: The international science team analyzed nine different estimates of heat content in the upper ocean, based on ocean temperature data from a global array of more than 3,200 Argo free-floating profiling floats and longer data records from expendable bathythermographs dropped from ships. Image credit: International Argo Project


Update, February 16, 2011: Interesting that this research got so little play in mainstream media, more curious that those who contend global warming and/or the need to do anything about it have buried it so well.  RealClimate noted that denialist Larry Bell, writing in Forbes, even cited the work of this team, but claiming a contrary resultEven Watts Up appears to have gone silent on this after a curtain-raiser post on the project.  Odd.

Blasphemous prayer in Texas

May 21, 2010

One might have thought it improbable, if not impossible.

Texas State Board of Education Member Cynthia Dunbar, in a parting shot, concedes the grounds upon which a challenge might be made to the gutting of social studies standards she wishes to accomplish today.  Is there any doubt her intent is solely religious?

Tip of the old scrub brush to the Texas Freedom Network, for capturing this event for history.

Dan Valentine – Parsley and Melody

May 21, 2010

By Dan Valentine

Spent last night working on a funny song about homelessness. Tentative title/hook: “Parsley Is For Eating.” My dad once said, “Humor is looking at the world upside down.” When you’re homeless, you’ve got a ringside seat.

My dad found himself homeless as a kid. During the depression, in Columbus, Ohio, he came home from school one day to find the family’s belongings on the front walk. His dad couldn’t come up with the rent.

My brother was homeless for a time. In Amsterdam. He hid what little he had behind some bushes in a park. Some nights later he went to a homeless shelter for a meal and stood behind a fellow in line wearing his clothes.

I’ve been homeless before. Years ago. For three days. In D.C. When I first joined Hatch’s staff. I had all but forgotten. You’ve time to reminisce when you’re broke.

I was staying at a very nice deluxe motel in Virginia. Pool, sauna, tennis courts, etc., till I found an apartment.

I don’t drive, never have. So, I would take a bus each morning to the nearest Metro stop, then on to the Russell Senate Building in D.C., where Hatch’s offices were.

(Lots of people have never driven. Tony Bennett has never driven, Barbara Walters has never learned to drive. Abraham Lincoln never drove. Bonnie and Clyde drove and look what happened to them. In my youth, when I asked a woman out, my line was, “You bring the wheels. I’ll furnish the entertain. But don’t honk when you pick me up. You’ll disturb the neighbors!”)

After work one night I met a young woman. Can’t remember where. Probably at a bar on the Hill. Her father was a brigadier general, head of supplies for something or other. After a short time, she invited me to move in with her. Split the rent. She had a studio apartment. Sounded good to me.

Her folks invited us to dinner. Her dad wanted to meet me. They lived in Virginia somewhere. Her car just happened to have been towed away that day at an expired meter so we rented one.

We drove to Virginia, had dinner, cocktails. A nice time. Afterward, he followed us outside to the rented car. She got behind the wheel. And he waved us goodbye.

The next day, after work, she told me her dad thought I was gay.

Gay?! “How come?”

“You don’t drive.” Funny. Strange.

A couple of nights later, in her apartment, we’re awakened by fierce pounding on the front door. Bang, bang, bang. “Melody! Melody!” That was her name. “Let me in. I know you’re in there with someone.” Bang, bang, bang.

She whispered, “Don’t say a word. It’s my ex.”

“Come on, Melody, open up.” Bang, bang, bang.

“He said he’d kill any man who even looked at me.”

That’s nice to know.

He banged and banged! Finally, after a long time, he stopped.

I went to work the next day, came home afterward, put the key in the lock, opened the door, and there he was–his name was Rodney–in bed with Melody! I backed out the door, went outside, walked down the block, smoked half a pack of cigarettes. For such times, cigarettes were created.

When I returned, Rodney was gone. And Melody said, “Rodney wants you outta here. Pronto.” She may not have said pronto.

I said, “Fine with me,” and went to pack my things. And she said, “Oh, no! Not until you pay your half the rent.” Huh? No way. I went to pack my things–I had a couple of suitcases in the closet–and she grabbed a large butcher knife from the kitchen and blocked my path, waving the blade.

I said, “Okay, calm down. You’ve got my things. You’ve got my things!” For the time being. And I went on my way. Homeless.

I walked up to the Russell Senate Office Building and slept on a couch in the conference room. Three nights I slept there. One morning, early, Hatch opened the door, saw me half asleep on the couch, and softly closed the door. He must have thought I’d been up all night working on an upcoming speech.

Finally, after three days, in the same suit, I told Paul Smith, my good friend to this day and Hatch’s press secretary at the time, my plight. He called Tom Perry, can’t remember his title. But Hatch’s second or third man. I recently heard he had died. He was young. The best die young, as as they.

I told him my story and he said. “We can get her arrested for attempted assault with a deadly weapon. Her father’s a brigadier general? We can put pressure on her dad. Have you any papers of the Senator’s in your bag?”

“Maybe a notebook, with an idea or two for a speech.”

He said, “We’ll send federal marshals to get your things.”

I told him, “Let me try on my own one more time.”

I called Melody and told her about the federal marshals, and she said, “Come pick up your things. They’ll be in the hallway.”

Paul gave me a ride. We picked up my stuff, and he took me in for a week or so till I got my own place. A studio apartment in D.C.

Funny/sad, I ran into Melody a few weeks or months later in a bar. On M Street. I just happened to sit down on a bar stool a couple of seats down from where she was sitting, alone, having a drink.

We didn’t speak. I had one drink, knocked it back, and paid my tab with a newly acquired Gold American Express Card.

As I was leaving, she said, “My new boyfriend has a Platinum Card.”

Melody. Nice name.

Climate change: We’ll see you in court

May 21, 2010

Contemplation of Justice, statue by James Earle Fraser at the U.S. Supreme Court (exterior) - photo by Steve Petteway

Contemplation of Justice, statue by James Earle Fraser at the U.S. Supreme Court (exterior) - photo by Steve Petteway

From a press release from Gardere and Wynn:

Gardere’s Faulk And Gray Tapped To Represent Business, Industry In Climate Change Amicus Briefs

Gardere Wynne Sewell attorneys Richard O. Faulk and John S. Gray have been retained to write amicus curiae briefs to federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court in relation to public nuisance lawsuits regarding global climate change.

(I-Newswire) May 13, 2010 – HOUSTON – Richard O. Faulk and John S. Gray, co-chairs of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP’s Climate Change Task Force, have been retained to write amicus curiae briefs to federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court in relation to public nuisance lawsuits regarding global climate change.

Mr. Faulk and Mr. Gray, partners in Gardere’s Houston office, will represent a group of organizations that include the American Chemistry Council, The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, The American Coatings Association, and the Public Nuisance Fairness Coalition.

The first brief was filed in the 5th Circuit on Friday, May 7, in the case of Comer v. Murphy Oil. In that case, a group of property owners sued utility, mining, oil and chemical companies claiming their CO2 emissions ultimately caused the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Comer had originally been dismissed at the trial level because the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue particular defendants for the effects of global warming, among other reasons.

A panel of the 5th Circuit reversed the dismissal, but on February 26 the court granted an en banc rehearing. The court is now weighing a number of procedural concerns caused by a number of judicial recusals, and has not set a final date for oral arguments.

“Despite the current procedural wrangling, the 5th circuit’s initial decision to reconsider the panel’s ruling remains a major blow to climate change and public nuisance litigation,” Faulk said. “Although the final decision, the panel’s original decision now has no value. Clearly, a significant number of the court’s judges believe the case deserves a closer look, and plaintiffs are surely not comforted by that development. Indeed, since no judge on the original panel dissented, the en banc court’s decision to reconsider suggests a serious interest in changing the result.”

Mr. Faulk and Mr. Gray also plan to file amicus briefs in Native Village of Kivalina, Alaska v. ExxonMobil Corp., et al., which is pending in the 9th Circuit, and Connecticut v. American Electric Power, a 2nd Circuit decision in which a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court is expected to be filed. Both of those cases also involve the propriety of using public nuisance litigation to redress global climate change.

Mr. Faulk and Mr. Gray have authored many scholarly articles regarding public nuisance and climate change. One of their major papers, “Stormy Weather Ahead: The Legal Environment of Global Climate Change,” has been presented at conferences of the United States Chamber of Commerce, in media events at the Washington Legal Foundation, at various Professional Development seminars for lawyers, engineers, and businessmen. A complete collection of their articles is available at http://works.bepress.com/richard_faulk/subject_areas.html#Climate%20Change.

In addition, Mr. Faulk recently spoke on climate change lawsuits at the Judicial Symposium on The Expansion of Liability Under Public Nuisance on April 26 at the Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth, Northwestern University School of Law.

Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, an AmLaw 200 firm founded in 1909 and one of the Southwest’s largest full-service law firms, has offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston and Mexico City. Gardere provides legal services to private and public companies and individuals in areas of energy, hospitality, litigation, corporate, tax, government affairs, environmental, labor and employment, intellectual property and financial services.

Familiar with any of those cases?

Were denialists to have the facts, some of those legal cases would be the places that the facts emerge in useful-to-stop-climate-change-legislation fashion.

Want to make bets on whether those who desperately want (and maybe need) climate change denialists to be right, actually use the climate denialists’ studies?

Watch those cases.

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