Another conservation success: Bearded vulture returns to the Alps

May 31, 2014

Do conservation efforts pay off?  Yes, they do.

Film comes from the European-based Vulture Conservation Foundation.

Since the film, more of these majestic animals have been released.  Here are photos from the release on Friday, May 30:

Workers and volunteers from the Vulture Conservation Foundation, climbing the Alps to release to the wild another captive-raised bearded vulture.

Workers and volunteers from the Vulture Conservation Foundation, climbing the Alps to release to the wild another captive-raised bearded vulture. (We might assume the vulture is in the box.)

One must respect these volunteers, climbing such tors simply to watch a bird fly away.

The line of hiking Vulture Conservation Foundation volunteers stretched across an alpine mountain for a release on May 30, 2014.

The line of hiking Vulture Conservation Foundation volunteers stretched across an alpine mountain for a release on May 30, 2014.

You can tell

Not ready for his (her?) close up, this bearded vulture may be wildly happy, or sad to leave those who raised it.  Vultures, it may be said, are often inscrutable.  Vulture Conservation Foundation photos.

Not ready for his (her?) close up, this bearded vulture may be wildly happy, or sad to leave those who raised it. Vultures, it may be said, are often inscrutable. Vulture Conservation Foundation photos.

Tip of the old scrub brush to bird conservationist Amanda Holland.


Yes, malaria is still a plague; it’s not Rachel Carson’s fault, and your saying so probably kills kids

May 30, 2014

May 27’s Google Doodle honoring Rachel Carson brought out a lot of those people who have been duped by the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers, people who are just sure their own biased views of science and the politics of medical care in the third world are right, and Carson, and the people who study those issues, are not.

So comes “The Federalist,” what appears to me to be a reactionary site, which yesterday got great readership for a story from Bethany Mandel.  Mandel tells a story of a child in Cambodia suffering from malaria.  The suffering is horrible and the child most likely died.  It’s a tragic story of poverty and lack of medical care in the third world.

Erroneously, Mandel up front blames the suffering all on Rachel Carson, in a carp about the Google Doodle.

Here was my quick response between bouts in the dentist’s chair yesterday [links added here]:

[Bethany Mandel wrote:] Using faulty science, Carson’s book argued that DDT could be deadly for birds and, thus, should be banned. Incredibly and tragically, her recommendations were taken at face value and soon the cheap and effective chemical was discontinued, not only in the United States but also abroad. Environmentalists were able to pressure USAID, foreign governments, and companies into using less effective means for their anti-malaria efforts. And so the world saw a rise in malaria deaths.

Don’t be evil?

Start by not telling false tales.

1.  Carson presented a plethora of evidence that DDT kills birds.  This science was solid, and still is.

2.  Carson did not argue DDT should be banned.  She said it was necessary to fight disease, and consequently uses in the wild, requiring broadcast spraying, should be halted immediately.

3.  Scientific evidence against DDT mounted up quickly; under US law, two federal courts determined DDT was illegal under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act; they stayed orders to ban the chemical pending hearings under a new procedure at the new Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA held hearings, adversary proceedings, for nine months. More than 30 DDT manufacturers were party to the hearings, presenting evidence totaling nearly 10,000 pages.  EPA’s administrative law judge ruled that, though DDT was deadly to insects, arachnids, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, the labeled uses proposed in a new label (substituted at the last moment) were legal under FIFRA — indoor use only, and only where public health was concerned.  This labeling would allow DDT to remain on sale, over the counter, with few penalties for anyone who did not follow the label.  EPA took the label requirements, and issued them as a regulation, which would prevent sales for any off-label uses.  Understanding that this would be a severe blow to U.S. DDT makers, EPA ordered U.S. manufacture could continue, for the export markets — fighting mosquitoes and malaria being the largest export use.

This ruling was appealed to federal courts twice; in both cases the courts ruled EPA had ample scientific evidence for its rule.  Under U.S. law, federal agencies may not set rules without supporting evidence.

4.  DDT was banned ONLY for agriculture use in the U.S.  It was banned in a few European nations.  [Addition, December 30, 2014: In fact, the U.S. action against DDT by EPA specifically called for DDT use in any fight against a vector borne disease, like malaria.]

5.  DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia.

6.  USAID’s policy encouraged other nations to use U.S.-made DDT, consistent with federal policy to allow manufacture for export, for the benefit of U.S. business.

7.  U.S. exports flooded markets with DDT, generally decreasing the price.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

8.  Although WHO had been forced to end its malaria eradication operation in 1965, because DDT abuse had bred mosquitoes resistant to and immune to DDT, and though national and international campaigns against malaria largely languished without adequate government funding, malaria incidence and malaria deaths declined.  Especially after 1972, malaria continued a year-over-year decline with few exceptions.

Note that the WHO campaign ended in 1965 (officially abandoned by WHO officials in 1969), years before the U.S. ban on DDT.

Every statement about DDT in that paragraph of [Mandel’s] article, is wrong.

Most important, to the purpose of this essay, malaria did not increase.  Malaria infections decreased, and malaria deaths decreased.

I’m sure there are other parts of the story that are not false in every particular.  But this article tries to make a case against science, against environmental care — and the premise of the case is exactly wrong.  A good conclusion is unlikely to follow.

Mandel was hammered by the full force of the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers.  I wonder how many children will die because people thought, “Hey, all we have to do is kill Rachel Carson to fix malaria,” and so went off searching for a gun and a bullet?

You are not among them, are you?

Update: This guy, a worshipper of the Breitbart, seems to be among those who’d rather rail against a good scientist than lift a finger to save a kid from malaria. If you go there, Dear Reader, be alert that he uses the Joe Stalin method of comment moderation:  Whatever you say, he won’t allow it to be posted.  Feel free to leave comments here, where we practice First Amendment-style ethics on discussion.


Milky Way over Arches N.P.

May 30, 2014

From the Department of Interior's Twitter feed:  Looking for a wow photo? This picture of the Milky Way over Natural Bridges Natl Monument should do the trick. pic.twitter.com/RfuDj7KXSA

From the Department of Interior’s Twitter feed: Looking for a wow photo? This picture of the Milky Way over Natural Bridges Natl Monument should do the trick. pic.twitter.com/RfuDj7KXSA

Owachomo Bridge?  Photographer?  I wish Interior would put in all the details with their photos.


Rachel Carson, star of Google Doodle on her 107th birthday

May 27, 2014

Have you been to Google today for a general search?  Did you catch the Doodle?

Google Doodle for May 27, 2014, honors scientist and writer Rachel Carson on what would have been her 107th birthday.

Google Doodle for May 27, 2014, honors scientist and writer Rachel Carson on what would have been her 107th birthday.

Perhaps even more remarkable, if you click the Doodle (any Doodle) it takes you to a Google search on that subject.  The search you get today is all positive about Carson.  Considering the money being spent to soil her reputation, 50 years after her death, one might wonder if Google adjusted the search or the algorithm for the results to do that.

If they monkeyed with it, give them bonus points for accuracy and thoroughness.

If they didn’t monkey with it, take great hope that Ben Franklin was right, and truth does indeed win in a fair fight.

Here’s page 1 of the search result I got (not an image, so the links stay hot for you):

Rachel Carson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Carson

Wikipedia

Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are …


    1. The Independent ‎- by Linda Sharkey ‎- 3 hours ago
      Tomorrow marks the 107th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Louise Carson, the environmentalist whose research led to the banning of harmful …

    More news for Rachel Louise Carson


Rachel Carson left a great and powerful legacy.  52 years after the publication of her most important, most read, and most criticized book, not a single piece of science she cited has been disproven by subsequent research.  Discover Magazine did a literature search some years ago and found more than 1,000  research projects had been done on DDT’s harm to birds, and every one that was published came back to support the claims Carson had made.

Apart from her extreme care for the science and great accuracy, Carson’s words today can still inspire.  She was a helluva writer.  Carson made clear that biological research in the wild is really ecology.  Today more than ever before range botanists and zoologists, to take one example, work closely with each other, and with geneticists, molecular biologists, entomologists, chemists, physicists, climatologists, geologists and geographers, and anyone else who wants to chime in, to present clear understandings the ripple effects damage or benefit to one species may have on many others.

Before Rachel Carson, any graduate study programs in ecology were few and far between, often not even called ecology.

Those methods help to save birds, and also every other form of life on the planet.

Blinded, angry and malicious opposition to the facts Carson laid out, and later scientists still lay out, remains the bigger problem.

Chemical manufacturers spent more than $500,000 in 1962 to smear Carson and her work.  The smears largely did not work, instead forcing scientists to look at her work (which they found solid in science).  But since then, tobacco companies with the Tobacco Institute, perfected the techniques of raising doubts about good science among policymakers and the public.  Today companies spend billions to impugn scientific works in climate change, air and water pollution, and health care.  They are joined by an unpaid mob of internet-savvy malcontents to impugn the integrity of the U.S. space program, vaccinations, and even meteorologists who note that airplane exhaust creates condensation trails at high altitudes. (Yes, it’s water vapor.)

This blog’s seeming obsession with Carson was prompted by such an exquisite act of denialism in Congress, seven years ago, when I learned that Utah Congressman Rob Bishop was bragging about blocking the naming of a post office for Carson, based on false claims that Carson had written false or faulty science, that the U.S. ban on DDT use on crops had extended far outside the jurisdiction of the U.S., and that a shortage of DDT meant malaria had come roaring back from near extinction to unnecessarily kill millions. (The post office was eventually named for Carson, but Bishop and other deluded critics have never repented nor apologized.)

(The facts:  Malaria deaths and infection rates both continued to drop, worldwide, after the U.S. stopped spraying DDT on cotton. Many tens of millions fewer people died of malaria after the U.S. banned it.  The U.S. ban covered only the U.S., but let DDT makers keep cranking the stuff out for export, multiplying the amount of DDT available to fight malaria.  Unfortunately, as Carson feared, abuse of DDT in the third world quickly created DDT-resistant and immune mosquitoes; in 1965, the World Health Organization abandoned its malaria eradication campaign because of DDT’s declining effectiveness, a full seven years before the U.S. banned DDT.)

Truth wins in a fair fight, Ben; but as in colonial America, it is necessary for brave citizens to work hard to keep the fight fair.

Because of Rachel Carson, the bald eagle is off the endangered species list, and proliferating in the lower 48 states of the U.S. — as indeed are the peregrine falcon, osprey, and brown pelicans.  DDT continues to hammer many creatures in the wild, however, including the still-endangered  California condor.  Our national policies now require, by law, that significant federal projects consider the environmental effects of those actions, and mitigate the more severe effects or not proceed.  The U.S. now has an agency whose sole job is to consider the safety of chemicals and substances we use in the wild, with power to regulate air and water cleanups — and to clean up more than 400 DDT-contaminated sites on the EPA Priority List, or Superfund.  Among the great successes of this agency was the elimination of lead from gasoline in the U.S., reducing chronic lead poisoning in tens of millions of Americans, and literally raising the national average IQ with elimination of the brain-killing effects of lead.  Lake Erie is cleaner.  The Potomac River, though with its problems, is once again clean enough for humans to swim and boat, as are a hundred other waterways in America, from the Raritan River in New Jersey to the Willamette in Oregon.

Very powerful legacy indeed.

Happy birthday, Rachel Carson; Earth is lucky to have had you, even for such a brief period.

More: 


Eye to eye with a black vulture

May 26, 2014

Great photo out of a group at the University of George studying carrion-eating birds.  They capture vultures — black vultures are a current project.

Close up of an eye of a black vulture.  Photo by Megan Winzeler, at a University of Georgia research project.

Close up of an eye of a black vulture. Photo by Megan Winzeler, at a University of Georgia research project. Note the photographer, reflected in the bird’s eye.

This bird has the unromantic name of BLVU202.

“The last thing the old prospector would see . . .”


Memorial Day 2014: Fly your flag, with proper etiquette

May 26, 2014

Caption from Wikipedia:  Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (May 31, 2004) - Sailors assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor bring the flag to half-mast over the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in honor of Memorial Day May 31, 2004. U.S. Navy photo

Caption from Wikipedia: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (May 31, 2004) – Sailors assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor bring the flag to half-mast over the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in honor of Memorial Day May 31, 2004. U.S. Navy photo

Monday, May 26, 2014, is Memorial Day in the U.S.  It’s the day we honor soldiers who died, either fighting to defend the nation, or after.

Because it honors the dead, the flag-flying rules differ slightly.

If you’re flying your flag from a staff that allows raising and lowering, the flag should be posted at half-staff in the morning at sunrise.  At noon, the flag goes to full-staff position.

Usual flag-raising rules apply: Going up the staff, the flag rises briskly.  Coming down, it sinks slowly.

Before going to the half-staff position to honor the dead, the flag should be raised briskly to the top of the pole, and then brought down slowly to half-staff. At noon, again, the flag rises briskly.  And at retreat, at sundown, the flag comes down slowly.

Most Americans have a flag that attaches to the wall of a residence, or in other ways is not capable of raising and lowering.  In that case, simply post the the flag.

More: 


Insta-Millard: Golden Gate Bridge 50th anniversary, May 24, 1987

May 23, 2014

Happy anniversary, Golden Gate Bridge — opened 77 years ago.

My father was there. In 1937, I mean, not 1987.

Got a link to your favorite picture of the Golden Gate Bridge?

More: 

Golden Gate Bridge from the Pacific side, from Lands End, looking into San Francisco Bay. Wikipedia image.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Pacific side, from Lands End, looking into San Francisco Bay. Wikipedia image.


Why World Turtle Day 2014?

May 23, 2014

English: Turtles. Français : Tortoises. Deutsc...

English: Turtles. Français : Tortoises. Deutsch: Schildkröten. Griechische Schildkröte (Testudo graeca). ¼. Klappschildkröte (Cinosternum pensylvanicum). ¼. Sumpfschildkröte (Cistudo lutaria). ¼. Matamata (Chelys fimbriata). 1/16. Großkopfschildkröte (Platysternum megalocephalurn). ¼. Lederschildkröte (Dermatochelys coriacea). 1/20. Karettschildkröte (Chelone imbricata). 1/20. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

May 23 is World Turtle Day.  In fact, this is the 14th World Turtle Day.

No grand pronouncements from Congress, probably — American Tortoise Rescue picked a day, and that was that.  Their press release for 2014:

American Tortoise Rescue Celebrates World Turtle Day 2014 on May 23rd

Be sure to follow us on Facebook for fun contests and recipes! https://www.facebook.com/WorldTurtleDay

Suggested Tweet:  Celebrate #WorldTurtleDay on May 23 with @TortoiseRescue 

Malibu, CA – May 14, 2014 –  American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) (www.tortoise.com), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is sponsoring its 14th annual World Turtle Day on May 23rd.  The day was created as an observance to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.  Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, founders of ATR, advocate humane treatment of all animals, including reptiles.  Since 1990, ATR has placed about 3,000 tortoises and turtles in caring homes.  ATR assists law enforcement when undersized or endangered turtles are confiscated and provides helpful information and referrals to persons with sick, neglected or abandoned turtles.

“We launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures,” said Tellem. “These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade,” says Tellem. “We are seeing smaller turtles coming into the rescue meaning that older adults are disappearing from the wild thanks to the pet trade, and the breeding stock is drastically reduced.  It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.”  (See slide show here.)

Tellem added, “We are thrilled to learn that organizations and individuals throughout the world now are observing World Turtle Day, including those in Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK and many other countries.” She recommends that adults and children do a few small things that can help to save turtles and tortoises for future generations:

  • Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop as it increases demand from the wild.
  • Never remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they are sick or injured.
  • If a tortoise is crossing a busy highway, pick it up and send it in the same direction it was going – if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again.
  • Write letters to legislators asking them to keep sensitive habitat preserved or closed to off road vehicles, and to prevent off shore drilling that can lead to endangered sea turtle deaths.
  • Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles and tortoises to your local animal control shelter.
  • Report the use of tiny turtles as prizes at carnivals and other events.  It’s illegal.
  • Report the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches.  This is illegal to buy and sell them throughout the U.S.

“Our ultimate goal is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises around the world.  Our first priority here in the U.S. is to ask pet stores and reptile shows to stop the sale of hatchling tortoises and turtles without proper information for the buyer,” says Thompson.  “For example, many people buy sulcata tortoises as an impulse buy because they are so adorable when they are tiny.  The breeders and pet stores frequently do not tell the buyers that this tortoise can grow to 100 pounds or more and needs constant heat throughout the year since they do not hibernate.”

He added, “We also need to educate people and schools about the real risk of contracting salmonella from water turtles.  Wash your hands thoroughly every time you touch a turtle or its water, and do not bring turtles into homes where children are under the age of 12.”

For answers to questions and other information visit American Tortoise Rescue online at http://www.tortoise.com or send e-mail to info@tortoise.com; on Twitter @tortoiserescue; “Like” American Tortoise Rescue on Facebook; and follow World Turtle Day on Facebook. 

Here’s to you Freddie, the Western Box Tortoise from Idaho, and Truck, the desert tortoise from Southern Utah, the friends of my youth.  And all you others.

Red-eared sliders, turtles at Texas Discovery Gardens - photo by Ed Darrell

Red-eared sliders cluster together to catch the sun on a spring day at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park in Dallas. Photo by Ed Darrell, 2010

More, from 2013:


Poster for World Turtle Day (May 23, 2014)

May 23, 2014

World Turtle Day, Share the Roads!

Nice reminder, featuring an Eastern Box Tortoise (I think). Image from Conscious Companion.

A poster from last year.  Still accurate for World Turtle Day 2014.

Have a great World Turtle Day!  Go do something nice for your neighborhood turtles and tortoises.

Other views:

From there, it’s turtles all the way down!

 

More:

 


Identifying poison ivy

May 22, 2014

This may become a series.

Found a good infographic today, on how to identify poison ivy — the bane of every Boy Scout and Scouter west of the Mississippi, and east of the Mississippi, too.

From TreksInTheWild.com, via Daily Infographic

From TreksInTheWild.com, via Daily Infographic

Poison ivy leaves turn a beautiful scarlet in the fall.  This beauty prompted English ship captains dropping off colonists in New England to take the potted vines back to England.

It is my experience that, while everyone can become allergic and react to poison ivy, no one reacts on first serious exposure. If you’re in the woods, it’s good to know what this stuff is, and avoid it.

If you’re exposed, wash it off.  Wash your clothes with some sort of oxidant (oxygen bleach for colors, or chlorine bleach if you don’t care); I use a 3:1 solution, water to chlorine bleach, to shower with after serious exposure.  The active chemical, urushiol, remains active until it is reacted chemically or by ultraviolet light — and so a young Scout who gets some ivy sap under his fingernails can continue to spread the exposure everywhere he scratches, until his hands are really washed clean.

Study the poster, learn to identify the stuff.  There’s a lot more to say.


U.S. spends $38 billion on foreign aid? (Not nearly enough)

May 22, 2014

Glenn Beck got all worked up over this chart, as if it revealed some great, cardinal sin:

Chart on foreign aid as a part of the U.S. budget, from http://www.financedegreecenter.com/foreign-aid/

Chart on foreign aid as a part of the U.S. budget, from http://www.financedegreecenter.com/foreign-aid/

FinanceDegreeCenter.com is a mysterious organization that does no-one-really-will-say what on the internet.  A few months ago I got a series of e-mails from the group, telling that they were changing their name from an earlier iteration and claiming my links to one of their charts jeopardized all the good work they did for people seeking higher education, merely by accurately citing where I got the chart.  That sounded fishy, so I asked them what they did, really, and I got a barrage of e-mails . . .

I think they get paid to steer people to for-profit, on-line schools.  That doesn’t mean their charts are inaccurate, though it does mean I don’t post them without a lot of checking first (this is the first one I’ve posted since then).

Which is a long way of saying, Beck sure has crumby sources.

Bad as the source may be, the information isn’t far off.  But there’s the problem.

Beck’s audience probably believes, as Beck has told them, that the U.S. pays way too much in foreign aid.  Polls repeatedly show most people think we spend anywhere from ten times to a hundred times what we do.  A great little article with charts at the Washington Post explained:

The poll result that seems to most frustrate budget analysts is the apparent belief among Americans that foreign aid is a huge cost to the federal government. The latest poll that my colleague Ezra Klein cites finds that the average American thinks the United States spends 28 percent of the federal budget on aid to foreign governments — more than the country spends on Social Security or Medicare or defense.

In reality, we spend only 1 percent on foreign aid.

This gap between perception and reality is ridiculously large. That’s depressing, but it also presents an opportunity. The case that 28 percent of the budget should go to foreign aid is very strong. And if Americans already think we give that much — well, the least we could do is accommodate them!

We don’t spend enough.  Yes, we spend $38 billion.  That’s less than 1% of total U.S. outlays, and it’s been declining as a share of our Gross National Income and Gross Domestic Product since 1960.

Glenn Beck gets outraged, and shouts away, “$38 billion,” hoping that his shouting will make the number appear larger than it is.  He thinks, and says, it’s too much.

$38 billion?  Less than 1% of the budget.  Less than one penny of every dollar.

As a nation, the U.S. does not spend enough on foreign aid.  We should spend more.

Think of the good that could be done, if our nation actually did increase foreign aid to equal 25% of the federal budget (without taking it out of the hides of poverty-struck, homeless newborn babies and baby ducks as GOP legislators would insist).  How would the world be different?

More, and resources: 


Night heron in the Ding Darling NWR, by Errickson

May 22, 2014

Love this photo for many reasons.

U. S. Department of Interior on Twitter:  Amazing photo of a night heron in J.N.

U. S. Department of Interior on Twitter: Amazing photo of a night heron in J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR by intern Libby Errickson. @USFWSSoutheast #Florida pic.twitter.com/PA04nE4hhD

Let me count the ways I love it:

  • It’s a great photo, of a beautiful bird — a pose you won’t see often.
  • An intern took it.  Management of our great natural treasures, the Wildlife Refuges, the National Parks, the National Monuments, is flat enough that an intern can get great experience, and spend a lifetime — and score a great picture that the poobahs in Washington like and promote.  It’s a career photo; let’s hope Libby Errickson has (or had) a great internship, and this is just the first of many career photos or studies or whatever.
  • At a time when federal management of public lands is under fire, generally unjustifiably, simply for doing a good job but not having billionaires running their press operations, this is one more small example of something done right, for a long time.  The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest in the U.S.  It was created by Executive Order from President Harry Truman in 1945, and is now one of more than 500 units of National Wildlife Refuges under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other federal agencies.
  • Bonus:  Ding Darling was a political cartoonist, and a conservationist.  His pen, in pictures and words, convinced authorities to stop the sale and development of Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico, preserving unique and valuable bird habitat.  This refuge celebrates one of our greatest political cartoonists.  It was renamed from Sanibel to Ding Darling NWR in 1967.  If you ask me, we don’t honor our political cartoonists enough.

More:

Video on the refuge, from the Ding Darling Society:


Top spammers? Really odd mix (please send the Aston-Martin, keep the Kia)

May 21, 2014

A few days ago I noted that this blog is under a severe spam attack series.  Still true, and the spam has increased.

Please, no spam. Apologies to Hormel's Spam.

Please, no spam. Apologies to Hormel’s Spam.

Looking at the spam, the top spammers look really odd.  For years internet pornography and sex talk sites dominated spam, but after the arrest of some top spammers in those fields, it dropped off dramatically.

Today?  Here is a list of six top spammers I’ve got, hitting me with more than 100 spam posts per hour, combined:

  • Quirk Volkswagen, in Manchester, New Hampsire; one of the ip addresses used is 186.95.33.219
  • San Diego Aston-Martin (maybe I should be flattered?), including this ip address: 186.91.230.150
  • OnlyExotic.com, including 186.93.101.107 — a seller of exotic automobiles
  • Paul Cerame Kia in Florissant, Missouri, from 186.95.218.21
  • getforeverrecovery.com, apparently a privately-run detoxification and rehabilitation facility, 223.30.29.210
  • Keller Grover, LLP, a California law firm, including 103.12.160.21

Were I less familiar with spam, I’d think each of these organizations is near bankruptcy, and each is desperately trying to get enough traffic to keep the doors open.  But after years, I’ve discovered that the most desperate generally cannot afford to waste time spamming.

I’d almost wager that these organizations and companies hired some public relations group to “place” their ads across the internet and get hits on the ads.  And I’d almost wager they are unaware of what their hirelings are doing.  A lot of the spam links directly to promotional videos on YouTube.  Yes, it’s against YouTube policies to use spam video links.

What do you think customers of these companies would think, if they knew?  Do you think they get significant business from a thousand comments on Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub?

Spam from Aston-Martin of San Diego.

Hey, Aston-Martin of San Diego — send me one of these including tax and title (I’ll license it here in Texas), you can spam my blog all you want for a year. Heck, I’ll even fly to San Diego at my expense to pick it up from you. But otherwise, please knock off the spam.

Keller Grover, can you tell me -- pro bono, of course -- whether California legal canons endorse a law firm spamming across the internet.  I need to know for a friend.

Keller Grover, can you tell me — pro bono, of course — whether California legal canons endorse a law firm’s spamming across the internet? Can I sue them for unauthorized product placement, or unauthorized advertising, and collect?  I need to know for a friend.

Yes, I’ve protested to these people at their comments sections and by e-mail.

Update: Heh.  Not 12 hours later, someone sent me this link, where Quirk VW said:

Our dealership maintains a strict “no-spam” policy. Subscribers to our e-mail services (or any other feature/service found on our Web site) will not receive unsolicited e-mail messages from us.

That’s my problem:  I didn’t send them any e-mail!

Meanwhile, at Whipped Cream Difficulties, the same complaint, about some of the same spammers.


Sunset on the Madison

May 20, 2014

Photo after photo, I come increasingly to understand why my oldest brother, Jerry, wanted to spend his life and eternity in the Yellowstone.

Wholly apart from the thermal “features” and geological wonders, the area is just smashingly beautiful day in and day out, in even the mundane areas away from the celebrated features.

Here’s a part of the Madison River, just flowing through its streambed, at sunset.

Yellowstone National Park's Twitter feed:  Spring sunset on the Madison River. pic.twitter.com/8nZSxJvBeZ

Yellowstone National Park’s Twitter feed: Spring sunset on the Madison River. pic.twitter.com/8nZSxJvBeZ


Free land! May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act remade America

May 20, 2014

A family off to find and settle their homestead, 1886. Photo from the National Archives

A family off to find and settle their homestead, 1886. Photo from the National Archives

History and demographics of the United States were forever changed when the Homestead Act became law early in the administration of President Abraham Lincoln, on May 20, 1862.

With Congress paralyzed and unable to act to do even minor good things now, it’s astonishing to think how the Congress of 1862 could do so much to open the American west, in the middle of the American Civil War.  Perhaps Congress was able to act because legislators from the South were absent, and did not oppose progress.

In any case, the Homestead Act encouraged Americans who lacked property to strike out for the western territories and states, to make a new life, to found new towns, cities and farms, and fulfill what some call the nation’s “manifest destiny.”

The bill that became the Homestead Act, H.R. 125, in the 37th Congress, 1862. Image from the U.S. National Archives

The bill that became the Homestead Act, H.R. 125, in the 37th Congress, 1862. Image from the U.S. National Archives

Here’s the history from the National Archives:

The notion that the United States government should give free land titles to settlers to encourage westward expansion became popular in the 1850s. During that time the U.S. House of Representatives passed numerous homestead bills but southern opposition in the Senate prevented enactment. In 1860, during the 36th Congress, the Senate narrowly passed a homestead act but President James Buchanan vetoed it and the Senate failed its override attempt.

When the 37th Congress convened for its brief summer session in 1861, now without members from seceded states, it was preoccupied with Civil War-related legislation. The House took up briefly the homestead issue in December but postponed further consideration of it until the following February. The House finally passed the Homestead Act on February 28, 1862 by the large margin of 107 to 16. The act worked its way through the Senate until May 6, 1862 when it passed easily by a vote of 33 to 7. After a few minor changes in conference committee—which both houses agreed to without controversy—Congress sent the final legislation to President Abraham Lincoln who signed the act into law on May 20, 1862.

The Homestead Act encouraged western migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of land in exchange for a nominal filing fee. Among its provisions was a five-year requirement of continuous residence before receiving the title to the land and the settlers had to be, or in the process of becoming, U.S. citizens. Through 1986, when the last claim was made in Alaska, the Homestead Act distributed 270 million acres of land in the United States making it arguably one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history.

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Much of this post has appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub before; the Homestead Act deserves commemoration.


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