Polar bears demand Goldilocks ice; she’s baked to death in the sun

March 9, 2018

Long-term variability and loss of February #Arctic sea ice volume (left) and thickness (right) during the satellite era. Data from PIOMAS, graphic by Zachary Labe.
Polar bears need Goldilocks ice. There isn’t much. Zachary Labe’s .gif shows the decline in ice thick enough from which polar bears can hunt, right up to 2018. Hunting areas for the bears decline, and bears will go hungry and cubs will die. Polar bear researcher Andrew Derocher told us on Twitter what the graphic means:
Great graphic to refute deniers spouting that there’s more sea ice in the Arctic. For , it’s a Goldilocks scenario: sea ice can’t be too thick, too thin, too much, too little, it has to be just right. Of course, too thick isn’t an issue anymore.
Though the dangers to polar bears “isn’t an issue anymore” among scientists, it is also true that denialists, especially on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, drive opinion contrary to science and against the interest of the survival of polar bears. A paper by a group of scientists including members of the Polar Bear Specialist Group recently detailed that the internet legions of denial convince many people polar bears are not in trouble, making it difficult to work to save the animals.


Increasing surface temperatures, Arctic sea-ice loss, and other evidence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are acknowledged by every major scientific organization in the world. However, there is a wide gap between this broad scientific consensus and public opinion. Internet blogs have strongly contributed to this consensus gap by fomenting misunderstandings of AGW causes and consequences. Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have become a “poster species” for AGW, making them a target of those denying AGW evidence. Here, focusing on Arctic sea ice and polar bears, we show that blogs that deny or downplay AGW disregard the overwhelming scientific evidence of Arctic sea-ice loss and polar bear vulnerability. By denying the impacts of AGW on polar bears, bloggers aim to cast doubt on other established ecological consequences of AGW, aggravating the consensus gap. To counter misinformation and reduce this gap, scientists should directly engage the public in the media and blogosphere.
Reduced ice means smaller, less healthy cubs, hungrier less healthy mothers, hungrier, more-likely-to-eat-cubs males.  
While denialists rage, the Earth still warms. Eppure, lei si scalda.
Tip of the old scrub brush to Andrew Derocher on Twitter.    

Cute pictures of polar bears, masking tragedy

March 17, 2015

It came from @planetpics on Twitter.

A beautiful picture of a polar bear cub getting a lift across the water from its mom!  Life on Earth/@planetpics

“A beautiful picture of a polar bear cub getting a lift across the water from its mom!” Life on Earth/@planetpics

Couldn’t help but wonder if that cub will survive the next few months, let alone to adulthood.

Generally, polar bear mothers den on pack ice, and the cub would be kept on the ice while the mother hunted from that platform.  Polar bears can swim, but not well, and not far, usually.  They cannot hunt while swimming.  To eat, they wait on the ice for seals to come up for air, then grab the seals.

Lack of hard ice platforms, pack ice, means mother polar bears can’t hunt to feed their cubs.  While an adult polar bear can swim a distance to find ice, the cubs can’t. And if the adult doesn’t find hard ice, they perish.  Long swims are deadly to cubs.

It’s a cute pic, and we hope momma bear is swimming to an ice platform and can feed that cute little cub so it grows and flourishes.

We know the odds are against it.

Annals of global warming: No, polar bears are not “fine” — suffer from loss of sea ice

March 20, 2013

Press release from The Journal of Animal Ecology (links added here):

For polar bears, it’s survival of the fattest

One of the most southerly populations of polar bears in the world – and the best studied – is struggling to cope with climate-induced changes to sea ice, new research reveals. Based on over 10 years’ data the study, published in the British Ecological Society‘s Journal of Animal Ecology, sheds new light on how sea ice conditions drive polar bears’ annual migration on and off the ice.

Led by Dr. Seth Cherry of the University of Alberta, the team studied polar bears in western Hudson Bay, where sea ice melts completely each summer and typically re-freezes from late November to early December. “This poses an interesting challenge for a species that has evolved as a highly efficient predator of ice-associated seals,” he explains. “Because although polar bears are excellent swimmers compared with other bear species, they use the sea ice to travel, hunt, mate and rest.”

Polar bear and two cubs wait for ice to reform

Caption from EurekAlert: An adult female polar bear wearing a GPS-satellite linked collar with her two 10-month-old cubs waits for the sea ice to re-form onshore in western Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada. Photo Copyright Andrew Derocher, Univeristy of Alberta.

Polar bears have adapted to the annual loss of sea ice by migrating onto land each summer. While there, they cannot hunt seals and must rely on fat reserves to see them through until the ice returns.

Dr. Cherry and colleagues wanted to discover how earlier thawing and later freezing of sea ice affects the bears’ migration. “At first glance, sea ice may look like a barren, uniform environment, but in reality, it’s remarkably complex and polar bears manage to cope, and even thrive, in a habitat that moves beneath their feet and even disappears for part of the year. This is an extraordinary biological feat and biologist still don’t fully understand it,” he says.

From 1991-97 and 2004-09, they monitored movements of 109 female polar bears fitted with satellite tracking collars. They tagged only females because males’ necks are wider than their heads, so they cannot wear a collar. During the same period, the team also monitored the position and concentration of sea ice using satellite images.

“Defining precisely what aspects of sea ice break-up and freeze-up affect polar bear migration, and when these conditions occur, is a vital part of monitoring how potential climate-induced changes to sea ice freeze-thaw cycles may affect the bears,” he says.

The results reveal the timing of polar bears’ migration can be predicted by how fast the sea ice melts and freezes, and by when specific sea ice concentrations occur within a given area of Hudson Bay.

According to Dr. Cherry: “The data suggest that in recent years, polar bears are arriving on shore earlier in the summer and leaving later in the autumn. These are precisely the kind of changes one would expect to see as a result of a warming climate and may help explain some other studies that are showing declines in body condition and cub production.”

Recent estimates put the western Hudson Bay polar bear population at around 900 individuals. The population has declined since the 1990s, as has the bears’ body condition and the number of cubs surviving to adulthood.

Young polar bear challenged by lack of sea ice, Andrew Derocher photo

Caption from EurekAlert: This is a subadult polar bear on a lake on the shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada in November waiting for the sea ice to re-form. Copyright Andrew Derocher, Univeristy of Alberta.

Because polar bears’ main food source is seals, and these are hunted almost exclusively on sea ice, the longer bears spend on land, the longer they must go without energy-rich seals. “Climate-induced changes that cause sea ice to melt earlier, form later, or both, likely affect the overall health of polar bears in the area. Ultimately, for polar bears, it’s survival of the fattest,” says Dr. Cherry.

He hopes the results will enable other scientists and wildlife managers to predict how potential climate-induced changes to sea ice freeze-thaw cycles will affect the ecology, particularly the migration patterns, of this iconic species.


Seth Cherry et al (2013). ‘Migration phenology and seasonal fidelity of an Arctic marine predator in relation to sea ice dynamics’, doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12050, is published in the Journal of Animal Ecology on Wednesday 20 March 2013.


Press release on polar bears the climate change skeptics hope you won’t read

August 2, 2009

Why did the self-proclaimed skeptics work so hard to discredit this meeting before it even occurred?  Why have they ignored this press release?

Take it easy! Calm down, stick to the facts! Polar bear photo by Kathy Crane, NOAA Arctic Research Office

“Take it easy! Calm down, stick to the facts!” Polar bear photo by Kathy Crane, NOAA Arctic Research Office

There is no dramatic finding in the release.  After you read it, you’ll probably wonder, too, why climate change skeptics don’t want you to read this press release:

15th meeting of PBSG in Copenhagen, Denmark 2009


The 15th meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG), hosted by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, was held at the Greenland Representation in Copenhagen Denmark , June 29-July 3, 2009.  The Polar Bear Specialist Group is composed of researchers and managers representing each of the five circumpolar nations that signed the International Agreement for the Conservation of Polar Bears of 1973.  Since the late 1960s, the members of PBSG have met every 3 to 5 years under the umbrella of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) to review and exchange information, and make recommendations for research and management of polar bears throughout the Arctic.

The PBSG renewed the conclusion from previous meetings that the greatest challenge to conservation of polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic resulting from climatic warming.  Declines in the extent of the sea ice have accelerated since the last meeting of the group in 2005, with unprecedented sea ice retreats in 2007 and 2008. The PBSG confirmed its earlier conclusion that unabated global warming will ultimately threaten polar bears everywhere.

The PBSG also recognized that threats to polar bears will occur at different rates and times across their range although warming induced habitat degradation and loss are already negatively affecting polar bears in some parts of their range. Subpopulations of polar bears face different combinations of human threats.  The PBSG recommends that jurisdictions take into account the variation in threats facing polar bears.

The PBSG noted polar bears suffer health effects from persistent pollutants.  At the same time, climate change appears to be altering the pathways by which such pollutants enter ecosystems. The PBSG encourages international efforts to evaluate interactions between climate change and pollutants.

The PBSG endorses efforts to develop non-invasive means of population assessment, and continues to encourage jurisdictions to incorporate capture and radio tracking programs into their national monitoring efforts. The members also recognized that aboriginal people are both uniquely positioned to observe wildlife and changes in the environment, and their knowledge is essential for effective management.

The PBSG recognizes that where habitats are stable, polar bears are a renewable resource, and reaffirmed its support of the right of aboriginal groups to harvest polar bears within sustainable limits.  The PBSG noted that the population of polar bears in Baffin Bay, shared between Greenland and Canada, may simultaneously be suffering from significant habitat change and substantial over harvest, while at the same time interpretations by scientists and local hunters disagree regarding population status.  Similarly, the Chukchi Sea polar bear population which is shared by Russia and the United States is likely declining due to illegal harvest in Russia and one of the highest rates of sea ice loss in the Arctic. Consistent with its past efforts to coordinate research and management among jurisdictions, the PBSG recommended that the polar bear populations in Baffin Bay and the Chukchi Sea be reassessed and that harvests be brought into balance with the current sustainable yield.

A variety of management changes have occurred since the PBSG last met in 2005.  The PBSG members were particularly pleased that quotas for the harvest of polar bears in Greenland were implemented in January 2006, and that quota reductions have been implemented in some parts of Greenland.  Also since the last meeting, the government of Nunavut reduced the harvest quota in Western Hudson Bay because of the documented population decline.

The PBSG reevaluated the status of the 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears distributed over vast and relatively inaccessible areas of the Arctic. Despite the fact that much new information has been made available since the last meeting, knowledge of some populations is still poor.  Reviewing the latest information available the PBSG concluded that 1 of 19 subpopulations is currently increasing, 3 are stable and 8 are declining.  For the remaining 7 subpopulations available data were insufficient to provide an assessment of current trend.  The total number of polar bears is still thought to be between 20,000 and 25,000.  However, the mixed quality of information on the different subpopulations means there is much room for error in establishing that range.  That potential for error, given the ongoing and projected changes in habitats and other potential stressors is cause for concern.  Nonetheless, the PBSG is optimistic that humans can mitigate the effects of global warming and other threats to polar bears, and ensure that they remain a part of the Arctic ecosystem in perpetuity.

Dr. Erik Born from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources was elected as the new chairman of the group after Dr. Andrew Derocher from the University of Alberta, who has been serving as chair since 2005.

Well, there is that proclamation of optimism in the penultimate paragraph, that humans can mitigate threats to bears, including global warming.  Is that why they don’t want you to read it?

How are the polar bears?  They are in trouble.  The Polar Bear Specialist Group says we should help them out, that we can do things to save the bears.  Why would the “skeptics” not want us to know that?

Other resources:


Denialism doesn’t work: Polar bears still in trouble

February 9, 2009

Is there a climate change denialist blog that hasn’t tried to claim that the rest of the world is crazy, and that polar bears are in no danger at all?

As a tactic to save polar bears, denial doesn’t work.  Arctic Economics reports on research showing polar bears often go without food, a bad tactic for long-term survival.

Polar bear in the open ocean, Los Angeles Times photo

Polar bear in the open ocean, Los Angeles Times photo

You want that in English?  Sure:  Polar bears are starving to death because of climate change.  Shifts in the ice have ruined their hunting.

And, as often these days, I mention that here because it is one more case where “falsified data” or “badly placed measuring stations” can’t affect the outcome.  Polar bears don’t read The Economist. Last I checked ticket sales, no polar bear had ever seen Al Gore’s movie, let alone been misled by it.  It cannot be the case that polar bears starve because they believe hyped and false claims about global warming.  Polar bears starve because it’s really warmer.


Update, 3-5-2009 — One of the signs of insanity among warming disbelievers is their practice of censoring comments on their blogs, when the blog owner edits the comments of opponents to make them look silly and, importantly, to keep contrary views backed by reason from infecting the blog.

The unbearable lightness of Palin groupies

November 24, 2009

I’m not sure what to make of this.  No amount of dopeslapping or head:desk banging is going to help these people get a clue.

And while I haven’t read Sarah Palin’s book, I’ll wager they won’t get a clue there, either.  Listening to the interviews one wonders whether they would be able to read Palin’s book.  Most of the kids who work hard to fail my classes look like geniuses next to these people.

And then a horrifying thought bubbles up:  Dear God, these people might actually vote!  They probably view Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” sequences with astonished looks and great confusion.  They can’t tell what’s wrong with the answers, and they miss the humor.

I found this piece at Canadian Cynic (from whom I stole the headline) — he confessed he could only stand just under two minutes of this torture.

For Palin groupies, here are a couple of issues to consider while watching this video:

  1. While it’s done by New Left Media, it’s astonishing that anyone could find so many babbling idiots at one gathering, anywhere in America.  This was Ohio?   Yeah, Columbus; I know people in Columbus.  I fear for their lives, now.
  2. Palin has never made any particular defense of the First Amendment, nor of any of the five freedoms it enumerates.  When people say she stands for “freedom to speak,” or “freedom of religion,” they are making stuff up.
  3. “Realness” is not a policy.
  4. Tax cutting isn’t generally a great policy when people aren’t making enough to pay any taxes at all.  Tax cutting contributed to our current mess.
  5. Socialism is not “giving away money.”
  6. Obama’s two books do not portray Marxism in a good light.  They don’t mention Marxism as a potential path for any American, anywhere.
  7. “Czar” is a shorter word for a headline than “Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” or “Special Assistant to the President for Energy Policy.”  People who are called “czars” by headline writers do not have any special powers beyond being right when they speak to the president (among many other advisors).  The real power is held by agency heads, like the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Treasury.  The President’s Cabinet is not a wooden device in which he keeps his dinnerware.
  8. One may always question motives, but on the issue of Obama’s “liking” the military, consider:  He’s appointed many former military people to important positions, including U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, to get good advice from people who know the military well; Obama is the only president since Johnson, maybe since Lincoln, to go meet victims of war as their caskets come back to their families; Obama is the only sitting president ever to visit the graves of victims of a current conflict at Arlington National CemeteryThe lives and welfare of our men and women in uniform has been a singular focus of this president.
  9. Talk of martial law?  Not from Obama.  Not in the administration.  Not in any agency.  Not in Congress.  Only in wingnut dens.
  10. Illegal aliens cannot be naturalized under current law.  No illegal aliens are being naturalized.  When found, they are being deported.
  11. Obama is an American citizen; even the courts are getting testy about that, tossing the crazy lawsuits out with harsh comments for people who are so gullibly dumb.
  12. It’s 700 miles from Sarah Palin’s home to the nearest point in Russia.  “Seeing Russia from the backyard” is a figure of speech, and not accurate in any way.
  13. The Governor of Alaska is not the first defense against any attack from a foreign nation on the U.S., coming through Alaska.  The U.S. Air Force has jurisdiction, and still patrols that area, along with satellite and radar surveillance.  In an attack, the official role of the Governor of Alaska is to duck and stay out of the way.
  14. The Governor of Alaska has no special security clearance that no other governor has.  I’m not sure that any governor has a security clearance as governor.
  15. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is not a player in the protection of polar bears, nor any other animal on listed as threatened or endangered.
  16. No proposal is before Congress to change current law on “partial birth” abortion.  Since there is a law on the topic, it would take a new law, passed by Congress, to change current law.  Obama can’t touch it without Congressional action.  (This is basic civics, you know?)
  17. Are you afraid of what’s happening in America?  After you listen to these yahoos, you may have cause to fear what would happen if their views were to carry an election.

Are people still lining up for lobotomies?  Do they directly from the operating table to a Sarah Palin book signing?

We can hope New Left Media edited out all the cogent, intelligent remarks.  I have this nagging fear that they didn’t have to edit at all.

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Fly Old Glory, to welcome the New Year

January 1, 2018

Reuters photo captured the Polar Bear Swim at Coney Island on January 1, 2016. New Years Day is one of the Flag Code designated days to fly the flag.

Reuters photo captured the Polar Bear Swim at Coney Island on January 1, 2016. New Years Day is one of the Flag Code designated days to fly the flag.

Fly your flag on January 1, one of the designated dates in the U.S. Flag Code. It’s a new year, a good time to fly the colors to get any new enterprise off to a good start.

Let’s hope for a better 2018 than the past two years have been.

Got a photo of your flag flying on January 1? Let us see it, in comments.


Stupid-Boy-Cries- “Wolf” Department: Thieves release more e-mails stolen from climate scientists

November 23, 2011

In his clear style, Tim Lambert at Deltoid lays out the basic facts:

Some more of the emails stolen from the Climate Research Centre in 2009 have been released. This time they are accompanied by a readme with out-of-context quotes that asserts the purpose of the release is information transparency, but that’s an obvious lie, since they’ve sat on them for two years and released them just before Durban conference. The timing suggests that the people behind the theft and release have a financial interest in preventing mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. It is most unlikely that there is anything incriminating in these emails — if there was, it would have been released two years ago.

Gavin Schmidt is providing context for the emails, Brendan DeMelle has an extensive roundup and Stephan Lewandowsky writes about the real scandal.

I remind readers that the last round revealed wrong-doing only by accomplices and friends of the thieves, and revealed no wrong-doing on the part of climate scientists.

Especially, the last round revealed no data to show warming is not happening, nor any data to show anything but righteous and noble concern to mitigate or stop the human contribution to the pollution that causes unnatural global warming.  This round of releases will do the same, I predict.

Joe Romm illustrated his post on the issue (which you will want to read) with this cartoon from Drew Sheneman of the Newark Star-Ledger:

Drew Sheneman, Newark Star-Ledger, on politics around findings of global warming

Drew Sheneman, Newark Star-Ledger, on politics around findings of global warming; polar bears won't read the stolen e-mails, refuse to be convinced findings of warming comprise a hoax

(Does anyone have the date on that cartoon?  Is it, like this one from Tom Toles, so old it indicates denialists do nothing new under the sun?)

In the two years since the last release of stolen e-mails, a few hundred studies on global warming have been published confirming the fact that warming occurs, and confirming the links to human activity as a cause of unnatural warming.  Even Anthony Watts’s work was published, but when analyzed, it also showed global warming and not miscalculations of data or misreadings of data  (Watts denies the results from his data).

So, in two years, climate change denialists have been unable to find any significant chunk of data to support any of their claims, while the planet continues to warm at an increasingly alarming rate. 

How many times do we allow the miscreant to call “wolf” falsely?  Why would we believe him on any other issue?

More, Resources: 

Big bone sale in Dallas

June 11, 2011

Big bones.  Big sale.

Heritage Auction's triceratops, for Jun 12, 2011 auction

Triceratops welcomes bidders and gawkers to the Heritage Auction sale of fossils, gems, meteorites, and other national history ephemera. HA estimates this nearly-complete triceratops, mounted, to be worth about $700,000; less than 24 hours before the live auction, it has an online bid of $500,000 already.

Heritage Auctions set up a bug bunch of fossils, gems, meteorites, taxidermy, and art work from natural materials, for an auction on Sunday, June 12, 2011.

2011 June Dallas Signature Platinum Natural History Auction – Dallas, TX.  Auction #6061.

I can’t afford to bid, but they let me in to get photos.  Nice people.

Heritage Auctions' June special, a triceratops - IMGP6882 photo by Ed Darrell; use permitted with attribution

Heritage Auctions' June special, a triceratops - photo by Ed Darrell; use permitted with attribution

The triceratops greets visitors and bidders at the display site, the Tower Building at Dallas’s art deco gem, Fair Park.  (If you look at the ceiling above the triceratops, you can see where restorers have stripped away several layers of paint to reveal the original ceiling paintings — original artwork, including murals, was painted over in the years following the dramatic debut of the buildings; restoration work proceeds slowly because of lack of funding.)

Triceratops horridus
Hell Creek formation, Harding County, South Dakota

Researchers dug this particular specimen out of the ground in 2004.  HA’s description just makes one’s science juices flow:

Triceratops has enjoyed much cultural publicity ever since its discovery. It is an iconic dinosaur that has appeared in movies ranging from black and white cinema to modern movies like “Jurassic Park.” It has also been in cartoons, such as the children’s classic “The Land before Time.” Triceratops is also the official state fossil of South Dakota and the official state dinosaur of Wyoming.

The present specimen was discovered in 2004 in two parts: First, the fossil hunters came upon pieces of dinosaur bone eroding down a gully. Following these bone fragments, they eventually came upon large bones that would indicate the presence of a large Ceratopsian dinosaur. While this large mass of bones was being excavated, other members of the team followed another bone trail which led them to an amazingly well preserved skull 750 feet away from the original discovery. Over the course of months, the specimens were carefully excavated in large blocks; each specimen was covered in plaster jackets and removed from the field to the lab. It was only during preparation that they discovered the dinosaur was a Triceratops, and it happened to be a Triceratops with an incredibly complete skull. The bones and skull were carefully removed from their field jackets and prepared using hand tools. Broken bones were professionally repaired and restored while a few missing elements were cast from other Triceratops skeletons. A custom made mount was created to support the bones and the skull; innovative bracket mounts were crafted for each bone so that no bones had to be damaged in order to mount them. The bones were mounted in osteologically correct position; making it comparable to and possibly surpassing the accuracy of older mounts in museum displays. Though it is impossible to say whether or not the skull is original to the specimen, being discovered 750 feet apart, it is certainly possible that the two elements are associated for a number of reasons: first, the size of the skull is consistent with the proportional size dimensions of the skeleton, and second, the surrounding matrix (host rock) was identical in composition.

The completed skeleton is enormous; measuring 19 feet long from head to tail, 11 feet across, and towering 12 feet tall. The skull itself measures 7 feet long with 3 ½ foot long horns; placing it near the top of the size range for Triceratops skulls. The leg bones stand 10 feet tall from toes to the top of the scapula; dwarfing many other Triceratops skeletons. Given that the skull represents about 30% of a dinosaur’s entire skeleton, the present specimen is about 75% original bone, with the right leg, pelvic region, several cervical vertebrae and a few tail vertebrae being cast reproductions.

Who owns the thing?  Who put it together?   Who is losing the specimen, should it go to a private collection (you got a living room that big?), and which museum really wants it?

But that’s just one of the specimens up for sale at this auction, and not necessarily the best.  Also up for bid:  A stegosaurus, and an allosaurus, posed as a “fighting pair.”

Fighting pair - allosaurus and stegosaurus, from Heritage Auctions' June 12, 2011 sale of fossils IMGP6839 - photo copyright by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

The "fighting pair," an allosaurus (left) and stegosaurus (right) posed in combat positions. Photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution.

If it sells, the stegosaurus will cost a lucky bidder more than $1 million.  The allosaurus requires $1.6 million.

Am I jaded?  On the one hand you can’t look at these specimens without thinking they deserve to be seen by kids, and adults, and studied by paleontologists and biologist of all stripes — and so who has the right to sell these off?  On the other hand, this is a Second Gilded Age, and the search for prize fossil specimens is often financed by the proceeds from these auctions.  I enjoyed an hour’s browsing and photographing — a slide presentation on the wonders of America for some sleepy class next fall.

How many of these specimens will I get a chance to see again in the future?

Or, Dear Reader, how many of these will you ever get a chance to see?

HA will sell a lot more than just a few dinosaur fossils.  This same sale includes the largest shark jawbone ever found, stuffed Kodiak and polar bears (from the same hunter), gems, art from petrified wood and fossilized fish, and a large selection of meteorites, including the only meteoroid ever confirmed to have struck and killed a living creature (a cow in Argentine; you can’t toss a stone without hitting a cow in Argentina, I hear).

Giant shark jaw for Heritage Auctions' June 2011 sale

Requires a large wall and high ceilings to display

I don’t plan to go bid; there’s about an hour remaining for online bidding tonight, but if you’re interested and you’ve got your income tax refund burning a hole in your pocket, you can also bid by telephone and hotlink on the internet (go to the Heritage Auction site for details).   Frankly, I don’t think the sale will get the attention it deserves.  I hope these spectacular specimens will land where they can get  a great, admiring and studious audience.

Lies, damned lies, statistics, and Steve Goddard’s computer animation

August 5, 2010

Add this to the Heights of Hoaxiness files:  Steve Goddard (go here if you need to catch up) has made an astounding discovery, which he reveals with a .gif and YouTube animation of the Earth at Anthony Watts’s blog, Watts Up With That? (WUWT).

Goddard discovered that, if one ignores warming of small amounts, and counts it as not warming at all, the colors on a color-coded map change a lot, and look a lot cooler.

Shorter Goddard:  Hide the increase in temperatures, and it looks like temperatures don’t increase nearly as much.

Steve Goddard's map of a warming Pacific Ocean, hiding the small increases

Steve Goddard's map of a warming Pacific Ocean, hiding the small increases in temperature. (This should be a .gif that changes as you watch; if you see no animation, click on the image)

Goddard's cooler Pacific 3

Steve Goddard's map of a warming Pacific Ocean, hiding the small increases in temperature. (Another version, trying to get the .gif to display.) This should be a .gif that changes as you watch; if you see no animation, click on the image

You couldn’t make up such denialism if you tried.  If you submitted this stuff as fiction, it couldn’t get published.

Here’s an object warning about turning angry monkeys loose with graphics software:  Goddard’s YouTube:

Key unanswered question:  If we ignore rising temperatures, do they stop rising?  If we ignore rising temperatures, can glaciers, oceans, plants and animals be convinced to do the same?

How many polar bears read Steve Goddard’s posts at WUWT?  Can they be persuaded?

Somebody exhume Benjamin Disraeli.  He needs to update his stuff.

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Dan Valentine – The Pink Cigarette Lighter, Part 2

July 13, 2010

By Dan Valentine


I was out on the veranda–inhaling my first drag from a cig, slurping my first sip from a cup–when the morning receptionist appeared.

Upon seeing her, I took a look at an imaginary watch on my wrist (my true watch is in my carry-on–the band broke months ago) and said, “You’re late!” I was joking. I didn’t have the slightest idea what time it was. I wrote into the wee hours.

“You, too?” she said. “Nobody lets me be me in this world.” She was half-joking, but all humor has a serious side, or it wouldn’t be funny. No identification.

I guess, she WAS a little late and Gabby, the manager, had gotten on her case. I can relate. She’s gotten on my case more than once, and I’m a guest.

The other night I was outside, having a cigarette, thinking, pacing, when two Mexican gentlemen stopped to inquire if I had any food to spare. “We not eat.” They were homeless and penniless. They had just come from L.A. where they had found little or no work and had returned home across the border. I told them to wait a sec.

I poked my head inside and told Gabby, “There are two gents in need of something to eat.”

She’s a teacher. In her spare time, she teaches a small group, of four or five, creative writing here at the hostel, which she was busy doing at that moment. She couldn’t very well say no in front of her students, so she got up and went to the kitchen and filled two plastic bags full of goods. She may have even taken a well-guarded and cherished jar of strawberry jam out of the locked safe and included it. (I shouldn’t be so judgmental. She probably would have done the good deed on her own, without me or her students here or not.)

She gave the two gentlemen the bags–in return, the two sincerely thanked her and went on their way– and Gabby turned to me and said, “Charming? Yes?”

Si, indeed!

Sunday afternoon–the staff’s day off–she’s about to leave with no one here but me. I asked, “Do you want me to stay around?” You know, just in case someone wanted to check in.

She sad, “No. Leave. Leave forever!”

I had to laugh.

But where was I? Oh, yes. “Nobody lets me be me in this world.” I love that phrase. It says a lot.

I told her so, and she, the morning receptionist, sat to have a chat about this-and-that. Sat-chat-that. Perfect rhymes. Imperfect world.

During our conversation, among many other things–now aware that I was writing a piece on gays and lesbians and those in between–she informed me that three transvestite prostitutes had been found murdered recently and left on the side of the road between here and Rosarito, a small town up the Baja coast–killed by some macho Mexican male or more, she supposed.

One may have very well been wearing pink, I just thought to myself. It doesn’t take much–I know from personal experience–to fuel the fervor in some to kill or hurt another fellow human being.

The Aztecs used to execute homosexuals, and you don’t wanna know the details of how they went about it. Transvestites–whatever their sexual preference–were executed also and, again, you don’t wanna know the gruesome details.

Under Spanish rule “maschismo” was introduced to the Western Hemisphere: Men are men and should act accordingly. Make war not love.

In the mid-’90s, a Mexicana airline pilot had security guards at Guadalajara International Airport escort two San Francisco-bound lesbians off the plane for engaging in immoral behavior. They were seen holding hands.

Two dozen homosexuals were murdered in Mexico during the first-half of that decade, most of them transvestites. And now, years later in 2010, three more can be added to the list.

My fellow Americans, north of the border, I sincerely and humbly apologize. We are not alone, not by a long shot, not that I thought for a moment that we were. Hatred for those who are born different is universal.

Pearl Harbor was the home port of my first ship when serving in the Navy. This was many decades before don’t-ask-don’t-tell–1969 or so. The scuttlebutt on board at one time was that several snipes in Engineering–not just two but several–had been swiftly discharged for gay activities. From first-hand experience, I know you can’t believe everything, or anything, you hear aboard a ship.

To get from the Naval Base to Waikiki Beach, you had to catch a bus that let you off on Hotel Street in Honolulu, where you waited to transfer to another bus. On Hotel Street, at night, you’d see countless prostitutes plying their trade, many with a large pink button–pink! that color again!–that informed those who could read: “I AM A BOY”! It was the law back them.

You might as well have painted a pink bull’s eye on their chests or backs or foreheads or all three. On the bus coming back at night, you’d see them again, on the side of the highway, plying their trade. I’m sure there were many a gay-bashing. Probably a killing or three. Macho guys just wanna have fun.

On the other hand–there’s always a flip side–the large pink warning labels may well have saved a life or three. False advertising can very well get one killed, too.

I believe in education. I believe in magnet schools, comprehensive public schools, high-school level, with different specialized curricula. Reading-writing-and-arithmetic is all fine and dandy, but you gotta teach everyone, as many as you can, how to make a living, how to put bread on the table. The United Kingdom has nearly 3,000 of ‘em, each specializing in a specialized trade. My sister attended one. The London Royal Ballet School.

In Manhattan, I lived just up the block from one. The Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art & Performing Arts. I spoke there once, representing the BMI Musical Theater Workshop. Ving Rhames, Freddie Prinz, Liza Minneli, Dom Deluise are/were all graduates.

But why just the arts? Whether it be plumbing, carpentry, or automotive mechanics, you gotta teach the young how to make a buck, the earlier the better. A magnet school can give the process some intensity and prestige. Just my own personal opinion, but I’m no expert.

My junior year in high school, I came home after my first day at class, and my dad asked what courses I had signed up for. I told him I had signed up for Creative Writing for one. He told me to check out immediately. Take typing. I did, and it has served me well through the years. In the past, I have always been able to get a job typing. Except in Nashville!

I was stationed in Bremerton, Washington, in the Navy for a couple of months. While there I signed up to take a course in shorthand at the local junior college, taking my dad’s advice again. I had to check out. I was the only male and all the women in the class, the professor said, were so well advanced that she was going to skip the first few chapters of the textbook. The women in the class had all taken shorthand in high school.

My dad also told me when I was VERY young to get a part-time job at a Chinese laundry. This was more than 40 years ago. He said Chinese was the future and I could always get a job as a reporter. My dad was a very smart and savvy man. Stupid me, I got a job delivering the Deseret News instead; it might have been bagging groceries at Albertson’s. I can’t remember. I did both at one time or another.

On one of my first days working for Orrin Hatch, he took me aside and told me what the business at hand was all about. “Economics. Economics. Economics.” He might as well have said the whole world, from beginning of time. Maybe he did.

It’s all about the money, sad or not. And you gotta teach people how to make some. I believe countless magnet high schools throughout the nation would be a good start.

Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, or so it’s said. And I believe it. Those who don’t have a trade often choose the oldest one, whether by choice or by circumstance, for there is always–and always will be–those who will pay for a prostitute’s fast-fix accessibility.

Straight, gay, lesbian, or transgender, many have sexual needs that can’t be met at home by a loved one, if they have a loved one. Some are attracted to transvestites. Some have a desire–it could very well even be sexual–to murder ‘em.

There is a street in Ensenada, I was told by a visitor from San Diego, known by those north of the border and cab drivers here as Tranny Alley. I asked Salsador about it. He’d never head of it. I had to explain to him what the word “tranny” meant. “Tranny” hasn’t entered the Spanish lexicon–as of yet. Where it exactly is, I don’t wanna know. Somewhere in the world–I have no doubt–is a block of ill-repute known as Granny Alley, too. As an aspiring lyricist, I hear a word and automatically match it in my mine with a rhyme. Tranny. Granny. I’d Google it, but I don’t wanna know.

In the Netherlands, and in a few other European countries, prostitution is legal, as it should be. Take it off the side streets and out of the back alleyways–get rid of the pimps!–and supervise the activity. It’s a revenue-maker for city and state. It’s a good idea just disease-, violent-crime-, and you-name-it-wise.

In Amsterdam, it’s even a tourist attraction. Tourists go view a Rembrandt, take in a Van Gogh, taste-test some funny stuff at a Coffee Shop, and visit what is called “The Street of Women” to take a peek at “The Women in the Windows.” Not necessarily in that order. My dad, when he visited, took a stroll down the street and even convinced my mom to tag along. At first, being raised a staunch Presbyterian, she said no-way. “What will people think?” My dad replied, “They’ll simply think a beautiful new girl’s in town.” Ha-ha. My mom thought it over for a moment, pursed her Presbyterian lips, and joined him for a peek. She was a trouper.

I, myself, took my bestest friend for a peek on our first visit there. We walked by a window showcasing a painted woman with a poodle on her lap. “That’s the job I want!” my good friend said. “A job you can take your dog with you to.” She’s very funny. In Houston, she did stand-up comedy for a time–wrote her own material. “How would you come up with the rent?” I asked. “You gotta entertain a customer or two, at the very least. She pondered the proposition for a sec. “Well, that is a problem, isn’t it?”

All the world’s a Catch-22.

My artist brother, Jimmy, who inherited more than a drop of my mom’s Presbyterian blood, was on a first-name basis with a number of prostitutes in Amsterdam. He painted their portraits while they sat in their windows waiting for customer. There was a gallery showing of the paintings called “Women in the Windows.” It received good reviews. Most everything I own is now somewhere in a Houston dump. I kept the few paintings I possessed by my dear departed brother. One or two are of the women in the windows.

My dad often brought copies of police reports home from The Tribune. In his heart of hearts, I think, his dream was to one day write the Great American Novel. One report, I remember, concerned a sex decoy (an undercover cop) and a prospective John. She was standing on the corner of West 2nd South in Salt Lake. It was well-known at one time for prostitutes. Perhaps, still is.

A customer propositioned her. A twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy. He said he wanted to pay for sex with her. She told him, “Kid, go away.” He said, “I’ve been saving up for months.” “Go away,” she said. “You’re going to get yourself in trouble.” He said, “My girl friend won’t have sex with me. The school slut won’t have anything to do with me. And now, you, a prostitute, won’t have sex with me?!” By this time, a patrol car had arrived on the scene. He was taken into custody.

Sad, perhaps, but very human …

Elko, Nevada, last I heard, has legalized prostitution. And, last I heard, there hasn’t been a rape in years. But that I find had to believe.

As a kid, we visited Elko many times. My dad wasn’t too crazy about Las Vegas–he’d spent a short time there homeless after the war–but he loved Elko. We always stayed at the Commercial Hotel downtown. In the lobby was a huge white Polar Bear, stuffed, standing upright on its hind legs, in a glass case. Very sad.

When I was little, kids were allowed in the casino with their folks. I remember standing by my dad as he rolled the dice. When he won, he’d give me a handful of silver dollars. And I remember putting them on my bed in our room upstairs and running my fingers through them time and again. Such joy!

My dad told me to save them. They may be worth something someday. I gave them to a longtime friend of mine, a pawnbroker in Salt Lake, a few years ago to sell. He put them in his safe. When I inquired about my silver dollars some time later, he informed me that they had disappeared. Poof! He didn’t know what happened to them. Hmmmm! I had also given him all the foreign money I had accumulated on my travels to sell. Poof! They had disappeared, too. Hmmmmm!

But back to Elko. On one visit with my folks–I was in my teens at the time–we checked in, unpacked our bags, and went down to the lobby together. After a short while, I told my dad that I was going up to take a short nap. I may have even stretched my arms out to show how tired I was and yawned. Movie-style. He bid me goodnight, and I caught the elevator upward. I stepped out, pushed the Down button, caught the elevator down to the garage. I had a mission: I was going to lose my virginity that evening at a whorehouse across the tracks. I walked down the street, stepped into the nearest house of ill-repute, and looked around. At the end of the bar–waiting for me–was my dad!

Needless to say, by the end of the night, I was still a virgin. But it was one of the most memorable nights in my entire life. At the time, The Tribune’s circulation included much of northern Nevada. The working women there were all readers of his column, and huge fans. That night we visited many, if not all, the houses across the tracks. I didn’t smoke back then, but I pocketed a matchbook from each place we visited–their logos on the covers. They, too, are now in a dump somewhere on the outskirts of Houston.

My dad was ill much of the time in his later years. First, it was shingles. Next, it was anorexia. He was a big man at one time. With anorexia, he lost tens and tens of pounds. He couldn’t get himself to swallow a bite. One time my sister Valerie visited from Amsterdam. She was standing by him at a stop light in front of The Trib, his arms, as always, filled with out-of-town newspapers–a Milwaukee Journal, a Denver Post, etc.–when his pants fell down to his ankles. Very embarrassing. My sister lifted them up and tightened the belt one notch tighter around his thinning-waist.

He couldn’t eat, but he could drink. And at night I would sit with him until the wee hours while he did.

I remember my mom walking into the living room one night and saying, “Dan, you’re drinking too much. I find bottles behind the books on the bookshelves. I find bottles underneath the bed.”

“They were empty, weren’t they?” my dad would inquired.


“Well, that’s good. I wouldn’t want to waste any good whiskey.”

“Dan, please come to bed.”

“I will, Elaine. Just let me sit here awhile and die a little.” And he’d pour himself another shot of whiskey.

He would sip, and I would listen while he shared plot-idea after plot-idea for movies, novels, short stories, plays, musicals. Titles for songs. I clung on to every word. My goal, up until recently, was to write everyone of ‘em. Song title-wise, I accomplished the task. The hooks of many of the songs I have written through the years were first heard in the wee hours from my dad and jotted down by me to write later.

One idea, for a two-act play, he called “Ballerina Baby!”


Act One – Scene One

Place: London

Father/Husband: No daughter of mine is going to marry a goddamn queer!

Mother/Wife: Sssh! He’ll hear you.

Father/Husband: I don’t care. No daughter of mine is going to marry a goddamn queer!

The plot? Some background: At a very young age, my sister was accepted to learn her chosen craft at the Royal London Ballet School. Foreigners were allowed to take classes and graduate, but they weren’t allowed to continue on and become members of the Royal London Ballet unless they were British citizens. Or married to one.

Hence, the story: The heroine, the daughter, is befriended by a gay fellow dancer who is a British citizen. Maybe he is Indian or even Jamaican. That would make it even more interesting. Upon graduation, he agrees to marry the American so she can join the Royal Ballet as a corps member. Her father is a Texas bigot–there are some–and is firmly against the idea, to say the least. To make a two-act story short, the gay and the bigot become friends, each learning something from the other.

Act Two – Last Scene

The gay lad and the dad are standing together–talking, etc., whatever–when the gay Brit, out of the blue, pinches his the ass of his new father-in-law! Look of dismay on the dad’s face as …

… the curtain falls.

Through the years, every-so-often, I would work on that play. What little I had is now in a Houston dump.

After graduating from the Royal London Ballet, my sister got a job as a member of the Dutch National Ballet. When she first moved to Amsterdam, she had a flat next door to a gay man who made a living working nights as a female impersonator in a drag revue. On the same floor, across from her, was a straight man who took a liking to her and began stalking her.

One night, late, the straight guy tried to force himself on her. The drag queen next door heard her screams for help, came to her aid, and beat the crap out of him.

My mom soon after flew to Amsterdam and moved in with my sister. My dad son after that visited and took the professional drag queen/hero out for a drink or two. After which, the drag queen invited my dad and mom to see a performance. I can see my mom pursing her Presbyterian lips and saying, “But what will people think?” and my dad replaying, “There’ll just think a beautiful new performer is in town.” Ha-ha. I can also see my mom tagging along. She was a trouper.

One last note in closing: I couldn’t help myself. I HAD to Google “Granny Alley”. And, lo and behold, there IS such a block of ill-repute. Of course! It wouldn’t be Planet Earth without one. It’s located in Liverpool.

You learn something every day, whether you want to or not.

We all have a kink or two. I’m just glad mine isn’t trannies or grannies. Perfect rhyme. Imperfect world.

Anthony Watts: ‘Don’t bother me with the sarcastic facts’

December 27, 2009

Somebody needs to come up with new corollaries of Poe’s Law to cover climate skeptics.

Anthony Watts posts a series on polar bears, with Grandpa Bear kvetching about what his grandson is learning in public polar bear school about climate change.

I commented, posting a link to the press release of the Polar Bear Study Group, the world’s longest-established and most-respected organization on polar bear populations and population health.  It’s a rather dull press release, really, on the last meeting of the group last summer:

The PBSG renewed the conclusion from previous meetings that the greatest challenge to conservation of polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic resulting from climatic warming.  Declines in the extent of the sea ice have accelerated since the last meeting of the group in 2005, with unprecedented sea ice retreats in 2007 and 2008. The PBSG confirmed its earlier conclusion that unabated global warming will ultimately threaten polar bears everywhere.

The PBSG also recognized that threats to polar bears will occur at different rates and times across their range although warming induced habitat degradation and loss are already negatively affecting polar bears in some parts of their range. Subpopulations of polar bears face different combinations of human threats.  The PBSG recommends that jurisdictions take into account the variation in threats facing polar bears.

The PBSG noted polar bears suffer health effects from persistent pollutants.  At the same time, climate change appears to be altering the pathways by which such pollutants enter ecosystems. The PBSG encourages international efforts to evaluate interactions between climate change and pollutants.

The PBSG endorses efforts to develop non-invasive means of population assessment, and continues to encourage jurisdictions to incorporate capture and radio tracking programs into their national monitoring efforts. The members also recognized that aboriginal people are both uniquely positioned to observe wildlife and changes in the environment, and their knowledge is essential for effective management.

All I posted was the link.

The response at Watts’ What’s Up With That?


Ed Darrell (20:50:48) :

[snip – pointless sarcasm]

Is that emblematic of the state climate “skeptics” are in these days, that a dull recitation of the facts is “sarcasm?” “Don’t confuse us with the facts,” they seem to be saying.  And, if they really think they’re making headway with stolen e-mails, why are they so crabby?

More politics than science, more bluster than discussion.

This cartoon scares them, too.  Maybe they know something’s up:

Chris Riddell cartoon, December 20, 2009, The Observer

Chris Riddell cartoon, December 20, 2009, The Observer

Follow up: Gail Zawacki at Wit’s End neatly captures the tell-tale signs of denialism at workCarol Kane had a great line in Annie Hall: “I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.”  Denialists everywhere appear to share that emotion.

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Insurance experts: Get ready for climate change now

July 12, 2009

Climate change denialism is an astounding ball of contradictions and conundrums.

For example, while most denialists claim to be free-market devotees, they pointedly ignore market indications that climate change is real, aggravated by human actions (and inaction), and that humans can do anything about it.

Look at the insurance industry.  I’ve noted often that, here in Texas, we pay higher premiums on home insurance because climate change has produced worse weather, which costs insurance companies a lot.  Insurance company actuaries are paid to predict the future, reliably.  If they fail, insurance companies die quickly.

Weather-related catastrophes, such as wildfires, are posing a serious threat to the insurance industry worldwide. (Photograph source: John McColgan, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service.) Caption from Berkeley Lab Research News

Weather-related catastrophes, such as wildfires, are posing a serious threat to the insurance industry worldwide. (Photograph source: John McColgan, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service.) Caption from Berkeley Lab Research News

The “market” girds itself to fight climate change that governments are not going to move fast enough to prevent.  This will cost you a lot of money.

A good place to go for information about climate change and how it affects is the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, a group that studies the future and is no longer limited (if it ever was) to nuclear future issues.

Insurance in a Climate of Change, The Greening of Insurance in a Warming World, is loaded with information about insurance industry calculations of what the future is, and how insurance companies might and should react to the changes.

How relevant are weather-related natural disasters for insurers, and is there any evidence that the situation is worsening?

Globally, we are seeing about $80 billion/year in weather-related economic losses, of which $20 billion (about a quarter) are insured. This is like a “9/11” every year. Weather-related losses represent about 90% of all natural disaster losses, and the data I just cited do not include an enormous amount of aggregate losses from small-scale or gradual, non-catastrophic events (e.g., lightning, soil subsidence, gradual sea-level rise).

Inflation-adjusted economic losses from catastrophic events rose by 8-fold between the 1960s and 1990s and insured losses by 17-fold. Losses are increasing faster than insurance premiums. The insured share of total losses has increased dramatically in recent decades, and variability is increasing (a key trouble sign for risk-wary insurers). Weather-related catastrophes have clearly visible adverse effects on insurance prices, and availability. Of particular concern are the so-called “emerging markets” (developing countries and economies in transition”, which already have $375 billion per year in insurance premiums (about 12% of the global market at present, but rising). They are significantly more vulnerable to climate change than are industrialized countries. Emerging markets are the center of growth for the industry, yet they are also the center of vulnerability.

Increased exposures are surely influenced—and no doubt heavily in some areas—by rising demographic and socioeconomic exposures. Yet, the rise in losses has outpaced population, economic growth, and insurance penetration. The science of “attribution analysis” is still in primitive stages, and thus we cannot yet quantify the relative roles of global climate change and terrestrial human activities. Some have prematurely jumped to the conclusion [PDF] that demographic trends explain the entire rise in observed losses. In the year 2005, three independent refereed <!– –>scientific articles drew linkages between hurricane trends and climate change.

Denialists claim weather stations are badly-placed, and so we need not worry about climate change since warming can’t accurately be measured — never mind the worldwide rise in temperatures of atmosphere and oceans.   Denialists claim that the greenhouse effect cannot be blamed on carbon dioxide emissions since carbon dioxide is such a small proportion of the gases in the atmosphere, apparently wholly unaware of the greenhouse effect in atmospheric gases, or unaware that only a thin pane of glass makes a greenhouse work.  Denialists claim that polar bears do not decline precipitously, yet, so all wildlife will be unaffected – nevermind the dramatic shifts in migration patterns of birds and migrating mammals, and the dramatic shift in the arrival of spring.  Denialists claim that Boston Harbor has survived 300 years of human development, so all harbors can survive any increase in ocean levels, nevermind the pending disasters of islands sinking out of site and destroying entire nations in the South Pacific, and never mind the drownings in Bengla Desh at every cyclone.

Most denialists rent apaartments or own homes.  Denying the insurance increases will be more difficult, though I fully expect Anthony Watts and Co. will deny that the insurance company actions and studies of global warming are warranted or accurate.

Is there any good news in all of this?

By all means. Insurers need to look no farther than their roots as founders of the original fire departments, early advocates for building codes and fire safety, etc. That is to say that insurers’ history is all about risk management and loss prevention. The same thinking can apply in the case of climate change. Just as insurers fought fire risks through encouraging fire safety, better modeling, and fire suppression, so too can they be part of the climate change solution. This can take many forms, ranging from providing new insurance products (e.g., for carbon trading or energy savings insurance [PDF]), to promoting energy-efficient and renewable technologies [PDF] that also help prevent everyday losses, to engaging in the broader policy discussion on climate change. Insurers can also be part of improving the underlying science of climate change, modeling, and impacts assessment. We maintain an extensive compilation of examples of how leading insurers are stepping into the arena in a constructive manner.

Alas, there is no insurance against the dithering of climate change denialists.

Go, with all thy internet getting, get thee wisdom.

The value of local historians in small-town Alaska

September 2, 2008

A woman who watches and records events in Wasilla, Alaska, notes recent history:

Dear friends,

So many people have asked me about what I know about Sarah Palin in the last 2 days that I decided to write something up . . .

Basically, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have only 2 things in common: their gender and their good looks. :)

You have my permission to forward this to your friends/email contacts with my name and email address attached, but please do not post it on any websites, as there are too many kooks out there . . .

[An Alaskan]


I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won’t vote for her can’t quit smiling when talking about her because
she is a “babe”.

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is “pro-life”. She recently gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn’t take positions; she just “puts things out there” and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She’s smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later–to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today’s surplus, borrow for needs.

She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of “old boys”. Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal–loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club” when she dramatically quit, exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects–which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance–but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”.

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah’s mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in thestate (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State’s lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there’s a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

•“Hockey mom”: true for a few years
•“PTA mom”: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
•“NRA supporter”: absolutely true
•social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconstitutional).
•pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.
•“Pro-life”: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation
•“Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
•political maverick: not at all
•gutsy: absolutely!
•open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
•has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
•”a Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
•fiscal conservative: not by my definition!
•pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
•pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
•pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history.
•pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.


First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name ([name deleted] + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I’ve always operated in the belief that “Bad things happen when good people stay silent”. Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council  meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah’s attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor) from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can’t recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall–they are swamped. So I can’t verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my “about 5,000”, up to 9,000. The day Palin’s selection was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was
5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90’s.

[Name withheld from this forum at writer’s request]
[e-mail address masked by MFB]
August 31, 2008

Tip of the old scrub brush to Andrew Sullivan.

Update:  Nice link from P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula, “Palinanity.”  Important video there.

Original Documents: Long history of DDT trouble, from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1945 and later

August 12, 2007

Header of FWS press release, Aug 22 1945

Archives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reveal a long history of trouble with DDT, almost from the first uses of the chemical as an insecticide during World War II. You’ll find extensive links to historic press releases from FWS below the fold.

Critics of the various restrictions on DDT use often claim that DDT is a God-sent chemical that nearly eradicated malaria from the world (absolutely untrue) and which was banned only because of hysteria caused by Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring (untrue at both ends, hysteria and the power of Carson’s book). This is history revisionism at its worst, it is bogus history.

A careful study of the history of the use of DDT shows that scientists were concerned about its dangers from the first uses as a pesticide. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported dangers in a press release on August 22, 1945, just a week after the surrender of Japan ended World War II (VJ Day was August 15 in Tokyo, August 14 in Washington). In that release FWS noted the beneficial uses of DDT to fight insect and lice infestations that threatened troops and civilians with typhus and other diseases, but cautioned that such use should not become common, that more study was needed: Read the rest of this entry »

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