Monthly Archives: August 2009

Hail cannons, lightning rods, elephant repellents, and Texas schools

hail cannon

“What’s the white powder you put on your lawn every week, neighbor?”
“Elephant repellent…works pretty well, doesn’t it?”

I just heard about the hail cannon… a 20-foot tube/sound chamber that makes a huge bang every four seconds, supposedly disrupting hail formation in the sky above. Costs 50,000 bucks…and of course you need a radar system to detect suspicious clouds, and additional cannons every 750 feet or so, and a computer system to control it all, plus the expendables, maintenance, etc…
hail-cannon old
These monstrosities were invented a couple hundred years ago, and are better suited to defending castles a la Monty Python than to preventing hail…there is no scientific basis for them, and no proof that they do anything but enrich those who manufacture and market them. Billy Mays wouldn’t even have touched them. Yet there is an active and even thriving hail cannon industry, in the US and abroad.

A comment:
Anti-science forces in our society, paid for by large multinational corporations interested in preserving profits, have succeeded in slowing our response to tobacco toxicity and global warming/climate change. Smaller business ventures (and politicians and religions) have also traded on ignorance, fear, superstition, and the psychology of uncommon events to “sell” us costly, irrational and often dangerous “products” which supposedly “prevent” rare but calamitous events. The lightning rod immediately comes to mind: a simple yet costly device, somewhat dangerous to install and maintain, which is completely unnecessary for most homes, would likely not work anyway, and may even attract lightning. Yet, the “prudent” sucker purchaser can rightly claim that since the installation of this item, no lightning has struck his home, wrongly attributing that to the rods. In logic, post hoc, ergo propter hoc. If lightning does strike, inevitably some problem will be found with the installation or maintenance, excusing the failure, and reinforcing the need to “upgrade” to an even more expensive product. See Herman Melville, The Lightning Rod Man”:

“Of life-and-death use. But my workman was heedless. In fitting the rod at top to the steeple, he allowed a part of the metal to graze the tin sheeting. Hence the accident. Not my fault, but his.

The propagation of ignorance, as opposed to the dissemination of knowledge, is today a burgeoning activity and a profitable industry. At Stanford University, Prof. Robert Proctor has dubbed it “agnotology” and made it the subject of his research:

A prime example of the deliberate production of ignorance cited by Proctor is the tobacco industry’s conspiracy to manufacture doubt about the cancer risks of tobacco use. Under the banner of science, the industry produced research about everything except tobacco hazards to exploit public uncertainty. Some of the root causes for culturally-induced ignorance are media neglect, corporate or governmental secrecy and suppression, document destruction, and myriad forms of inherent or avoidable culturopolitical selectivity, inattention, and forgetfulness.
link

failpunt
How do Texas schools fit in? it seems that Texas may allow their high school students to accumulate 4 credits in sports, out of the 26 required for graduation. This would be a 100% increase from the previous athletic allowance of 2 credits. Yeah, that should help.

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The Chicago Cubs: a dirty bomb


The Cubs, not satisified with three moderately crazy and dysfunctional folks (manager/hot-head Lou Pinella, 136-million-dollar big bat dingbat Alfonso Soriano, and Gatorade machine abuser. pitcher Carlos Zambrano), managed to add another one this year, in the person of outfielder race-card-player Milton Bradley. And of course they disposed of good, sane players like jack-of-all-trades Mark DeRosa. Not to mention booting Jason Marquis, key to the Rockies’ surge, in exchange for the forgettable (and forgotten) Luis Vizcaino.

Now, having cratered in the NL Central and wild-card races, the Cubs are going into full meltdown mode, at a time when the team has been sold and the front office is in flux. The team is trying to dump players and salaries via the waiver wire aka “yard sale” approach. Soriano says they’re out of the hunt, Zambrano wants to be traded, and Bradley is probably gonna get showered with flying objects/liquids/epithets in right field. Pinella is in charge (?) and he thinks he’ll be given another contract? The nitwit GM terrorist who masterminded this radioactive suitcase probably wants a raise.
bomb
This is gonna be good. Not since the ’68 Democratic Convention has Chicago held my interest to this degree. Cub fans should finally rise up and boycott. Enough is a freakin nuff.

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Ted Kennedy, a great US senator, RIP

ted-kennedy-to-be-knighted

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TIME Magazine tells the “Food, Inc.” story in print

obese-televisionInteresting to see mainsteam media like TIME take on the corporate food/ag giants.

…pigs fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he’ll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around.
….
hidden prices are the creeping erosion of our fertile farmland, cages for egg-laying chickens so packed that the birds can’t even raise their wings and the scary rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among farm animals. Add to the price tag the acceleration of global warming — our energy-intensive food system uses 19% of U.S. fossil fuels, more than any other sector of the economy.

And perhaps worst of all, our food is increasingly bad for us, even dangerous. A series of recalls involving contaminated foods this year — including an outbreak of salmonella from tainted peanuts that killed at least eight people and sickened 600 — has consumers rightly worried about the safety of their meals.

some interesting data:

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit. With the backing of the government, farmers are producing more calories — some 500 more per person per day since the 1970s — but too many are unhealthy calories. Given that, it’s no surprise we’re so fat; it simply costs too much to be thin.

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Texas Republicans want textbooks rewritten to exclude liberals

newt.gingrichJust when you thought “conservatives” couldn’t get any crazier, Texans prove you wrong. Oh, and in case you misapprehend what’s going on here, what will happen to the old books, you know, the ones with real history in them?????
BookBurning

AUSTIN — Texas high school students would learn about such significant individuals and milestones of conservative politics as Newt Gingrich and the rise of the Moral Majority — but nothing about liberals — under the first draft of new standards for public school history textbooks.

And the side that got left out is very unhappy.

As it stands, students would get “one-sided, right wing ideology,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, chairman of the House Mexican American Caucus.

“We ought to be focusing on historical significance and historical figures. It’s important that whatever course they take, that it portray a complete view of our history and not a jaded view to suit one’s partisan agenda or one’s partisan philosophy,” he said.

The standards, which the board will decide next spring, will influence new history, civics and geography textbooks.

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Over 100 deaths in US among locked-up immigrants

Do I remember
huddledmass

…….Nah…..let ‘em rot in cells. Don’t let em see a doctor.

Link

An American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C. forced the Department of Homeland Security on Monday to reveal 11 previously undisclosed deaths at its immigrant detention facilities, the group said in a media advisory.

“In April, in response to the ACLU lawsuit which was filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), DHS officials released what they called a comprehensive list of all deaths in detention that included a total of 90 individuals,” the ACLU said. “With today’s announcement, the government has now admitted to a total of 104 in-custody deaths since fiscal year 2003.”

…..
In a FOIA request submitted by the ACLU to DHS in 2007, the ACLU sought information about whether ICE – or any independent monitoring agency – adequately tracks deaths of immigration detainees, who are often housed in county jails around the country alongside criminal detainees, or in one of numerous immigration detention facilities managed by private prison companies.

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Who’s behind the healthcare protests? Follow the money.

moneyA couple more entries into the field:
link

Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is led by health care entrepreneur Rick Scott, the co-founder of Solantic urgent care walk-in centers, which he’s spread across Florida and is looking to expand…Scott left his job as CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospitals during a federal Medicare fraud probe in 1997 that led to a historic $1.7 billion settlement.

Earlier this year, Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR), an anti-health care reform group led by the disgraced former CEO of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Rick Scott, began running a commercial attacking the British health care system. The TV ad runs through “tragic stories” of British citizens who it portrays as being against government-run health care such as the National Health Service (NHS).Now, the Daily Mail is reporting that two of the women featured in the commercial say they were “duped” into appearing in CPR’s ad campaign:

Furious Kate Spall and Katie Brickell claim that their views on the NHS have been misrepresented by a free market campaign group opposed to Mr Obama’s reforms in a bid to discredit the UK system. […]

Ms Spall and Ms Brickell both agreed to appear in a documentary on healthcare reform. But neither knew that the footage would be used as part of a TV advertising campaign carried on US networks.

The Daily Mail article goes on to note that both Spall and Brickell actually support government-run health care and were advocating for reforms within the NHS, not for its abolition.
–ThinkProgress

FreedomWorks, which has been advocating against the overhaul but has not launched TV ads, is chaired by Dick Armey, the former Republican majority leader of the House of Representatives from Texas.

But also noteworthy are the group’s other backers and board members. They include billionaire flat-tax proponent and former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes; Richard J. Stephenson, who founded Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which offers alternative as well as standard therapies, sometimes not covered by insurance; and Frank M. Sands, Sr., chief executive officer of an investment management firm whose offerings include a Healthcare Leaders portfolio.

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