Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

This was a long time ago. President and Mrs. Coolidge were touring a farm. The farmer was showing off his prize rooster to Mrs. Coolidge.

“This rooster,” he explained, “can perform sexual copulation many times in one day.”

Mrs. Coolidge was impressed, and she asked the farmer, “Will you please explain that to Mr. Coolidge when he comes by?”

Later the farmer was talking to the president, and he explained his encounter with the First Lady. The president asked the farmer, “Is this multiple times with the same hen?”

The farmer explained that it was with a different hen each time. The President then asked the farmer, “Then will you please explain this to Mrs. Coolidge?”

Principles of Optics

You would not guess from the title that this post is about compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).
Surprise. Here’s some background for a start.

People were studying electromagnetic radiation and energy over 100 years ago. I’ve
studied this stuff before, but I’m not going to derive it all over again. Here’s a plot I posted

What you see in this graph is a series of plots of radiation intensity (energy flux) against
wavelength for black bodies of various temperatures. Remember that individual photons of
longer wavelengths have less energy than photons of shorter wavelength. That’s a basic
principle of quantum mechanics. The following equation is from Wikipedia and shows how
energy relates to photon wavelength:

E is energy, h is Planck’s Constant, a well known physical constant. The letter c is the speed
of light, and λ is the wavelength. That’s fixed. There are no two photons with the same
wavelength but different energies.

Notice in the graph how each plot starts out at zero, then peaks, then trails off toward zero
again. For each blackbody temperature the peak is in a different place. The peak
wavelength for a particular temperature is given by Wein’s Displacement Law:

The maximum energy intensity occurs at λ max, which is some (well-defined) constant
divided by the absolute temperature, T. What you should be seeing, children, is that as you
increase the temperature of the body, the peak, the place where the energy output is most
intense, shifts to shorter wavelengths. Here’s what this means in practical terms.

Any blacksmith knows this. You heat a horseshoe in the fire, and when it gets hot enough it
begins to glow red. Hotter and it glows yellow. I have watched a master glass blower at UT
Austin work with fused quartz. He did not use an ordinary fire. He had an oxygen-
hydrogen torch, and that is very hot. He lit off the torch, and it was bright. He had a tube of
fused quartz, and he plunged it right into the hottest part of the flame. Fused quartz is
good about this. It does not expand when heated, which is why we were using fused quartz.
Anyhow, the quartz tube quickly went from red, right past yellow and became blinding
white. When something gets hot enough it starts giving off all the visible colors in nearly
equal abundance.

So, here’s what I’m getting at. If you want to operate an incandescent lamp you need a
filament to get hot and glow. You put a tungsten wire into a glass bulb and run electricity
through it to get it really hot, and it will glow and put out light. OK, you need to take the air
out of the bulb, else the oxygen will burn up the hot tungsten. OK, you need to put some
argon in the tube, else the hot filament will evaporate too quickly.

Therein is the rub. Even tungsten, a metal with about the highest boiling point (lowest
vapor pressure) for a given temperature, will eventually evaporate at the temperatures
necessary to produce a usable lamp.

Here’s a problem. If you operate the tungsten filament at a low temperature it will not
evaporate much at all and will last almost forever. However, at this temperature its energy
output will peak deep in the red region. You will have a nice, red light source. You want
white. Also, at low temperatures (look at the graph) the filament will dump a lot of its
energy into the infra-red spectrum, nice for warming the room, but useless as a light
source. A lot of the electrical energy consumed by the lamp will be wasted. Your electric bill
will show this.

If you operate the filament at a higher temperature you will get a more efficient light
source, and your electric bill will show this. But what about filament vaporization?

Glad you asked. They solved this problem over 100 years ago. You put a bit of iodine
inside the bulb with the filament. Then you operate the filament at a very high
temperature. You have a nice, efficient light source. But the filament evaporates. But the
lamp envelope is made of fused quartz, and it gets very hot. The tungsten vapor combines
with iodine and does not deposit on the lamp’s envelope. The tungsten-iodine, I’m guessing

tungsten tetraiodide, soon hits the hot filament, where the tungsten is deposited back, and
the filament gets to live another day. These are called halogen lamps, because iodine is a
member of the halogen family of elements.

So, halogen lamps are more efficient forms of incandescent lamps. Here’s a comparison
chart from Energystar.GOV:

Technology CRI Efficacy (lumen/W) Lifetime (hrs) Color Temperature (K)
Compact Fluorescent 80-90 60-70 6,000-10,000 2700-6500
Incandescent 100 12-18 750-1,500 2400-2900
Linear Fluorescent 70 – 90 80-100+ 20,000 2700-6500
Halogen 100 16-29 2,000-4,000 2850-3200
White LED 65-90 20-50 Up to 100,000 2700-6500

This table shows that halogen lamps are somewhat more efficient (more light per your
electrical dollar) than regular incandescent lamps. They also last longer: 2000 to 4000
hours of use opposed to 750 to 1500 hours.

Halogen lamps are also more expensive, and they are more tricky to use. The envelop
must be operated at a high temperature, so it must be kept very small. You handle a
halogen lamp with you bare hands, and it will be ruined unless you are careful to clean it
before use. Modern automobile headlamps use halogen lamps. You do not have to change
them out very often.

You want to save more money? For your home lighting needs go to fluorescent tubes or
even to compact fluorescent lamps. Fluorescent lamps have been around over 70 years. I
know this for sure, because I watch old movies on TV, and I see factory settings that
incorporate fluorescent lighting. Commercial enterprises long ago went to fluorescents. In
business the bottom line may not be everything, but it’s way ahead of whatever is in
second place. In homes the use of fluorescents was not popular for a long time, because the
available applications were limited. Fluorescents were at first only used for ceiling fixtures.

Stop here for another technical update. Fluorescents are efficient because the process used
to produce the light does not also produce a lot of heat. They work this way:

You have a glass tube with a low-pressure gas inside and some mercury. Applying power in
the appropriate way induces an electrical arc the length of the tube. This arc does not
produce a lot of heat, and it produces electromagnetic energy mainly in the ultra-violet
region. You can see how this relates to Wein’s displacement law: lots of energy with a very
small fraction apportioned to the infra-red.

The problem is we cannot use the ultra-violet. In fact, the ultra-violet cannot even get out
of an ordinary glass tube. The glass stops it. If the ultra-violet did get out it would give
everybody a sunburn. You coat the inside of the tube with a fluorescent material that
absorbs the ultraviolet and re-emits the energy in the visible spectrum. Lots of light with
very little heat. You can comfortably put your hand on an operating fluorescent tube.

But what to do about your cute little table lamp? You nice, decorative ceiling fixture? Enter
the CFL. With CFLs they have just shrunk the fluorescent tube and coiled it around to fit it
into your cute lighting fixtures. They have also installed electronics into the base of the
CFLs to manage the voltage supplied to the tube, since the tube needs a high-voltage kick
to get the arc going, but then needs a lower voltage to operate the lamp.

CFLs are efficient. See the table. Linear fluorescents produce 80 to 100 lumens per watt,
compared to 12 to 18 for ordinary incandescents. CFLs produce 60 to 70.

And CFLs are butt ugly. That’s the complaint I hear from anti-environmentalists and even
from some others.  One such was reputed conservative Glenn Beck:

Glenn Beck Vows To Fire Employees For Buying Fluorescent
Bulbs, Recyclables

The light bulb wars are still on apparently.

Glenn Beck, the broadcaster who claims to fuse entertainment
and enlightenment, vowed on a recent show to fire any
employee for buying fluorescent bulbs.

“I am dead serious,” he said, admittedly while laughing. “I fire
the person that starts to purchase fluorescent light bulbs unless
that is the only light bulb for a specific reasons and I want to be
CC’ed on what that reason is.”

He further added “If you’re doing anything in this company
because of global warming, you’re fired…Global warming is a
pile of crap…a load of socialist, communist crap.”

He further added that recyclable spoons and recyclable
cardboard boxes are banished from Mercury Radio Arts, his

In addition, a conservative Facebook friend once posted a meme that depicted liberals
bowing down to an idol in the form of a CFL. It’s gone that far, people.

But wait! I’m not through. There’s something better than CFLs. Light Emitting Diodes
(LED) have been around for nearly 50 years, and they are an amazingly efficient source of
light. Their initial use was in portable device displays (digital watches and hand-held
calculators) because they are so power-stingy. The problem in the beginning was they only
put out red light. Now a new day is dawning, and we can get white light LEDs. See the
table. White LEDs approach CFLs in efficiency, but they last 100,000 hours. I now see
automobile headlights that I am sure are LED-sourced.

What’s also good about LEDs is they inherently compact. An LED is just a solid-state diode
junction, a small region on a silicon wafer. You want a tiny light source, the LED is the way
to go. Pick up a few LED night light modules at Home Depot and plug them into some wall
outlets and forget about them. You will never notice them on your electric bill. I have a
couple of modules that are always plugged in. they only put out soft indicator light when
plugged in. Until the power goes out. Then the built-in battery kicks in, and these become
emergency lights. I can reach down and grab one and use it as a flashlight as I roam about
my darkened house. The battery continually recharges when the unit is plugged in.

This post was inspired when I picked up this from a CNN news item:

Light bulb ban set to take effect

Light bulb manufacturers will cease making traditional 40 and
60-watt light bulbs — the most popular in the country — at the
start of 2014.

This comes after the controversial phasing out of incandescent
75 and 100-watt light bulbs at the beginning of 2013.

In their place will be halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs,
LED bulbs and high efficiency incandescents — which are just
regular incandescents that have the filament wrapped in gas. All
are significantly more expensive than traditional light bulbs, but
offer significant energy and costs savings over the long run.
(Some specialty incandescents — such as three-way bulbs —
will still be available.)

The end of old light bulbs will likely anger some consumers that
are already faced with higher prices for a variety of goods. But
it will also tick off tea party activists since the ban is the result
of the final phase of government-mandated efficiency standards.

Liberal as I am, I do not have a political interest in this controversy. In this matter I am a
John Jacob Astor capitalist. In certain respects I run my household like a commercial
enterprise—with an eye to the bottom line. At the end of the year I look at how much
change I have left in my pocket, and CFLs have been good to me. Please go check your
monthly electric bill and come back to finish reading this.

Done that? My house is all electric. There is no gas service in my neighborhood. The San
Antonio electric service, CPS, charges me $20 for picking up my trash. The rest is for
electricity. Taking that into account, my monthly bills are seldom more than $100 per
month. Eventually money is going to make an environmentalist out of each of us. But
maybe not Glenn Beck.

The War On Christmas

This is about the supposed War on Christmas. But first, this.

From Wikipedia: O'Reilly at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, September 30, 2010

Merry Christmas to all my loyal readers. During this season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, I wish you all the very best and the promise of a glorious New Year.

I can say that, because terms like “Merry Christmas” do not offend me. That’s because I am not Jewish, and I am not Muslim, and I am not aligned with any other religious faith. Actually, from what I understand, Muslims have less heartburn with celebrating the birth of Jesus than Jews. Jews do not consider Jesus to be the Christ, while Muslims revere even Mary, the mother of Jesus. I’m going to let you guys sort that among yourselves. Just don’t kill so many of each other next year as you have so far this year.

What got me to thinking about this was CNN, the cable news network. Over Christmas this year I was watching CNN, hoping to catch some news. No such luck. They were doing a presentation all about Jesus. So I switched to Fox News. What a mistake. I watched about 10 minutes of that.

It was The O’Reilly Factor, featuring Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly was lampooning famous atheist Bill Maher. I reckon O’Reilly does a lot of that, because a quick Google search that combined “Bill O’Reilly” and “Bill Maher” turned up a page full of hits. I really need to watch O’Reilly more, because Maher is such a gas.

Anyhow, O’Reilly was ranting about the War on Christmas, or the War on Christianity or some such, and he was playing clips from Bill Maher. Maher would say something insulting about Christianity, and O’Reilly would challenge viewers to deny this was an attack on their religion (presumed to be Christian, I guess).

Anyhow, O’Reilly soon had enough of that and promised that Sarah Palin would be on next. That’s when I switched back to watching Jesus on CNN.

What’s my point? Glad you asked.

Why is O’Reilly defending Christianity? Why would anybody even think he needed to? I mean, suppose Christianity really were under attack. Supposed there really were a threat to the revealed word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Suppose all of what O’Reilly says is really true. If that were really the case, do you honestly think it would be necessary for O’Reilly to position his naked body between Christianity and these worldly threats?

No way.

If anybody or anything actually presented a threat to Christianity and the revealed word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, then there would be dire consequences.

Why, the offender would immediately receive a smite to end all smites. If Bill Maher actually presented a threat to the Revealed Word, then the God, who created the universe and all living things in it, including people (good and bad), in just six days—why that God would just vaporize Bill Maher in a flash with a peal of thunder that would echo against the mountains, and Mahler’s house and all his worldly possessions and all traces of his very existence would be left no charred stone upon another. That’s what would happen, my dear friends.

That’s what would happen if there really were a God who created the universe and all living things in it, including people (good and bad), in just six days. Make no mistake about it.

I just took a peak. Bill Maher is still there. I couldn’t tell whether he’s a bit singed or not. But he’s still there. That leaves me just one conclusion.

Some people accuse me of being impulsive, and once in a while I may jump to a conclusion in haste. However, on this matter I am sure. I have surveyed the question from all sides, and I am definitely certain that either 1) Bill Maher is no threat to Christianity or 2) God is a myth.

That takes us back to Bill O’Reilly (and maybe even Sarah Palin) and proposition 1. If Bill Maher is not a threat to Christianity, what are O’Reilly, and maybe Palin, huffing and puffing about? Here again there are two possibilities: 1) TV ratings, 2) O’Reilly and Palin are fools.

There is also the possibility that God is a myth.

I am going to leave it for my readers to decide. In the mean time, God rest ye Merry Gentlemen, and let nothing you dismay?

Dan Patrick on Duck Dynasty

This story is never going away. I hope.

Rosa Parks and Phil Robertson, two civil rights champions

Again, I have the folks at Texas Freedom Network to thank for this one:

Texas Lieutenant Governor Candidate Dan Patrick Shares Thoughts On Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s Anti-Gay Comments [AUDIO]
by Ariel Walden December 19, 2013 1:20 PM

On the Thursday edition of The Chad Hasty Show, state Senator Dan Patrick, candidate for Texas Lieutenant Governor, talked with Chad Hasty about his campaign and some of the big issues across the country.

One of the biggest stories in the country right now is the anti-gay comments made by Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson in an interview with GQ magazine. Robertson’s comments caused huge backlash from liberals and gay rights organizations, and shortly after the remarks were made, A&E announced that Robertson was now placed on “indefinite hiatus.”

Patrick said of himself that he was a Christian first, and a conservative second, and that he staunchly supported Robertson’s comments. He added that he firmly believes God will use anyone to speak to the people, and that those comments would not have had the same kind of impact if someone other than Robertson had said them.

“If a Republican delivered this message, if Dan Patrick as the next Lieutenant Governor delivered this message, if Ted Cruz delivered this message, if a conservative leader delivered this message, it would not have the same impact as someone who is the most watched cable person in the history of television…God has used Phil, of all people, a Duck Dynasty show, to say clearly what He is thinking.”

Patrick went on to say that one of the biggest problems in the country is this “counter culture” and broken families that have turned away from God. He said that people need to focus on fixing families, and fixing that first will lead to fixing other problems like education. Patrick added that the office of Lieutenant Governor is the most important office in Texas, and that he is confident he will win that race and get done what needs to be done to make Texas strong.

Here is a link to the interview: KFYO Dan Patrick Interview 12/19/13

Dan Patrick is a talk show host and also a member of the Texas Senate, serving District 7. He is campaigning to replace Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in next year’s election.

Patrick is not a native Texas, having moved here late in life. He is originally from Baltimore, Maryland. That dispels my notion that you have to be from Texas to be a true crank. Like many other, I am learning much  and much too late.

However, Patrick seems to be a likable person, for a Texas politician:

In May 2012, acrimony between Patrick and fellow Republican State Senator John Carona was widely reported throughout Texas. In an email exchange, Patrick accused Carona of spreading false rumors about Patrick’s marriage; Carona denied that and additionally denied commenting on Patrick’s sexuality. Carona further said to Patrick: “I’ve never been shy about sharing my dislike and distrust of you. Put bluntly, I believe you are a snake oil salesman, a narcissist that would say anything to draw attention to himself.” News reports suggest that the feud is in part motivated by positioning to succeed David Dewhurst as Texas Lieutenant Governor, should Dewhurst win a seat as U.S. Senator.

All of this reminds us that next year is an election year. Get ready for a bumpy ride.

Christmas Joke

From Wikipedia

This one goes way back.

It was in the time of the now-defunct Soviet Union, and the man and his wife were having a disagreement. “It’s not going to rain,” the man insisted. The wife maintained the forecast was for rain the rest of the day.

The wife said, “I’m going to settle this. I’m going to phone Kommissar Rudolph and get the straight scoop.”

The man was disgusted. “That communist? What does he know?”

The wife insisted: “Say what you want about him, but Rudolph the red knows rain, dear.”

In God We Trust

From the CBS Pittsburgh Web site

I’m always upfront about not being religious. Religions tend to be founded on false premises, and I oppose the inclusion of bald religion in public poolicy. Besides, there’s a law against it.

Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Saccone has sponsored a bill in the state legislature to put the motto “In God We Trust” in every school.


1. Providing for the display of the national motto “In God We
2. Trust” in classrooms and other areas in public school
3. buildings.

The story comes from Hemant Mehta in The Friendly Atheist:

Pennsylvania Legislator Proposes Legislation to Put ‘In God We Trust’ Sign in Every Public School in the State

Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone (R-obviously) has a history of sponsoring and supporting unnecessary legislation to promote Christianity.

In 2012, he sponsored House Resolution 535 to proclaim it the “Year of the Bible.”

That the House of Representatives declare 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania in recognition of both the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures.

In May of that year, he supported another piece of legislation recognizing May 3 as the “National Day of Prayer.”

Then, a year later, he sponsored House Resolution 17 recognizing April 30, 2013 as “National Fast Day.” The resolution stated that we owed our dependence “upon the overruling power of God” and that the only nations that are blessed were the ones “whose God is the Lord.”

I was attempting to grasp at something that would account for Representative Saccone’s lack of legal acumen, but his Wikipedia entry does not show any such excuse:

After receiving a Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh, Saccone became a full-time professor at Saint Vincent College, teaching Political Science, Government, International Business and other international courses.

Court decisions protecting the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause have generally come down on the side of the First Amendment recently, and Saccone’s proposals are so flagrant as to invite legal defeat. Apparently even some students were wise enough to see the legal problems. Saccone spoke at one school, Avonworth High School, and afterwards Mehta spoke with one of the students and got the student’s assesment:

Yesterday, I was able to get in touch with Max, one of the seniors who attended the event. (I was able to verify that he is, indeed, a student at the school.)

He told me that there were a number of questions asked of Saccone that demonstrated students’ opposition to the bill:

    • How much will the bill cost?
    • Why not use a more secular phrase like “E Pluribus Unum” to display rather than “In God We Trust”
    • Are there any penalties for not following the bill and, if not, then why make this law?
    • If parents complain about the bill and sue, how would you justify the cost of a legal battle for this bill?

What caught my attention was the foregoing item among several Mehta posted on this. TV reporter Trina Orlando covered Saccone’s presentation at Avonworth High and produced a not-so-factual rendition of the events:

Local Students, Lawmaker Debate National Motto Bill
November 26, 2013 12:34 PM

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Local high school students had a chance to debate a bill that would require the national motto to be displayed in all Pennsylvania public schools.

State Rep. Rick Saccone, who authored the National Motto Display Act, talked to students at Avonworth High School Tuesday morning.

“It is our national motto. It’s a great Pennsylvania history story and I love telling it and I think our kids love hearing it,” Rep. Saccone said.

The students are all seniors in a Problems with Democracy honors class.

“I think it teaches students the history of our national motto and I also think that it reeducates people that there isn’t always a strict separation of church and state,” Brady Collins said.

Many agreed with Rep. Saccone, but also weren’t afraid to ask tough questions.

The bill was recently passed by the House Education Committee. Saccone hopes to take it to the House floor soon.

“I thought that they were very-well versed in the subject. They had great questions. Actually, they had better questions than some of the committee questions I received. So, they did their homework and I thought it was very exciting,” Rep. Saccone said.

Students at Avonworth took an informal vote on the issue prior to today’s debate.

About 60 percent of students supported the bill.

Apparently not. Mehta got a different perspective from talking to some students:

Even though that report featured students who supported Saccone’s bill, and the commentary implied a general level of support, too, the comments on the news station’s website told a very different story. Students who were at the assembly, it appeared, were chiming in that a majority of them firmly disagreed with Saccone — and took him to task for trying to push God into the classroom — and that perspective was missing from the news report.

After detailing the previously mentioned comments from Max, Mehta continues:

Max felt that Saccone talked down to the audience, not taking the students’ questions very seriously.

After the event, he added, students were discussing how Saccone was wrong — not just about this bill, but on statements he made during the event, like saying that the Founding Fathers never wanted separation of church and state. (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison may beg to differ…)

And what about the two students who spoke in favor of the bill? They were conservatives who agreed with the bill before Saccone even spoke to the class — it may have been fair to include them in the report, but they in no way spoke for most of the other students.

So I reiterate my original question: Why did the news report not include a perspective that was clearly held by many of the students at the event?

[emphasis in the original]

I can only wonder if the public is being set up for a legal setback by getting such a rosy picture from the local TV reporter. Voters not inclined to sanction such a legal bear trap might be persuaded by all this false sunshine.

Mehta has added a postscript:

***Update***: Another student from the school (I’ve confirmed his identity) corroborates this account.

The Kettle Defense

This winter there was more sea ice than ever in Antarctica. Credit: Flickr/august allen

I love it when conservatives post stuff like this on the Internet. It’s like going to a shooting range where all the targets are big and brightly colored and stand still while you shoot at them. But I first need to explain the title. Some years back I wrote this for the newsletter of The North Texas Skeptics:

OJ did it. He added a new term to my lexicon.

During the famous trial one of the TV wags was explaining the concept of the “kettle defense.” It goes something like this.

A man is suing his neighbor. He claims in court that the neighbor borrowed a kettle from him and returned it damaged. He wants the neighbor to pay reparations.

The neighbor offers his defense in three parts: 1) “I never borrowed the kettle.” 2) “It was already damaged when I got it.” 3) “It was in perfect condition when I returned it.”

Any one claim by itself, successfully defended, would be an adequate defense. When used in tandem like this, each new claim tends to refute previous claims, undermining the defendant’s whole case.

What’s the connection? When this pattern pops up in an argument that argument tends to lose some of its luster. I’m a skeptical kind of guy anyhow, but the kettle defense tends to make me even more skeptical.

What brought this up back in 1998 were similar arguments by people attempting to refute the scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming. I was seeing three kinds of arguments:

  • Global warming is not happening.
  • People are not responsible for global warming.
  • Global warming is not all that bad—in fact it will be good for us.

Obviously if the first claim is true the remaining two are irrelevant. Anybody making the second claim is accepting the first claim. If the third claim is true the previous two claims are irrelevant.

So it was with great amusement and joy that one of my conservative friends posted the following on Facebook. It’s from the Joe For America Web site, and I reprint the text in its entirety:

16 Signs That Global Warming Was A Lie

Back in 2009, Al Gore boldly declared that “the entire north polar ice cap during some of the summer months could be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years.” Well, it turns out that was a lie along with almost everything else that Al Gore has been peddling. The truth is that the polar ice cap is actually growing. It is about 50 percent larger than it was at this time last year. And as you will read about below, a shocking UN report that was recently leaked shows that the planet has actually not been warming for the past 15 years. So if you are breathlessly anticipating that “global warming” will soon bring on the apocalypse, you can stop waiting. On the other hand, there is rising concern about what “global cooling” will soon do to the planet as we suffer through the beginning of the coldest winter in decades. Thanks to an unusually quiet solar cycle and an unusually high number of volcano eruptions, global temperatures have been falling. And if this cold weather persists, that could lead to massive global problems. Periods of very low temperatures throughout history have resulted in mass crop failures and widespread famines. Could that soon happen to us? The following are 16 signs that “global warming” was a lie and that we have now entered a period of global cooling…

1. According to a leaked UN report that absolutely rocked the “global warming” believers, the earth has not gotten any warmer for the past 15 years.

2. The amount of ice covering the Arctic is up by 50 percent compared to this time in 2012.

3. In just one week in late November, a combined total of more than 1000 new cold temperature and snowfall records were set in the United States.

4. In just one week in December, a combined total of more than 2000 new cold temperature and snowfall records were set in the United States.

5. On December 15th, 53 percent of the United States was covered in snow. That was the highest level on this date in 11 years.

6. A snowstorm that spanned more than 1,000 miles slammed into New England on Sunday.

7. Some areas of upstate New York were hit with about six feet of snow a few days ago.

8. Chicago just experienced that coldest temperatures that it has seen in December in nearly 20 years.

9. On December 7th, Eugene, Oregon recorded the lowest temperature that it has seen since December 11th, 1972.

10. A few days ago, three feet of snow closed roads in Jerusalem. It was the worst snow storm in Israel since 1953.

11. Heavy snow also fell on parts of Saudi Arabia. That was considered to be extremely unusual.

12. The recent snowfall in Turkey was so bad that it closed 900 roads.

13. Temperatures have dropped so low that some Syrian war refugees are actually dying from the cold.

14. Cairo, Egypt just had the first snowfall that it has experienced in 100 years.

15. It was so cold in Canada recently that the Arctic Winter Games biathlon trials were forced indoors.

16. According to NASA satellite data, a temperature of minus 135 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded in Antarctica back in July.

So why is all of this happening?

Well, the number one factor affecting our climate is the giant ball of fire called the Sun that our planet revolves around. As I detailed in a previous article, solar activity has dropped to a 100 year low. The following is how a article recently described what we are currently experiencing…

That was just the text. There is a video, and here is a link to that. First I will make the bald statement that the Joe For America posting is a piece of political crap without any scientific and scarcely any factual basis. Next I’m going to diagnose the text, piece by piece, and let the chips fall where they may. The so-called 16 signs are enumerated, and I will take them in turn. First some comment on the preamble:

Back in 2009, Al Gore boldly declared that “the entire north polar ice cap during some of the summer months could be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years.” Well, it turns out that was a lie along with almost everything else that Al Gore has been peddling.

Readers, Al Gore may have received a Nobel Prize for promoting public awareness of global warming, but Al Gore has no scientific background, and his level of ignorance on the technical issues related to climate science would fill a large book. In fact, Al Gore has published his own book on global warming titled Earth in the Balance, and I have purchased my own copy so that I can write a review of it. Having said that, the writer of the JFA piece can use all the quotes he wants from non-scientific sources, but those quotes have no bearing on the truth (or not) of global warming. Nice try, though.

Here is JFA’s first sign that global warming is a lie:

1. According to a leaked UN report that absolutely rocked the “global warming” believers, the earth has not gotten any warmer for the past 15 years.

I do wish JFA had been kind enough to cite the “leaked UN report.” That would have saved my having to search for it on the Internet, which I did. Here’s what I found:

U.N. panel says it’s more certain that humans drive global warming
By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 1:15 PM EDT, Thu September 19, 2013

(CNN) — Scientists are more convinced that human activity is behind the increase in global temperatures since the 1950s, which has boosted sea levels and the odds of extreme storms, according to a leaked draft of an upcoming U.N. report.

“It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010,” according to a summary of the draft obtained by CNN. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.”

Those conclusions come from the upcoming report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the fifth in a series of multiyear reports seen as a benchmark on the subject. The panel’s last report, in 2007, concluded that it was 90% certain that rising temperatures were due to human activity; the new draft raises that figure to 95%.

The panel’s report is slated for release in sections, starting in September, and could be revised. But Marshall Shepherd, a research meteorologist at the University of Georgia and the president of the American Meteorological Society, said the report is expected “to strongly identify the significant human impact on the climate system.”

That may not be the report I was supposed to be looking for. Possible this is the one preferred by JFA:

‘Leaked’ U.N. Climate Change Report Says Global Warming Claims ‘Exaggerated’ — but Scientists Are Fighting Back
Sep. 18, 2013 7:26am Liz Klimas

A U.K. tabloid newspaper claimed to have a leaked, final copy of the a U.N. climate change report, saying it revealed the panel was rolling back “exaggerated” claims of global warming. But a scientist is not only refuting the claims but also the alleged “leak” of the report as well.

Before I explore this one further, I need to highlight one phrase: “but Scientists Are Fighting Back.” It’s scientists who are fighting back against the claims in the “Leaked” report. Scientists. The people who actually study atmospheric science and are the first to discover what’s going on. It’s not circus clowns fighting back. It’s not tabloid journalists fighting back. It’s not radio talk hosts fighting back. It’s not politicians fighting back. It’s scientists. Make a note of that.

That said, I’m preparing to concede this point. I mean, if a U.K. tabloid has the story, then that’s a done deal. Who’s going to argue with the veracity of a U.K. tabloid? To nail a lid on it, here is the Daily Mail piece cited by the foregoing item from The Blaze:

World’s top climate scientists confess: Global warming is just QUARTER what we thought – and computers got the effects of greenhouse gases wrong
Leaked report reveals the world has warmed at quarter the rate claimed by IPCC in 2007
Scientists accept their computers may have exaggerated

By David Rose

PUBLISHED: 16:01 EST, 14 September 2013 | UPDATED: 10:00 EST, 19 September 2013

A leaked copy of the world’s most authoritative climate study reveals scientific forecasts of imminent doom were drastically wrong.

The Mail on Sunday has obtained the final draft of a report to be published later this month by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the ultimate watchdog whose massive, six-yearly ‘assessments’ are accepted by environmentalists, politicians and experts as the gospel of climate science.

They are cited worldwide to justify swingeing fossil fuel taxes and subsidies for ‘renewable’ energy.

Yet the leaked report makes the extraordinary concession that over the past 15 years, recorded world temperatures have increased at only a quarter of the rate of IPCC claimed when it published its last assessment in 2007.

Back then, it said observed warming over the 15 years from 1990-2005 had taken place at a rate of 0.2C per decade, and it predicted this would continue for the following 20 years, on the basis of forecasts made by computer climate models.

But the new report says the observed warming over the more recent 15 years to 2012 was just 0.05C per decade – below almost all computer predictions.

The Daily Mail item includes a graph:

What the graph shows is that measured global temperatures (compared to computer model projections) rose steadily since 1980, then leveled off starting about 2005. It is not made clear why data for 2011, 2012 and 2013 are not plotted. Besides, I think I have seen this before:

One of the most common misunderstandings amongst climate change “skeptics” is the difference between short-term noise and long-term signal. This animation shows how the same temperature data (green) that is used to determine the long-term global surface air warming trend of 0.16°C per decade (red) can be used inappropriately to “cherrypick” short time periods that show a cooling trend simply because the endpoints are carefully chosen and the trend is dominated by short-term noise in the data (blue steps). Isn’t it strange how five periods of cooling can add up to a clear warming trend over the last 4 decades? Several factors can have a large impact on short-term temperatures, such as oceanic cycles like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) or the 11-year solar cycle. These short-term cycles don’t have long-term effects on the Earth’s temperature, unlike the continuing upward trend caused by global warming from human greenhouse gas emissions.

This is being cited from a previous blog post. You might want to read through that piece. I have not been able to authenticate the Daily Mail‘s graph, but here is one that is traceable to a named source:

This plot is from Roy Spencer, and what I find most significant is his 13-month running average. This average shows more variability than the black line on the Daily Mail plot, so it actually shows a sharp dip about 2008 and a sharp spike about 2011. Following that the average oscillates around the 2005 levels. If JFA and the Daily Mail are banking on claiming victory based these recent trends, then they may be stepping out onto some soft ground. The plot above shows a lot of year-to-year variation, and the champions of denial may be shortly disappointed. See, for example, this recent item from the International Business Times:

November 2013 Warmest Month On Record? Average Global Temperature Was ‘Highest’ Since Records Began
By Philip Ross
on December 18 2013 3:50 PM

Start planning your summer travel arrangements now, because according to data released Tuesday, Earth had its warmest November on record since 1891 – the year scientists began collecting temperature data.

The report, released by the National Climate Data Center, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that last month marked the 37th consecutive November with an average global temperature above the 20th-century average. It was also the 345th consecutive month with an average temperature higher than the 20th- century average.

According to the Global Climate Report, November 2013 temperatures were, on average, 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (.78 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average of 55.2 degrees Fahrenheit (12.9 degrees Celsius). Not to mention that 2013 in general is tied with 2002 as the fourth-warmest year in the past 122 years.

Here’s JFA’s sign number 2:

2. The amount of ice covering the Arctic is up by 50 percent compared to this time in 2012.

JFA does not say which polar ice cap—there are two, one north, one south—so I’m going to have to look at both. First the Arctic cap. Here’s a news item from that left wing liberal source, the New York Times:

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean underwent a sharp recovery this year from the record-low levels of 2012, with 50 percent more ice surviving the summer melt season, scientists said Friday. It is the largest one-year increase in Arctic ice since satellite tracking began in 1978.

The experts added, however, that much of the ice remains thin and slushy, a far cry from the thick Arctic pack ice of the past. Because thin ice is subject to rapid future melting, the scientists said this year’s recovery was unlikely to portend any change in the relentless long-term decline of Arctic sea ice.

In this case it would appear that JFA is cherry picking its data. Additionally, JFA is not being entirely truthful. A truthful statement would include all pertinent information, and that information would include 1) the ice cap is rebounding from a record low the year before, 2) ice coverage is greater (more square miles), but it is thinner (less ice).

This is from the definitely liberal Huffington Post:

Arctic Temperatures Reach Highest Levels In 44,000 Years, Study Finds

From LiveScience staff writer Douglas Main:

Plenty of studies have shown that the Arctic is warming and that the ice caps are melting, but how does it compare to the past, and how serious is it?

New research shows that average summer temperatures in the Canadian Arctic over the last century are the highest in the last 44,000 years, and perhaps the highest in 120,000 years.

The following is from

Area v. volume

Finally we need to remember that “extent” or “areal coverage” is only one way with which we monitor and study sea ice.

Sea ice turns out to be a very complex and variable medium that is very difficult to observe over large-scales. It is also constantly moving and restructuring. Until we achieve the “holy grail” of monitoring total sea ice volume from space and how it changes over time (and there are great steps towards this with European Space Agency’s environmental research satellite CryoSat-II), we are limited to interpreting its global behaviour through area.

If you are really and truly interested in the past, present and future of polar ice and are not just browsing for something to make political hay, you might want to read some science-based sources. You can start with the Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis page of the NSIDC Web site. Here’s an excerpt:

Slow growth on the Atlantic side of the Arctic; Antarctic ice extent remains high
December 4, 2013

Ice extent in the Arctic was below average during November. There was substantially less ice than average in the northern Barents Sea, likely due to an influx of warm ocean waters and the persistence of a strong positive Arctic Oscillation (AO). In contrast, sea ice extent in Antarctica remained unusually high.

Arctic sea ice continued to expand during November, gaining 2.24 million square kilometers (865,000 square miles) of ice since the beginning of the month. Sea ice extent for November averaged 10.24 million square kilometers (3.95 million square miles). This is 750,000 square kilometers (290,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average extent and is the 6th lowest November extent in the 35-year satellite data record. As was the case for October 2013, sea ice extent for November 2013 remained within two standard deviations of the long-term 1981 to 2010 average.

The article discusses Antarctic sea ice:

Why is Antarctic sea ice growing?
Oct 29, 2013 by Guy Williams

Recently NASA reported that this year’s maximum wintertime extent of Antarctic sea ice was the largest on record, even greater than the previous year’s record.

This is understandably at odds with the public’s perception of how polar ice should respond to a warming climate, given the dramatic headlines of severe decline in Arctic summertime extent. But the “paradox of Antarctic sea ice” has been on climate scientists’ minds for some time.

Continental v. sea ice

First off, sea ice is different to the “continental ice” associated with polar ice caps, glaciers, ice shelves and icebergs. Continental ice is formed by the gradual deposition, build up and compaction of snow, resulting in ice that is hundreds to thousands of metres thick, storing and releasing freshwater that influences global sea-level over thousands of years.

Sea ice, though equally important to the climate system, is completely different. It is the thin layer (typically 1-2m) of ice that forms on the surface of the ocean when the latter is sufficiently cooled enough by the atmosphere.

I am sure all of this is depressingly technical to anybody who is reading just to pick for something to support a science-resistant world view. However, those of us forced to live in the real world deal with this sort of stuff all the time.

Here’s JFA’s sign number 3:

3. In just one week in late November, a combined total of more than 1000 new cold temperature and snowfall records were set in the United States.

I’m not going to research that. I will just assume JFA is technically correct in that statement and that 1000 or more new cold temperature records were set. We had some early cold weather, even in San Antonio, where this blog originates. The problem with JFA’s assertion is that while it may be true, it is also irrelevant. The title of JFA’s article is “16 Signs That Global Warming Was A Lie.” The key phrase is “Global Warming.” See JFA’s sign number 1 above. Globally, November this year was among the warmest on record.

I will pass over the snowfall records. In November it gets cold enough to snow in much of the continental US, and all that is then needed is enough moisture to produce snow.

Here’s JFA’s sign number 4:

4. In just one week in December, a combined total of more than 2000 new cold temperature and snowfall records were set in the United States.

This is almost redundant with JFA’s sign number 3. My previous response applies.

Here is JFA’s sign number 5:

5. On December 15th, 53 percent of the United States was covered in snow. That was the highest level on this date in 11 years.

Again, this assertion has the same issues as preceding ones, and my response is the same.

Here is JFA’s sign number 6:

6. A snowstorm that spanned more than 1,000 miles slammed into New England on Sunday.

By this time JFA is becoming tiresome. Same assertion, same response.

Here is JFA’s sign number 7:

7. Some areas of upstate New York were hit with about six feet of snow a few days ago.

Again, same old, same old.

Here is JFA’s sign number 8:

8. Chicago just experienced that coldest temperatures that it has seen in December in nearly 20 years.

Been there, done that. Let’s move on.

Here is JFA’s sign number 9:

9. On December 7th, Eugene, Oregon recorded the lowest temperature that it has seen since December 11th, 1972.

By now read readers should be getting about as put out with JFA’s lack of originality as I am.

Here is JFA’s sign number 10:

10. A few days ago, three feet of snow closed roads in Jerusalem. It was the worst snow storm in Israel since 1953.

This is a slight break from the prior monotony. This is a different spot in the world besides the Western Hemisphere and outside the United States. However, this has the same problem as the previous JFA signs. There are, however, some interesting points to note. Jerusalem, and the Eastern Mediterranean, are not famous for their snow. And there is a reason for this. The region is also not noted for its cold weather and its rain. So far we have not said anything that ties directly to global warming. We have not said anything about unseemly cold climate.

Let’s start with a short geography lesson. This is from the Israel Science and Technology Homepage:

Israel is located, between 29°-33° north of the equator, which is characterized as a subtropical region, between the temperate zone and the tropical zone. The northern and coastal regions of Israel show Mediterranean climate characterized by hot and dry summers and cool rainy winters. Whereas the southern and eastern areas of Israel are characterized by an arid climate.

The rainy season extends from October to early May, and rainfall peaks in December through February. Rainfall varies considerably by regions from the North to the South. Highest rainfall is observed in the North and center parts of the country and decreases in the southern part of Israel, from the Negev Desert to Eilat where rainfall is negligible.

Heavy snow falls only in the northernmost part of Golan Heights where the Mount Hermon summit (2,224 m above sea level) remains generally snow covered from December to March. In other parts of the country snow is observed rarely.

The city of Eilat, located at the southernmost point of Israel and at the northern tip of Red Sea, has a good climate for beach holidays all year round.

Please note that Israel has about the same latitude as Dallas, Texas. When I had my house in North Dallas the 33-degree latitude line ran along the alley behind my house. Israel is not a tropical region. And it does get cold in the Eastern Mediterranean. Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia for Israel summarizing the climate:

In winter, precipitation often takes the form of snow at the higher elevations of the central highlands, including Jerusalem. Mount Hermon has seasonal snow which covers all three of its peaks for most of the year in winter and spring. In rare occasions, snow gets to the northern mountain peaks and only in extremely rare occasions even to the coast. The areas of the country most cultivated are those receiving more than 300 millimeters (11.8 in) of rainfall annually, making approximately one-third of the country cultivable.

[emphasis added]

JFA’s sign number 10 was intended to alarm readers by noting not only snow, but lots of snow, in a region we do not ordinarily associate with snow. As the Wikipedia item shows, snow is not foreign to Jerusalem, and this time they got a lot of it. Like the points pushed forward in prior JFA signs, this is not a good argument against the reality of global warming.

Here is JFA’s sign number 11:

11. Heavy snow also fell on parts of Saudi Arabia. That was considered to be extremely unusual.

Again, JFA is pointing out unusual weather. I can top that. Here’s an item about snow in the summer in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia Gets Snow in Midsummer
July 23
By John K. Cooley

Thousands of people seeking relief from 100-plus temperatures in Saudi Arabia got an unexpected surprise today during a visit to a national park in the mountains.

They got snow — several inches of it. There was enough to trap thousands of park-goers.

Civil defense teams were called in after 75 people were injured in the ensuing panic. Several hundred were rescued by helicopters and mountain jeeps.

Ski Saudi Arabia!

Saudi Arabia’s prevailing climate is hot and dry, but frost and freezing temperatures have been reported in winter.

Rainfall is considered very sparse with an average annual precipitation of just 4 inches.

However, there are mountains in the country’s southwest, near its border with Yemen. Saudi entrepeneurs, undaunted by the lack of snow in the kingdom, have even been attempting to build ski resorts there with the help of snow-making machines.

To make it’s point JFA is going to need to somehow tie this into the global warming argument. We can wait for that.

Here is JFA’s sign number 12:

12. The recent snowfall in Turkey was so bad that it closed 900 roads.

Again, JFA is getting repetitious. Without researching the source of this comment I am going to assume this sign relates to this news item:

‘This is why we don’t have snow in Saudi Arabia’

As freak snowfall blankets parts of the Middle East for the first time in a generation, some people are strugglBy David Roseing to get to grips with the whole winter thing.

In a video entitled ‘this is why we don’t have snow in Saudi Arabia’ a man jumps headfirst into a bank of snow that fell in the highlands of a country more used to scorching temperatures, leaving his legs dangling in the air.

Mohammed Alobaidan, who uploaded the video, wrote that while Darwin posited that humans evolved from monkeys, he says that Saudis clearly ‘came from ostriches’.

The snow in Saudi Arabia is from a storm that swept through the region, affecting a number of countries. Again, single cases to not have a lot of bearing on global conditions.

Here is JFA’s sign number 13:

13. Temperatures have dropped so low that some Syrian war refugees are actually dying from the cold.

Is it time again for another geography lesson. Syria is not a tropical country. It’s lower latitude is about that of Dallas, Texas, and it’s norther regions are 37 degrees north of the equator. Is JFA amazed that refugees having to live outdoors are suffering immensely from the cold? Or is JFA just pretending to be amazed and hoping its readers will also be amazed?

Here is JFA’s sign number 14:

14. Cairo, Egypt just had the first snowfall that it has experienced in 100 years.

Again, this is from the same storm mentioned above. This is from PBS:

Rare snowfall shuts down Jerusalem, blankets Cairo
By: News Desk

A winter storm moving through the Middle East since Wednesday has shut down in Jerusalem, blanketed Egypt’s suburbs and ports with rare snow and brought freezing temperatures and heavy rain to camps housing more than two million refugees in Syria.

The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly three feet of snow closed down roads in Jerusalem on Friday and left thousands without power. Israeli soldiers have rescued hundreds snowed in their cars

The storm, called Alexa, has compounded the hardship for millions of Syrians who had fled the civil war in their homeland. Reuters reports that aid agencies are working to evacuate refugees from flooded camps in Lebanon and Jordan and distribute food and shelter, but are falling short of the demand. The BBC also reports that the bad weather has prevented the UN from airlifting supplies to areas inside Syria.

It would appear that JFA is attempting to get multiple frequent flier miles from the same story. I am thinking JFA would be more credible if their writer would just stick to the science and maybe consult some reliable sources. Here is what Wikipedia reports for the climate of Cairo:

In Cairo, and along the Nile River Valley, the climate is a hot desert climate (BWh according to the Köppen climate classification system), but often with high humidity due to the river valley’s effects. Wind storms can be frequent, bringing Saharan dust into the city during the months of March and April (see Khamasin). High temperatures in winter range from 19 °C (66 °F) to 29 °C (84 °F), while night-time lows drop to below 11 °C (52 °F), often to 5 °C (41 °F). In summer, the highs rarely surpass 40 °C (104 °F), and lows drop to about 20 °C (68 °F). Rainfall is sparse and only happens in the colder months, but sudden showers do cause harsh flooding. Snowfall is extremely rare; a small amount of graupel, widely believed to be snow, fell on Cairo’s easternmost suburbs on 13 December 2013, the first time Cairo’s area received this kind of precipitation in many decades.

It does not snow often in Cairo, but to link this case to “global warming is a hoax” is a bit of a stretch.

Here is JFA’s sign number 15:

15. It was so cold in Canada recently that the Arctic Winter Games biathlon trials were forced indoors.

JFA is saying it gets cold in Canada? I hope readers don’t mind if I move on to JFA’s sign number 16:

16. According to NASA satellite data, a temperature of minus 135 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded in Antarctica back in July.

This one is interesting. It’s unfortunate that JFA had not the space nor the inclination to post the entire story. This is from Reuters US edition:

Record low temperature recorded in Antarctica -scientists
SAN FRANCISCO Mon Dec 9, 2013 9:01pm EST

Dec 9 (Reuters) – The Arctic air blasting the eastern United States is positively balmy compared to the record minus 136 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 93 degrees Celsius) temperature measured in Antarctica in August 2010, according to research released on Monday.

Scientists made the discovery while analyzing 32 years of global surface temperatures recorded by satellites.

They found that a high ridge in the East Antarctic Plateau contains pockets of trapped air that dipped as low as minus 136 Fahrenheit on Aug. 10, 2010, researchers said at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

The previous record low was minus 128.6 F (minus 89.2 C), set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica, said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

“We had a suspicion this Antarctic ridge was likely to be extremely cold, and colder than Vostok because it’s higher up the hill,” Scambos said in a statement.

The temperatures are about 50 degrees F colder than anything recorded in Alaska or Siberia.

The research grew out of studies of snow dunes. Scientists noticed cracks in the snow and wondered if the top layer of snow was shrinking. That set them off on a hunt for temperature data.

The super-cold temperatures are due to air being caught and held for a while. If the skies are clear for a few days, the ground radiates remaining heat into space, creating a layer of super-chilled air above the snow.

“By causing the air to be stationary for extended periods, while continuing to radiate more heat away into space, you get the absolute lowest temperatures we’re able to find,” Scambos said. (Editing by Paul Simao)

Well! This makes it obvious that global warming is a lie.

No, it doesn’t.

The Reuters piece explained the convergence of events that resulted in this record low reading, and the facts behind global warming are nowhere challenged. Let’s go a little further. This is also a chance temperature reading. Had there been recording thermometers placed on a 1-mile grid covering all of Antarctica for the past 200 years I am quite sure this reading would have been eclipsed many times.

Let’s review what is happening with JFA and its readers:

JFA skipped over the facts and printed the headline, knowing its readers will have had no knowledge of the story behind the headline and also will not be inclined to look. This does not say so much about JFA as it does about the people who read it this item. I am going to extrapolate and state that the core of JFA readers 1) are poorly educated in science, 2) are motivated more by political aims than by a real regard for the truth, 3) are politically conservative.

Ask me about my basis for this extrapolation, and I will respond that this comes from decades of personal experience. I will only mention a recurring encounter I had over a number of years.

I first became associated with The North Texas Skeptics 25 years ago. This is a group dedicated to a healthy regard for science and to well-reasoned scientific skepticism. Targets or our skepticism have logically included astrology, faith healing, psychic powers and creationism. About 24 years ago Pat joined our group, and he quickly became active and a welcome contributor to our efforts. I list him among my friends.

Pat is an excellent writer—he is a professional comedy writer, and you have likely encountered some of his very humorous material. Pat has contributed many of the fine skeptical pieces for The North Texas Skeptic.

However, early on I became aware of a peculiarity of Pat’s, and that was what seemed to me to be an extreme anti-environmentalism. It was odd to me at the time that a person I presumed to be skeptical of unscientific claims would be so caught up in the rhetoric-driven world of anti-environmentalism. Granted that the world of environmentalism was then and still is largely rhetoric-driven, some of Pat’s positions on environmentalism seemed more political than scientific. People attempting to refute established science should be the ones getting our skeptical attention.

First there was the matter of ozone layer depletion. I will likely put out a post on this topic later, but in the mean time I will just note that Pat was skeptical of the facts behind ozone depletion: it was happening, it was harmful, people were causing it. Pat’s writings from about 20 years ago contained many arguments against the known facts, and we had some exchanges on the matter. Eventually scientists who had studied and identified the problem won the Nobel Prize in chemistry:

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995 was awarded jointly to Paul J. Crutzen, Mario J. Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland “for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone”.

I did not hear much about ozone depletion from Pat after that, but his attack on the science behind global warming continued with strength. In The North Texas Skeptic there were many posts like the following:

The nadir of the skeptic-bashing season came on ABC’s Nightline during the Kyoto global warming conference. With the departure of Brit Hume and David Brinkley, John Stossel is about the last skeptic left standing at ABC News, and this has had two noticeable results. The first is that all stories about global warming are now prefaced with an admonition that a majority of scientists agree that manmade global warming is a fact (a recent poll of climatologists actually puts that number at 19 percent). The second result is that ABC News has quickly sunk to third place in the Neilsen ratings. And no wonder: if ABC’s World News Tonight included a weather forecast, it would undoubtedly call for an 80 percent chance of boiling oceans by Wednesday.

I have to say there is not a lot of scientific content in the foregoing. I once challenged Pat on the scientific merits of one of his points, and he allowed as how I was using my extra education in the subject to unfair advantage. A little bit of that is true. The subjects of ozone and global warming involve a lot of physics and chemistry, which are not fields of his college degree. He did, however, once defend his position by citing he had studied physics in college. So have I, but I went on to get a graduate degree, and I took my studies seriously.

What I often found depressing about Pat’s position on global warming was that it seemed more based on political philosophy than on any interest in the facts. Here’s an example from another of his posts:

“The vast majority of scientists have concluded unequivocally that if we do not reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases at some point in the next century, we will disrupt our climate and put our children and grandchildren at risk.”

— Bill Clinton, State of the Union, Tuesday, January 27, 1998

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

— Bill Clinton, News conference, Monday, January 26, 1998

Lesson One in skepticism: “Consider the source.”

Obviously President Clinton was a liar on one or more occasions, and in one specific instance (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”) it was under oath, and he was censured by Congress and had his license to practice law revoked. However, what Pat wanted readers to take away was that a liar speaking out in favor of the science behind global warming is an argument that the science is false. Somebody along the chain failed to notice that if this argument were valid, than any valid principle could be refuted simply by hiring a liar to speak in support of it.

At least once along the way Pat put reliance upon an anecdotal situation to make his point on global warming. It may have been one like this:

Anyhoo, Al and his fellow global warmers have borrowed a page from Joseph Goebbels, to wit: “If you can just get the media to repeat something often enough, even if it’s a load of absolute drivel, people will start to believe it.” Thus, he sponsored that surreal White House global warming conference for TV weathermen (good luck telling them apart from the politicians), in the hope that their viewers would be gullible enough to believe that someone who can’t tell them if it’s going to rain next weekend can accurately predict what the temperature will be in 2015.

I kept this in mind and later turned it around in one of my posts:

Of course, there is a lot of silliness being advanced in the name of science these days, and it needs to be refuted by people who really know what they are talking about. I am glad to see every now and then knowledgeable people taking time off from their real jobs and standing in front of a camera explaining the facts and separating the wheat from the chaff. And they don’t have to use the kettle defense.

[As I write this it’s 62 degrees outside. Of course it’s January. At night.]

Back to the JFA post, here are my conclusions:

  • JFA has made no factual statements of any worth in advancing the topic—16 Signs That Global Warming Was A Lie.
  • Alongside that, JFA’s post consists largely of anecdotal stories—stories that don’t support the aim of the post and are often not even relevant.
  • JFA’s post is purely politically-driven, and contains nothing that would advance knowledge and understanding of the global warming issue.
  • People who read and welcome items such as this will not be inclined to dig deeper and winkle out the real facts behind them.
  • Such people are intellectually shallow and largely drive their lives with catch phrases as a crutch.
  • Regarding this particular item and the JFA site in general, it reflects a distressing trend of late for political conservatives to abandon science and pragmatic thinking.

There are dangers in this, and these dangers do not bode well for the conservative faction in today’s society. One of these dangers is an over-reliance on anecdotal stories rather than on reasoned discourse.

Which brings me to my own catch-phrase, if I may be allowed to fashion one: “Those who hang on anecdotal stories can wind up being hung by them.”

Texas Salamander

I just received this in the mail from my state senator, Carlos Uresti. He represents Senate District 19 of the Texas Legislature. Take a look:

Isn’t this a great example of gerrymandering?

The word gerrymander (originally written Gerry-mander) was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on 26 March 1812. The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then-governor Elbridge Gerry (pronounced /ˈɡɛri/; 1744–1814). In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. When mapped, one of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander.

Gerrymander was a portmanteau of the governor’s last name and the word salamander. The redistricting was a notable success. In the 1812 election, both the Massachusetts House and governorship were won by Federalists by a comfortable margin (costing Gerry his seat), but the senate remained firmly in Democratic-Republican hands.

This example is not as bad as some of the US congressional districts. Take a look at Texas District 25, which I just pulled off the Internet:

This monstrosity stretches from Fort Worth to New Braunfels, taking a notch out of Austin in the process. Call me an old fogy, if you like, but I would prefer it if we came up with some impartial, non-political mechanism to apportion districts. Give me a week (or less) and I could come up with a computer program that would cut this state up into approximately equal districts by population, and the districts would be compact with borders aligned mostly with county and precinct boundaries. Give me twice as much time, and I could design a Web site to sign people up for health insurance.

Of course, that would never fly. First of all, one or more of the political parties (pick one) would object, because the apportionment would not give the party its much-desired political advantage. Then there is the issue of minority representation. Recognized minority groups would have their voting power diluted by being sifted into districts dominated by majority groups. The minority groups would claim unfair representation.

I don’t take a lot of truck with that complaint. Minorities lose elections because they are in the minority. The Bill of Rights was engineered in part to protect minority rights, and it would do a good job given the chance. In other cases minority groups would need to form coalitions to enhance their clout at the polls. The fact is, voters in the majority groups turn out so poorly at the polls that any minority group could carry an election by turning out in greater percentages.

Anyhow, look at Senator Uresti’s 19th district. It completely engulfs Brewster County, the largest county in the contiguous 48, larger than several states combined. Then it comes all the way east and snakes into San Antonio to swallow up my little neighborhood along Leon Creek. Guys, I have to tell you what a great honor it is for me to share my vote with the good people of Brewster County. Just so they don’t latch their eyes onto the water in Leon Creek.

Goodby, Old Paint

Yesterday was an important anniversary for me. A year ago I handed in my badge and headed back to San Antonio for the duration. Before I did that I made a video of my last trip out the front door. The song says it all.

Goodbye, old Paint,
I’m a-leaving Cheyenne.
Goodbye, old Paint,
I’m a-leaving Cheyenne.

Old Paint’s a good pony.
He runs when he can,
Good morning young lady,
My pony won’t stand.

Goodbye, old Paint,
I’m a-leaving Cheyenne.
Goodbye, old Paint,
I’m a-leaving Cheyenne.

Here’s the video: Goodby, Old Paint

View From The Back Of The Bus

This is cute. It’s another of those news items I picked up from the folks back at the Texas Freedom Network.

Image yanked from a Facebook posting

If a week ago I didn’t know who Phil Robertson was it was because I was stupid. Now if I don’t know who Phil Robertson is, then it will be because I am both deaf and blind. Make no mistake, Robertson was famous even before I got clued in. Would you believe his reality TV show Duck Dynasty is the biggest ever draw of the genre? (Is it OK to use a foreign word in this context?) As I posted previously, Robertson is a successful business man who parlayed selling his special duck call into a multi-million-dollar family business. The family highlights their TV gig, engaging in (I suppose) hilarious backwoods antics, delighting city slickers and bumpkins alike. A key part of the attraction is the Robertson family’s Christian fundamentalism—bald and up-front.

What finally snagged my attention was the flap over a Robertson interview appearing in the January issue of GQ. As I mentioned in a previous post, Robertson’s religious and personal perspective turned out to be even more startling when stripped of its Duck Dynasty wrapping.

Aye, there’s the rub. This is America, the great bastion of free speech. Unfortunately for Robertson, it’s also the great bastion for capitalism and free enterprise. It would appear that one has triumphed over the other. Sic transit gloria.

Yes, one of the tenants of Christian fundamentalism is condemnation of homosexuality, and Robertson’s recapitulation of the scripture on this did not sit well with the LBGT community. Nor with the show’s producers. A&E dropped Robertson from the show, likely forever.

Not to worry. The LGBT community aside, Robertson has many defenders, even among those who never watch the show.

So I’m finally getting down to the essence of this post. Robertson is receiving daily support from religious and political interests, and in this process we on the outside are gaining additional insight into this remarkable man and his philosophies. Now comes a revelation that is so startling that it’s bound to dominate the headlines for weeks to come. One Ian Bayne, preparing to run for the Illinois 11th Congressional District next year, has disclosed information not previously available to me or others. Besides being a protector of the Christian faith Robertson is also a civil rights defender of stellar proportions. He’s not just a summertime soldier when it comes to civil rights. He’s up there with the big time. Did I mention Martin Luther King? Maybe not. Did I mention Rosa Parks?

Ian Bayne did. Here is my re-creation of an e-mail sent out by Bayne and reproduced in an article appearing in The Huffington Post:

Duck Dynasty Star is Rosa Parks of Our Generation

Today, Ian Bayne called Phil Robertson, star of the A&E series “Duck Dynasty,” the ‘Rosa Parks’ of our generation.

“In December 1955 Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution for black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians,” said Bayne.

Parks, famous for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white person, as was the rule in her day, provided inspiration for a movement of equality of black people and white people in America.

“What Parks did was courageous,” said Bayne. “What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.”

Bayne believes that the Duck Dynasty star knew that going on GQ would result in the current controversy going on surrounding his suspension, as was as his suspension.

Bayne added that this exposure of Robertson’s situation is an eye opener for many who may have been previously in disbelief that the bible is fast becoming considered “hate speech” by the media and society.

See, the note includes a little picture showing Rosa Parks and Phil Robertson side by side. Shoulder to shoulder, as it were.

Caution: This is not to misconstrue that Robertson took part in the struggle for voting rights or even the right to sit in the front of the bus. By his own account black people in the south, or at least in Duck Dynasty country, were cool with not voting and with sitting in the back of the bus. The following clip appears in the GQ article as an inset:

Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Not to worry. Phil may have missed out on a lot that was going on in his neck of the woods 50 to 60 years ago. He may not have noticed that black people were prevented from voting. He might not have noticed that an uppity black teenager could be murdered for insulting a white woman, and the jury would give the murderers a walk. He might not even have noticed that black people had to sit in the back of the bus. It’s easy to miss out on a lot of stuff when you’re growing up in the Louisiana backwoods. However I’m thinking it would have been hard to miss the conversation at the dinner table, and it would have been hard to miss the sermons delivered from the pulpit assuring the congregation that subservience by black people was ordained by God.

As an aside, researching this piece took me to various related news and opinion pieces, and in some cases I followed the links. It was not a journey of joy. There is the tale of a lynching of a black murder suspect:

After being hauled from the jail, Moore was brought to the field where LaRose’s body was found, according to an Oct. 14, 1933, account in the black-owned New Orleans newspaper, The Louisiana Weekly. With a rope around his neck and clothes stripped to his waist, the teen was then marched, while being beaten, from the murder scene to the bridge and subjected to a branding iron whenever he fell.

Hanging from his body, a sign offered the final indignity: “Niggers Let This Be An Example. Do-Not-Touch-In 24 Hr. Mean it.”

As white people reviewed the scene on the bridge and black residents were warned to stay away, Moore’s body remained within sight of a school and the venerable St. Philomena Catholic Church, its spire above the fray.

An article in The Atlantic gives a picture of the cheerful, carefree life of black people a few decades back:

One should not be lulled into thinking that the murder of Freddie Moore was out of the ordinary in Louisiana. Between 1882 and 1936, only Georgia, Texas and Mississippi saw more black people lynched. For part of that period four of Louisiana’s parishes led the nation for counties with the most lynchings.

That is because governance in Phil Robertson’s Louisiana was premised on terrorism. As late as 1890, the majority of people in Louisiana were black. As late as 1902, they still lived under threat of slavery through debt peonage and the convict-lease system. Virtually all of them were pilfered of their vote and their tax dollars. Plunder and second slavery were enforced by violence, as when the besiegers of Colfax massacred 50 black freedmen with rifles and cannon and tossed their bodies into a river. Even today the Colfax Massacre is honored in Louisiana as the rightful “end of carpetbag misrule.”

The black people who Phil Robertson knew were warred upon. If they valued their lives, and the lives of their families, the last thing they would have done was voiced a complaint about “white people” to a man like Robertson. Ignorance is no great sin and one can forgive the good-natured white person for not knowing how all that cannibal sausage was truly made. But having been presented with a set of facts, Robertson’s response is to cite “welfare” and “entitlement” as the true culprits.

There’s even an image from a newspaper of the time:

The Milwaukee Journal, January 27, 1935

If something can be said about the good people of Phil Robertson country in those days it’s that none of them were communists. I’m stretching it, but I’m willing to bet there was not a communist, not even a liberal, among those people who committed public murder and left the body hanging for all the school children to see. I may go only slightly out on a limb and guess that all of the participants in this one-sided episode were true Christians who attended church regularly and relied upon the Bible as their source of inspiration. It would make Phil Robertson proud.

But all that said, it’s heartening to see that Robertson’s own memory is free of all those details and that he holds no lingering animosity toward black people in America. It’s also heartening to see that he has finally taken his rightful place among the list of honored civil rights champions. For this we have congressional candidate Ian Bayne of Illinois to thank.

For my own, I salute Robertson for his resolution and courage in standing up for the civil rights of Christians. Although they are not currently facing public lynchings, their plight is worthy of our concern. Let me list some tribulations faced by Christians in this increasingly hostile world we call America:

  • They are not allowed to erect their crosses and other religious symbols to proselytize for their religion on public property, even though Christians are in the majority and pay most of the taxes.
  • American taxpayers are not allowed to support Christian proselytizing in public schools. For example, federal judges have prevented school districts from telling students that creationism is equal to or better science than the theory of evolution, once again, even though Christians are in the vast majority in this country and ought to have their say in such matters.
  • Famous people, plus perhaps myself, continue to chide Christians for believing in nonsense such as reincarnation, talking snakes and transubstantiation. Readers, these public insults must be withering to endure, and our government will give Christians no relief by putting their detractors in jail.
  • The American legislative and legal system continues to insult Christians by accommodating un-Christian activities such as homosexual marriage.

If ever there was injustice and a threat to civil liberties, this is it. Fortunately for the Christians of this country Phil Robertson has stepped to the front to defend the rights of all Christians of America so they will never any time in the future have to sit in the back of the bus. And thanks to Ian Bayne for reminding us of Robertson’s heroic stance.

You can learn more about candidate Bayne from his Web site. The story from the Huffington Post supplies a few additional details:

Bayne, a conservative talk radio host, is one of four Republicans in a competitive primary vying to challenge Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) in 2014.

“Duck Dynasty” will continue on A&E, but the network suspended Robertson indefinitely. Since then, conservatives like fellow reality TV star Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) have defended Robertson.

I may add that’s right Christian of Palin and Jindal.

Eugenie C. Scott

Life is good, life is full, life is short. And all good things eventually come to an end. It was therefore without surprise when it was announced that Eugenie C. Scott would retire as head of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) this year.

I first (almost) encountered Dr. Scott early in my life as a skeptical activist. I got notice she was in the area and would be giving a talk. At the time I did not know and did not realize what a powerhouse she was and would continue to be for the next 23 years in the skirmish against creationism.

Eugenie Carol Scott (born October 24, 1945) is an American physical anthropologist who has been the executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) since 1987. She is a leading critic of young earth creationism and intelligent design.

In this country the NCSE has been the primary defender in the public sector of science education. Whenever students or parents complain that school boards or teachers are pushing creationism or other forms of pseudo science in the public schools, the NCSE is the go-to source to rebut the claims of legitimacy pushed by the promoters.

A very notable victory was in 2005 when concerned parents objected that the board of the Dover (Pennsylvania) Area School District attempted to introduce the creationist book Of Pandas and People into the curriculum. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took their case, and the ACLU enlisted the assistance of the NCSE. The defendant, the school district, enlisted the aid of the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian law center, and the TMLC enlisted the aid of the Discovery Institute. Both moves were a win for the plaintiffs.

Researchers for the NCSE uncovered physical evidence that the Pandas book was, despite denials by the defense, a creationist text. On the other hand, the TMLC based its case on the false assumption that Intelligent Design, the theme of Pandas, was scientifically based. It was a classic case of a hoaxer believing his own scam and then suffering the consequences.

Federal Judge John E. Jones III ruled that the plaintiffs had proved their case, namely that Intelligent Design has no scientific merit, but that it amounts to religious proselytizing and is unacceptable in public schools. He also chastised school district officials for submitting false testimony in pre-trial hearings and in his court as they attempted to cover up their malfeasance.

For its part in assisting the defense, the Discovery Institute, seeing disaster on the horizon, bailed early, with its principle witness, William Dembski, withdrawing from the case without testifying.

All this time, Dr. Scott has been the driving force, giving public presentations, taking television interviews and debating creationists. A most notable debate was exactly 15 years ago when creationists Michael Behe and Phillip Johnson came out, along with David Berlinski and program host William F. Buckley to speak against Darwinian evolution, defended by Scott, Kenneth Miller, Michael Ruse and Barry Lynn, at the time head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. You can watch the entire program on Youtube.

I will do a complete review of the debate in a later post, but as you watch this one you will get some fun as anti-evolutionist, non-scientist, Berlinski tries and fails to make scientific points. Scott and biology professor Miller ruled the waves that night.

The NCSE is a tax-exempt, non-profit and represents a good investment for your monetary contributions. They also have a journal, mostly on-line now, but rich in news about the activities of creationists and more recently about activities of those denying anthropogenic climate change. Here is an excerpt from the September-October 2013 issue of the NCSE Reports, which I just received in the mail today:

United Kingdom: Michael Gove, the Secretary  of State for Education in the United Kingdom, “has abandoned plans to drop climate change from the geography national curriculum,” reported the Guardian (2013 Jul 5). As NCSE previously explained, the existing national curriculum discusses sustainable development and “its impact on environmental interaction and climate change” in the section on geography.

The silence about climate change in the new draft prompted speculations about political interference in the revision process and worries about the effect on students. Doug Bourn, director of the Development Education Research Center at the Institute of Education, told the Guardian (2013 Mar 18) that with the omission of any mention of climate change in the curriculum, “The danger is that it will now not be taught at all or that the vacuum could be filled by people who are not positive about it, like deniers.”

Now, however, the Guardian reports, “Those familiar with the final version say it will be clear about the role of humans in climate change. It will refer to how human and physical processes interact to influence and change landscapes, environments and the climate, and how humans depend on the effective functioning of natural systems.” The newspaper credited Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, for his efforts to convince Gove to restore climate change.

Writing on the Guardian’s Environment blog (2013 jul 8), Leo Hickman welcomed the change, but warned that it “might be a little premature … to claim total victory”.

If you value public science education and the public presentation of valid science you need to contribute to the NCSE. Go to their Web site, become a member, send more than your share.

The NCSE is going to forge on without Dr. Scott. Through the years I have seen a number of excellent science advocates working with the NCSE and standing in a good position to take over administration. What will be very difficult is to find one of them willing to make the kind of personal sacrifice Dr. Scott has given so much these past 25 years.

Upstairs Downstairs Inside Out

‘This story is experiencing some longevity. Here’s more.

Devyani Khobragade, Indian consul general in the US

I previously posted on the saga of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested earlier this week on charges of visa fraud. She had brought from India a woman, Sangeeta Richard, to work as a nanny, and on the visa application she stated the nanny would be paid $9.75 per hour for a 40-hour work week. Khobragade required Richard to sign a contract for $3.31 per hour. The contract had a stipulation that this matter would not be disclosed to the authorities. I posted at the time:

What was not clear to me at first is why Khobragade was arrested in the first place. Diplomats are supposed to receive what is called “diplomatic privilege,” making them immune to arrest. Closer reading reveals there are exemptions, including activities not related to their diplomatic service. This appears to be one of those exempt activities.

What’s more about this story is that the uproar generated back in India deals a lot with the humiliation suffered by Khobragade. Back at the detention center she was strip searched. Strip searched! The indignity!

Here is more of what’s more:

Disregard for a moment the strip search is standard before anybody is put in the slammer with other detainees. The strip search is conducted in private by a woman marshal. This is somewhat less indignity than first imagined, but indignity, non-the-less. But here’s the problem. How do we know Khobragade was strip searched? I am quite sure the US Marshal’s Service did not put out a press release saying the woman had been strip searched. This news came from Khobragade, herself. She is the sole source of her own embarrassment. I am thinking that she was thinking.

I am thinking that she was thinking that she would extract a little payback for being charged with a crime. She certainly knew what the reaction would be back in India when it was learned that an Indian woman, a prominent Indian woman at that, was subjected to such an indignity. Class means a lot back in India, and it’s likely Khobragade played that card deliberately.

Included in the what’s more of this story is Khobragade’s version. Some parts are reasonable. Others not so much. Here is Khobragade’s father:

Uttam Khobragade, father of Devyani Khobragade, alleged his daughter’s former maid Sangeeta Richards could be a “CIA agent”. He said her daughter had been made a “scapegoat” and the possibility of a conspiracy behind the visa fraud allegations against her could not be ruled out.

Absolutely! Where the CIA is concerned, nothing can be ruled out. Remember the Twin Towers!

Wikipedia provides some additional background:

… Khobragade alleged that Sangeeta Richard and her husband Philip Richard approached her for a job as they needed money for their children’s education. As per their agreement, it was decided Richard would go to New York with Khobragade to take care of her household work for a monthly salary of Rs. 30,000. Richard went to New York in November 23, 2012 and began working for Khobragade . In March 2013, problems started between Khobragade and Richard when the latter allegedly started pressuring her employer to allow her to work outside on her off days. Khobragade turned down Richard’s requests citing the fact that it was illegal according to her visa status and also since she had an official passport. On June 21, Khobragade went to New Jersey and when she returned two days later, Richard was found to be missing.

I don’t have a link to this, but Khobragade’s attorney, interviewed on CNN, has stated the underpayment is misconstrued. He told viewers that Richard agreed that part of her $9.75 per hour be allocated to her husband, implying the $3.31 per hour mentioned in the criminal complaint was just the remainder. Additional details are reported on The Hindu Web site:

The Indian telling of the tale has drawn attention to alleged improprieties by Sangeeta Richard, the Indian national who was in Ms. Khobragade’s employment as a babysitter and housekeeper between November 2012 and June 2013.

These included Ms. Richard asking for permission to work in another residence before June 23, and then “absconding” from the premises of Ms. Khobragade from that date onwards, allegedly “taking” a mobile phone and SIM card, around $200 in cash and some documents, all said to belong to Ms. Khobragade.

However, this narrative has avoided referencing the alleged visa fraud that the criminal complaint against Ms. Khobragade details, including the claim that she effectively paid Ms. Richard $3.31 per hour whereas the New York minimum wage is $7.25.

The Hindu further touches on some points I made in my previous post:

It is at this point that the second narrative arc becomes relevant. And it is centred squarely on the U.S.’ long history of combating the abuse of foreign domestic workers by diplomats on its soil.

The full import of this battle waged by multiple federal government agencies may not always be visible when observing a proximate issue such as the Khobragade-Richard dispute.

Yet it may have been at the back of [U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet] Bharara’s mind when he said on Wednesday, “One wonders whether any government would not take action regarding false documents being submitted to it in order to bring immigrants into the country…. where the purpose of the scheme was to unfairly treat a domestic worker in ways that violate the law.”

He asked, for good measure why there was “so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?”

Sadly, this story is bringing additional dirty linens to light:

Devyani Khobragade, the Indian diplomat who is at the centre of a diplomatic row with the US, is one of the 25 allottees who have been found ineligible to own a flat in the controversial Adarsh Housing society by a judicial panel which probed the scam.

According to Maharashtra government rules, an official applying for a flat under a government quota has to give a signed affidavit stating that they do not own any other flat. Devyani had an apartment in Oshiwara locality in the city which too she had got under the government quota.

Her father Uttam Khobragade, a retired IAS officer, was alleged to have facilitated extra floor space index (FSI) to the upscale 31-storey Adarsh society in Colaba by transferring an adjoining Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) plot to the society.

Uttam Khobragade has, however, denied any wrongdoing in the scam.

The news item also mentions Devyani Khobragade owns ten additional properties.

As the owner of this blog I always get to have the last word. Mine is this: Assuming the US government’s case is valid, we have to wonder. India is a modern, 21st century country. They have nuclear weapons. Earlier this month they launched a spacecraft to Mars. While there may be many people in India living in abject poverty, the Indian government is not stone broke. So why is it that Khobragade needs to shave expenses and pay her maid/nanny barely $3 an hour? That should be embarrassing to somebody.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

So there’s this guy waiting in line at the supermarket checkout. The woman in front of him is annoying him by chatting on her cell phone. What’s worse, she’s talking in a foreign language. Getting close to checking out, the woman puts away her phone.

The man takes this opportunity to complain. “Lady, you’re in America now. You need to speak English.”

The woman is astonished. “Excuse me?”

“I mean, if you don’t want to speak English you need to go back to where you came from.”

The woman gives him a look. “I was speaking Navajo. If you want to speak English you need to go back to England.”

Lame Duck Redux

I rushed to publish, apparently. This is a story with legs. There is much more.

Image yanked from a Facebook posting

When I posted the link to Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson I got some push back, even from blood relations. This excerpt is from Fox News:

“Duck Dynasty” dad Phil Robertson has been suspended indefinitely by the A&E Network following his recent comments on homosexuality, the network announced Wednesday night.

It turns out Robertson has supporters from both the right and from the LGBT community. CNN commentator Don Lemon agreed to be offended by Robertson’s remarks, but his take was that A&E, the TV show’s carrier, should not have booted the duck commander. In the spirit of free enterprise, Lemon said the market should be the arbiter. It turns out the market was A&E, and they booted Robertson.

Among Robertson’s remarks were some that seemed racially insensitive. His take was that blacks in the South, prior to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s were all cool with their situation. Robertson is from Louisiana, where his show is based. I pointed out that there was a lot of evil going on thereabouts during Robertson’s youth, and I hinted he had to be turning a blind eye to avoid it all. Here is one response I got when I posted a link:

Ok. I read. Phil states he never observed blacks being mistreated. He doesn’t state or even imply (in what I read) that they weren’t mistreated. He shared his observation. I don’t watch the show.

Others have defended Robertson, some on Facebook, pointing out his remarks in the GQ interview merely reflected fundamentalist Christian scripture and did not reflect on his true character. It turns out these defenders are reading preferentially. A deeper reading bears out Robertson’s true nature. This is an item from the Huffington Post:

Phil Robertson Homophobic Past Resurfaces In 2010 Sermon

Further evidence of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson’s homophobia has come to light in the wake of his controversial GQ interview.

TMZ posted a video Thursday of Robertson unleashing an anti-gay sermon on a crowd at Pennsylvania’s Berean Bible Church’s Wild Game Supper in 2010. In the video, the Duck Commander king can be seen dressed in camouflage, thumping a Bible, talking about sexual deviants and the lack of morality in America.

“First they say, ‘There is no God. Get him out of your mind,'” he said in a rambling speech. “Then they bow down to birds, animals and reptiles, and each other. And the first thing you see coming out of them is gross sexual immorality. They will dishonor their bodies with one another, degrade each other. Uh, is that going on in the United States of America? Look around. God’s not there… And boy is there some immorality going on around here. Does it get worse?”

“Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions,” Robertson continued. “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil. That’s what you have 235 years, roughly, after your forefathers founded the country. So what are you gonna do Pennsylvania? Just run with them? You’re doing to die. Don’t forget that.”

In GQ, he uttered similar sentiments when he said homosexuality is a sin and likened it to bestiality. Still, he insists that as a Christian he does not judge.

The video is posted on YouTube: Phil Robertson in 2010

What I find so dumbfounding is the use of the Bible as a cover. Let me get this straight: You have a darker side, and people call you out on it. What are you going to do? Why, you just pull out a book and say, “It’s OK. It’s all right here in this book.”

People, I can write a book. And in this book I can put in all sorts of unsavory things, and then I can set my life adrift and annoy those around me and make an ass of myself, and when people, rightly, cast down their eyes upon me, I can say, “It’s OK. It’s right here in this book.”

That’s what Robertson has done, only he had somebody else write the book for him. I may have mentioned this before, but I have been around for more than 70 years, and I have never needed a book to tell me how to live my life. If I cannot determine a correct course by interacting intelligently with society and fashioning my lifestyle to be agreeable and without harm to others, then an ancient work of fiction is not going to be much help to me.

All this time I have not called A&E to account for their lack of foresight. Did they not know anything about the Bible when they cast a show about a family that bases its life on the Bible to the exclusion of all common sense? Did they not read the Bible all the way through? Some parts are pretty rough. I’m not too sure A&E would appreciate the Duck family acting out the Bible without some selective editing. Take this excerpt from Judges 19:

19:22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

19:23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing.

19:24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don’t do such a disgraceful thing.

19:25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go.

19:26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

19:27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold.

19:28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home

19:29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

A sensible reader can say this is a biblical passage illustrating what you should not do. That’s not much of a defense, because similar stories concern people apparently held in esteem by The Lord. Here is Genesis 19:

5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him,

7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.

8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

See, Lot is really a righteous man in the eyes of God, and he only offers up his virgin daughters instead of his concubine, and they do not wind up getting chopped to pieces and handed out all around. Later on, however, the daughters lose their virginity when they get their father drunk and screw him in turn, bearing both his children and his grandchildren. It’s so wonderful I could just cry.

I am losing count of the posts I see on Facebook defending the Duck Dynasty as guardians of the Christian faith. To those with such delusions I say only this: Give it a break. You imply you are defending Christianity, which is under attack here. In reality the thing you are defending amounts to a work of fiction at best and at worst an operator’s manual for Hell.


That’s it. I’ve had it with this president. I voted for him two times, and he’s done nothing but break his promises to me. Let me get to specifics.

Don't ask me where this came from. A conservative friend posted it on Facebook.

When Barack Obama was running for president the first time, I was assured he would turn this country into a communist state and completely wreck the economy. Prominent, hardworking CEOs of major corporations would be arrested and jailed. Some would leave the country. Others would wind up in bread lines. Obama’s draconian energy policies would send gasoline prices through the roof. And UN troops would come in and take away our guns.

Yeah, you believe all that shit? Well I did, much to my regret. That’s what was promised. Here’s what I got.

Unemployment kept going down down down. Gasoline prices have stalled. They are now lower than the peak of the previous, capitalistic administration. I ask you, comrades, is this any way to run a socialist economy?

The stock market has been steadily going up up up. Comrades, does that sound like down down down to you? What kind of communist have we elected? When Kommissar Obama was elected the Dow-Jones averages stood about 7000. Now the value is above 16,000, and it’s up another 42 points today. The NASDAQ has also more than doubled in the last five years. Capitalists are dancing in the streets. Isn’t there an empty cell in a gulag for this failed leader?

After voting last November a second time for Kommissar Obama (reluctantly) I decided to take things into my own hands. I quit my job and went on the public dole. Barbara Jean and I even took a Florida vacation. Did that help kill the economy? Get real. In the last year Barbara Jean and I have done nothing but put more money in the bank, said income derived largely from our sinful capitalistic investments. Forgive me, comrades, for I have sinned.

And where are the damned UN troops. They were supposed to be here months ago, years. Isn’t anybody going to bang on my door at night and take away my guns? All right, I didn’t have any guns to begin with, but where are the damned UN storm troopers?

I could go on and on with my list of gripes, but suffice it to say I am extremely disappointed with the socialistic performance of this president. I will just cite one complaint.

By now, when the economy should be in the absolute pits, I, as an unemployed socialist, should finally be able to have some peace and quiet. What do I get instead? I keep getting phone calls and e-mails from companies wanting me to come back to work. Jesus Christ! I’m 73 years old. Is this ever going to stop?

Thanks a lot Obama!

Lame Duck


Additional consideration, better wording, something added, something changed.

From Wikipedia

Readers, I have sinned. I have been much too late picking up on this. Although I waste a lot of my remaining time on this Earth watching cable TV, I have barely noticed the Duck Dynasty. This is from Wikipedia:

Duck Dynasty is an American reality television series on A&E. It shows the lives of the Robertson family, who became wealthy from their family-operated business, Duck Commander, operated in West Monroe, Louisiana, which makes products for duck hunters, primarily the duck call named Duck Commander. The Robertson men, brothers Phil, Si, and Phil’s sons Jase, Willie, and Jep, are known for their long beards. The business began in a family shed, where Phil Robertson spent 25 years making duck calls from Louisiana cedar trees. His son Willie is now the CEO of the company. The family was previously featured on the series Benelli Presents Duck Commander and its spin-off Buck Commander, which still airs on the Outdoor Channel.

The show has broken several ratings records on both A&E and cable television as a whole; the fourth season premiere drew 11.8 million viewers, the most-watched nonfiction cable telecast in history.

OK, that is way cool. Anybody who can turn making duck calls into a multi-million dollar industry has got to be so out of here. I am sorry not to have been one of the 11.8 million viewers, but quite frankly, I made a point of giving this show a miss. Ads for the show appear regularly on the channels I watch, CNN, History, Military History, Science, but I was never tempted. Let me be specific:

  • So-called “reality TV” has been around for maybe 15 years, but it has never attracted my eyes. Survivor Treasure Island and the like came and went, and I went the other way. I have a life.
  • I tend to stand some distance from men who cover their faces with long beards. What are they trying to hide?
  • Although I came from a country family (Texas dirt farmer) and always appreciated the rural life, rural life and its imitations have morphed since my days kicking the dirt in Hood County. In my grandfather’s house nobody ever wore a hat at the dinner table, and that kind of stuck with me. Nowadays when I’m in a restaurant, even a McDonalds, and I see some pretend yokel sitting at a table, even with women present, and a baseball cap on his head with the bill turned backward, I think to myself, “Who is he trying to convince and of what?” I’m sure he never learned those manners in the country of my childhood.

This week the Dynasty hit a slight bump in the road. Here’s what Fox News has to say:

‘Duck Dynasty’ star Phil Robertson suspended by A&E
Published December 19, 2013 /

“Duck Dynasty” dad Phil Robertson has been suspended indefinitely by the A&E Network following his recent comments on homosexuality, the network announced Wednesday night.

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty’,” the network said in a statement.

“His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

Robertson has responded:

“My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.

“However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Well, that’s impressively good. I mean it really is good when a man of devotion has the opportunity to go forth and spread the good word. And make money at it at the same time. And there is apparently where Robertson went astray. Somewhere along the line he forgot that “money doesn’t talk, it swears.” When it’s pay versus pray, pay wins every time.

Don Lemon is an avowed homosexual and also a commentator on CNN. Lemon is from the same part of the country as Robertson, and his perspective differs somewhat from Robertson’s. In particular that would be Robertson’s view of the region’s racial history:

He also made comments regarding race and growing up in Louisiana before the civil rights era.

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!

“Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues,” GQ quotes Robertson as saying.

I am guessing Robertson never heard of Emmett Till. I am guessing Robertson never noticed that black people were being denied the right to vote. I am guessing he never saw the governor of a state stand in the door of a school building to prevent a black student from entering. I am guessing Robertson never ventured over into Neshoba County, Mississippi. I’m guessing he never heard of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. I’m guessing Robertson missed a lot growing up in rural Louisiana.

Anyhow, Robertson does have his defenders. There’s at least one I can name:

Sarah Palin defends Duck Dynasty star

By TAL KOPAN | 12/19/13 6:10 AM EST

Sarah Palin says the suspension of one of the stars of the show “Duck Dynasty” over recent anti-gay comments he made is an attack on free speech.

Palin re-posted a picture of her meeting with the stars of the A&E show on her Facebook page Wednesday night, writing that “intolerants” were behind the suspension of the show’s patriarch, Phil Robertson.

“Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us,”

Disclaimer: I am among the first to admit that having Palin vouch for you is closely related to having Willy Sutton co-sign on a bank loan. However, Robertson has other support, including an unlikely source.

I watched the news unfold on CNN yesterday, and Don Lemon was among those queried. Lemon comes down on the side of free speech.

“This is America, but this is what happens when you have true freedom of speech. You can say these things, and then you have to suffer the consequences. Look at what happened to Paula Deen, when she made comments, when she was accused of using the ‘N’ word, and admitted to it,” recalled the host of CNN’s “The 11th Hour.” “It’s offensive to me. I do believe in the right to free speech, but I think the marketplace should decide what should happen to this franchise, and it has been put on hold now.”

Aye, there’s the rub. This is America, the great bastion of free speech. Unfortunately for Robertson, it’s also the great bastion for capitalism and free enterprise. It would appear that one has triumphed over the other. Sic transit gloria.

Upstairs Downstairs USA

For some reason this made me think of an old TV series that was on PBS. I never watched it—it concerned people it’s impossible for me to relate to. I don’t know how many other Americans share my views on domestic servants, but I always thought that employing domestic help would be like turning my family life into a commercial enterprise.

Anyhow, society in other places is much more stratified, and it’s expected there will be a privileged class and a servant class. That’s the way it was in this case.

Arrest, strip-search of Indian diplomat in New York triggers uproar

(CNN) — The prosecutor in the U.S. government’s case against an Indian diplomat charged in New York with visa fraud related to her treatment of her housekeeper expressed dismay Wednesday over the direction the case has taken.

Here’s what triggered the whole business:

But Bharara said Khobragade’s treatment was justified. He cited an 11-page complaint that alleged she had promised in the visa application under which her housekeeper moved from India to the United States to pay her at least $9.75 per hour, the minimum wage in New York, and to require that she work no more than 40 hours per week.

But the complaint alleges that Khobragade then had the housekeeper, who has been identified as Sangeeta Richard, sign a second contract, which paid her less than $3.31 per hour and required that she work much longer hours.

The second contract, which was not to be revealed to the U.S. government, “deleted the required language protecting the victim from other forms of exploitation and abuse” and also deleted language that said Khobragade agreed to abide by U.S. laws, he said.

Apparently in India, as in many other places in the world, there really are two (or more) classes of people. There are those available for exploitation and those possessing the right to exploit.

Devyani Khobragade

News reports indicate this case is not rare, especially among the foreign diplomatic corps in the United States.

December 18, 2013 · By Tiffany Williams · Originally published in Common Dreams

Much of the media surrounding this case has focused on the unfair treatment of Khobragade and the Indian government’s outrage. But what’s missing from the conversation is the context – exploitation of migrant domestic workers is not unusual. Khobragade was clearly mistreated by U.S. officers, but what about the abuse that migrant domestic workers live through every day?

Khobragade, like hundreds of other consular officers, Diplomats, and international officials, was granted the privilege of bringing over a domestic worker to care for her home and family under the U.S. A-3/G-5 visa program. The Department of State, which oversees and monitors this visa program, requires employers and workers to have written contracts that detail wages, hours, working conditions, in addition to in-person interviews and education about human trafficking and worker rights in the United States. Yet as this case shows, dishonest employers can find ways to undermine these protections.

[emphasis added]

What was not clear to me at first is why Khobragade was arrested in the first place. Diplomats are supposed to receive what is called “diplomatic privilege,” making them immune to arrest. Closer reading reveals there are exemptions, including activities not related to their diplomatic service. This appears to be one of those exempt activities.

In the foregoing writer Tiffany Williams is absolutely wrong about Khobragade’s treatment. From all accounts, Khobragade was treated in the same manner as all people taken into custody by the U.S. Marshall Service. In fact, she was given special treatment not accorded to an ordinary citizen being arrested. She was not arrested in front of her children, she was not restrained (handcuffs) and she was allowed to keep her cell phone and make calls while in the Marshall Service car. At the jail she was strip searched in a private room by a matron, and that appears to be the big sticking point with the Indian government and much of the Indian population.

Strip searched, like a common criminal. The indignity!

The fact is, she is a criminal, although her actions would not be considered criminal back in her homeland. As I mentioned before, in some places there is more than one class of citizenship.


I do not recall when I first saw this movie. I’m sure I didn’t see it when it came out in 1941, so I must have seen it first on TV. It’s an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, and it stars Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine. It’s Suspicion.

On the occasion of Joan Fontaine’s death this week I pulled the DVD out of my archives and gave it another look. Before I get started, some interesting facts. Joan Fontaine was the sister of Olivia de Havilland, and both were born in Tokyo, Japan, to English parents. This movie was her second with Alfred Hitchcock, following shortly after Rebecca. Fontaine was nominated the Academy Awards best actress for both films and won the prize for this movie.

Watching this you have to realize the historical setting. In 1941 Merry Old England was in a punishing war with Germany and Italy, soon to be at war with Japan as well. Obviously the scenes of a pleasant English countryside had to be shot in an American studio or on location somewhere in California. Also, the storyline depicts such tranquility and peace, the time line has to be sometime in the 1930s before hostilities broke out.

The action starts with a completely black screen as “Johnnie” (Grant) gropes in a darkened railway car. The train exits the tunnel, we see Lina (Fontaine), trying to get on with her business. They meet. It’s a match made in hell. Johnnie is an absolutely worthless playboy, a prolific liar and a small time crook. Lina is a wealthy spinster. They were made for each other.

Naturally Lina is attracted to Johnnie. What woman wouldn’t be? This is Cary Grant, for Christ sake. And Fontaine was one of the most dazzlingly beautiful women in Hollywood at the time.

Coming home after a whirlwind honeymoon in Paris, Monaco, Italy and places in between, Lina discovers Johnnie is penniless, and has borrowed the money for the honeymoon and the spectacular house he has rented for them. And the maid. Not only does Johnnie have no idea how he is going to repay the loan, we soon get the idea he is in the habit of mooching off his friends and relatives and forgetting to pay them back.

Johnnie’s duplicity and improvidence wear on Lina, but she sticks with him. Hope comes when Johnnie gets ambitious and enters into a business deal with an old school chum, “Beaky,” played by the consummate character actor Nigel Bruce.

I will pause here to dwell on the remarkable Mr. Bruce. He was first famous to me as Dr. Watson, sidekick to Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) in a series of films featuring the famed detective, none of which films were first class, but all were very interesting. Bruce features in real life in a book by Geoffrey Page, Tale of a Guinea Pig. Page was one of “those few” Winston Churchill spoke of with regard to the Battle of Britain. He was a fighter pilot, defending England under attack by the German Luftwaffe during the summer of 1940. Page ultimately got on the wrong side of an Me-110, and his Spitfire went into the English Channel in a ball of fire. Page was severely burned but was patched up with countless plastic surgery applications, and he toured the United States during the war. Here he met Nigel Bruce and Bruce’s level-headed and beautiful daughter, and the rest is history.

Anyhow, poor Beaky does not survive the film. Off to Paris for business, Beaky dies from drinking brandy—apparently even a swallow sends him into fits. Lina is sure that Johnny has lured Beaky to his death, and she makes plans to flee. Johnnie drives her to her mother’s house, and Lina becomes certain Johnnie is attempting to kill her for her life insurance policy. It turns out Johnnie has no such plans. He has planned to poison himself later to escape pending prosecution for theft. Johnnie turns the car around and heads back to their home, where he will face the music, and Lina will be there by his side.

Excellent performances are turned in by all involved, including another classic character actor Leo G. Carroll, who was a CIA man confronting Grant in another Hitchcock movie, North by Northwest almost 20 years later.

Why is this man still standing?

Look who’s back in the news:

Chris Brown’s probation revoked over D.C. arrest

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge on Monday revoked Chris Brown’s probation after his recent arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor assault in Washington, D.C., but the ruling will not alter the singer’s requirements to complete rehab and community labor for his 2009 attack on Rihanna.

Superior Court Judge James R. Brandlin cited details contained in an arrest report as his reason for revoking Brown’s probation for the second time this year. He ordered Brown to return to court Feb. 10 to update him on his progress in rehab.

Prosecutors did not request that Brown be sent to jail during Monday’s hearing.

In November, Brown was ordered to spend 90 days in a treatment program for anger management and other issues. Brandlin said probation officials reported the Grammy-winner was handling the program well in recent weeks.

Here’s what I had to say back in October:

… Over four years ago this man beat woman to the extent she required hospitalization.

My question is, why do people still pay to attend his performances? What kind of society have we become?

See, I have foregone the question “Why is this man not in jail already?” This man is not in jail because: 1) He’s a man, not a woman doing all these things. 2) He’s got $money, and he has famous defense lawyer Mark Geragos working for him.

No, I’ve already satisfied myself as to why Chris Brown is still standing. What I still want to know is why do people continue to buy tickets to see his performances. Why does any woman outside Stepford, Connecticut, even think about contributing a dime to his wealth?

People, it’s time we all grew up and started concentrating on what really matters.

Skeptical Cartoon

Prasad Golla and I have done a number of skeptical cartoons. Some of them are funny. This one explores the matter of so-called miraculous visions. I wondered why visions of a face in a piece of toast or in a slice of tomato always turned out to be some famous, historical figure, even if that historical figure was fictional. This originally appeared in The North Texas Skeptic: