Scalia Crashes on the Way to High Court

On Tuesday morning as reported in the LA Times Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rear-ended a disabled car on the George Washington Parkway causing a 4 car pileup.  Fortunately, there were no injuries.  Scalia was ultimately issued a ticket for following too closely, a ticket he can appeal.  I wonder what he said to the investigating officer on the scene.  I can think of some pretty good lines.  “Do you know who I am?”  Or, “excuse, me but can you clear this traffic and escort me to work…now”.  Or, imagine if he had offered him a bribe or something.  “Look, what law don’t you like and I promise to overturn it”.  How about:  “here’s two free tickets to oral argument in the People v. Wal-Mart.”

By the way, the Justice was on his way to the office to hear oral arguments in a class action gender discrimination case against Wal-Mart.  The essential grievance here is that women have been systematically passed over for management positions.  According to a report in the LA Times, 86% of managers in the 3,400 chain of stores are men and yet women account for two thirds of the Wal-Mart workforce.  In addition, women are paid less on the balance.  Wal-Mart countered that it is not company policy to discriminate, that managers have the discretion to promote who they want.  5 of the 6 men on the Court tend to favor Wal-Mart, while Justice Breyer and the 3 women Justices appear sympathetic to the plaintiff.

I wonder what would have happened if Scalia had missed the oral arguments due to the fender bender mishap.  It would have been a 4-4 stalemate.  Then what?

By the way, do you think Scalia will appeal the ticket?  He could claim diplomatic immunity or something.  If it were appealed to the high court, it would probably end in a 4-4 tie.  A truly divided court.

Ted Koppel Not A Fan of Soical Media

I used to watch Ted Koppel on Nightline.  I liked his cool seriousness.  He rarely cracked a smile as I recall.  I particularly liked when he dropped a few advanced SAT words – George Will and William F. Buckley, Jr. also enjoyed flaunting their vocabularies, delighting in the fact that large numbers of the listening public had no idea what the words meant.  Sometimes I thought it would be a hoot for the shows they appeared on to subtitle them when they spoke giving the simplified version of their messages.  You know, Analysis for Dummies.

Howard Kurtz of CNN’s Reliable Source interviewed Koppel last week. For a man in his 80’s he looked good – relaxed and in good spirits.  He did say something that perplexed me though, and I didn’t expect it.  He basically spoke out against social media, saying it essentially trivializes the news and diverts our attention away from substantive discussion.  He did acknowledge the impact of Twitter on the recent revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere, but he tried to make the point that our collective attention spans moves on to the next 140 character post which might be some shallow personal update about what we are doing right now.

I think Koppel misunderstands social media.  He made it sound as if he himself had never used the tools. If he had, he would know that there is plenty of substantive discussion going on all over social media.  Facebook, Twitter, blogs are a new form of democracy where people are engaging the issues of the day in real time.  Practically gone are the days when folks would read a newspaper and mail in a letter to the editor.  Now, post a comment and await moderation.

I’d like to see Koppel use Twitter.  If I were a kid, I’d follow Koppel’s posts just to study for the SAT or ACT.  Ted, you sound like you miss the excitement of the news cycle and traveling from place to place reporting on events of the day.  Traveling may be too much of a grind, so why not start a blog, have some fun with Twitter – engage us with 140 character bits of old school insight.

2011 NCAA BB Mascot Challenge

The East:  Kentucky and North Carolina.  A tar-heel versus a Wildcat.  No contest here.  A tar heel is a sitting duck for a Wildcat.   Kentucky advances.

The West: UConn v. Arizona.  A big cat versus a big dog.  A western wildcat will cower and slink away when faced with the fierce fangs of a growling canine.  Now if we were talking about the Connecticut College Camels, I might go with Arizona.  Camels can be a little sluggish.  UConn advances.

The Southeast: Florida v. Butler.  A gator versus a bulldog is an interesting match up.  Unless the dog threatens a mother gator’s nest of babies, the gator is not likely to go after a pug- nosed slobbering fireplug.  I’ve seen a Youtube video of a domestic cat keeping an alligator at bay.  Butler advances.

Southwest:  VCU v. Kansas.  I think a Jayhawk would drive a Ram crazy, harrassing it until the RAM gores it with its horns.  VCU advances.

Final Four: VCU, Butler, UConn, Kentucky.  Ram beats Bulldog; Husky beats Wildcat.

Championship Game: Headline – Husky bites Ram’s leg.  Ram limps off yelping in pain.  UConn wins title.

Top 6 Reasons Air Traffic Controller Unavailable

An air traffic controller at Reagan International Airport working a night shift alone was asleep when two airliners radioed in to land.  After trying unsuccessfully to reach the tower, the pilot made contact with a regional facility that also attempted to contact the controller.  A staffer from the regional facility called the pilot back to say that the Reagan tower was apparently “not manned”.  Eventually, both pilots landed safely while the air traffic controller soundly snoozed.

First, it’s interesting that the regional facility said the tower was “not manned”.  What if the controller had been a woman? He could have said the tower was neither manned nor womaned, or unmanned or unwomaned.  I am sure there are women air traffic controllers, maybe not many, but surely there are some.  In this incident, though, it’s a moot point – the controller in fact was a man, a supervisor who admitted to being asleep at the controls as it were after working his fourth overnite shift.  I suppose better to fall asleep at the controls at midnight, than asleep at the wheel of airliner, which has also happened.  Remember the flight crew that overshot their destiny because they had dozed off?

This is certainly a troubling development and speaks to bad working conditions.  There should always be at least two controllers on duty in most towers, especially one as busy as Reagan International.  Why there was only one is a mystery, and I’m not sure who to blame.  I think the unions have already jumped on this, as they should, to prevent it from happening again.  Though I have sympathy for the controller, he should be disciplined, and indeed has been.  Whether he should be fired or not, is not for me to decide. Clearly they system that allowed this man to work 4 overnight shifts in a row must be reexamined.

Now for a little fun.

Top 6 Reasons Air Traffic Controller was unavailable:

Number 6.  Watching episode of Swamp People on History.

Number 5.  Updating Twitter profile.

Number 4. Did not like the tone of the pilot’s voice.

Number 3.  Feuding with flight attendant who had previously not delivered on promise of free bag of peanuts.

Number 2. Testing new BOSE noise canceling headphones.

Number 1. Playing a game of Angry Birds on the Radar screen.

Sweet 16 2011 NCAA Climate Change

Last year, at this time I wrote about climate change in the NCAA.  Teams like St. Mary’s and Cornell were still in the hunt.  This year, there are a number of sleepers who I predict will prevail.  Climate change is here to stay I’m afraid.

VCU over Florida State.  Florida State should stick to football.

Marquette over UNC.  This is my big upset.  Marquette gets the edge because of their designer uniforms.

Butler over Wisconsin.  Gotta go with the underdog here, over the badgers, but Butler is a mean underdog and they’ll need to be foaming at the mouth.

San Diego State over UConn.  Now if it were the Connecticut College Camels, I’d go with Conn.  But it’s not, so I have to go with the football scoring machine of SDS.

Duke v Arizona.  Duke.  I don’t care much for Arizona politics, so I’m going with Duke.  It’ll be a close game no doubt.

Florida over BYU.  I’m not a gator fan, but I’m not much of a fan of what BYU did to its star player either.  I’ll have to go with the SEC here.

OSU and Kentucky.  OSU is a better team.  The SEC has had an off year and this year is not the year of the Wildcat.


E-Sleep, Stop Counting Sheep

An e-bike is an interesting concept and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Designed by Gates, NuVici and Bosh, the e-bike can travel up to 40 mph with pedal assist technology with four gears including Lance (for really fast) and Lazy, a gear I think I could achieve on my own.

The e-bike obviously is not as clean and green as the bicycle, so it’s not the best way to reduce your carbon footprint, or to lose weight.  While it does have kind of the cool factor going for it, I would think a rider might prefer a moped or a motorcycle if two wheel power is the point.  I’m not sure if the moped comes in an electric version yet, but there is an electric motorcycle available; both probably sound like an electric drill, and I think the sound alone would make me think I’m at a construction site or the dentist’s office.

What’s next?  I can think of a few other e-ideas which may already be out, I don’t know.  How about an e-hula hoop?  Or an e-skateboard? I bet there is such a thing.

Here’s my next invention:  E-sleep.  Americans are not getting enough sleep, and those who do, may not be getting that refreshing deep sleep. Imagine putting on a couple of electrodes and going into an instant deep sleep.  Set the timer for 45 minutes and take a power E-nap.  Before you go to bed, you could set the thing on light sleep, dreamy sleep, REM, deep sleep for as many hours as time permits.  Wake up with a recharged battery!

Handel & Haydn Society Beethoven’s 5th

It was a Friday night, early evening.  I had just gotten home from a long day of work; tired and a little cranky.  I cracked open a beer, a Sam Adams Noble Pils.  Took a long swig and settled down to the news in full chill mode.  My daughter asked me what I was doing tonight.  I thought she might need the car, which would have been fine because I had no plans to move from the couch.  Instead, she asked if I wanted to go to a Haydn and Handel Society performance of Beethoven’s 5th at Symphony Hall.  I said I was too tired and didn’t want to go.  She said, “come on, you like classical music, you’ll enjoy it”.  I admitted that she was right, but said again that I was too tired to move. Furthermore, I didn’t want to drive and deal with the hassle of parking. When my wife offered to drive us there, I changed my mind – I mean really, how could I refuse?  I do like classical music.  All I had to do was listen – it wasn’t like I had to go socialize.  Besides, my daughter is good company and enjoys music too.  I quickly got a second wind, and a second beer and agreed to go.  And it was the best decision I made all week.

We got to the show with only seconds to spare.  We made it to our orchestra seats just in time to hear the orchestra tuning up.  Moments later, the conductor, Richard Egarr, raced onto the stage and quickly launched into the Overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  The music sounded familiar, but I don’t own any recording of his operas.  So I might have heard it on the local classical station, or maybe when I watched the film Amadeus, but probably not because I think they just played bits from one of the Acts.  In any case, I liked it and the orchestra played flawlessly.

Egarr addressed the audience, saying he was honored to play Symphony Hall and particularly noted the fine acoustics.  In a normal tone of voice he asked if people in the back could hear and they clapped that they could.  He said that he did not like devilish microphones and that here, they were not needed and would not be used.

Next came Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony No. 101.  I enjoyed this piece.  As the second movement begins, it becomes clear where the symphony got its nickname.  The crowd applauded during the breaks in the music to which Egarr approved saying “it’s historically accurate.”  During one pause, with a smile on his face and a sharp conductor motion he signaled a coughing audience member to stop.  I have a recording of this Symphony on an old record I found at a thrift shop conducted by Mogens Woldike with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.  It’s from a late 50’s or early 60’s Vanguard Stereophonic Demonstration Disc.  The logo says Vanguard Stereolab: Records for the Connoisseur.  I have to say the Handel Hayden performance compares favorably.

One of the highlights of the concert was the next piece – Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto No. 11.  Egarr, an accomplished pianist, doubled as conductor and fortepiano soloist.  He introduced the piece by saying the keyboard concerto came out of nowhere, but he thinks it was a hat tip to Mozart who had had enormous success with the form.  Somehow, Egarr managed to conduct with one hand, play the fortepiano and turn pages with the other until the piece demanded both hands.  And when it did, he still kept the orchestra on track with his head movements as he glanced back and forth from musicians to sheet music. Mr. Egarr gave a masterclass on multitasking.

The final piece was the one all had been waiting for:  Beethoven’s 5th symphony.  The orchestra played with feeling and gusto.  Their energy and physicality impressed me, especially from the strings.  They played with intensity, love and the utmost respect for the music.  My favorite moment came when the piercing piccolo elevated above the music and hovered majestically.

I’ve heard more polished versions of the 5th with better sonics.  I’ve  played the vinyl off the benchmark Toscanini recordings, with a tempo of nearly twice the speed of other interpretations.  However, I have never heard a more soulful performance and for that I readily stood with the others for a long ovation which brought the conductor back three times.

Top 10 Ways to Reduce Carbon Footprint

10.  Don’t use fertlizer on your plants, or your field.  It stinks and releases CO2.

9.  Feed cows less so they don’t crap as much.  For that matter stop eating beef. The fewer the cows the less the crap and the less crap the less methane which stinks too and is a known greenhouse gas.

8.  Stop deforestation.  Sorry Swamp Logger lovers, I’m going to have to ask you to boycott the show.  Oh, if you are by chance cutting down trees and stuff, stop it.  Plant a tree, but don’t use fertilizer.

7.  Stop flying.  Aviation fuel is expensive and responsible for a ton of CO2, that greenhouse gas that is warming the planet. I know, a major inconvenience, better to take the train or bus, or not travel at all.  If you need to have a business meeting, do a conference call – it’s cheaper and cleaner.

6.  Stop burning fossil fuels – no coal, oil, or gas.  How are you to stay warm at home?  Try green solutions like solar, blankets and sweaters.  Snuggle up with your honey.  Or keep the cat or dog at your side at night.

5.  Stop driving.  Walk when you can, or use mass transit.  Don’t like riding the bus or subway?  Just think of all the savings on car payments, insurance and gasoline.  If you must drive, buy a fuel efficient car – something that gets you close to 40 mpg.   I drive a Honda Fit, but very often take mass transit to work.

4.  Recycle everything.  This reduces the stuff that goes to landfills which release tons of CO2.  Save a tree or two in the process.

3.  Use CFLs instead of standard light bulbs.  They are much more energy efficient.  Beware though; they do contain traces of mercury. Don’t put them in the normal recycling bins. When spent, take them back to the retailer who will discard them in accordance to federal regulations.

2.  Become a vegetarian.  Ok, I don’t know if this reduces your carbon footprint, but it seems like the green thing to do and may keep you on the planet longer.

1.  Buy smaller shoes, or don’t wear them at all.  If you must wear shoes that fit, hop on one foot, or use a pogo stick, crutches even.

Climate Change and Natural Disasters

Japan, Chile, Indonesia, New Zealand, Haiti, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Pakistan.  I could fill the page with country after country whose people have recently experienced some of the worst natural disasters ever recorded.  Stephen King would be hard pressed to write a novel that compares to the horror that mother nature has unleashed on humankind in recent years.

But is nature random? Earthquakes are difficult to predict but are not random in the sense that one is completely unexpected.  We know where the trouble spots are.

What about climate change? Not random either.  Naysayers suggest we are just in one of those warming cycles, but the science proves otherwise.  Skeptics point to colder winters and increased snowfall as evidence that global warming is a scam.  However, these extreme weather patterns suggest something even more sinister – climate change.  These are not random events, but are all connected.

Global warming has been accelerated due to human action – the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas, the cutting down of forests, and the use of fertilizers in agricultural practices, all actions that produce greenhouse gasses.   As a result of elevated levels of these radiation absorbing gasses in the atmosphere, we’ve witnessed a rise in average temperatures, the melting of the polar ice-caps, a rise in sea levels, heavier rainfall, more extreme weather events, including hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones and the like causing all manner of catastrophes including flooding, mudslides, drought, and wildfires.

Unless governments and people commit to reducing carbon footprints, we are likely to witness more horrific disasters in our lifetimes, and our children may inherit a planet dramatically different from what we know now.  It is a sobering thought, but worth remembering.

Gas Prices, NPR and Steely Dan

The thing is:

Gas prices would be a non issue if America weren’t so dependent on fossil fuels.

I love NPR, but they made a series of management mistakes from their handling of the Juan Williams situation to their hiring of the loose cannon Ron Schiller, as chief fundraiser who unwisely met with two men posing as members of a Muslim organization.  Schiller launched an unprofessional tirade against the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement in an effort to secure a large donation from the group. Meanwhile, the men had been secretly taping Schiller and in fact were not Muslims but rather conservative activists organized by the infamous prankster James O’Keefe.  Schiller later apologized and said that he didn’t believe the things he had said, which did not help matters.  Both he and NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller, no relation, have since stepped down.

I wonder if James O’Keefe is related to Georgia? His brand of politically motivated royal scamming seems to be an accepted form of hard ball today.Let’s see, first it was the attack on Acorn, then Planned Parenthood, followed by a counter punch on the left to Governor Walker.  Walker took a call from a man posing as a billionaire Republican donor.  Walker basically admitted to a coordinated plan to destroy the unions, and his comments went viral.   And now NPR.  I’d say the right is not in the right, but winning the merry prankster battle.

The original Royal Scam was a Steely Dan composition. “Steely Dan was here for real” was carved into a table in a classroom at Bard College.  I know, I saw it and so did my youngest daughter. And the thing is, Steely Dan really did go to Bard; Chevy Chase too.