Poor Billionaires and the Environment


What do Utah, New Mexico, Mississippi, Maine, Delaware, Hawaii, South Dakota, Alaska and Wyoming have in common? The answer might surprise you.  These are the only states in the U.S. that do not have billionaire residents.  All the other states can claim at least one billionaire among them, some states possibly several.  MarketWatch published an article with a list of the richest people by state.

Of those in the billionaire club, some of the least wealthy accumulated riches by exploiting their natural environments, which perhaps comes as no surprise. Dennis Albaugh from Iowa made his fortune in the pesticide business. He’s only worth 1.4 billion. The Kentucky billionaire, Brad Kelley, amassed his wealth, about 2 billion, growing and selling tobacco. Bruce Halle is Arizona’s richest resident, worth 4.7 billion.  A guy with an interest in rubber, he founded Discount Tire. Did you know that it takes 2,072 gallons of water to produce just 4 tires? It does. Not exactly an environmentally friendly enterprise, especially in such a dry state.  Arizona is the 4th driest state in the nation and is one of the states at risk of running out of water.  Missouri’s favorite and perhaps only billionaire is Jack Taylor of Enterprise rental car.  By the way, it takes over 39,000 gallons of water to manufacture 1 car.  And Oklahoma’s richest resident is one of our founding frackers, Harold Hamm, worth an estimated 17.6 billion. Recently, there have been reports that buried wells of toxic wastewater created by oil and gas operations in Oklahoma may be responsible for an increase in earthquake activity there.162

I am going to give some free advice to these billionaires – take it easy on the environment.  It’s made you rich, but those riches are dependent on finite natural resources. No one knows this better than Nevada’s richest resident, mega billionaire Sheldon Adelson, whose Las Vegas Sands Corporation has made him 49 billion and counting.  He has invested deeply in greening up his casino concerns. Unless others follow the LEED, Sin City may literally run out of water and simply dry up. And who says it doesn’t pay to go green.

Now if only Sheldon Adelson and the rest of the billionaire club members would stay out of politics.  It would be nice for the Super PACs to dry up, well, all but the NextGen Climate Action Committee.  Billionaires, you can contribute to that one.

Conservatives freaking out over Hillary Clinton candidacy…AGAIN!


Politics are all about agendas.  Foundations want money to support their particular goals.  Donors of course want something in return too. Maybe it’s face time, influence, a good feeling, a tax deduction or a bumper sticker. Nobody gives for the sheer pleasure of giving. And speaking of agendas, the conservatives are desparate again to stop the political machine of the Clintons, this time by going after Hillary and the Clinton Foundation.  Peter Schweizer, a fellow from the Conservative Hoover Institute has written a new book called Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, which alleges that as former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton promised policy favors in exchange for donations to the Foundation and speaking engagements for her husband, former President Bill Clinton. But even if foreign donors thought they could “pay to play” or were led to believe they could, doesn’t mean they ever got into the game. There’s no evidence that I’ve seen to suggest that “foreign” money has influenced policy any more than it already has through super PACs and other special interest groups.  If anything, foreign relations influence policy.  As to the insinuation by pundits that the email erasing was to hide incriminating information, there’s nothing there. She’s said she deleted personal emails and handed over official ones, not unlike other secretaries who had come before her.

I say the Republicans are desperate again because back in 2008, they pulled a similar stunt, but instead of a book, it was a scathing documentary on Hillary Clinton that they wished to promote on TV during the presidential campaign.  The FEC said no, and the dispute ended up in the Supreme Court as Citizens United (the conservative lobbying group) vs. FEC.  And we know how that turned out. Yes, it started a new era of extreme influence pedaling by wealthy individuals who can bankroll super PACs. U.S. News and World Report reported that since the ruling, super PACs have spent over 1 billion on U.S. elections, and according to the Brennan Center, 60% of the money came from only 195 families. This outside money has no boundaries. Open Secrets.org reported that in 2014, U.S. divisions of international companies donated over 19 million – 7.8 to Democrats and 12.4 to Republicans.  Companies like Seven-11, Airbus, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Teva, Nestle, Shell, BP and many others contributing to both sides to buy influence, the sort of influence that Republicans enable and yet now seem shocked to hear exists.

This new influence pedaling appears to have been effective in influencing policy.  BP got off pretty lightly after practically destroying the Gulf Coast and now the U.S. is back to drilling and fracking with a passion to the point where our finite fossil fuels literally runeth over – we’re running out of tanks to store the stuff.  And now that Hillary Clinton is in the Presidential mix again, the Republicans are freaking out and doing everything they can to derail the Clinton train because they know that once it gets going full steam ahead, they won’t be able to stop it.  Not even Jeb Bush.

Hillary and Bill are tough and can weather the attacks, but the haters have gone too far by attacking the reputable Clinton Foundation which has done more good for the world than the do nothing Congress has in the last 8 years. And this desperate attack will cost them the election and another 4 more years.

Marco “Polo” Rubio quite the explorer

078Marco “Polo” Rubio made his announcement for the Presidency recently in Miami.  He said that after months of prayer, he came to the conclusion that he wanted to serve his country which he referred to in the feminine case:  “I have come here tonight to make an announcement on how I can best serve her.”  By the end of the speech, it was still not clear how he would serve her.  He sounded like your typical Republican. He’d repeal and replace Obamacare, with what is anyone’s guess; he’d modernize immigration, how is unclear.  He referenced a Prince album in an attack on the democratic party leadership saying they “put us at a disadvantage by taxing, borrowing and regulating like it’s 1999.” Rubio is said to be a fan of “old school” rap, and as one must know, Prince is anything but old school and rap.  Perhaps he doesn’t like or respect Prince.

His “namesake” Marco Polo, (well it might be) on the other hand, had nothing but admiration for “royalty”, serving in the “court” of Kublai Khan in self-imposed exile from the Holy Roman Empire.  Many Venetians thought Marco Polo made up his Asian travelogues, though he claimed he told nothing but the truth and later was proven to have done just that.  Unlike Polo, Marco Rubio was initially less than truthful about his family story, saying that they had escaped Castro and came to America as exiles.  In his speech, he walked back this story saying his family left Cuba in 1956 to fulfill a dream.  This would have been some 3 years before Castro came to power, so it was not that his poor family was being persecuted, it was more that his family wanted to improve their economic status, a sort of self-imposed exile, just like the many millions of undocumented immigrants who are living in the States today.  So his reference to modernizing immigration policy is intriguing.  Does he mean modernize the fence?  Or does he mean amnesty for all?  Does he mean to continue to modernize Cuba – U.S. relations, as President Obama has started, or does he mean to place more quotas on who can come to the U.S? Does modernize mean a guest worker program or does it mean fast track to citizenship for hard working families like his immigrant parents?

To remind that he is still allied with the Tea Party fringe lest we forget, he bashes students who graduate with debt and degrees that don’t lead to jobs.  And he suggests that parents should have more control over their child’s education. This could mean that he favors homeschooling or more charter schools.  Or it could mean that he’d favor eliminating subjects that are not related to employer needs.  I guess that means anthropology, sociology, the arts and hard sciences are out.  There’s not a big demand for dancers at Fortune 500 companies. Walmart has no plans to hire many geologists. And big oil certainly does not need a bunch of “liberal” climatologists snooping around making trouble.

Like Marco Polo, Marco Rubio is an explorer.  He’s playing around with different messages to see if he can find something that resonates with voters.  Many Italians found Polo interesting, but didn’t fully believe his strange tales. Rubio is searching for a path to appease the right and appeal to the center where Jeb Bush supporters live.  And while he thinks he’s ready for the presidency, this announcement is really nothing more than an exploration.  Young Marco knows deep down that he needs to wait his turn.

Galaxy 6 from Samsung, just Ho-Hum but not all bad

From the technology desk of Ribbie’s Weblog

I finally “upgraded” to the Samsung Galaxy 6, from the Samsung Galaxy 4, which, by the way, was and still is a pretty decent smartphone. Galaxy.  Where did they come up with that name?  I imagine it was designed to conjure up space age technology, whatever that is, or some kind of concept of futuristic sophistication. But being the late blooming baby boomer that I am, one of the last I’m told, it just conjures up memories of the Ford Galaxie, like the one that Sheriff Andy Taylor drove on the Andy Griffith Show.

1963 Ford GalaxieThat was one monster of a car by today’s standards, and so is the Samsung Galaxy 6 when compared to the Galaxy 4. At first glance, they look about the same size, but the 6 is appreciably heavier, although I can’t say I appreciate that. The 6 has a metal trim, not unlike the iPhone, whereas the 4 was constructed of some sort of plastic composite – what do they call it?  Polycarbonate? Maybe it’s carbon fiber or fiberglass, I don’t know, but it’s noticeably lighter, which reminds me of the song by Heart called Lighter Touch.

Perhaps a deal breaker for some is the fact that the two phones look about the same and no one will know that you have upgraded if you do.  But upon closer inspection, apart from the weight, there are some differences. The camera lens on the back of the 6 protrudes a bit, whilst (to borrow the term from the Brits) the camera lens on the 4 rests flush.  This protrusion is slightly annoying and does not appear to offer any advantage to the user.  The speaker on the 6 is next to the charging hole which is a welcome improvement over the stupid backside speaker placement on the 4, which means when you set the phone down you can still hear music playing.  The sound of the speaker is not much of an improvement, however, and sounds just as tinny as ever.  Configuring the thing to play music over a Bluetooth speaker is the way to go.  I’ve got a little JBL that sounds swell.

The 6 is faster, I’ll give it that.  It’s fast as lightening in fact.  It comes with a load of Samsung bloat, but at 32GB of storage, it’s got all the memory I’ll ever need.  Some folks on message boards refuse to get the thing because unlike the 4, the 6 has a solid body, like the iPhone, which means you can’t take the back plate off and add a memory card or replace the battery.  If you need more than 32GB of storage, you’d be better off with a tablet or another kind of phone.  How many apps does one need, really?  Hey, if you shoot a bunch off memory consuming videos, get a video camera or a DSLR. Or if you don’t want to deal with multiple devices, just offload some of your stuff to the cloud or you home computer rather than storing everything on your phone. And it’s smart to back up your stuff anyway.  But trust me, for the average user, and like it or not, most of us are just that, average, 32GB is plenty enough.  Look, the Samsung 4 came with 16GB and that was all I needed and then some and I took a ton of pics, a ton.

The screen seems sharper and I feel like it reads better in sunlight than the 4.  The camera has lots of effects and you can download still more for free, but I don’t think it has a zoom, if that’s important to you.  Well, it might, but I haven’t been able to find it.  Zooming isn’t that important to me anyway.  The 16 MP primary camera takes sharp pics that will make you forget about your old point and shoot if you still have one.  While the camera is not quite a Nikon, if you know what I mean, it’s plenty good and said to be better than the 8MP camera on the iPhone 6.

Battery. I used to have a HTC with a battery that lasted me about 3 hours a day. I finally gave up and got the Samsung Galaxy 4, which had a much better battery life.  The Galaxy 6 seems to have a slightly longer lasting battery than the 4.  I’ve been able to go a day with fairly heavy use and not run out of juice.  The battery has a quick charge feature, which is nice, but it won’t quickly charge up all the way, just some of the way.  As mentioned, you can’t change out the battery.  That is, you can’t pop in a spare, if the other one dies or runs out of juice.  Smartphone batteries are designed to be recharged everyday so if you think you won’t have access to an electrical outlet when traveling, well you’ll be out of luck eventually, even with a spare.  I also got a little wireless charger with the 6.  It’s neat.  You just plop the thing on the disk and it starts charging.  But the charging pad itself has to be plugged in, so it’s technically not a completely wireless operation, but it’s still pretty cool.

In the end, the Samsung Galaxy 6 is an excellent phone but may not be appreciably better than the 4 or 5.  I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, but the advances are, let’s just say Ho-Hum. So, before you buy, see if you can get a closeout deal on the 5.  Galaxy users, if you must take the upgrade plunge like I did, beware, you won’t be blown away by the 6, but you’ll feel the difference in more ways than one and you won’t have buyer’s remorse.

Tax day but where does it all go?

484Like most of you, I paid my taxes and filed them too and on time.  I am not opposed to paying taxes.  I believe in a social contract.  I want to be protected from an enemy invasion.  I am not one who believes we should abolish the IRS, as some have called for, people like Groover Norquist, I wonder if he was named after former President Grover Cleveland, a conservative, pro-business leader who lead the U.S. into a major depression.  Fringe candidates Ran Paul, and Marcus Rubio are also notorious critics of the IRS.  Now, I don’t love the IRS, but without taxes, there can be no government, no military, no support for public schools, no social security, no environmental protection, no regulation of food and drugs.  I guess we could have an all-volunteer government, install a monarch or ask a big company like Apple or Proctor and Gamble to just take over.  Maybe Warren Buffet and Mitt Romney could be in charge of investments.  Our government leaders are already beholden to big business and with special interest PACs calling the shots, the interests of the 99% are not seriously addressed.  It’s so bad that big oil and gas can compel educated politicians who know better to say stupid things like we should invest in KLEEN coal, and that “there is no consensus in the scientific community on climate change” or that “the science is not settled as to whether humans have contributed to the problem of global warming”.  They can’t admit what they know to be true that carbon emissions from our persistent use of fossil fuels is a major region why we are having catastrophic weather events that one might have previously witnessed once in a lifetime, practically twice a year.

Did you know that in 2014, 27 cents of every tax dollar went toward military spending?  2.5 cents went to support public education.  1.6 cents went to the energy and environment and just 1.5 cents went to science.  President Obama’s proposed discretionary spending for 2015, which needs congressional approval, has 55% going to the military, 6% to education, and 3% to science.  When you add in mandatory spending on entitlement programs which includes social security and unemployment, veterans benefits, food and agriculture, it’d be 16% to the military, 2% to education and 1% to science.  Some priorities.  It’s no wonder that American students significantly lag their peers in other countries in math and science.  It should also come as no surprise that companies have to search for talent outside the U.S. to fill positions that require a high degree of scientific expertise. Nor should it be a surprise that so many Americans actually don’t believe in science at all.  They don’t understand it and would rather just take a lazy political side and deny or take a hard line religious stance with a literal interpretation of the creation story and claim the earth is something like 6,000 years old contrary to scientific evidence that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

Let me ask you this:  Do we really need to spend 640 billion on the military each year?  How much does safe enough cost? Do we really need to spend 391.2 billion on 2,443 F-35 fighter jets at 160 million a piece? By comparison, we are slated to spend around 100 billion on education AND science in 2015.  That’s it.  Doesn’t this disproportionally light in comparison to our spending on defense? Don’t we want a literate and competitive populace?  The 1% and their minions in Congress don’t.  If the voting public wised up, Congress would be out of a job and the 1% scrambling to create the next scam. I say people and the planet over profits and a little more equality please.

Living Free of Global Warming and Climate Change

Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Climate change and global warming have become political buzz words.  The right denies the science, the center accepts it and the left pleads for action.  Libertarians don’t give a crap, I think.  I guess their thinking is a little like Bill Belichick’s mantra, “it is what it is”, meaning, leave me the hell alone to live free or die, which is the saying on the back of New Hampshire license plates, a place where people don’t pay state income or sales tax, and I don’t think they pay their legislators very much either.  I once saw a tampered license plate that read: live free and die, which is more in tune with the natural cycle of life. We’re so dang polarized that it seems everything is either or.

The thing with climate change, and I’ve probably written this before, is that people really don’t care and are just used to taking sides.  If you are a conservative and never paid much attention in science class but have gone on and done well for yourself financially, why not side with the right? It’s your right. And if you don’t, a dang liberal might get elected and take away your tax advantage or worse, your gun!  I think that’s what people in the U.S. fear the most – that they’d be disarmed and then defenseless.  But against what? Global warming?  Hey, when that once in a lifetime hurricane comes around twice a year, an AK-47 won’t do much good. You’d literally be shooting in the wind.  That openly carried revolver won’t intimidate those raging wildfires and I’ve never seen a shotgun bring on the rains in dry California.  Now, I know that no one wants their gas guzzling carbon dioxide spewing SUV outlawed.  This is another big concern.  I mean, gas is cheap once again thanks to our fracking ways. Who cares if some guy in Pennsylvania has flammable tap water.  He could move to New Hampshire where the water is clean and unflouridated.

I also have a suspicion that many people just don’t want to think too deeply about something difficult to understand.  But if you pose the question the right way, I do believe that many folks would come around and admit that human activity has contributed to the warming of the planet.  It doesn’t take a scientist to see the effects of climate change. Take Boston. In 2015, it had the warmest January on record and also the most snow ever recorded for a season.  Down South, Texas and Arkansas had snow, ice and cold temperatures like never before.  People know something is going on.  It’s not just the natural ebb and tide of mother nature.  But the sad thing is that people know and do nothing.  They let politicians say and do the stupidest things like that one who help up a snowball as proof that the planet is not warming. What an idiot. The problem is we live this present tense existence.  No one seems to care too much about 50 years down the road.  Folks don’t seem too concerned about a livable planet for their children and grandchildren.  And very few are saving sufficiently for retirement either.  Live free for today; we’ll save and die later…but let’s not think about that now. But let’s do go out and buy an Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy 6. Instant gratification.

One might argue that the handwriting is beginning to form on the wall as you may recall from the book of Daniel where the tale originates.  The handwriting turned out to be a warning, actually, as is often the case in the Old Testament, a punishment from God, who found that party King Belshazzar had been insufficiently humble, wanting and unworthy of his reign.  He was shortly thereafter slain.  I think there is a lesson here, particularly as regards the question of humility. If we don’t show more respect for our planet, it may be handed over to a more intelligent life form from another planet to straighten things out. It’d kind of be like planet earth looses its certification and has to be temporarily held in receivership by some alien grownup with brains.

This all reminds me of a Star Trek episode called “Arena” from Season 1 where Kirk fights some Godzilla-like creature called a Gorn. The lizard monster has the upper hand with brute strength, so Kirk has to make gunpowder somehow and knocks the monster unconscious with a powerful projectile to the body.  Kirk stands over “Godzilla” with a knife, but decides not to kill him.  Then some childish god, who was like 1,500 earth years old, said that he would spare Captain Kirk and his people because he had shown the advanced property of mercy, to which Kirk replied that he hoped he could work out some diplomatic peace with the Gorn’s people.  The Captain was not found wanting and given another chance.  Let’s hope politicians learn to read before the writing appears on the wall, because when it does, it will be too late.

NDT 2015 same as it ever was…mostly

For those of you unaware, the NDT of my title does not refer to Neuro-Developmental Treatment, Nondestructive Testing or Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, though these would all be good guesses and impressive ones at that.  What I am referring to is the National Debate Tournament which is happening this weekend at the University of Iowa.  It’s as big of a deal in the college debate community as March Madness is to college hoops.  It’s the big dance of debate, and there are quite a number of really good dancers this year from colleges and universities around the nation.

So who made it to the NDT anyway and why do I say same as it ever was?  For starters, many of the teams that competed in the NDT last year, are back again, including the team from Michigan, Allen and Pappas, who made it to the finals in 2014 losing in a close round to the two time NDT champions Georgetown AM.  That team is no longer, but the Andrews, Arsht and Markoff, are judges at the tournament.  Two strong Harvard teams are back and Northwestern MV too, Miles and Vellayappan, who made it to quarters in 2014 and earned the Copeland Trophy for being the best team in the country this year. So far, they have a perfect record in the tournament. And there’s Oklahoma, a squad that dominated last year with three teams advancing to break rounds including Campbell and Lee who were national semi-finalists. Townson is back, as are excellent teams from Wake Forest, Emory, Kansas and Minnesota.  Dartmouth and Baylor are in it again hoping to bring back the glory years when they were the teams to beat.  Surprisingly, several schools that are usually here aren’t this year, like North Texas, although one of Harvard’s coaches, Sherry Hall, once debated or coached for the Mean Green in the 80’s.

Who will win this year – anyone could?  The powerhouses have been knocked out before.  Emporia State ousted Northwestern in 2013.  The University of Mary Washington surprised a few in 2010, finishing 3rd, as did Missouri State in 2008 and Wayne State in 2006-7 and an unheralded UMKC finished 2nd in 2007.  Anything can happen and sometimes does as I’ve pointed out, but the dynasties nearly always have the upper hand – Georgetown (in recent years), Northwestern, Kansas, Michigan State, Emory, Wake Forest, Harvard and Oklahoma.  But this year’s NDT could see a winner from a competitive, but not quite in the dynasty category school like a Minnesota or a Georgia.  And I’d like to see the host teams from Iowa finish strong including Shearer and Hancock, who have had a rough prelim so far, but are showing signs of momentum with a win in rounds 3 and 5.  Hancock, who won the TOC in 2012 debating for Iowa West advanced to octos last year and is debating with a new partner this season.

And while anyone could win, chances are strong that we will see a final with one (or two) of the following teams Northwestern MV, Harvard BS, (and they are not BS, but the real deal!), Michigan AP, or Minnesota EC.  Longer shots but very possible include Kansas HR, Emory KS, Townson TW, Oklahoma AC, Harvard DH and Georgetown LM.  Longest shots but not out of the realm would be Georgia GH, Oklahoma CY, Kentucky GS, Rutgers-Newark SH, KCKCC CN, Cal Berkely MS and Vermont BL.  But what do I know?  Nothing much.  I’m not even there!

I don’t care who wins.  I’m not affiliated with any of the schools, although I went to Baylor debate camp as a kid and remember listening to a lecture from Lee Garrison of USC in 1979 and buying evidence books compiled by Kansas, the University of Redlands, Baylor and Loyola Marymount, which might have been a squirrel killer book, or that could have been the one from Ithaca.  By the way, whatever happened to Ithaca debate?  I’m a fan of the academic sport, and applaud those in the community who work to make it more inclusive. Let the debates continue and may the best team this weekend win!

A gallon of anything probably not too healthy


A man from Arkansas ruined his kidneys by drinking a gallon of iced-tea a day.  That’s a lot of iced-tea.  I think I’d drown if I drank a gallon of anything, even water.  I probably don’t go through a gallon of gas in a day. Now, the critics say the guy, who was also said to be diabetic, was nuts for consuming so much tea, no doubt sweetened.  But I say don’t be so quick to judge.  In the Arkansas heat, and it’s hot there let me tell you, one could easily throw back a gallon of just about anything – beer, bourbon, iced tea, white lightening or anything in between.  That the man drank a gallon of tea is not surprising, especially if he spent a lot of time outdoors, as many Arkansans do.  And iced-tea, as strange as it may sound, is a staple for many southerners, and it’s not necessarily sweetened.  Growing up in Arkansas, we always had a pitcher of unsweetened Lipton iced-tea with lemon wedges at the dinner table, especially during the sweltering summers.  We never had sugar at the table, ever.  But no one I knew drank a gallon of the stuff in a day, and good thing because black tea contains a chemical that is apparently toxic in high concentrations.  And though rare, the chemical can clog up kidneys and cause them to shut down.  The poor man will have to be on dialysis for the rest of his life.  But again, I’m not calling him crazy for drinking so much.  The article called his consumption a habit, although it may have been more of an addiction.  But who doesn’t have a bad habit, or addiction?

Now I don’t drink a gallon of anything but I do watch a gallon’s worth of M*A*S*H reruns and frequently binge watch stuff on Netflix.  I watched three gallons worth of House of Cards in 3 days.  I downed all the available episodes of VEEP and The 100 in little under a week, feeling quite hung over afterwards.  As a result, my eyesight has suffered and I believe I have a real case of text neck from bending so much, as much as 60 degrees, to view my devices.  Some would say I’ve broken bad flattening the natural curve in my neck by binge watching Breaking Bad on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, unless all those rare earth metals in my devices have done a number on me, I believe my kidneys are still intact.