Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Are the Eagles in Trouble?

Terrence Ingram is trying to upend conventional wisdom about our majestic national symbol.

He lacks the academic bona fides of an ornithologist but has spent nearly 60 years researching and advocating for bald eagles; he is even credited with saving more than 6,000 acres of eagle habitat along the Mississippi River. In 1995, Ingram established the Eagle Nature Foundation as the successor to a similar organization he'd started nearly three decades earlier.

His point is simple: The bald eagle population is declining.

It is an astonishing conclusion that flies in the face _ so to speak _ of the narrative that presents the bald eagle as a great American comeback story. And Ingram's theory is particularly noteworthy this month, when federal agencies and about 100 volunteers affiliated with his foundation conduct separate, crucial midwinter bald eagle counts.

So how can Ingram justify his conclusion?

He relies on 57 years of midwinter bald eagle counts his organization has conducted along and around the Mississippi River from Wisconsin to southern Illinois. Some years, his volunteer counters reach as far south as Louisiana.

Uneven as the counts are, they show a drop of nearly 400 bald eagles, or 25 percent, from 2010 until last year's survey through the region stretching from northern Wisconsin to southern Illinois. Ingram also is concerned about a drop in the counts of young eagles, known as "immatures."

Experts who know of Ingram's work treat it with respect but skepticism.
Hmmm. Just from my walks on the beach, and visiting various places along the bay shores, it seems to me that there are less eagles than there were just 3-4 years ago. I don't want to call it scientific, but he might be on to something.

Lead poisoning?

Field Testing the New Eye

Skye and I walked down to the beach, and met Georgia there. It's 62 degrees out, and partly sunny, with rain showers.
Apparently the new eye works. I wore no glasses except the dark cheap pair they give you to protect light sensitive eyes after cataract and vitrectomy surgery (I have 3 pairs), and still managed 5 teeth including this well worn Snaggletooth.
We beat this rain shower home by 20 minutes.

They Should Have Used Their Secret Decoder Rings

There is serious talk on Capitol Hill about the appointment of a second special counsel amid several new bombshell revelations swirling around the Trump/Russia probe. First, there are the allegations of shocking and substantial government surveillance abuses under President Obama outlined in the FISA abuse memo. Secondly, the FBI lost five months of key text messages between the anti-Trump/pro-Clinton FBI officials Peter Strzok and his mistress Lisa Page. And now there's talk of a "secret society" of officials within the FBI that apparently met the day after the election of Donald J. Trump to plot against the president-elect.

Top Republicans now believe there may be real grounds for a second special counsel, Fox News reported Monday evening.

Again, I'll be fairly generous and assume that our lovebirds were just talking trash, and that they didn't conspire against the duly elected President of the United States. The FBI would never do that, right? But they need to be dragged up in front of Congress and testify again.

More than 50,000 texts exchanged between FBI officials Strzok and Page, Sessions says
50,000 texts? Really? Anything either of the two of them worked on should be be thrown out of the Mueller investigation at tainted. And how stupid was it of them to conduct their little tryst and revolution using government issued phones?

Schumer Schutdown Aftermath: The Damage Done!

An unintentionally hysterically funny article in the Washington Post this morning, detailing some of the results of the Schumer Schutdown: While Yellowstone’s staff was furloughed, a snowmobiler got way too close to Old Faithful. Some of the findings:
Tourists on a commercial snowmobile broke park rules by driving too close to Yellowstone National Park’s iconic Old Faithful geyser Sunday, park officials confirmed, at a time when most staff was furloughed during the partial government shutdown.

In an interview Monday, park superintendent Dan Wenk said one of the concession operators who is authorized to conduct snowmobile tours through Yellowstone — and was allowed to continue doing so even as most park employees stopped work this weekend — violated park rules.

“This guide told two of his clients that they could drive around the visitor center and into an area where the snowmobiles are prohibited,” Wenk said, adding staffers spotted the activity on the park’s webcam and issued a citation to the guide, who now faces a mandatory court appearance.
Oh my gosh! Snowmobile tracks in the snow near Old Faithful! They could last until spring, or the the next snow, which ever comes first!
At Pennsylvania’s Gettysburg National Military Park, a family with metal detectors and a drone — both of which are prohibited — entered the park over the weekend. Rangers intercepted them and used it as “an educational opportunity,” said NPS spokesman Jeremy Barnum in a phone interview, and let them go without a citation. They did not damage the park’s resources, Barnum added.
 A drone and a metal detector! Maybe they would have found a lost quarter, or even a spent Minni Ball!

Shane Farnor, an online advocacy manager for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), said in an interview that during a weekend visit to California’s Joshua Tree National Park, he saw dogs roaming without leashes, which is not allowed, and running on trails where they are not allowed.
But then, maybe they were just coyotes, which look a lot like dogs without leashes.

My point is that minor violations of park rules happens all the time, probably thousands of times in the average day. I may have even stepped off the boardwalk myself one day while visiting Yellowstone.To make such a big deal out of relatively trivial offenses as a consequence of the shutdown is evidence of how badly they want to show the Schutdown as a dangerous folly.

Midnite Music - "Talking Body"

Tove Lo:

Monday, January 22, 2018

So Here It Is . . .

A couple times in the last few days I've obliquely referred to some health issues I've been having. So here's the story.

Since I had the cataract removed in my left eye about seven years ago, the vision in my right (dominant) eye has been getting steadily worse, as its own cataract continued to get thicker, more irregular and yellower. I began to look forward to the time when insurance would pay for the operation. Last year, my corrected vision in that eye was 20/40, the bare minimum for the operation, but by this year, it had further degenerated to 20/80, and I found the eye all but useless for reading, or anything else for that matter. So I easily let the eye doc sign me up for the replacement surgery.

Last Monday I had no food after midnight, and showed up for surgery in Prince Frederick at 7:30 AM Tuesday as planned. Surgery went much like the last time (I don't remember a damn thing) and we got breakfast at IHop before noon, with my right eye all shielded and dilated. Sometime later in the day, however, the eye began to hurt, especially when I tried to focus both eyes on a near object, like my finger. I didn't remember that as a side effect from last time, and was a little concerned.

The next morning (Wednesday) I reported for the next day follow up as planned. They removed the patch, and tested my vision (still kind of off) but after peering deeply into the eyeball, the Doc admitted there was an issue. It seems that some vitreous body, the jelly like material from the back of the eye, behind the lens, had pushed into the anterior part of the eye, where it didn't belong, and that there was a trace of it along a line (wick) to the place where the instruments had gone into the eye, and he was concerned about the possibility of infection following that line into the eye. He admitted it happened on his watch, but really couldn't explain why it happened in this case and not most others. Hmmm.

He told me that he thought I need an almost immediate vitrectomy, the removal of the eyeball jelly (vitreous humor) to prevent any infection, and arranged an immediate consultation with a local retinal surgeon. Fortunately, we passed on lunch and went straight to the retinal surgeon.

The retinal surgeon, a young Chinese American (he looked about 12 but was probably 30), examined it, and while he wasn't in agreement that it needed to be done immediately, my observation on the pain tipped the balance. He concluded that the eye pain was due to vitreous humor pushing on the iris when attempting close focus. He made a few calls and arranged an operating room and anesthesiologist at Anne Arundel Medical Center up in Annapolis at 6:00 PM (still Wednesday).

They checked me in, did the usual interrogations, and the surgeon came in with a Sharpie over my right eye to mark it as the correct eye, explaining the hospital wouldn't let him operate without it. This will be important later, trust me.

The vitrectomy was much different than the cataract operation. Much longer, about an hour, and during the end of it, as they warned me in advance, they woke me up most of the way, although I was still pumped full of "don't give a shit".  The Dr consulted with me a little on a slight problem. It seems the lens capsule was somewhat ripped, and he worried that the lens might "fall out" someday. He could have anchored it to something (iris, I think) but he was concerned that if he damaged it, he would not have a replacement available immediately. So he decided (and I more or less agreed, in my "don't give a shit" state, and am still OK with it) to go ahead without anchoring it further. It was odd being awake, with the eye numbed, several instruments stuck in it and wiggling around. But it ended soon, and I was back in recovery in short while, eye shielded again, and was discharged shortly thereafter, wheeled to the car, and back home by 9 PM.

But when did the lens capsule get ripped? Got questions for the cataract doc.

At the followup the next morning (Thursday), they took off the shield, tested the vision (not good, but not surprising). Interestingly, my two eyes disagreed where the world was, the fixed one thinking it was down and right several degrees. But the doctor explained that's because the muscles working the eye were still partially numb, and not responding, so I felt better. It all checked out, and my instructions were (and are) to not wash it or touch it, use antibiotic and steroid eye drops 4X daily and wear the shield at night. There was still a lot of "trash" in my vision, but the doc explained that he had put in a suspension of steroid to reduce inflammation, and that was what I was seeing. Not much in the way of pain, although the eyeball was (and still is) incredibly sensitive to touch.

Things were much the same that day, no real change until late in the evening when Georgia got to thinking that the black mark on my forehead was diminishing my natural rugged beauty, and suggested getting rid of it with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. It leaked into the eye, and burned the shit out of it. We rinsed it with sterile water and got the eye drops back into it. The next AM it was really cloudy, and irritated, and we sought another appointment with the retina guy.

He was was very patient, and explained that alcohol is used to remove the outer corneal layer prior to Lasik surgery, and that it would regenerate. He rinsed it more, even though it was hours old.  He also looked around and reassured us that his work was still intact, and recovering as expected. By now, the world was closer to agreement, but not yet perfect.

Over the course of the next three days it has continued to improve. Curiously, it seems cloudier when I get up in the morning, and gradually clears over the day. Last night, watching the Eagles-Vikings game, I could read small print on the TV almost as well with my new eye as the old one. I can see stars, at least the brighter ones, with the "new" eye.

Both eyes have implant lenses set for distance vision; I will still need glasses for reading and to correct slight astigmatisms in both eyes. At this point my distance vision, even without glasses, is pretty good at least later in the day. Reading is more difficult. My current prescription has a heavy correction for the cataract, and no longer works well in the fixed eye. My left eye (the one fixed 7 years ago) is full of ugly floaters, and while it is functionally 20/20, that's only when the floaters decide to float out of the way. Rarely. It's very frustrating.

It will be at least 6 weeks after cataract surgery before it's worth getting a new prescription, and eye glasses made for the eye, it takes time for the eye to settle down. I don't know how much longer  the vitrectomy will add, if any. I may go to Wally World and look for an acceptable set of cheap "anti-reading" glasses, a correction that will allow both eyes to focus reasonably well at arms length just to get by.

My next followup with the retinal guy is Wedesday morning. I'm not anticipating any more bad news, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Not my eyes. That hurts.

Schumer Schutdown Schutdown: Dems Cave

Senate Democrats relinquished on the government shutdown Monday, agreeing to vote to reopen the government but insisting they’ll keep fighting for illegal immigrant “Dreamers” over the next weeks, with another shutdown deadline looming Feb. 8.

“I’m glad we’ve gotten past that,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said just ahead of a vote.

The vote to end the filibuster was 81-18, clearing the way for passage of the stopgap spending bill.

The House was expected to pass the bill later Monday, which would end the shutdown after three days.

The breakthrough came after Mr. McConnell said he would allow the Senate to conduct a freewheeling immigration debate in February, unless they come to a deal before then on how to handle the Dreamers.

Democrats touted that procedural commitment as a major victory, predicting they’ll emerge victorious from that immigration debate. . . 
Heck, the Department of Energy folk can quit siphoning gas out of other people's cars.

The Dog Ate the FBI's Homework

FBI ‘Failed To Preserve’ Five Months Of Text Messages Between Anti-Trump FBI Agents
The FBI “failed to preserve” five months worth of text messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the two FBI employees who made pro-Clinton and anti-Trump comments while working on the Clinton email and the Russia collusion investigations.

The disclosure was made Friday in a letter sent by the Justice Department to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC).

“The Department wants to bring to your attention that the FBI’s technical system for retaining text messages sent and received on FBI mobile devices failed to preserve text messages for Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page,” Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the Justice Department, wrote to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of HSGAC.

He said that texts are missing for the period between Dec. 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.

Boyd attributed the failure to “misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades that conflicted with the FBI’s collection capabilities.”

“The result was that data that should have been automatically collected and retained for long-term storage and retrieval was not collected,” Boyd wrote.

Strzok and Page were significant players in the Clinton and Trump investigations. As deputy chief of counterintelligence, Strzok oversaw the Trump investigation when it was opened in July 2016. Weeks earlier, he had wrapped up his work as one of the top investigators on the Clinton email probe.

Both worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation until July 2017.
I'm inclined to give the FBI credit as being merely stupid instead of malicious in this particular goof, since some of the material revealed are pretty damning, like the fact that Strzok and Page apparently knew and commented on Comey's plan to exonerate Hillary even prior to her interview by the FBI. Surely, if there were a plot to hide this apparent collusion, they would have deep-sixed this text as well.

Still, this is evidence of lack of care with legal US archives, even after the revelation the Lois Lerner was using the fact that texts were not being properly archived in her attack on Tea Party non-profits.

Somebody needs to be fired, and not a lowly IT guy (it won't be a girl). It's like the Navy firing the Captains or even higher officers when their ships collides with a slow moving, non-maneuverable  cargo ship. It's the fault of the chain of command not making sure that their charges have the ability, and the will to enforce the rules.

If a company under investigation by the FBI reported that 5 months of records during a critical period were found to be missing due to a archival error, that they would meekly accept that? No, they would charge someone with something, and make their life miserable, just on principle.

But maybe, just maybe, I'm insufficiently cynical: The FBI didn’t come up with a lame excuse because that’s all they could come up with. They came up with a lame excuse because they think that’s all they need.

The Schumer Schutdown Day 3!

Senior Executive Service personnel from the Department of Education resort to extorting lunch money from elementary school students at school bus stops.

Tramps On a Train

Delvene Delaney:
Delvene Delaney (born 26 August 1951, Queensland) is an Australian actress of soap opera and film, television presenter and singer.

The beauty pageant winner found fame on Australian television in the 1970s, initially as a weather presenter on Brisbane television. She followed this with stints in soap operas The Box as Penny O'Brien in 1974, and The Young Doctors as nurse Jojo Adams from 1976 to 1977.

Delaney became better known as a recurring cast member of The Paul Hogan Show in the late 1970s. She also made regular appearances as a panel member on the game show Blankety Blanks from 1977 to 1979. She was co-presenter on the quiz show Sale of the Century from 1982 to 1986.