Kansas nasty

Ever since Sam Brownback left the Senate to run and become Governor of Kansas, the poor and middle class in that state have been overtaxed and underserved. The latest injury is a law the Kansas legislature wrote and the Governor signed which limits the amount of money welfare recipients (who aren’t getting huge sums from the state anyway) can withdraw using their welfare debit card at an ATM to $25 a pop. This presents several problems for the poor recipient: first, the idiot legislators themselves seem never to have used ATMS, or they’d know the machines don’t distribute money except in $20 increments. No $5 bills are stocked. Second, each usage of the card in the machine generates a fee for the bank that owns it. The more cash is required (know anyone whose rent is $20? I didn’t think so), the more fees are generated, which means less money for the recipient to spend on food and shelter.

The Washington Post posted an article about this law in its Thursday editions online, which caused such a ruckus that the Governor “hastened to assure a reporter” that the law didn’t come from his office. Ah, the newspaper’s editors say, but you signed it. With fanfare.


Now the state’s politicians are being heavily scorned, and they’ve learned that they could lose up to $102M in federal block grant money because

The Social Security Act requires states to ensure that recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, “have adequate access to their cash assistance” and can withdraw money “with minimal fees or charges.”

The Kansas law clearly limits access to benefits, and it would require recipients to pay frequent withdrawal fees, thus violating the rules as stated above. Now the state politicians are running away from the legislation as fast as they can.

One hopes the nasty mean-minded self-righteous jerks amend or reverse the law very soon.

The Ruptured Duck

In this case I mean the airplane, not the lapel pin. Each has its own history. The plane, a B-25 bomber, was about to fly on the Doolittle Raid in 1942. According to its pilot, Ted Lawson, while practicing takeoffs and landings on land there was a minor accident during which the plane’s tail scraped the ground on takeoff. Lawson landed the plane and when he came back to it he discovered someone had scrawled “ruptured duck” on its fuselage. Inspired, he found a crewman who could draw, a Corporal named Roger Lovelace, and got him to paint the famous Ruptured Duck caricature on the nose of the plane. In an odd twist, Lovelace had a minor accident and didn’t fly on the Tokyo raid.

You can see the insignia on the side of the fuselage above the two standing figures behind my right shoulder. This is not Lawson’s plane; that one was ditched in the East China Sea. The Japanese later recovered the nose section and displayed it in Tokyo.

From Events

Where’d you go today?

The Pacific Aviation Museum. Two humongous aircraft hangars full of aircraft, engines, a small theater, a café, dioramas, and the story of Pearl Harbor right in the middle of the harbor on Ford Island. If you saw “Tora! Tora! Tora!” or “Pearl Harbor” you saw the red-and-white control tower which fronts Hangar 37, the building devoted mostly to the events of December 7, 1941. Around the building and about 1/4 mile away is Hangar 79, which houses Korean War and Vietnam War aircraft, including a MiG-15 and a MiG-21, Cobra and Huey helicopters and a DC-3, one of the most-loved airplanes of the 20th century. Officially called the Dakota by the Brits and the Skytrain by the Americans, it acquired the nickname “Gooney Bird” (nobody remembers why) and is still in use in some countries today.

There’s an exhibit in Hangar 79 which runs through July of this year called “National Memories” (.pdf) which is meant to commemorate the friendship between China and the US during World War 2. This is the first American showing; it’s already traveled through Mainland China and Taiwan. One of its exhibits is a Curtiss P-40E Warhawk. These planes were part of Lt. General Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, a squadron of US Army, Navy and Marine pilots who were technically part of the Chinese Air Force. They fought extremely well from 1941-1942 and were credited with 296 kills of Japanese aircraft, all the while losing only 14 pilots.

Here I am in front of the Warhawk:


You, Senator? Really?

Leaving aside the merits of his decision to join an already-overflowing field of candidates for the Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States in 2016, the problem the US faces which Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina feels he’s best equipped to solve is this: “I’m running because I think the world is falling apart.”

As Charlie Pierce says, this will be “a presidential campaign based almost entirely on existential terror.”

That’s probably right. With Senator Graham, though, it may be as simple as his sense that his friends Joe Lieberman and John McCain ran and now it’s his turn in the barrel. If that’s the case, can Senator Ayotte of New Hampshire be far behind?

A 35-year anniversary

Monday, May 18, will be the 35th anniversary of the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State. There will undoubtedly be lots of stories published remembering the events of that day. Here’s a retrospective view with a list of commemorative events in the region. Here’s the 1981 article from National Geographic Magazine.

I have a memory of the mountain too, but it’s from several years later. I was on a road trip to see the Oregon Coast and Washington State in 1985 or 1986, and I found myself driving through the Cascades near Mt. St. Helens on I-5. I hopped off the freeway and got onto State Route 504 and followed it toward Spirit Lake. There were various roadside spots that had been expanded into safe pulloffs, and I took advantage of them. I remember being absolutely stunned at the hillsides still covered in blowdowns five or six years after the eruption. I guess I’d thought they’d have washed off the mountainside by then. Hillside after hillside on that road was covered in blown-down trees lying flat on the ground.

If you’ve forgotten, here’s what the mountain looked like as it erupted:
Mt St Helens Eruption 1980

Lucille is silent

B.B. King has died.

It’s reported that he passed away peacefully in his home tonight. He was 89.

Here he is singing his signature song “The Thrill is Gone” in 2010 at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, sided by Eric Clapton, Jimmie Vaughan, and the Robert Cray Band, joined at the nine-minute mark by a host of others.

Look what I found!

I walked into the kitchen this morning and looked out the window toward the bird feeder, which I’d filled yesterday afternoon around 4:00pm.

Suddenly this guy appeared.

From Events

We’re speculating that he’s an escapee from a cage somewhere nearby, although Hawai’i Audobon says there are four introduced parrot/parakeet species which have or have had small populations here. There are no native parrots or parakeets in Hawai’i. He does look a lot like a Rose-ringed parakeet.

We’ve never seen a bird that size in our yard before, other than the ubiquitous pigeons who prowl the ground below the feeder for spillage. It’s a mystery.


Happy Birthday, Yogi Berra!

If you’re a baseball fan you know Yogi’s name. Hall of Fame catcher for the Yankees, 13 World Series rings, 15 times an All-Star, manager of both the Yankees and the Mets and winner of a Series with each.

I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about the man, either. He’s apparently a genuinely good man. Here’s a story to prove it.

There are two famous pictures of Yogi, both from World Series games. The first is when Don Larsen struck out the Dodgers’ Dale Mitchell for the final out of Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, completing the only perfect game in World Series history. Yogi’s wearing number 8.


The second picture is of Yogi looking up at Bill Mazeroski’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, which won the game and Series for the Pirates 10-9.


Space spots closeup

Back in March I posted a picture of Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It had bright spots which were puzzling NASA.

Well, new pictures have come back from the probe called Dawn, which is now in its first full orbit of Ceres. This picture was taken from 13,600km away.


Look at the spots. There aren’t just two, as previously thought. There are several smaller ones as well.