President Obama’s Democratic Party Legacy

I recall predictions following President Obama becoming President that he would be “transformative.” That seems to be an accurate description if you are considering the strength of the Democratic Party. I heard a radio report that there are 900 fewer Democrats serving in elected state offices than when he came into office. It doesn’t end there. An NPR article published in March 2016 had some somber information for Democrats. As of the date of that article, there were 14 less Democratic Senators, 69 less members of the House, and 9 fewer governors. Democrats hold fewer elected offices nationwide than at any time since the 1920s. The recent election didn’t change control of the House and the Senate, but, absent any progress on overthrowing the Electoral College, it did give Republicans the Presidency.

The NPR article also had some information that might have warned Democrats about what would happen in the recent Presidential election. It said Democratic votes are clumped together. “You could say that for the purposes of winning elections, Democratic votes are just not efficiently distributed.” The article ends with a comment that should really frighten Democratic leaders. “This November, the stakes for Democrats couldn’t be higher. Without the White House, assuming party control elsewhere remains the same; Democrats would be truly out in the cold.”

Hair of the Dog that Bit You

I was aware that the expression referred to taking a shot of booze to cure a hangover caused by that same booze. I did not know that it originated with a myth that someone bitten by a rabid dog could be cured with a potion containing some hair from that dog. The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins warns that there is no “…scientific evidence that the cure for either a hangover or rabies actually works.

Rocky Flats and the Downwinders

As predicted, large numbers of people are lining up to demand more money from the government after DOE agreed to a $375 million settlement of a lawsuit by people near the plant. People in the metropolitan area of Denver not included in the settlement area now want some money for themselves. A recent Denver Post article describes a meeting to describe preliminary results of a survey by the Metropolitan State University of Denver in which “. .  . respondents reported unexpectedly large numbers of cases of thyroid cancer and rare cancers.” The nurse presenting the information probably disappointed a large audience by saying “There is no way currently to determine whether those cancers identified occurred at higher rates in people who lived near Rocky Flats than they do in the general population.”

I became suspicious about the reports of thyroid cancers when I saw a television report of the meeting showing Kristen Iversen addressing the crowd. She published an autobiography of her experiences growing up near Rocky Flats. Her popular but technically flawed book mentions that many of her relatives and neighbors had thyroid problems. The book inferred that Rocky Flats was similar to the Chernobyl disaster, which resulted in numerous children developing thyroid cancer from the emissions of radioactive iodine. To the best of my knowledge, exposure to radioactive iodine is the primary cause of thyroid cancer, although there are undoubtedly some who develop it simply because it is in their DNA. Rocky Flats never had a criticality accident and didn’t process radioactive iodine.

A limited search found numerous articles describing thyroid cancer and the causes. One article had some very interesting observations. “People younger than 15 at the time of aboveground testing (between 1945 and 1963) who drank milk, and who lived in the Mountain West, Midwestern, Eastern, and Northeastern United States, probably have a higher thyroid cancer risk from exposure to I-131 in fallout than people who lived in other parts of the United States, who were over the age of 15 in the 1940s, or who did not drink milk.”

It would be interesting to learn how many of the respondents to the survey claiming thyroid problems and were younger than 15 while aboveground testing was proceeding and drank milk. I’m cynically skeptical that question won’t be asked, since the objective of the study is to blame Rocky Flats for any and all health problems. The reality is that the Colorado nuisance law apparently doesn’t even require actual health effects. All that is required is to prove the mere presence of the Rocky Flats Plant created some sort of concern, irritation, or anxiety. Perhaps doing health surveys and studying the results isn’t need to collect money.

The World Is Your Oyster

“The world is your oyster” has never been a favorite expression of mine, perhaps because oysters make me violently sick. Please world, don’t be an oyster for me, even if today the phrase means “you can have anything you want.”

The phrase “first appears in Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ (1600).
Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
Pistol: Why, then, the world’s mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.’ Act II, Scene II.”

The original implication of the phrase is that Pistol is going to use violent means (sword) to steal his fortune (the pearl one finds in an oyster). English.stackexchange.com

Shmoop.com says “The subtext of Pistol threatening Falstaff is gone nowadays. There is no sword or threat in our modern version. Instead, we just like to think that if we’re persistent enough, we can find those oysters with pearls anywhere in the world.”

I didn’t see any earlier citations, so the Bard wins this phrase.

Colorado Fracking Update

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing (cleverly called “fracking” by its opponents because it sounds “dirty”) tried to get measures on the Colorado ballet to severely restrict the practice, but failed to get the required number of signatures. The measures would have given more power to local governments to restrict the process and would have prohibited new oil and gas facilities within 2,500 feet of homes. The industry successfully campaigned against people signing the petitions. They probably correctly judged that the measures would be difficult to defeat if they made it onto the ballot because of previous results in several local referendums. Those opposing to fracking were given hope when Governor Hickenlooper announced, “Maybe they didn’t get enough signatures, but tens of thousands of people signed those indicatives, and want local voice—and I listen to that.”

A Denver Post editorial brings a voice of reason to the discussion. It references a series of reports by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One conclusion of the reports is that banning fracking in the U.S. “…would set off an economic downturn the equivalent of the financial crisis, the housing bust, and the resulting Great recession combined.” The Post has been in favor of measures to move away from burning hydrocarbons. However, they warn about impacts of ending the energy renaissance created by hydraulic fracturing. My guess is that those ardently opposed to fracking and burning hydrocarbons won’t be influenced unless they win, energy generation is impeded, and the energy shortage prevents them from recharging their smart phones and turning on their computers in cold homes.

Rule the Roost

I’ve always shied away from posting this expression, believing it the origin was probably too obvious. It must, I thought, refer to the cock strutting around the barnyard and feeling important. That would translate to a person in charge of a situation behaving in the same manner. Turns out the expression began as “rule the roast.” It indeed refers to someone in charge, but the origin was the description of the person in charge of the important task of cutting the roast. The internet has all manner of explanations about the expression that I had always deemed to be to uninteresting to use as a post!

Election Commentary

I expect everyone is overdosed on election analysis, so I hope to keep this short and to the point. I went into the election disgusted with the choices for President, and I’m not celebrating the outcome. I didn’t want either of them to be elected, but I guess one of them had to be. One thing I can celebrate is that many commentators are saying the mainstream media are in shock over the results. They were convinced Clinton would win. They began to believe everyone had to have been influenced by their onslaught of negative Trump reports. The results indicate many average Americans in flyover country dismissed the “superior intellect” of the so-called elite.

One statistic that gives me hope is that Clinton gathered several million fewer votes than Obama’s totals. That indicates many Democrats who were supposed to blindly accept the candidate put forward by the party made a statement by voting for someone else. Americans are still thinking even if the major parties aren’t.