Thursday Reads: Stormy Weather, Oklahoma Horror, Senate Nighmare, and More

Woman Reading on a Stone Porch, Winslow Homer

Woman Reading on a Stone Porch, Winslow Homer

Good Morning!!


Mother Nature is wreaking havoc again–mostly down in Florida and the Gulf Coast, but also a little further north.

From NPR: 2 Feet Of Rain Causes Massive Flooding In Florida, Alabama

Extreme rainfall in much of the East and parts of the South is causing major problems, with Florida’s Panhandle and southern Alabama, which got more than 2 feet of rain in 24 hours, bearing the brunt of the onslaught….

In Pensacola, Fla., it was the single rainiest day ever recorded, and people climbed to rooftops or into attics to escape the rising floodwaters. NPR’s Debbie Elliot says Pensacola’s high bluffs over the bay undermined the busy scenic highway there.

“Scores of motorists were stranded as water gushed over roads,” she reports on Morning Edition. “At least one person was killed on a flooded roadway. Some homes are now flooded out, and entire neighborhoods are unnavigable. Boats have floated away from docks and are making landfall elsewhere.” ….

 quotes Ben Kitzel, who paddled a kayak with Abby, his black Labrador retriever, on board: “There’s no way this flooding is going away anytime soon,” he told the newspaper.

Late last night a gas explosion in a Pensacola, Florida jail killed two people and injured at more than 150 others. The explosion was likely linked to the flooding.  ABC News:

Escamela County Jail, Pennsacola, FL

Escamela County Jail, Pennsacola, FL

The explosion happened around 11 p.m. at the Escambia County Central Booking and Detention Facility in Pensacola, county spokeswoman Kathleen Dough-Castro said.

There’s no word at this point on whether the victims are inmates or guards, Pensacola Police Officer Maria Landy told ABC News Radio.

The injured – 155 inmates and guards in total – have been taken to area hospitals, most of them with minor injuries. About 600 uninjured prisoners were evacuated by bus and transferred to other detention facilities in the area, Dough-Castro said. No inmates are known to have escaped.

Further north, heavy rains were blamed for landslides in Baltimore, Maryland and Yonkers, New York. From The Weather Channel:

The heaviest rain has ended in the Northeast, but investigators and cleanup crews continue to deal with landslides in two separate states.

The largest of the two happened in Baltimore’s busy Charles Village neighborhood Wednesday, when a retaining buckled on 26th Street, sending cars and mud tumbling 75 feet onto CSX railroad tracks.

Neighbor Dana Moore watched it happen.

It was there and then it wasn’t,” she told the Baltimore Sun.

No one was injured but homes were evacuated so investigators could assess the area’s stability. Structural engineers placed markers along the road to monitor conditions….

The wet weather is also blamed for a mudslide on Metro-North train tracks in Yonkers, New York.

Baltimore landslide

Baltimore landslide

From The Washington Post: Street collapses in Baltimore, washing away cars.

A street in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore collapsed Wednesday, washing away cars and flooding CSX railroad tracks that run below street level.

Ian Brennan, a spokesman for the Baltimore fire department, said no injuries were reported.

One lane of the East 26th Street between North Charles and St. Paul streets collapsed about 4 p.m. and slid down an embankment leading to the tracks below. The cause of the collapse was unclear, but it came on a day that the region wasexperiencing heavy rainstorms.

Several streets were closed late Wednesday afternoon. St. Paul and Charles are major thoroughfares that are generally crowded during both the morning and evening commutes. The neighborhood is largely residential rowhouses. Traffic was reported to be snarled in the area of the collapse and downtown.

Brennan said no houses were damaged, but fire officials said many residents living along East 26th Street were ordered to leave until building inspectors can assess their properties.

Don’t forget the Twisters! Last night there were numerous tornado warnings in the Washington, DC area, and the WaPo had a live blog of all the weather activity.

There were quite a few tornadoes down south over the past week or so,  and meteorologists have noted oddities in recent tornado seasons. Could it be due to climate change? AP via ABC News: Tornado Seasons Lately Have Been Boom or Bust.

Tornado west of Joplin, MO, April 27, 2014

Tornado west of Joplin, MO, April 27, 2014

Something strange is happening with tornadoes lately in the United States and it’s baffling meteorologists. It’s either unusually quiet or deadly active.

Until this weekend’s outbreak, the U.S. had by far the quietest start of the year for tornadoes. By the beginning of last week, there had been only 20 significant tornadoes and none of them that big.

There was also a slow start four years ago. And after a busy January, last year was exceptionally quiet until a May outbreak that included a super-sized tornado that killed 24 people in Moore, Okla….

The 12-month period before last May set a record for the fewest significant tornadoes. But two years earlier, the nation also set a record for the most in 12 months.

Read about the possible causes at the link. And at National Geographic, see photos of destruction from recent tornadoes.

In other news . . .

There’s plenty of discussion in the media today about the horror show that took place in the Oklahoma death chamber on Tuesday. From Tulsa World, an Eyewitness account: A minute-by-minute look at what happened during Clayton Lockett’s execution.

From The National Journal, The ‘Recipe for Failure’ That Led to Oklahoma’s Botched Execution — “Secret suppliers of drugs, changes in lethal-injection protocol, a cavalier attitude among Oklahoma officials, and a national death-penalty system in crisis preceded Tuesday’s failed execution.”

A battle of political wills over Oklahoma’s secretive lethal-injection protocol turned into a gruesome scene of macabre theater Tuesday evening, as the state botched the execution of one inmate and halted that of another scheduled later in the night.

The mishandling reflects the extraordinary and surreptitious lengths a handful of active death-penalty states are now willing to go to in order to continue their executions, capital-punishment opponents say, and represents just the latest episode in a string of disturbing events on Oklahoma’s death row in recent months.

Moreover, Oklahoma’s ongoing morass is a symptom of a national death-penalty system in crisis, a system that is finding it increasingly difficult to procure the drugs necessary to carry out death sentences amid boycotts from European manufacturers and reticence from licensed physicians.

OK death chamber

You all know what happened.

Death-penalty opponents are now calling for Oklahoma to suspend all of its executions for the rest of the year to avoid another botched job. Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, has so far issued only a 14-day stay for Charles Warner, who was also scheduled to be put to death Tuesday night in the same room as Lockett just two hours later.

“Apparently they can conduct their entire investigation in two weeks,” Madeline Cohen, Warner’s defense attorney, told National Journal sarcastically.

In Oklahoma, as well as other places such as Texas and Missouri, states have turned to compounding pharmacies—where products are chemically crafted to fit an individual person’s needs—to produce the lethal cocktails. But these stores, which are not subject to strict oversight by the Food and Drug Administration, don’t want to be publicly associated with executions. In response, states have granted them anonymity, and their identity remains a mystery even to the attorneys representing the death-row inmates.

That couldn’t happen here, writes Bob Egelko of SFGate but California officials are nervous anyway. They should be!

The secrecy-shrouded, botched execution in Oklahoma on Tuesday couldn’t happen the same way in California, where state laws and regulations require public disclosure of the drugs used in lethal injections, where they come from and how they are administered.

But the agony of a dying murderer and other death penalty developments underscore the multiple problems besetting capital punishment in California, where executions have been put on hold until courts find no significant prospect of a nightmare like the one that unfolded Tuesday night.

The state, whose Death Row is the nation’s largest, has not executed anyone since 2006 because of federal court rulings arising from executions in which the prisoner appeared to remain conscious longer than expected, and from ill-defined procedures and inadequate staff training. State officials are making their third attempt to rewrite the rules for lethal injections to include safeguards that would satisfy the courts.

Why don’t these folks just give it up? Life imprisonment is cheaper and a bad enough punishment.

Once again yesterday, Republicans used the filibuster to prevent a vote on increasing the minimum wage to $10.10. From the WaPo: Democrats Assail G.O.P. After Filibuster of Proposal to Raise Minimum Wage.

With the Republican-led filibuster of a Senate proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 on Wednesday, Democrats moved swiftly to frame the vote as an example of the gulf that exists between the two parties on matters of economic fairness and upward mobility.

The question is not just one of money, they said, but of morality. And in doing so the Democrats returned to the themes that were successful for their party and President Obama in 2012 when they convinced swing voters that Democrats were mindful of the best interests of all Americans — not just those who are powerful and wealthy.

Speaking from the White House shortly after the measure was defeated 54 to 42, with 60 votes needed to advance, Mr. Obama admonished Republicans and called on voters to punish them at the polls in November. “If there’s any good news here, it’s that Republicans in Congress don’t get the last word on this issue, or any issue,” Mr. Obama said. “You do, the American people, the voters.”

Despite the Republicans’ efforts to damage the economy and sentence millions of Americans to a lifetime of poverty and struggle, “experts” (meaning Nate Silver) are predicting that the GOP will take control of the Senate in 2014. And other “experts” are arguing with the guy who was almost perfect in 2012. For example,

The Nation Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, Why I Don’t Agree With Nate Silver.

And a response from TPM: Pundit Who Was Dead Wrong In 2012 Is Now Questioning Nate Silver.

A wonky post on the Kraushaar-Silver kerfluffle from Bloomberg: Senate Forecasting: How to Beat Nate Silver.

Besides, Nate Silver thinks Pennsylvania is in the Midwest!

But according to Mike Allen, even Dems think Repubs have a 60% chance of taking over the Senate.

And AB Stoddard of The Hill says lots of Dem candidates are “on thin ice.”

I’ll tell you how I’m dealing with this controversy. I refuse to read the articles. There nothing I can do about it so why get all upset? It’s the Scarlett O’Hara defense. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Finally, a little science news . . .

wallpainting Ancient Egyptians transported pyramid stones over wet sand.

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used a clever trick to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge. The Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved. By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed. The researchers published this discovery online on 29 April 2014 in Physical Review Letters.

For the construction of the pyramids, the ancient Egyptians had to transport heavy blocks of stone and large statues across the desert. The Egyptians therefore placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand. Research from the University of Amsterdam has now revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet. Experiments have demonstrated that the correct amount of dampness in the sand halves the pulling force required.
The physicists placed a laboratory version of the Egyptian sledge in a tray of sand. They determined both the required pulling force and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the quantity of water in the sand. To determine the stiffness they used a rheometer, which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand.

Experiments revealed that the required pulling force decreased proportional to the stiffness of the sand. Capillary bridges arise when water is added to the sand. These are small water droplets that bind the  together. In the presence of the correct quantity of water, wet desert sand is about twice as stiff as . A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand.

The Egyptians were probably aware of this handy trick. A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep clearly shows a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring  over the sand just in front of it.

Now what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread.

36 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Stormy Weather, Oklahoma Horror, Senate Nighmare, and More”

  1. ANonOMouse says:

    “There were quite a few tornadoes down south over the past week or so, and meteorologists have noted oddities in recent tornado seasons. Could it be due to climate change?”

    Of course not, haven’t you been watching Fox News? 🙂

    • Pat Johnson says:

      This is god’s way of letting us know how disappointed he is that gay marriage seems to be making inroads across the nation. He had to since Fred Phelps is no longer around.

      So he sent down a few “messages” to make us aware that he is not pleased.

      I get my news from Pat Robertson who is never wrong.

      • bostonboomer says:


      • dakinikat says:

        I guess that’s why it hit gawdless places like Tupelo, Mississippi

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Pat Robertson said last week that the “Blood Moon” events are a sign and that an “asteroid” could destroy the earth “as soon as next week”. Wow, we better hunker down!!!!

  2. janicen says:

    The weather here was wild yesterday. We had funnel clouds sighted about an hour south of here and then the rains, oh my the rains were crazy heavy. But just a few miles away got hardly any rain at all. It went from being somewhat cool in the morning to being quite warm and insanely muggy just a few hours later. Even before the thunderstorms started my dog was cowering behind the couch so I knew we were in for an intense weather experience. Right now it’s sunny and the birds are chirping so we were lucky once again.

    Unfortunately, a train derailed a few hours west of here in Lynchburg and dumped loads of oil into the James River. More drinking water contaminated but it’s unclear how much oil was lost to the resulting fire and how much was dumped into the James.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I heard about that train derailment. Thanks for posting a link. I think they try to keep these oil spills quiet. I’m glad you survived the wild weather!

      • janicen says:

        Yes and conservatives seem to be trying to make the point that if we only had a pipeline, these things wouldn’t happen. Yeah, right.

        • RalphB says:

          Well, if we had a pipeline something much worse would certainly happen. Of course, they would still rail ship oil so ‘those’ things would keep happening as well. The conservatives couldn’t get more wrong!

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Poll: Hillary Clinton would beat Jeb Bush in Florida

    Hillary Clinton is running 8 percentage points ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in his home state, the Quinnipiac Poll said Thursday.

    Another former Florida governor, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, would beat Gov. Rick Scott by 10 points if the election were held now. Quinnipiac said that a big reason appears to be that Florida voters, by 15 points, say Crist is more compassionate than Scott.

    Among Democrats, Clinton has huge leads over Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Bush beats a big field of potential Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination, getting 27 percent of the Republicans compared to 14 percent for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and 11 percent for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

    • RalphB says:

      Voldemort isn’t doing so well in Florida and he so richly deserves to get his ass beaten to a pulp by Crist.

    • RalphB says:

      Charles Pierce: Things In Politico That Make Me Want To Guzzle Antifreeze, Part The Infinity

      The kidz at Tiger Beat On The Potomac plainly are trying to kill Gene Lyons down there in Arkansas. They have given us a “deep dive” into Why Hillary Hates Da Press. Now, for those of us who lived through those thrilling days of yesteryear, the answer may be, “Because she was accused by allegedly serious people of killing Vince Foster in her lesbian dominatrix pied-a-terre in Dupont Circle. Let’s all go grab a beer now.” But the TBOTP crew isn’t satisfied with easy answers. Oh, no, sir. They have produced what is an, ah, interesting survey of our none-too-distant past. …

      Double prestone for me as well, bartender.

  4. Beata says:

    Good post, BB. Hope you are doing well.

    I got a big kick out of Nate Silver saying Pennsylvania is in the Midwest. That is news to this native Hoosier. It reminds me of those maps that show the entire country with “fly-over” states between the East and West coasts labeled “Maybe Nebraska?”. LOL.

    FYI, Nate – there are 12 states that make up the Midwest: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

    • RalphB says:

      I doubt there is enough polling data yet for Nate’s aggregation method to work as well as it worked in 2012. I’m kind of surprised he’s making predictions now. Sam Wang at Princeton hasn’t even started yet, I don’t think, due to lack of objective data.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Nate is only good a cyphering. Don’t bother him with the details like what region a State is in.

    • I hope you all are right…I took yesterday off. It was the other form of Scarlett O’Hara defense.. the “Who cares…” one.

  5. dakinikat says:

    This is an excellent article on how Bibi and his thugs have created apartheid. It is ashame that the majority in Israel cannot break the unholy alliance that keeps him in office.

    As the Daily Beast noted, the Rome Statute defined Apartheid as “inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
    Former South African deputy president Baleka Mbete and African National Congress leader has said that Israel-Palestine is actually “far worse than Apartheid South Africa.”

    Israeli society inside 1967 borders is not broadly characterized by Apartheid conditions, though Palestinian-Israelis do labor under legal forms of discrimination. For instance, unless their villages are “recognized,” they cannot receive water and other municipal services and are threatened with dispersal. Since no Jewish villages are unrecognized, this separate status for (indigenous!) Palestinian-Israeli villages is Apartheid-like. Still, the most thorough comparison of the Apartheid system of racial segregation with Israeli practices can only be made of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians are ruled by Israel but kept stateless and without rights.

    He outlines five horrifying reasons. Many of which I had no idea about.

    • RalphB says:

      Perfect! 🙂

    • ANonOMouse says:


    • dakinikat says:

      The problem with Cliven Bundy isn’t that he is a racist but that he is an oafish racist. He invokes the crudest stereotypes, like cotton picking. This makes white people feel bad. The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt. Elegant racism requires plausible deniability, as when Reagan just happened to stumble into the Neshoba County fair and mention state’s rights. Oafish racism leaves no escape hatch, as when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond’s singularly segregationist candidacy.

      Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism. Grace is the singular marker of elegant racism. One should never underestimate the touch needed to, say, injure the voting rights of black people without ever saying their names. Elegant racism lives at the border of white shame. Elegant racism was the poll tax. Elegant racism is voter-ID laws.

      “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” John Roberts elegantly wrote. Liberals have yet to come up with a credible retort. That is because the theories of John Roberts are prettier than the theories of most liberals. But more, it is because liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)

  6. RalphB says:

    Slate: Shock #Benghazi Email Reveals That Obama White House Agreed With CIA Talking Points

    Dave Weigel makes a dog’s breakfast of the latest Benghazigasm. He’s done an excellent job of covering the whole story.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      That Damned Darrell Issa, if it wasn’t for Benghazi and Fast and Furious WTF would he do with his time? Fox Snooze just cannot let it go and they will look for anything, any shred to try to redeem their exhaustive, disgusting, pathetic, erroneous, dastardly “WE HATE OBAMA” reporting. Every now and then, while channel surfing, I’ll spend a couple of minutes listening to the Fox Talkers drone on and on about Benghazi, Obama, F&F, Cliven Bundy, or some other make believe news story. They are a weary group, from Fox & Friends to Hannity, to O’Reilly, their schtick is so stale it has green stuff growing out of it. Roger Ailes needs to shit-can his entire news group and start over.

      • RalphB says:

        tp: House GOP Chairman Scoffs At His Own Party’s Benghazi Witness

        The Republican head of the House’s Armed Services Committee issued a statement sharply criticizing the testimony of his own party’s star witness in the latest hearing on Benghazi only minutes after the session concluded, going against his colleagues’ enthusiasm to hear just what the Obama administration did wrong the night of the attack. …

        Took the legs right off Issa and his witness.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Just imagine if 9/11 had happened on Obama’s watch. The entire GOP would be truthers. How many embassies were attacked under Bush again?

        • NW Luna says:

          I could not believe back then that “My Pet Goat” Bush got off so lightly for ignoring the intelligence warnings and having 9/11 happen on his watch. He had more Teflon than Reagan.

    • janicen says:

      That is awesome!

    • NW Luna says:

      State Representative Paul Wesselhoft told a local news station in January. “The only reason why the Ten Commandments qualified,” he continued, “is because at the Capitol, what we do is we make laws. We are lawmakers. Well, one of the earliest laws we have are the Ten Commandments.”

      Hate to disappoint you, Rep Wesselhoft, but Mesopotamia’s Code of Hammurabi (created c. 1780 BC) has the Ten Cs beat by a few centuries.

      Rabbinical Judaism calculated a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391–1271 BCE; Jerome gives 1592 BCE, and Ussher 1619 BCE as his birth year. And we all know how accurate James Ussher was. /s