Notes on Genealogy: What do Martin van Buren and Hillary Clinton Have in Common?

So I’ve been working on my family tree on and off for about 20 years. My Dad had an interest and that got me started; an abundance of internet resources made research easy. At this point I know some information about all my “great-greats”, and some lines go back considerably farther.

In summary, my roots are typical of white-bread, Midwestern WASPy flyover America. Nothing special, a few interesting stories and insights on westward expansion, that’s about it. No saints, and no ax-murderers, as far as I could tell.

But last week I found a site run by Brigham Young University that purports to be able to tell you if you have famous or notable relatives: relativefinder.org. It requires a family tree in familysearch.org, the LDS site. Linking is quite easy.

The results are enlightening, but not in the way I expected.

Just as an example, my roster of kinfolk in the entertainment industry includes luminaries like Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Donny and Marie Osmond.

In the world of business, my cousins include: Henry Ford, Warren Buffett, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Sam Walton, and Howard Hughes. (N.B. To my knowledge, none of these cousins remembered me in their wills.)

Here’s the crazy part: The only U.S. President who is not listed on my list of cousins is Martin van Buren. The closest kin among U.S. Presidents are William Howard Taft and Millard Fillmore, both fifth cousins, 4 times removed.

BYU will also find notable relatives in other categories, including European Royalty, Signers of the Declaration/Constitution, Mormon leaders and historical figures, and U.S. First Ladies.

Like Martin van Buren, Hillary Rodham Clinton is not my cousin.

So what is to be learned from this?

The value of the respective trees is probably about what you pay for it (it’s a free site). That being said, my side of the tree looks credible.

Bottom line, it appears that virtually everyone is my distant cousin. (OK, that’s overstating a tad. If you’re a first- or second-generation descendant of immigrants, Asian or an Orthodox Jew, maybe not. But if you have even one WASPy line that can be traced several generations back into New England … hello, cuz!)

As you go back in time, the roster of ancestors grows geometrically (doubles every generation). There were fewer than 4 million Americans in 1790; if one has American ancestry going back that far, the chances of two lines crossing becomes higher than you’d expect.

Another thought: At this point, what is the value of organizations like the Daughters/Sons of the American Revolution? All Americans share that legacy. An 8th-generation connection is not remarkable.

One surprise — BYU’s search uncovered my royal lineage, not just a cousin but a direct ancestor. If memory serves (and it will have to, because I’m not looking it up again), my 14th-great-grandfather was James Stewart the Younger, King of Scotland. Which means I have about as much claim to a manse on the Firth of Forth as Elizabeth Warren has claim on Native American heritage.

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Unwoke Advice for Climate Change Kids

Students gather in Columbus Circle in New York for a student-led protest, part of many school climate strikes around the world, against a lack of action on climate issues and to raise awareness about climate change. (Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock, as published in the Washington Post.)

Today’s Climate Change strategy has shifted to target a more youthful demographic. Led by a job-killing freshman Congresswoman, a 16-year old Swedish girl with a TED talk and a foul-mouthed kids’ TV clown, the movement has abandoned preachy polemics for school strikes, shouting down the wisdom and experience of their elders. (During my active blogging days, we had to deal with the insufferable Al Gore. Maybe things have improved.)

[Sample conversation follows.]

Them: “We’ve got to do something now!
Us: “Now?”
Them: “Yes, now, before it’s too late!! It’s our future!”
Us: “What should we do?”
Them: “The Green New Deal! Climate Justice! Leave it in the ground!! Something!!”
Us: “But what if we can’t get China and India on board?”
Them: “We’ve got to do something now!!”
Bill Nye: “AREN’T YOU LISTENING, A******? THE F****** PLANET IS ON FIRE!”
Us: “Oy, vey.”

The Do Something Now! Crowd are past masters at controlling the Climate Change narrative. Any pushback is predictably characterized as dangerous, selfish, and greedy, not to mention racist, anti-feminist, and anti-child. Conservative and skeptics “deny science” and are stuck in the past. Naturally.

Conservatives must resist this false narrative. It is a moral imperative of our time to make reasoned, rational policy decisions regarding our energy future. Those decisions necessarily involve considering all technologies, based on sound engineering and honest cost/benefit analyses. This is an adult responsibility; failure has a price measured not just in dollars, but in human lives. Continue reading

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Senator Warren knows better than Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama

U.S. Presidents from Nixon through Obama repeated it like a mantra: “America needs to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Jimmy Carter called the energy crisis “the moral equivalent of war.”

Even President Obama, no fan of oil and gas, saw the danger of over dependence on foreign oil.

[President Obama] established a national goal in 2011 to reduce oil imports by one third by 2020 and elevated the goal in 2012 to reduce them by one half by 2020. We are currently on track to meet this ambitious goal if we continue to follow through on the policies that are critical to achieving it.

President Trump trumpets the industry’s success as if it were his own. That’s OK; the industry needs a cheerleader.

Finally, we’re blessed with the abundance we sought for nearly fifty years: Domestic production is at an all-time high, and imports are down a third from 2007. Not only that, we have reduced our dependence on oil from outside of North America to under half our total imports.

Not “energy independence”, necessarily, but we certainly took control of our destiny. Needless to say, our position is much stronger in the world.

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But Liz Warren knows better. She’s promised that on the first day of her administration, President Warren will end all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

Is it me, or does a lot of this high-soprano hysteria reek of self-loathing? Here we are, having achieved a multi-generational goal, and instead of celebrating, instead of reaping our due rewards, we’re to put on a hair shirt and flagellate until global temps come down 0.5º C??

We are not energy independent. Ceasing federal leasing will necessarily increase our dependence on foreign oil. Federal lease income from royalties is the #2 source of revenue, behind only income taxes. Something like 20% of domestic oil comes from the Federal Gulf of Mexico, which is still yielding sizable discoveries.

We got what we’ve wanted for the last 50 years, and now we hate ourselves for it.

No two ways about it. We, as a society, are nuts.

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Tell Me Again Why You’re an Anti-Fracker?

So, you embrace the “Progressive” energy agenda. You’re all in for the Green New Deal despite its fanciful call for quitting fossil fuels by 2030. You support renewable energy mandates. You protest fracking and new energy pipeline infrastructure. Carbon tax? You’ve even called your Congressman about that one.

These policies all make fossil fuels more expensive to the consumer. That’s the goal of the Climate Change agenda, right?

You don’t need a degree in economics to know that when a commodity price goes up, consumption goes down. The consumers bid out of the market by higher energy costs are the folks on the economic margin, the ones struggling to get by.

Conversely, lower prices mean higher consumption. Thanks to the shale boom, the U.S. has enjoyed a “Blue Light Special” on the little blue flame for over a decade.

A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research quantifies the benefit of cheaper natural gas in human terms: Inexpensive Heating Reduces Winter Mortality (.pdf link; h/t Mark J. Perry at AEI.org).

The study estimates that cheap, abundant natural gas saves 11,000 lives annually in the U.S.

Seventeen percent of the population spends over 10% of their income on home energy. The largest component of that expenditure is winter time space heating. We’re talking about the elderly, the infirm, those below the poverty line, anyone on a fixed or limited income who are forced to use less natural gas should prices rise.

The positive health impact of those cheaper prices vs. the cost of electricity or home heating oil is quantifiable, especially in terms of reduced mortality due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. When home heating takes a smaller bite of the monthly budget, there is also more money available for food and health care.

Those 11,000 lives belong to real human beings, not cartoon penguins or polar bears.

This is a tangible benefit today, not a speculative estimate “by the year 2100”.

Natural gas is cheap, abundant, and domestic. It displaces more polluting fuels from the energy mix. With natural gas production and consumption at all-time highs, overall carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing.

Tell me again why you’re an anti-fracker?

 

 

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.@Sen_JoeManchin for POTUS …

… or at least, for the Democratic nomination.

A serious, centrist Democrat should be able to make a play for the blue collar Dems who put Donald Trump in office.

Repudiation of the Green New Deal would not only differentiate his candidacy from the clown show of announced candidates, it would stake his claim as the only adult in the room.

Even if it is a position that is not currently popular with the Dem electorate, 15-20% sees through the B.S. In a field of 20 to 30, 15-20% could be a frontrunner.

Then there’s the issue of energy state Dems who will have no one else to vote for if the entire party embraces the Green New Deal.

A Manchin candidacy would at least give a voter like me a Democratic alternative. I do not consider the Green New Deal to be serious policy proposal. I will not consider any candidate who embraces it.

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Old-School King of the NFL, Part II

(A followup to this post, after having a few days to ruminate on it.)

According to these guys, half of all NFL games are decided by 8 points or fewer.

That means at least half of all games are potentially in the hands of one referee and whether or not he/she decides to drop a flag on a single late-fourth quarter pass play.

The current pass interference penalty (first down at the spot of the foul, spot the ball on the one yard line in the case of an end zone foul) encourages offenses simply to chuck the ball deep and hope for a flag.

Remedy? Simply adopt the NCAA rule: The penalty for pass interference is 15 yards and a first down. Revert to the current penalty only in the case a blatant foul. (FWIW, the Robey-Coleman non-call in the NFC Championship game was what I would call a blatant foul: blow to the receiver’s head, back to the ball, no attempt to make a play on the ball.)

Sure, that leaves some judgment on the zebras. But it makes offenses a lot less likely to “chuck it downfield” and cross their fingers.

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They’ve taken a game of inches and turned it into a game of millimeters.

I love football, but I’m old school. If it were up to me, games would still end in ties (after four quarters), quarterbacks would be treated as if they were football players, and there would be no instant replay.

The game of football is strangled by excessive commercial timeouts and incessant instant replay reviews. Routine first down calls are now reviewed to see if the receiver’s pinky touched the turf before the ball, or if he made a “football move”, whatever that is, prior to being separated from the pigskin.

I’ve always assumed the refs call the game as straight as possible, and the blown calls even out. (But then, I’m not a bettor.)

Instant replay is a fact of life. The NFL’s new rules have choked the life out of the regular season game: the only suspense is whether pass interference penalties will outnumber roughing-the-QB flags. We find ourselves in the second quarter of game 3 reviewing ball placement with a micrometer: Is it third-and-2, or third-and-a-yard-and-a-half?

But then a monumentally consequential non-call (of both pass interference and the new-age indiscretion of “helmet-to-helmet contact”) inside the 10-yard line with mere seconds on the clock, in a conference championship game, no less, calls into question the integrity of the whole league. The refs have always tended to “let ‘em play” in playoff games, and I don’t have a problem with that. But a playoff game should at least resemble the regular season games.

And a big-market team should not get favorable calls in a big game just because they need to put butts in the skyboxes to pay for their new gazillion-dollar stadium.

But I digress.

If I were king, I would decree the following changes to instant replay and play review. Forthwith, as we royals say.

  • Allow coaches’ challenges per current rules, to include pass interference and non-calls.
  • Any instant replay review must be complete within 40 seconds. Beyond that, the call on the field stands.
  • Most importantly, all replay reviews must be conducted with video at full speed, not slow-motion.

Slow-motion often makes the call more ambiguous, not less.

With video review at full speed, that NFC Championship non-call is reversed 100 times out of 100. No question about it.

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Fact-Checking @WashingtonPost’s Outrageous and Unsubstantiated Claim: ‘Taylor Energy’s Oil Spill Rivals BP’

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Photo caption: An aerial image of an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, taken on April 28, 2018. (Oscar Garcia-Pineda)

WaPo Headline: A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history

The more I read this article, the more errors I find.

Author Darrel Fears depended heavily on Oscar Garcia-Pineda, described as a ‘geoscience consultant’, for estimates of spill volume. Garcia-Pineda’s estimate of the spill’s ongoing rate is 300 to 700 barrels per day for 14 years; at the upper end, that’s 3.6 million barrels, which, if true, would be on the order of magnitude of the BP spill (est. 5 million barrels +/-).

Problem is, Garcia’s own photo (above) documents a silvery to rainbow sheen.

Fears says, “…all that is left of the doomed Taylor platform are rainbow-colored oil slicks that are often visible for miles.”

I took annual Oil Spill Response Training for 10 years. This is a federal requirement of all personnel whose jobs might put them in charge of oil spill response. I learned in that training (in fact, I learned it 10 times) that oil spill volumes are estimated on visual observation. I offer more details here; suffice to say that Fears’ observation and Garcia’s photo lend credibility to the Coast Guard’s official estimate of from 1 to 55 barrels per day. Over 14 years, it has probably averaged on the low end of that range.

300 to 700 barrels per day is simply not credible. You would necessarily see heavy, oil-colored slicks, not silvery or rainbow sheens.

Here are some other pictures from “Field experiment at Taylor Energy oil leak offshore Mississippi Delta” which Fears linked NOAA’s website, apparently with Garcia’s contribution. Quoting:

This oil leak followed the destruction of a Taylor Energy oilrig by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and since then small quantities of oil has kept spreading at the surface of the Gulf. (Verbatim, emphasis added.)

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So when did “small quantities of oil” as documented in all these pictures become 300 to 700 barrels per day, a major spill by any estimation?

Did Garcia mean 300 to 700 gallons per day? That would be roughly 7 to 17 barrels per day, consistent with the USCG estimate, and more in line with the visual evidence. Certainly not stop-the-presses headline worthy.

“There is abundant evidence that supports the fact that these reports from [USCG National Response Center] are incorrect,” Garcia-Pineda wrote. Later he said: “My conclusion is that NRC reports are not reliable.”

My conclusion is that Mr. Garcia-Pineda needs to check his data and his cipherin’. Also: Never trust a journalist with a calculator.

Mr. Fears continues to wing it:

About 2,000 platforms stand in the waters off the Bayou State. Nearly 2,000 others are off the coasts of its neighbors, Texas and Mississippi.

Wrong. There are fewer than 2,400 structures in federal waters. I suspect 2,000 of them are off Louisiana; many of those are single-well structures in shallow water. So that leaves more like 400 off TX and MS (and AL).

For every 1,000 wells in state and federal waters, there’s an average of 20 uncontrolled releases of oil — or blowouts — every year.

An uncontrolled release and a blowout are not the same thing. A pipeline leak could be an uncontrolled release. The link is for BSEE’s annual incident reports which do not document uncontrolled releases, so I have no idea where this number came from. Blowouts are rare events.

A fire erupts offshore every three days, on average, and hundreds of workers are injured annually.

According to the incident reporting link above, there were 73 fires in 2017. That’s one every 5.0 days, to be exact. Sixty-seven of them were classified ‘incidental’. Five were ‘minor’ and one was ‘major’ (damage > $1,000,000). There was one injury associated with fire.

There was also one explosion.

In 2017, there were 150 total injuries of all types (not ‘hundreds’); 39 involved no lost time and no restricted duties. These could be ‘first-aid’ incidents: slip-and-fall, cuts, heat exhaustion, etc. Forty-one of the incidents involved lost time in excess of 3 days. There were no fatalities.

According to Fears, when Hurricane Ivan hit Taylor’s ill-fated platform…

More than 620 barrels of crude oil stacked on its deck came tumbling down with it.

Ummm, they don’t use physical barrels.

The spill was hidden for six years before environmental watchdog groups stumbled on oil slicks while monitoring the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster a few miles north of the Taylor site in 2010.

Taylor’s platform was in a mudslide area just beyond the mouth of the Mississippi River. BP’s Macondo well site was in deep water, well to the south.

It may sound like I’m picking nits here, but the whole point of the article is to serve as a ‘cautionary tale’ for the states on the East Coast that would consider drilling in the Atlantic Region.

Misrepresenting the volume and the risk matters.

  • Taylor’s catastrophic platform failure is lamentable, but it is a hazard that goes along with building structures in the unstable soils of the Mississippi mudslide area. It is not typical of offshore operations.
  • The volume estimate of 300 to 700 bpd is either a mistake or a deliberate misrepresentation. There are natural seeps in the Gulf that probably exceed Taylor’s true volume.
  • Working in the offshore is not without risk. The environment involves combustible materials at extreme temperatures and pressures. Controlling it requires lots of heavy equipment. Accidents do happen, but the safety record of industry compares favorable with all other industries.

 

 

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I’ve found my Muse.

Terpsichore.

My liberal-artsy friends may have learned that it rhymes with “hickory”, but in New Orleans it’s pronounced “TURP-si-kor”.

Terpsichore is one of a series of streets in the Lower Garden District named for the Greek Muses. Terpsichore is the muse of dance.

[Several other Muse streets have, um, flexible pronunciations. “Calliope” is KALLY-ope. “Clio” is C-L-ten (that’s a joke). “Melpomene” was MEL-po-meen. Now it’s pronounced “M-L-King”, at least in the stretch where it crosses St. Charles Avenue.]

If you’ve seen me dance at a wedding or a party, you’ll have no trouble believing that I once dreamed of a career as a dancer. In Junior High I studied ballroom dance. Skilly, my teacher, advised me that my size 7-1/2 EEE feet and my lead a$$ were better suited for a career behind a desk.

But in a new video, New Orleanian Mike Marina gives me hope. Mike Marina is my Muse, my Terpsichore.

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Everything I need to know about polls I learned in Junior High

It’s funny how some episodes from your past stick in your memory, while more significant ones don’t.

In ninth grade, all students were asked to complete a written survey on the topic of alcohol and drugs. We were told that the survey was being conducted by a grad student at the local university.

Among my friends, this seemed like the perfect spoof. I don’t remember if I’d even tasted beer at the time, but according to my survey answers I was a frequent drinker who blacked out regularly. Drug use? Sure, why not: LSD, cocaine, pills. Heroin too, but no more frequently than once a month.

The induced paranoia of another crowd convinced them that “narcs” were really behind the survey. Answer honestly? Riiiight.

I’m sure the survey made a beautiful grad school paper, complete with line charts, bar graphs and R-squared factors.

But the data it was based on wasn’t worth ca-ca.

LESSON: People lie, especially to pollsters, for a host of reasons.

Political polls have been notoriously bad of late. Out of every 100 people who answer a poll, maybe a handful consciously lie out of fear of judgment, paranoia, or distrust of the polling organization. Enough to make the results unreliable.

Most polls are reported with a precise-sounding “margin of error”. The margin of error is a statistical device to account for the small size of the sample relative to the population whose attitudes it is supposed to represent.

So if a poll has a margin of error of 3.8%, but one in twenty people lie, what do you have? A poll that is very likely wrong.

Distrustful people may also avoid taking the poll altogether. The poll naturally skews to the opinions of people who trust the pollster.

People who self-report as “likely voters” may not all have the same motivation to vote come election day.

Some may argue that all these error factors should cancel each other out, and they’re right, the should. But these days, journalists are not unbiased observers. CNN, to name just one, has a stake in the outcome.

What is the value of a poll that has lost its predictive power? Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.  News filler. Merely something to talk about until real news comes along.

Polls aren’t news. Polls aren’t news. Polls aren’t news.

 

 

 

 

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