When Gardening is an Addiction

Rain is bittersweet. It helps the garden grow but you can’t go out and pull weeds.

You do these things, and these things, and these things.

You convert your entire back yard into a garden.

Garden 2007


Garden 2012


Garden 2015


Garden 2018





Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

“The Times They Are A-Changin’”
by Bob Dylan, 1964

America is in turmoil for a lot of reasons – weather and natural disasters, economics and income inequality, crime and violence, and many more. But add to that, in every instance, there is a political component contributing to the madness. Debates over climate change, taxes and trickle-down economics, and gun control have fractionated the nation. Who we are as a country is no longer defined by the character and achievements of America’s people; it is the behaviors, proclamations, and policies of our politicians that dominate the news. Politics is a hydra, eliminate one head and two more appear, and voting the snakes out of office is time consuming and frustrating. We the people are unwittingly complicit. Most of us acquiesce to the two-party system. It’s all we’ve ever known. But the two-party system is in trouble … and should be.

The Representation Paradox

Since FDR, most people have identified with the Democratic Party. The Democrats also held the most political power until 1985. After a decade of flux, Republicans achieved parity in the number of political offices they held, even though more people still identified with the Democrats. That’s the representation paradox. As it is said, Republicans know how to win elections but can’t govern; Democrats know how to govern but can’t win elections.

Fareed Zakaria of CNN has claimed that “When you tally up their representation in Congress, state legislatures and governorships, the Democrats almost have their lowest representation in about 100 years” (6/10/2018). His assertion was verified by Politifact.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 11.51.25 AM

But those changes don’t coincide with Americans preferences for a political party. Preferences for the Democratic Party dropped almost ten percent from the mid-1980s until now.

Pew chart

The data in the second graph came from surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Gallup organization. Since 2004, Gallup has conducted surveys of thousands of Americans at least every month. The surveys ask: in politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent? Independents were also asked: As of today, do you lean more to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party? These results are actually different from official election registrations, which are controlled by individual States, and may be more reliable because of factors like closed primaries and political gaming.


Democrats currently make up around 30% of Gallop survey respondents. Democratic-Leaning Independents make up another 17% of respondents. Together, they represent about 47% of Americans.

These estimates fluctuate over time. The thin lines in the following graph show the variability in the monthly Gallup surveys. The smoother black lines are 2-year moving averages that show short-term trends. The percentage of survey respondents who identify themselves as Democrats appears to be decreasing in favor of Independents.


Fivethirtyeight suggests the changes may be attributable to diverse young urban populations whose more liberal attitudes are not well supported by traditional Democratic politicians.

Changes in DemocratsChanges in Democrats 2


Republicans currently make up around 27% of survey respondents. Republican-Leaning Independents make up another 15% of respondents. Together, they represent about 42% of Americans, still less than the Democrats’ 47%. And while the percentage of self-identified Republicans appears to be decreasing, the percentage of Republican-leaning independents appears to be increasing, so there is an equilibrium.



Solid Independents (Independents who do not lean toward either Democratic or Republican Parties) make up around 9% of respondents. Democratic-Leaning Independents make up around 17% of respondents. Republican-Leaning Independents make up around 15% of respondents. Together, they represent about 41% of Americans. Independents are the largest group that survey respondents identify themselves as and have the greatest growth, but because of the two-party system, hold the least political power.


There are a number of reasons that have been cited for the changes in party preferences. Americans may be turned off by the partisan wars in Washington, they don’t identify with either the Democratic or the Republican party, they don’t want to be labeled, or they feel that being independent is the “Spirit of America.” Also, ybeing an Independent means being undecided.

Independent voter

Long-Term Trends in Party Preferences

Since 2004, more Americans have called themselves Independents (41%) than either of the two major parties, Democrats (30%) or Republicans (27%). The percentage of all Independents is only slightly less than the percentages of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents (42%), and only about 5% less than the percentages of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents (46%).

2004 to 2018

Average 14-Year


Self-Identified Republicans


-8 -0.67


Republican-Leaning Independents


7 0.68


Republican and Republican-Leaning


-1 -0.07


Self-Identified Democrats


-5 -0.56


Democratic-Leaning Independents


1 0.15


Democrat and Democratic-Leaning


-4 -0.37


Solid Independents


3 0.44


All Independents


12 0.74


Furthermore, over the fourteen-year period, the trend in Americans considering themselves to be Independents is increasing, while the trend in Americans considering themselves to be Republicans is flat, and the trend in Americans considering themselves to be Democrats is decreasing.

These preferences for one party or another don’t correlate perfectly with actual votes because of the two-party system. Most voters don’t consider independent candidates to be viable and some independent parties are not even listed on ballots and have to be written in.


The increase in Independent voters demonstrates that a polarized two-party system no longer represents the majority of Americans, who are demanding an alternative to a system with such extreme divisions. … While an Independent voter may still have to choose between a Democrat and Republican in the end, the rise in independent voters signals a much-needed change in our traditional two-party system. Future candidates will need to expand their political views, and drop the exhausted party line, if they want to attract the support of the Independent voter.”  Krosbie Carter. 2012. Why Many Americans Are Registering As Independents, Instead of GOP or Democrat.

Given these trends, a wise Democratic candidate-for-office will not forget their largest constituency – Independents. Don’t expect a blue wave if you denigrate independent voters by saying they were the reason Donald Trump was elected in 2016. Slogans like Vote Blue No Matter Who carry no weight with Independents. Mudslinging alienates everyone. If you want to capture the minds of Independents, and they do vote more with their brains than their hearts, tell them specifically what you will do (caveat: if you win back Congress) to improve the country.


The conclusion of the story is that Independents are on the rise, Republicans are going nowhere, and Democrats are in decline. If Democrats want to reverse their loss of political power, they must change. Barack Obama brought change, only not as much as many of his supporters hoped for. Still, he is remembered as a great President. But Hillary Clinton was not the additional change Americans wanted. Trump promised anti-change, a return to a Spartan American state that never existed, and he has delivered in ways his supporters never imagined. Now we must look for change again, perhaps the progressive change many Independents support.

As Bob Dylan said:

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

“The Times They Are A-Changin’”
by Bob Dylan, 1964

What Do Zombies Call You?




Congress Should Pass a Law …

Before 2020 B

I Can Haz Collaboration

I wrote this blog for Stats with Cats four years ago and I thought Random TerraBytes might be a better place for it.

Stats With Cats Blog

Collaboration can bring many rewards. Collaboration can bring many rewards.

Collaboration means different things to different people. Many experts describe collaboration as people working together to solve a problem or achieve a common goal. In contrast, many people in business use collaboration to refer to any meeting of minds between individuals, whether the purpose is to deliberate plans or solutions to problems, negotiate differences, administrate work assignments, and just communicate information. Collaboration used to just be called teamwork but the addition of three syllables adds more gravitas.

Communication Models 2-1-2013 1

The simplest model of collaboration is one-way communication, in which information is conveyed from a leader or other knowledgeable source to other individuals. Often, this model is manifest as a supervisor relating news or other information to subordinates. Information transfer is one-way, from source to recipient, and the information is not contingent on anything the recipient does or says. Some people don’t consider communication to be…

View original post 1,971 more words

The Final Lifeline

Social Security was the sole source of income for 21% of those over 65 in 2012, and accounted for at least half of the total income for 57%. This is sad and scary, and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t do something now to improve life for everybody. What will happen in a few decades when those who are currently among the long-term unemployed need that social security lifeline to survive?

This is from https://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsfaqs.htm#anch11

FAQ: From time to time, staff at the Bureau of Labor Statistics are asked something along the lines of the following question:

“I read in a recent article that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of 100 people that start working at the age of 25, by the time they turn 65, 60 percent depend on Social Security or charity, 29 percent are deceased, 4 percent can afford to retire and 1 percent is wealthy. It goes on to say that 95 percent of people age 65 or older cannot afford to retire. I have been to the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site and have been unable to find the documentation for this information. Can you help me locate it?”

A brief search of the Internet does indeed turn up several references like this that are attributed generally to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but none of these references ever cites a specific Bureau of Labor Statistics report or news release. Neither the Bureau of Labor Statistics nor any other agency of the U.S. Department of Labor has ever produced any statistics or reports that support the statement. The statement includes imprecise language and value judgments that would not meet Bureau of Labor Statistics quality standards. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other Federal statistical agencies do not define terms like “depend on Social Security,” “afford to retire,” and “wealthy.”

Several of the assertions in the statement are incorrect or misleading. For example, research from the Social Security Administration shows that Social Security was the sole source of income for 21 percent of “units” age 65 or older in 2012, although Social Security accounted for at least half of total income for 57 percent of units age 65 or older (See Table 8.A1). (The report defines a unit age 65 or older as either a married couple living together and at least one spouse was age 65 or older or an unmarried person age 65 or older.) On average, Social Security accounted for 35 percent of total income in 2012 for units age 65 or older (see table 10.1). See the report atwww.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/income_pop55/.

Statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics show that, of the people who lived to be age 25, about 85 percent of them reached age 65. In other words, the death rate is about 15 percent, not 29 percent. See the National Center for Health Statistics web site at www.cdc.gov/nchs/deaths.htm.”


What’s Found by Science

I wrote this in anticipation of the April 22, 2017 March for Science. It turns out there are quite a few protest songs being written about the Trump Administration. It reminds me of the 1960s, and those politicians weren’t nearly so bad.

Sing this to the tune of “The Sound Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, or Disturbed, or another artist.

Hello science our good friend
We’ve come to visit you again
Because your breakthroughs help us all survive
And give us things to lift our lives
Your benefits that we all share together
We treasure
We need what’s found by science


In verdant hills we walked and saw
Habitats with life galore
‘Neath the clear blue sky a scent of fir
Gentle breezes hum like a kitten’s purr
Then we came upon a factory’s discharge pipe
It isn’t right
We need the shield of science


And in the clear dark night we saw
Ten thousand stars and maybe more
We wonder if we’re all alone
And if we’ll explore the vast unknown
And figure how we all came to be right here
We all care
About what’s found by science


Cruel it is we all can know
When health fails and cancers grow
Chemicals replaced ancient spells
Now stem cells repair damaged cells
But the treatments don’t always bring a cure
That’s why we need more science


And the climate experts said
Using the data they had read
That their studies gave a warning
That the Earth’s climate was warming
They all agreed the signs were there to see
Written on the planet’s land
In nature’s hand
And appearing as the face of science


SNAP: Critical Prop

Food stamps make life a little more livable for many people. Here are some facts about SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participants.


Nearly two-thirds percent of SNAP participants were children, elderly, or had disabilities. 44% of participants were under age 18, 10% were age 60 or older, and 10% were disabled nonelderly adults. Just over half of SNAP households contained only one person.


In 1989, nearly 42% of all SNAP households received cash welfare benefits and less than 20% had earnings. In 2014, only 6% received cash welfare, while 31% had earnings. The average gross income for all SNAP households was $759 per month. Only 16 percent had gross income above the poverty line. The percentage of SNAP households with zero net income rose more than two-fold, from 18% in 1989 to 41% in 2014.


The average monthly benefit received by SNAP households was $253. Less than 10% of SNAP households received cash welfare benefits. Nearly 25% of SNAP households received Social Security, and 20% received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits given to the aged and disabled. When SNAP benefits are added to gross income, 10% of SNAP households move above the poverty line


Compared to non-SNAP purchasers, SNAP users bought more prepared foods, snacks, meat, poultry, and seafood, and less dairy, fruits, vegetables, and beans. The most notable difference is that SNAP users bought a much higher percentage of baby food than non-SNAP purchasers. These patterns are shown in the following graphs.


SNAP purchases were categorized to simplify understanding. Prepared Foods include jams, jellies, preserves and other sweets, desserts, condiments and seasoning, and soups. Dairy includes milk, eggs, high fat dairy/cheese, and other dairy products. Snacks include salty snacks, candy, nuts, and seeds. Grains include bread and crackers, rice, flour and prepared flour mixes, cereal, pasta, cornmeal, and other cereal products. Drinks include bottled water, juices, coffee, and tea.

A Lie by Any Other Name

Charles M. Blow wrote an opinion article in the New York Times on January 26, 2017 about lies told by members of the Trump administration and characterized as “alternative facts.” It reminded me of a sarcastic blog with the same title that I wrote over a decade ago about the kind of lies told by the Bush Administration and its supporters. It’s sad that even after so much time has passed, many people still can’t recognize lies for what they are. I wonder if it’s attributable to ignorance, cognitive dissonance, or perhaps living in alternate realities in which facts truly are not the same. In any case, here’s the blog I wrote so long ago.

A Lie by Any Other Name

Sometimes there are just no words to describe lies told by politicians. They lie so often and in so many different ways that it’s exhausting to always have to explain to the ignorant why their statements are false or misleading. So, I thought it was about time there was terminology that could be used to describe these false statements.

Sociologists, psychologists, and linguists who conduct research on lies study their cause, nature, occasion, victim, subject, size, result, and many other dimensions. I thought it might be simpler to classify political lies only according to their nature and their seriousness. This classification may not be all-inclusive, but it covers the most common political lies.

The nature of a political lie can be classified as one of six different types, each of which I have named in honor of a famous practitioner:

  •  LIDDY — Lies resulting from self-deception, mental confusion, cluelessness, or just plain stupidity.
  •  O’REILLY — Lies using fabricated facts or stories, fakery, or false empathy, often with the intention of lending credibility or establishing commonalities.
  •  HANNITY — Lies that use straw-man arguments, false comparisons, false generalizations, and other logical fallacies.
  •  LIMBAUGH — Lies involving omissions of facts, out-of-context quotes, misrepresented positions, and other misleading statements.
  •  COULTER — Lies involving ad hominem arguments, name calling, and other personal attacks.
  •  GALLUP — Lies that use statistics or that are about a statistical analysis such as a poll.

Lies also have one of five magnitudes:

  •  LIMP — Lies that are trivial, harmless, inconsequential, petty, not worth the time responding to, or just plain stupid.
  •  BLOATED/SHRUNKEN — Lies that are substantial (i.e., not limp) and are based on exaggerations (bloated) or minimizations (shrunken) of the truth.
  •  CRYPTIC — Lies that are consequential (i.e., more than just bloated or shrunken) and are difficult to verify. If you can’t verify that something is a lie by searching the internet, reading a newspaper, opening a book, or watching TV, than it can be considered to be cryptic. Some lies are cryptic because the subject matter is challenging such as scientific or economic analyses. Some lies are cryptic because the information needed to dispute them is dispersed and difficult to gather.
  •  NAKED — Lies that are consequential and are easy to verify. A lie can start off being cryptic but become naked as information is released to the public. Reports that Iraq had WMD began as cryptic but slowly became naked as continued inspections found no weapons.
  •  UBER — Lies that are so obviously and outrageously false that they are laughable and should need no refutation.

Putting these two classifications together creates thirty categories of lies. Each category is named by stringing the lie-type and lie-magnitude together into one word. Here are a few examples:

Nixon: I am not a crook
Bush: Mission Accomplished
Bush Administrations: Reasons for the Iraq War
Delay: We’ve eliminated all the fat in government
Ashcroft: The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.
Bush’s Crawford ranch
DoD stories about Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman
Bush Administration: White House was trashed by the Clinton Administration when they moved out
O’Reilly: I got my data from the Paris Business Review
Intelligent Design
Bush: Great job, Brownie
Limbaugh: Abu Ghraib was like a fraternity prank, the guards were just blowing off steam
Bush: I’m a uniter not a divider
I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the 9/11 attacks (Rice) or the failure of the NOLA levees (Bush)
Fox News: Fair and Balanced
Al Gore claims to have invented the internet
Bush Administration pays media to sell education and health programs
Bush: I served my term of enlistment honorably in the TX ANG
Bush: You forgot Poland
Limbaugh: Democrats think that America deserves to be attacked by terrorists
Photos of John Kerry windsurfing
Coulter: Justice O’Connor was Reagan’s biggest mistake
Swift Boat Ads
Malkin: Cindy Sheehan is an anti-American, terrorist-sympathizing agitator
Coulter: New Yorkers would immediately surrender to attacking terrorists
Bush’s margin of victory in the 2004 election gave him political capital and a mandate for conservatism
State Department’s count of the number of terrorist attacks
Bush Administration statistics on the economy and the budget, such as Social Security
Republicans are more fiscally responsible than Democrats
Bush: we’ve assembled the largest international coalition in history to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

So, for example, when the State Department defined terrorist attacks in a way that would minimize their number in their annual report, they told a shrunkengallup. The swift boat ads about John Kerry were crypticcoulters because they were personal attacks that could not be verified easily. Intelligent design (i.e., creationism) is an uberoreilly to those who believe that the creation story is a myth or a metaphor.

Lies can evolve in this system. The first time I heard President Bush’s statement about nobody being able to anticipate that the NOLA levees would have failed, I thought it was a crypticliddy because it would be hard to show that Bush didn’t actually believe what he said. Within a few days, though, two facts emerged. First, FEMA had conducted an exercise called Hurricane Pam that simulated a NOLA disaster, so obviously somebody thought about it. Second, Bush knew he had cut funding for levee repair, so this was no self-deception. Clearly, it was a hannity not a liddy, because the lie was based on a false generalization. When those reports hit the media, Bush’s statement became a nakedhannity.

These new terms can be used to express nuances in the interpretation of lies and differences of opinion between interpreters. Remember when the Bush campaign used the photo of John Kerry windsurfing to cast him as an elitist? I thought that was a limpcoulter. Who cares whether he plays tennis, softball, or golf. The fact that he plays sports at all said to me that he was fit and healthy enough to withstand the rigors of the presidency. Boy was I wrong. Calling it a crypticcoulter or even a crypticlimbaugh would have been more accurate.

So, you think you have the concept? Test your self with the following lies. What would you call them? (Answers Below)

  1.  Cheney: Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.
  1.  Delay:  There’s no fat in government spending. We’ve eliminated it all.
  1.  Santorum: If you have the right to consensual sex, then you have the right to bigamy, incest, and adultery.
  1.  Limbaugh: `Osama’ Obama, `Frenchie’ Kerry, Hurricane Katrina `vanden Heuvel.’
  1.  Rove’s push poll about John McCain having fathered an illegitimate black child.
  1.  The credentials of Jeff Gannon and Michael Brown.

Of course, your answers may be different than mine. That’s the beauty of the system. The names express how we view the lie. So, give the new vocabulary a try. If nothing else, you’ll find it satisfying to slap your forehead and say `now that’s an uberoreilly if I’ve ever heard one.’

1. Crypticliddy.  2. Uberoreilly.  3. Nakedhannity.  4. Limpcoulters.  5. Bloatedgallup.  6. Bloatedlimbaughs.

by TerraByte

Sep 24, 2005