Thursday, March 8, 2012

SC County GOP: If You’ve Had Pre-Marital Sex, You Can’t Be A Republican

SC County GOP: If You’ve Had Pre-Marital Sex, You Can’t Be A Republican
92683 800
Before you can join the Laurens County Republican Party in South Carolina and get on the primary ballot, they ask that you pledge that you’ve never ever had pre-marital sex — and that you will never ever look at porn again.
Last Tuesday, the LCGOP unanimously adopted a resolution that would ask all candidates who want to get on the primary ballot to sign a pledge with 28 principles, because the party “does not want to associate with candidates who do not act and speak in a manner that is consistent with the SC Republican Party Platform.”
Among the principles, according to Vic MacDonald & Larry Franklin of the Clinton Chronicle, is standard fare like opposition to abortion and upholding gun rights, as well as “a compassionate and moral approach to Teen Pregnancy” and “a high regard for United States Sovereignty.”
But then they get even more specific. From the Chronicle:
You must favor, and live up to, abstinence before marriage. You must be faithful to your spouse. Your spouse cannot be a person of the same gender, and you are not allowed to favor any government action that would allow for civil unions of people of the same sex.
You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.
It is unclear how they will precisely determine this (or regulate it), but an unidentified potential candidate for office in Laurens County told the Chronicle that candidates will be interviewed by a three-person subcommittee, who will then recommend to the full executive committee whether to allow the candidate on the ballot.
Bobby Smith, who chairs the Laurens County Republican Party, explained that “people feel the platform has not been adhered to. We want candidates to believe in and uphold the party’s platform.”
Though at first the resolution would have required candidates to sign the pledge, Smith clarified in a statement Monday that “due to various legal issues” the LCGOP cannot require that the candidates sign the pledge if they meet all of the other qualifications for a run. But, he said, the committee “reserves the right to vet its candidates and will encourage all candidates to uphold the principles of the party’s platform as well as petition candidates to sign a pledge to do so. However, no candidate will be denied access to the Republican Party primary ballot for refusing to sign the pledge.”
State GOP chairman Chad Connelly told the Chronicle that he doesn’t necessarily oppose the idea. “If we are wearing the same uniform I want to be sure we are kicking the ball toward the same goal, or are you moving against me.”

Laurens County SC.,Republican requiring candidates to sign pledge, pass interview

By Vic MacDonald & Larry Franklin
Published: Friday, March 2, 2012 12:41 PM EST
To be on the ballot as a Republican in Laurens County, you do not have to be “just” Republican.

You, apparently, have to be the “right kind” of Republican.

You must oppose abortion, in any circumstances.

You must uphold the right to have guns, all kinds of guns.

You must endorse the idea of a balanced state and federal budget, whatever it takes, even if your primary responsibility is to be sure the county budget is balanced.

You must favor, and live up to, abstinence before marriage.

You must be faithful to your spouse. Your spouse cannot be a person of the same gender, and you are not allowed to favor any government action that would allow for civil unions of people of the same sex.

You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.

You must have:

“A compassionate and moral approach to Teen Pregnancy;”

“A commitment to Peace Through Strength in Foreign Policy;” and

“A high regard for Unites States Sovereignty.”

These are just a few of the 28 principles of Republicanism, some taken from the Jeffersonian view of democracy, that candidates must pledge to adhere to if they want to be allowed on the Laurens County Republican primary ballot.

These are in addition to the qualifications outlined in state law.

Bobby Smith, chairman of the Laurens County Republican Party, said “A Resolution of The Laurens County Republican Party regarding The Qualifications of Candidates for the Primary Ballot” was passed unanimously by the executive committee on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

A candidate who was at the executive committee meeting last week told the members of the executive committee met in open session for about 30 minutes before asking everyone else to leave the room.

After about an hour, the meeting was re-opened and Smith announced the resolution had been adopted. The meeting was then adjourned and the committee members would not answer any questions.

The candidate, who asked not to be identified, said he is puzzled by the action.

“I think the majority of the Republican voters in Laurens County should decide who will represent them in the general election,” he said.

He said he was told unofficially that a subcommittee of three people will interview candidates and then recommend to the entire executive committee whether the candidate will be placed on the ballot.

Smith said 13 of the 20 members of the executive committee were at the meeting and the vote to approve the resolution was unanimous.

Smith said this is the first time the county party has required candidates to sign a pledge.

"It is essential to try to protect the party's reputation," he said. "The party has been pushing for closed primaries. People feel the platform has not been adhered to. We want candidates to believe in and uphold the party's platform."

The pledge, which all Republican candidates must sign if they expect to be on the Republican ballot, also says, in its introduction, that the local party will “... seek to hold me into account ...” if the candidate is negligent in upholding the principles set forth in the Pledge.

The process for “holding into account” is not specified in the document.

The Republican Primary is June 12.

This statement says, in part, the the Laurens County Republican Party “does not want to associate with candidates who do not act and speak in a manner that is consistent with the SC Republican Party Platform; ...”

The statement says that the Republican Party has “the right to freedom of political association” that is guaranteed to it by the United States Constitution.

The resolution document says that the Laurens County Republican Party also has “the right to free speech”.

The party’s candidates make speeches and take actions that are “on behalf of the party,” the resolution says, and the party’s Constitutionally-guaranteed rights are infringed upon if the party “cannot determine who are the party’s leaders and standard-bearers.”

Smith said he is not aware of any other county that has taken the action of qualifying candidates. "(Other counties may) have similar pledges, but I'm not aware of anybody that has done this," he said.

Smith said that he is not personally involved in any campaigns.

An inquiry via e-mail was made by The Chronicle to the South Carolina Republican Party on Friday about the Laurens County resolution and pledge.

The e-mail inquiry drew an immediate telephone response from Chad Connelly, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.

The qualifications of Republican candidates process is something with which counties and states throughout America are struggling, he said.

"If we are wearing the same uniform," Connelly said, "I want to be sure we are kicking the ball toward the same goal, or are you moving against me."

Connelly said he does not believe the Laurens County Republican Party will move forward with this specific process for determining who is, and who is not, a true Republican. "I don't think you will get to that stage," he said.

However, he added, some kind of vetting process must be in place, now that the Republican Party is in such a dominant position in state politics and government.

"We have Democrats running as Republicans," Connelly said, "because it is the only way they can get elected. And then we wonder, why didn't they vote the way we thought they were going to vote. The pressure is on for them to say what they are."

Connelly said President Clinton in the '90s proved to Americans that "character doesn't matter."

"Now we are finding that character really does matter,"
the GOP chairman said.

"How do we vet a candidate? How do we know they are who they say they are? Do you recognize our core values?" Connelly said are all questions that Republican organizations throughout the nation are grappling. "We just heard (Republican) Gov. Charlie Crist (of Florida) say he might be voting for Obama."

Also included in the resolution portion of the Laurens County Republican Party’s documents, which were acquired unsolicited by The Clinton Chronicle by someone interested in the local party’s actions, is the stipulation that a Republican filing for local office must undergo an interview prior to being included on the ballot.

The resolution says, in part, “candidates must meet in person with the Candidate Qualification Committee of the Laurens County Republican Party prior to the qualification and certification process; AND

“... No filing by a candidate will be accepted by the Laurens County Republican Party unless the Laurens County Republican Party Executive Committee has voted, within 24 hours of the closing of the filing period, that the candidate meets the qualifications for the office for which the candidate desires to file, or will meet the qualifications by the time of the general election; ...”

No appeal process is specified for the decision of the Laurens County Republican Party Executive Committee, within the 24-hour window before filing closes at noon on March 30.

Smith said the members of the Candidate Qualification Committee have been selected, but he would not release the names.

"You can't keep them from filing, legally," Connelly said of potential Republican candidates. "But we should be able to ask, 'What do you believe in, and why.'"

Expanded coverage in March 7 issue of The Clinton Chronicle.

Senate Republicans Backing Off Contraception Wars

Senate Republicans Backing Off Contraception Wars
5255 47
From one top GOP senator openly lamenting the fallout of the ongoing fight over contraception, to the author of the controversial legislation at the heart of that fight effectively conceding defeat in the upper chamber, signs mounted Tuesday that suggest Senate Republicans want to put the birth control controversy to bed.
“You know, I think we’ve got as many votes as I think there were to get on that,” Senate GOP Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt told TPM Tuesday afternoon after a weekly Capitol briefing. “I think the House side may take some further action. That debate will go on for a long time, though I don’t know that there’s anything else to happen in the Senate in the near future.”
The concession marks a departure for the GOP leadership, which as recently as last week insisted that Republicans were on the right side of the issue and would fight on.
Last Thursday, after his amendment was narrowly tabled 51-48, Blunt vowed that, “The fight is not over.” He had maintained that he wants to tack it onto legislation the president cannot veto. But on Tuesday, after a meeting with his caucus, he dialed down expectations for any further action in the Senate.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told TPM that she has no indication that leadership wants to continue the fight. “I really don’t know,” she said. “I really don’t have any sense of that.”
Murkowski — a former member of the GOP leadership — originally expressed reservations about the Blunt legislation and the broader fight over health benefits. Though she ultimately voted for the amendment, she has largely disavowed that vote, and conceded Tuesday that Republicans have fallen on the wrong side of the issue.
More evidence that the GOP is ready to relent: Senate Republican leaders have abandoned what they once considered winning turf, and gone silent after weeks of publicly attacking President Obama and Democrats for infringing on religious liberties.
Murkowski added that ripple effects — on the campaign trail and in public comments by conservative commentators — have damaged the GOP as well. She said she’s heard from constituents, and fretted that the ongoing spat is giving voters the sense that her party is on the wrong side of a war on women’s health.
“I heard a lot [from my constituents] because it was in the news this weekend,” she told me. “There’s just an awful lot that’s been going on. There have been some comments made by some of our presidential candidates. There was the incendiary comments made by Rush Limbaugh. I think [these incidents] are just adding to this sense that women have that women’s health rights are being attacked — that in 2012 we’re having a conversation about whether or not contraception should be allowed. I think most thought that we were done with those discussions decades ago. So it’s been kind of an interesting week for women’s health issues.”
Murkowski said she was “just stunned” by Limbaugh’s protracted smear of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. “In the end, I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions,” she said. Even Republicans? “Everybody,” she said.
These concessions delight Democrats, who plan to revisit the events of the last several weeks, and the vote on the Blunt amendment, as the election nears.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who devised the Democrats’ legislative and messaging strategy in this fight, told TPM, “I think Republicans know that it hasn’t served them well.”

Senate rejects GOP environment, energy proposals

The Senate killed Republican-backed attempts to overturn several of President Barack Obama's environmental and energy policies Thursday as lawmakers worked against a March 31 deadline to keep aid flowing to more than 100,000 transportation construction projects around the country.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz discusses implementation of the Keystone oil pipeline proposal.
The two-year, $109 billion transportation bill before the Senate has wide, bipartisan support, but has become a magnet for lawmakers' favorite causes and partisan gamesmanship. Among the amendments batted aside were GOP proposals to bypass Obama's concerns about the Keystone XL oil pipeline, to delay tougher air pollution standards for industrial boilers and to expand offshore oil drilling.
Action on those and other amendments came under an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., aimed at clearing the way for passage of the transportation bill next week.
Obama lobbied some Senate Democrats by telephone ahead of the Keystone vote, urging them to oppose an amendment by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., that would have prevented the president from intervening in decisions related to construction of the pipeline and would have speeded its approval. Pointing to the administration's environmental concerns about the project, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, Republicans accused Obama of standing in the way greater oil supplies at a time when Americans are coping with rising gasoline prices.
But some Democrats, especially those from oil producing states, were torn between support for the pipeline and their support for the president. The amendment was defeated 56-42, even though 11 Democrats broke ranks to support it. Sixty votes were needed for passage.
Recommended: In bipartisan vote, House jobs bill passes overwhelmingly
Republican leaders jumped on the White House lobbying.
"Most Americans strongly support building this pipeline and the jobs that would come with it," McConnell said in a statement.
The president's lobbying against the Keystone provision came "a week after the president signaled to me and to Sen. McConnell that he might be willing to work with us on some bipartisan steps forward on energy legislation that the American people support," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters. "If we're going to have bipartisan action on energy, the Keystone pipeline is an obvious place to start."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama felt it was "wrong to play politics" with the pipeline, especially since the company behind the project has said it still was working on a final route that might satisfy environmental concerns. He also said it was "false advertising" to suggest the amendment would have any impact on gasoline prices.
Also defeated was an amendment by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, which would have forced the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite a rule requiring boiler operators to install modern emissions

controls. Boilers are the second-largest source of toxic mercury emissions after coal-fired power plants. Collins said the EPA's rule would drive some manufacturers out of business.
And the Senate turned down an amendment to expand offshore oil drilling even though its sponsor, Sen. David Vitter, D-La., contended it would increase domestic energy supplies and reduce gas prices.
The transportation bill itself would overhaul federal transportation programs, including boosting aid to highway and transit programs, streamline some environmental regulations in order to speed up approval of projects and consolidate dozens of programs.
Lawmakers are under pressure to act quickly because the government's authority to collect about $110 million a day in federal gasoline and diesel taxes and to spend money out of the trust fund that pays for highway and transit programs expires at the end of the month. Chris Bertram, a Transportation Department official, said that if Congress doesn't meet the deadline, aid to about 130,000 transportation projects around the country will be disrupted and federal workers who send that money to states will be furloughed.
The construction industry, already suffering 17.7 percent unemployment at the end of January, would be especially hurt.
House Republicans crafted their own five-year, $260 billion bill, but they've been unable to marshal the support of rank-and-file lawmakers behind it. Conservatives say it spends too much money, while moderates say it would penalize union workers and undermine environmental provisions.
Boehner conceded Thursday that for the moment the House's best option is to take up the Senate bill after it passes — "or something like it" — although GOP leaders were still talking to their members in the hope of resurrecting their bill.
The inability of House Republicans to pass a highway bill of their own is an example of a paralysis that has struck several times in the past year. Last summer, an impasse over labor issues and subsidies for rural airports led to a two-week shutdown of non-essential Federal Aviation Administration operations.
In December, Boehner overrode his own rank-and-file when he agreed to a deal to extend the Social Security payroll tax cut after most lawmakers had gone home.

Employment data may be too good to be true

At first glance, the U.S. job market seems to be moving in the right direction, although at a crawl. When you take a closer look, some of the data showing improving conditions for job-seekers may be too good to be true.

The latest signs of improvement came Wednesday from a report by payrolls processor ADP, which showed the pace of job creation by U.S. private employers accelerated more than expected in February. Separate reports from the government showed wages rose much faster than initially thought in the fourth-quarter as worker productivity continued to inch higher.

The pace of layoffs has helped too, as seen in a slowdown in government jobs cuts, according to John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a job placement firm that conducts a monthly payoff survey.

"That's been a real driving force of layoffs over the last two years, but not in the last two months," he said.
On Friday, the Labor Department is expected to report that the economy created more than 200,000 jobs in February with the unemployment rate holding steady at 8.3 percent.

It's that last number - the portion of the workforce still out of work nearly three years after the recession ended - that remains stubbornly elevated.

"The labor market is still fundamentally weaker than five years ago," said Craig Dismuke, chief economic strategist at Vining Sparks, a Memphis brokerage firm. "We are still in a big hole."

Millions of American workers have been stuck in that hole for a long time. Some 43 percent of the 12.8 million unemployed Americans had been out of work for more than 6 months in January, the latest Labor Department data on the long-term unemployed. In all, nearly 24 million people are either out of work or underemployed. Those people aren't out of work for lack of trying: there just aren't enough jobs to go around. For every opening, there are four unemployed workers who need a paycheck.

The pace of new claims for unemployment has been falling - another sign that hiring is picking up and layoffs are slowing. But the improvement has been uneven. The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose last week, according to a government report Thursday. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, the Labor Department said.

Even with the increase, claims are still near their lowest in four years. The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, edged up to 355,000, but still is hovering near a four-year low.

With the presidential campaign in full swing, the jobs numbers are taking a prominent place in the debate over the Obama administration's economic policies.

The unemployment rate has fallen by six-tenths of a percentage point from October's level of 8.9 percent. That is an unusually rapid decline and a growing band of optimists expect it to fall below 8 percent by year end.

Did you opt not to go to college? We want to hear from you!

Though the jobless rate remains painfully high, some researchers believe it's the direction of the unemployment - not the absolute level - that has the greatest impact on the outcomes of re-election campaigns. So far, the downward trend has helped the president.

As the job numbers have improved, so has Obama's approval rating - rising from a low of 41 percent in October to 45 percent in February, according to the latest Gallup poll.

But it remains to be seen whether that momentum can be sustained until the November election. The rapid decline in the jobless rate in the past few months has defied expectations; some economists argue that the widely-followed seasonally-adjusted numbers may be too good to be true.

Some suspect the government's formulas for smoothing out seasonal factors may be inadvertently inflating the numbers. Gallup chief economist Dennis Jacobe figures that, without those seasonal adjustments, the jobless rate has actually been rising for the past three months, hitting 9.1 percent in January.

Seasonal adjustment is a common practice used to analyze economic data because filtering out the impact of seasonal forces usually gives a better assessment of underlying trends. But, for reasons economists are still debating, this winter's seasonal adjustments may have thrown the numbers out of whack

"We think that the improvement over the last few months dramatically overstates the underlying improvement," said Goldman Sachs economist Andrew Tilton. "You will not see that rate of improvement going forward."

Goldman Sachs expects the jobless rate to end the year at 8.2 percent, barely below January's reading of 8.3 percent. That view is shared by economists at the Federal Reserve, whose chairman, Ben Bernanke, has said central bankers don't expect further big drops in the jobless rate.

If the improvement in the job market slows, so could the Obama campaign's political momentum. After dramatic improvement this winter, "slow and steady" gains may not be enough to win the race.
"Employers are still very cautious," said Challenger. "They are being selective about who they hire. They're not adding loads of people."

Quake experts upgrade their alerts

Earthquake researchers are studying a system that would provide a warning before shaking begins on the West Coast. KNBC's Patrick Healy reports.

One year after Japan's earthquake warning system was put to its sternest real-world test, U.S. researchers have built a system that could provide the same type of advance alerts for quake-prone California — the only problem is that they can't afford to get it ready for prime time.
"I've got a system that works in my office," said Thomas Heaton, director of Caltech's Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory. "It works for maybe 100 of us who are prototyping the system. It's been a grassroots effort where a number of scientists have cobbled it together as a demonstration project. But to turn it into a system where literally 50 million Americans would have everything linked into it? It's not ready for that."
 The California network, known as Earthquake Early Warning or ShakeAlert, has been in development since long before the magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami that swept over Japan last March 11. It operates much like the Japanese network does: Readings from about 400 seismic monitoring stations around California are processed on a real-time basis, and when a quake is detected, computer software figures out how long it will take seismic waves to reach your location.
The system takes advantage of the fact that two types of seismic waves emanate from the epicenter: The first waves to arrive are primary waves, or P waves, which are followed by slower secondary waves, or S waves. The S waves, which travel through Earth's crust at a speed of about 2 miles per second, produce more up-and-down motion and tend to be more damaging. The P waves serve as precursors, enabling experts to estimate the intensity and arrival time for the S waves that will follow.
If the projected intensity is above the level you're worried about, your computer will start sounding an alarm and clicking through a countdown, as seen in the video above.
"Right now it's working as well as you could hope for a kludged-together demonstration project from a bunch of professors," Heaton told me. He can adjust the controls downward to be alerted about minor quakes heading toward Caltech in Pasadena, or turn them up so high he can work undisturbed in his office.
"You can go days without anything, and then a day comes when there's a cluster," he said.
The Japanese system, which was developed at an estimated cost of $500 million, turned in a stellar performance during last year's quake. As the video below demonstrates, Tokyo residents had as much as 30 seconds' warning before the shaking began.

Japanese video shows how an alert system provided advance warning of the magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Thirty seconds may not sound like much warning, but it's enough time to shut off gas mains and issue a warning to take cover. In Japan, the warnings are flashed via radio and TV, as well as through computer links and mobile phones. Automated broadcast alerts can be set to turn on a car's emergency flashers and warn drivers to slow down and pull over. The same principle is applied to safeguarding Japan's extensive rail system: Thanks to automated warnings, two dozen trains that were operating in the earthquake zone on March 11 were brought to a halt within seconds, with no reports of serious injuries or damage.
Bugs in the system
During last year's catastrophe, the biggest problem had to do with the fact that the closer residents were to the quake's epicenter, the less warning they received. Another issue was that the complexity of the initial seismic shock and the aftershocks caused the  system to become overloaded, leading to a temporary shutdown.
Heaton and his colleagues are encountering similar bugs in the California system. "They're always being engineered to be better systems and less buggy, but we'll never eliminate all the bugs," he said. Right now, the team is working on an Android app version of ShakeAlert. Even the app would be unsuitable for mass distribution, however.
"The technology exists to deploy it, but strategically, I don't see how we could ever support it," Heaton said.
Going public with ShakeAlert would require a more concerted effort, backed by the expertise and funds that are typically associated with federal government agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey. So far, the USGS has spent about $2 million on ShakeAlert, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is backing the research with $6 million in contributions to Caltech, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Washington over the next three years. Other supporters include and Deutsche Telekom's Silicon Valley Innovation Center.
The California Integrated Seismic Network estimates that a statewide quake warning system would cost about $80 million over five years, while the cost of a similar system for the Pacific Northwest has been estimated at $70 million. But it might take additional funding to get the system as fully linked in with society as Japan's system is now.
"Ultimately, when it does run, you don't want university professors running it," Heaton said, with a tone of amiable self-deprecation. "We're the least reliable people to run something like that."
Realistically, will ShakeAlert ever be ready for prime time? Heaton thinks it might take more than a catastrophic earthquake on the other side of the world to get Americans motivated about earthquake alerts at home.
"My experience at this point in my life is that it's hard to get people to focus on things like this unless something bad happens," he said. "It's been really peaceful and quiet in the western U.S. for quite some time now. ... We're very concentrated on our own issues. We were shocked by what happened [in Japan], but not enough to actually do something."

Caltech's demonstration of the Earthquake Early Warning System's computer software simulates a countdown for seismic waves (in yellow and red) spreading outward from a theoretical magnitude-7.5 earthquake on California's Elsinore fault line toward Los Angeles.
Longer-range prediction?
If it's hard to put in a system based on well-tested geophysics that provides a warning just seconds in advance of the Big One, it's a lot harder to extend the lead time to hours, or days. But people keep trying.
"One prediction that we have learned to make following earthquakes, and this one is a very strong prediction, is that several people will claim to have predicted the earthquake," Heaton joked.
Some researchers are trying to determine whether a statistical analysis of earthquake clustering can lead to better assessments of the chances that a big earthquake will follow smaller tremors. This month's issue of Physics World looks into the prospects for short-term probabilistic forecasting, as well as the controversy surrounding the researchers who didn't predict the deadly 2009 L'Aquila earthquake in Italy (and are now facing manslaughter charges).

Heaton is doubtful that statistics could ever predict the onset of future quakes with the kind of reliability people expect. He noted that 50 percent of all earthquakes have foreshocks, and one quake out of 20 turns out to be a foreshock for a larger quake. "We can say, yeah, earthquakes come in clumps, but to get more particular and specific — personally, I don't think it's very helpful," he said. "What are people going to do with that information, anyway?"
It's possible that some as-yet-unknown mechanism might provide advance indications that a big quake is coming. "There are interesting observations that seem to be reliable about phenomena that are totally mysterious to us," Heaton acknowledged. "Many of them concern electrical phenomena."
Heaton even keeps an open mind about claims that animal behavior can be analyzed to predict future earthquakes.
"I think we know some things that animals are unlikely to do — that is, pick up vibrations from the earth," he told me. "There may be other things out there that are happening that we don't understand very well. So I'm not going to say 'never' to something like that. But the more we think about the problem, the more we recognize that once an earthquake starts, at some point, trying to predict how big it will get before it stops seems to be a particularly difficult dynamics problem."
More about the Japan quake anniversary:

Quake catastrophe like Japan's could hit Pacific Northwest, new data show

A February map from the U.S Geological Survey shows the estimated range of the great Cascadia earthquake of 1700.

A massive earthquake like the one that unleashed a giant tsunami and killed nearly 16,000 people in Japan a year ago not only could happen here in the U.S., but probably will — and relatively soon in terms of seismological history.
The Tohoku earthquake was the most closely monitored in history, yielding an unprecedented breadth of data, geophysicists and seismologists say. And for residents of the Pacific Northwest, the new data should be worrisome.
"It's just like Japan, only a mirror image," said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist at the University of Hawaii and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
The disaster in Japan occurred because of stress from the Pacific tectonic plate sliding below Japan, according to new research discussed last month at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The lead researcher, John Anderson, a geophysicist at the University of Nevada-Reno, said the plates locked together, slowly pushing Japan westward.

Ben Gutierrez and Lisa Kubota of NBC station KHNL in Honolulu contributed to this report by M. Alex Johnson of Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

The plates released catastrophically on March 11, 2011, creating a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami waves that topped 100 feet, said Anderson, who spent most of the past year in Japan as a visiting research professor in Tokyo.
While most Americans probably think the San Andreas fault running through California poses the greatest threat of unleashing a killer mega-quake, data from the Japanese quake indicate that the distinction actually belongs to the Cascadia fault line, which runs through southern Canada, Washington and Oregon to Northern California, Anderson said at the conference.

Biggest threat zones
The biggest threats of a U.S. mega-quake (generally defined as one of magnitude 7.0 or greater) lie along three fault lines:
The Cascadia subduction zone stretches from northern Vancouver Island through Seattle and Portland, Ore., to Northern California, separating the Juan de Fuca and North America plates. Giant quakes are believed to occur there every 300 to 600 years; the last was Jan. 26, 1700. Recent research suggests the region could have a 37 percent chance of a magnitude-8.2 quake or greater in the next 50 years.
The San Andreas transform fault runs the length of California, separating the Pacific and North American plates. The last mega-quake was in 1906 near San Francisco, but large earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or above are relatively common in historical terms, having occurred as recently as September 2004 near Parkfield.
The New Madrid seismic zone stretches southwest from New Madrid, Mo. (pronounced MAD-rid), and is most active in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, where it regularly produces small- to medium-intensity temblors. Three magnitude-8.0 quakes are believed to have occurred in the region from December 1811 to February 1812; had Memphis, Tenn., existed at the time, it likely would have been destroyed. Since then, the largest earthquake was a magnitude-6.6 quake in October 1895 near Charleston, Mo. research/M. Alex Johnson. Sources: NASA Astrophysics Data System, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oregon State University College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, U.S. Geological Survey.
USGS earthquake information by state

Like Fryer, he called the Pacific Northwest trench a "mirror image" of the Japanese trench — except potentially even more dangerous.
"In this mirror image, one can see that if the same earthquake occurred in Cascadia, the fault would rupture to a significant distance inland, since the Cascadia trench sits much closer to the coastline than the trench off the coast of Japan," Anderson said.
While some probability models predict that a Cascadia earthquake wouldn't rupture so far under the land, "if it does, the data from the Tohoku earthquake predict stronger ground motions along our West Coast than those seen in Japan," he said.
In layman's terms, what's happening is that the region "is being deformed because the plates are locked together, and the shoreline is sinking and the rest of the thing is being bent," Fryer said in an interview with NBC station KHNL of Honolulu.
Fryer said the big question is not whether a Japan-like quake will happen, but when.

A coastal Oregon town considers building a tsunami- and earthquake-proof city hall. Experts and residents debate whether the plan will work.
"Where are we here? Are we close or are we not close?" he asked. "I think the suspicion is that it could be sooner rather than later."
Anderson's research supports that conclusion.
Experts generally agree that last great Cascadia earthquake happened on Jan. 26, 1700. It generated tsunami waves that indicated that its magnitude was also about 9.0.
"Earthquakes of this size in the past may have recurred with intervals of as small as about 300 years," Anderson said at the AAAS conference last month. "So it would not be a scientific surprise if such an event were to occur in the near future. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, look at the videos of Tohoku as a reminder to be prepared."

In January, experts discussed lessons from the Japanese earthquake at a conference of the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup.
The warnings come as the White House is proposing a 2013 budget that would cut $4.6 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's tsunami programs. Much of that would come from the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, which funds evacuation maps, training and education efforts — important services given how deeply the Japanese quake and tsunami transformed the science of seismology.
"The Japan earthquake told us that a lot of what we understand about how earthquakes work is wrong," Fryer said. "Do we now have to go back and look at all of our evacuation maps and make sure that they're right? That's a question that's still unanswered, and that question would be answered with tsunami hazard mitigation program funds."
More on the Japan Quake-Tsunami from and NBC News:

4 places to mark Women's History Month

Courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum
Suffragists Alice Paul, Alva Belmont (seated) and members of the National Woman's Party gathered around Susan B. Anthony's desk, circa 1922.
March 8 is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate women's economic, political and social achievements — and take stock of the work for women’s equality still to be done.
The celebration continues beyond today as March is Women’s History Month, and a great time to visit one of these sites marking important milestones in women’s history.

Seneca Falls, N.Y.: Women’s Rights National Historic Park
Maintained by the National Park Service, the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y., commemorates the struggle to gain equal rights for women and pays tribute to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women who organized and held the first Women’s Rights Convention at the town’s small Wesleyan Chapel on July 19 and 20, 1848.
In addition to an exhibit-filled visitor center, park activities include a self-guided audio tour, ranger programs and guided tours of historical properties around town, including the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Home and the Wesleyan Chapel.“It’s one of my favorite spots,” said Karen O'Connor, a professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and founder of the school’s Women & Politics Institute. “It’s the founding home of the modern American women’s movement and you are actually walking in the footsteps of the women who set out a system of demands for women’s equality.”

Rochester, N.Y.: The Susan B. Anthony House
Although she died in 1906, 14 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, Susan B. Anthony is best remembered as an American civil rights activist who campaigned tirelessly for women’s suffrage, giving speeches and inspiring followers with the still-much-quoted mantra: “Failure is Impossible.”
The Rochester, N.Y. house that once served as the campaign headquarters for the National Woman Suffrage Association and as Anthony’s home for 40 years is now a National Historic Landmark filled with items related to her life, including the doctor-bag-style alligator purse that became her trademark.

Washington, D.C.: Sewall-Belmont House
Located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum became the home of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1929 and for more than 60 years served as the strategic base from which to lobby for women’s political, social and economic equality.
“Today many of the important artifacts that contributed to the success of women getting the right to vote are there,” said O’Connor. “Look for suffrage banners, a desk that once belonged to Susan B. Anthony and the information-filled 3x5 cards early activists took with them when they visited house members and senators to lobby for suffrage.”

Richmond, Calif.: Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park
Established in 2000 and still somewhat of a work in progress (a visitor center will open late May 2012), the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park preserves and shares stories of the country’s home front response to World War II.
Eighteen million women worked in defense industries and in war-time support services and the many “Rosies” who toiled in the nation’s shipyards are honored at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, a sculpture that is both inspired by and, at about 450 feet long, as long as one of the Victory ships the women built.
In addition to free ranger tours and a downloadable, self-guided auto tour (PDF), visitors to the park can tour the SS Red Oak Victory, a ship that was built in Richmond shipyards.