Monday, March 31, 2008

My sides ache.

"Food Stamp Use at Record Pace as Jobs Vanish"

The New York Times has reported the following:

"Driven by a painful mix of layoffs and rising food and fuel prices, the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s."


Remember this story the next time you see some teevee analyst wondering aloud whether or not we are in a recession. Stories like this are the handwriting on the wall.

The chilling truth is that the infamous crash of '29 was not at the heart of the Great Depression. It was the subsequent string of bank failures in 1930 and 1931 due to liquidity problems and a loss of confidence.

Let us hope that Lehman Brothers and their rotten ilk can remain tottering on their feet long enough for things to stabilize, lest we find ourselves subsisting on acorns in the immediate future.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Poll Round-Up

Pennsylvania: Obama 36% Clinton 52%

Indiana: Obama leading by 15 points

North Carolina: Obama 55% Clinton 34%

West Virginia: Obama 27% Clinton 55%

Kentucky: Clinton leading by 7 points

Two Recommendations

I've got two recommendation for your personal entertainment.

1. Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Hanks and Phillip Seymour Hoffman deliver an extremely entertaining explanation of how the CIA caused the Soviet Union to go bankrupt thanks to the cost of their unwinnable war in Afghanistan.

If you see it, remember to consider that part where the Soviet Union went bankrupt, then factor that in with the fact that the United States of America currently spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined. Almost ten times the amount spent by either of the nearest nations on the list, China and Russia. And that we are not only bogged down in Afghanistan, but in Iraq as well.

2. Frontline: Bush's War
You can see the entirety of this two part PBS documentary that "tells the epic story of how the Iraq war began and how it has been fought, both on the ground and deep inside the government." Its largely interview based, with the people who were there telling the story.

It's at once incredible illuminative and deeply, deeply appalling.

Obama PWNS Hillary

Much has been made about observing the will of the people in this neck and neck Democratic primary race. Obama has cited the number of states won, while Clinton has stressed her capture of several big states. This made me curious about the margins of the victories achieved by each candidate. How many of the victories were what we would call "quality" wins if we were talking about college football - the big blow-outs where complete dominance was achieved?

Looking at the margins of victories in the contests at the New York Times' web page on primary contest victories makes it plain that many more of Clinton's victories were narrow ones, while Obama's was much more likely to have blown out the contest. Consider the following:

Victories = 15
Average Margin of Victory = 13.1 points
Median Margin of Victory = 10.0 points
Contests won by less than 10 points = 6
Contests won by 20 or more points = 2

Victories = 30
Average Margin of Victory = 29.5 points
Median Margin of Victory = 26.0 points
Contests won by less than 10 points = 3
Contests won by 20 or more points = 21

By these comparisons, Obama is completely dominating the race.

Consider Clinton's most heralded victories:

New Hampshire = 3 point win
Texas (primaries only) = 4 point win
Ohio = 10 point win

Two of them are hard fought, close victories - with Obama expected to actually have won the most delegates in Texas once Hillary's obstructionists can no longer prevent the caucus process from moving forward.

In comparison, Obama has only had three victories so narrow as to be under 10 points. Much more typical has been extremely strong victories like Wisconsin (17 points), Maryland (23 points), Georgia (35 points), Kansas (48 points) and Idaho (63 points). These are the kind of victories Hillary would have to achieve to have any prayer of pulling ahead in the delegate count, but that no one believes is possible for her to achieve. Yet Obama has won big consistently, not by exception.

This graph shows that Barack Obama has dominated in the margins.

It is undeniable that the people of the remaining 10 states have a right to be heard, however their voices must be considered within the context of what everyone else has already said. Hillary Clinton wants us to believe that the last voices will somehow carry more weight than the ones that came before, and that is simply not the case.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nuke Iran?

In Bush 43 fires another one! I brought up the possibility of Bush/Cheney launching a unilateral nuclear attack on Iran. Today one of the other probots sent over the following stomach-churning commentaries:

Commentary 1: Last Friday, Dick Cheney was in Saudi Arabia for high-level meetings with the Saudi king and his ministers. On Saturday, it was revealed that the Saudi Shura Council -- the elite group that implements the decisions of the autocratic inner circle -- is preparing "national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts' warnings of possible attacks on Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactors."

Commentary 2: Cassandra and Yogi Berra are an unlikely pair, but I hear both of their voices today. Cassandra, like some of us, was cursed to be always disbelieved as she correctly predicted the future while baseballer Yogi Berra will be remembered for his penetrating insight into the flow of history, “This is like deja vu all over again."

Massive ice shelf collapsing off Antarctica

Scientists are citing "rapid climate change in a fast-warming region of Antarctica" as the cause of an initial collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf. The damage got started at the end of February when an iceberg dropped off and triggered the "runaway disintegration" of a 160-square-mile portion of the 5,282-square-mile shelf.

Glorious YouTube!

CBS News delivers with actual footage of that sniper-festooned landing.

By the way... there's Chelsea Clinton standing next to Hillary. Does this mean she also has the kind of experience needed to take the presidency on Day One?

Hillary has experience... telling lies!

Hillary has been campaigning hard on the depth of her experience, never mind that this is a strategy that can only work against Obama and is sure to doom her to failure against McCain. And never mind that the bulk of this experience has been as a wife, not a leader. And never mind that her track record of actual accomplishments includes a variety of terrible choices and decisions that range somewhere between questionable and possibly criminal. Now she has proven that she is willing to invent NEW experiences to further pad out her resume:

"I remember landing under sniper fire," she said in a speech last week in Washington, reading from prepared remarks. "There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

When that whole incident turned out to be a lie she brushed it off, saying, "So I made a mistake, that happens," she said when the question was raised again. "It proves I'm human - which for some people is a revelation."

Now come on... the question was not whether she was served a turkey or ham sandwich on the plane 12 years ago. I've got to believe that even a traveler so worldly and knowledgeable as Hillary Clinton would have a crystal clear memory of the day that sniper fire opened up around her.

What we have here is a demonstrated willingness to lie to the American public whenever it is politically expedient. It's an area in which the Clintons have considerably more experience that Barack Obama!

Haven't we had enough liars?

"Stocks before whore, everyone's poor."

This whole segment is generally hilarious, but the icing on the gravy is right around 1:50 when W. recites the litany of calamities we have endured under his presidency.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Maureen Dowd rocks!

"If Hillary’s fate falls into the hands of Jimmy, Al and Nancy, the Clinton chickens may come home to roost."


Haunting Obama’s Dreams

It is a tribute to Hillary Clinton that even though, rationally, political soothsayers think she can no longer win, irrationally, they wonder how she will pull it off.

It’s impossible to imagine The Terminator, as a former aide calls her, giving up. Unless every circuit is out, she’ll regenerate enough to claw her way out of the grave, crawl through the Rezko Memorial Lawn and up Obama’s wall, hurl her torso into the house and brutally haunt his dreams.

“It’s like one of those movies where you think you know the end, but then you watch with your fingers over your eyes,” said one leading Democrat.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

NOAA Warns of Flood Risk From Maine to Texas

Midwest Floods: Taste of Things to Come

There is pain today from Texas to Pennsylvania with thousands of people forced to flee floodwaters in more than 250 towns and cities. And the National Weather Service says this week is a taste of things to come.

The government issued its outlook for the next three months today, and predicted an unusual risk of flooding in a broad arc from the Northeast to the mouth of the Mississippi.


For long periods in Earth's history the area we call the Midwestern USA was a mix of giant swamps and shallow inland seas, a permanently-flooded flatland whose lush, jungle vegetation produced some of the world's largest coal beds and oil fields. This was the age of the dinosaurs: the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. At this time the temperature was about 10 degrees Celsius warmer than today.

Many have wondered what sources of energy we will use here at the end of the era of cheap oil - the changing climate may provide the ironic answer:

Oh the Countless Hours I've Wasted

Atari 2600

Castle Wolfenstein 3D

Side scroll games by Apogee

Railroad Tycoon (in various versions)


Duke Nukem 3D


Halflife (run here in 30 minutes!)

Soldier of Fortune

Rollercoaster Tycoon

Halflife 2

Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Battlefield 1942

Its a bit depressing to think about the percentage of these very, very popular games that are all about hunting stuff/people down and killing it/them.

Or shrinking them down to the size of mice with a shrink ray gun.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Brain Fog of War

"The only honest answer is to state that try as I might, I cannot recall anything whatsoever about whether I approved an Israeli sale in advance or whether I approved replenishment of Israeli stocks around August of 1985. My answer therefore and the simple truth is, 'I don't remember'."

So spoke President Reagan during the Tower Commission's investigation into the Iran-Contra arms deals. At the time we assumed that President Reagan was lying, however with more time it was revealed that President Reagan was already on the slow decline into the fog of Alzheimer's disease at the time of the hearings, so it is entirely likely that at age 75 he truly could not remember making such a significant decision even though it had taken place only a year earlier.

A few days ago it was revealed that 1 in 5 citizens above the age of 70 experience mental difficulties ranging from simple "brain fog" to full-on symptoms of Alzheimer's. Perhaps this was the problem for elder statesman and presidential candidate John McCain when he stated that it is well known that Iran is training Al Qaida extremists and then sending them to Iraq, when of course Al Qaida is a Sunni group and the Iranians are Shiite.

A simple slip of the tongue, perhaps... but he also made the same mistake on the Hugh Hewitt radio show the day before.

This complicated Iraq War with all its competing religious and political factions - it must be confusing for a tired old man who endured such terrible trauma as a prisoner of war more than 40 years ago! How much mental fog will John McCain be suffering from if he takes office at age 72 as the oldest president in the history of the nation, or at age 76 at the end of his first term?

My own grandfather is also a tough old man. He grew up from a life in an orphanage, where my Great Grandfather had placed in order to more fully develop his career as a "rummy". He learned to weld in the Navy during World War II and built the first of a lifetime of careers and interests that also included owner of two pet stores, employee of the State of Connecticut, rider of Indian motorcycles, organ player, fisherman, skin diver and, most recently, prolific gardener.

World War II also delivered my Grandfather to my Grandmother - they met at a USO dance. He built the house they lived in up until they retired to Georgia, including digging the basement by hand. A lifelong athlete, he has had two events named after him, a footrace in Connecticut and a tennis tournament in Rabun County, Georgia.

But its been quite a few years now since my Grandpa has been let anywhere near the keys to his truck, as his short term memory is completely gone due to a series of micro-strokes that were invisible at the beginning. He's still strong as an ox... Not long ago he had to be recovered by the police after he walked approximately 15 miles from his house to the nearest town - with no idea where he was or how to get back.

Those years add up on even the toughest men and women, and practically every one of us has looked into our own families and circles of friends and come to the heartbreaking realization that this uncle or that old friend really is no longer the person we remember so fondly from earlier days. For all of us who manage to dodge the accidents, coronaries and other early misfortunes, a slow decline in faculties is the reality that each of us faces. For John McCain and the rest of us, the question is simply:

How bad will it be?

How soon will it happen?

This is above and beyond the fact that the presidency takes 20 years off a man. Look what's happened to W! I think its pretty clear that a certain Sith apprentice has been playing around with the Dark Side lightening while Lord Cheney was not around to supervise!

Is John McCain ready for the strain of a presidency in which he'll be expected to heal a nation devastated by a sagging economy, an energy crisis and a collapsing dollar, while also presiding over an unwinnable war that is costing us $5,000 a second?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Well I'll Be!

Turns out Obama WAS willing to discuss these issues point blank...

Three Items of Economic Interest

1. Bernanke May Cut Benchmark Rate by Most Since Volcker

Bernanke, whose views on monetary policy were shaped by his scholarly work on the Great Depression, has seen losses at the world's biggest banks and securities dealers balloon to $195 billion since the start of last year, culminating in the collapse last week of the fifth-largest securities firm, Bear Stearns Cos.

Bernanke has failed to calm the turmoil, which his predecessor Alan Greenspan calls the ``most wrenching'' since the end of World War II, even after lowering the overnight rate five times since September and committing to pump an unprecedented $400 billion in cash and securities into the banking system.

2.Implode o Meter

Everyone is talking about Bear Sterns, but don't forget that 241 US lending institutions have already gone belly up since 2006. That's up from 109 last August.

3. Oil Rises on Speculation of Dollar Drop on Interest Rate Cut

In which the relationship between the price of oil, the plunging dollar and the falling interest rates is cited. Kind of makes a fella nostalgic for the good old days of pre-Iraq War 2003, when oil was only $25 a barrel.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Check out this completely groovy two seat, three-wheeled, 230 mpg plug-in gas/electric hybrid car! Whether in the Aptera or a Toyota Prius with a beefed up battery system, gas-electric hybrids that have the option of being plugged in seem like the wave of the future. They will be equipped with battery packs that will sustain the typical "around town" driving, but have the flexibility of a gasoline engine for long trips or anytime when batteries are drained.

Best of all, this is not science fiction - Daimler-Chrysler's new Sprinter van will run on its batteries for the first 20 miles!

Of course, electricity is not free, but it tends to be cleaner than burning oil and it is the "common denominator" for almost all forms of renewable and traditional energy, whether that is solar, wind, geothermal, coal, nuclear... Lots of other options to fill those batteries besides Middle Eastern oil.

Barack Obama Responds

Obama responds to the issues of his pastor's inflammatory remarks in this video.

It's a shame that its impossible for him to speak frankly on the issues of race in our nation, the relationships between race, poverty and opportunities in a country in which 1 in 9 black men are behind bars. Hurricane Katrina pulled back the curtain on poverty and race in America. Does anyone really believe that its only like that in New Orleans? What a disgrace. Its no wonder black people are angry.

It will be impossible to move beyond these problems unless we can join together to build our common future. "United we stand, divided we fall," was first used in 1768 to bind the nation together in pursuit of independence. The divisiveness of today's society have been a luxury of the success that sprang from that bold experiment. But it will be our return to unity that will carry us through the challenges of the future.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bush 43 fires another one!

Bush 43's rich history of ignoring and/or firing dissenting commanders in Iraq continues.

Admiral Fallon was abruptly dismissed this week, silencing one of the Bush administration's "fiercest opponents of a unilateral military strike against Iran". While the analysts insist that the odds of Bush successfully finding a reason to launch war against Iran are dwindling in the twilight of his presidency, never underestimate the willingness of this administration to fake another Gulf of Tonkin Incident to justify a last minute "counterattack" on Iran.

If McCain wins we should have nothing to worry about. McCain went to the White House to kiss Bush 43's ring the very first thing the next morning after clinching the nomination and came out saying "Stay the course in Iraq". Both 43 and Cheney know they can count on McCain to roll out the master plan that they believe history will gaze so fondly upon at some undetermined point in the future.

However, if either Obama or Clinton take the election, we've got that long stretch between November 4 and January 20 to hope and pray that Bush and Cheney don't decide to attack Iran using the excuse that he took one of those dreaded 3:00 am phone calls we've heard so much about lately.

Most terrifying of all, the possibility that the event that they would use to justify attacking or even nuking Iran would be staged on American soil. Unthinkable? Don't forget that it was recently revealed that Kennedy's generals proposed staging attacks on US civilians in order to generate support for an attack on Cuba.

The question is, after the mix of lies and incompetence that have characterized our involvement with Iraq and the Middle East, do you trust this man's judgment as much as would have trusted John F. Kennedy?

Pentagon Report on Iraqi Documents

Pentagon Study of 600,000 Iraqi Documents Finds No Link Between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein

WASHINGTON — A forthcoming Pentagon study has found no operational link between Saddam Hussein and Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network.

McClatchy Newspapers reports that the study, expected to be released later this week, is based on an extensive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were seized after the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003.

While there was no link to Al Qaeda, the investigation revealed that Saddam's regime gave some support to other terror groups in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy on condition of anonymity. But he targeted those he considered his own enemies, including Shiite Muslims, Kurds, exiles and others, the news service reported.

Sponsored by the Pentagon, the report found no "direct operational link" between Saddam's government in Iraq and bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror ring before the U.S. invasion, an official told McClatchy.

The Bush administration put forth the argument that there was a connection between Saddam and bin Laden when it made the case to go to war with Iraq after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Link to Fox News


Gosh, seems like it was only five years ago that Sec Def Rumsfeld told us that:

American intelligence had ''bulletproof'' evidence of links between Al Qaeda and the government of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

Link to NY Times News


Is there anyone out there who believes that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld didn't know the truth about the lack of connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda? If so, please get in touch - I have some lovely bridges I'd like to sell you.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New prosthetic arm for veterans

I just learned about this organization, "TED", which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. According to their site:

"It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)."

In the clip Segway inventor Dean Kamen introduces his new prosthetic arm for veterans at the annual TED conference. He was compelled by Department of Defense officials to try and help the 1,600 soldiers who have had an arm blown off in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Its a cool arm, but I'd say we're going to burn in hell for stealing those limbs from those boys in the first place.

Kamen Speaks

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Campaign Tallies of the Superdelegates

I found a list of all 712 individual Democratic superdelegates, sorted by alliance with Hillary, alliance with Obama or by lack of an alliance. The list can be sifted by a number of criteria, including state, position of superdelegate, gender, and several other factors. You can also click on the individual names and see a short profile. Most interesting to me, many of the names are followed by a short statement of explanation by the superdelegate, a fascinating mix that runs from passionate to administrative.

Its amazing to me how high voter participation has been running this year, how everyone has been so closely following this race. I read that in Teton, Wyoming, not more than 200 people had ever turned out for a caucus and today they got over 1,000. But then its also understandable given these changing times, when it seems like we have entered an era of transition as a nation and around the world... Our out-of-control debt, the sagging economy, the end of cheap oil, the rise of the Euro/fall of the Dollar, the change in the weather and the sudden resurgence of both of the ancient enemies of the West - Persia and Islam - any of these is cause for concern, together they are outright worrisome.

And so while I certainly have my favorite, I can honestly say it is a relief to have three candidates who are each extremely strong in their own ways. Its essential that we end up with a leader who can help us to ride atop the waves of change rather drive us to be crushed beneath them, and its possible that any of these could do so.

In the meantime its reassuring to know that we belong to a strong community, a family of friends ready to help each other along through come-what-may!