Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tenth Day of Christmas Music

Scrooged - Put A Little Love In Your Heart


Same song, done by Annie Lennox and Al Green

The Bill Is About Due

Bill Clinton is The. Greatest. President. Ever.

That's not just my opinion. The reasons can be found on the biography on the White House website:
During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history. He was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term. He could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country's history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus. As part of a plan to celebrate the millennium in 2000, Clinton called for a great national initiative to end racial discrimination.
History will ultimately judge if Mr Clinton deserves to be placed in the pantheon of Lincoln and Washington.

President Bush...not so much.

We're starting to see the forms in which history will hand up its judgement of Presidents Clinton and Bush in, of all places, the Democratic primaries.

Barack Obama has been saying it's time to "turn the page" on the partisanship and scandals that have been rife in this country since the Clinton years. Correctly, he has pointed out that he could win in states that Hillary Clinton could not.

Hillary Clinton has begun running on her husband's record, embracing the booming economy and stable foreign relations (and implicitly, how President Clinton stopped every domestic terror attack in the country on his watch, save for the one committed three weeks after he took office).

History's judgement is being reflected in the polls. People are warming to the idea of a return to Clintonia. Hillary has apparently turned her awkward momentum around and is beginning to firm up her poll numbers. Indeed, she has begun to equate Obama with Bush, if you can believe it:
But the unchanging core of Clinton's message is her experience, and in recent days she has presented the election as a binary choice: between a competent, experienced Clinton and novices such as Obama. "That's the kind of logic that got us George Bush in the first place," she said this week in Iowa.
This message appears to be resonating with the electorate.

Oddly, not much of the scandal that plagued the Clinton administration have seemed to stick in this race. Certainly, the Lewinski affair remains a dim memory to most people, particularly in light of the heinous, illegal and unconstitutional behavior of the Bush administration. Somehow, people are willing to forget a blow job in this atmosphere. Which makes Obama's campaign theme of "turn the page" that much more remarkable for its clumsiness.

It remains to be seen just how much damage equating Obama to Bush will have, but if anything, a reminder of any likeness to Bush is going to make people stop and think.

Hillary is in an unique position as the first candidate for President to be able to run with an actual President in her entourage (who is not a father, of course) and we should have seen it coming that she would begin to more closely tie herself to his legacy as the race began to tighten.

Hillary is a known quantity. She's been vetted a few hundred times in the past sixteen years, and there's not much people have to learn about her. Obama's great strength in this race is that he's kept it close as people have gotten to know him, and managed to have others speak for his character, like Oprah Winfrey.

This, despite having written several books about his life. He's practically Proustian in his recollections!

The race is turning into the home stretch now, and that people don't know Obama may now be his weakness. The electorate generally prefers the devil it knows, and the electorate views all candidates as devils.

The more Bill Clinton appears on the campaign trail and the tighter Hillary Clinton hitches her wagon to his legacy, the tougher it will become for Obama to score victories. In fact, the right wing charge of "Billary" may prove to be a useful asset in the Super Tuesday primary season, since it neatly sums up the point that Hillary was a major force in Bill's policy shop.

People need to know that, and remember how good the 90s were to their pocketbooks and their families, and they will come to Clinton in droves.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ninth Day Of Christmas Music

The Kinks - Father Christmas

Friday Cat Kitten Blogging

I hait mah dadby...

Nobody Asked Me, But....

Special Horny Holiday Edition

1) Humping sidewalk

2) Humping Santa (h/t to not_over_it)

3) Humping a bicycle.

4) HOLY SHIT! There really IS a Giant Rat Of Sumatra!

5) Talk about a bitch slap!

6) I guess things run in a family way in the Spears' family. You know about the teen pregnancy of Britney's younger sister. Did you know mother Lynne has the chutzpah to write a book about parenting? Who's teaching her?

6) I'm trying to figure out how she kept the dress from falling apart.

7) Hillary. Obama. John. It really doesn't matter who wins Iowa, New Hampshire, or even South Carolina. The December 31 fund-raising numbers, counting cash on hand, will pretty much decide who the nominee will be. The smart money is on Hillary.

8) More evidence the bird flu is mutating.

9) Just in time for....well, one holiday, the Menorah Christmas tree! I'm sending one to Bill O'Reilly next year.

10) Speaking of which, personal circumstances this year dictated that I was unable to write yet another Christmas novel. I guess next year.

11) Bet they needed dogs to sniff out these crooks....


Actually, this isn't that funny. There's a cholera epidemic in Uganda, which is why these folks were arrested.

12) Um...who? Why was I not nominated?

Next Week: Special Year End Edition. My favorite stories of 2007.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eighth Day Of Christmas Music Blogging

The Pogues featuring Kristy MacColl - Fairytale of New York

Now we know why Matt Dillon ended up starring in the video...;-)

Basking In Reflected Glory

My good friend, key member of Team Actor212, and early adopter of the Simply Left Behind habit, Miss Cellania, is a featured contributor to the ABC News World News Tonight webcast.

Open the player, click on the "More Videos" link in the player and scroll down to "Viral Videos 2007", let the commercial play (UGH! but it's only 30 seconds...) and then bask in the glory that IS Miss Cellania.


Duh. Here's the permalink to the piece.

Suddenly, He's The Great Communicator...

Bush will hold a press conference today.

That's the second this month. The first was where he all but called Congress "do-nothing" (unlike the 109th and last Republican-led conference, which did even less), and then promptly got spnaked all over the place over the NIE report on Iran's nuclear program. Bush's feeble response was to try to make lemons out of lemonade and prove that the NIE supported his claims all along.

The NIE most certainly did not support claims of World War III (the implication in October was that this was imminent if Iran continued to develop their (knowledge of, deliberately parenthetically) nuclear arms.

That issue still hasn't gone away, as Bush claimed he was only apprised of the new NIE in late November, but sources close to the Oval Office have been quoted as saying that Vice President Darth Vader was briefed as early as March and that the President himself exhibited knowledge of the new assessment even in February of 2007.

It has, however, been overshadowed by a far more urgent issue, and that is the deliberate destruction of torture videotapes held by the CIA that had been subpoenaed by a Federal court.

This is a smoking gun issue, and early reports cite officials as high up as former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez as having discussed the destruction of the tapes before the actual destruction took place.

Errr, "conspiracy to obstruct justice" is the first charge that leaps to mind.

"Contempt of court" is another possible charge.

This is the smoking gun issue for pro-impeachment forces. This is an illegal act, and appears to have been done, if not under the direction of, with foreknowledge by senior officials of the Bush administration, if not Bush and Cheney themselves.

The timing is the problem, however. Obviously, this issue will work its way up to the Supreme Court, and as we all know, that court is stacked with Bush partisans.

Will they set aside personal relationships for the greater good of the Constitution?

I doubt it. But I can hope.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Seventh Day of Christmas Music

Etlon John - Levon

Oh Brother! Where The Fuck Art Thou?

Let's assume that this story is true for a second:

Isn't his wife, Elizabeth, terminal? Isn't it pretty clear that she's likely not only aware of this relationship, but has possibly even given it her blessing?

Given the, um, rather randy way the Republican line-up has comported themselves in their personal affairs...Rudy Giuliani himself has almost as many spouses as half the Democratic field...who really cares?

Now, let's take the story's merits under close examination by parsing it:
The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively that Rielle Hunter, a woman linked to Edwards in a cheating scandal earlier this year, is more than six months pregnant – and she’s told a close confidante that Edwards is the father of her baby!
OK, so we have some hearsay, second hand information that John Edwards is the father of an illegitimate child with a woman he has long been associated with.

No direct proof, not even the word of the woman herself. Just some overheard gossip.

Let's move on:
The ENQUIRER has now confirmed not only that Rielle is expecting, but that she’s gone into hiding with the help of a former aide to Edwards . The visibly pregnant blonde has relocated from the New York area to Chapel Hill, N.C. where she is living in an upscale gated community near political operative Andrew Young, who’s been extremely close to Edwards for years and was a key official in his presidential campaign.
Hang on, this story has one more twist:
Young – a 41-year-old married man with young children -- now claims HE is the father of Rielle’s baby.
So she moves to Chapel Hill to be...either closer to the father of her baby or to duck out media scrutiny.

On the prima facie evidence, which seems more likely? If she's ducking media attention, then moving to the same community as a high profile campaign official hardly seems to be the way to go, don't you think? Gated community or not, the media will be camped out in that area, waiting.

That's hardly ducking out!
In a statement issued to The ENQUIRER through her attorney, Rielle said: “The fact that I am expecting a child is my personal and private business. This has no relationship to nor does it involve John Edwards in any way. Andrew Young is the father of my unborn child.”

From the woman herself, we have the admission that indeed, it's not Edwards' baby, and that Edwards never even had sex with her, unlike the Monica Lewinski affair, in which Monica herself kept quiet about it until she had to testify.


TO: The Republican Right Wing
CC:: "Eggman" Matt Drudge


We have bigger problems in this nation than to get tangled up in the private affairs of people.

I thought you learned that when the country viciously backlashed against the Clitnon impeachment?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sixth Day Of Christmas Music

Yorge Yorgesson - I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas

A Black Mark For Green

At the weekend, I discussed the coming oil crunch and how alternative energy sources might stack up to replace fossil fuels.

Specifically, when it comes to corn ethanol, there's a negative energy impact in converting from fossil fuels: it takes a lot of energy to produce one gallon of corn ethanol, more energy than is derived.

A lot of that energy comes from the petroleum-based fertilizers that corn needs in order to grow efficiently enough to create a supply of ethanol.

There's also a downside to using that much fertilizer:
The nation's corn crop is fertilized with millions of pounds of nitrogen-based fertilizer. And when that nitrogen runs off fields in Corn Belt states, it makes its way to the Mississippi River and eventually pours into the Gulf, where it contributes to a growing "dead zone" — a 7,900-square-mile patch so depleted of oxygen that fish, crabs and shrimp suffocate.

The dead zone was discovered in 1985 and has grown fairly steadily since then, forcing fishermen to venture farther and farther out to sea to find their catch. For decades, fertilizer has been considered the prime cause of the lifeless spot.

With demand for corn booming, some researchers fear the dead zone will expand rapidly, with devastating consequences.
In short, you kill off the Louisiana shrimp farmers, which is a critical link in the economic recovery of the region.

Corn prices have doubled in the past five years, from $2 a bushel to $4. That makes corn a very tempting crop to plant for any farmer. It also makes it impossible for environmentalists to ask farmers to cut back on production, or to create environmental buffer zones so that run-off is less of a problem (i.e. plant nitorgen-fixing crops like alfalfa that will thrive in a fertilizer rich environment).

The dilemna can be summed up this way:
Farmers realize the connection between their crop and problems downstream, but with the price of corn soaring, it doesn't make sense to grow anything else. And growing corn isn't profitable without nitrogen-based fertilizer.
The flip side of this problem (and isn't there always?) is that, with a dead zone of over-nitrogenated water taking over more and more of the Gulf, there's less and less chance of having carbon scrubbed out of the atmosphere and back into the life cycle on the reefs and other offshore ecosystems. Algae bloom into overpopulation, die off en masse, and then suck all the oxygen out of the water as they drop to the bottom of the ocean, decaying.

There's nothing left at the surface to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen until the algae levels balance out again. Plus, the oxygen at the bottom is taken away, meaning shellfish (who can't outswim the depletion) die off.

This happens on an annual basis now, but the dead zone season has been extending each year, forcing shrimpers to go further and further off-shore, endangering fragile ecosystems that include larger pelagic fish and mammals.

And as the dead zone grows larger and stays longer, it may actually trap many fish and mammals within its confines, where even the fastest swimmers won't be able to outrace their deaths.

In other words, dolphins, whales and sharks are dying off because of shrimpers due to the unintended consequences of corn ethanol research.

Which was supposed to help save them and their fragile environments.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fifth Day Of Christmas Music

The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping

Bush Got What He Wanted Out Of Bali

He delayed, ran down the clock, deferred, distracted and otherwise pushed off the tough decisions on global warming to the next shnook to sit in his chair:
NUSA DUA, Indonesia — The world’s faltering effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions got a new lease on life on Saturday, as delegates from 187 countries agreed to negotiate a new accord over the next two years — pushing the crucial debates about United States participation into the administration of a new American president.
(emphasis added) I should add that Bush also got India and China to agree that they would have to take "measurable steps" to reduce carbon emissions. Their concessions at Bali are tantamount to Bush saying he'll withdraw American troops from Iraq "as Iraqis stand up": meaningless, ambiguous and ultimately up to India and China to decide how and when to measure emissions.

So there will be two more years of "jaw, jaw, jaw," as Churchill might have put it, altho in this context, not approvingly I'm sure.

Can you imagine what might have happened in this country if, instead of wasting nearly a trillion dollars on a quixotic quest to quickly inflame the Iraqi quagmire, Bush had instead tackled global warming and climate change, if only for the protection and security of this nation?

If Osama bin Laden is truly bent on destroying the American way of life, he need only wait a few decades. In fact, he can claim credit for it, since he will have distracted this country at nearly its last possible chance to prevent a worldwide catastrophe that will level the entire global economy, if not the entire global power structure.

He might, indeed, have his caliphate after all, simply because Bush had not the wit, had not the capacity, had not even the horse sense, to close the barn door.

Despite Bush's flummoxed approach to foreign policy and to world leaders, the world itself still looks to the US for a lot. Like it or not, interventionist or not, America is a beacon of prosperity and freedom, so if we think a problem is serious enough to tackle (that doesn't involve invading another country and raping its sovereignty), the world will sit up and take notice.

Even China. Even India. Maybe especially China and India, since they are clearly modeling their future economies on our own. We were, after all, wildly successful in preaching the "benefits" of capitalism, while conveniently leaving out some of the shortfalls (to-wit, a real lack of accountability).

You know something? Guess what? This is going to require sacrifice from everyone but especially from those who can afford it the most, meaning us. Again, imagine that foolish trillion spent in a good cause, as a show of good faith, trying to implement reduced carbon technology for India, for China, for Brazil and Argentina and Venezuela.

In America.

Do you think we might have been taken seriously at Bali? Do you think there would have had to be arm-twisting to get nations to show up to Bush's climate summit next year (presumably featuring the next GOP nominee)?

A trillion dollars, "all in" as they say in poker, means either you're a particularly inept bluffer or you've got an inside flush: you're taking the game seriously.

But no, we live in this reality, the one where an incompetent boob was elected (yes, the elections might have been stolen, but they simply shouldn't have been that close to begin with). He raped and pillaged our economy, Iraq, and Afghanistan, while paying lip service to anything that really matters: health care, poverty, crises that affected millions of people.

One trillion dollars. I keep shaking my head at that.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fourth Day Of Christmas Music

Love, Actually - Christmas Is All Around

When The Wells Run Dry

In 1956, M. King Hubbert predicted that the United States would hi peak oil production in 1970-71. American reserves would begin to decline at that point.

People laughed. Until 1972's production numbers came out. And 1973's. And so on. They stopped laughing.

Hubbert also predicted that worldwide oil reserves would peak in 2006. He doesn't seem to be too far off the mark.

Other scientists have predicted that American has seen its peak natural gas production. We already import 15% of natural gas from Canada, which accounts for 50% of their production.

The rapidly expanding world and American economies have been built on cheap energy. As production has ramped up to meet demand and has been able to keep pace, energy has been really cheap.

That's now stopped. With one or two hiccups going forward, oil & gas production will plummet.

This issue weighs heavily on my mind because of issues raised in a film I watched yesterday, courtesy of Free Speech TV: The End of Suburbia

(side note: run, do not walk, to your local electronics store and get DishTV, which is the only full time outlet for Free Speech TV. Or sign up online. This channel alone makes it worthwhile.)

To-wit: what happens when the oil (and gas) runs out?

We can roughly divide gas and oil in this fashion: gas powers our homes and workplaces, while oil provides transportation. It's a gross simplification, but it is useful.

Both oil and gas provide an enormous amount of energy per unit of measure. Alternatives, like biomass, wind, or solar, don't provide nearly as much energy, and in some cases (biomass and ethanol), the energy required to extract fuel may actually exceed the energy obtained. Add to that fact that the input energy currently comes from fossil fuels, and you have a bad bargain. Nuclear could possibly replace natural gas as a means of producing electricity and heating and cooling, but some estimates are that we'd need upwards of 10,000 more nuclear power plants in order to match current demand, which would deplete fissible materials faster than we'd run out of oil. Coal is a possible short term solution, but even setting aside the environmental issues, it's good for maybe another hundred years or so.

In other words, unless some drastic measures are taken, within our lifetimes, we face a crisis unheard of in human history: a withdrawal from an addiction that will make getting off crack look like a walk in the park.

What do we face? What happens when the wells run dry?

Well, obviously, we wouldn't be able to drive cars much anymore, it takes about 90 barrels of oil to produce one car, and that's before fuel, so we'd lose a lot of mobility. Any fuel, including biomass or biodiesel, will be prohibitively expensive to produce. We'll take care to only use as much as necessary.

The United States is woefully undercapacity in terms of public transportation. Our rail system is antiquated to the point of being no better than Third World. Airplanes will return to being the luxury they once were, the toys of the wealthy.

Too, even if scale up our rail system, we'd need to provide electricity. That could be done locally, of course, perhaps some form of solar energy generation along the tracks (or even in the tracks). But I'm not ready to look at solutions.

We'd lose the electric grid as we know it: highly centralized power production demands highly efficient fuels to produce the power to send down the grid. Since the transmission of electricity implies the loss of electricity (no cable is 100% efficient, there''s always some heat loss as you go, the farther the more there is), we'd need more localized forms of power in order to replicate the current grid.

Heating our homes and offices would be a bit of a problem, since something like 86% of buildings rely solely on gas or oil (or electricity). Some places are lucky enough to be near raging bodies of water, like Niagara Falls, but hydroelectric capacity is pretty near 100% in this country and Canada.

So expect to be cold in the winter and hot in the summer, since the wattage of most American heating and cooling systems is beyond the capacity for all but the most sophisticated and extensive (and expensive!) solar technology at this point. We'll be scaling back on comfort.

Just in time for global warming! Mother Nature does love her little jokes.

Ah, but it gets worse! While we're shivering in our hovels, how will we eat? You see, nearly every effective pesticide or fertilizer on the market today relies on...petroleum. Current estimates are that it takes about ten calories of hydrocarbons to bring one calorie of food to your table, which includes transportation. Take away those hydrocarbons and you can see...that's the end of the California Caesar salad on your dinner table in Boston in January.

Well, so while you're shivering and starving, I guess you'll have to look for something to distract you. Um, well, see...plastics.

Look around you. Take a careful look: this computer you're reading this on. That TV in the corner, or that radio. The stereo. Your iPod.

Plastic is a petroleum based product as well.

It's going to be rather boring. This is truly going to be "survival of the fittest" in the world. We'll have to learn to do without and to live locally and tribally. There will likely be vast swaths of America abandoned because it turns out, the homes are too far from anything to walk to and from.

The crypt of conspicuous consumption will be the American cul-de-sac.

Larchmont, NY. Orange County, CA. Arlington, VA. These will be the new slums in the 22nd Century. We're already seeing a return to urbanization in both traditional industrialized cities as well as in new urban planning out in the suburbs, but along the lines of how cities grew up in the 19th century: around transportation stops and commuting hubs. In other words, eliminating the need for cars by extending cities outward, so that if you need to buy a new couch, you hop on a train to the city and have them deliver it to you.

The old tract houses and McMansions will be abandoned as people realize it is untenable to maintain a manicured lawn with sheepshit scraped off the (encroaching) forest floor. Homesteaders will either buy these houses on the cheap for multiple families (like many undocumented aliens do now), or will turn their half-acre of land into some form of self-sustainable farm, living off the grid as best as they can.

Will any good come of all this? I think so. The term gridlock almost automatically gets taken away, and if you simply must drive (or fly) from one place to another, you'll find the going is pretty smooth. But that's to be expected, you're paying first class fare.

Too, the rise of the Internet economy will make it a lot easier for people to stay off the streets to work and conduct business. That will help make things a little easier for us all, especially if we continue to develop this non-physical presence in the world. That could be affected by the lack of central power distribution, but hey, someone will figure out how to send low-power signals down the wires that can work computer servers, I'm sure, as a back up to local generation.

That's right. That little dance of having a back up power source for computers will be reversed. You'll be using your own power, and have the grid, such as it is, as a back up.

The world changed a lot because of cheap energy, to become what we have today. The change back will be painful, mostly because we are like children: we had something and we don't want to give that up.