Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blog #60: Last Gasps of the Campaigns

Well friends, thankfully the election clock is ticking away. As we post this on Saturday morning there are only three days left until the big day: Election Day, 2008. Thank heavens for the passing of time; I don’t think I could stand one more day of this campaign. For one thing, I’m sicknd tired of seeing John McCain's operatives dredge up any tidbit of negative information on Barack Obama , and then hearing McCain's repeated attempt to blow it all out of proportion in the fond hope of swaying a voter or two, here or there.

It is pathetic, McCain seems to really believe all of that negative stuff his staff is dredging up, or if he doesn’t he gives a good imitation of someone who believes. However, among the things people judge a candidate by is his coolness factor, and Mr. McCain is about as far from being cool as it is possible to be and still be alive and breathing. Also people judge a candidate not just by the words he uses, but by the tone of his voice as he uses the words, and more important the body language he is displaying as he delivers his message. And that for me is what sealed the deal. That in addition to the ridiculous claims McCain has made about what his presidency will do, once elected. For instance, balancing the nation’s budget by the end of his first term while continuing the 10 billion monthly outlay to carry on with the war in Iraq, all the while making Bush’s tax cuts for the rich and the large corporations permanent. When he is not deriding his opponent the man is spewing true Alice in Wonderland grade surrealist fantasy.

There are some consequences as to how our vote on Tuesday will affect whether or not we'll make it through the next four years. For instance, stop and think about it, does anyone in the country really want John McCain’s mean countenance and blustery growl to appear nightly on the news on their television screen? For that’s what is going to happen if the majority of the voters select McCain for the presidency. Whoever is president appears on television virtually every night. His every move, his walks to and from his helicopter, those waves to no one in particular, will light up our television screens each and every night. So watch out just who you vote for. Make sure you cast your vote for someone you can look forward to seeing brightening up your favorite newscasts. And as to that question we asked above, the short answer is probably yes, nearly half of the voting population of America is going to vote for McCain. But you should really keep the fact of McCain’s nightly news appearance in mind when you make your big choice at the polls on November 4th.

Of course, that’s noways near the main reason you should shun McCain and his Republican fellow travelers. The fact of the matter is that the deregulation they have put into place with various industries through out the last eight years is in large measure responsible for bringing on the economic meltdown we are currently experiencing. Republicans really live and breathe the deregulation of industry, beginning with the banking industry, and they have worked tirelessly over these past 7 plus years to free up as much as was possible. And any time you free up the playing field the result will be an economic chaos just as we are seeing as we write this. It would be like playing a game, or a sport, completely without rules and referees. Mayhem would be the result. That is why professional sports has rules and hires referees to enforce the rules. Only a fool or a Republican would try and argue against the need for rules and regulations. And that is why when you hear Republicans and other trash talking conservative heads bad mouthing government regulations you need to take it with a gigantic grain of salt.

Not that their message isn’t attractive. It certainly is, for it appeals to the wild-eyed, the selfish, the would-be millionaire which lurks in the hearts of each and every one of us. But life doesn’t work that way, as the people of this country learned the hard way in 1932 when they elected Franklin Roosevelt overwhelmingly to bring to an end to the Coolidge/Hoover era of laissez-faire. The reason, when you take away the rules selfishness and greed rear their ugly heads, and eventually the system collapses of its own weight.

And just who is responsible for the current economic mess? All of the Republicans who came to power holding onto Newt Gingrich’s coattails, that's who. Especially due for scorn in this crisis is Phil Gramm, the ex-professor from Texas A&M college who became a United States Senator, and who fiddled while a burning House and Senate conjured up the legislation which stripped away regulations on the banking industry, which for the first time allowed foreign institutions like the Swiss banking firm UBS to buy into several of America’s financial institutions. The immediate outcome of this was the “hiring” of Gramm as a consultant by UBS after he “retired” from the Senate. UBS is the Swiss banking firm which was the primary benificiary of the legislation Graqmm rammed through.

While John McClain hollers socialism, and warns against letting the Supreme Triad happen, he is warning us about the possible alignment of a President, Barack Obama, along with Senate majority leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. What McCain fears, almost as much as he fears defeat in his own presidential race, is that on election day the voters of this fine country might rise up and give the Democrats a majority of 60 in the Senate, to go along with their substantial House majority, which would further allow the Democrats to offer legislation which is completely filibuster proof. Of course, we heard no such objections from McCain during the six years the Republicans had control over the House, Senate and White House, years during which they abused the hell out of their responsibility. Republicans during that time were so arrogant they actually barred Democrats from meetings in which legislation was crafted, and shirking behind locked doors they allowed the lobbyists who were interested in legislation governing their field to actually write said legislation. As arrogant as this might sound, when you stop and think about it, that is exactly what you would expect from a party whose slogan is "our way or the highway," a party that does not respect its opposition, and which exists only for the promotion of their particularly savage brand of capitalism. And you can bet your sweet bippy that a filibuster proof Senate majority is only the beginning of what will be needed to undo this gigantic mess that Bush and his Republican fellow travelers have left us with.
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The lead story for the Washington Post on Friday, October 31st is one that reports that the White House is making a last minute push to deregulate as much as possible before they are shown the door on January 20. R. Jeffrey Smith writes: The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms. Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining. Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.

"They want these rules to continue to have an impact long after they leave office," said Matthew Madia, a regulatory expert at OMB Watch, a nonprofit group critical of what it calls the Bush administration's penchant for deregulating in areas where industry wants more freedom. He called the coming deluge "a last-minute assault on the public . . . happening on multiple fronts."

As I review this and the many other outrageous moves of the Bush administration, I have been searching for one word which might best describe these seven plus years of so-called “compassionate conservative” rule. I have decided 43 was neither compassionate (using lies and half truths to start a war in Iraq among many other things) nor conservative (since his administration has managed to double the debt left us by all of the presidents who preceded him, raising as he has the national debt from the 5 trillion which he inherited to 10 trillion dollars, which is his gift to his successor. I finally decided on the word to describe his regime whose dictionary definition follows:
________________________Dictionary________________________
despicable |di?spik?b?l|
adjective
deserving hatred and contempt : a despicable crime.
DERIVATIVES
despicably |-bl?| adverb
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from late Latin despicabilis, from despicari ‘look down on.’
_________________________Thesaurus_______________________
despicable
adjective
despicable crimes contemptible, loathsome, hateful, detestable, reprehensible, abhorrent, abominable, awful, heinous; odious, vile, low, mean, abject, shameful, ignominious, shabby, ignoble, disreputable, discreditable, unworthy; informal dirty, rotten, lowdown, lousy; beastly; archaic scurvy. antonym admirable.

What word or words would you use to characterize the Bush 43 years?
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One of the real benefits of reading as much of the election coverage as was possible was getting introduced to the writings of Dana Milback of the Washington Post. His Friday column was entitled But Who's Counting? Milbank writes: “Not that he's bragging or anything, but Barack Obama has something he'd like you to know: Size matters. At virtually every stop the candidate makes in these closing days of the election, the campaign sends out an announcement with a boast about how really, really big Obama's audience is. Sunrise, Fla., Oct. 29: "A capacity crowd of 20,000." Norfolk, Va., Oct. 28: "22K: 11 in the stands/11 on the field." Fort Collins, Colo., Oct. 26: "45,000-50,000, with thousands still flooding in."

“Not only does Obama want you to know how huge his crowds are, but he also wants you to know his opponent, John McCain, has itty-bitty crowds. "University of New Mexico fire marshal Vince Leonard quotes approx 35,000 inside Senator Obama's event tonight and at least another 10k-15k outside," the campaign boasted Saturday night. "Senator McCain reportedly had less than 1,000 this morning."

“Of course, crowd estimating is a rather inexact science, as demonstrated by the announcements that the Obama campaign sent out on Sunday. At 2:08 p.m. came a "Denver crowd" bulletin putting the number at 75,000. Exactly 35 minutes later came a "Denver crowd -- UPDATED" bulletin putting the crowd size at "well over 100,000."

“To add legitimacy to the crowd boasts, therefore, the Obama campaign accompanies each measurement with the name of a "validator." "Total is 35k," Obama campaign aide Ben Finkenbinder wrote in an e-mail to reporters on Wednesday night. "Validated by Danny McAvoy, Osceola County Fire Marshal." He then provided Marshal McAvoy's phone number.

“It must be remembered that there is more to a campaign than the size of your crowd. George McGovern, after all, had huge turnout at his events on his way to a landslide defeat. Even a crowd of 100,000 isn't much compared with an electorate of perhaps 150 million. But, explained Obama spokesman Bill Burton: "The reason the crowd size in these early-voting states matters is because of the organizational benefits you get from gathering tens of thousands of voters and immediately being able to get them to early-voting sites."

And the numbers kept coming. Sarasota, Fla., Oct. 30: "13k plus. Many people coming in still." Harrisonburg, Va., Oct. 28: "Over 8,000 and over 12,000 outside." Canton, Ohio, Oct. 27: "Validated at 4,900."

Wait. Only 4,900? You call that a big crowd? A follow-up e-mail came from the campaign 29 minutes later." Addition crowd info: This was a ticketed event." Whew. For a moment there, it looked as though Obama had been brought down to size.
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Wheeeee! Professional Basketball is back! The NBA rides again! And riding high this year, right alongside the league leaders, are the 2008-2009 Houston Rockets. Last year's team had a truly miraculous run winning 22 games in a row, the second longest win streak in NBA history, and 12 of those wins were without center Yao Ming who had a broken foot. But the combination was not enough to get the team out of the first round of the playoffs. This year, in addition to last year's first year players, Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks (who can be expected to have gained a lot of experience as they each put their rookie year behind them and head into their second year) they also added two players who can be projected to have an immediate impact on the team.

Brent Barryis one of them. Both his father Rick Barry and his brother Jon Barry had ended their NBA careers with the Rockets in Houston, and so after winning several championship rings in San Antonio, Brent evidently decided to join his family tradition and end his own career with the Rockets. Barry is a very experienced and talented player and shooter, and he will undoubtedly bring a real shot in the arm for the team.

But the most exciting addition to the team is Ron Artest. Artest is one of the most penalized players in the league, thanks to an explosive personality which can flair up suddenly. But he is a superb player who has been instrumental in winning both of the Rockets first two regular season games of the season, and most especially the second game against the Rockets' old nemeses, the Dallas Mavericks. And most important, he is the type of player who can dominate the closing minutes of games, which is exactly what he did in Dallas on Thursday night. Thus far the Rockets are 2 and 0 going into the new season, and for Rocket fans near and far, that has to be the best news yet.
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One David Hambling, writing in Wired Blog Network, states that the military is investigating amnesia beams. It can be found at:
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http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/10/air-forces-amne.html
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A team of scientists from the United States and China announced last week that, for the first time, they had found a means of selectively and safely erasing memories in mice, using the signaling molecule ╬▒CaMKII. It's a big step forward, and one that will be of considerable interest to the military, which has devoted efforts to memory manipulation as a means of treating post-traumatic stress disorder. But some military research has moved in another direction entirely.

In the 1980s, researchers found that even low-level exposure to a beam of electrons caused rats to forget what had just happened to them (an effect known as retrograde amnesia — the other version, anteretrograde amnesia, is when you can't form new memories). The same effect was also achieved with X-rays. The time factor was not large — it only caused memory loss about the previous four seconds — but the effect was intriguing.

One theory was that the amnesia was a result of the brilliant flash experienced when the electron beam struck the retina. And, indeed, it turned out that it is possible to produce amnesia in rodents using a flash of light:

Retrograde amnesia was demonstrated for the 80-, 85-, and 100-V foot-shock test trials. At 40 V the voltage may not have been great enough to be felt by the subject. For groups examined at shock levels above 100 V, the foot shock was so potent that a photoflash was ineffective in producing RA. Our conclusion was that the photoflash was an effective amnesiac until the intensity of the foot shock became more potent than the photoflash; this is consistent with the recency theory generated in serial learning and memory tasks.

This might help explain some of the disorienting effects of strobe lights used as nonlethal weapons, but there seems to have been little further research on this.
However, there have been plenty of studies on the physical effects of radio and microwave exposure on the brain. Many of those investigations have been conducted by the military.

The Air Force Research Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate has carried out its own experiments in this area, which did not confirm the results of earlier studies suggesting that microwaves could cause memory loss. (The report is now removed from the AFRL website, alas.) Most scientists chalk up such effects to heating. But the Directed Energy Bioeffects division continues to research the human effects of various forms of radiation. What's more, a 2003 paper on microwave effects on the nervous system, from a team that includes Navy and Air Force scientists, states that "research with isolated brain tissue has provided new results that do not seem to rely on thermal mechanisms." It is hard to assess the real effect on working memory and other brain functions, they add.

And on that piece of good news, that the military is seeking ways to rob us of our memory, we'll throw in the towel and leave this post. Don't forget to vote. Vote for anyone you wish, but make sure that he has our best interests at heart. And come see us again next week.

The Real Little Eddy

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