Friday, April 01, 2011

NOVA: Japan's Killer Quake

NOVA  Japan's Killer Quake

An account and investigation of the epic earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Going to watch this with my son later as a home schooling project today.

Shutting down the government...

From the article:

That helps contribute to the irony: shutting down the government is expensive.

What does 'government shutdown' mean?
(By Katie Connolly BBC News, Washington 31 March 2011 Last updated at 17:00 ET)

As pointed out in this article, this sounds quite a bit like a repeat of similar events during the Clinton years, where the Republicans were playing chicken with the White House over budget issues, and the long-term effects made them look silly and petty and almost guaranteed Clinton's re-election.

From the article:

For Democrats, the last government shutdowns - led by congressional Republicans during the Clinton years - worked out quite well.

Republicans were mostly blamed for the negative effects of the shutdown, and were portrayed as selfish and petty.

Many commentators credit the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns with helping President Bill Clinton coast to an easy victory in the 1996 presidential election.

Some Democrats are quietly hopeful for a repeat performance. Especially because - even though the term is dramatic - the government mostly continues to function during a shutdown.

I really see no reason why it will go down any differently this time.  I hesitate to say "bring it on" because there are some real negative effects to a shut down and because it actually costs quite a bit of money once things start up again, but a part of me really enjoys watching the Republicans repeat the same foolish mistakes over and over while achieving the same results.

Really, this is all due to Tea Party influence.  These freshman want to be seen as doing something, no matter what, and their constituency is getting grumpy fast because they have not "done anything" yet.  These voters are impatient and will turn on their own flock quickly.  And the Tea Party politicians know this.  They will sacrifice long term goals for short term gains because they know the voters who brought them into office have the attention span of fruit flies.  Of course, they also will be depending on this in 2012, hoping that any negative consequences of bringing about a shut down will be forgotten in roughly 18 months.

Probably, cooler, wiser and more experienced heads will prevail here.  I think if a shut down were going to happen it would have happened a month ago.  So let the right wing circular firing squad start lining up, I've got my popcorn and soda ready.  It could be a good show.

I just thought of something else...  Another side effect of the Clinton era shutdowns were that the President got to spend a lot of time with unpaid workers around the White House, specifically, interns...  The right wing definitely did gain some ammunition from that.  Maybe the Tea Partiers are hoping for some other sort of windfall from a shut down.  Obviously not something like that, but just something, anything, they can use to propel themselves ahead within the Republican Party and the general public as we move towards the next elections.

April Fools' Day

This one reminds me of the "voice recognition" we had at an old telcom I worked for. It was this; it was some poor temp listening on the phone and punching the numbers into the computer.

Anyway, these are from

Monday, March 28, 2011

Libya: Well, that was fast...

Obama To Declare Mission Accomplished In Libya War Tonight
(By JACK STUEF 10:45 AM MARCH 28, 2011)

From the article:
So our Nobel peace laureate will simultaneously pretend he doesn’t care if Gaddafi stays as dictator, sell the lie that we won’t be in Libya for a long time, and convince America this war is in its interest while the guy in charge of its military says it isn’t. Good thing he’s so good at talking and such!

You know, I really do not have much of an opinion one way or the other on Libya.  Just as long as U.S. involvment does not deepen.  Help the rebels, hope for the best.  It is interesting to me, though, how clearly our intervention here as opposed to our mild support elsewhere clearly illustrates that U.S. interest is largely determined by a nation's oil reserves.

As an added bonus, we had the support of the Arab League on this one to prove that U.S. military action in Muslim countries is not universally evil.  See, it's okay that we are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However they try to sell it, oil is clearly the key it seems.  And history.  A history of attacks that lead to dead Americans?  Afghanistan and Libya.  Oil?  Libya and Iraq.  Libya is a double winner here.  

Syria?  Not so much...

Clinton Says U.S. Won't Intervene in Syria, Sees Progress in Libya Fight (By Nicole Gaouette and Gopal Ratnam - Mar 27, 2011 9:01 PM PT)

From the article:

Clinton said the elements that led to intervention in Libya -- international condemnation, an Arab
League call for action, a United Nations Security Council resolution -- are “not going to happen” with Syria, in part because members of the U.S. Congress from both parties say they believe Assad is “a reformer.”

“What’s been happening there the last few weeks is deeply concerning, but there’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities,” Clinton said, referring to Qaddafi’s attacks on the Libyan people, “than police actions which, frankly, have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see.”
The Daily Show had a good bit on determining the level of America's involvement in these situations...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Housing still down the storm drain...

I recently took this photo near the turn off to cut over the hill from Gresham to Happy Valley. Happy Valley, Oregon is a town that did not exist a decade ago, and it is a vast tract of real estate where endless housing developments replaced miles of family farms and forests. Building out there reached its peak right before the collapse of the housing market. Huge numbers of brand new homes were left sitting empty. In 2009,  they even resorted to holding a town-wide "open house."

From the article:

City leaders, business owners and residents have all heard the chortling about how high foreclosure rates and half-finished subdivisions make their community east of Interstate 205 far closer to Death Valley than Happy Valley.


Until last year, surging growth and a home-building boom made this the fastest-growing city in Oregon. At the peak of the boom, the city issued 500 to 600 building permits annually.

That has ground to a near-halt.

Nearly 200 Happy Valley houses are now in various stages of foreclosure, Campbell said. An additional 100 houses are back in the hands of the banks that financed them. And from 80 to 100 vacant lots, which will be available for viewing Saturday, are for sale.

Earlier, this article in The Economist reminded me of the situation over the hill behind me.  It describes the current situation in Las Vegas, portraying the city as "the most extreme example of the many cities in America’s sunbelt that grew rapidly thanks to the cheap and abundant credit of recent decades, only to suffer fearsome property crashes during the subprime crisis and the ensuing recession."

While things, I hope, are not as bad in Happy Valley as they are in Vegas, this article offers some great examples of how damaging the current housing situation is to society as a whole.

Has this situation "impinged on politics?"  Of course it has:

The proliferation of foreclosures has impinged on politics, too. Local politicians all have pet schemes to pep up the property market. Democrats at both state and federal level have tried to cast themselves as friends to struggling homeowners, voting for various measures to encourage forbearance by banks and tide over borrowers in arrears. Shelley Berkley, the Democrat who represents Las Vegas in Congress, huffs and puffs about Republican plans to shelve such schemes: “Talk about kicking people when they’re down!” But Republicans in districts with lots of foreclosures are more sympathetic to the over-indebted than the party as a whole. Joe Heck, the Republican who represents many of the city’s suburbs, recently cast the sole Republican vote to preserve one of the programmes Ms Berkley is so worried about. His predecessor, Dina Titus, a Democrat, was booted out of office last year amid anger about the state of the economy—yet another victim of America’s housing bust.

But is it actually damaging our democracy?  I would say yes, in this way...  It damages society and when society itself is in crisis, it is difficult for democracy to function properly.  And, according to this article, the situation does have some very damaging effects on society:

The knock-on effects go further, argues Terrie D’Antonio, the head of Help of Southern Nevada, a charity. Moving house can cut people off from their friends, churches, schools and community groups. Many have lost their homes because they have lost their jobs. All this leaves them isolated and depressed. And that can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and so on. The number of people turning to Help about all these problems has jumped in recent years, Ms D’Antonio says. A 2009 survey of Latino families around the country whose homes had been foreclosed had similar findings: amid the stress, marriages broke down; family members fell out; children’s academic performance suffered.

So what can we do about it?  I do not know, but we can at least be aware of these situations so we can act accordingly when opportunities for change come along in the future.

(Note:  Working on this post on my ancient, fossilized PC while my son uses my laptop.  I am pulling my hair out and I am giving up before I test these links.  They may be crap.  I will fix them later if they are broken.)