Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tip 'o the hat

(I love this cartoon from Steve Benson via Senate Guru via TPC via My Left Nutmeg...sheesh, all this crediting is a lot of work; apparently I'm having a credit crisis! [insert groan here])

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days

President Obama finally reached this historic landmark, where traditionally the tone of the presidency is set and the "honeymoon" period supposedly ends.

Only in Obama's case, he never really got much of a honeymoon before the right-wing noise machine had fully cranked up and began firing counter-productive criticism at the president on all cylinders. An obstructionist Republican minority in the Senate also did everything possible to impede the progress of the new administration.

It's useful to frame a discussion of Obama's first 100 days in an historical context, so I'm going to compare his situation to those of former presidents. Generally, there are two categories that define the new president's initial months in office, and that's whether or not the nation is in "crisis" when he's sworn in.

FDR took office in 1933 to a nation mired in the depths of the Great Depression. On the day of his inauguration, he forewent the celebratory balls and began work directly. His cabinet was sworn in unceremoniously that afternoon, and he immediately issued proclamations calling Congress back to session and declaring a four-day bank holiday to allow the administration time to pen emergency legislation.

The remainder of FDR's 100 days resulted in landmark legislation, including a farm bill to help America's hard-hit farmers, creation of the SEC, establishing the CCC and the Tennessee Valley Authority, and passed Glass-Steagall and created FICA. By the end of the 100 days, FDR saw a total of 15 major laws passed which provided the framework for the New Deal.

In contrast to FDR, Dwight Eisenhower took office during the waning days of the Korean War. The stalemate was finally made permanent by the UN, which adopted India's proposal to use the vicinity of the 38th Parallel as the official DMZ.

Otherwise, Eisenhower's first 100 days were uneventful for the most part. Two notable exceptions were the establishment of the Department of Health, Education & Welfare; and the president's refusal to stay the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for espionage.

JFK's 100 days were mostly uneventful too, with his most significant achievement being the establishment of the Peace Corps; until Day 88, when he authorized and then withheld support for the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. Kennedy admitted his failure in that debacle.

Nixon took office in 1969 during a time of significant social change. The War in Vietnam was in full force, and Nixon authorized the secret and illegal massive bombing attacks in Cambodia. Well, as Nixon said, it's not really illegal if the president does it, establishing the precedent that George W. Bush acted under during his reign.

Speaking of W, he took office after a time of huge economic growth and prosperity. Bush's first acts in office reflected the tone of his tenure. Two days in, Bush announced the end of funding for international centers that offer family planning. On Day 10 he announced the creation of an Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives to help religious groups obtain federal tax dollars to address social problems. He also initiated the famous tax cuts that largely benefited the wealthiest Americans.

Clinton, upon taking office, immediately revoked the "Gag Rule", which forbade federally-funded clinics from discussing family-planning alternatives that included abortion. He lifted the moratorium on federal funding for stem-cell research, named Hillary Clinton to head a task force to reform national health care. Signed the Family and Medical Leave Act. Then Waco happened.

So, how does Barack Obama fit in with the historical perspective?

Obama took office during another national economic crisis, albeit not as bad (yet) as the Great Depression. His immediate concern was providing emergency help to jump start the economy. Congress passed a stimulus package that, while somewhat laden with earmarks, was immediately put to use to help get the economy moving forward.

One of the first acts by President Obama was to suspend all pending federal regulations proposed by outgoing President George W. Bush so that they could be reviewed. In his first week, Obama ordered the Guantanamo detention facility to be closed and that the Army Field Manual be used as the guide for terror interrogations; banning torture and other illegal coercive techniques, such as waterboarding. By that single act, Obama brought the United States back into the civilized world.

He established a weekly Youtube address similar to FDR's "Fireside Chats", and ushered in a new era of openness and accountability in the White House. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which requires equal pay regardless of sex, race or age. He ordered the DOT to establish higher mileage standards for vehicles.

President Obama set an exit strategy for Iraq, and reinvested troops in Afghanistan, where they truly belonged for the last six years. He embarked on several overseas trips to strengthen U.S. ties with foreign nations, and worked to rebuild those bridges that the previous administration happily burned.

In his first international crisis, Obama authorized the use of deadly force to successfully end the piracy standoff in Somalia, much to the consternation of FoxNews pundits. Of course, the new administration was a target of wingnuts even before they got started, with Rush Limbaugh actively rooting for President Obama to "fail".

Even today, the New York Post, that awful rag owned by former Australian news magnate and alleged America-hater Rupert Murdoch, titled their overview of the Obama administration "100 Days, 100 Mistakes". Sometimes I feel the extreme Right would rather burn down the country than let the Democrats run it.

Of course, there are areas where Obama hasn't done everything I wanted. But I feel that 100 days isn't enough to accomplish it all, especially when we're in such difficult economic circumstances. So I'm willing to go easy on the president for the time being. Over the next few weeks I'll devote specific articles to issues that I think he may have missed the point about, or acted completely opposite than expectations.

But for now, I'm thinking along the lines of what the president said about the first 100 days very early on:

"The first hundred days is going to be important, but it’s probably going to be the first thousand days that makes the difference."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen welcomed with open arms

Apparently, the not-entirely-surprising move by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) (D-PA) has rattled the GOP quite a bit. Their reaction ranges from denial to anger.

Here's Karl Rove describing his reaction to the leap:

Actually Karl, it turns out that Specter wasn't a "life-long Republican" as you claimed; he was a Democrat until 1966 when he joined the GOP, and he simply realized that during the last four decades (and especially the last one) the party has moved too far to the right for the moderate senator.

I still don't think I can forgive Specter for his awful interrogation of sexual-harassment victim Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings; not unless he publicly apologizes to Ms. Hill. If after that she forgives him, then I'll forgive him.

But for now, I have to agree that it's a shrewd political move by Specter, which will ensure his spot on the ballot next year, as he would have faced a strong and very conservative GOP challenger in a primary for the state's remaining 21% Republican vote.

A dumb maneuver

OK, while it may not be the worst thing ever, it was shockingly stupid.

Last week, Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office, approved a mission for the 747 that carries the president to fly around New York City to be photographed for updated file photos. The plane is properly known as "Air Force One" only when the president is aboard; if Obama decided to go for a sightseeing flight in an Air Force-owned Cessna 172, the Air Traffic Controllers would refer to that plane as "Air Force One".

They decided that the mission should be somewhat "secret" for security purposes. New York Police Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said the department had been alerted to the flight by the federal agency "with directives to local authorities not to disclose information about it."

So, people in lower Manhattan were treated to the spectacle of a low-flying Jumbo jet(!), closely followed by two F-16 fighters(!)

Gee, I wonder how people reacted?

From CNN.Com:
"I was here on 9/11," said iReporter Tom Kruk, who spotted the plane as he was getting coffee Monday morning and snapped a photo. Kruk called the sight of the aircraft low in the sky "unsettling."

Linda Garcia-Rose, a social worker who counsels post-traumatic stress disorder patients in an office just three blocks from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, called the flight an "absolute travesty."

"There was no warning. It looked like the plane was about to come into us," she said. "I'm a therapist, and I actually had a panic attack."

Garcia-Rose, who works with nearly two dozen post-traumatic stress disorder patients ages 15 to 47, said she was inundated with phone calls from patients Monday morning.

"They're traumatized. They're asking 'How could this happen?' They're nervous. Their anxiety levels are high," she said.
President Obama and New York Mayor Bloomberg are reportedly furious about the incident.

Actually, that wasn't a "dumb" maneuver; that's too weak to describe it...more accurately, it was an "assholish" maneuver!

Monday, April 27, 2009

This isn't how the world ends...yet

(1918 flu pandemic photo)

As pandemics go, the Swine Flu isn't going to be the end-all for us. Not yet, anyway. Despite what the media is screaming about on every channel 24 hours a day, this isn't going to be much worse than any of the other flu variants that have gone around for the last 50 years.

The running tally at last count was around 1,600 reported cases with roughly 100 deaths. Giving it a mortality rate of roughly 6%. Which, while nothing to sneeze at (lol), isn't exactly Ebola Zaire (about 90% mortality).

Of course, Ebola isn't spread nearly as easily as the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus, so the actual total number of deaths will probably still be horrific should the virus actually become a version of the 1918-19 so-called Spanish flu pandemic (type A influenza, H1N1 subtype), which may have killed anywhere from 20 to 100 million people worldwide. That seems very unlikely given the improved government response to this kind of thing these days.

Still, the media being what they are, we'll see nothing but swine flu stories leading off every broadcast for the next several weeks. I strongly recommend bookmarking the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website to get sober analysis of the outbreak. It'll help you sleep better, trust me.

This won't be the way the world ends just yet.

Now, if Ebola ever mutates and becomes transmittable through the the air and through casual contact, hoo-boy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Go fly a kite

(image from

Today (Sunday) the weather here is going to be much too nice to sit in front of a computer all day. Go outside and do something fun; it's been a long, chilly Spring, and we all deserve a nice change of pace.

Me, I'm gonna go work on my boat and get it ready for a mid-May launch. Yesterday, Milford Living magazine held it's 2nd Annual Milford Living Family Fun Kite Fly at Walnut beach. They had great weather, and today is going to be even better.


Friday, April 24, 2009

The Party of (Dr.) No

Other than Dr. No here, nobody seems very happy with the GOP and their obstructionist ways.

We're almost done with Obama's first 100 days, and here's a brief recap of exactly how helpful the Republicans in the Senate have been:

We can only hope that they learn to work a little better with their Democratic counterparts during the NEXT 100 days.

...and somewhat surprisingly, the terrible Dr. No himself, actor Joseph Wiseman, is still with us. Bravo on a fine performance, sir; you knew enough to stop acting when the director yelled "Cut!".

Too bad the Republicans don't know when to stop acting silly and start working towards meaningful solution solutions. Instead of "Just Saying No". Boy, those guys loves their Reagan!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Out with the old, in with the...old?

Ah, that would have been a lot more relevant around New Year's, but whaddaya gonna do? They ain't all gonna be golden nuggets!

OK, I'll admit it; I'm phoning this one in. Right now I'm so goddamn busy I had to post something that didn't require a lot of time, effort, or creativity on my part.

(I can already hear you wiseguys! "Why should today be any different? Hurr hurr hurr!" Shuddup, you's!)

I promise to be interesting, relevant, and insightful real soon.

("Well, there's a first time for everything!" I said Shuddup!!!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

A storm is coming

Finally, someone explains why same sex marriage threatens the very foundations of traditional marriage:

"Remember, when the gay community is granted personal freedoms, ours get taken away...

How? Shhhhh..."

- Stephen Colbert, spokesman for
"The National Organization For Colbert"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rep. Holder-Winfield on Clean Elections System

Cross-post from My Left Nutmeg:

Says short term savings costs everyone in long term

State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield (D-94), who represents New Haven in the Connecticut General Assembly, has joined with activists and other legislators in saying that the state must resist the minority legislative Republican attack on our clean election system.

Yesterday (Thursday), Republicans offered a last second budget proposal that includes raiding the new Clean Election Fund as a cost cutting measure.

"Some of us have chosen to look solely at the numbers, and in this case when the system is so new I don't know that using that as a measuring device is fair. Beyond that, the system is not in place simply to reach a numerical goal but to offer the opportunity for citizens who are otherwise essentially barred from interjecting their voice by running for office," he said. (italics mine)

Holder-Winfield participated in the system during the last election cycle and has been an advocate of clean elections having spoken on the issue at the annual Congressional Black Caucus event this past fall.

"For people in certain communities this is akin to a civil rights issue," Winfield remarked. "We must work together to protect the voice of all of Connecticut's residents and seek their best interests as we tackle very tough economic realities. I am sure that we, as a body, can do better than the total evisceration of this program which my Republican colleagues have called for when it does so much good for so many."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

GOP Budget dumps Campaign Financing

(Photo credit Christine Stuart, CT News Junkie)

State Rep. Chris Caruso, one of the main architects of Connecticut’s system of clean elections, released the following statement today in regards to the legislative Republicans’ proposal to eliminate the Citizens’ Election Program:
“The proposal announced today to completely eliminate our state’s newly adopted system of campaign financing, which was originally approved on a bipartisan basis, is the wrong thing to do and comes at a time when we should be encouraging more people to become involved in government.

“The funding for this program comes from unclaimed properties and is not a direct tax on citizens of this state.

“Through polling, phone calls and direct mail, the citizens of this state demanded reform to weed out corruption and the unfair monetary influence of special interests. Calling for its elimination is an affront to the need for a more open and accountable government.

“In the last election cycle, we saw more people have the opportunity to become involved in the process due to this program, especially during primaries. Without it, many average citizens who would like to enter government with fresh ideas and new approaches will not have this opportunity.

“Other states throughout the country now look towards Connecticut as a model for its system of clean elections.

“The call for its elimination comes on the eve of the 2010 election for governor. Apparently, some want to continue the system of incumbent protection that government has had for too long.”
There's absolutely no question that the Citizens’ Election Program levels the playing field among state candidates and pretty much eliminates the influence that special interest money often buys.

It also helps reduce the number of candidates running unopposed, which should rarely happen in a democracy, but the necessity of fund raising against an entrenched incumbent often shortchanged Connecticut voters of the opportunity to choose between two or more candidates for a seat.

Sure the program costs money, but it's not coming out of tax dollars. Besides, there's no larger cost to the taxpayers than bad leadership, or politicians who have been bought and paid-for by the special interests. That can cost the state BILLIONS!

Six or eight of them, depending when you quote our governor.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

He said a mouthful

Bt the time I got to about thirty, I lost count of the awful (read: hysterical) puns in this 2:41 beatdown of the entire "Teabagging" saga. Via FDL from MSNBC's Countdown:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fox News and the Tea Party controversy

Q. When is a national news organization NOT behaving in a "fair and balanced" manner?

A. When they're Fox News, of course!

They've given up completely their weak-assed attempts to be a credible news organization with their obvious promotion of the so-called "grassroots" Tea Party movement. The graphic above (via Christy Harden Smith at FireDogLake) indicates Fox News has deserted their charade of journalism and simply become what we always knew it was: a conduit for astroturfing and GOP propaganda.

Meanwhile, isn't the vast majority of their so-called "grassroots" in line for the first substantial tax break in nearly a decade? Assuming this is a populist movement, that is.

Listen, nobody is a fan of taxes. But if this is a huge middle-class tax protest, where were these people for the last 8 years when Bush awarded the top 5% income earners with huge tax breaks while borrowing to finance a war he started on false pretenses? Didn't that upset them at all? Why are they just getting riled up NOW?

Because, there's no "they" there. This whole "Tea Party" thing is simply a corporate sham, counting on the brainwashed conservatives who have listened to Limbaugh, Hannity, and Cavuto long enough for the rational areas of their brains to rot away completely from lack of exercise. The few morons who are dumb enough to show up at these events will be those very same people who would suffer the most if we continued the Bush economic practices. If they still possessed cognitive functioning, they'd realize this on their own.

I'm looking forward to the enormous entertainment potential of tomorrow's "protests". It's going to be fun to watch.

In the MGAT hotseat

Last night the MGAT (Milford Government Access Television) Committee answered questions posed by the Board of Aldermen, as we were a (thankfully early) part of the Board's four-hour budget session. Committee Chairman Mike Manente, who along with Phil Kearney answered the questions; while I sat there, helpfully holding a pen like there might be something important going on in my head that I'd absolutely NEED to jot down in a hurry!

We're attempting to accomplish what the nearby Town of Orange, Connecticut does on less than 1/4 of their budget, even though THEY have only 25% of our population. If we ran similar numbers based on households per their funding, we'd need something in the vicinity of a quarter-million dollars to do what they do. ($65K x 4)

Suffice to say, Milford isn't going to give us a quarter-million bucks! Not this year, anyway. But we're getting to where we need to be on a tight shoestring, and I look forward to working with the city on making the process of government as transparent as possible.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Broadwater: Dead in the water

Reposted from My Left Nutmeg by CT Blogger:

After four LONG years, the Broadwater Energy proposal for a liquid natural gas plant in Long Island Sound look to be over as the US Secretary of Commerce released their long awaited ruling on the project today...and gave it a thumbs down.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has rejected Broadwater Energy's proposed liquid natural gas terminal in the Long Island Sound.

The decision backs Gov. David Paterson, who last year turned down the LNG, a joint venture of TransCanada and Shell.

The energy companies tried to drum up local support in recent weeks by visiting leaders in Connecticut and Long Island, but apparently to no avail.
The Citizens Campaign for the Environment released the following:
"In this modern day David and Goliath battle, there were thousands and thousands of David's, who fought the corporate Goliath of our times-Shell Oil, and won," stated Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, "When the public speaks with one voice, its more powerful than corporate millions."

The Anti Broadwater Campaign (ABC) began in early 2005, with environmental, civic, community, fishing and boating organizations from New York and Connecticut. This began one of the largest, most far reaching grassroots efforts in NY and CT history. The public sent over 60,000 hand-written letters to federal, state and local leaders. 100,000 members of the public signed petitions in opposition and thousands turned out at public hearings and anti Broadwater rallies.

In April 2008, Governor Paterson announced that New York State would NOT support Broadwater and found the project inconsistent with the current uses of Long Island Sound as defined in the Coastal Zone Management Act. Broadwater Energy appealed to the federal government to overturn NY's decision. Today, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced that he is upholding NY's ruling.

"This victory is for state's rights. It's a victory for the protection of Long Island Sound, and most importantly, it's a victory for the public. Even if Shell Oil continues the battle in court, it will be tied up for years to come. This chapter has closed, and the public is clearly left with the critical message that we can win and our voices matter. A unified public can take on Big Business and Big Money and win. It's exhilarating to know that democracy is alive and well in America," added Esposito.
A victory for the environment!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Give it up, Norm (dot com)

The Minnesota DFL has started, which is (surprise, surprise) a website devoted to urging former Senator Norm Coleman to drop his GOP-induced foray into political suicide and concede the election to rightful victor Al Franken.

Minnesota is somewhat strapped because since this session of Congress began in January, they only have a single senator representing them. As such, there is likely much that isn't getting done in the interest of the state.

Of course, Norm Coleman has amply demonstrated his willingness to follow exactly what the party tells him to, along with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is setting his sights on a run for the White House in 2012, and he won't do a single thing to cross his party.

The sad thing is, this entire recount has been conducted with absolute transparency and adherence to law, and there's little doubt that Coleman will lose the appeal when he files it. That'll be the last we see of ol' Norm, too. But that's just incidental to the GOP's aim, which is to deny the Democrats a critical vote for a long as possible. Their cynical partisan hypocrisy is a terrible thing to behold.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Jim Himes discusses issues with bloggers

After a day of talking with various editorial boards, Jim Himes (CT-04) arranged to meet with local bloggers in an informal setting to discuss the issues.

(UPDATE: CaptCT's diary on MLN goes into more detail, so please give that a read after you finish this)

The economic situation was the primary topic. CaptCT from My Left Nutmeg brought up many questions and suggestions regarding the bank bailout, and below I asked Jim about the "Fair Elections Now" bill, sponsored by John Larsen (CT-01), which limits the amount of special interest money candidates can accept.

CaptCT, CT Blogger, and MattW from MLN, along with Gabe from CTLP will probably post more details of the meeting on their various blogs; I'll put up links here as they're posted.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Three Years Old

"Connecticut Bob" (the online presence, not me) is three years old this month! I started this blog in April, 2006.

It all started back on April 5th, when CT Joyce and I went to Naples Pizza and heard Ned Lamont speak for the very first time. That's the night I also met up with a motley collection of bloggers that included CT Blogger, Spazeboy, and Branford Boy.

A whole hell of a lot has happened since them. I became involved in video blogging, thanks largely to CT Blogger, the "Godfather of Connecticut video blogging', and Spazeboy, "the annoying lad in the red hoodie." (if I didn't bring it up, he would have!)

And I started this blog, which to date has 450,000 hits and gains another 1,000 or so every week when things are quiet, and much more if something big is happening.

Thanks go to everyone who contributed content (and money, hint hint), guest posters and commenters, fellow bloggers, Kirby, and everyone else who ever said anything nice about CT Bob. Of course, thanks are also due to the politicians and their staffs who put up with my ridiculous questions and compulsion to make silly videos, and especially Joseph I. Lieberman ("George Bush's Favorite Democrat"), without whom this blog would never have been necessary.

I also want to send a special shout-out to Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, who's been a role model and helped bring about my political awakening, resulting in this blog.

It's nice for my wife to have someone to blame! (I'm kidding! Joyce adores Jane!)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Breaking: Al Franken wins in MN!

*** UPDATE: Recount just concluded, with Franken at an unofficial 313 vote lead, up from 226 this morning ***

The recount is still going on, but with the votes counted so far, Al Franken has enough of a lead to prevent Norm Coleman from winning even if every single ballot turns up in his favor. Franken wins!

Go to to watch streaming video of the rest of the recount.

And somebody go shake Harry Reid out of his coma and tell him to seat Franken before Norm files his appeal.

*** UPDATE: Too late! Coleman's attorney just announced they absolutely will appeal to the State Supreme Court. And after they lose there, we'll see it go to the Federal Supreme Court. Hey, all these appeals are gonna cost the GOP millions; that's money that won't be donated to their candidates. Appeal your hearts out, losers! ***

Vermont legislature overrides gay marriage veto

The same-sex marriage bill leaves the governor's office as quickly as it arrived from the Senate -- only with a veto letter added on.

Another giant step in the battle for equal rights was just taken, when the courageous legislators in Vermont overrode the Governor's veto of a same-sex bill this morning.

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- A ten-year battle to grant same sex couples the legal right to marry culminated in a dramatic political showdown Tuesday at the Statehouse with the house voting to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of the gay marriage bill.

The House voted 100-49 to override the veto Tuesday. The vote tally was greeted by rousing applause in the House chamber.

The state House and Senate sent the bill to the Governor’s office Monday evening where, as expected, it met with rejection.


The Senate began the override debate at about 10 a.m. as lobbying continued in the House chambers nearby. "This is our moment," Sen. Peter Shumlin told senate members as the Senate debate began.

The debate was short as the Senate voted to override Douglas' veto 23-5.
Now it remains to be seen if the Connecticut legislature can possibly work with the same decisiveness as their Vermont counterparts. You can expect howling from the religious right in response, because their entire philosophy is based not upon the worship of their god, but making everyone else conform to their own beliefs.

And Vermont governor Jim Douglas will forever be remembered as the coward who tried to veto civil rights.

Mike Brown takes seat on NARAL (CT) Board

Mike Brown (pictured above and necessarily edited) President of New Standard Institute, has been elected to the Board of Directors of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut.

NARAL (National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League) Pro-Choice Connecticut states the organization’s mission as “… to develop and sustain a constituency that uses the political process to guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion.”

For several years, Brown has been a supporter of NARAL, working to increase awareness and support of reproductive health issues faced by women and girls. He has been involved in visibility, fundraising, and legislative action for both NARAL and Planned Parenthood of Connecticut.

Brown will also serve on the NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut Foundation, a 501-C3 tax deductible non-profit organization.
"It is really a great honor to be invited onto the Board of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut,” says Brown. “I feel that guaranteeing the rights of women, over their bodies, their livelihood, or their destinies, is the most important fight of all.“
Brown, an Electrical Engineer by training, established New Standard Institute, Inc, an award-winning training and consulting firm, in Milford , Connecticut , nearly 20 years ago. The company specializes in online skills training for manufacturing, as well as management consulting and seminars for industry.

Final Minnesota ballots to be counted today

(wouldn't it be ironic if "Lizard People" won the recount?)

In what may be the final official act of the Minnesota state election trail, judges will open the remaining 384 absentee ballots and tally the votes. Currently, Al Franken has a 226 vote lead, meaning that the remaining ballots would have to fall heavily in favor of Norm Coleman to change the projected outcome.

The ballots do come from areas that typically vote Republican. However, absentee voters often lean Democratic, and in any case, Coleman would have to get something like 306 out of the 384 votes, or nearly 80% of them. Highly doubtful.

If Franken is declared the victor by the court, Coleman has said he'll probably appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. But the state court's strict and unbiased adherence to Minnesota election laws will make it extremely unlikely for the appeal to be granted.

And, if the nightmare scenario continues, MN governor Tim Pawlenty and the Republican Secretary of State may refuse to certify the election until after all the final appeals are exhausted, which could run this well into the summer before it's resolved.

Besides Norm Coleman, the other big loser in the extended recount will be the entire population of Minnesota, who, because of Coleman's inability to concede defeat, have been without one of their two senators for over three months. In a time of economic hardship, leaving the state one senator short is deplorable. How many millions of stimulus dollars have the state left on the table because they lacked another voice in the Senate? No one can tell, but it doesn't take a genius to know that two senators acting on behalf of their home state would be more work than one.

The certification might not be needed after all. If Al Franken prevails after today's recount is completed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the option to seat Franken anyway, since a precedent was set when Illinois Senate Roland Burris was seated over the objections of the new governor and the Democratic Sec. of State.

(Of course, that would require Reid to make a gutsy decision, and I'm convinced the man possesses cotton candy for innards!)

In any case, you can watch the proceedings live via, which will have streaming video starting at 10:30AM Eastern Time. BTW, The Uptake is doing some amazing work in bringing every minute of the proceedings live on the internet, so consider tossing them a small donation. Please use the donate button on the RIGHT-HAND column on the main page; the one on the left is for The Uptake Institute only.

And here's a video recap of the entire history of the election recount to bring you up to speed:

Monday, April 06, 2009

How to strengthen ALL marriages

Mike Alvear, writing in the Huffington Post, explains how Iowa's recent court ruling allowing gay marriage will actually strengthen heterosexual marriages in a clear and concise article:
As outrageous as it may sound, heterosexual families will become stronger and stronger as more states follow Iowa's gay marriage ruling. Gay marriage will reduce the number of divorces caused by fraudulent marriages, ensure that more orphaned children grow up in stable homes, raise the standard of living for children with gay parents, make neighborhoods safer for families, and boost the economies of struggling communities.
To me, the argument that by allowing gay marriage the courts and legislatures are threatening the "institution" of marriage has always sounded like a hollow excuse for homophobia and discrimination. The debate often sounds reminiscent of 1950s segregation apologists, who claim that "separate but equal" was the only way to "protect" both races from utter annihilation.

We're living in a time of social change that is as inevitable as all those major changes which have come before. There's no doubt that eventually, over the hue and cry of the strict religionists and the bigoted, the choice of whom to marry will be left up to those who are actually making the commitment themselves, not those who wish to dictate the behavior of others to fit their own beliefs.

And everyone's marriage will be just as safe as it ever was regardless.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

This'll get the 9/11 conspiracy guys fired up

Let me start right off by saying that I'm extremely skeptical of any theories regarding 9/11 conspiracies, especially any saying the twin towers came down as a result of carefully placed demolition charges. I'm convinced that they fell as a direct result of two aircraft hitting them at ridiculous airspeeds (way faster than jets usually fly at that altitude), full of jet fuel (as any cross-continental flight would be immediately after take off), and uncontrolled burning for nearly an hour, which sufficiently weakened (didn't "melt", but weakened) the supporting steel framework enough to bring on a catastrophic collapse.

If there was any conspiracy at all, it was that the Bush administration may have known of the planned attack well in advance and did nothing to stop it, hoping (correctly) that the ensuing outcry would rival the Pearl Harbor attack that precipitated our entry into World War II, and would enable us to go to war in the oil producing areas.

If that was the case, then mission definitely accomplished!

But I still don't believe it's possible to carry out the kind of massive conspiracy that would requires dozens or hundreds of people to keep quiet about planting enough explosives in the two busiest office buildings in New York City without someone talking about it. Sorry to all you "Loose Changers" out there, but that's how I feel.

So this morning I read this article in The Raw Story, which is a web site that seems to be slipping into "Drudge-style" exploitation:
A team of nine scientists have unearthed startling data from dust gathered in the days and weeks after the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11. They discovered that scattered throughout the dust samples were red and gray chips of 'active thermitic material', or an un-reacted pyrotechnic explosive.
Scary, right? So far, so good. "Active thermitic material" sounds a lot like something that can explode. This may require a little more investigation.

Now, the next paragraph includes a little statement that for some reason is omitted from the coverage that many of the 9/11 conspiracy websites are giving the report:
Thermite is used in steel welding, fireworks shows, and hand grenades. It is the combination of a metal powder and a metal oxide which produce a reaction known for extremely high temperatures focused in a very small area for a short period of time. The 'active thermitic material' discovered in the World Trade Center dust was a combination of elemental aluminum and iron oxide, and is a form of thermite known as 'nano-structured super-thermite'.
Funny. The 9/11 websites seem to think the phrase "used in steel welding" wasn't significant enough to include in their stories about the report. I wonder why that is? You'd probably think that there might have been a few welds put into the steel framework of the building when it was constructed. It's not too far-fetched to imagine that some of that welding may have left some residue behind.

This is the general problem with the 9/11 websites. They tend to use science just like the Creationists; they take what might support their cockamamie theories, and reject anything that might cast doubt on them. This is why it's so difficult to take them seriously.

Here's what all the 9/11 conspiracy theorists should focus upon: getting all the major players in power back on Sept. 11th, 2001 under oath and vigorously questioned about the attack. Put Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, CIA and FBI officials, military leaders, and even Bush on the stand and make them sweat and hem and haw through their stories. Grill them under the threat of perjury if they lie or withhold information. If there was a 9/11 conspiracy, those were the guys who would know exactly how it happened. And that's the only way you'll ever get the satisfaction you want.

Because using half-baked science and anecdotal evidence isn't going to prove anything. You guys should have learned that from the JFK assassination aftermath.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

At least they had a good run

Michigan State 82 - UConn 73

I thought Three Mile Island was over

Here I was, all comfortable and fairly confident that the TMI accident was reasonably contained after I wrote my article about the disaster's 30th anniversary last week. Silly me.

So I should have known better than to click on a diary at Daily Kos entitled "Startling revelations on Three Mile Island & nuclear power".

There went all my comfort out the window! Sue Sturgis put together a convincing argument that the accident at TMI was much worse than the utility Metropolitan Edison and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) led us to believe.

The author used anecdotal evidence and whistle-blower accounts, and even referred to intrigue and a Karen Silkwood-style murder in making her case. Here's a quote from the article about cancer deaths in the area surrounding TMI:
In 1984, for example, psychologist Marjorie Aamodt and her engineer husband, Norman -- owners of an organic dairy farm east of Three Mile Island who got involved in a lawsuit seeking to stop TMI from restarting its Unit 1 reactor -- surveyed residents in three hilltop neighborhoods near the plant. Dozens of neighbors reported a metallic taste, nausea, vomiting and hair loss as well as illnesses including cancers, skin and reproductive problems, and collapsed organs -- all associated with radiation exposure. Among the 450 people surveyed, there were 19 cancer deaths reported between 1980 and 1984 -- more than seven times what would be expected statistically.
And that was only those deaths that had occurred in the five years immediately after the accident. This chart shows the correspondence between radiation levels and cancer deaths in a longer term study, but even this is somewhat incomplete as it was conducted only 18 years (1997) after the disaster:

A longer term study that includes the thirty-year time-line would be a lot more enlightening. The evidence of a much more significant leak is very worrisome. The numbers far exceed government estimates, and indeed, on the upper reaches they nearly approach Chernobyl-like quantities of radiation released.

While this is somewhat far-fetched, you can't ignore the hundreds of out-of-court settlements with the disaster's victims by Metropolitan Edison that seems to indicate that there was a lot more radiation released than the "harmless" levels the utility and the NRC had claimed.

Read the article and click on the links, but don't hold me responsible if you have trouble sleeping tonight.

You only have yourself to blame.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Credit Card Reform

Great that Chris Dodd did a guest post at MLN yesterday on his credit card reform.

But, what happens when the postal service decides not to handle mail 6 days a week anymore?

It's time to get the post office out of the process and revisit this bill
that makes the date of payment the postmark date, not the receipt date.

Of course, the big bank lobby knocked this down, but I say it's time to put it back on the table. That is, unless you completely trust your credit card companies to post a payment to your account the moment it is received to avoid your being charged a late payment and having your interest rate hiked.

And, while we're at it, how about the other sneaky trick in which credit cards are now being canceled for not being used enough, which decreases your available credit, which lowers your almighty credit score, which can then trigger an interest rate hike?

Chris, you're on the right track. Now keep going.