Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Time for the Blogosphere to Work for Hillary

Okay, we've had our fun. But the party is over and it's time for a dose of realpolitik. John McCain will be the Republican Nominee, and he may eat Barak Obama for lunch. No seriously, we're facing a national hero - a man of true grit who is respected by many. We need to pull out the stops and leverage our advantage in a strategic and thoughtfully crafted manner. From this author's point of view, no Democratic candidate is better equipped by nature and experience to do just that than Hillary Clinton. And Obama, bless his heart I hope he has a long and fruitful political career, is not the candidate we need at this moment in time. Despite what the two most famous Kennedy's may think.

The withdrawal of John Edwards following Kucinich's exit has left the progressive left blogosphere with some hard decisions to make. I think it's time bloggers bite the bullet and get real. Time to endorse Hillary. And the sooner we can get that bandwagon rolling, the better. Matt, Markos, Arianna...are you listening?

For goodness sake, Hillary Clinton *is* the candidate of change. Or have we forgotten that she is a women and her nomination will mark an historic first? And does anyone for a moment think she'll be a clone of Bill? Give me a break. And more important, Hillary deserves a chance to write her own chapter in American history. I am so ready for that.

Look, any respectable Democrat is going to represent a sea-change from the last 7 years. And the ultimate candidate will need to have the habits, contacts and energy necessary to fix a lot of broken stuff. A lot of very broken institutions, agencies, policies and procedures. That person will need to have what it takes to restore our international reputation and return the US to it's proper role as a major superpower. Again, Hillary is the logical choice.

And one other thing. The Obama campaign continues to call me and boast about bringing the country together...reaching out. I'm just not into that right now. I'll be the first to admit that there is a time for inclusion and bipartisanship. I submit that this is not that moment. Why would anybody in their right mind want to bring any of the crew who has systematically destroyed our country and scorned our constitution to the table? Include neo-cons and the religious right? I think not. More like, over my dead body. And that, kind readers, is the very best argument for supporting Hillary Clinton. I don't believe that she will be vindictive, but she is attentive to detail and will pursue the Republican evildoers and ensure proper retribution is meted out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lila Downs - Mole Ole'

This post allows me to focus on a few of my favorite things. Cumbia, the music of Mexican-American Diva Lila Downs and authentic Mexican food. I've posted about the infectious rhythms of Cumbia before. And my late father-in-law's recipe for the world's greatest salsa is here.

Lila Downs is one-of-a-kind (website). Her sultry, low-register voice is unique and her background is even more unusual. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, where her American father is a faculty member, she is somehow quintessentially Mexican. You'll remember her voice from Frida, the movie. The Alt Mexican sub-genre of the whole Alt Latin scene is very exciting right now. Downs, with her stage presence, looks and voice is quite the Oaxacan Diva. Just check her out singing the praises of Mexico's national dish, Mole, in the video below. Follow this link for the history of Mole and a variety of regional recipes. Yea, that's what I'm talking about. Tasty tunes and yummy food. What's not to love?


Monday, January 28, 2008

Humans Force Earth into New Epoch


According to Robert Roy Britt, managing editor of LiveScience.com, humans have now altered the earth so much that an new geologic Epoch has begun. Sound important? It is! Read about it here.

Say adios to the venerable old Halocene Epoch, which got underway after the last Ice Age and has been with us ever since. Now, according to Britt, we're hurtling head-on into the Anthropocene age. Britt's inspiration for his editorial came from this report by the Geologic Society of America (GSA), the originators of this transition recognition process, cited in Science Magazine. Do you think the main stream media is going to pursue this story? I doubt it. Livescience.com and Science Magazine links have been added to the Pop Impulse blogroll.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Big Brother FCC Plays Moral Police

You've got to be kidding. The Federal Communications Commission is seeking a $1.4 million fine against ABC, Disney's home network, for depicting a woman's buttocks in a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue? Read about it here. Jeez, female nudity, I'm shocked. After all, the human body is a dirty, shameful thing. Right? Well according to the FCC, we're just not adult enough to make that decision for ourselves and grab the remote control if we're offended and change the freaking channel. Yea, uh huh.

So let me get this straight. The FCC is populated by pious Neanderthals that want to take us back to the Victorian age by censoring our airwaves. The FDA is populated by physicians who decry valuable stem-cell research and believe that the proper approach to PMS is prayer and the answer to teenage pregnancy is abstinence. The EPA is populated by pseudo-scientists who deny species extinction and global warming; and the BLM and Forest Service are populated by bureaucrats determined to give away our natural resources to greedy ranchers and timber companies. Now that's obscene. Like killing over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and 4,000 young American GIs for oil. Sickening.

While we're talking about obscenities on the airwaves, let's take a look at what one network is doing to promote pornography during primetime. Check it out, then contact your member of congress and remind them that adult citizens don't need the Feds telling them what to watch on TV. And tell the radical, fundamentalist Christian right that censorship, denial and destruction don't sqauare with your values. Isn't it time to get the American Taleban to shut the hell up?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Ultimate Bean Counter

Maybe the feds should consider hiring this guy. If you've never seen someone square a random, five-digit number in under a couple of minutes in his head, check our Professor Arthur Benjamin's "mathemagic" show below. If you haven't already seen this clip, watch all of it as Benjamin shares his process out loud in his finale.

Bernanke Bet the Farm

Markets are still volatile, but a post rate-reduction rally buoyed investor's spirits and some recovery has resulted. Rather pressing questions remain. The sub-prime loan meltdown became a bigger problem when it began to involve a little-known segment of the insurance industry that provides protection for institutions against major loss. As mortgage losses mounted, so did claims and soon a couple of well-known insurance companies had significant loss problems. Suddenly, the problem had broken out from a single sector to involve the very core of the finance segment.

This resulted in a sort of institutional paranoia that threatened liquidity, as banks became wary of even lending to each other. Quite unheard of, that. Since economies in the developed world rely on the flow of currency; the constant, uninterrupted flow of money, the looming liquidity crisis was not tolerable. The down-side was just too great. So the Fed, in an extraordinary emergency intervention, lowered the rate by three-quarters of a percent, 75 basis points. First time that's happened in over 20 years. And it had an immediate effect. Whether it will be adequate to the task and thus promote lasting stability remains to be seen. And there's the rub.

Ben Bernanke has literally bet the farm. If this historic intervention fails, hyperinflation may follow and the Fed's basic tools to implement monetary policy will be viewed as broken and ineffective. And that, believe me, will be an entirely new world. Economists are already arguing about the decision. But for now, liquidity has been restored and the predicted rally ensued. All is well in Dodge. Ah, but how long will it last?

Point is: the fundamentals will determine the success or failure of this intervention, and forever color the tenure of this Fed Chair. I'm still parsing the entirety of it all, but several issues are clear. First, the depth of the crisis has yet to be accurately plumbed. We're just not sure how far these losses will extend, and just which companies and economies will be involved.

Now, we learn of a French, "rogue trader" at Societe Generale who, single-handed, amassed over $7 billion in losses. Read that story here. So we're also not sure where the crash will end. Will the credit card space collapse along with the mortgage loan sector? Will the losses suffered by cities, counties, pension funds, unions and non-profits with investment portfolios supercharge the collapse? Will our foreign bankers and underwriters cooperate with our efforts and collaborate on solutions, or will the rest of the world view this as an opportunity to eclipse our achievements and teach us a lesson? There are a lot of variables involved. How the chips fall will affect the outcome. Maybe it's time to consult the "long-wave" theorists and get out that old copy of Kondratieff from the bookshelf. Something tells me that John Maynard Keynes isn’t' going to cut it. If you've got an IRA or 401k plan, perhaps this is the time to increase your cash position and ratchet-back on all but recession-safe securities. If you're young, look into a good floor safe.

Second, the bi-partisan stimulus package is an exercise in feel-good politics that will have very little impact. What little impact it may have will also have to wait until May - arguably far too late to matter. In fact, the package will have the ironic effect of transferring more of our debt and our national assets off-shore. Sure, the pennies they throw my way will get spent, but the effort looks a lot like crumbs of cake for the peasants, and we all know what happened to Marie Antoinette.

Finally, it is striking that when faced with crisis, this administration hurries to bail-out the bankers, insurance companies and retailers in a big way - while throwing citizens a bone.

I've posted about the run-up to this crisis before: the looming recession in this post; blaming consumers for the sub-prime mortgage mess in this post; and, the prospect of our beloved country becomming a third-world nation in this article. I promise I'll get back to new music and the latest in technology very soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Consequences - A Song for Ugly Tuesday

Robert Cray reminds us that there are consequences when we get greedy and flirt with excess. A lesson the financial markets are learning today. So given the circumstances, I thought a Blues tune the most appropriate song for the day. Robert Cray is the master of guilty blues, and he's not bad on that axe of his either. Got some sweet chops. Have a listen and reflect.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Nikkei Loses 200 at Opening in Tokyo

Will tomorrow be "Black Tuesday" on Wall Street? We'll know in just a few hours. An early indicator is not good. The Tokyo Stock Exchange, open now, dropped 200 points in a heart beat. It seems that the international meltdown, driven by the economic policies and runaway spending of George Bush and the Republican Party, has caused the Bank of Japan to reduce estimates of national growth. Other central banks in other developed nations will find themselves in similar straits in short order. We're in uncharted territory here. Like our 401k plans haven't tanked enough already!

Markets Crash - Panic Selling

Stock markets worldwide came crashing down today, as investors large and small rushed to the relative safety of cash. You know there's trouble ahead when analysts are recommending that 85 percent of investment portfolios should now be in cash. After months of denial, it is like the Dutch boy took his finger out of the dike. One can actually hear the bubbles popping as I write. First the housing bubble went, then the credit bubble, and now the market bubble follows. Pundits are talking in terms of "panic" and "tail spins." Read The Economist's analysis of the conundrum here.

Oh the markets will attempt a rally, they've fallen so low we're all desparately seeking a bottom. But I am not opptimistic. Looks like a real crash to this observer. And I should know. I was standing on the corner of Wall Street & Broad in NYC on Black Monday in 1987 when the Post's headline screamed MELT DOWN. It is interesting to note that the trigger for this worldwide event was the enormous "thud" made by president Bush's recently announced stimulus package - which has obviously been already judged as too little, too late. Surprised? I didn't think so. As if this buffoon and his minions saw this coming or have the horsepower to turn it around. Not happening. So get ready for the grief. Because there will be grief. And say so-long to the American dream for now.

Looking for someone to blame? Well, that piece at least is pretty clear. Blame Republicans and their very greedy corporate sponosors. In power for 8 years, this sorry crowd has ruined the economy, plunged us into countless, costly wars, sent all of our good jobs overseas while adding trillions to the national debt. Yes, I'm bitter about this because it was all so avoidable. A little less greed, a little more responsibility and respect and we would have avoided this disaster completely. But no. It wasn't to be. I urge my US readers to hold the appropriate government officials responsible at election time. To those outside the US, my apologies on behalf of my countrymen for this economic calamity that has been visited on us all by large, multinational banks and corporations.

Really Remembering Dr. King's Legacy

Today we celebrate the life, wisdom and many contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dr. King's non-violent movement, based in part of the work of Mahatma Ghandi, is credited with passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the landmark Voting Rights Act in the United States.

Dr. King's contributions were many and some, frequently forgotten or conveniently overlooked, are especially resonant today. You see, Dr. King not only spoke out against widespread racism, he was equally vocal about militarism, poverty and materialism - which continue to plague our society and stain our reputation. As we reflect on the life and violent death of a man considered by some to be a saint, it is appropriate to remember the work left for us to do: The wars to end; the peace to be made; the poverty and resulting disease to be mitigated, and finally, the long-overdue relegation of materialism to the dust bin of history. I can hear the corporate oligarchs howling at the thought.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Seed Catalog Season


About this time every winter, seed catalogs start to arrive in numbers. Living in the country on a small hobby farm, we get our share. Though I always enjoy perusing the colorful pages of each and every catalog that arrives, one stands out from all the rest and deserves special mention.

Seeds of Change has been around for almost 20 years, "working hard," in their own words, "to uphold our mission of preserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable, organic agriculture." The company offers its customers certified organic seeds and plants, including a wide variety of heirloom seeds.

Heirloom or heritage seeds are old varieties of vegetables, shrubs and flowers that have been lovingly preserved over the years by dedicated farmers and gardeners worldwide. The practice is facilitated by a number of "seed exchanges," like this one. Seed exchange resources, including a number of useful links, can be found here.

Seeds of Change has long term relationship with the organic farmers who provide their seeds. Several of them are here in the valleys of southern Oregon, and I've had a chance to personally witness their dedication to organic agriculture. The company runs its own organic garden as well, and provides opportunities for six-to-eight interns per year at their New Mexico facility.

We have an organic garden because we are particularly concerned about the centralization of contol in the agriculture segment (ten companies control commercial agriculture) and the continued development and proliferation of genetically modified seeds. It turns out that the government in collusion with the large agribusiness firms have been paving the way for even more GM seeds, and taxpayers are footing the bill. Read about that scandal here. While you're at it, check out the Organic Consumers Assn.

As a result of our concerns, we purchase seeds from companies like Seeds of Change that have taken the "Safe Seed Pledge." And we save seeds, an anathema to Monsanto and those who would make seeds into intellectual property. We are grateful that organizations like Seeds of Change are around to support us and our endeavors in that regard.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Authorities Beat Blogger to Death in China

In what is being called the first death of a citizen journalist in China, news sources are reporting the fatal beating of a Chinese blogger who had stopped his vehicle to take pictures of a protest demonstration with his cell camera. City inspection authorities, alarmed at the prospect of blog post documenting their treatment of protestors, swarmed the blogger and beat him to death. Read CNN International's story here. Journalism has never been a "safe" profession, and the same can be said for citizen journalists in tightly controlled societies. Host of the next Summer Olympics, China has acted to punish the local authorities invovled by firing the senior official involved. Investigations continue as I write. One can only hope that this is the last such unfortunate episode. It is gratifying to note that the Chinese blogosphere helped to drive the government's quick intervention.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Please Comment on BLM's Ill-Conceived WOPR

I live in rural, southern Oregon. The federal government, specifically the BLM, is getting ready to implement a massive giveaway of public, old-growth forest to a few timber companies. They call the program WOPR, Western Oregon Plan Revision. Some revision. Clear-cutting is planned in old-growth stands and along salmon streams. Real bright, that. The BLM is also taking the opportunity to open-up pristine land to an army of motorized, off-road vehicles when there are thousands of acres in the Cascade range already devoted to that purpose. It's disgraceful, take my word for it. My home is next to some of the areas under discussion and this is a very close and important issue for me and my family. Check out the top-ten reasons why this plan is a bad idea here. And then read this synopsys. Thing is, you've only got until Friday at midnight to post a comment. The good news is that you can do it by email.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pop Impulse Endorses Hillary

I am taking the occasion of the first anniversary of this blog and risking the ire of half my friends to post about a serious matter. The next president of the United States will face a very challenging term; unraveling Bush & Cheney's destructive mischief, settling lingering Middle East conflicts including but not limited to Iraq, and restoring our national reputation abroad as a serious superpower. The next CEO of the country will have to do all of that in the face of serious economic and geopolitical crises. After serious consideration and months of vacillating, I've decided that Hillary Clinton is best equipped by education, experience and temperament to get the job done.

Yes, I know that no candidate has lifted us up like Barak Obama since JFK. But at the end of the day, I believe we need a president who will do the difficult work required to dig us out of this hole. Stay up late at night making her brain hurt doing the people's work. A president who will be focused and relentless. Tough times demand extraordinary, tested leadership. That's why I'm endorsing Hillary for president. The Republicans put us into this horrible position, and they may just nominate a radical cleric as their candidate. (Look, the Neo-Cons and the Christian conservatives showed us their stuff, and it stunk.) So like most of the rest of the nation I'll be voting for Democrats.

Hillary is our best choice. And, she's earned it in case you've forgotten. This woman has proven strength and durability. She's stood up to the drug companies once, and as president I'm certain she'll finish the job she got started before the fall of reason. When nobody said it possible, she convinced rural, upstate New Yorkers to give her a try and now has stratospheric approval ratings as NY's junior senator. That's because she listens, and works hard to solve problems. And unlike several Republican candidates that come to mind, when Hill had her famous family problems, she worked them out while enduring relentless scrutiny and attack. Worked them out and kept her family together. Nobody can argue she's not tough enough for the job. And finally, I'm supporting Hillary for a very male reason. I know that I can trust her to make the bastards pay, as they should, for ruining my country. You see, Hillary has felt the wrath of the infamous cabal of angry Christain white men and borne the attacks of corporate character assassins, and she's still coming on strong. That's the kind of motivation that this author is looking for in a presidential candidate.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Women in Business Decry Fed Contract Lockout

Okay, let me set the stage for this bit of unwelcome news. Females are a statistical majority of the US population: 50.8% according to the US Census Bureau. Women own 30 percent of all privately-owned businesses in the country and are awarded an insulting, paltry 3.4% of all Federal contracts - which total billions of dollars every year. Sound fair to you? I didn't think so.

Well, it gets worse. A group of women business owners recently sued the feds for actively delaying the implementation of steps designed to address this obvious disparity, and WON in DC's Federal Circuit Court. So the courts agree, the government is in fact actively interfering with efforts to award a fair number of federal contracts to women-owned businesses. Worse, the feds are actually delaying implementation of new rules. What's up with that? Read the Washington Post article here.

So let me get this straight. The "ole boys" club, who have been rigorously maintaining the glass ceiling for years now, continue to hold women back - even though they are now a majority of the population. So much for "...by the people, for the people..." This is especially counterintuitive as researchers and activists around the world discover that the best way to alleviate poverty is to give women cell phones and access to credit. That's right. This is just another turf battle over control of power and wealth, at the end of the day. Conservative, angry white men have always called the shots in the US and that is going to change sometime very soon. So there's fear-and-loathing on Wall Street and in male-dominated small businesses across the contry. Well, get used to it. And get a grip. Business and the economy benefit from diversity and increased competition, so we're told. And I believe it.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Libertarians & Lefties Agree - FOX News Sucks

If it isn't already clear, I despise FOX News and all that it stands for. A dispicable propaganda machine, FOX commentators all appear to me to be reactionary, racist idiots. Much of the progressive Left agrees. I've featured videos from Brave New Films on the subject in this previous post, here.

Now, check out the supporters of Republican/Libertarian candidate Ron Paul chasing Sean Hannity, one of the FOX Networks worst offenders, and his crew from a restaurant down the street back to their hotel in New Hampshire. Got this one over at Larissa's RAW Story. Delicious footage of very angry activists. Dainty Dems should take notice. This is the "proper" way to deal with yellow journalism and faux news personalities. Yea.


Wikia Search Engine Alpha Launched Today

In some very exciting news for the Net community, Wikia Inc. today announced the launch of its new, user-centric Wikia Search Engine. The open-source, open-architectured search engine will be grown and managed by users like the organization's Wikipedia online encyclopedia. So today's launch is definitely an Alpha release. Read the Reuters wire story here. This is welcome and important news.

Wikia founder and Wikipedia patriarch Jimmy Wales put it this way in the company's press release:
"Today marks a significant, albeit initial step in our project to build a search engine. For the better part of the past year we've been working in the background to get to the stage we're at today -- an open-to-everyone alpha. We expect Wikia Search to be like fine wine inthat it will get better and better as time goes by and more and more people contribute. I've said before that Internet search must be more open and transparent and today marks a major milestone in our mission to make it just that."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mil Blogger Dies in Iraq - Leaves Final Post

Major Andrew Olmsted, a noted military blogger stationed in Iraq, died yesterday of injuries sustained in the war. May he rest in peace. Read his final, "if I'm killed in Iraq" post at Obsidian Wings. I guarantee you'll laugh, then cry. As the toll of US dead climbs toward the 4,000 mark after five years of war, our thoughts go out to Major Olmsted's family in their moment of personal loss and grief. War sucks.

Friday, January 4, 2008

US Recession Confirmed - Unemployment Surges

I've been posting for some time about my concerns around the US economy. Specifically, the threat of imminent recession and all that means. Today, the numbers we've been dreading appeared - documenting a recent surge in unemployment. Read the NY Times article here, and the Financial Times piece here. The ominous rise in unemployment was accompanied by a related decrease in job creation. No surprise there. But that's only part of the picture.

The economy is tanking at the worst possible moment for most Americans. Why? Because personal debt has been soaring due to agressive, unrealistic and predatory campaigns by banks and lending institutions. That's right, banks are preying on their customers in their frenzy to feed on our debt. According to Dr. Carolyn Baker (source):


Average household credit card debt has increased 167% between 1990 and 2004. The average American had over seven payment cards in their wallet including credit card, retail store cards, and bank debit cards in 2004. The average interest rate paid on credit cards was approximately 14.54% in 2005. The rate of personal savings in the U.S. has dipped below 0% for the first time since the Great Depression, hitting negative .5% in 2005.

Read UMass Econ professor Rick Wolff's analysis of the situation here. And of course, don't forget that this meltdown is concurrent with the Sub-Prime loan meltdown. Another example of predatory business practices that I've posted about here, and here. Add to that scenario the costs of continuing wars (see real-time war cost calculator on the right sidebar), the imminent financial challenges in Social Security and Medicare and the picture becomes bleak. Will someone please tell me this is a bad dream. The only thing worse would be if the price of oil and basic foodstuffs like cereal shot up. Whoops, already happened. It's starting to look like a flash flood in a narrow canyon.