Obama, Democrats, and GOP at odds over financial regs

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2010/04/obama-the-democats-and-gop-at-odds-over-financial-regs/1

Looks like it’s time for the next round of “Whats actually in the bill?”

UPDATE:  We’ll get to what’s in the bill later.  One other news story that fits into this agenda (and it ain’t an accident) is the recent news of the prosecution of Goldman Sachs.

Wall Street’s preeminent investment bank, Goldman Sachs, was charged Friday by the government with fraud in marketing exotic mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis.

The Securities and Exchange Commission brought the civil charges in federal court in Manhattan with a lawsuit against Goldman and one of the bank’s vice presidents.

The charges relate to so-called collateralized debt obligations — complex securities tied to the performance of subprime mortgages — that Goldman created in 2007 near the end of the housing boom.

The value of the securities plunged in the mortgage meltdown that began later that year, helping to set off the global financial crisis.

This was Sach’s own version of “too big to fail”.  Since they had their hands in so many pies, it only made sense to bet against themselves, in the twisted logic of the money-makers-movers-and-shakers.

They are probably totally hosed here.  This is going to shut them up, and some others, about the new regulations.  Personally I’m for them (in a general sense).  I like the idea of a Consumer Protection Agency.  Many whistles were blown in the Fed’s direction as far back as 2000 about the shady crap, but it didn’t make it far enough up the chain.  Hence the CPA.

I also like more light on the derivatives and more complex weird products being sold.  Just like Enron (and under the same guy), Wall Street was making loads of cash by hiding all the risk (and loss).  More light makes that harder, and in the global age, after a global meltdown, international havens for sums that large are going to be hard to come by (in the long run).  Our recent move to go after the “Swiss Bank Account” b.s. is a good example of this.

The (R)’s are in a tough place, again.  Having to argue that Obama is owned by the banks (bailout) and a socialists against them (new regulations) while trying to stymie legislation wanted by the majority of the country and the majority of the government.  My guess would be misdirection as their strategy.

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The First Two Chapters Are Up

As mentioned a little while back, I am putting the blog on hold and writing a book.

O.k. I didn’t do such a good job of that (as the latest posts can testify) but that hasn’t stopped the book from coming along nicely.

They can read be read here.

I’d love to get some feedback on what I’ve done so far.  There is contact information in that post as well, if anyone wants more information.

The most of the book I am going to post online for free is the first three chapters (and very few graphs, and no appendices, which is where the pudding is, so to speak).  I am currently going between editing and writing (editing takes a lot longer).

I’ve always been a fan of the shareware model for software distribution and something of a fan of the street performer protocol as a way to make money and give stuff away at the same time.  That’s the only reason for the tease and, quite frankly, it’s high time I tried to sell a bit of my writing rather than just giving it away for free, as I have done for a good long while now.

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy it!

U.S. Power/Prestige Set to Decline Over Next 20 Years (It will Be O.k.)

This is something of a follow-up to my post the other day regarding World War II and the Great Depression.  In that post I made the point that a significant portion of the economic success the U.S. enjoyed from World War II to, well, now, was due to the fact that after WW2 the U.S. still had an economy and functioning  (i.e. not bombed) industry.

We then doubled down in the 80’s [note: this is a great article on how we got to where we are] to keep things going for a while, and again in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq. 

And now the fruits of our labors, or more directly, the fruits of the labors of the other 6,700,000,000 humans on the planet, are being harvested.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A government report released Thursday paints an alarming picture of an unstable future for international relations defined by waning American influence, a fragmentation of political power and intensifying struggles for increasingly scarce natural resources.

The report, “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World,” was drafted by the National Intelligence Council to better inform U.S. policymakers — starting with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama — about the factors most likely to shape major international trends and conflicts through the year 2025.

“Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor, the United States’ relative strength — even in the military realm — will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained,” says the report, which is the fourth in a series from the Intelligence Council.

The report argues that the “international system — as constructed following the second World War — will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors.”

 This is precisely what I was getting at in the previous post. 

[The Entire Report Is Available for Download Here…that page is the summary, the report itself is 120 pages long.  Fun reading.]

There are also some good points here, as some of the data the report was relying on has chaged.  For example…

It argues that the world is in the midst of an unprecedented “transfer of global wealth and power” — from West to East — that is being fueled by long-term “increases in oil and commodity prices” along with a gradual shift of manufacturing and certain service industries to Asia.

While the manufacturing aspects haven’t change, the recent global meltdown has absolutely gutted oil prices, which is the single largest factor in this transfer of wealth.

“Despite the recent rise in anti-Americanism, the U.S. probably will continue to be seen as a much-needed regional balancer in the Middle East and Asia,” the report notes.

Luckily, since we acted in a way that the rest of the world endorsed whole-heartedly, the “anti-Americanism” will fade.  Recall folks, after 9/11 everyone loved us.  It was only when we invaded an oil-rich country that hadn’t attacked us and wasn’t a threat to us….and then told everyone they were pussies because they wouldn’t come with us…that the “anti-Americanism” really took off.

Curious how that works, eh?  Actions matter. 

The report predicts that, the recent economic downturn aside, “unprecedented global economic growth” will mean that the demand for basic resources such as food, water and oil “will outstrip easily available supplies” over the next decade.

As an estimated 1.2 billion people are added to the world population over the next 20 years, the demand for food will rise by 50 percent, the report projects.

Umm, I don’t think you can so easily dismiss the “recent economic downturn.”  Part of the reason things like the recent collapse happen is because everything gets too overheated.  When you extrapolate from overheated systems, as this reports most likely does, then the extrapolations are that much more wild.

And if the demand for food goes up, maybe we can stop paying our farming congomerates to not farm.   Making food is something humans, and particularly Americans, have no problems with.

I find it very unikely that such a wide-ranging report would be altered to take into account the current economic crisis.  After having a look at the summary of the 2008 economic crisis on page 10…and how it does’t seem to even affect bullet points underneath it…they just added that section in and haven’t really factored it into the rest of the report.

The section of the crisis does end with something I mentioned in my taped rant…

The crisis has increased calls for a new “Bretton Woods” to better regulate the global economy.  World leaders, however, will be challenged to renovate the IMF and devise a globally transparent and effective set of rules that apply to differing capitalisms and levels of financial institutional development. Failure to construct a new all-embracing architecture could lead countries to seek security through competitive monetary policies and new investment barriers, increasing the potential for market segmentation.

 

 

There was recently a large meeting in Washington, D.C. to talk about doing exactly this.  Not much can be done with a lame-duck leading the free world and beggin people not to give up on cowboy-capitalism.

They re-scheduled the meeting for March, after Obama takes over and the adults are in charge of the U.S. economy again.  Sorry, kids, but cutting taxes and declaring war are two great conservative tastes that taste like shit together.

One quick note….the other RISING powers of the world all have one thing in common…

For the most part, China, India, and Russia are not following the Western liberal model for self-development but instead are using a different model, “state capitalism.”  State capitalism is a loose term used to describe a system of economic management that gives a prominent role to the state. 

Not that I am endorsing such a thing, as both China and India are in a different place developmentally that the U.S.  They are in need of massive infrastructure projects that only a government can provide.  Our interstate highway system and “The Internet” are the kinds of stuff I’m talking about here.

Overall it makes for sober reading, and really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  If you are surprised, now would be a good time to get over it.  Otherwise, a whole bunch of things that happen over the next 20 years are not going to make sense to you.

It’s time to tighten the belts, my fellow ‘Merkins.  Which is a good thing, as belly fat can give you cancer.

I updated the title to mention something that I forgot to talk about in the above article, and that the “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World” total missed, and it’s going to change the world more than anything else in history.

It’s why I’m not worried…per se…about many of these issues.  That thing, which the CIA/DOD/NIE/Etc. higher-ups hopefully edited out (I can’t imagine with all the brainpower they got there no one brought up the concept) is called “The Singularity”.

Right now we’re on target for about 2020.  That’s 5 years, or roughly 8-fold, before 2025. 

Why do I say “8-fold?”  Because the computers of 2025 are going to be roughly 8 times as powerful as those of 2020, for the same price, and an eighth the size.

In 2020 the computers will have pretty much the same processing power, information-wise, as our own brains.  That may seem fancifcul now, but have you noticed that it is getting harder and harder to prove you are human on the Internet?

All it used to take was using a service.  Then you had to start jumping through easy hops.  Then the hoops got more difficult.

Sometimes, they are even flaming.

Those little “captchas” and other such tools are basic versions of a “Turing Test.”

There will come a day (probably around 2020), and that day is already called the Singularity, when the robots that roam the internet, and try to use and abuse services, will have the same “intelligence” as your average human being.  The same ability to be witty and sad.  To process and contextualize and remember. 

By 2025, they will have roughly 8 times the capacity of a normal human.

When you consider how very much entwined our world will be with the internet at that time, I think you can see why I began this section with the teaser “, and it’s going to change the world more than anything else in history.”

So the final question becomes, how or why did all those agencies miss it?

[that’s a trick question….guess who has access to the best minds and best tech?  That’s right.  It’ll be coming from our government.  Deep inside, probably.  Or on a lefty-fringe, like the Net itself did.  My hope is that we have made our government, and others, completely transparent by then.   So we can watch it happen.]

The Mark of the Atomic Age

For those of y’all that still haven’t come to grasp with the fact that humans have left an indelible mark on this planet, and have the ability to affect it quite profoundly, here’s the latest evidence…

Back in the 1950s, the Americans, the British, the French and the Russians tried to impress each other by “testing” atomic weapons. This involved blowing up multi-megaton bombs in the air in remote places, but the explosions didn’t stay local.

A Couple Of Extra Neutrons…

Each atomic blast released lots of neutrons into the atmosphere, many of which slammed into carbon atoms floating by with the result that lots of carbon atoms gained a couple of extra neutrons. If you remember your Periodic Table of Elements, carbon ordinarily carries 12 protons and neutrons. Add a couple of extra neutrons, and the 12 becomes 14. Which means during the 1950’s the world got a boost of carbon-14 atoms.

Those clouds of carbon-14 atoms didn’t stay at the bomb sites. “This cloud of carbon-14 went round and round and round the Earth and was persistent for quite a while,” says Professor Nadkarni.

When President Kennedy signed a test ban treaty with the Russians in the early 1960s, nations stopped blowing up bombs above ground and the population of carbon-14 in the atmosphere went down, but, from around 1954 to around 1963, trees all over the world sucked in extra dollops of carbon-14.

Trees don’t know the difference between regular carbon and carbon-14. They just breathe in carbon dioxide and use the sunshine to turn that CO2 into plant food stored in their trunks, so that if you look inside a tree, any tree, you can measure the carbon within. And here comes the big surprise.

An Atomic Bomb “Souvenir”

It turns out that virtually every tree that alive starting in 1954 has a “spike” — an atomic bomb souvenir. Everywhere botanists have looked, “you can find studies in Thailand, studies in Mexico, studies in Brazil where when you measure for carbon-14, you see it there,” says Professor Nadkarni. All trees carry this “marker” — northern trees, tropical trees, rainforest trees — it is a world-wide phenomenon.”

And, naturally, what goes for trees goes for others as well. In 2005, A Swedish stem cell biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Jonas Frisen, decided to see if he could date people using the same technique. Frisen had studied pine trees and knew about the carbon-14 atomic bomb spike.

He also reasoned that people eat the products of trees — apples, pears, peaches, olives, almonds, walnuts — and we also eat the animals that eat the fruits of trees, so he decided to see if atomic testing had affected human cells.

At a cellular level, he surmised, we are affected by what we eat and so he performed autopsies on two sets of humans: one group was born in the mid-1950s during the era of atomic testing. The second group was born later, in the ’60s, after the test ban treaty. When he examined some brain cells in both groups, he discovered that humans born in the ’50s had more carbon-14 in their DNA, so the spike we see in trees is echoed in humans.

Full story available at NPR.

I love the image of these titans, England, France, the U.S. and Russia,…all staring across the pond or the steepes and dropping mad-huge bombs while staring deep into eyes of their opponents, looking for a blink.

The idea of topping each other got waaay out of control and left us with both the C14-mark, and the knowledge how to make stuff that can do this…

The effects were spectacular. Despite the very substantial burst height of 4,000 m (13,000 ft) the vast fireball reached down to the Earth, and swelled upward to nearly the height of the release plane. The blast pressure below the burst point was 300 PSI, six times the peak pressure experienced at Hiroshima. The flash of light was so bright that it was visible at a distance of 1,000 kilometers, despite cloudy skies. One participant in the test saw a bright flash through dark goggles and felt the effects of a thermal pulse even at a distance of 270 km. One cameraman recalled:

The clouds beneath the aircraft and in the distance were lit up by the powerful flash. The sea of light spread under the hatch and even clouds began to glow and became transparent. At that moment, our aircraft emerged from between two cloud layers and down below in the gap a huge bright orange ball was emerging. The ball was powerful and arrogant like Jupiter. Slowly and silently it crept upwards…. Having broken through the thick layer of clouds it kept growing. It seemed to suck the whole earth into it. The spectacle was fantastic, unreal, supernatural.

Another observer, farther away, described what he witnessed as:

… a powerful white flash over the horizon and after a long period of time he heard a remote, indistinct and heavy blow, as if the earth has been killed!

A shock wave in air was observed at Dickson settlement at 700 km; windowpanes were partially broken to distances of 900 km. All buildings in Severny (both wooden and brick), at a distance of 55 km, were completely destroyed. In districts hundreds of kilometers from ground zero, wooden houses were destroyed, and stone ones lost their roofs, windows and doors; and radio communications were interrupted for almost one hour. The atmospheric disturbance generated by the explosion orbited the earth three times. A gigantic mushroom cloud rose as high as 64 kilometers (210,000 ft).Despite being exploded in the atmosphere, it generated substantial seismic signals. According to a bulletin of the U.S. Geological Survey it had seismic magnitude mb = 5.0 to 5.25. The blast wave was detected circling the world.[Khalturin et al 2005]

Some time after the explosion, photographs were taken of ground zero. “The ground surface of the island has been levelled, swept and licked so that it looks like a skating rink,” a witness reported. “The same goes for rocks. The snow has melted and their sides and edges are shiny. There is not a trace of unevenness in the ground…. Everything in this area has been swept clean, scoured, melted and blown away.”

[full article]

And now I’m supposed to be afraid of ignorant teenagers trying to look cool and find something to do in between goat-herding sessions?  [yes, that’s how this guy characterized a good part of the Afghan insurgency]

That’s the whole point of terror…it makes you think small threats are much bigger than they are.   Is terrorism a danger?  Sure.

It is a danger like the one talked about above?  I don’t think so.  Not even close, IMHO.  And the idea that someone can deliver a nuclear weapons without it being tracked home is absurd.  The UK busted Russia for the use of 10 micrograms of polonium.  No one is going to be able to hide where a few pounds of Uranium came from, or hide a project to create a viable delivery system.  MAD is still much in effect.

The simple fact that we all share the same air and the same trees and the same brains will eventually overpower the ignorance that allows such terror to fester, unless we let the terror guide our actions.

Regarding World War II and the Great Depression

I put together a video of an argument last night that I would like to share with you.

If you are a youngin’ and completely lacking in historical context, here’s a bit of it…

That’s it for now, as I went out and about after finishing the video and am now somewhat incapable of consistent coherent thought. I might flesh out the argument tomorrow with more typing, but I hope the video speaks for itself.   If you have any questions, please feel free to put them forth.

UPDATE: Here’s another video of some of the destruction of Germany.  The text of the video makes it VERY clear that the entire purpose of the U.S. bombing campaign was the destroy Germany’s industrial infrastructure.  It was the destruction of the Germans and French and Russians and English and Japanese and Italians and Chinese that allowed the U.S. to establish a naturally advantageous (i.e. still in existence after the war) industrial and economic position that persisted for nearly 60 years.

BTW, this fortuitous situation also fed into the “Project For a New American Century” and their plans to keep this dominance going for another 40 or 100 years.  As we all know now, the centerpiece of that global strategy, invading and controlling IRAQ, was a clusterfuck of such massive proportions it has greatly accelerated the trend to a more level playing field.  Which is to say, screwing up Iraq will be seen in history as the biggest single reason for the end of U.S. economic dominance.   It was not the not the whole of it, but it did serve as a rather large piece of straw on a montrously laden camel.

UPDATE: 2/17/09:

Well, it looks like that move to leveler playing field happened a lot quicker than even I expected.  And the War in Iraq seems to be gone from the economic discussion.  Does not one realize that is why Bush, et. al. had to let the shennanigans on Wall Street continue so long?  Without the myth of great wealth, we couldn’t fund his War.   And that’s where the other 3 trillion went.

Does no one remember that Bush took the deficit from this…

Instead, the president explained, the $5.7 trillion national debt has been reduced by $360 billion in the last three years — $223 billion this year alone.

This represents, Clinton said, “the largest one-year debt reduction in the history of the United States.”

To this…

Are you surprised? Times Square’s National Debt Clock, which has been tallying up money owed by the U.S. government since 1989, is running out of spaces.

In September 2008, the digital dollar sign was eliminated to make way for an extra digit—the “1” in $10 trillion (the national debt is currently $10.2 trillion). Now, a new clock is in the works that will make room for a quadrillion dollars of debt, according to the Associated Press. Anticipated completion is early 2009.

A little history on the clock: It was created in 1989 by Manhattan real estate developer Seymour Durst to inform the public about the nation’s snowballing national debt (back then, it was $2.7 trillion). Seymour died in 1995, and the clock is now owned by his son, Douglas Durst.

Bush ran up a $4,500,000,000,000 tab.

Lest we forget…

Obama Affirmitively-Actioned into Presidency (and other stuff Americans decid

I don’t know if you heard, but yea.  It’s a different world today.

And I’m very, very happy about it.

Obama Wins

Obama Wins

As I mentioned previously, this was a pretty big deal for me and a whole lot of folk.

As a quick note on the jocular title of the post….here’s the stats.

It turns out that saying Americans “retired” McCain would probably be one of the more accurate ways to explain the voting.  His age was a major concern for a lot of voters, which I think was accentuated by the Palin problem.

Ultimately, it turns out that people wanted to change the national (and Republican) policy of “concentrate the wealth” that we’ve been following for the past 30 years.  It seems that many think maybe “spreading the wealth” a bit could provide major dividends.  I happen to agree, for a number of reasons, mainly having to do with the idea that spreading some of the wealth will do wonders for many workers in the economic realm of “motivation.”

I thought this was a big deal also because of the world opinion.   It was something that didn’t show up on polls, and maybe was even a net-negative for Obama (in the weird world of U.S. politics), but I think it was Obama’s true stength, and that (r)ace-in-the-hole that will help a great deal in our negotiations with the rest of the world.

The whole world has to take a second look at the U.S.  A long hard second look.  And THIS IS A GREAT THING.   We’ve got a pretty amazing country here, and it’s something that many have forgotten, not the least of whom live here.  And now we’ve proved a great many people wrong.  Again.

We’ve raised the bar on Western democracy.  We’ve slapped racial bullshit in the face.  The United States of America elected a President who’s middle name is HUSSEIN.

You know what’s funny?  The only major demographic group, IN THE WHOLE WORLD, that is bothered rather than elated by this achievement of Martin Luther King’s dream of judgement on character over skin-color, is here in the U.S.  I hope and pray they’ll calm down and get it back together, I met some rather devastated people last night.  Some who genuinely believe we just elected a terrorist.  After all, his middle name is Hussein.

The world had become increasingly wary of this kind of U.S. after seeing some of our actions following 9/11.   World opinion was in a steady decline after Bush’s Choice to invade Iraq.   And Cheney’s Choice to torture some of the people we captured didn’t help either.  The CIA jetting around the world on black ops and weird rumors filled the air.  Any number of shady decisions and actions took place, the extent of which we may not know for years.

The decline in world opintion was precipitous, especially after the world’s sympathy was so quickly and openly offered to us after our own great tragedy.   In 2004, when the U.S. electorate endorsed the lies, and the war, and the torture, the world turned its collective back.

By 2006, we had stepped back a bit domestically, and I think we could see the peak of anti-U.S. opinion was probably in the 2005-2006 window.   By 2007, the world (and the U.S. electorate) was decided on Bush and kinda just ignored him.  Everyone had made their judgment and it was not good.   Once 2008 kicked in the world was watching to see what we would do.  Curious to see if their judgment of the 21st century U.S. was correct.  Looking back over their shoulder a bit, wondering if we’d regained our special-ness.

Our U.S.’ed-ness.

While the world judged Bush harshly, we did get that second (third, actually) chance to amaze the world.

And it would seem they approve.

With a couple of exceptions….

SUDANESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN ALI AL-SADIG

“We don’t expect any change through our previous experience with the Democrats. When it comes to foreign policy there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.”

…actually I guess that’s about the only exception.  He’s an exception because he knows the genocide his government is pursuing in Darfur is going to get some real attention now (one would HOPE).

That being said, there were some other big ballot initiatives around the country.

Looks like the Mormons and Catholics got their bigotry endorsed in Cali, Florida and Arizona, the “straight” states.  They are now like Iran, where gays don’t exist…or have less rights…is there a difference?

Women retained some degree of control over their own lives in South Dakota and Colorado, and it’s time to spark it up in Michigan and get that gloucoma under control.

Obama lost Nebraska, and black and women Nebraskans lost the ability to sue for “employment fairness” (on a serious note re: the title of this post…it’s going to be *really* hard to argue for expanded or even continued affirmitive actions programs in a lot of places…expect more of this).

Oregon knocked down the “stay culturally ignorant” rule and Washington is paging Dr. Kevorkian.

North Dakota and Taxachusetts both voted against tax cuts (!)cliche evidence(!), and you can finally lose your shirt on a riverboat in Missouri.  Previously, you could only lose your shoes.

All in all, it was quite a day.

The Earth in a Phone

Amidst the launch of Google’s own Android mobile operating system, the company is bringing its Google Earth software to the iPhone App Store. As reported by our sister site News.com, the iPhone version replciates much of the desktop application’s core experience, downloading imagery from Google’s servers as the perspective shifts and dotting the map with landmarks, photos, and other information.

via Google Earth Comes to the iPhone – iPhone Atlas

Just saw this was out this morning. Should have a quick review up in a bit.

Umm….wow.  For a version 1.0.0 app, this is pretty solid.  It might be a bit sensitive to quick movements, but the potential for having a 3-d gps in your pocket ain’t too shabby.

And yes, it’s really pretty close to being a 3-d gps.  One that you can tilt and turn to change the angle on.

The speed over the EDGE network leaves a bit to be desired (I have a pre-3G version) but performance wasn’t too far off from the regular google maps apps, which I have found extremely useful while traveling.

WTW : Understanding the Economic Crisis, Part 1

Below you will find a video I made regarding the current economic crisis.  I explain where I think it came from, what happened, who profited, who lost, why, what we can do, and who should pay.

That is here…

The rest of the World This Week October 5, 2008 show should be up tonight or tomorrow morning.  The video is in the can, now it’s just editing time.  I think I did a decent job with the above video and learned a couple more tools.  Things should keep improving, and I should have a PIP debate in Part 2 of the Update.

Hope ya’ll are having a nice day, as more money evaporates from the computer harddisks of the world.   Watch the video to understand why.

It’s a Blue Planet, Although It *is* Snowing on Mars

Vote Obama or McCain: Global Electoral College | The Economist.

There’s a nice application over at the Economist that gives a feeling of how the world would vote if the concept of the United States’ “electoral college” was exported to the entire world.

Unsurprisingly, they favor the guy who is more their color.

Which is to say, blue (and off-white, to be honest).

To briefly extend the red-state/blue-state metaphor to one of global proportions, I would much prefer we live on a Blue Planet rather than a Red Planet.

The Blue Planet is beautiful and awe-inspiring.   Yes, sometimes vicious and cruel, but no more than is necessary.

The Red Planet is a planet of war and conquest (and a horrid movie).  It is a planet of heroes and tragedies.  Right now, however, we’re learning circumstances there are much stranger than previously thought.

September 29, 2008 (Computerworld) Forget trying to find evidence that there used to be water on Mars. Scientists from NASA said today that its instruments on the Red Planet have detected falling snow.

While the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the planet, the Phoenix Mars Lander has been sitting on the northern pole of the planet for several months, testing Martian soil samples for any materials — including water-ice — that could support life. A robotic arm on the lander has dug up pieces of ice, and the orbiter has sent back pictures of what look like old fractures in the planet’s surface, and trails of waterways.

Scientists today added to that mounting list of scientific Martian discoveries with evidence of falling snow. “Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars,” said Jim Whiteway, lead scientist for the Canadian-supplied Meteorological Station on Phoenix. “We’ll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground.”

[full story]

I think the metaphorical implications of this latest discovery are quite revealing.  A planet (or politician) once thought to represent all that was glorious in war, is actually kind of cold and crying on the inside.  The sadness never quite makes it all the way out, and the devils of the past remain evident, yet the full picture piques curiousity more than respect.  We end up feeling more of a distant pity than a searing loyalty.

And so it is with the man who wants to lead a Red Planet, as the global poll numbers would suggest.