Monday, December 22, 2008

Google Maps: Kayak across the Pacific Ocean

Type in driving directions at Google Maps from Tokyo, Japan to Seattle, Washington, and you get this:

Notice on the left hand side:

25. Kayak across the Pacific Ocean 6,243 km
40. Kayak across the Pacific Ocean 4,436 km

Why don't they just suggest kayaking straight across? Maybe so you can get new supplies...? Gotta love the humor out there at Google.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bush bail-out

Bush just said that he will provide $17.4bn from the $700bn for use for the financial sector. Although this kicks the can down the road, it is an order-of-magnitude smaller than bailouts to the banks and significantly more demanding than them, too.

I'm not a major fan of the stupidity of American car manufacturing of the past years (bigger is not better in my book), but it seems to me that there was a lot of dirty pool taking place behind the scenes about whether there should be support for the US auto industry. The Republican senators whos' votes killed the congressional "bail-out" were primarily from the South, in states that have laws against unionization and have spent lots of money luring foreign car manufacturers to their state. And they used the "free market" argument to justify their votes. Questionable Authority indicates why this position is a false one.

I'm waiting for someone to put together a map of states of senators voting against the plan and the location of national an non-national car manufacturing plants.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow in Ann Arbor

Thanks to La Nina weather this year, look out for lots of cold(er) weather and (possibly) more snow than much of last winter. Yesterday, I took some snaps of the nice fluffy white stuff as it fell in moderate amounts (~2 inches) on Ann Arbor. (Since I'm one of those annoying people who likes to take flash-less photos in dim light without a tripod, some of them are slightly blurry. I apologise for the lack of ultimate clarity that is the limitation of the steadiness of my arm and the resolution capability of my Canon A590.) This morning, too, I took some more photos around campus of the white stuff (with very few of the student-type people walking about due to exams).

Here we can see the Michigan Theatre marquee being changed by hand. During the summer it always looks like the suction-cup used to do this doesn't work because of the heat and humidity. Last night it didn't look like it was working because of the cold, ice, and snow. Michigan, eh? Can't really work one way or another.

Still, though, the lit-up marquees of the Michigan and the State theaters do make that end of Liberty Street look quite nice in the falling snow. (Didn't hurt that there weren't any cars on the roads blinding my camera.) All of this happened while I was ensconced in my cubicle at the English Language Institute from 9AM until 7PM. (It was an interesting day there, since the thermostats thought the building was at 90F and so kept turning on the AC, even though the actual temperature was closer to 50F. It eventually got fixed - at about 3PM.) Still, walking in to work: no snow. Walking out of work: SNOW!

I've always liked the old buildings in downtown Ann Arbor, and with the snow falling, I thought that it would be interesting to try and capture two of them that flank an alleyway. The building on the left houses the Acme Supply Company (just like in the cartoons), and the one on the right houses a used collector's book store (the name of which escapes me at the present time).

The Felch Street bridge looking westward (ish). I took one of the photos from a previous post from on top of this bridge. Good views up to it, and good views down from it.
 Walking along the railroad, I saw these tall skeletons of weeds standing in the snow. Looking like botanical stalagmites, I took photos of them. Unfortunately, all of them turned out to be blurry (this is the best of the batch).

I Pharyngulated myself

I'll admit it, I sent PZ an e-mail with a link to my Christmas in Japan blog entry. I thought he would get a kick out of the juxtaposition of the US's "War on Christmas" meme (thanks to FoxNews) against the non-religious pseudo-Western Christmas in Japan. Although he didn't write more than just a few words, he did post the video and a hat-tip link to my blog... and my Sitemeter ticker shot through the roof.
Just so everyone understands this - I got more traffit in one day than I normally do in one month!

However, this entry isn't about that, but about me looking at the commentary that came through on PZ's blog about this video as well as the metacommentary (the comments on the comments). These fell into three broad categories:
  1. "Wow that's a wierd/cool/neat/interesting video!"
  2. "I'm in Japan! This is exactly what it is like here!"
  3. Comments about whether this (or Japan in general) is weird/bigoted/sexist/etc.
    • from a stereotype reference-point
    • against a stereotype reference-point
In the first category, we have comment #33:
The Japanese have a gleeful fascination with American traditions. It was thus even before World War II, and got even more so after. Given the opportunity, they will celebrate life unlike most any other people in the world. We would do well to emulate them.
or #70 (which - like some others - is also a commentary about Japan)
Cute video, but we all might want to think twice before dismissing certain ethnic groups as "weird," even jokingly. It's also probably not very wise to form our opinion of entire cultures based around the creepy porn we downlo... err, that one of our friends saw once.
or #87, which carries some traditional (although slightly back-handed, imho) leaf-turning New Year's sentiments:
Yah know, 63 years ago, we hated these peoples guts, and with good reason. Now we're all singing together. My new year wish is that it doesn't take 63 years until we're singing something equally silly and fun with the people of the middle east - and beyond.
I can only send out this message of hope to the world and try to live it every day.
or #98, which is a straight-up commentary on the video:
More holiday stormtrooper, please.
In the second category, we have commentary #5:
yep, this is what my christmas is like this year. i've already seen a gigantic christmas tree with a full-scale light-up crucifix on top. from the description my japanese friends gave me, japanese christmas is almost exactly like a more extravagant version of valentines day.
on the other hand, new year is generally more significant, and more like the family-orientated western christmas.
or commentary #65 which describes the fleeting quality of Japanese Christmases:
There's two great things about christmas here in Japan: it's pure essence of schlocky commercialism, undiluted by any religious meaning to ruin the fun; and the morning of the 26th there is no trace of the holiday whatsoever.
Really - you walk down Shinsaibashi shopping street on the night of the 25th and there's big, gaudy christmas decorations everywhere, christmas-themed shop windows, christmas music, christmas billboards and commercials. The next morning it's all gone, replaced by the symbols and music (and commercials) of traditional New Year celebration. From bossanova versions of "RUdolf the red-nosed reindeer" to Koto music - it's enough to get cultural whiplash unless you're careful.
Commentary in this category led to some "Pharyngulites" trying to figure out whether they should have a meet-up in Japan, like comment #24. (Oooh, I like it when I act as a social catalyst! Who knew that I might be able to be one for a group of people I never met?)
So, how many Pharungulites are in Japan? I take it [#14] is, so that makes at least two of us. We should organise a meetup.
and in response:
I'd be interested. We would need a neutral site to share contact information / organize. Something like I can't imagine there are too many of us but maybe if we reach critical mass we can have semi-regular events. I'm in Tokyo, btw. Nerima to further narrow that down geographically.
Debito is a pretty interesting character and his site is a good general resource for foreigners living in Japan. A somewhat depressing (at times infuriating) site, but highly recommended.
and another:
One more here, but in Sendai.
I will, however, be in Tokyo in Early April and late May, also in Nagoya and Osaka in March.
Of course, it is possible to shoot down to Tokyo almost any weekend - it's not so far.
If someone is organizing...
There were several other responses, ranging from, "That would be awesome!" to "I would love to, but I can't, because the cost of travel/my income/etc. would not allow me to do so..." However, if some of these people do get together, then a Pharynguloid Christmas-in-Japan party was done, thanks to little ole me!

In the third category, we have commentary from #1:
^Picture is very relevant to the topic under discussion.
Japan is ... weird.
Not always in a bad way, they have some good food, music, movies, etc... But they're very frequently very weird.
or commentary #2 - an immediate response to the accusation of "wierdness"
Who do you mean by "they", [#1]? People like me?!
which requried a response post in the commentary #4 position:
[#2], if you had a hand in the making of some of the music film television and such that I've watched(and frequently enjoyed) from Japan, then yes, you :P
I'll hasten to add that I don't think that weird is a bad thing, it just means something unusual. People with genius level IQ are weird. People who are over 200 cm tall are weird. And the people who make certain manga? REALLY weird.
See? "Hey, it's weird!" "If that's weird, you are calling me weird! Are you calling me weird?" "Not unless you are weird, but I consider lots of things as weird!"

Some of the responses questioning Japanese weirdness vis-a-vis American weirdness were in Japanese (written by Americans):
loose translation -- I also live in Kobe. I have spoken intermediate Japanese [sic] for 15 years. By the way, do you think Japanese are weird? In America, Whoopie Goldberg's "The View" is a big hit! Don't you think that [show's] weird?
There were also comments about whether Japan was a racist country:
More "naive" than "racist" in many cases - foreigners are exotic (and by extension, dangerous (and this is a prejudice not without some justification, their murder rate is two orders of magnitude lower than the US)).
I can't speak for accuracy of the source (it seems fairly recent) but according to this site Japan's murder rate per capita is an order of a magnitude lower than the U.S.
I would wager that the low murder rate has nothing to do with Japan's largely homogeneous society but more to do with the lack of firearms.
Th average Japanese person, much like the average American, is not an over racist or card carrying member of the KKK / Japanese ultra-right equivalent. I wouldn't characterize Japanese people as extremely racist, but there is a fair amount of institutionalized racism and xenophobia in Japan.
Don't take my word for it:
Japan has a nation has a less than stellar record in this arena.
Japan would be a great place if it weren't for the racism and sexism.
What takes the cake in terms of comment length and depth (and personal agreement) is #108:
Re the comment: "And that the Japanese, who seem to be effortlessly combining bits and pieces of shintoism and buddhism, would add a little western x-mas kitsch to the mix - that too would seem [weird]."
That's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. We have people in Japan taking native traditions from Shinto - a pretty mundane and harmless religion, as those things go - and later adopting some traditions of Buddhism, a religion that famously fits very comfortably with other faiths. Then in modern days, residents of Japan see all that nifty stuff about Santa and Xmas trees and presents, and decide to join in on the fun - just the easy secular bits, not the difficult religious stuff. The kind of Xmas that I, an atheist, gleefully enjoy myself.
Sounds simple enough to me. Yet I'm constantly told that this this is "strange" and "weird" and even, according to some, "boggling to the Western mind".
Meanwhile, what about religious traditions in "the West"? Well, let's look at Christmas itself:
The holiest day of Christianity celebrates the birth of a Jew who added new teachings to traditional Jewish ones. The holiday actually originated in pre-Christian pagan winter solstice celebrations, borrowed its date from an ancient Roman sun-worship festival, picked up Germanic and Scandinavian pagan elements like trees, wreaths, and "Yuletide", and is jam-packed with things like Santa and reindeer and presents and blowout sales that have no connection to Christ/God whatsoever. (Trivia: This year, Christmas falls on a day named in English after the Norse god of thunder.)
This "Western" mish-mash is arbitrarily labeled as _not_ weird. Why? The best reason I can come up with: Because it's much more fun to say that the foreigners are doing weird, inscrutable things.
Or take another comment, "Japan is rather conformist and collectivist". Well, nothing wrong with that as a casual opinion, but is it factual? What are the definitions, and how do we measure? Is the rest of the world _not_ conformist and collectivist? How about the amazing groupthink regarding religion in the US, which makes Christian identity a practical requirement for public office? Is that not conformist? If not, why?
And so on. I've been inspired by "rationalist" sites like Pharyngula to blog about "cultural comparison" ( ). Like faith and superstition, it's a field just packed with irrational thinking: confirmation bias, correlation/causation confusion, received knowledge, and so on.
Granted, these "cultural difference" claims are mostly quite harmless, and pretty trivial compared to the havoc wreaked on the world by religion's sloppy thinking. But as an exercise in critical thinking, if nothing else, I find it interesting to look at "cultural comparison" through a skeptical lens.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two questions to those evolutionary biologists out there:
  1. Could allergies act as a negative selection pressure?
  2. Could the internet act as a sexual selection pressure?
The first one is a little in-depth, so I will return to it later. The latter came to mind when I read this article from PhysOrg:
Web or sex? Nearly half of women would rather go online
Nearly one out of two women would rather give up sex for two weeks than go without the Internet, according to a survey released Monday.
Far fewer men would choose to go without sex, according to the survey of 2,119 adults carried out by the online research firm Harris Interactive and sponsored by Intel Corp., the world's biggest computer chip maker.
Forty-six percent of the women polled said they would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up access to the Internet for the same period of time, according to the survey, "Internet Reliance in Today's Economy."
Only 30 percent of men said they would rather forgo intimate relations than cyber ones.
Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said it is "very important, important or somewhat important" to be able to access the Internet.
Sixty-five percent of those surveyed rated Internet access above other discretionary spending items such as cable television subscriptions (39 percent), dining out (20 percent), shopping for clothes (18 percent) or a health club membership (10 percent).
Sixty-one percent of the women surveyed said they would rather give up watching television for two weeks than give up access to the Internet for one week.
Harris Interactive and Intel said the survey was conducted November 18-20. They did not provide a margin of error for the results.
Now if this is something that is inherent in human behavior, then it might have a significant impact on human selection pressure - by diminishing it. What do you think? I mean, if 46% of women and 30% of men said they would forgo intimate relations than cyber ones, then that could mean that there could be a maximum of 30% of the population not procreating. And this is of people surveyed in the United States. What if this was rolled out to the rest of the world? I mean, governments could give greater internet access to people as a means of population control! And if the internet and computing continue to advance toward a neural-integrative state, then virtual lives could become even more important and facinating than real lives. That number of 30% and 46% could increase even further!

Furthermore, for those out there who would argue that these people are "merely saying this" and that they would likely continue to create the next generation, think about how that might change if virtual sex were to be incorporated into a neural-integrative computer. It could be made "better" or "more intense" than "real" sex, possibly diminishing people's desire to pursue biological mating, thus population control.

The other point - allergies as a selection pressure - was something that I thought of today. It smacks of eugenics, but bear with me for a bit. If allergies have a genetic component, then it stands to reason that there would be a chance of inheriting them. If someone has an allergy to a food or medication, then they could pass it on to their children, thus maintaining that allergy in the population. In today's world, there are many medications and treatments that can be taken to alleviate the effects of allergies. These allow people to not die if they accidentally ingest or come into contact with the allergen, thus increasing the possibility of passing along their genes. However, these medications will also allow for the prolonging of the genes in the population.

Now comes the eugenics part: if having one allergy makes a person susceptible to developing another one, and if this susceptibility is based on genetics, then we are - because of the presence of allergy medications - we are breeding a population that is increasingly susceptible to allergens. This brings me to the selection pressure thing.

If this is prevalent in society, then there will be more people in the future with severe allergies to foods. This will mean that they are likely to just not eat the foods to which they are allergic - since it is an easier thing than to take medication for eating those foods. In this group of people, the ability to eat that particular food is effectively selected against, but by continuing to live and procreate, that genetic selection will remain in the population. Combined with medications for that allergy and effectively random mating (since there is no heavy social stigma about having allergies), it might be possible for these genetics-based allergies to be established in a population, thus creating a population-based selection pressure.

However, with increased movement of people within a country such as the United States, then it is also possible that these genetic selections might be spread across the country. On the other hand, it is unlikely that they will progress faster in the gene pool than any future advances in gene therapy, so this is likely to be all hypothetical.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Steve 75 tapped as the new Energy Secretary

This is good news for people - like me - who hoped that the Obama presidency would incorporate more science and more environmental awareness into decision-making. One way that the former hope could be accomplished is to appoint really respected scientists into positions that govern things that they know a lot about. One way the latter hope could be accomplished is to appoint someone to positions of power in the administration that are - in some way - pro-environmental*, and one way of doing that is to change the course of the United States energy policy.

Well, we hear today that Steve 75 (formally known as Dr. Steven Chu) has been tapped as the next energy secretary. Fantastico! Needless to say, that ScienceBlogs is all going nuts about this appointment.

(Via Thoughts from Kansas):
Steven Chu of Lawrence Berkeley Labs is reported to be President-elect Obama's nominee for Secretary of Energy.

While much will be made of his Nobel Prize and his aggressive advocacy for science-based solutions to the climate crisis, his nomination is important for another reason.

Chu is Steve 75 on NCSE's Project Steve. Project Steve is a humorous mockery of creationist lists of scientific supporters. The 987 signers of the Project Steve statement are all PhD scientists who support evolution, and all are named Steve (or Stephen, Stephanie, Istvan, etc.) Since Steves represent roughly 1% of the US population, we can extrapolate those 987 signers to roughly 100,000 scientists who support the teaching of evolution, and oppose the teaching of creationism.

As Wikipedia points out: "Both Nobel Prize-winning Steves in science, Steven Chu and Steven Weinberg were among the first 100 Steves." Weinberg was Steve #6.

It is encouraging to see an advocate of strong science education in charge of one of the largest science funding agencies.
Also via Loom (formerly on Scienceblogs):
Barack Obama has picked Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at Berkeley as his Secretary of Energy. This will be interesting–what happens when you put a Nobel-prize winning scientist in charge of a government department? Here’s one prediction: expect a lot of synthetic biology. Practically nobody has heard of synthetic biology today, but that will probably change.
And Questionable Authority:
If the latest set of transition leaks are as accurate as the previous few have been, President-Elect Obama will announce the nomination of Steven Chu for Energy Secretary.
Chu's background is a bit light on the politics side - no DC job, no elected political office - but even if you consider that to be a down side, the rest of his resume more than makes up for the lack. He's a career scientist. He's a world-class physicist, one of the 1997 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics, and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004.
He understands the scientific process. He knows what it takes to do good science, and how to get in the way of that as little as possible. He's been an effective head of a national laboratory. He's served on international panels on a variety of issues, including climate change. He's an advocate for the use of good science in public policy, and for better science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. All of those things are good indications that this is a guy who might just be able to rebuild the Department of Energy.
Possibly the best thing about Dr. Chu is this: not only does he understand just how much we know about the relationship between climate, energy efficiency, and the environment, he also understands just how much we don't know. He understands how important it is to close that gap, how little time we have to do it, and just why these issues are so important[.]
And finally from Cris Mooney at The Intersection:
Apparently it's going to be Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory director Steve Chu. I heartily applaud the pick. It's especially noteworthy that Chu has been a big proponent of action on global warming and clean energy.
Chris Mooney also reminds us that Chu was one of many scientists who endorsed the ScienceDebates 2008:

Fantastically wonderful right now. Hopefully his politic-lite background won't be a hindrance to him once he starts his job in Washington...

[*] By pro-environmental, I mean that they understand that fossil fuels are a limited resource, the impacts of which cannot be externalized by the real world - no matter what traditional economic analyses say. That things are linked, and not always linearly in space or time - no matter what single-discipline engineering might indicate. That individual choices on a large scale will have major cumulative results; that small choices matter.

Photos along a [short] part of the Ann Arbor railroad

Walking home the other night, it was very icy on the sidewalks, so I decided to take a walk along the railtracks running north through Ann Arbor. Since no one plows up there (and why would they need to?), the would not be any ice, and the snow would pack through the intersticies of the gravel lining the tracks making for surer footing than when there was no snow. I walked that path, and found that there was interesting things to photograph between the snow and the lighting.

"OdaT" and Sponge-Bob eyes on the Washington Street rail bridge.

An icy Huron Street looking east toward Ashley St and Main St.

Sodium lighting on Pabst Blue Heart on the Felch Street rail bridge. Fluorescent lighting for a warehouse parking lot in the background off-sets the headlights of a single car traveling down from Main Street.

Me playing silly-buggers with the camera. (Not photoshopped, btw)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Noah's Ark model via Pharyngula

I saw this in my newsfeed today from Pharyngula:
Oh, boy — get out the model airplane glue and little bottles of paint: you can build a model of Noah's Ark! And it's only $74! (The price of plastic models has sure gone up since I used to buy them with my lawn mowing money).
This injection molded plastic model kit measures over 18 1/2" long and includes 3 separate interior decks with embossed wood texture and many details including ramps and animal cages and corrals. The kit offers several building options. Modelers may display the Ark in cross section to reveal the internal decks or in the full-hull version. Additional building options include: constructing the Ark with or without the deck cabin and a choice to include the "moon pool" (an open center well allowing access to water and waste disposal). This deluxe kit also includes a figure of Noah and 8 pairs of animals!
Cute. Check out these details:
  • Museum-quality replica
  • Highly detailed tooling
  • Accurately scaled to the cubit
 Hmmm... Now, I know that many of the commenters on PZ's blog like to make snarky remarks (and I like to do that too), but his post provided me a good opportunity to actually productively procrastinate on a subject that I was wanting to poke with a stick to see what happened. So I did calculations and posted a response:

If you go to (not somewhere to become an Xtian, but a place to do units-conversion), they have "standardized" the cubit into different types. However, using the range of those different cubits, the dimension above become a ship that is roughly:

430-515 ft x 72-86 ft x 43-51 ft 
(Just as a comparison, the [Remember the] Lusitania was 787ft long and 87ft wide, and carried about 3000 people, and we would consider this a small ship by today's cruise ship standards.)

Assuming that the height was 43-51 ft, with three lower levels, with each level requiring 1 foot of wood for stress support, then the height of each deck would be 13-16 ft.

  • The height of a male bull elephant is 9.8-11.5 ft at the shoulder. A snug fit.
  • The height of a male giraffe is 16 to 18 ft, so they would have to duck.
  • A camel is roughly 7 ft tall at the top of the hump, so no problem in terms of height, there.
However, the proportions of the animals on the ark are WAAAY off from what they should be, let alone how the animals are in relation to the height of the compartments in the ark.

(btw, looking up "gopher wood" on the wikipedia takes you to a page saying - basically - that there is no known tree of that type, but that it is likely a cypress.)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bush's Favorability Post-9/11/2001 to 10/20/2008

I was wondering for a while what people felt of President Bush now that we are one year into a depression, and seven years into the Afghanistan War and five years into the Iraq War. I found this site, which has data through 10/20/2008.

The two lines show respondants who answered "Very positive" and "Very negative". (The categories of "somewhat positive", "neutral", and "somewhat negative" had much weaker trends, and are therefore omitted here.)

For those of you who might feel that I should have included data prior to 9/11, since there is data, and this seems to be cherry-picking data from only a part of his presidency. However, there are only four data points between January 2001 (his inauguration) and the first data point after 9/11. These don't show much in either group of people. If you were to include all the data from the campaigning, there is a slight positive (R2 = 0.521) correlation among people who were very positive, but a slightly stronger negative correlation (R2 = 0.7371) among people who were very negative. Thinking back, though, one will recall the biggest contentious issue during the first months of his presidency was whether or not it was a good idea to have faith-based non-profit fedral fundings - and Bush's apparent many trips to Crawford. In other words, it wasn't anything like the Presidency that it transformed into on 9/11.

Similarly, the country on 9/11 was not the same as it was on 9/10, and the polls showed that there was a massive support for the president once we started to move into Afghanistan against the Taliban. From there, though, his largest support continued to decline, as did his continued largest "anti-support." True, there was a slight uptick leading up to and just after the invasion of Iraq. However, it is really telling that the latest (10/20/2008) polls show that his "very negative" rating (46%) is almost as high as his "very positive" rating was in 2001 (54%). What a turnaround. I wonder how his numbers look now that the recession is official, and all the last minute attacks against the environment and civil liberties are being brought into the spotlight....

Proposition 8 - The Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ann Street now oneway in front of City Hall

Ann Street - between Division and 5th Ave - has changed into a one-way street. This was a recent change to extend the one-way nature of the street from 5th Ave to Zina Pitcher (in the medical campus). These pictures are from last month, but in deciding to take a (short) break from writing, I decided to post these shots of a non-snowy Ann Arbor with a new oneway section of street.

Portions of Ann Street that are oneway. (Only a few more blocks to add to the scheme!)
The first warning sign for motorists. (Gotta like the flags.) I wonder how long this will be up, though.
 I can understand the "No left" sign on the left side of Division, but what's up with that one on the right? Do they really think people are going to make a left-turn from the right lane, across two lanes of traffic?
As a cyclist, I like that they extended the bike lane from Main Street, but it ends here. (And it is apparently one-way also.)
I wonder how good people will be in following these instructions while also remaining between the parking lines.

I wonder about the sense of having the bike lane on the right side of the street. I can see someone pealing out of their parknig space (since they are faced the correct direction to begin with), not see a cyclist coming down the street, and plow into that person at full acceleration. Of course, the police station is right there, too, so this type of action might be subliminaly moderated. However, a cyclist might well be hit when an incompetent driver is trying perform a maneuver that he or she has only seen done on a green sign in their rear-view mirror to back into the space.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The fundamentals of our economy are NOT strong.

Makes me wonder if McCain's people even knew how much of a wonderland they were living in during the course of the campaign.

Via the NYTimes:

It’s official: for the last year, the United States economy has been in recession.
The evidence of a downturn has been widespread for months: slower production, stagnant wages and hundreds of thousands of lost jobs. But the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research, charged with making the call for the history books, waited until now to weigh in.
The committee noted that the contraction in the labor market began in the first month of 2008 and said that the declines in most major indicators, like personal income, manufacturing activity, retail sales, and industrial production, “met the standard for a recession.”
The announcement came as the stock market fell sharply, its first decline in five sessions. The Dow Jones industrial average was off more than 430 points or 4. 9 percent as the last hour of trading begin. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was down 5. 9 percent.
Investors may also be playing defense ahead of Friday’s report on the job market, one of the most important monthly indicators of the health of the economy. Analysts expect that employers shed more than 300,000 jobs in November, underscoring the problems facing American workers and businesses.
A separate report from the Commerce Department showed that spending on construction projects fell 1.2 percent in October, after staying unchanged in September. Private construction dropped 2 percent with a sharp drop in the residential sector, offering few signs of relief from the housing slump.
Hmmm... How do the fundamentals of the Bush economy look now, Johnny Boy?