The Presidential Race, My Take.



Alexander P. De Filippi

Friday 4, January 2008

Wednesday 9, January 2008


This article will be updated trough the year.


Mainstream Republicans have reasons to celebrate and to worry about the news coming from the Iowa caucuses this past Thursday, January 3. In effect, Mike Huckabee, the mainstream candidate and future Republican presidential nominee easily won the election. The media calls Mitt Romney "the establishment candidate" because he has money, but the truth is, the real establishment candidate is Huckabee, who represents the George W. Bush line in all matters, from free trade, to immigration, in addition to his pro-life stance.


The mainstream or establishment candidate in the Republican Party is not determined by the amount of money or name recognition but by the base of support within the Republican Party that he has. Governor Mike Huckabee has in his favor the two main factions of the Republican Party, the Christian right and the business community. None of the other Republicans in the race can count on those two elements of support. Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Ron Paul have to divide among themselves the fiscally conservative, non-religious right, which is located mostly on the east and west coasts, and that does not surpass more than twenty percent of the Republican electorate across the country.


The second good news for Republicans came from the Democrats’ results, especially the fact that the establishment candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton, was in third place. I call her the establishment candidate because she has the media support and the most money from that business community, located mostly in California and New York. It is very difficult to believe that Barack Obama would win a presidential contest against Mike Huckabee.  Therefore, if the Democrats nominate Senator Obama, they will lose the presidential election, an election that, based on the results of the 2006 congressional election, is up to the Democrats to lose.


The sobering or sour note for Republicans came from the Iowans’ participation in the caucus.   Iowa isn’t New York.  Iowa is a conservative state that went for George W. Bush in 2004 and slightly for Al Gore in 2000. Therefore, the fact that the number of people participating in the Democrats’ caucuses was two and a half times greater than those participating in the Republican caucuses is bad news for Republicans.  Iowa has only seen benefits for the last seven years from the Bush administration, so they should be grateful to Republicans.  Also, in that state, the grassroots Republican machine is almost as good as the one they have in the South.  In fact, the Christian Republican grassroots machine runs well even in New York City. The Iowan local press isn’t liberal either, so that massive participation of people, including independents, in the Democrats’ caucuses, is impressive and should put the Republicans on notice that something as unusual as the awful results of the congressional and gubernatorial races of 2006 could happen again this year.


The Democrats’ conundrum: they have the momentum with the American electorate this year as they had it in 2006, so winning the presidential race should not be a problem for them. Nevertheless, in spite of the favorable winds, the Democrats find themselves unable to nominate a good candidate; any of the three main contenders, Obama, Edwards and Clinton is an easy target for Republicans. Any of those three should lose in a race against Huckabee.  Any of those three will have to name a vice-president that can propel them, maybe Al Gore?  Vice-president again? I do not know. I believe the Democratic establishment will be able to keep Hillary Clinton as its nominee.   Unfortunately for Democrats, she is as bad as the other two. Therefore, their faith depends on two factors: the vice-president they name and a repetition of the 2006 phenomenon in which independents and moderates, nationwide, broke for the Democrats. They could make it easier for themselves to get the independent and moderate votes if they play the "minister card" against Huckabee. Independents and moderates that make up easily twenty percent of the electorate, tend to be non-religious; they tend to be moderate or independent because they do not take any position to the extreme, whether in politics, environment or religion. In addition, on this occasion, the Republicans, apparently, won’t have the Hispanic support as they did in 2000 and 2004.  The media have manipulated the immigration subject in such a way that Hispanics, unfairly, perceive Republicans as anti-immigrants.



Tuesday, January 08, 2008


If January 3 Iowa caucuses results was a victory for the republican establishment, Tuesday 8 in New Hampshire was a victory for the democrat establishment. Three issues I would like to address in this update, first the polls, second the Hillary Clinton victory and the independents votes.


1) The polls. Again the polls were wrong big time. In 2006, no poll predicted that the republican would suffer such terrible defeat at all levels, and in this occasion every poll predicted a major victory for Obama, again the pollster were wrong, maybe the new moon? Just kidding. For some reason in some occasions the pollsters are unable to get the pulse of the people.


2) Hillary Clinton victory. The democrat establishment was able to save Hillary even before Super Tuesday, and they did, using again, the power of the media. The media played again and again the Hillary "two sweet moments", the Saturday comment at the debate "I am likable enough" and the Monday "tears". Now that Obama appears vulnerable to the media machine, he appeared immune to it just until January 7, he needs the vote coming from Kucinich, Edwards and Richardson combine to defeat the democrat establishment’s money and media power, although in this case Richardson is a supporter of Hillary, but his supporters are either Edwards or Obama votes. Therefore Edwards and Kucinich should drop and declare their support for Obama.


3) Again most of the independents participated in the Democrats primaries than in the Republican one.

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Yamagata et al.
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Five Hawks Down: watch the tragic migration of six Californian raptors

Tracking project establishes northern Argentina is wintering ground of Swainson's hawks

Image: @TrackingTalons / Ruland Kolen
  • Watch these six dots move across the map and be moved yourself: this is a story about coming of age, discovery, hardship, death and survival.
  • Each dot is a tag attached to the talon of a Swainson's Hawk. We follow them on their very first migration, from northern California all the way down to Argentina.
  • After one year, only one is still alive.

Discovered: destination Argentina

Image: @TrackingTalons

Young Swainson's hawks were found to migrate to northern Argentina

The Buteo swainsoni is a slim, graceful hawk that nests from the Great Plains all the way to northern California.

It feeds mainly on insects, but will also prey on rodents, snakes and birds when raising their young. These learn to fly about 45 days after hatching but may remain with their parents until fall migration, building up flying skills and fat reserves.

A common sight in summer over the Prairies and the West, Swainson's hawks disappear every autumn. While it was assumed they migrated south, it was long unclear precisely where they went.

A group of researchers that has been studying raptors in northern California for over 40 years has now established exactly where young Swainson's hawks go in winter. The story of their odyssey, summarized in a 30-second clip (scroll down), is both amazing and shocking.

Harnessing the hawks

Image: @TrackingTalons, found here on imgur.

A Swainson's hawk, with tracking device.

The team harnessed six Swainson's hawks in July, as they were six weeks old and just learning to fly. The clip covers 14 months, until next August – so basically, the first year of flight.

Each harness contains a solar-powered tracker and weighs 20 grams, which represents just 3% of the bird's body weight. To minimize the burden, only females were harnessed: as with most raptors, Swainson's hawk females generally are bigger than males.

The first shock occurs just one month (or about 2.4 seconds) from the start of the clip: the first dot disappears. The first casualty. A fledgling no more than two months old, who never made it further than 20 miles from its nest.

By that time, the remaining five are well on their way, clustering around the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Swainson's hawks usually travel at around 40 mph (65 km/h) but can almost double that speed when they're stooping (i.e. dive down, especially when attacking prey).

'Migration unrest'

First year of life for six Swainson's Hawks [OC] from r/dataisbeautiful

There's a strong genetic component to migration. As usual, the Germans have nice single word to summarize this complex concept: Zugunruhe ('tsook-n-roowa'), literally: 'migration unrest' (1). It denotes the seasonal urge of migratory animals – especially birds – to get on their way. Zugunruhe exhibits especially as restless behavior around nightfall. The number of nights on which it occurs is apparently higher if the distance to be traveled is longer.

The birds may have the urge to go south, but genetics doesn't tell them the exact route. They have to find that out by trial and error. Hence the circling about by the specimens in this clip: they're getting a sense of where to find food and which direction to go. Their migratory paths will be refined by experience – if they're lucky enough to survive that long.

Each bird flies solo: their paths often strongly diverge, and if they seem to meet up occasionally, that's just an illusion: even when the dots are close together, they can still be dozens if not hundreds of miles apart.

Panama snack stop

Image: @TrackingTalons

The Central American isthmus is a major bird migration corridor

They generally follow the same route as it is the path of least resistance: follow mountain ranges, stay over land. Like most raptors, Swainson's hawks migration paths are land-based: not just so they can roost at night, but mainly to benefit from the thermals and updrafts to keep them aloft. That reduces the need to flap wings, and thus their energy spend – even though the trip will take longer that way.

As this clip demonstrates, the land-migration imperative means the Central American isthmus is a hotspot for bird migration. Indeed, Panama and Costa Rica are favorite destinations for bird watchers, when the season's right. A bit to the north, Veracruz in Mexico is another bird migration hotspot.

It's thought most hawks don't eat at all on migration. This clip shows an exception to that rule: on the way back, one bird takes an extended stopover of a couple of weeks in Panama, probably spending its time there foraging for food.

So, when they finally arrive in northern Argentina, after 6 to 8 weeks' migration, the hawks are pretty famished. Until a few decades ago, they fed on locusts. For their own reasons, local farmers have been getting rid of those. The hawks now concentrate on grasshoppers, and basically anything else that's edible.

For first-time visitors, finding what they need is not easy. Three of the five dots go dark. These birds probably died from starvation. But two birds thrive: they roam the region until winter rears its head in South America, and it's time to head back north again, where summer is getting under way.

Both dots make it back across the border, but unfortunately, right at the end of the clip, one of the surviving two birds expires.

Harsh, but not unusual

Image: @TrackingTalons, found here on imgur.

This old lady is 27 years old, but still nesting.

While a one-in-six survival rate may seem alarmingly harsh, it's not that unusual. First-year mortality for Swainson's Hawks is between 50% and 80%. Disease, starvation, predators and power lines – to name just a few common causes of death - take out a big number.

Only 10% to 15% of the young 'uns make it past their third or fourth year into adulthood, but from then on, annual survival rates are much better: around 90%. Adult Swainson's Hawks can expect to live into their low teens. There's one documented example of a female Swainson's Hawk in the wild who was at least 27 years old (and still nesting!)

The Californian population of Swainson's Hawks plummeted by about 90% at the end of last century but is now again increasing well. The monitoring project that produced this clip has been going for about four decades but is seeing its funding dry up. Check them out and consider supporting them (see details below).

Image: Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Migration trajectory of B95, the 'Moonbird'.

Not all migrating birds shun the ocean. Here's an incredible map of an incredible migration path that's even longer than that of the Swainson's hawks.

In February 1995, a red knot (Calidris canutus rufa) in Tierra del Fuego (southern Argentina) was banded with the tag B95. That particular bird, likely born in 1993, was recaptured at least three times and resighted as recently as May 2014, in the Canadian Arctic.

B95 is more commonly known as 'Moonbird', because the length of its annual migration (app. 20,000 miles; 32,000 km) combined with its extreme longevity (if still alive, it's 25-26 years old now) means its total lifetime flight exceeds the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

As many other shorebirds do, the red knot takes the Atlantic Flyway hugging the coastline and crossing to South America via the ocean.

B95 has become the poster bird of conservationists in both North and South America. A book titled Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 (2012) received numerous awards, B95 has a statue in Mispillion Harbor on Delaware Bay and the City of Rio Grande on Tierra del Fuego has proclaimed B95 its natural ambassador.

Perhaps one day the nameless Swainson's Hawks in this clip, fallen in service of their ancestral instincts – against the odds of human increasing interference – will receive a similar honor.

Migration clip found here at the DataIsBeautiful subreddit. Read through the comments to learn a lot more about Swainson's Hawks, and raptors in general.

Check out the California raptor tracking programme 'Tracking Talons' on Twitter at @TrackingTalons, on their Facebook page, and on their website.

Strange Maps #965

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(1) 'Zug' is a wonderfully polyvalent German word. It can mean: a train, a chess move, a characteristic, a stroke, a draft (of a plan), a gulp (of air), a drag (from a cigarette), a swig (from a bottle), and more.

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An Atlantic horseshoe crab in an aquarium. Photo: Domdomegg via Wikimedia Commons.
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