Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday.

Yesterday I linked to a post which said that the Federal government makes some $12 billion a year off the student loan program.  It would seem that ours isn't the only government seeking "profit centers" in these hard times.  The British revenue agency is trying to get legal cover for releasing "anonymised" data about their tax payers and exploring "charging options."  The legislation isn't a done deal.  Plenty of opposition and plenty of questions concerning past government failures in safeguarding data.  We have governments who either can't raise taxes (the population they can tax is too impoverished to pay them or those who can pay are politically connected and can resist or evade) and are too nervous about borrowing even more money that will (theoretically) have to be paid back. Where do they get the money they need to function?  Austerity can be pushed only so far before those hit hardest by the austerity (usually the poorest) explode.  Their options have dwindled to "privatizing" government functions and turning their former citizens into other-than-taxes sources of revenue.

I thought the agreement reached to defuse the Ukrainian situation was chancy to begin with.  First, the meetings did not include all of the parties to the conflict.  Second, there seemed to be an assumption that Russia is controlling the "pro-Russian" forces in Eastern Ukraine.  If Russia doesn't have the control our side thinks it does, the "demonstrators" can simply refuse to go along--as they have.  Third, the situation provides perfect cover for Putin in case he wants more than the agreement gives him.  He appears perfectly reasonable but can continue to stir up trouble that will derail any peace he doesn't like.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hope you all have a good Good Friday.

Got the newest rose potted yesterday.  It is looking good with a couple of new shoots just starting.  The other is showing a large number of shoots.  It took me a while to find the kind of roses I wanted.  Color wasn't a consideration but I wanted varieties that are hardy to zone 4 a least and that had good fragrance.  I am amazed at how difficult those factors were to fulfill.  Finally found a couple--the Arctic Flame, from Jung, is a deep red and the Abraham Darby, from Burpee, is pale pink.

So far only strawberries, tansy and pyrethrum are showing signs of life in the gardens.  I have been worried about the hibiscus.  It hasn't shown any signs of life.  The variety I got is supposed to be hardy to zone 4.  Looked up info and the source I found said that they will break through the ground in 7 to 14 days after the soil warms to above 65F and within 5 to 7 days if soil is above 75F.  My soil isn't there yet.

I found this post at Jim Long's Garden that intrigued me.  I had always read that tulips were toxic.  Evidently it is a bit more complex.  I decided to look up a bit more info on the subject and found this much longer article that gives the details.  I don't have any interest in eating tulips.  I don't have any place to grow my own without taking space from plants I find more useful.  But the information is nice to know just in case.....

I guess our strange weather (world wide) has brought some good.  Check this photo and story about a rare Himalayan rhododendron in Britain that has bloomed for the first time in the 30 years since it was planted.  It was fooled by unseasonably warm weather following a wet winter into thinking it was back home in the mountains.  Absolutely gorgeous!!

Now this is a crock of manure!!  Her father was a citizen so she is a citizen.  What is the problem?  But on a lighter note here is another case.  Mom's question: What oath did he take that turned out not to be an oath of citizenship?  I wonder also since it wasn't the one for military service since he was already enlisted.  And now for another piece of bureaucratic bull##$t.  When can we stop pretending that we are truly a nation of laws?

I saw this item elsewhere yesterday.  I remember when solar and wind generators were being sold to homeowners, in part, because they could reduce their energy bills by selling their surplus to the power company.  Evidently, the companies are having trouble with the program.  I have seen accounts of legislation that would allow the power companies to buy a homeowner's surplus but at a drastically reduced rate so they could resell it at the market rate and make a tidy profit.  I have seen other stories about power companies demanding that the homeowners who install solar and wind pay a fee to the power company can "upgrade" their facilities to deal with the "power spikes" resulting from the back flow of surplus power.  But the best (in a very cynical way) story was of the power company in Southern California which used to supply one of the University of California campuses to the tune of about $10million per year.  The University recently completed their own power generating grid which supplies 92% of the campus' needs.  Ouch!  That last is, I suspect the real reason for the flurry of bills targeting home solar and wind installations.

I have been reading a number of articles lately about declining college enrollments.  Some like this one have an almost hysterical edge to them.  But, if enrollments are in fact declining, I see it as a hopeful sign.  I hope the current generation is looking hard at the costs in both time and money and making some hard-headed decisions about the worth of higher education.  There is too much "establishment" propaganda out there--news shows lauding schools whose entire graduating class has been accepted to four-year institutions, Michelle Obama playing chaperone to a group of youngsters on a visit to her alma mater.  Very, very few stories talk about the economics or give a realistic view of possible labor market conditions when those students graduate four years from now.  Or recall the truly pathetic conditions for graduates over the last five or so years.  An advanced education may be valuable but not as an economic investment.  This, however, is a very hopeful sign.

Ah, a likely explanation for the push for college education--the government makes a handy $12billion off of student loans.  Given that the number of grants and scholarships are down drastically how else will all those marks students finance their education?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday.

Oh, the tentacles of big business--how do you escape them?  Take a look at this before you clip that General Mills coupon or enter the Betty Crocker bake-off.  Given the number of food recalls for contaminants or foreign material in the product I don't think food companies should get a free pass through arbitration.

I got to this article via Teagan Goddard's Political Wire and wondered if the legal teams for the last two ex-governors of Illinois might make of it.  I wondered if the prosecution had actually met the burden of a "quid pro quo" corruption on video tape.  Interesting.

I like this--but I am sure it has about as much chance as a snowball in a very hot oven.  Elections are not necessarily synonymous with democracy.  And having a vote doesn't translate into having choice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday.

Cold but looks to be sunny today.  Still have some snow and ice on the patio but, if temperatures get up into the mid 40s today, it should be gone by tonight.  I did bring in the pot for the new rose.  It will be unpacked an planted today.

Interesting little article on the relationship between technological innovation and debt.  But some very basic questions aren't asked--like will the technology really make my life easier, save me time, make operation more profitable given the amount of debt I have to incur.  This is similar to the question I asked about education yesterday: does the front end "investment" (i.e., debt) backend result in sufficient "profit" (good job, lifetime earning) to justify the investment?

Is anyone else getting tired of the "anniversaries" of mass murders/terrorist events?  This morning, so far, I have seen "remembrances" of the Boston Bombing (one year ago) and the Virginia Tech shootings (seven years ago) on the TV news.  All this week the news has force fed their viewers with stories of the "resilient" survivors, the community's coming together to support the victims and heal, and what is (or, more likely, not) going on with the case against the surviving Tsarnaev brother.  I am getting indigestion.

Great!!  Another pollution concern with tracking.

This shouldn't surprise anyone.  With the rising movement to legalize (to varying extents) marijuana across the country, those who don't want such legalization (for whatever reason) will be pushing any detrimental studies they can find.  The story doesn't say who funded the story but I am sure Harvard Medical School did it for free.  Nor does it say anything about the structural aspects of the study protocols.  This jury member is skeptical.  And the study didn't address another interesting point--how does the so-called damage marijuana cause compare to the changes in human brains on alcohol and tobacco both of which are legal but regulated.

I found this article immediately after reading this one.  What would you do if your electricity failed and wouldn't come back for at least a month?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday.  I would say "happy tax day" but the only thing that most of us would be happy about is the deadline has come and will soon be gone.  I found this item first thing this morning.  For how long have we been bombarded with claims that our "job creators" are so overburdened by taxes that they are hampered in their job creating activities?  Well, evidently not so much.  What I like about this account is the researchers looked not simply at the nominal tax burdens at the federal level.  Instead they also looked at income and social security taxes less the applicable offsets.  The result: we are 25th out of 34 industrialized nations.  On a happier note: blessings to all who celebrate Passover.

We woke to snow on the ground but not sticking to paved areas.  I think I mentioned that the second rose arrived yesterday.  I will bring in one of my large pots to warm up so I can plant it tomorrow.  It will join the other in front of the stationary part of the patio doors until spring truly arrives--sometime.  The already potted rose is showing some definite and very welcome signs of life.  Outside the only signs of green are the strawberries and pyrethrum.

I wonder if they will give back what they have already taken.  Probably not.  I wonder who was the bright ass who stuck the item into the farm bill.  No one (that I have found so far) is taking credit (or blame).

Well, I guess we needed an academic study to tell us that what we have felt in our guts is true--the wealthy and business interests have far more influence than ordinary Americans.  In fact, "mass-based interests" and "average Americans" have no influence at all.

I am not surprised at this Zero Hedge article--as many as half of U.S. colleges and universities may fail within the next 15 years.  As one who has spent far too much of her life in academia, I don't think I am sorry about the prospect.  It is quite clear that our current model of education (public and private) is not working.  Most of the jobs available in our post-industrial economy don't really need tertiary education but HR departments can easily demand degrees as a means of weeding out the applicants.  Once upon a time the difference in lifetime earnings between a college graduate and someone without a degree justified the front end expense in money and time to acquire the degree.  That is no longer true.  But no one is asking some crucial questions.  Who is being educated, for what, at what cost and who pays?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday.

Not much going on here.  Temps are in the mid 40s and are supposed to drop.  Today and tomorrow will be more like winter with possible wet snow.  Yesterday turned out very nice with plenty of sun and warm.  The patio dried off nicely and I got it swept--again--before rain fell in the afternoon.  Several new spinach coming up but I think one variety of lettuce is a bust.  The seeds are too old.  Update:  I may have written too soon on that lettuce.  I just found a sprout.  Tomorrow is transplanting day--into larger pots not outside.  Second update: just checked the status of the second rose I ordered back in January.  I has been shipped and should arrive in a couple of days.

In case you consider this far, far away and of little to no impact to us over on this side of the broad Pacific, think about the hundreds of thousands of cattle in the Dakotas and Montana that died in last fall's unseasonably early and severe blizzard.  I noticed that all of the news segments concerning rising food prices cite the drought in California and other points west.  That has been conveniently forgotten.

Last week I linked to a site that gave the results of a poll which showed (supposedly) that a "the less Americans know about Ukraine's location, the more likely they are to support armed intervention."  I found this one today that takes the statistics apart.  Though only 1 in 6 of us can locate Ukraine on the map only 13% of us say we want armed intervention.  That, thankfully, isn't a resounding vote of confidence in such a policy.

When is insurance not really insurance at all?  This might give an indication.  After the Obama Administration withdrew the notion of a single payer I gave up on the whole thing.  I figured it was simply a transfer of money from those who had worked for it to those who would rake it in while making sure as little of it as possible would go for what it was supposed to go--health care.

Been there, done that, and here we go again.  What really gets me is that they don't know how long the breach might have gone on.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Assorted comments and contrariness.

Sunday.

We actually got to 80F yesterday.  Not expecting any thing similar today.  A system is coming through that might give us snow overnight tomorrow.  Oh, well.  I got the patio pretty well cleaned up yesterday--swept up the leaves and other windblown trash.  I took off the top half of my compost bin contents and used the bottom half to mix with soil as I emptied the kitty litter buckets to fill up the new buckets.  Replaced the cover on my mini-greenhouse.  I had intended to take the old one apart and reuse the plastic but it was way too fragile.  I don't have any plans for today--just a half formed list of small tasks that aren't as critical and can easily wait until warmer and dryer weather later in the coming week.  On the seedling front--I have spinach now.

I guess I won't do any of the remaining clean-up chores outside.  It is wet and cloudy.

I saw this last Friday (I think).  Did the idiot who parked his shiny new BMW in front of a fire plug think the fact it was a BMW would insure he would suffer no consequences?  His bad luck there happened to be a fire.  I agree with the neighbor: he brought it all on himself.

This post makes an uncomfortable amount of sense.  I have thought often enough that true change requires a fair number of funerals among those standing in the way of that change--though I have no interest in hastening the natural process.  Evidently, much the same can be said of cycles of war enthusiasm.

I read this small post and it triggered my suspicious mind.  I remember a few months ago reading the furor in Britain when one of the bigger banks decided to limit its depositors' cash withdrawal unless the "owner" of the account could provide an acceptable (to whom) reason for wanting more of his/her funds.  I put OWNER in quotation marks because once we put money in a bank we become unsecured creditors of the bank who promises to give us the money when we demand it (maybe).  How easy it would be for banks to simply cite a "computer failure" for limiting what depositors can withdraw?  No, I really don't trust banks.  Use them but don't trust them.