Thursday, August 28, 2008

I found this little item visiting Elaine at Elaine's Place this morning.  Military prep schools.  My, My.  Of course, everyone knows that the student body will not include the children of our political, academic, or economic movers and shakers.  It will continue the process of drawing our 'citizen' soldiers (read cannon fodder) from the ranks of the lower classes.  One of the things I absolutely hate about Bush's wars (and believe me there are many others) is the military's reliance on an all volunteer force composed largely of people who have little real economic options.  If our aims are noble enough to resort to war they should be noble enough to draft the children of all classes into a common danger.  Obviously Bush learned one lesson from Viet Nam:  if you don't draft the kids of the middle and upper classes no one will protest.  The article says that 7 of ten people between 17 and 26 are not fit for military service many because they have neither high school diploma or GED.  Is that before or after the military began handing out moral waivers hand over fist? 

Elaine sent me something else by e-mail that struck a nerve that has been repeatedly assaulted over the course of my adult life.  Here is the link she sent to a blog identifying Senator Obama as 'Senator Infanticide." Unfortunately 'true believers' on any side of any issue like to demonize anyone who disagrees with them. I like mannered and civilized discussions and debates but have found them in very short supply.  The first time I became aware of this kind of assault on my sensibilities came in the mid 1970s not long after the Roe v Wade decision was handed down.  A young woman I knew slightly from one of my classes sat with me in the food court and argued with me over the decision.  She insisted that we had to do everything in our power to prevent the 'murder' of innocent babies.  When I told her that I did not consider it my moral duty to interfere in someone else's moral decisions, she claimed that I was as guilty of moral turpitude as anyone who decided to have an abortion.  The essence of a moral decision is the right to choose according to your own spiritual compass what course of action to take.  I refuse now, as I did then, to assume guilt or responsibility for anyone who chooses moral options I may or may not agree with.  I resent mightily anyone who thinks that they have the right to exercise their right to choose a moral path by restricting my right to choose a different path.  I have also been totally amazed by how right-to-life groups restrict that right.  They are often equally vehement supporters of the right of babies to be born and the death penalty.  

Unfortunately, I have noticed over the years a phenomenal explosion of moral Nazi's in our society.  And they all, like Don Quixote's daughter in the musical 'Man of La Mancha,' are only acting for somebody else's good.  Frankly, I wish more of them would remember Christ telling his followers that we should pay more attention to the beams in our own eyes rather than the motes in our brothers' or sisters' eyes.  We should concentrate on our own moral perfection before we criticize others.  

And perhaps we should be more humble with criticism.  One of Mom's correspondents sent her an e-mail attachment that was interesting.  It was a film clip of a singer introducing her new song and telling the story of what made her write it.  Her brother, a career Marine, sent her a bumper sticker--a red circle with U.S. Marines printed in the middle.  As she was driving home through one of the high priced neighborhoods a woman saw the decal and gave the middle finger salute.  The point of the song--the woman commented on what she assumed were the singer's attitudes and values were without making any effort to find out what they in fact were.  I remember asking a very simple question when all of those pretty yellow ribbon decals came out seven years ago telling everyone to 'support our troops.'  "What do you mean when you tell us to support the troops?"  If support meant unquestioningly supporting the policies that put them in harm's way--NO WAY.  I respect those who serve and their reasons for serving even when they think, as I do not, that they are protecting our country from serious danger or that some greater good will come of their service.  I think that the policies of the Bush Administration are far more dangerous and have done far more damage to our country than Al Qaeda or Saddam Husein's Iraq has.  I have seen an increasing tendency to view the world in terms of black and white coupled along with an increasing tendency for our leaders to demand that we put our moral sense in neutral and blindly support them in all things.  That is not citizenship; that is servility.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I  drop in on blogs featuring container gardening off and on.  Since we only have a small cement patio the only kind of gardening we can do is the container type (unless I find a community garden near here, which I haven't so far.)  I always look for ideas I can use here.  The pictures on this site are wonderful.  Take a look at these creative uses of old tires.  I can't use this notion but they are fun to look at anyway. 

Laura MacCorkle at has a nice post about what she has learned from her cats.  I have three myself and believe that mine are working from the same playbook.  I have always had cats (except for a very brief time when I resided in a Navy barracks), sometimes a dog, and once horses.  I can't imagine life without an animal companion.  They do tend to keep you grounded and your mind on the important things: cleaning their box, feeding them, and cuddling them.  It is all about them, after all.

I found this by way of Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts.  Andrew Sullivan  sums up many of the reasons I feel pessimistic at the moment.  I think our windows of opportunity are closing or have already closed.  The people in charge of our government are ill-equipped by both temperament and education to deal with our challenges.  We can't get them out of office soon enough.

 I think this will be a light day.  I am going to have breakfast and then do some piecing on a new quilt.  We did not even turn on the news this morning.  We are so totally fed up with the so called 'veepstakes.'  I have described my self as a news junking but the last couple of weeks have made me feel like I am going through cold turkey withdrawal. I did see on MSNBC that Obama chose Biden to be his running mate.  That was hardly a surprise.  But I am afraid that the conventions over the next two weeks are going to drive any real news off the airwaves.  Forget any reasoned analysis.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The new tomdispatch features an interesting bit on predicting the future.  I rather think that this look back from 2016 after two Obama terms in the White House will be fairly accurate.  The future will be neither as rosy nor as gloomy as pundits predict.  I suppose that is why I am a pessimist about the promises of change that have become a stock part of Obama's campaign.  I think we do need serious change but there are very powerful forces in our society and world that benefit from what the Bush Administration has done over the last eight years.  Those forces will do all they can to make sure what they have gained is not lost and, if possible, are enhanced.  I am most pessimistic when I think about the loss of our traditional freedoms and civil rights, about the augmented security state we live under, and the high probability that the first will not be restored and the latter increased.

Elaine Meinel Supkis provides another reason to be pessimistic.  We have had an orgy of debt for almost as long as I can remember. Until about five years ago I was as enthusiastic a participant as most others.  At that time I lost the last relatively high paying, full-time job I had.  For the almost a year and a half I had that job I concentrated on paying down my debt, especially my credit cards.  All my efforts were wiped out in less than three months of the marginal employment that followed and has continued since.  Over the last couple of years I have had a strange sense of having been through this all before.  Not personally, because I refuse to have credit cards now.  On a national level, our government has generated the largest deficit ever in our history.  The city of Chicago is trying to plug a deficit of nearly half a billion dollars (if I remember the figures rightly) while the city of New York and the state of Illinois are struggling with $2 billion deficits each.  The piper is playing (has been for a long while) and, sooner or later, whoever is in the White House come next year will have to pay him.

The above may make it sound like I either have no hope or have no interest in voting this year.  Not so!!  For the reasons why just take a little jog over to Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts.  I do not under any circumstances want to continue unfettered the Bush Administration for another term.  We don't need any more Presidents swaggering around the world on testosterone overload.  I want to see someone who has a brain to engage and a willingness to engage it.  I want leaders whose diplomatic tool box has more in it than military responses or sanctions.  A couple of my favorite fiction authors had characters who noted that when your only tool is a hammer all problems look like nails.  When your only option is coercion all problems look like ones amenable to coercion.  Our tragedy is that most are not.  Correction, our tragedy is that our leaders don't recognize that most problems are not best handled with coercion.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This article on MSNBC asks if the election is really 'just about the economy, stupid.'  The arguments laid out reveal the weaknesses of the arguments about whether the economy is in recession, depression, or humming along just fine, thank you.  Too much relies on 'official' or government sources which have been manipulated over the last few decades to give a better picture than honest data would.  Several bloggers have noted that the data released by the government shows lower unemployment, lower inflation, and better economic growth than it would if the data the government choses to ignore were considered.  The article reinforces the old notion that if one's neighbor has economic pain we are in a slight down turn but if you experience the pain we are in a world of hurt.  My dad always said that figures don't lie but liars figure.  We have a lot of liars figuring and have had for a long time.

Kelly the Culinarian has started a list of lessons she learned from her season gardening in containers.  Her conclusions parallel mine.  We are keeping our egg cartons to start seeds in beginning in around March 1.  We are putting aside various containers that margarine and other foods come in to transplant the seedlings into as the get bigger.  We already know not to harden plants before early to mid May.  We are looking for larger containers for the tomato plants.  Our largest pots were much too small.  We are also keeping and drying egg shells to crush and add in next year.  This year's tomatoes were so much better than last year's (and so much better tasting those in the supermarket) that we are very enthusiastic about expanding our gardening to include more veggies next season.

BobOak at DailyKos has a rant I can relate to.  America has become a nation not of whiners as Phil Gramm would have it but of clerks selling goods made elsewhere to other American clerks selling other goods made in other elsewheres. I have thought for many years now that our once-home-grown big corporations are no longer really American in any meaningful sense.  They operate on a global scale and their loyalties are only to their bottom line.  Any advertising to the contrary is merely self-serving nonsense.  And our politicians, of both parties, have let them get away with it usually mouthing platitudes about  'free trade' or 'free markets.'  He asks a very cogent question: "Is that the America we want, a place where the most predatory, sociopathicme first, fuck you members of our society are deemed the winners?  Is this some sort of reality game show, but with real consequences?  How many more will be booted off the Island?"

I did not remember that in 2001 the Bush Administration cancelled the Clinton rules reducing the amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water.  Thanks to Archcrone at The Crone Speaks for remembering and providing a link.  This is a timely reminder given the news stories last night that link arsenic levels to Type 2 diabetes. It is also interesting that the Clinton administration wanted to set the level at 10 ppm even though the Environmental Protection Agency suggested only 5 ppm.  both were considerably lower than the 50 ppm established in the 1940s.  

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I have pretty much ignored the Olympics this year just as I have for the last two Olympiads.  Even the promise of a spectacular opening show did not entice me.  The events I would like to see are rarely shown because they are not the most popular (i.e., won't boost the ratings) and I really don't get a rush of nationalist pride when Americans turn in medal winning performances.  I haven't gotten such a vicarious pleasure since I got out of high school.  I was amazed by the news coverage concerning the 'enhancement' of the opening ceremonies for the world wide TV audience and the controversy over the 'attractive' little girl lip-syncing to the voice of the girl deemed not attractive enough.  The question the 'reporter' asked was whether viewers were disappointed because the show was 'unreal.'  I'm sorry but the level of manipulation exhibited by the Chinese government in all aspects of this Olympics has eliminated any possibility of these events being 'real' whether one means real in the sense of being spontaneous or real in the sense that the images actually reflect the actual unedited event.  Once again image has trumped authenticity.  But that seems to be modern life and, on this issue as on so many others, we live in a very fragile glass house.

I have followed the Georgia/Russia story over the last week that it has been on the news media's radar.  I am sure there is a lot more in the back story that we are not getting.  I am no longer surprised when our Idiot-In-Chief displays his self serving myopia.  I remember, even if the media apparently doesn't, that Bush totally disrespected Putin in the matter of Kosovo's independence from Serbia and when he brushed off Putin's objections to the proposed missile detection site in the Czech Republic.  No one notes how tit for tat this situation is.  Nor is anyone questioning exactly what the US can do in this situation.  I think there was a sound bite from some American diplomat suggesting that Russia be expelled from the G8 but that assumes that the other members would agree and that Russia would really mind being kicked out.  Besides getting on his moral high horse (which is about the size of a miniature pony now) I don't see much that Bush can do.  C.A. Rotwang at TPM Cafe presents the case nicely.

For some time now I have wondered at the incompetence of the Bush administration.  I have had the sneaky feeling that the incompetence is simply a part of an underlying goal of proving that government is truly as tyrannical, bumbling, ineffectual as Conservative ideology paints it.  I am glad to see that others share my suspicion.  Take a trip over to Shakesville and read Chet Scoville's review of Thomas Frank's 'The Wrecking Crew."  Unfortunately, the 'market' so touted by Conservatives doesn't appear to have any great advantage, at least not for ordinary Americans.  But when have Conservatives ever been concerned with the riff-raff.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We have been in gustatory heaven for the last couple of weeks.  Our tomatoes have produced a nice crop though not without problems.  The violent storm of this time last week provided more than enough water for several days but I added more almost drowning the poor things.  I was too used to the struggle earlier in the season of keeping them well enough watered and did not shift my thinking quickly enough to meet new conditions.  We bought one tomato this season from one of the local farmers' market stands and haven't needed to augment our own supply since.  That tomato and our own have been absolute ambrosia.  Mom smiles every time we comment on how good they are.  Fried green, cooked as salsa, diced on salads or sliced with cottage cheese--any way we want they are fantastic.  We had forgotten how good they could taste.

On our first visit to that little farm stand mentioned above we also bought six ears of corn. Most have gone into the freezer but we indulged in a couple of ears for supper.  Nothing tops boiled corn on the cob dripping with margarine and salt unless it is combined with sliced vine ripened tomatoes.

We have been seriously disappointed in supermarket food over the last couple of years.  I can't count how many times Mom has looked at me over the dinner table and asked if it was her 'taster' or was something off about the flavor.  We didn't buy any tomatoes last year.  Too expensive and no flavor.  We thought we would expand the fruit in our diet and purchased a bag each of frozen peaches and mixed fruits.  Both were abysmal.  The peaches were tasteless rocks and remained so after Mom, in a fit of disgust, baked them in a pie.  We couldn't tell what fruits were which in the mixed batch because they all tasted the same.  Mom is going to cook the hell out of them and make a topping for short cake or pound cake.  We can't quite bring ourselves to throw them away.  The fresh peaches in the grocery store are hard and don't smell like peach.  But the ones we got at the farmer's stand were lush, juicy and tender.  They made a wonderful peach pie.  I can hardly wait till the apples come in and we won't buy them from the supermarket.

We are already planning our patio garden for next year.

On the theme of food, a blogger I recently found, Vivian at Off The Grid, posted a piece entitled 'Oh, We're So Fat.' (July 24)  She notes that Mississippi tops the list of the fatest states but then continues with praise for good foods most of us have forgotten--luscious biscuits, barbecue, cornbread.  There is nothing wrong with those foods.  What is wrong is a lifestyle light on healthy exercise and long on boredom and/or stress and then combined with highly processed foods touted as low calorie, low fat, low whatever is the bad nutrient of the week. 


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

According to the news this morning at least four tornadoes touched down in that storm that rolled through here Monday night.  There may be more because investigators have yet to visit some other sites.  On Monday of last week Mom and I started a walking regimen which we reluctantly broke yesterday because of the weather.  We got back on schedule this morning.  We saw some tree damage and a few signs littered the nearby street.  Otherwise our part of town was not affected much.

It looks like today will be the second day of news covering John McCain's trip to the Michigan nuclear power plant to push his plan to encourage the building of up to 45 new ones by 2030.  I almost choked last night when touted his 'experience' with nuclear power while on board an aircraft carrier.  That was no experience at all.  He did not work with the power plant.  He flew a damned plane off the flight deck and landed it again.  I definitely do not want to see new plants built until three crucial, to me at least, questions are answered.  The safe operation of the plants is really the least of the issues.  I have read some accounts of new designs developed in France which have both a longer life than the first generation of reactors which are now at the upper limit of their life expectancy and have an extremely safe operating history.  However the problems for me comes at the beginning and end of the process: how the fuel is mined and processed, and how the spent fuel is disposed of.  I have read too many reports of workers, many Native American, who were lured by the promise of good pay into jobs which destroyed their health and the health of their families.  Many are still fighting for medical benefits.  Worse is the problem of ground water contamination in the southwest from the processing of uranium.  I want to see very strict health and environmental standards in place with very high escrow accounts from the companies to prevent the past practice of declaring bankruptcy and leaving the problems for others to clean up.  On the other end, we have never come up with a good way to handle waste that will be deadly for centuries.  Even if the government finally managed to open Yucca Mountain (now 10 years behind deadline) I doubt that it would handle the waste from 45 new plants plus all of the old ones.  For some of the problems, including allegations of fraudulent geological studies, start with Wikipedia.  Also consider the problems of transporting the spent fuel to the site.  The news has covered several train crashes since 2000 alone where people living nearby had to be evacuated because of toxic chemical spills.  Do we really want the equivelent of 'dirty bomb' rolling through our towns and cities?

By the way, take a look at C.A. Rotwang on TPM Cafe today.  He says the same about the problem of nuclear fuel waste and has a nice link to Paris Hilton's response to McCain anti-Obama ad featuring her.  Love the satire and didn't think she had it in her. 

My now deceased ex-husband had what became a tiresome and trite comment for whenever someone seemed to be indecisive or dawdling or simply wasn't moving fast enough for him: "Do SOMETHING, even if it's wrong!!!"  The news coverage of the candidates' energy policies has brought it back to me.  The candidates seem to be responding to a similar attitude among the American public.  I get the impression that my fellow Americans want someone to do something to fix whatever is wrong and they want it NOW.  They don't care if it won't work at all, or if the fix is only temporary, or if the fix will in fact make things worse.  It is a kind of snatch and grab mentality much like the 'I've got mine; f**k you' mentality I mentioned a couple of posts ago.  McCain reads this mood and proposes everything under the sun without any thought to the hows, whys, or even the oughts of his proposals and the news media cover Obama's alleged shifts on off-shore drilling as though he was a weather cock in a gale.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What a wild night we had.  Thunder, lightening, heavy rain.  For only the third or fourth time since we moved in here (eight years ago) the tornado warnings wailed at a time other than the monthly test.  Interestingly, two of those times came this year.  I won't make any claims about global warming.  After all, as we are reminded every now and then, weather is not climate.  But we keep remarking each year how strange the weather has been over the last decade or so.  When I was a child growing up just a few miles north of Griffith and Hobart (which suffered some major damage last night) we used to have long, steady rains lasting two, three, or four days.  The kids often recited the old rhyme "Rain, rain, go away--come again another day."  Those rains have come infrequently of late.  I wish for them now.  We, in our area of Valparaiso, seen to have gotten off lightly.  Our power is on.  Our house is intact.  Only lost a half dozen tomatoes when high winds knocked the plants knocked over.  The plants are much too big for the pots and are very top heavy. Mom complained that every time we have a nice growth of plants on our patio something comes along to damage it.  Two years ago hail severly damaged the begonias.  They finally recovered just in time for the first frost.  Right now we have lightening and thunder that appears to be a bit south of us.  We are about to get this morning's storm that has already hit just south of Chicago about an hour ago.

Another blessing is that we don't have the problem with hornworms this blogger has.  She is the second blogger whose container grown tomatoes have been nearly wiped out.  I have been looking out for them but, knock on wood, they haven't found me--yet.

There hasn't been much of interest to share so I haven't written much lately.  Last week I was feeling very contrary about the political scene.  You know the old feeling that you are a mushroom and everyone is feeding you BS.  I have had that feeling often over the last I don't know how many years and the feeling comes with increasing frequency lately.  I got it when President Bush announced our invasion of Iraq.  I got it when he laid out his case for the invasion.  I got it when I heard repeated reports of large job lay offs in one news story while the next touted the low unemployment rate.  I am getting it again with the coverage of both campaigns.  Senator McCain's new ads have received a lot of play but what do they really say.  Nothing more than the repeated refrain that McCain has experience; Obama does not.  The ads, of course, don't give us any indication of how Senator McCain has used his experience.  How about all of the very conservative votes to restrict reproductive rights for women?  Or the votes to continue the tax breaks for the oil companies? The Senator, it seems, wants to run on his experience but not tell us the record of that experience.  Unfortunately, Senator Obama has spent much too much time answering these meaningless attacks.

On the 'everything seems to be falling apart' front, read this new post at tomdispatch.  Of course, the powers-that-be don't really care because they and their friends are well taken care of.  It is the rest of us that are in deep s**t. 

I have been bemused for some time by the fact that all of the proposals, from both sides of the campaign, for dealing with the energy crisis involve somehow increasing supply; or, more specifically increasing the proportion of our energy supply that is 'home grown.'  McCain insists on 'drill, drill, drill' by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off-shore sites while conveniently leaving Obama the task of noting that 1) the oil companies have tens of millions of acres of land already under lease they could explore and drill on NOW, and 2) that any reduction of price at the consumer level is marginal, 5-10 years down the line and depends on demand will staying at present levels going down.  Now he pans Obama for noting that individuals can reduce their need for gas by properly maintaining their cars and properly inflating their tires.  I have watched this dance noting all of the proposals to attack the supply side of the equation and wondered when someone would be bold enough to mention the demand side.  I think we need less of the 'more, more, more' mantra (thank you, Comcast) and more of how to do more with less.

I found the story about the 1.9% increase in GDP quite interesting also.  Our idiot of a President and his toadies thought it wonderful proof that the economy is growing and that we are not in a recession.  I asked myself how much the increase in prices had to do with it.  Didn't get any answers, though.  You pay more for less but the economy is growing.  I keep thinking of Mom at the grocery checkout last month.  When the clerk told her the final damages she protested "I didn't get THAT much!!"  That has been our story for longer than I care to think now.  We get less and less while paying more and more.  But the economy is growing. President Bush says so.

The dueling proposal to give everyone (maybe) a $1000 rebate paid for by a windfall profits tax on oil companies (from Obama) and promise not to raise taxes (McCain) struck me as more BS for all of us little mushrooms.  Especially since the news reported, without much fanfare, that the new budget deficit will be the largest EVER.  This Bush Administration milestone supersedes the previous 1st place deficit which was also set by this administration.  Someone is going to have to pay the piper someday.  I suggest that Senator McCain remember the fate of George the Elder who made a similar promise (remember 'read my lips'), reneged and then was defeated for re-election.  But I really did hope to get something more realistic from Obama.  I do hate being pandered to.  And I also hate feeling that both sides think I am some sort of moron with the attention span of a gnat.

I will save the rest of my contrariness for another post.  The way things are going I am sure that the feeling will not pass soon.