Wednesday, July 30, 2008
It appears that I am not the only one who has had cacophonous earful of Senator McCain's whining during Senator Obama's overseas trip. Here is the latest from tomdispatch. Entertaining and informative, as always. Englehardt asks an interesting question: "Will "character," the culture wars, and security fears help elect the most woeful Republican candidate since Bob Dole -- and in a country that not only increasingly doesn't think much of Republicans, but has never cared to vote old?" A better question is: "Will the tired Republican harping on 'character,' fear mongering on culture issues and security trump the economy, a realistic and balanced foreign policy platform, and environmental concerns?" The rest of the post (by Ira Chernus) discusses the sticky quagmire of the values and 'values-plus' voters and speculates that the real determining factor may not be the candidates' positions on issues but on the image they present. Once a good many years ago, I taught a college history class during which we talked about the Tonkin Gulf incident (I think). Most historians now recognize that the incident as portrayed in the press, and which led to the passage of legislation expanding President Johnson's war powers, did not happen. One of the students asked how such far reaching action (the war powers legislation) could come out of a mirage, a phantasm. I told them that often what is important is what people think is true not what is true. In all of the elections of the 21st century the perceptions of the voters has been more important than the substance of the candidates. That is why the most insubstantial candidate in recent history, George W. Bush, has won the past two elections and why an equally insubstantial candidate, John McCain, might win this one.
A blogger I recently started to follow because I saw her linked on the elderwomanspace I belong to has a similar theme today. What do Obama, McCain, and China in its pre-Olympic frenzy have in common? She follows print media because she doesn't have a TV but most of what she reads is superficial, sparkling, and 'well manicured' but which are unremarkable and unrevealing. I do follow the broadcast media and can say the same thing about what alleged facts I receive by that route. Same 'facts,' same presentation leaving the same questions and no follow up. I think she put the case very well. Drop by and read her comments. And I totally agree. We must look at what ever information we receive with a lot of skepticism. By the way, my blogger's name is June Calender who also posts at Calender Pages. That is also worth the time to drop in there. Today she talks about using the selvage edges from fabric to make a quilt block. I never thought of that.
Monday, July 28, 2008
It has been a while. Sorry about that but life sort of caught up with me. Mom spent two of the last three weeks trying to get her doctors on the same page so she could have the cataract surgery as it was originally scheduled. She got all the necessary forms from her eye surgeon a month and a half before the surgery date. She gave the papers to her family doctor with whom she had a normally scheduled annual physical a week later. Because one of the blood tests came back out of kilter Mom had to see a specialist who changed her medication and told her the surgery could go as planned. Then everything seemed to go into a twilight zone. Two weeks before D-day (or S(urgery)-day, if you prefer), the eye doctor's office called and told her they still hadn't received her doctor's OK. She spent most of those two weeks calling between the two offices (her family physician and the specialist, who had yet to get his report in). Mom is usually the most calm person. She never gets angry. Almost never. This time, however, she got a bit more than a mite testy. The nurses all promised faithfully to give the specialist the message and get him to get the report done as soon as they saw him. The nurses at the family doctor's office swore they were getting the same response and they really were trying to get this done. And they all said that yes they understood this was time sensitive and yes they understood that rescheduling the surgery would be both highly inconvenient and very expensive since she had already started on the pre-surgery medications. Well, the Monday before the surgery (scheduled for Wednesday) Mom called her specialist--for the gazillionth time and , miracle of miracles, actually got to talk to the doctor himself. He had been in the hospital for the previous two weeks (WHY could one of the nurses not have told us or the family doctor THAT before) and was just that day getting back to his office to handle the paperwork. Mom's chart was the first one on his stack. He did get the paperwork done and faxed to the family doctor. Both his nurse and the family doctor's confirmed that the paperwork was all accounted for. Mom breathed a sigh of relief. Until an hour later when the family physician's nurse called back and told her that her doctor was out of the office until Thursday (you know--the day after Wednesday--the day after the surgery was scheduled!!). Luckily there was another doctor at the clinic that had an appointment open for early that afternoon and he could see her to finish the paperwork. After a much more thorough exam than Mom expected (and which has led to an echo cardiogram as well as a 24-hour heart monitor coming next week) her paperwork was done and the surgery went as scheduled. Her recovery so far has been excellent.
Although I followed the news reports of Obama's overseas trip I found little of interest. I got the feeling that all of the attention the media focused on the event was designed to find the slightest misstep, gaff, whatever. No substance AT ALL. At least as far as the media was concerned. Several web sites carried the text of his Berlin speech. As soon as I heard the story about Obama praying at the Wall in Jerusalem and leaving the traditional written prayer in a crack there, I wondered how long it would take for someone to snatch that paper out of that crack and reveal the contents to the world's press. I bet with myself that the time would be less than 24 hours and that a smart person like Obama would write something relatively innocuous--like 'let thy will be done.' I was right on both counts. I thought Senator Obama came through with considerable grace. I can't say as much for Senator McCain's performance during this time. He came across as a petulant child wanting attention, demanding attention but doing and saying nothing to deserve attention. He played the same note all along. Obama, he claimed, doesn't have the experience to be Commander-In-Chief, yada, yada, yada.
We finally got some fried green tomatoes over the last weekend. We had anticipated them since we put in our tomato plants in mid may. They were everything we hoped for. This morning we found a couple of tomatoes blushing with the first signs of red. By the end of the week they should be ready. In anticipation we got salad fixings when we went grocery shopping this morning.
That reminds me of a couple of other items. Last week we finally got our canvass bags washed and began to use them for our weekly shopping. Originally, we thought we would wait until our town decided to ban plastic (or insist that stores charge for it) since the bags worked well as liners for our small trash cans and it made cleaning the cat box very easy. But our town had a 'green day' where we could exchange our plastic shopping bags for a limited number of cloth bags. We decided not to wait since we already knew how we would handle the cat box and would be very glad to get rid of the mass of bags occupying space in our cabinet. We were totally bummed out when we found that the bags had all been given out before we got there--five minutes before the scheduled start time. In fact, people had been lining up one and a half hours before that time and, to prevent traffic tie ups, the people running the event simply started early. Since we were already there, with our bundled bags, we turned them in making sure our displeasure was politely but thoroughly noted. Today was the second shopping day under our new regime. We had to make two stops before the grocery store and at the second one we realized that we had forgotten the canvass bags. We remarked on how hard it is to start a new habit and break an old one. But home lay between the second stop and the grocery so we stopped to get them without having to go out of our way. We were delightedly surprised at the checkout counter when the cashier asked how many bags we had and then credited us 5 cents for each. They began doing that last month. We didn't get any credit last week. The cashier was a woman we know who didn't realize we were using our own bags. We will make sure they know from now on.
In another sign of the times, we were unpleasantly surprised when we turned into the little gas station we frequent. It is conveniently on the way to where ever we have to go and, normally, has the lowest prices in town. However, this time all of the pumps had new signs directing everyone to pre-pay. Last year they started requiring all those who pulled up at the most distant pumps to do that. Earlier this year they extended the procedure to all pumps after 2pm. Now, it seems, all customers have to pre-pay. That irritates us because we go in to fill up the tank and we never know how much the tab will be. If we underestimate the amount we have to make a second trip in to collect our change. If we overestimate the amount of gas we need we have to make a second trip to get the pump restarted to get more gas and fork over more cash. We did not fill up hoping that another nearby station would allow us to fill up the tank without paying first. No such luck. It had also switched to a pre-pay policy. We will check out some other stations in our area. Unfortunately, the number of drive offs and other scams have increased with the price of gas. I can't really blame the station owners; but it is irritating.
I did notice that the price of gas has declined by about 40 cents per gallon from its earlier high. However, it doesn't make that much difference to me. I was already feeling the pinch during the spring and summer of last year when our prices went to $2.75+. I managed to finally persuade my boss to concentrate my hours into three and a half days. I could never get more that 26 hours at that store so off two days of travel to and from work made a big difference. I noticed that the news media have been trumpeting the decline but I think it is very premature to celebrate. Besides we noticed bread at $3.50+, the canola oil at $4.00+ and cat food at 47 cents per can. I doubt that those prices will come down much either.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
This is another day I intended not to post but then an idiocy I found while perusing the usual blogs I visit hit me between the eyes. By way of Bitch PhD comes this from the Salon which got it from the New York Times. The two things that hit me were: 1) the provision that ANY clinic that receives Federal aid cannot fire or refuse to hire those who for religious reasons refuse to discuss or dispense contraceptives, and 2) that the definition of 'abortion' would be extended to cover any method or medication that acts at ANY time after fertilization. Since most of the hormonal birth control methods (including the emergency morning after pills) act to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ova, forget the most effective methods we have. The result is that if you have a uterus, you only choice for birth control is abstinence or a chastity belt. If you are raped and become pregnant, too bad--you will soon be called 'Mommy.' If your partner's condom breaks and you become pregnant--congratulations on you new addition to the family. Oh, you didn't want a child? Tough s**t. I wrote yesterday that the Bush administration is trying to get as much of its political and economic agenda on the board any way it can before they leave office. This is another stealth piece. It isn't even legislation that our representatives can vote down. It is a 'rule' working its way through the Department of Health and Human Services. Thank you New York Times!! But where is the rest of the news media? Oh, I forget. It doesn't touch the target demographic; i.e., 18-34 people without uteri. Besides, it would be too much work to adequately explain such an insignificant piece of proposed BS.
This will be short today. I have to get some books back to the library and want to get back before the temperature gets too high. It is supposed to be another 90+ day.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Several posts in the past I noted that I am a news junkie. However, I also am a junkie who doesn't subscribe or otherwise buy any newspaper at all. Mom and I stopped getting the Sunday papers (Chicago Tribune for me and Northwest Indiana Times for her) when we became unhappy with the coverage. It wasn't worth getting out on a Sunday morning and driving to the store and forking over $4 for the two papers, and then having to throw away all that paper afterward. This little blog from Eric Boehlert at Media Matters illustrates our disenchantment with the mainstream media whether print or broadcast. Living within 50 miles of Chicago we, of course, got bombarded with the broadcast coverage of Jesse Jackson whispering that he wanted to emasculate Barak Obama. We saw NO coverage of Senator McCain's comments concerning Social Security. It seems that Senator McCain not only doesn't know much about economics; he doesn't know much about history either. Surely such abysmal ignorance is relevant when voters judge the 'qualifications' of candidates to be President.
Going through my usual blogs this morning I noticed that Entitled To Know and AARP both carried updates concerning the votes Tuesday evening overriding President Bush's veto (of late Tuesday afternoon) of the Medicare bill eliminating the 10.6% cut in payments to physicians providing care for Medicare recipients. The over ride votes passed, if I am reading the figures right, by larger margins that the original legislation. It may be my imagination but it appears to me that the President and his cronys are increasingly desperate to secure as much increase to his constituents' (read the energy, finance, and insurance sectors) bottom lines as possible before he leaves office. You know, just in case his pet successor doesn't win the election in November. By the way, to continue the comments of the last paragraph, the veto override did not make the mainstream media. At least not yet.
Yesterday we finally experienced our second 90 degree day here. Today and tomorrow are expected to hit at least the mid 90s. We finally turned on our air conditioner for the today. We decided that we will put it on about 11 each day and leave it on until between 5 or 6 in the evening. We never have run it much. We set the thermostat to 70 in the winter, only because the temperatures away from where ever the sensor is stays about 68-9. Summer thermostat settings are 78. We are always amazed by how early and how often our neighbors heat or air conditioning runs. Each year we figure out how to refine how we use both the air and heat. As a result our bills have remained the same or, in a couple of years, actually went down.
I had to move my tomato plants around because our little patio is like an oven. even though most of the pots are light colored they still absorb a lot of heat and the plants looked a bit wilted. The picture at the top are the plants as of a couple of weeks ago. They are doing much better than the ones we planted last year. I think the pots are still too small and next year we are going to put only two plants into a large 30 gallon tub we found. I had to put foil on one because we converted a clear plastic container to planter and the dark soil in the container absorbs way too much heat. This is something else we plan to refine over time.
Friday, July 11, 2008
This little piece from yesterday's Altercation blog, which I read this morning, continues the coverage of Senator McCain's contention that Social Security, funded by taxing the current generation to pay for the payments to the previous generations as it always has been, is a disgrace. I wouldn't have bothered mentioning this except that guest 'altercator' Siva Vaidhyanthan asks a very good question: where is the prominent coverage in the mainstream media? It seems to be mysteriously absent. What is more pathetically amusing is that this morning I wondered why our news cast featured about three minutes on minor league coach behaving badly. Worse the minor league teams weren't even local teams. My questions in order were: 'Aren't we lucky the idiot wasn't really insulting and drop his pants?' and 'WHY?' As in 'why the HELL is this piece of crap on the local early morning news show?' It isn't amusing. There is no human interest. And there is no local relevance. Blast, there isn't even any national relevance. But there is almost no coverage of Senator McCain's lack of historical awareness, lack of economic knowledge, and arrogant display of the conservative 'I've got mine and my constituents have got theirs, now F**k you" mind set.
As I went through my usual blog visits I wondered if any of them would pick up on the recent remarks of former Senator and Republican economic guru Phil Gramm. Finally, the shakers at Shakesville got their nice sharp teeth into the matter. I guess I have needed an attitude adjustment for all of the last 8 years. I can't count all of the morning round-the-coffee discussions that noted the news stories of job losses/lay offs juxtaposed with never changing unemployment numbers (unless they were going down) and asked where the hell the newly unemployed were going. Or asked what new jobs were being created at what compensation with what (if any benefits). I guess that was really just in my head because all of the pundits, experts and other oh-so-smart people all said the economy was just peachy keen. I wonder what was in the heads of the airplane pilots who lost their jobs or barely kept them by accepting 30+% pay cuts thought. Was their pain simply in their heads. Or the Enron employees who were lied to by their company executives until their pensions disappeared. That, of course, was simply all in their heads. But then take note of the links Shakesville notes between Gramm, his wife, and Enron. They have made theirs, everything is fine. It's is the rest of us that get f**ked. After you visit Shakesville pay a call on the guys at AMERICAblog. they have a few appropriate words for this idiocy.
Other discussions around here often center on frugality and simplicity. Leslie Valeska at Journey to Simplicity makes some points that parallel some of our thinking. Saving money and simplicity can often conflict. A couple of days ago our local news featured a woman who uses coupons to reduce her grocery bill. And like Leslie we have found that coupon clipping doesn't really do us any good. Often we would have to buy much larger quantities than we can easily store or use before the product goes bad. We live in a small two-bedroom town house and don't have a lot of storage space. Even buying large quantities of non-perishables is out of the question because of the limited storage available to us. The reporter showed the woman's pantry with dozens of boxes of cereal. However, I noticed that many of the brands were those that included high amounts of sugar, artificial flavorings and colors marketed mostly to children. I stopped buying these kinds of cereal 20 years ago. We used to stop buying cold cereal late in the fall when the weather turned cold and we turned to hot cereals instead. This year we consciously decided not to buy cold cereal again. The price was simply too high, the cereals we liked were seldom on sale and almost never featured in coupons, and we found we could do without. We are often caught between the dilemma of trying to get the cheaper price but being unable to figure out where we can put the amount of product we would have to buy.
I hope I didn't give anyone whiplash with that change of topic. Sorry about the expletives today. Unfortunately, softening the expressions would have been tantamount to a lie. There are times when manners simply get in the way of expressing just how pissed off I am.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Yesterday I wrote that I thought Senator John Warner's attempt to re-establish a national speed limit would not be popular. Today I found evidence of that on this site. Generally, people want what they want NOW, they want it CHEAP, and they want NO RESTRICTIONS. That is especially true with gasoline and vehicles.
Entitled To Know has more on Senator McCain's notion that Social Security is a disgrace and hits hard on a problem I let go but perhaps shouldn't have. The good Senator not only doesn't know much about economics (according to his own assessment, though he has lately tried to disown saying that) he doesn't know much about history either. Interestingly, the second quote used in this article was featured on a news program earlier this week. The reader noted that Senator McCain was trying to have things both ways; i.e., he claimed he didn't want to 'privatize' Social Security while describing President Bush's plan to privatize to a tee but not mentioning the word. When I was a kid we called that 'talking out of both sides of your mouth' but I guess it would be rude for me to use that phrase for the 'straight talking' war hero candidate. He wouldn't do such a silly thing, would he??
Some time ago I wrote that I was dubious, extremely dubious, that any of the candidates would be willing or able to bring about real change in the political system. The question of whether any candidate, once elected, would be able to make changes should be obvious. S/he can only propose. Congress disposes. The question of willingness is something else. Shakesville contributors (see Petulant's column) have some comments on the passage of the FISA bill and noted the fact that Senator Obama voted for it. Once again supposed security issues have trumped civil liberties and Senator Obama promises that he will carefully oversee the provisions of the FISA. In the mean time, companies who had no legal right or obligation to provide information about their subscribers and customers get a retroactive pass. All they need is a friendly letter from the government to the judge. Sorry if I come across as deeply cynical and misanthropic but I think my assessment is spot on.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Mark Morford often has an interesting take on odd things. His post today parallels some of my thoughts on the subject of reading. Some time ago I listened to a news story which focused on the alleged illiteracy of the coming generation. The report centered most of the blame on the internet. The short, superficial stories combined with the opportunity to jump away from the text with the click of a mouse contributed to the shortened attention span of modern young people who got most of their information via the net. However, from my own ruminations on my own reading patterns, I have to ask some other questions. Morford noted that "
Thursday, July 3, 2008
I wasn't going to post anything today but I found this little piece.
Poor Senator McCain found himself in an uncomfortable spot on last night's news sound bite. The ABC news reporter asked him specifically how the experience of being shot down and held prisoner enhanced his qualifications to be President. That seems to be a good question since he has made it such a central issue in his campaign. And I thought the reporter was very respectful and polite in asking it. Unfortunately all we got, at least in the sound bites, was an interjection from Senator McCain to the effect of 'Oh, my God!!' (paraphrased because I can't remember the exact phrase) followed a few minutes later, after the candidate regained his composure, with the oh-so-revealing comment that the experience taught the Senator to 'love' his country. Did he not love his country before being shot down? And how would his love of country affect his decision making? His love of country is just about as pertinent to his qualifications to be President as his war time experiences. Not very.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
The press has exhaustively 'covered' the minor flap about Gen. Wesley Clark's assessment of Senator McCain's military service as it pertains to his qualifications to be president. In my mind this has always been a non-issue. I have never supported any candidate because the served and never thought less of them because they did not. I happen to agree with General Clark. Getting shot down and enduring five years of captivity with its associated torture, does not amount to a qualification in Senator McCain's favor. I simply have no sympathy with his proposed policies. A critic can honor the Senator for his service and sacrifice and NOT believe it should be rewarded with the presidency. MSNBC asks today if, suddenly, military service is no longer an asset in political campaigns. We have a history of rewarding political aspirants who served in popular wars. For fifty years after the Revolutionary war we elected military officers and founding fathers. For fifty years after the Civil War candidates from both parties were drawn from the ranks of officers who served the Union side. How many of the presidents of the 20th century had military experience? You count them up. Now let's ask another question: How many were truly excellent civilian leaders? Perhaps we should remember that the Constitution (anybody remember that little document??) only lists two requirements: the President must be the requisite age and must be a natural born citizen of the U.S. I also wonder if the current ambivalence toward military service arises because the most military adventures for the last fifty years have been decidedly unpopular. That might make it easier to disparage service however honorable.
Did anyone else think it was so totally ridiculous that Senator McCain, in sound bites yesterday, opined that the Supreme Court decision holding the death penalty for those who rape children who survived the experience was unconstitutional was an argument for electing him because we could only expect the appointment of more liberal justices if that oh-so-liberal Senator Obama were elected? Perhaps someone should remind the good Senator that most of the members of this court were appointed by good Republican Presidents. It is also interesting that the press spent less time on this sound bite than on General Clark's sound bite (see above) of a couple of days before.
On an entirely unrelated note--we are still waiting for our tomatoes. The first ones had blossom end rot and I discarded them. Luckily I found out that the problem was probably due to the very chilly night we had shortly after the plant bloomed coupled with letting it get too dry. I haven't seen any problems with the later fruits. We think we might get a couple of larger pots next year and only plant two. We will use the smaller pots for something else--peppers perhaps.