The banking situation has become more and more interesting as the economic situation has unfolded. Now, it seems, there is a movement to encourage people to move their money from the mega-banks to the small community banks. Take a look at this by way of HuffingtonPost. When I moved here ten years ago I opened my accounts at a small community bank. I left my Bank of America account open because I had automatic deposits set up I didn't want to go through the hassle of changing. (I had the BoA account only because of a series of mergers over the years whereby my original community bank was acquired by successively larger banks until eventually my accounts were with BoA.) BoA had no local branches and very few ATMs so cashing checks or getting cash out was very inconvenient. I closed the account when the automatic deposits ended and transferred everything into my local bank. This bank had a very nice program which provided free (that is, no fee), interest bearing checking accounts without a minimum balance for anyone over 50 which fit me to a tee. I briefly had a credit union account during an unfortunate stint as a teller at that credit union. That is one job I simply am not cut out for. I closed it when I no longer qualified for free checking without a minimum balance when my employment ended. The fees would have killed me. Mom had a similar experience. She opened her account at the same bank I did because it was local but kept her other accounts at another (at that time) community bank to handle her automatic deposits. Then her bank was acquired by a larger bank which did not value customer service. Unlike the BoA in the video linked to above, they did care enough to ask why a long time customer was leaving and Mom told them exactly why.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Howdy, everyone. We have had light snow yesterday and last night. Not much accumulated. However, we expect some really bitter cold. Luckily we have no where we have to go until Sunday. We are just west of the area under a lake effect snow warning, thankfully.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Hello, all. We are supposed to get more snow today and all day tomorrow. Well, the sun was nice yesterday. We hope the weather will be good for Sunday because it is my sister's partner's 50th birthday party. Looks good so far but the forecasts have a way of changing rapidly around here.
I haven't started any new projects lately. Instead I have been trying to move some of the UFOs (unfinished objects for any non-needleworkers) to the finished column. I have been making a little progress there. After the 1st I will start new things but right now finishing seems the more appropriate action.
As I noted before, the assessments of both the old year and the old decade are flying thick and fast. And, as I also noted before, many assessments, on both a national and personal level, indicate that for the most part we have been running like crazy just to remain in the same spot. However there are some areas of movement but the direction seems to be backward rather than forward. I will let others write about the broader social and national scenes. I will look at the personal instead.
We have frequently commented here how everything old seems to be new again. Ten years ago our weekly grocery purchases would have included cake mixes and frosting, packaged macaroni and cheese, ice cream, dry cereal, frozen pizzas, soft spread margarine, packages of shredded cheese, Tide laundry soap, a name brand soap for the dishwasher, frozen fruit pies--just to name a few of the items that are no longer on our shopping list.
Why these items are no longer on our shopping list is a bit complicated. The easiest to explain are the Tide and dishwasher soap. We no longer use the dishwasher. We would have to double the number of dishes we have (not enough storage space) and wash only every 5 or 6 days to get enough dirty dishes to fill the dishwasher to the point where it would be economical and efficient. So instead we buy the really cheap dishwashing soap and do up the dishes every day (or every other day if we get a bit lazy.) I grew up with Tide and used it most of my adult life. But then the men in the family usually had jobs that involved getting clothes very dirty and often greasy. We no longer need that kind of cleaning power and the cheaper detergents get our clothes clean at a fraction of the cost.
The other items fell off the shopping list due to a concatenation of factors. We noticed how the packages either no longer contained the customary amount of product (ice cream, dry cereals, margarine), suddenly changed the size and quality of the ingredients (pizzas, fruit pies, pot pies), or the flavor changed as they changed the ingredients in response to the latest food fad (dry cereals, lunchmeat.) Bottom line: we make our own cakes, fruit pies, and pot pies from scratch; we use stick margarine; we go out for ice cream occasionally; if we get a yen for a pizza, which we haven't lately, we will go out for that also. Many of these things crept onto the shopping lists 20 or 30 (or more) years ago so in eliminating them we are stepping back to patterns and products older yet. Or we discovered how much sugar, salt, or preservatives were included and decided to either do with out of make from scratch so we knew what was actually in the final produce. Or we discovered how much water was added to the meat we were buying and decided to get something with less processing.
I think I will end this entry now. A lot more changed over the last year but those changes should be considered on their own on another day. See you next time.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Good Morning, again. We have sunshine for the first time in over a week. Boy, does that make a difference in my moods. We have a couple of waves of snow coming in over this week but I hope that the sun will shine in between.
Pundits have produced a lot of opinions on who is responsible for the financial meltdown of the last couple of years. Depending on you mood and affiliations you can place the blame on any number of people or groups: greedy bankers, shady mortgage brokers, dishonest borrowers, haphazard and lax regulators. Bob Sullivan at Red Tape Chronicles has an additional factor to add to the mix: innumerate Americans. I think he makes a good case that it rather hard to spot the frauds and fixes when you can't handle basic math. Much of what he wrote doesn't really surprise me. Some 30 years ago when I started on my first stint in academia I had to take a basic remedial math course even though I had had good grades in high school math courses including business math, algebra and geometry. Eight years ago when I entered into another stint of academic training for a new career I again had to take a remedial math course even though I my previous courses included finite math, statistics, and calculus. Even though I didn't need the refresher most of my fellow students needed it badly. Between those two classes the news media frequently bemoaned the deficiencies of American students in math and science. The media still bemoans those deficiencies.
Thanks for the comments, Kay. The gloomy weather seems to seep into my psyche and I have almost no motivation to do anything. I hope the sun stays out more because I have so much more enthusiasm when it does.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Good Morning, everyone. Hope you all had a really nice Christmas. We spent ours at my sister's for a small gathering for dinner. Nice and quiet with good company. Now we are looking at the result of two days of snow. Luckily we are not in the strip north and west of Chicago that got a foot or more. Ours only totaled, maybe, five inches. And it will be here for a while because the temps are supposed to remain below freezing.
The retrospective shows are beginning to sprout like dandelions. Some are focused on the year that was while others look at the last decade. (There are the purists who insist that the first decade of the century doesn't end till next year but frankly I wish they would shut up. I don't think it matters much whether you think a decade should go for 0 to 9 or from 1 to 0.)
MSNBC has an article that sums up my feelings--we have been running fast to wind up where we began and, perhaps a little behind where we began. That is pretty much my situation. I am pretty much where I started out but with a much less clear notion of where I might go from here. After a fruitless job search back in 1999 I shifted gears and went for training in a new field. It looked like a good fit for me and like a growing field with plenty of opportunity. As it turns it didn't work out on both counts. And after a decade I am back where I started with fewer prospects and considerably less enthusiasm.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Good Morning, Good People. The weather isn't anything to talk about so I won't. The politest word that comes to mind is 'miserable.'
The weather isn't the only thing that is miserable. I found this on MSNBC while on my way to the e-mail. It seems that if pouting Republican Senators can't stymie legislation with their 40 votes (of 100) in the Senate they will try to do so by urging state governors to challenge the constitutionality of the 'Nebraska Compromise' (and by implication the other bribes to specific states). The really sad thing: I think they have a good case. If Nelson and the some of the other Dems were walking the streets they would have been arrested for prostitution and Reid for solicitation. This is a sad and disgusting spectacle.
Here is another item from MSNBC that is sad and disgusting. I hate these wars. I think our leaders went into them in a fit of testosterone poisoning that disconnected their brains and then they badly mismanaged the enterprises from the start. But the veterans are not to blame and should be given all of the benefits promised them not jacked around by the inept bureaucracy our government has become (whether run by Democrats or Republicans.)
Monday, December 21, 2009
Good Morning, all. Not much to say about the weather. Same as it has been for the last few days. The sun teased us with a very brief appearance but is now hiding again. We are hoping that the system that is coming for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday speeds up and goes through faster than expected or brings less precipitation that expected. Or both.
I found this assessment of the Copenhagen agreements and of the climate change meetings in general. Especially good are the authors thoughts on why the negotiators failed to make any real, enforceable, or meaningful progress. I think the prognosis about the next round is right on and the whole notion of going to a plan b (namely, adapt) is probably our only reasonable course of action. I expect any such adaptation will be a mishmash affair with a lot of pain and suffering. Unfortunately, it is a global problem and there is about as much will to deal with it in a communal manner as there is for the U.S. legislators to find a truly bipartisan solution to our national problems. Somewhere between zip and none.
Well, here it is--Tuesday before Christmas and the day after winter began. Happy Solstice to those who celebrate it.
I have been hearing a lot of positive "news" on the employment front lately. Most of it concerns the statistic on temporary workers--that has gone up for four months in a row. The mainstream pundits are crowing since (they say) such increases come just before businesses gain the confidence to start adding on new workers or calling back old ones. This morning's local news presented that argument. However, every now and again one hears some skepticism. A couple of the bloggers I read (and who have had a better track record for predicting the economy) have expressed the opinion that what we are seeing is a shift to a 'just in time' workforce (to go along with 'just in time' supply.) Meaning that the companies will keep a small permanent staff and expand with temps when they have a big deadline. In other words, jobs will be far more tenuous. I will let you fill in the rest. I don't have to imagine the consequences. I have a relative by marriage who has been struggling with this for the last 3 or 4 years--he gets work for a week or two and then nothing for another two or three, or four weeks.
I found this by way of HuffingtonPost this morning. Questions: how is the Federal government going to get the money to loan the states and how are we (and it will be 'we') going to pay it back and when? What struck me most about the story was the abysmal lack of forethought and planning. State legislators simply did not use the resources available during the fat times to prepare for the lean. I suppose they all felt that the good times would roll forever.
I saw a bit of this on CNBC yesterday afternoon. I think the investors have rendered their verdict on the Senate health care plan. It mirrors my own verdict. This plan secures the profits of the insurance industry and little else.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Good Morning, Everyone. It is still snowy and cold though not too cold. Just cold enough to snow instead of rain. The weather people are telling us that we may get a white Christmas IF the system coming in on Thursday is cold enough to snow but there is a bit of a chance that precipitation might be rain. Hope not. And I hope it lightens up enough to not interfere with our trip to my sister's for Christmas dinner.
I found this assessment of Obama's recent 'victories' on health care and the Copenhagen 'agreement.' I seem to be using a lot of quotation marks lately. Largely because you have to stretch the definitions a long ways to use the terms to describe what has happened. 'Pyrrhic victories?' Actually it may turn out to be so for both sides. The health care legislation does nothing to control costs and may not, in the end, make either insurance or care more available. The Copenhagen mess is toothless and lets everyone set their own non-binding targets. But that doesn't mean that the Republicans or that China (especially) actually won. China has alienated the other members of the underdeveloped nations coalition who wanted strong sanctions and a binding treaty for deep cuts in greenhouse emissions. I wonder how they will feel towards China at the next round of meetings two years from now? And the Republicans--well I wonder if Democrats can make charges of obstructionism and hypocrisy stick next year. Sure hope so. But then getting more Democrats in the Senate may not do much good. After all it was Democrats who allowed the Republicans to play Grinch.
Beyond Paycheck To Paycheck (at totalcandor) has a good post on 'the real unemployment rate." The video says it all. Take a look.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Hello, again, everyone. The weather isn't much to talk about. Cold, overcast and snow expected. They say we have a good chance of a white Christmas.
I found a couple of entries in the 'companies acting badly' folder. This one is by way of MSNBC and concerns a lawsuit filed by the Washington (state) Attorney General against DirectTV. In case you think that the article makes a good case for going with DISH Network instead, not that they settled a lawsuit earlier this year that claimed similar abuses. Then there is this (also by way of MSNBC.) It simply re-confirms my decision to never carry another credit card again.
We woke to a light coating of snow--perhaps an inch and a half. We are expecting more though not nearly as much as the east coast is supposed to get.
So Obama brokered a deal that allows countries to set their own non-binding agreements on carbon reduction, has no enforcement mechanism and provides a pittance to the most vulnerable undeveloped countries and is now crowing about it. I am, as I have been so frequently of late, totally underwhelmed. The TimesOnLine provides a pretty good summary. One comment I get very tired of hearing is the one citing such 'achievements' as 'good first steps' or 'not everything everyone wanted.' Actually it is everything SOME wanted--which is precisely NOTHING.
We have had light snow all day but the temps were high enough that not a lot stuck to the sidewalks and the car. But it was enough that our handy man was out plowing the parking area. It is supposed to snow through some of tomorrow but, for now, Monday and Tuesday are supposed to be clear and sunny.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Good morning, everyone. We are supposed to get sun later today but the temperatures are supposed to fall as the real cold air that is over the upper plains comes in here. We did our weekly shopping yesterday. We decided that we would rather dodge the rain drops than shiver our way through our errands. As it turned out we had fog and mist but no actual rain so I guess we made a good call.
I have been reading this morning and it seems that Joe Liberman has won and the rest of us have been screwed--at least those of us who need some kind of positive movement on the health care front. He has scuttled the proposal that those over the age of 55 be able to buy into Medicare. I don't know how many out there know anything of European history, specifically Polish history before Russia, Prussia and Austria divided it between them in the 19th century. Their political situation reminds me somewhat of what we have now. They had a king who was essentially powerless and the major ruling body was an assembly of the nobles. Each noble had a 'librum veto' meaning any individual nobleman could derail any piece of legislation simply by getting up on his hind legs and yelling 'Veto!' Does anyone else see the similarities here?
Good Wednesday morning to you all. It is cold but the sun will soon be up so it should be cheerful even if a bit frigid.
Continuing the thought from yesterday: I saw several headlines concerning Obama's meeting with the bankers that asked the same essential question. What can Obama actually do to get those guys to fall in with the program? I think the answer is not a hell of a lot. Now that they look healthy and are feeling frisky they think they can go back to the 'old normal' of business while acknowledging the 'new normal' to justify doing what they please. I saw one on CNBC yesterday I would love to have knocked on the head with a 2x4 that being the best way to get the attention of either man or mule (as my grandmother and mother have often said.) He asked if we expected his bank to make loans to unqualified applicants. After years of making loans to anyone who still had a pulse (and trying to figure out how to get around that requirement) they now self-righteously talk about qualifications.
Obama, like the Polish king, has limited power to do anything. Unfortunately, I think Obama is also hamstrung by his own inclinations. He wanted bipartisanship not acknowledging (at least publicly) that bipartisanship requires TWO parties willing to work together. He has never had that. But he doesn't have any plan b now that plan a is mired in deadlock.
This little obscenity caught my attention this morning. No it isn't the latest celebrity misbehaving. It is the IRS giving Citigroup and other companies who have received bailouts a pass on some billions in taxes they would other wise have paid. This is a spiral that will not end. We give them money (to make loans, which is supposedly their business, but which they haven't done, blaming unqualified applicants for their reluctance). Now they are trying to pay back that money but are getting tax breaks??? So, essentially, they are paying us back with foregone tax revenues??? I have a number of expletives but I will leave those to your imagination.
The DailyKos has an excellent analysis of the Senate health care bill as it now stands. And I think the conclusion is also right on: kill the damned thing. For years I have seen AARP and other groups grab what ever they could get, however little or ineffective, in the vain hope that they will be able to get closer to what they wanted at a later date. We saw the effects of that with the drug assistance legislation. The drug companies made out like bandits by quadrupling their prices before the legislation went into effect and have continued to make out by raising prices each year. It did nothing to contain costs.
John Aravosis at Americablog sums up the Federal legislative situation very well. And it is why so many are so disappointed with the Obama Administration. We voted for change and found, instead, a continuation of the Bush policies we rejected at the polls. But I have another question: what will happen when political authority collapses? When the government no longer has legitimacy? I don't mean that in the legal sense. I mean what will happen when a significant number of people simply don't see the government as worthy of respect and obedience or worse actively try to minimize its effect? I think you can answer that for yourself.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Hi, everyone. It was a lazy day yesterday. Didn't do much of anything. We had some nice sunshine for most of the day. Then in the afternoon the clouds came in. No precipitation though and the next system may miss us.
This is the kind of story that makes Mary VERY Contrary. Actually it pisses Mary off totally. This is a variety of 'rationing' that the Republican and conservative Democrats don't mind. I say that because they obviously are doing everything to either perpetuate it or even extend it. One of the newscasts earlier this week discussed the extension of Medicare to people between 55 and 62 which appears to have replace the very weak public option and the reporter noted that the cost would be $1500/month for couples and families. That is simply not acceptable. Not when the gold plated coverage our legislators can get costs one third of that PER YEAR.
It is now a damp and cold Monday. What I said about Saturday applies several fold to Sunday. Part of the problem was boredom. I looked at what was on tv and turned the damned thing off. We have a good collection of dvd and tape but I really didn't want to see any of them again. I am still somewhat disappointed with the new Harry Potter movie and, unfortunately, my disappointment isn't because I have compared the movie to the book and found the movie wanting. The movie on its own is lacking. It doesn't develop Voldemort or explain him. It doesn't explain how Dumbledore was injured nor does it really develop Dumbledore's character. The special effects were as good as always but the character development simply wasn't there.
Hopefully, this week will be more psychologically satisfying.
To continue with other things--THIS is why I really don't expect much out of the Copenhagen climate talks. We aren't getting much news about the talks from our news media and what we are getting seems to focus on unruly demonstrators and arrests of the more violent ones. No one seems interested in the issues behind the disputes and confrontations.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Good morning on this very frigid day. The temps sank to low single digits last night and are not supposed to get above the low teens. With winds in the 30+mph range the wind chills will be really nasty. But, then, we don't have to go anywhere and can enjoy the bright sun and blue skies without suffering the cold.
Charles Hughes Smith at oftwominds has another interesting post today on fragile systems, of which our political/economic/social structures provide an example, and the problems of sustaining them. I think it is worth a glance. Take a look at some of his other posts. He makes a lot of sense.
As you can tell I didn't finish off yesterday's post. I had a bit of a frustrating time with the internet yesterday. Some of it was connectivity problems where the Comcast link failed and another was an early problem with Facebook. Those seem to be resolved now.
It is still cold but at least the wind has died down. We didn't get much snow and most of the sidewalks and streets cleared up quickly.
I found this interesting article at MSNBC this morning. I have seen some stories about the problem of drug resistant diseases resurfacing (TB for example) but this is the first story that links climate change to the spread of a disease and its vector, mosquitos in this case. An interesting point to this story: even if we are looking at simple weather variations the problem will not go away if a 'normal' weather pattern comes back because the vector and the disease organism are rapidly adapting. I wonder how many other old 'friends' are out there waiting for the opportunity to rise up again and bite us in our posterior regions?
On that note I will give this up for the day. See you all tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Good Morning, everyone. We did get some snow yesterday but not much and we did get a bit of sunshine no one predicted. None of the snow stuck around except in very shady places. The weather people predict that the snow we are supposed to get will turn to rain later this afternoon and evening. It will be a sloppy mess that we hope to avoid by getting all our errands done early.
The first story to catch my attention this morning was this one on MSNBC. It struck me for several reasons. Earlier this year one of the Chicago suburbs had a donnybrook that hit the news. A couple of decades ago the state EPA had found high levels of contaminants (including formaldehyde, if I remember correctly.) The city officials claimed they had stopped mixing the well water with Lake Michigan water but were caught in the lie. The question now is--when did they stop and did any residents suffer health problems because of the contamination. But water pollution and supply problems pop up frequently in my reading: in the southwest where uranium mining has contaminated a large part of the ground water which is flowing toward more populated areas and in Wyoming where local groups have been fighting a gold mining company's plans to establish an arsenic leaching operation. And then there was a story on the Nightly News earlier this summer about the small town not too far from the gulf coast where no one has potable water. In fact they can't even use the water for their gardens. Worse the population is too poor to pay the local providers to extend service to them and no government agency was willing to help. It is interesting how many stories on water have popped up over the last year.
Charles Hughes Smith at oftwominds sums up the political/economic state of affairs very well, I think. The political action on the economic problems have, for the past year, have been either a 'sound and fury signifying nothing' or a massive transfer of money to some of the very idiots who put us in this situation. And all we are getting (and are likely to get) is more of the same.
I interrupted this yesterday for our shopping. We are in full winter mode and look at the longer range forecasts to decide which days would be best for shopping given the projections. The predict rain changing to snow for our area although the northern and western counties in Illinois are getting much more snow. Also we are supposed to have high winds and falling temps. So far no snow has accumulated here.
Congress.org has an interesting synopsis of 7 key decisions dating from WWII that have shaped out current health care insurance 'system.' I put the word system in quotes because it is obvious that there is no system here--there is no coordinated, thought out plan of action. Unfortunately, we do have a number of large and powerful entities who have benefitted greatly from our lack of system and they are the key stumbling blocks to reform.
Yesterday I linked to a story about contaminated water and the lack of action on the part of the EPA. Today NPR has a story about a source of contamination not mentioned yesterday--confined animal feeding operations which provide an increasing percentage of our meat and milk in this country. Of course, theNew Mexico dairy industry (the focus of this story) wants to blame the individual owners of the contaminated wells for the problem. But no one really wants to address the underlying problem--too many cows in too small a space. Nor do they even want to begin to address that problem since they don't even want to think about reducing the number of animals or the consequences of that.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Good Morning, Again. We have measurable snow this morning and expect more tomorrow night into Wednesday plus the coldest temps of the season so far. Luckily we can choose when we go out and can miss much of the mess. The traffic reports detailed multiple car crashes on the northern highways as people who have forgotten how to drive in these conditions relearn the art.
Thanks for the comments on the quilts, Kay and Lois. I do love the ways these have turned out. I love color and then to see new patterns come up because of the interaction of the color and positioning of the pieces and blocks. My piecing is always improvisational. I start with a general idea and then see where it goes. We put up the design wall as I was doing the Mother Goose quilt and I simply love it. I can try out the fabrics and positioning before stitching.
Anecdotal Economics has a cynically amusing dissection of last weeks labor statistics that is worth a read. He expands the traditional categories of deception that I refer to frequently (lies, damned lies, and statistics [giving credit to Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain for the phrase]) and expands it with 'white lies,' 'Government statistics,' and 'campaign promises.' The last two take deception to a whole new level of artistry.
I went in to continue the post I started yesterday (Tuesday) and found this one which I thought I had already posted. That is what I get for thinking!!! Well here it is now.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Good Morning, again. I thought I would separate my quilts from the political commentary. That seems a wise decision given what I found soon after I started going through my e-mail alerts.
So let the games begin with this article from the Miami Herald. Four years ago a class-action law suit was filed against the State of Florida on behalf of poor and disabled children. The lawyers for the children claim that their clients had to endure unconscionably long waits or long drives for medical or dental care or pay out of pocket (if their parents could scrape up the money) because no doctors or dentists would accept Medicaid. Federal law requires that states which accept Medicaid money must provide reasonably prompt care that is comparable to that provided to children in the same area who are covered by private plans. Evidently similar law suits had been filed, and won, in several other states. What rally burned me up was the Florida Attorney General's defense agains the claims: the State is merely required to PAY for the care not ensure it is actually provided. As I commented to Mom over our morning coffee as we listened to the news: one sure way to get me swearing a blue streak is a story like this one. We had several this morning all dealing with the political games going on with the health care reform debates in the senate.
Here is another entry for the health care games from my local newspaper. There are actually two stories both involving Blue Cross/Blue Shield/Anthem which demonstrates why we need to have a public option that is fully funded and includes everyone, provider and recipient alike. In the first the patient received a triple by-pass on an emergency basis and then treatment from a cosmetic surgeon (including skin grafts) when her wound became infected and wouldn't heal. Then she was hit with a $10k bill because the cosmetic surgeon was not in the network. She was in a network hospital, her heart surgeon was in network and he recommended the cosmetic surgeon who was associated with the (in-network, remember) hospital. The other story included in the article is similar. Patients at the Porter emergency room got a rude surprise when they were billed for the services of the ER doctors because, although the hospital and specialists were in network, the ER physicians were not. And Anthem suggests that it is the patients' duty to find out if the doctors are in network. Yeah.!! Right!! You are in an emergency room with a medical condition that needs to be treated NOW and you are going to say "Wait a minute, Doc. Are you in my network??' And what are you going to say if he isn't or worse if no doctor at that hospital (as happened at Porter) is in the damned network?? The ER doctors evidently are now having signed (under duress, they say) a contract with Anthem.
Good Morning, Everyone. As promised here are some pictures of the new quilts. As you can see I have made progress on this one which is still on my design wall. I added the last four yellow pieces soon after I photographed this and downloaded the picture. I am debating on how to finish it. I have never liked putting a binding on the quilts. Usually I use the pillow turning method. But I am betting an itch to try a simple binding on this one. I will do some kind of simple in the ditch quilting.
Here is the finished baby quilt. I will be taking it over to my favorite local quilt shop to brag a bit. There are a couple of flaws but I think it is still worth a brag or two. This one is going to my niece for the baby she is expecting around the end of the month. They say it will be a little girl and I thought this quilt begged to be given to a girl.
Here is a close up of the center. As you can tell, I like the scrappy kind of quilt. The central fabric is left over from a quilt I did earlier in the spring which featured Mother Goose nursery rhymes. The rest was from my stash. The unfinished one is similar in that I used left over material from the other quilt from the spring. I had to use different reds and yellows because I did not have enough of the ones I started out with to go all the way through with them.
This picture shows a detail of the edge treatment. This quilt has also started me thinking about doing more elaborate quilting. It might have been nice on that yellow. But I don't have the maneuverability with my sewing machine to do it after the quilt is completed. I don't have a long-arm machine and won't be getting one. So I will have to think about how to over come that handicap.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Good Morning, All. It is nicely, seasonally cold today. We are back in our winter mode of looking at the long range forecast and adjusting our shopping day to which ever day is (we hope) driest.
I absolutely loved this HuffingtonPost article I found this morning. There is nothing so cheering as seeing right wing ideologues hoisted on their own petard. They should have been listening to all of the commentary which supports the notion that our legislators should have to partake in any health care reform measures they impose on the rest of us. The Democrats evidently have been listening.
CNBC spent a lot of time yesterday talking about the surprisingly good employment data. Allegedly, the economy lost only 11,000 jobs last month. I simply don't believe it. And I am not encouraged since we are still loosing jobs during a season when the new jobs statistics are usually inflated by seasonal hires. It makes me wonder what January will bring. They were also touting the increase in temporary hires. Such an increase, they say, usually comes just before companies begin to increase permanent hiring. Unfortunately for their argument, another commentator undercuts that cheery notion. He argued that companies are trying to find a way to treat labor as they have their supply line--going to a just in time system. They will hire enough temporary workers through a temp service to handle their peak production periods and then cut those workers when the peak has passed. Nice for them but not so nice for the workers. One of my relatives by marriage knows this first hand. He was caught in that cycle and would work a week or two followed by two or three weeks without work. Worse he was listed with employment service not a specifically temp service that sent him out on these stints knowing he wanted full time work. My own experience with such employment agencies reinforces my skepticism. I have been listed with such agencies several times over my working life of some forty years and have never found satisfactory service from them. They work like hell to get you signed up but then fail to follow through. The talking head on CNBC touted the benefits the service offered its employees but failed to note that those who don't get enough hours don't get the benefits and, I suspect, many, if not most, of their 'employees' didn't get those hours.
Continuing on the jobs theme, MSNBC had an article this morning that dissected the employment numbers and found at least one other troubling trend--a bifurcation in the population of the unemployed. The number of unemployed workers out of work for 6 months or more grew while the short term unemployed declined. We used to have a saying in economic downturns 'last hired, first fired.' Now I guess we can add 'last fired, first hired' to that.
Anthony Vitello at Benzinga has a concise and very pointed assessment of Bernanke's testimony in which the Fed Chairman advocated a raid on Social Security and Medicare which would essentially eliminate those programs.
Casey Daily Dispatch has a totally cute take on the week's economic data cast in a Star Trek scenario. I especially love the description of 'bernankeium,' a hallucinogen that leads to mistaken perceptions that the economy is getting better. Take a look. I think you will get a good laugh.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Hello, on this very frosty Friday Morning. We woke up to temps under 30 for the first time in months. No snow here, however. At least no accumulating snow. North of Chicago was a different story according to the news. They got enough to make driving miserable for people who have forgotten how to drive in it. Have I said before how glad I am that I don't HAVE to go out in that kind of mess? I am sure I have but it is worth saying again--I am so glad I don't have to go out in that kind of mess.
Well, I did something today that I haven't had to do in three years of blogging--I rejected a comment. It wasn't really a comment. Whoever the anonymous e-mailer was I have no idea but I do know I don't want my blog to be a vehicle for people selling either to me or misusing the comments to sell to others. So, with a snarl and sneer, I hit the reject button.
I saw several headlines describing Bernanke, at his re-confirmation hearings, as channeling Willie Sutton. Firedoglake has an extensive quote which puts the whole thing in context. Willie Sutton, as Bernanke noted, said he robbed banks because 'that's where the money is.' And right now, the money to balance the budget is, in Bernanke's mind, in entitlements. The basic point they aren't saying out loud is that the proposal is still robbery except that it won't be done with a gun but with a vote in congress and a stroke of a Presidential pen. Of the two thieves, I prefer Willie Sutton. At least he was honest. (For a fuller description, which only increased my nausea, look at this HuffingtonPost blog.)
Update on the weather--we have had episodes of sun punctuated with very light flurries. Would be nice but for the wind.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Good Morning, Good People. We may get snow flurries today. The weather folks are not predicting any accumulation. For the first time in many years I don't dread the coming weather. I don't have to go out in it. If we get snow on our usual market day (so enough snow that it takes a day to shovel out the path and car) we have enough reserve to shop later in the week. The cats have definitely shifted to their cold weather patterns. After a summer when they shunned our laps and stayed off the beds, they are now demanding their lap time and insist on taking their share of our beds out of the middle. We have also pretty well shifted. The extra blankets and afghans are on the beds and we are in sweats. I will have to put the heavy sweater away and bring out my winter coat. We expect highs over the next week to be in the upper 30s and lower 40s with flurries on a couple of days.
As I listened to a couple of the talking heads on CNBC yesterday a couple of points they made stuck in my mind but with questions of my own that I am sure they did not think of. The topic they discussed was the need for companies to invest more in research and development. A couple of barely stated premises lay beneath the discussion: 1) that we, as a nation, no longer lead in the development of new products and processes which is hurting us economically and 2) that such development will lead to new jobs. I can agree with the first but disagree with the notion that simply increasing R&D budgets will revitalize the economy or translate to new jobs. There is no sure fire linear path from the increased spending to the desired economic or employment outcomes. Here is the scenario as I see it playing out. Company A increases its R&D budget, hires a few new technicians and researchers, and upgrades its facilities. That may result in a new product or process but, because Company A has all of its production facilities overseas, the real benefit in terms of economic boost and jobs goes elsewhere. It doesn't stay here. This whole argument reminds me of the notion that giving the banks the TARP funds would allow them to lend again. "Allow" does not mean "Will."
The result: take a look at Elizabeth Warren's article on HuffingtonPost this morning.
Matthew Jaffe and Karen Travers ask a good question in their ABC article this morning. Unfortunately they don't really answer it. The Obama Administration and the news media have been touting the 'Jobs Summit' all week. But I don't really expect anything new to come of it. I expect a mishmash of old ideas. Already business allied attendees are suggesting tax cuts or credits for businesses who hire workers. That is a temporary fix at best. Businesses may hire if the cuts or credits help their bottom line and for only so long as it takes to qualify. What we will get is a new kind of 'seasonal' work: tax season. A Republican idiot floated the notion of rolling back the Federal minimum wage. May he boil in Christmas pudding. What I don't see them offering is to roll back the salaries he and his compatriots in the Legislative Branch get. Like the wonderful adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is no skin off their noses and no sacrifices will be demanded of them.
See you all tomorrow. Hopefully with pictures over the weekend of new quilt.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Hello out there. The reaction so far to the President's speech is about what I expected. He is giving the military what the generals wanted--just not all of it. Of course, the Republicans are objecting to 'time tables' while the Democrats are objecting to the expense. My take--we didn't set time tables in Iraq and wound up still there after 8 years with little to show for it except the most expensive embassy complex in history and a couple of military bases that rival small to moderate American cities. I also object to the expense also but I have been from the beginning. Where were these guys when Bush put the whole thing off the books?? I laughed when the news reader quoted a Taliban 'spokesman' who said that we couldn't solve Afghanistan's problems in a year and a half. I don't give a damn about Afghanistan's problems. Most of those were brought on by the Taliban itself when they gave al Qaeda a safe haven. They can solve their own problems.
We have some sun this morning. I have one of the two quilt tops ready for final quilting. I will do it tomorrow. I have been playing with a 'chromatography' technique I read about on line. So far nothing even passable to show. I still need a good yellow patterned fabric so over the next couple of days I will try a tie dye with some of the plain fabric. If I can jazz it up a bit I think it will work. See you all later.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Good Morning, All. It turned into a nice sunny day yesterday and is supposed to be the same today. However, they expect that will change as of tomorrow. Two overnight chances of snow this week. We'll see how that turns out. If we get any it will be sloppy. Thankfully we don't have to go out in it.
Didn't have much to say yesterday. The news has been dominated by the faux pas of party crashers at the White house and Tiger Woods' accident. Nice that the news media has such light weight stories to follow and can ignore or give short shrift to any meaningful news.
We have also been subjected to a series of reports concerning that study that found that most of our chicken (gasp!!! horror!!!) are growing various bacteria and, of course, how we can avoid getting sick from them. What the reports tell me is that people just don't know how to cook any more. And by that I mean more than simply sticking the damned bird in the oven, or stew pot, or frying pan. People evidently don't know that they aren't supposed to cut up vegetables they intend to eat raw on the same board they cut up the chicken on unless they wash the board first. As I listened to the report I remembered my grandmother walking out in the barnyard in the morning, choosing her victim, decapitating it on the spot, gutting and cleaning it in the open air before taking it back into the house to cook. Most modern researchers would probably mess their drawers thinking about that. But I don't remember having even a case of the runs after eating any chicken Grandma served.
There isn't much to say today either. I won't be watching the President's address on Afghanistan tonight. He inherited a mess and none of his options are good. I will read all about it tomorrow. See you then.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Good Morning, Everyone, on this sunny (or soon to be sunny, it is still early here) Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And no, we are not participating in either. The Christmas frenzy has become increasingly irrelevant, though massively irritating. We don't need much and there is even less that we want, so what is the point? Of course, that isn't what retailers want to hear. (Update on weather--NOT sunny and we just had one hell of a thunderclap that shook the house.) (Update on the Update--we are now getting a heavy rain and it is quite cold as well.)
I found this article on MSNBC which provided a deja vu moment. The major flaw in this article is the author's failure to mention the several drawbacks to Monsanto's Round Up based technology (Round Up itself, and Round Up 'ready' seeds) like the increased use of the herbicides and the natural development of Round Up ready weeds some of which are very aggressive. The focus, instead, is on Monsanto's monopoly on the technology. Dupont has joined the legal fight over Monsanto's refusal to license the technology so other bio-tech firms could piggyback on it. It reminds me of the fight over Microsoft's business practices which is still not fully settled in Europe. Sadly, I expect that the legal arguments will have more effect than environmental ones in modifying Monsanto's behavior.
I absolutely loved this New York Times article and nominate Judge Noah Dear for 'Judge of the Year.' I hope more judges start holding collections agencies responsible for finding the right people to sue. This is the second time this past week a judge has had me cheering. The first was when I saw the news story about the judge who blasted a mortgage company for its behavior toward a homeowner it had foreclosed on and then cancelled the entire mortgage debt. The entire debt!! The company had filed the foreclosure after months of rejecting every offer from the family to refinance the mortgage. The judge found the family's offers very reasonable and the company's actions in refusing to even discuss them reprehensible. I think these collections agents and mortgage 'bankers' are better candidates for drawing and quartering than lobbyists, Kay. Do it in public and have a grand picnic celebration!!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Good Morning, Everyone. It is supposed to be cool but sunny today. Hope so. Haven't got much planned--just a trip to the library and to my local quilt shop and Michaels. I don't shop at Michaels much any more. They go for the trends and my needlework requires basic supplies for the most part. But I ran out of the yellows I was using for the newest crib quilt top and none of the remaining yellows in my stash are suitable. I have two choices--take one of the yellows and jazz it up with some kind of overdying (which I have never done before--so that will be an experience) or get a bit of new fabric (a couple of fat quarters should do it nicely.) I might do both and keep the fabric as a back up in case I screw up the dying process or in case it yields something nice but not for this project.
Hey, Kay, I think maybe burning at the stake would suit the case on the lobbyists. They are our incarnation of witches--magically converting public good into private gain. And, heck, they don't even need anything more exotic than plain old money. No eye of newt, or dragon's blood.
I had a moment of mental whiplash last night during a news cast. The story started out with the statement that Americans, as a whole, waste 40% of the food produced or processed. I wanted to hear how and where it is wasted but instead the story went into an account of rising levels of hunger in the country. With rising unemployment and underemployment many who were solidly middle class are having difficulty finding affordable food consistently. If we, as a group, waste that much food why is anyone going hungry? Who is wasting it? Where in the journey from farm to table is it being wasted? That is much more interesting to me than that pair of idiots who crashed the White House state dinner hoping to catapult notoriety into a reality show gig.
This article from the Discovery Channel online answers some of that question. Much of the waste the researchers found came in the field as some farmers responded to drops in commodity prices by plowing under their crops. A second big loss occurred with large supermarkets and fast food chains. Families, according to the study, waste about 14% of what they buy or $600/year.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Good Black Friday Morning to everyone. I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving. We did. My niece had a nice family gathering. Everyone over ate a bit but not as much as we once would have. We all seem to have become more moderate over the years. I can remember when the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Years) always came with an increase of 15+ pounds. For the last several years that hasn't happened and most of the few pounds gained were gone within a week. We don't participate in the shopping madness but several others were planning their outings. In fact a couple went out Thanksgiving morning. Or they went online. Of course the news casts this morning features a heavy dose of Black Friday shopping stories. No way to get around that.
I was looking at the calendar this morning and decided that I won't get any new library books when I take the ones I have back tomorrow. I don't want to have to do any extra planning for holiday hours so I won't use the library until after New Years.
Did anyone else see the pictures on the news of Mecca showing pilgrims with umbrellas during a rain storm?? They got more than their yearly normal rainfall in one day.
I found this on MSNBC this morning and I think it is about time such action was taken. The only purpose of the advisory panels should be the public interest not corporate interests. And people whose purpose is to push for favorable legislation while receiving a salary from the very companies and industries being regulated should not be allowed on the panels making up the rules and regulations.
I think I will leave this for now. See you later.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Good Morning, All. Another gray day today. The most we can hope for is that the rain will stop. Not that it really matters since we don't have any outside errands.
Weston Kosova at Newsweek had a good assessment of the Rupert Murdoch/Microsoft deal to list Murdoch's news sites solely with Bing for a generous payment from Microsoft. Some people may decide to pay for the content but many, like me, can't afford to. We will simply say "Oh, well, I sure would like to have read that. I guess I will simply go on to something else." I don't like Bing and don't care for the notion of going to two sites for what I used to get on one.
If you want a good laugh this morning head over to this MSNBC page and check out the cartoons on the right hand side of the page. Most of them do a good job of skewering the holiday shopping binge. I also loved, in a sardonically humorous way, the headline at the top which celebrates the just under 500k jobs lost as the 'lowest' in a year.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Good Morning, again, everyone. It is a gray and gloomy day. But, hey, it is late November. Damn, where has this year gone?? At least we don't have any errands today. No reason to go out until Thursday when we are going to my niece's (brother's daughter) for dinner. Meanwhile, I have to get out the crib quilt top I finished a while back and get it done. Another niece (Sister's daughter) is due to have her baby in December and this little top cries out for a little girl, which she is expecting.
The REAL Black Friday comes up this week. Of course, most retail outlets have been having early 'Black Friday' sales for the last month. No one knows quite what the sales figures will be but I wouldn't be surprised if we had a six-of-one-half-a-dozen-of-the-other season. Last year's figures were so bad that this year may actually be an improvement by comparison. I don't think it will come anywhere near the better years of the near past though. That is like so many of the figures I see out now. But, and here is the kicker, I wonder how many people are in my boat. For a number of years now we have reduced our gift buying. Some ten years ago, when we had the resources, Mom and I spent $500 plus each on Christmas gifts. Over the years things changed. First, we did a 'Secret Santa' between the adults reserving the rest for the children under 16. Then I started making the gifts I gave the children while mom began giving cards with cash. This year, so far, we have only one dinner planned with my brother's side of the family for Thanksgiving and one with my Sister and her partner for Christmas. The economy and family circumstances have combined to produced a lot more frugal celebrations. That isn't likely to change in the future.
Lauren McKechnie at the Houston Press asks an interesting question: in light of the recent past shortages of Eggo Waffles and Libby's canned pumpkin and the various food contamination episodes over the last couple of years, what are the five foods are so necessary to your life that a shortage would cause you to panic (or some semblance thereof). None of the ones she listed make my list. Peanut butter is a once in a while thing and we quit buying dry cereal quite a while ago. Frozen potatoes would not make the list because we would shift to 'fresh.' But a shortage of fresh potatoes (unprocessed) would cause us to make serious readjustments. Ice cream isn't a large part of our lives either since the last 'cut the volume and keep the same price' scam. We went out for burgers and shakes three times this year, maybe. The weather had a lot to do with that--it was so cool our desire for ice cream simply evaporated. My top list?? Unprocessed potatoes (as mentioned above), pasta, bread, eggs, milk. I wonder what others think are absolute necessities??
We have been hearing stories for a while about banks raising their fees and interest rates on credit cards ahead of the legislation designed to prevent such abuses. But what are the poor banks to do to keep the billions of dollars that roll in from such sources?? Well, here is one answer. Where are honest loan sharks when you need them??
This article in the Des Moines Register is an interesting account of how the recession is affecting one 'Main Street.' Interesting points: the reference to 'The Second Depression,' the number of college graduates applying for McDonalds jobs, the RN who has been laid off TWICE this year (once for 6 months), the drop in the number of flights into and out of Des Moines International in the last 10 years. I am re-reading a book I got almost 20 years ago that was published in 1940 about the decade from late 1929 through 1939--Frederick Lewis Allen's Since Yesterday. Much of it is chillingly familiar--the frantic market that reached new highs just before the crash, the cheerful optimist that the great bull market would return with new highs and profits, the few pessimistic voices overwhelmed by the optimists but who turned out to be right after all. Bernanke is supposed to be a student of the Great Depression but I wonder if he read any of the social histories or just the financial history. Maybe he learned the wrong lessons. Worse some of what they tried to do then is much like what our government has been trying to do now--and with about as much success.
Archcrone at the Crone Speaks has a 'quibble' with a newspaper account of a doctor in Tennessee who is trying to help the poor with their health problems. Basically the reporter starts off with a statement that implies that the poor are solely responsible for 'allowing' their health problems worsen to the point where they are jobless. The doctor makes it clear in her statement that the problem is not one of choice but a lack of resources, primarily money to pay for medical care.
Monday, November 23, 2009
A good Monday Morning to you all. It was a nice quiet Sunday yesterday with plenty of sun and temps in the mid 50s. They say is will change by late Wednesday into Thanksgiving Day. It was a play day. Needless to say I have no real accomplishments--except taking Magic Match to level 21.
At least the U.S. Senate got off their collective butts and moved the health reform bill to the floor for debate. I think one reform needed by that body is to scrap this notion of a 2/3 majority to prevent filibuster. Move all bills to the floor and debate them openly there. Then we have those egotistical idiots like Liberman who is now saying he opposes the bill--after his colleagues bent over backwards to put in unpalatable provisions just to get his vote. By the way the headline was on Huffington Post.
Here is another Huffington Post entry that ticks me off. Microsoft is in discussions with News Corp to pay News Corp to de-link from Google and link instead with Bing which Microsoft owns. Why does that tick me off? I have tried Bing and I simply like Google better. I don't like what comes up on Bing and I don't like the navigation on Bing. So, to get a market share they evidently can't get by out competing Google (or can't get as quickly) they are going to resort to bribery?? Ah, the American way of business!!
For anyone who believes the pie-in-the-sky pronouncements from the financial 'experts' telling us that the recession is over, here is another dose of reality.
Anyone remember the furor over that motel manager who insisted his Hispanic employees change their names so they sounded more Anglo?? Well here is another, wider discussion of the theme. We forget sometimes just how ingrained some of our prejudices are. Does anyone remember an episode of Upstairs/Downstairs from about 30 years ago where the titled lady was interviewing a prospective maid and insisted, when she hired her, that the girl answer to a more plain English name instead of the fancy French name her mother had given her? The lady wondered out loud, in front of the girl, what her parents could have been thinking to give their daughter such an inappropriate name. In that case the question was one of class not race or ethnicity. Lower class or poor people shouldn't have such fancy names. I could multiply these kinds of incidents from fiction or history but the key here is the notion of prejudice (what we think is appropriate, what we think of the character of the individual we are dealing with) and a sense of entitlement (that our standards should be applied).
Here is an interesting pair of ideas from the Halifax Daily Herald--give everyone a carbon tax credit and then tax carbon emissions, and then put a carbon tax on all domestic manufacturing while placing import duties equal to the carbon emissions involved in the production of the overseas product. The author makes an interesting case with a bit of humor.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Good Morning, again. We might get some sun today. That would be real nice. My mood always perks up when the sun is shining no matter what the temps.
Kay commented on the post yesterday. In answer to her speculation about the story involving illegals--yes, most of the exploited workers were illegal and some of the ones exploiting them were also. The similar stories from Europe also involved illegal migrants from Eastern Europe forced into near slavery conditions in Italy and other Western European countries. The problem in both cases was that the systems punish the migrants harshly but don't have much impact on those who exploit the migrants. Three or four weeks ago our local news ran a story about the exploitation of children as young as five on some of the fruit farms of Michigan. State and Federal authorities are now investigating some of the largest producers. I have mentioned our economic race to the bottom before. The key to that race is price. The only way to increase a market (or market share) in an economy like ours is to price your product at a level where almost anyone can buy it. That squeezes everybody involved in the sale, transport and production. Notice I haven't said anything about quality here. Quality is only a marginal selling point. Once, some time ago, when I was in an academic history program, I read a good a lot of the 19th century apologists for slavery. The constant refrain in these writings was the need to use inhumane force to get work out of slaves. It sounds to me the same principle is working in modern 'democratic' America.
This story doesn't really surprise me. Citi is just bringing out into the open what had been beneath the surface of the credit card business for some time. The real money was not in extending what were, essentially, short term loans for a specified interest. The profits came with the fees and penalties, and the interest accrued over a long term. Some time ago I saw a news story on this topic and the person interviewed for this piece said that the industry term for those card holders that paid off their accounts each month was 'deadwood.' Be cause they did not pay interest or penalties. So, at a time when we need a more responsible approach to credit, Citi finds it more profitable to encourage the misuse of credit.
As you can tell I started this on Friday and it is now Saturday. We had yet another technology problem--this time with the cell phones. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since both are at least 5 years old. We pushed them just like we pushed the old iMacs. So we spent the afternoon looking at cell phones, choosing new cell phones and learning to use the new cell phones. That is the worst part of new technology. The nicest part was dealing with the people at the Verizon store. Once we told them what we wanted they steered us directly to the most appropriate (not the most expensive) phones. We didn't get any of the usual pressure to move into a higher price selection.
I just finished a book that might be of interest given the recent MRSA infection stories. It is Rising Plague: The Global Threat From Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal To Fight Them by Brad Spellberg, MD. I was often irritated while I read this book because the author came across as condescending. He frequently included unnecessary parenthetical remarks to explain something that didn't really need explaining, to me at least. Others may not have that problem since they may not have two degrees in biology/zoology and may not have kept up on the growing incidence of antibiotic resistance over the last few years. Most of what he had to say was no surprise and he did have some interesting stories to illustrate his points. Chapter 5 (Lack of Antibiotic Development) did surprise me. There Dr. Spellberg recounted his involvement with a committee which analyzed the leading drug companies development and research investment over the last half century. The situation can be readily summed up: as drug companies have invested ever larger amounts of money in research and development none of that money has gone toward developing new antibiotics even as the incidence of drug-resistant bacterial resistance has exploded. As the good Doctor pointed out over the last period examined in the study (which ended, I think, in 2008) only five antibiotics were under development which was about half the number designed to treat bladder hyperactivity, two less than the number to treat acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome, and only one more than the new drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. Most of the big drug companies don't even have programs to develop new antibiotics any more. This is troubling for another reason. I wonder what programs they have to develop new anti-viral drugs now that several flu strains are showing resistance to Tamiflu???
Archcrone at The Crone Speaks has posted a most sensible item concerning the new guidelines for mammographies and pap tests. Part of the problem with these new guidelines is really poor timing. There is no way they can not get tangled up in the controversy over health care reform. Another part of the problem, related to the first, is that we have a whole group of people who can only function, it seems to me, if they are fear mongering. They led the charge into Afghanistan and Iraq inflaming the fears of terrorism. Now they are leading a charge for the status quo inflaming the fears that some government bureaucrat somewhere will deny some woman somewhere needed medical care. Of course they are ignoring the fact that there are other bureaucrats in allegedly private corporations who are already on a daily basis denying needed care to some man, woman, or child somewhere. I was really pleased to see the medical expert (an MD, by the way) take those idiots to task in very certain terms. If the goal is to reform the system so that individual patients can consult their individual physicians, agree on a medical course of action and then follow through with it, what we are doing now won't get us there.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Good Morning, Everyone. Soggy and gray again here. No change expected in the near future. But then what do we expect since it is almost Thanksgiving.
I saw this item on Huffington Post just now. I think Oregon's Rep. Peter DeFazio has an excellent point. But then I wondered from the beginning about the wisdom of relying so heavily on financial industry insiders for creative thinking on the recession. And everyone knows that the stimulus, bailout, and other measures have all been totally skewed toward big finance and have done diddly squat for everyone else. But then I am already getting tired of the campaign ads touting how "X," "Y," or "Z" has all these grand plans (totally non-specific, of course) to stimulate business and 'create jobs.' If you believe them I have a beautiful bridge and some wonderful swampland to sell you. I will give you a very good price.
Food First reports that the European Food Safety Administration has rejected the application made by a Monsanto/Cargill joint venture to produce a lysine boosted variant of genetically modified corn in Europe. The article makes some interesting reading.
Barry Estabrook at Politics of the Plate has a couple of very unsettling posts. In one he describes slavery in the South Florida tomato fields. I have read about these kinds of conditions in Europe over the last couple of years. There is a price to pay for cheap goods. Unfortunately, the end user is not the one who pays. The other post concerns a supermarket chain that has been fighting against labor organizations trying to improve working conditions and which now seems to be engaged in filming not the protestors on the picket line but their very young children. Of course, they are maintaining a 'plausible deniability' but I seriously doubt that the photographer would be involved if they didn't encourage him.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Good Morning, Everyone. Another gloomy day predicted. But looking outside I have some hope that we might get a bit of sun. At least we aren't (I hope) going to get what Kansas has had--plenty of snow. Yeah, THAT four letter word in in use again. I would know it is getting colder even if I didn't have to go outside. One of the cats who hasn't wanted to curl up in bed with me did so last night. He hasn't done that since last spring. And all of them want much more lap time after about six months of being very happy to stay on the sofa. And they get very upset when we have to insist that they stay off our laps.
It looks like the announcement that women should not start getting mammograms before age 50 and then only every two years has created a fire storm. The teaser for Good Morning America, which I have no intention of seeing, announced they had assembled a panel of experts to thrash out what women should do in light of the new information. Like every other bit of advice, this is being presented as though the 'one size fits all.' No one wants to use any more brain power than absolutely necessary to consider whether any advice, old or new, fits their circumstances. And, of course, the news media seems more interested in a lively debate that throws out a lot of heat and very little light. I notice they aren't suggesting that women carefully consider their individual circumstances, and ask themselves and their doctors serious questions on this matter.
Given the state of today's economy, I wonder if the situation described at Adapting In Place will become 'the new normal.'
As you can tell I didn't finish this last night. So, I guess I will continue now. It is soggy and gray today. The hoped-for sun never materialized yesterday.
I have been thinking about the comments I made about the new guidelines concerning mammogram screening as more and more 'experts' and 'women-on-the-street' weigh in on the subject. This whole topic (as is most in medicine now-a-days). There are several threads that are buried in the discussions that few are acknowledging. First, especially in the interviews with ordinary women who may or may not be cancer survivors or beneficiaries of mammograms, is fear. Actually, several fears. One fear is that, for those who have insurance that covers mammograms as currently recommended, those insurance companies will implement the new recommendations to boost their bottom lines. They will charge their customers the same or slightly more for half the service. Another fear is of the cancer itself the treatment of which is costly and potentially disfiguring. If you have insurance, you may have to fight the insurance company to get the benefits you paid for, or you may find yourself cut off for any number of reasons before your treatment is completed, or you may find yourself uninsurable in the future. Coupled along with that fear is one that comes out of the push over the years for 'early' detection. We have been told that early detection means a better outcome and the earlier the better.
But my perverse little mind asks some other questions. How many women can afford (on their own) a mammogram every year? How many are in a situation where they insurance only covers mammograms every other year now? What data might there be on the prevalence of false positives, or the cumulative effects of exposure to the radiation involved, or on the growth rates of different breast cancers, on spontaneous remission? Does anyone remember the news of a while back that aggressive treatment of prostate cancer was often unnecessary? I said above that there is no 'one size fits all' medicine. We are all individuals and our own physical characteristics and psychological make up affects our treatments. Do we have a strong family history of breast cancer? Have we ourselves been diagnosed with breast cancer? These may be indications that we should have yearly mammograms starting even before age 40. The furor has created a lot of heat and very little light, like so much that hits the mainstream media fan. I think I will remain what I have been to date--a medical minimalist with a high quota of skepticism.
Kevin Sachs blog at the New York Times reveals the depths of Republican hypocrisy. At the same time they block any movement on a health care reform bill they claim that the new mammography guidelines are 'rationing.' The question I asked above is very relevant here: how many women (or their families) can afford either the mammograms (on what ever time scale) or the treatments (if the tests reveal cancer) out of their own pockets? Why is rationing by insurance company bureaucrats better than rationing by government bureaucrats? Oh, I forgot. Lobbyists from paid by the insurance company bureaucrats are funding legislators' campaigns. It is very obvious who is paying the piper and who is calling the tune.
John Rosevear at The Motley Fool has a good post on the economy this morning: 'Recovery? On What Planet?' It reflects much of what I have been thinking and seeing from my 'worm's eye' perspective. We hear that the economy grew last quarter which sounds good until we start dissecting the numbers and see that most of the growth was really not growth at all. We hear that consumer confidence is up but wonder why because another of our friends or family has either been laid off, had their hours cut, or can't make their bills. There was a wonderful, if very short, piece on the news this morning announcing that Goldman Sachs apologized for its role in precipitating the financial mess and is going to make a seemingly large sum of money available for lending to small businesses. What was wonderful about the report was the counterbalancing statements that the sum represented a little over 2% of the bonuses Goldman expects to pay this year and that the big banks have cut their small business loan business by several times that amount.
Oftwominds has a good blog this morning detailing another reason why we are not going to see much of a recovery any time soon--or rather not much of a recovery towards what we once thought of as normal prosperity. I have said often over the last few years that we have become a nation of people hired to sell goods made elsewhere to other people hired to sell goods made elsewhere to people hired .... . Exporting our way out of this mess is a fantasy. But then there was another story on the morning news that reflects the problem. Another trade show that has had a long history of being hosted in Chicago has decided to go elsewhere citing the costs involved in holding their conventions and shows in Chicago. A legion of other cities are very eager to cut huge breaks to reduce those costs and thereby attract new convention business. This is another race to the bottom. Those cities gain some but Chicago looses a lot. The two (the loss and the gain) will meet somewhere well south of the middle.
Nouriel Roubini also has a post which underlies a fact that I have noticed before: we are really two economies. And it is the smaller one that is showing some weak signs of recovery. The larger economy, the one most of us inhabit, shows few signs of recovery.
I will leave you with those notions and go have breakfast now. See you later.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Good Morning on this gray and wet Monday. That is likely to be the report for most of this week. I guess we can't really complain since November has been, so far, so much better than October was.
I found this item on Huffington Post which provides links to the original Washington Post story. It should make everyone angry as hell. I am not talking just about the notion that much of the TARP money has probably been lost down some fiscal black hole. What I am pissed about is this:
"The Post profiles CIT's failure and bankruptcy despite $2.3 billion in investments from the federal government, money that US taxpayerswill likely never see (though Goldman Sachs, another CIT investor, stands to make $1 billion from the company's failure)." (my emphasis in red)
Question: Why should Goldman make $1 billion when the U.S. taxpayer will probably loose $2.3 billion? So they make another bad investment decision and come out with a profit?? The article doesn't name all 33 of the companies that are not going to pay the dividends required by the TARP loans. I wonder if any other source does.
By the way, The Washington Post story is even more nauseating. It indicates that 46 companies that had received TARP loans and were required to make dividend payments to the government failed to do so as of Sept. 30. I wonder if the remaining 13 are going to be able to pay the next installment or they have gone under and so aren't counted in the numbers of probable defaulters for the December payment. My bet is on the latter given that somewhere around 110 banks have failed this year.
If Dante were writing The Divine Comedy today, I wonder in which circle in hell he would place the drug company executives. This MSNBC story tells us that they are raising their prices at the 'fastest pace in years." They just had that nice bit of publicity--standing in the rose garden last summer getting praise from the President for their pledge to shave $8billion from drug costs over the next 10 years. Why doesn't the President call them out for the self-serving, self-centered bastards they are?
I was intrigued by this article just reading the title: Robbed Blind by a Pig Wearing Lipstick. He details three ways 'positive' statistics totally screw the average Joe. People used to urge us to 'look for the silver lining.' Now we have to look closely at the dark cloud we have been encouraged to ignore.
I need to correct my statement that 'around 110 banks have failed this year.' The latest count is 123 with the government's take over of three more last Friday night. Thanks to Americablog's Chris in Paris for the update.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Good Morning, Everyone. After a very nice weather week we now have rain and clouds. Temperatures are supposed to get into the mid-50s. Most of the weather people have been making comments about how nice and mild November has been so far especially after the crappy October. I told Mom that I would be very amused (like laughing my head off amused) if at the end of the year we had had a normal to warmer than normal year. This one has been incredibly schizophrenic.
Well, President Obama asked Congress to hold off on any 'investigations' of the Fort Hood shootings--and they, essentially, told him where to stuff it. Did anyone expect anything else given that we have a minority party (Republicans) who desperately want to damage the administration in time for next year's off-year elections? Or that we have some Democrats who are Democrats in name only with the same motivations? Or that most of us are highly skeptical, given eight long years of Executive Branch manipulation and malfeasance, of any investigation by the Administration into the failings of the Administration? I am also incredibly sick of the standard rhetoric about 'making sure THIS (whatever this is) doesn't happen again.' The only difference between Fort Hood and Columbine High School or that idiot who opened fire on the employees of the company that fired him two years ago is the site. What does that say about any government's ability to prevent these outbursts?
I found this article on MSNBC this morning. We are already spending a horrendous amount of money on this debacle and now they want to send in an additional 40k soldiers at a cost of $1 million PER SOLDIER. Here is another idiocy we should all give the middle finger salute to. We can't find the money to fix our infrastructure. We can't find the money to fix our social programs. We can't find the money to fix health care. But we CAN find the money for THIS. Those sanctimonious conservative idiots don't want to burden our children and grandchildren with the costs of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, or health care reform but they don't mind passing this cost on to them????
Talk about hypocrisy and playing both sides against the middle--this item from the New York Times by way of Huffington Post takes the cake. Evidently lobbyists for Genentech and two law firms wrote health care reform related statements for 42 Republicans and Democrats. The article says they statements were about evenly divided between the two parties. I will let you read the dirty details. If I had come across this pattern when I was teaching I would have flunked the bunch--for plagiarism.
And thanks to Huffington Post for another entry. I hadn't heard that there was a deal developing that would result, when completed, in Comcast owning a majority stake in NBC. I like Comcast. We have both cable and internet service through them. But I think the operative question is the one at the end of the article: what are they going to do with it. I have been totally bummed out by what has been on tv for some time. We are overwhelmed with situation comedies that I fail to see the humor in. We have a plethora of 'reality' shows that leave me asking 'why in the hell would they put that crap on tv?' We have news shows that are more entertainment than news. I don't think Comcast taking over NBC will make things worse but I am not optimistic that they will make things better.
Then there is this New York Times article (again by way of Huffington Post) that should be put in the "why we are to totally f****d" folder. Everyone who helped precipitate this recession and made out like bandits in the run up are now getting more breaks than the poor b******s caught up in it. Sorry if I am turning the air blue today but I can't vomit far enough to get their pretty suits messed up.
On that note I will continue straightening up the sewing/computer room. I am always amazed at what I find that I forgot I had. See everyone tomorrow.