Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good Saturday morning to everyone out there.  It is nice and sunny, though cold.  Yesterday was gloomy but with one bright spot: the seeds we ordered came in.  We spent more of the morning with coffee than usual discussing when to clean off the patio, bring out the containers, what we had to get to get them up and running.  All that good stuff.  We will be starting our spring and summer seeds very soon.  That will be good.

Last week, I think it was, I noted that seed sales provided a bright spot in otherwise lackluster consumer sales.  According to a survey by the National Gardeners' Association featured on Green City Growers,  the number of people planning food gardens has increased dramatically.  Gee, I wonder why.  Couldn't be because people are getting tired of paying high prices for the tasteless produce the genetic engineers have created to meet the needs of commercial growers and shippers, could it?  Or the, apparently, increasing frequency of food borne illness from those sources?  Or that, as more people join the ranks of the un- or underemployed, a productive activity that saves on the food budget is more attractive?  Sign me up on all of the above.

The AARP Bulletin (on-line) has this little article on supermarket rip-offs.  Though the process described is 'old as the hills,' as they say, it really took off last fall.  We noted all of these over the last year.  These changes are part of the reason why we buy stick margarine instead of the tub, do not buy frozen pizzas at all, may not buy any ice cream this summer, and watch the weight or volume indications closely on everything else.  I love the last little comment: "I’m waiting for the day I open a carton of a dozen eggs and there’s only 11."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Well, it is morning.  Whether good remains to be seen.  We have had, at times, heavy rain and lightening over the last 18 hours or so.  The wind has been blustery.  It feels as though March simply can't wait to come in.  But February is still fighting.  Our temps are supposed to fall throughout today and not get out of the mid 20s.  Some of the drizzle and rain may actually freeze on the roadways. (update--it is snowing lightly now.  The wind is still high, sending the snow skittering over the roofs and down the street like white dust.  I am very glad I don't have to go out.)

Does anyone else find that when their expected routine is shredded that the day sputters along--not feeling really right.  That was yesterday.  I did get some things done but nothing felt really satisfying.  It was all just a little off.  Today is, so far, off to a good start.  The internet is working.

The political and economic situation doesn't help.  Mark Morford catches the spirit of the times rather well.  We seem whipsawed between emotions and fears.  For me, the fears have subsided to nagging concern.  I hope the job market will perk up but I don't really expect it to do that very soon.  Over the last 16 months I have seen the number of even marginally suitable jobs dwindle.  I remember applying for a couple while my psyche screamed, silently,  "Please, God, NO!!"  I would like a good job.  You know--one that pays for my life.  But none come even close unless I want to spend 80+ hours per week working (which I definitely do not) and none come close to offering even a 'normal' 40 hour week.  Oh, well.  I can get some sardonic amusement from the Republicans trying to regain their virginity.  Listening to Boehner blast big spending Democrats after giving Bush everything he wanted, including the first $1+ trillion budget deficit while keeping the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan off budget, I think he should rate a comedy award.

We got used over the last couple of years to the penny-pinching ways of U.S. airlines: eliminating meals, charging for checked bags and for amenities like pillows and blankets.  This one from the BBC takes the cake.  I hope the good execs at Ryanair find themselves locked away somewhere without any money, a coin operated toilet, and a very full bladder.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Well, it is a foggy morning and we may get rain.  However, no temps below 30 for the next week--knock on wood.  It has already been an out of kilter day.  Our internet service was out until just after 8:30 buy which time I should have been completely through my e-mail and the blogs I usually follow.  As it is I did manage a couple of other things.  Some time ago I made an attempt to make my own vest pattern.  After a couple of not so successful attempts, I, finally, managed to make a good paper pattern.  This morning I cut out a fabric pattern from an old sheet so I can lay out the elements once I get them stitched.  I also did some photoshop type of manipulation of one of the motifs.  It still needs a good bit of work.  I also pulled out one of the few remaining painted needlepoint canvases, got it on one of my q-snap frames, and started selecting the yarn/thread.  Now I have two new Works in Progress (WIPs).  So much for trying to complete a project before beginning a new one.  I might get some pictures sometime soon. 

Peter Drier at TPM Cafe has a neat post defining the difference between Obama's views of the economy and the Bush/Republican view.  It isn't the difference between socialism and capitalism but between responsible capitalism and crony capitalism.  I think he makes a very good case. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hello, everyone.  The last couple of days have been devoted to errands with mixed results.  Successful: library run to return books and get new ones; trip to my local quilt shop to get a new supply of batting; grocery shopping; paying rent; getting the first of the soil to fill the containers and the potting soil to start the seeds (which should be arriving sometime SOON.)  Not so successful:  a trip up to JoAnn's in Portage to get a bit of fabric for a project Mom has been thinking about for a while.

An added bonus to the trip to the quilt shop was that I didn't have to make a trip to Michaels because I found the embroider thread I needed.  I do so prefer to patronize the local shops.  By my self I can't keep any of them in business but I can do what I can.

JoAnns was a BIG disappointment.  In the end we left without buying anything.  They used to carry bolts of prequilted fabric.  That had been reduced to, perhaps, a dozen bolts.  None of them were very interesting.  Mom finally settled on one pattern.  It took a while because most were rather blah.  She thought it was a good deal since the original price was $8.99 but the sign said 30% off.  That would have brought the price down to a reasonable level.  But, after the clerk cut the yard Mom needed, we discovered that that particular bolt was not on sale and had been put in the wrong place.  Since the fabric was not that great and the pattern so-so, we left without it.  Most of the fabric was a cheap quality at a dear price.  It might as well have been Wal-Mart.

I did watch the President's address and the Republican response and have a few observations.  First,  if Jindal is the future of the Republican Party, they are in serious trouble.  I thought it amazing that he would cite Katrina as though the response was a high point for the party of the, then, sitting president.  That humorous little story about the local sheriff yelling at bureaucrats who were stopping men with boats from going to rescue people off the roofs until they presented proof of licenses and insurance completely ignored who those bureaucrats worked for.  If they were state, why bring them up as an indictment against the Federal government.  If they were Federal,  who was running the Federal government then?  He tried hard to, as an analyst earlier yesterday, recast the Republicans as the party of fiscal responsibility.  Unfortunately, that is like the Mayfair Madame claiming her most productive whore is a virgin.

Second, there isn't much that can be said about the President's speech.  It was a good cheerleading effort that was long on badly needed hope and enthusiasm but short on specifics.  Perhaps that should have been expected since any specific proposals must pass the legislature.  I saw a couple of hopeful signs though.  One was the President's stated determination to be honest about the money our wars are costing us.  I was amazed, again, at the Republican applause for this point since many of them voted for war funding which their President kept off the books.  A second was President Obama's equal determination to bring back Federal oversight and to formulate a new set of regulations.  He specifically referred to the financial industry but I hope he also goes into environmental regulation and food safety as well.

I will play the heretic on a last point.  The emphasis the President places on education is all well and good.  However, I hear an unspoken assumption that formal education is always good and more is better.  I ask: 'education for what?'  We don't need a college degree to punch a cash register, flip a burger, or drive a delivery truck.  Also, I haven't seen any real plan to change the way we fund education.  Anyone wanting to get a college education today has only a few options for funding it.  They may be lucky and get full ride scholarships, which are few and far between.  They may have family willing and able to fund their education.  The rest are forced into a patchwork quilt of work study (if they can get it), part time work, and student loans.  If anyone tries to do without the loans they are forced into a part time schedule which will stretch their time getting through their program to 8 to 10 years.  If they take the loans they will start their careers with a load of debt, often a heavy load.  I have several friends who are still paying off loans from 15 and 20 years ago.  One had to declare bankruptcy due, in part, to the burden of student loans.  Over the past several years I have seen several analysts, bloggers and others describe this as a form of debt slavery.  Surely there is a better way to do this, if education is REALLY that important.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Well, here it is.  Sunday again.  My how time does fly, whether you are having fun or not.  Anyway, a good morning to anyone out there.

Yesterday I made some comments on the habit we have of demonizing certain groups.  Donna at Changing Places left this link for a piece on Street Prophets in the comments and I thought I would share it with everyone.  It puts some figures behind the myth and demonstrates who the real 'welfare queens' are.

There isn't much else, so I will end for now.  Bye, all.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hello, again, everyone.  We haven't gotten much snow--yet.  Hopefully, if the system goes north as predicted, we won't.  You can never tell these days.  It seems the tornado season has already begun.  Let's hope the fire season out west doesn't also.

The evening news last night noted that it is Girl Scout cookie season again.  And sales have fallen.  No surprise there.  We used to buy a dozen boxes each.  Couldn't avoid it since several of the grand-nieces (Mom's great-granddaughters) have passed through the ranks from Brownie on.  But we cut back a few years ago.  Partly, we simply couldn't keep up.  Partly, we simply did not like the flavor of the newly formulated cookies (you know--making them heart healthy, etc.)  And partly, we noticed that the packages were shrinking.  Too bad.  I remember selling the cookies when I way a girl.

In the same story, the reporter noted that one of the products showing a surge in sales is---vegetable seeds.  I can well understand why.  Given the numbers of unemployed (or underemployed) many people have more time than money and gardening is a good way to boost your diet and get some healthy exercise.  This another area, of so many, where I feel like the proverbial canary in the coal mine.  Our tomatoes were moderately successful last year in spite of growing in pots that were way too small for them.  This year we have much larger containers and peppers will be joining the tomatoes (and a few other things also.)  We will spend, maybe, $80 on soil and seeds this year.  But, at the cost of tomatoes and peppers in the market even in season, we will come out ahead.  And they will taste much better.  We are rediscovering the joys of anticipation.

Crooks and Liars has an entry today that goes along with the theme.  We have been hearing similar stories on the news since just before Christmas.  The food banks are straining to meet the demand from those who once had good jobs and now are unemployed or have had their working hours cut drastically.  People who once donated to the food banks are now patrons.  At the end of the story there was this little comment that hit a nerve: "Now, I know some of you are going to say they make enough money to live and they're just trying to scrounge off the system. But that's unlikely: How many working people want to stand in line at a food bank? People are usually ashamed of needing help.  Things are so bad right now for so many of us. Try to have some compassion - it could be you."

Why does that strike a nerve, you might ask?  Because the author refers to a phenomenon I have had a long acquaintance with.  I experience it every time I get into a political debate with some of my male relatives.  They counter any suggestion that changes should be made that would make our system more responsive to people who can't provide their own health care (or whose employers can't or won't provide it); or who have been unemployed long enough to have exhausted their benefits, or (insert your own pet area of distress.)  My male relatives always rely on two arguments.  First, as above, "those people" are simply trying to scam the system and get a free ride.  Second, it is unfair to others, like themselves, who 'have done the right thing' and provided for themselves and their families.  This notion has a long history in American political thought.  It goes back to the Victorian notion of the 'deserving poor.'  You see it in the emphasis placed on 'welfare queens' during the Reagan and Clinton 'reforms' of welfare.  Take a look at some of the arguments for 'reforming' Social Security.  One of my young male relatives always adds his own conviction that he will never see a dime of the money he is paying into the system to as another justification for doing away with it.  At the bottom of all of these arguments is a lamentable and regrettable---selfishness.

Karen Banfield at Well Met posted this today.  At first I simply read it and passed by.  But then I went back and decided to link to it.  The message is one we all need every now and then: 'feed yourself beauty.'  It is all too easy to succumb to the bleakness and gray of our lives.  They say 'you are what you eat.'  We should follow the same rule when feeding our souls.

On that note it is time to feed both body and soul.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hello, everyone.  It looks to be a nice sunny, but cold, day.  However, tonight and into tomorrow we are expecting a winter storm.  The alert goes into effect at 11 pm tonight.  We watched the weather reports over the last couple of days as the predictions went from a couple of inches to 3-5 inches to over 'half a foot.'  Winter, it seems, won't give up without a fight.

I find it very interesting that every time any level of government has a problem meeting its budget they decide to increase the 'sin taxes.'  We heard that the Federal government is planning to raise the cigarette tax to $1/pack.  Just asked Mom if it was in effect.  She would know.  I have also read about sporadic efforts in various areas to raise the alcohol taxes.  The San Francisco Chronicle has this article summarizing those proposals.  I came to it by way of Mark Morford who has a humorous take on this trend in his blog.  I remember reading some years ago that the governments of the last Czars recognized rampant alcoholism was a serious problem.  However, they refused to do anything to discourage excess drinking.  Why?  The alcohol taxes were a mainstay of their budgets.  

Here is another interesting little story from by way of by way of Mark Morford (above.)  The Governor of Massachusetts wants to implement a plan over the next several years tax all residents for the number of miles they drive.  A GPS tracking chip embedded in the vehicle inspection stickers would allow the state to keep track of the number of miles each driver travels.  I have some mixed feelings about this.  I don't like the notion that some one, somewhere can see how much I drive and where.  It is none of their business.  Also, I think back to last summer when the Indiana and Illinois toll roads raised their prices for all drivers who did not use their automatic system involving an expensive transmitter keyed to your credit card (or other automatic pay system).  That is, for all drivers who pay cash.  Mom and I visit my sister or nephew three or four times a year.  The toll road had been a nice, easy, quick way to go that wasn't overly expensive.  Only about $.70 per round trip.  That has tripled now.  The new price wouldn't be bad but we are totally pissed off that cash payers are singled out for this increase.  We haven't driven the toll road since.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Good Morning, again.  It is blustery and cold.  None of the weather people really knew what this new system, which they described as 'complex,' would do.  Well, it dumped about 3 inches of snow, after yesterday's rain, and then froze.  Temps now are in the teens with a wind chill below zero.  Thankfully, we have nowhere we have to go.  We are supposed to get some sun later but the temperature won't go above 30.  Tuesday, Mom made a big pot of beef soup (with cabbage, pieces of corn on the cob, tomatoes, and whatever mixed veggie she grabbed).  Normally, we would have the soup for a couple of days and then freeze the remaining half.  Not this time.  It has been cold enough that we don't mind four days in a row of a hot and hearty soup.

I happened upon this blog entry at SillyCreations this morning during my usual trip through the google alerts.  We laughed all the way through it.  Good medicine on a gloomy day.

I think I will leave it today with that.  The sun has come out and it is time to do some stitching.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good Morning, All.  It is raining today and we may have snow later tonight, after the temperature drops over the course of the day.  Doesn't matter since I have no where I really have to go.

Doing my usual morning trip through the blogs that come up on my google searches I found this entry from the Christian Science Monitor that angers me on a couple of levels.  First, is this little item: among the fiscal messes Obama found on entering office was "almost $11 trillion in Treasury debt, and deficits of more than $1 trillion a year for the foreseeable future."  Yesterday, a blogger (sorry I don't remember who and can't link) wrote that the $1 trillion deficits really were not that bad compared to a GDP of about $14 trillion, the size of the economy today.  Well that Treasury debt, if it is in fact $11 trillion, is getting really close to the size of the overall economy.  Second, "Bush's team borrowed more than $1 trillion from the Social Security "trust fund" and seemed to spend it on everything except Social Security."  How far would that $1 trillion have gone to shoring up the financial base of the program?  Last, and I will let you go to the link and read the rest, is the fact that in the budget, as in so much else that deals with the economy, the government has used cherry picked data and statistical models to disguise what they have done and what has been happening to our economy.  Figures don't lie but our elected and appointed liars sure can figure.

I came across something else yesterday that also raised my hackles a bit.  I was listening to the talking heads on CNBC and the topic was the extension of unemployment benefits.  A couple of these dear boys, who are obviously employed in good paying jobs, criticised the extension on the grounds that it would, like all such programs, simply encourage unemployment.  People would simply continue to receive benefits until they ran out and then, miraculously, find a job. An interesting thing about having read a good deal of history, including some primary sources, is that I see parallels between ideas floating around today and ideas that appeared in the past.  The argument above is very similar to those posed by apologists for the southern slave system and for the abysmal working conditions and pay in the norther cities.  The Negro slave was, according to the first, a lazy beast who only worked hard and consistently with the spur of the lash and the firm hand of the owner or overseer driving him on.  The poor and working class beasts were likewise, according to the latter, lazy at heart and would only work hard with the spur of hunger driving them on.  In both cases, anything done to ease their circumstances would be counterproductive.  Therefore, it is better to do nothing at all.  Or as Scrooge said, 'If they be like to die, let them do it and reduce the surplus population.'

Archcrone at The Crone Speaks has an interesting post today.  She notes that many of the state governors who are in favor of the stimulus package are from so-called red states.  She also notes that many of the 'red' states send less in taxes to Washington than they receive while the industrialized blue states end more to Washington than they get back essentially subsidizing the anti-tax, anti-union, anti-environmental red states.  Hard to believe?  Not really.  I have almost always lived in blue areas of otherwise red states.  That formula works on that level also.  The blue areas pay more than they get back while the red areas get back more than they pay.

I was wondering why GM wasn't asking for more from the U.S. Government to bail it out of its mess.  Now I know, thanks to a BBC article which claims that GM is lobbying Sweden, Germany and the UK for bail outs equalling the amounts the U.S. has put up.  I noticed the graphic last night which showed the 'brands' the company is planning to phase out.  I caught the Hummer and Saab logos but wasn't quick enough to see all of them.  One of the reporters on CNBC said yesterday that the banks should be downsized and never again allowed to grow to the size where they can put an economic gun to the taxpayers' heads and insist on being bailed out 'or else.'  Perhaps we should say the same for the automakers?  Perhaps everyone ought to rethink the 'benefits' of globalization?

Well, time to go on to something else.  Bye for now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  I know.  I haven't been here for a couple of days.  Actually, I have been here but I haven't had much to say.  The weather has been doing what it normally does this time of the year--up and down temps, mixes of precipitation.  In other words--nothing worth commenting on.  The political scene is much of what it has been except that the focus has now shifted from the defects or virtues of the stimulus package (predictably breaking by party lines) to whether it will work or not.  My gut feeling--some of it will work, some won't.  But I don't think it will do the job the Administration and the Democrats hope it will do.  We are in the middle of a world wide recession and that is a phenomenon that has a lot of momentum behind it.  Pro-stimulus economists hope that the package will at least prevent a deflation but that may be a pipe dream.  What else are you going to get when so many people are losing jobs and those who still have jobs are seeing about 50% of their earning power evaporate either through direct wage cuts or through cuts in hours.

On this morning's news, the economic reporter warned viewers that they will probably see some of their favorite products disappear from the supermarket shelves as companies phase out some of their products to focus on the best sellers.  Well, I got news for that reporter--ain't nothing new.  Mom and I have watched as many of our favorite products have disappeared over the years.  For that exact same reason.  I have written about that frustration before.

Yesterday was our regular shopping day and we decided, since we didn't need much in the way of groceries, to get the seeds we would have been buying next week anyway.  As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, we got our Burpee's catalog and I made a list of what we needed.  You would think we would have no trouble--what with a Home Depot (where we found several large display gondolas with Burpee's seeds) and a Menards near by.  How many packets of seeds did we find on our list of a dozen?  TWO.  Damn!!!  Neither of the tomatoes.  None of the peppers.  We'll go on line and place an order with Burpee's later today.  Got news for their purchasing agents--not everyone wants long season beefsteak tomatoes.  (Update on this.  Just placed the order.  I had an e-mail from Burpee's and decided to go ahead since I was already on site.  We will be set for at least the next three years.)

I have been reading John Mauldin's 'Outside the Box' post which I get via e-mail.  He writes about sales tax revenues and how they reflect the current state of the economy.  Basically--it is pretty dismal.  Revenues are way down as consumers retrench.  He comments that the U.S. consumers are no longer the "world consumer of last resort, and that's an enormous change for both this country and the rest of the world to get used to."  He also doesn't expect consumer spending to recover until well after the economy generally recovers.  Just last night and this morning the local news (Chicago for us) noted the difficulties that the public transit agencies face.  Just this time last year the Illinois legislature bolstered the revenues devoted to Chicago's transit authorities with increased sales taxes.  At the time, they thought it was a long term fix.  That was before the economy tanked.

I think I will leave this for the day.  The table cloth is about half done.  I want to cut more plastic bags into plarn and stitch together some more of my scrap strips.  Little things but it clears the clutter and gets material ready to make into larger projects.  See ya later.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  It is cooler and will be for the next week.  But, hey, I can handle mid thirties.  We will have sun today and, indeed, the sun is up and bright right now.  We did get some wind but not the hurricane force winds that hit through the Ohio Valley and points in the north east.

A bit of an update on those rugs I made from scrap yarn using the knitting spool.  They both washed up really well--except for two things.  The rug made with the sugar and cream cotton yarn was so heavy and dense it took forever to dry.  The other, made with the synthetic worsted weight yarns, washed well but the backing did not.  However, I discovered that I don't have to attach the non-slip shelf liner to the rug to get the benefit of the non-slip function.  Simply laying the rugs on top of a piece of liner, cut slightly smaller than the rug, does the job.

I came across this article in the New York Times this morning.  We have all, I am sure, seen the news stories on the rising rates of asthma in both children and adults over the last several decades.  For a long while now, Mom and I have wondered if that increase might be due, at least in part, to the penchant for almost sterile cleanliness we have in this country.  Children, especially, simply are not exposed to allergens and cannot develop an immunity.  I remember a recent '60 Minutes' segment on efforts to deal with children's nutritional problems in parts of Africa by making available an easily digested food supplement made from peanuts (a kind of fortified peanut butter, actually.)  I was surprised by the response of one of the inventors to the question of how many allergic reactions they had had: none.  In this country, peanut and other nut allergies are a major problem--so much so that some schools have removed anything with nuts from the cafeteria lines.  The Times article mentions lack of immune exposure as a leading possible cause but also includes other possible culprits, all artifacts of our modern life: vitamin D deficiency, aerosol cleaners, and the switch from aspirin to acetaminophen.  It is something to think about.

I got the Burpee's seed catalog yesterday and it has been a delight.  We are looking at veggies mostly but some of the flowers are stunning.  I haven't seen a seed catalog in a very long time since I haven't had much of an opportunity to garden in a very long time.  We found a nice large selection of Burpee seeds at the local Home Depot.  So I will be making a list with a couple of alternatives in each category and see what the local store has.  Burpee will still get some of our money but so will our Home Depot.  I like keeping things local.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  Yesterday was windy and rainy.  But at least it stayed over 40 for most of the day.  High 30s today.  We aren't quite ready to wash our winter coats, gloves, and scarves to store away for the season.  But we are close.  I can feel it.

Thanks to Kay at Kay's Thinking Cap for this link to youtube.  I saw snippets of this rant by a Massachusetts representative yesterday but no one carried the full 5+ minutes.  Otherwise the testimony by all of these bankers amounted to less than a bucket of warm spit.  Of course, these guys are the johnny-come-latelys who replaced the smart assholes who dumped this mess on everyone.  But I think the assessment of the credit default swaps and other slight-of-hand 'investment' maneuvers is right on. 

Here is another sign (by way of MSNBC) of the times that I can readily relate to.  More companies are finding it worthwhile to challenge the unemployment claims of laid off workers.  And doing so successfully.  Why can I relate?  When I left my last job I was under the impression, explicitly given to me by my direct supervisor, that I would be eligible for unemployment.  I was leaving by mutual consent because I simply was not suited to the job. Not entirely by choice because I was fully aware that they would have terminated me even if I hadn't come to that same conclusion.  Imagine my surprise when my claim was denied because I had left 'voluntarily.'  I have no idea what my supervisors told the home office about my struggles to perform the job and my efforts (and minor successes) to improve my performance. The end result has been 16 months unemployed without unemployment benefits and the feeling that I was lied to.

Doug Tarnopol at Free Expression has done some interesting research.  The mainstream media has pretty much stopped talking about drought and I had wondered how the drought-stricken areas of this country fared over the winter.  Not well evidently.  The Australian drought has made only a blip and that when connected to the very few reports on the wildfires.  We haven't heard anything about the spreading drought in China.  According to Doug's info, the countries that account for two-thirds of the worlds agricultural output are experiencing droughts in the extreme to historic range.  Doesn't bode well, does it?  Didn't I read somewhere last year that grain reserves in the U.S. were also at or near historic lows?

This was a delightful surprise.  It is the web site for a Dutch department store HEMA.  Make sure your sound is on and just wait a few seconds after the page loads.  Thanks to Donna at Changing Places for the link.

And from John Aravosis at Americablog--another reason to get universal, single-payer health care coverage.  And another argument for making the penalties for violations of state insurance laws much more punitive.  Hit them in ways that really hurt their bottom line. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good Morning, again.  I think I have a bad case of end of winter blues/cabin fever.  Nothing is interesting.  I don't want to do anything even though I have a number of UFOs (unfinished objects--also called WIPs or Works In progress to soften the guilt of having so many unfinished things laying around) lined up.  Yesterday helped somewhat.  We hit 60 degrees with sun and blue skies.  The snow, except for where it was shoveled into small mountains to clear the parking logs and streets, has almost disappeared.  It was warm enough to open the patio door and let the cats explore for a bit.  Haven't done that since late October.  I don't gauge a winter (or any other season) by the calendar.  I consider how long we keep the house shut up and the heat on; by how long I have been wearing my heavy coat; by how often I need my snow boots.  This year--winter seems interminable.  I think everyone is hoping that it is almost over.

I found this little site with some nice pictures that will surely bring a smile to your face.  They did for me.  Thanks to Laurel at Nefaria for the lift and the pictures.

I have heard a lot of comment on the news and the money shows that explain the drop in the stock market yesterday and, especially, the hit the financial stocks took as a result of the lack of specificity in the new Treasury plan for rescuing the banks.  I have my doubts.  I thought as I listened to the comments that the real explanation lay in the notion that they will not get the second part of the TARP on their terms without oversight.  I think the President's comments, in the sound bits on ABC evening news, were right on.  They wanted an easy path to times as they were without any penalty to themselves.  They wanted it easy, fast and painless.  They are scared out of their pointy little heads by the notion that they won't get what they want.  Jon Taplin at TPM Cafe makes that same point.  Simon Johnson, also at TPM Cafe, makes a similar point and sums up our choices very succinctly.  We can either be easy on the banks and let the taxpayers take most of the pain or we can be tougher on the banks and easier on the taxpayers.  No one is going to get a pass here.  But I think, if we have to apportion the pain, the greater part should go to those who have failed, for whatever reason.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Good Morning, All.  Haven't had much to say.  Wild fires are still burning in Australia.  The death toll has climbed to the point to where our news/entertainment media can take note.  Close to 200 (maybe over by the time the evening news comes on tonight.)  The Stimulus Bill still has to get through the Senate which now appears likely since they voted to stop any filibuster attempt by the disgruntled Republicans who won't support any package no matter how light weight or skewed to their particular pets.  Winter has finally loosened its grip here.  We have had above normal temps for almost a week.  Today should be over 60 degrees and sunny.

Something that has been in the back of my very suspicious mind has been very nicely expressed by Robert Reich in his blog.  Why would the Republicans refuse to support this package?  After all any time Bush asked for outrageous spending and tax cuts that fueled the deficit, they happily complied.  Perhaps because they hope to prolong the suffering of their constituents so they can make a killing in the mid-term elections?  By the way, I wonder how many of those 20k jobs Toyota (I think it was) is cutting will be in this country.  I wonder how that makes the Senator from Alabama (aka, Toyota/Honda depending on the commentator) feel.

I also notice that some of those Senators fancy themselves historians.  They quoted Republican Senators from 1938-9 who lambasted Roosevelt because they claimed that, after all of the massive government spending and the debt run up, his programs had simply not worked.  It is wonderful what you can 'prove' if you choose the right point in time.  The economy had been slowly improving after a very low trough in 1933-4, when the government (due to a number of factors including Roosevelt's own preference for more modest government spending and the agitation by hardline conservatives) cut back on spending.  That drove the economy back into deeper depression.  If government spending had been maintained would the economy have continued to improve?  No one knows.  My dad always said that figures don't lie but liars can figure.  I say historical precedent can prove any point you want to make if you choose the right point in time and ignore any evidence to the contrary.

Jim Kunstler at Clusterfucknation also expresses some of my thoughts about the economy, the stimulus and the state of our nation generally.  He says that all of the debate on the stimulus and the economy suffers from one very basic problem--lack of imagination.  On the one hand, massive debt, and the very creative investment instruments built on it, precipitated the economic meltdown.  On the other, one of the major thrusts of the financial bailout has been to 'get credit flowing again.'  The assumption is that if we can get the credit system back to what it was a couple of years ago everything will be fine.  No one questions the place of credit in our economy.  No one has the imagination to question it.  If you consider every other aspect of our economic rescue packages you see the same tendency.  On the one hand we must create jobs.  On the other, no one questions what kind of jobs they will be and what kind of life they will support.  All the years good paying jobs were being shipped overseas we were assured that new jobs would be opening up.  No one questioned what kind of jobs, doing what exactly, and paying what.  So we wound up with an economy generating low wage and/or  part time jobs by the bushel full.  No one ever paid any attention to the fact that the economy ran on debt while wages stagnated.  An old saying holds that generals are always preparing and planning for the last war.  The same holds for economists and politicians--they are always trying to recreate the past.  Neither take imagination at all.

Well, that is enough for today.  I have to repair the rug I made a bit ago.  The rug itself is fine but I have to re-attach the backing.  I didn't stitch it on as well I thought I had.  Then I have to attach the backing to the second rug I just finished.  Besides it is also shopping day for the week. 

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Well, we are almost dug out--at least in the parking area on my block.  They still have a lot of work to do in front.  How much did we get?  Estimates range from 16 to 20+ inches.  Our mailboxes looked like someone gave them mohawk haircuts.  This is part of our patio.  The fence is behind the snow sculpture the wind created.  We had blizzard and white out for some of Tuesday.  At that time, according to the weather people, the snow fell at 2+ inches per hour.  For nearly an hour we couldn't see the houses across the street.
Here is another view of the patio--on the opposite side.  That is our garbage tote which had been blown clear of any snow when we went to bed about 9:30 Tuesday night.  The patio between the tote and our little mountain was also windswept clear at that time.  As you can see we had about 16 inches when I took this picture next morning.  And the snow was still falling.
About 2 PM yesterday afternoon one of our landlords called and asked if we could try to move our cars because he had trucks with snow blades and a front loader trying to clear the parking areas.  We waded through a drift that extended from our gate to the cars (more than 15 ft.) that reached mid-thigh height all the way.  We did get Mom's car our but had to leave mine.  We had to cut through a drift behind the car was close to 30 inches and extended from the bumpers to the path about 4 ft away where a path had been cleared through the middle of the street.  By the time we quit the shovel crews and the plows were almost at our place.  They did a wonderful job clearing around my car.  I usually like the seasonal changes, but this year---I am so ready for winter to be over.  We had already exceeded our yearly average snowfall in mid December.  If we don't set a new record I will be mightily surprised.  And we didn't get the most snow out of this.  That went over into LaPorte County and into southwest Michigan.  We are both definitely too old for this nonsense.

Now, we are expecting temperatures to break freezing, with several days in excess of 40 degrees and perhaps a couple of 50+ days, for the next week.  One of the news anchors  last night used the f-word--'flooding'--hoping it won't materialize.

On the 'I can't believe these people can be so crass, greedy, and just plain asinine' category is this story I caught on MSNBC as I was going for my e-mail.  First one jackass dressed as Santa Claus murders a mother and her son while murdering the woman's sister (his ex-wife) and several other friends and family.  Then the jackass landlords dun her ex-husband for more than $2000 in rent because the victim didn't give them adequate notice that she would be murdered and therefore 'broke' her lease.  I have many words to describe this kind of greedy, grasping, inhuman insensitivity.  However, since I could probably teach Rahm Immanuel something about creative profanity, I will refrain.

I am going to go and play now.  See ya all later.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  Right now we are buried under 12+ inches of new snow and it has not yet ended.  We are expected to get some sun today later but temps won't go above 20.  The weather person today said she didn't know how often this winter she predicted that the high temperature wouldn't go above the normal lows for the day.  I can say that I have never spent so much time in my winter sweats plus turtlenecks--ever.  I will have to renew some library books today on line because I have no intention of going outside till tomorrow when we are supposed to have sun and break the freezing mark.

The peanut recall simply gets bigger and bigger all the time.  I watch it because I don't want to inadvertently poison my cats.  This poor guy did exactly that by giving his dog a treat of peanut butter crackers.  If the company doesn't go belly up it should be shut down permanently and the people running it should face charges.

Fran, aka Redondowriter, had a link to a survey that determines what kind of reader one is.  My survey yielded these results

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Lately, I have used the public library more.  I simply can't afford to buy books like I once did and I am unwilling to give them up.  Here is the link to the quiz if you would like to take it yourself.

Do you ever wonder why in the hell some stories get the coverage they do while others don't even make a blip?  I have been wondering that about the Michael Phelps story.  I also wonder if that jackass who is threatening to file charges would do so it it weren't Michael Phelps caught in a picture with a bong.  I think William Wolfrum at Shakesville puts the matter just about right.  I seem to be asking the same questions often lately regarding the criminal 'justice' system.  Would X have been charged if s/he hadn't been newsworthy?  Would Y have gotten a different verdict if s/he hadn't had the money for a pricey lawyer?  Why the hell did Z News devote so much time to such a miniscule matter?  

Monday, February 2, 2009

Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning.  We had our first temps over 40 (just barely) yesterday.  But it is back into the 20s through Wednesday--unless the forecast changes.  You know what they say about weather here at the tip of Lake Michigan (and everywhere else I have lived).  Wait five minutes and it will change.

Passing through the MSNBC news page to get to my e-mail I saw the headline for this story.  Since executive compensation has been a sore spot in my psyche for at least the last 20 years, exacerbated by the latest round of excess, I couldn't resist reading and hoping it might be true.  I find it interesting that, while the financial institutions have been dragged by government pressure into trimming the excess, tech and other sector corporations are going voluntarily into programs to trim pay and establish, hopefully, reasonably criteria by which to judge executive performance.  I think it is especially interesting that one of the criteria they are looking at is long term sustainability instead of short term profits.  For at least the last thirty years the fixation has been on the next quarter not the next year or next five years.  I have wondered lately if the problem with business has been the shift away from true entrepreneurs, the people who build a business from scratch, to managers.  And they have done a very poor job of managing.

Totally Inept Balcony Gardner has a post updating the situation in Australia.  While we have had one of the 15 or 20 worst winters in history they have had an absolutely horrendous summer.  The story finally made our news media for a brief moment this last week.  I think it did so only because the heat has been joined by bush fires of the kind we expect each year in California and other points west.  Gardner indicates that one which destroyed some 20 homes was arson.  Again something we expect while hoping it won't happen this year. (found by way of The Oil Drum) has an interesting article this morning.  This is the second report I have read in the last month which describes a new 'land rush' by countries with a lot of cash but little fertile land to acquire the rights to farm land elsewhere.  Anyone remember the old saw that came out of the oil crises of the 1970s.  Irate drivers here responded to the rise in gas prices by telling the Saudis and others to 'eat their oil.'  They, evidently, have an answer.  I'm surprised it took them so long.  I wonder what the rallying cry will be when they still have the oil and will be able to eat off our land while cutting out our middlemen.

I found this site, which I immediately bookmarked.  I am always trying to find ways to reuse materials that we normally acquire because of what we have to purchase.  I am keeping the gallon milk jugs for a while to make hot caps, or cloches, for my early plants.  I also cut strips of some earlier ones to make stakes to identify my plants and to make inserts to stiffen some coasters I am in the process of constructing.  I came upon the site by way of 5 Minutes For Going Green who reminds us that recycling is the end of the process not the beginning.  Reducing and reusing should be first.

I heard about this inanity on the part of banks last night on the evening news.  I wonder if it will be a flash in the pan.  The New York Times cited an AP investigative report which said that major banks, including many which had received bailout from TARP, increased their requests for visas for foreign workers by a third over the previously even as they were laying off their U.S. employees in droves.  Thanks to Chris In Paris at Americablog for the link.

Loraine at Me and the Cat has a nice little Q & A tutorial on the true meaning of economic stimulus payments.  She also mentions the few businesses you can patronize that may still locally owned, operated and supplied if you choose carefully.

Archcrone at The Crone Speaks sums up my view of the legislative combat Republicans and their wanna-be Democratic allies have engaged in over the last couple of months (since the November election actually.)  It is purely and simply obstructionism.  Or as she says 

"I can’t help but voice my concern that republican obstructionism is based on continuing a failed Bush/Reagan economic policy of giving the rich more and screwing the poor. It is time for Dems to wake up and smell the coffee, and divorce themselves from this asinine idea of bipartisanship. "

Republicans and conservative Democrats don't want bi-partisanship.  They want to rule the roost by whatever means possible.  

Talking about weird weather here is a report from the BBC about the recent snow that paralyzed London.  Although the 20 centimeters cited in the story only amounts to a bit less that 8 inches, when you are not used to it that is a lot.  Even if you are used to it it can be a major pain.

If another story from the BBC is any indication, I would say that shoe throwing has become a new and popular form of protest.  This time the Chinese Prime Minister was the recipient of a shoe that fell well wide of its mark.

On that note I will say bye for now.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Good Morning, All.  It is nice and sunny even if cold.  I won't write much today.  Instead I will take advantage of the light to finish or extend a couple of needlework projects.  It works so much better with good, natural, strong daylight.

For anyone who follows the debates on the stimulus package and wonders about the charges of protectionism that the Republicans (and their Democrat-in-name-only allies) have raised go to Chris In Paris's latest entry at Ambericablog.  The truth is that every country talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk.  Some aren't even bothering with the first part of that.  Perhaps we should indulge in some honesty and admit that 'free' markets have only gutted our local economies removing productive capacity and jobs to someplace and someone else.

Chris has another entry which gives an analysis of the defense CNBC and others have mounted of the 'bonuses' the financial industry insist on trying to pay out.  An interesting entry in this debate was a news story on ABC Nightly News last night.  Treasury polled the 26 largest banks on whether they have paid or plan to pay in the near future such bonuses.  Twenty-one deigned to reply and 19 answered affirmatively.  Many of those had already received TARP money.  I get a feeling those boys are getting a bit desperate in their bids to retain the gravy train of the past.

Thanks to Kay at Kay's Thinking Cap for the award below.  It has been a couple of weeks but I kept forgetting to post it and when I did remember I had trouble getting to the right site.  Problems now solved.  Again, Thanks.

Van Gogh's Ear Award