Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hi, again, everyone. We are finally supposed to dry out. Good thing. I did go out between raindrops yesterday and found standing water in one of my containers. Not for long. I quickly picked up my trusty hammer and ice pick and puts some drain holes in the bottom edge. That container had the lowest level of soil. The others seem to be fine. The temps are supposed to be well below normal for the week but sunny, we hope.

I noticed yesterday that the consumer spending for this month is expected to be up--by, I think they said, .2%. Thanks to Cash For Clunkers. My comment--"Yeah, and without that it would have been negative. I am constantly amazed how such minor blips are played as though they were major improvements. I hear the government is getting ready for a similar program to encourage people to replace their older appliances just without the trade in feature. And I hear a bit of rising concern for what will happen when these programs end--as they will eventually. To my way of thinking, all of this simply postpones the time when we have to realize that a consumer driven economy is inherently unstable and we should do something else. But I rather think we will muddle through without much thought. There are too many vested interests fighting to get the old system back.

Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By linked to this story in the Washington Post. I saw a headline on MSNBC yesterday but did not read it because I could pretty well tell where it was going. I decided to read this one and it is eye-opening. Pundits, legislators and opinion writers described some of these institutions as 'too big to fail' and then we made them bigger. I understand the argument about these institutions and the rationale that we had to save them to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the economy. My problem is--what do we do when (I don't think it is a matter of 'if'') these institutions fail anyway? I agree with those who have said 'too big to fail is too big to exist.' They pose too much of a threat to the entire system. But, think about the argument being made in the health care debate that, to solve the problem of insurance costs spiraling out of control, we should allow companies to 'compete' in a national market where anyone anywhere can buy insurance from companies located anywhere in the country. Thirty years ago, we opened up the banking market on similar claims of efficiency and cost effectiveness. Why repeat that mistake?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Good Morning, again. Third rainy day in a row and no end in sight till some time tomorrow. I am watching the large containers I didn't put drain holes in. I hope they don't become waterlogged. I really did not like the weather forecast this morning. They think overnight lows in the 40s are possible Sunday and Monday. I did check the calendar and confirmed that we are really in the last weekend of August. I am going to have to check out our plastic sheeting and plan on when to put it up. We might have an early frost. Believe me my thoughts on this are definitely not printable.

I will make an observation but I won't put up the links behind it. Over the last couple of days I have noticed several postings and links to articles concerning agriculture in Cuba. Thanks to the collapse of the Soviet Union (Cuba's major supporter) and the on-going U.S. embargo, Cubans have had to take a step backward toward a non-fossil fuel farm system. Instead of gas-driven tractors and other machinery they now rely on oxen and human hands. Today, I found posts trumpeting shortages of fresh vegetables and toilet paper. Of course, the pieces today decry the continuation of the 'insane' Communist system and predict that, if only the Cubans would get with the program, they could have a wonderful world of abundance if they got rid of it. Anyone else here see a nice bit of propaganda for the miracle of unfettered Capitalism? You know--the one that gave us rising unemployment rates, a list of endangered banks exceeding 400, a useless war in Iraq, a collapsed housing market, two of three automakers in bankruptcy, and so on and so on and so on?

Donna Woodka at Changing Places has a link to reports prepared by the committee considering H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 which have been given to each of the Congressmen/women detailing the impact in each district. It makes some interesting reading.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. It is a rainy day today and we are expecting cooler than normal weather for the next week. I said on earlier posts that this year is strange: wetter than normal over the winter and spring, dry over most of late spring and early summer, and now getting wet again. I won't complain too much since the rain means I won't have to water the gardens. But I will have to check the containers to make sure those I didn't put drain holes in aren't waterlogged.

On the topic of health care, the link to this article in the Washington Post came to me via e-mail. Thanks, Elaine, for the link. I would dearly love a rational discussion of the topic instead of the shouting matches in which the participants reveal only their ignorance, prejudice, or contempt. The article makes some seldom mentioned points. We could definitely learn something from how other countries address this problem. Not everything is government run or socialistic. And much of it provides better care at a better price than the mishigas we have.

We saw an interesting account of a little known but nasty loophole in health insurance that has a number of people in Chicago who thought they were well covered facing dire financial situations as a result of medical emergencies. They found out too late that the hospital at which they were treated and/or the doctors or anesthetists who treated them were 'out of network.' They did not discover the fact until well after treatment after they thought the insurance had paid when the hospitals and doctors began to bill them directly for the costs that the insurance refused to pay. I was surprised to see the story on Fox News and equally surprised that the tone of the piece was somewhat critical of the insurance provider. I did take exception to the anchors' comments that people really had to be careful to read the information their providers give them on the limits of care. The individuals involved were all involved in emergencies and were not in any condition to ask the EMTs who transported them or the hospital workers who admitted them or the doctors who treated them if they were part of their insurance network. It is one thing to require that individuals get treatment with approved providers when the condition is not an emergency and the patient has some control over the timing of the treatment. Denying payment for emergency procedures is extreme cruelty.

But even if you do have that control over the timing of treatments and doctor's visits that doesn't mean you really have control or choice. Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal Constitution found that out trying to find a new pediatrician and confronting the fact that what seemed like a good insurance plan has some flaws in it especially in the matter of choice. She did not like the fact that she could not choose a highly recommended pediatrician who could schedule an appointment immediately unless she was willing to pay an exorbitant price for that choice. Otherwise she had to accept another doctor who was a totally unknown quantity but in network and wait two months for an appointment. I do take a bit of exception with her lead in that charges Obama with 'fudging a bit' about his health care plan. At least she contrasted Obama's fudging with his opponents outrageous lying. But I think she missed his major: IF you like your health care plan you can choose to keep it. If you don't like it you can change it. Perhaps the Obama plan would have allowed her to choose a plan, from the company her employer went with or from another, that would have covered her preferred doctor at a reasonable cost. We don't know and we may never know if the Republicans don't decide to deal honestly with this issue. Tucker is right on one thing: we don't have much choice now. (Thanks to John Aravosis at Americablog for the link.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good Morning, all. I guess the first think to say is 'Rest In Peace, Ted Kennedy.' I wasn't entirely surprised. Several factors indicated that the end of his battle with cancer was near. Obama's spokesmen saying that the vacationing President had no plans to visit his friend and ally. The Senator's absence from the heated debates over what would be the crowning achievement of his political career--health reforms. He will be missed.

I haven't written much about the economic situation because I keep feeling that I am looking at the whole thing through a very distorted fun house mirror. The statistics don't really make any sense. A few of the bloggers I read have a very good handle on the problem. The statistics say that we may be on the verge of a recovery but it doesn't feel much like it here. Daniel Denvir at HuffingtonPost gives a good indication of why. The figures are edited, trimmed, selected to show the best possible picture. So the pundits rejoice when the unemployment figures go down one-tenth of a point but no one asks what may be behind the figures. They went into ecstatic reveries over the supposed increase in 'consumer confidence.' Really? Which consumers? Where? They are not any that I know. Cash for Clunkers has been declared a success. What now? Inflation is low but so what? Food and fuel aren't included and that affects us more than what is included. We may have what a couple of the bloggers call a 'statistical recovery' but, again, so what? The stock market is just La-La Land East in my mind. It has as little to do with my life as La-La Land West. The GDP may turn positive but it doesn't mean a thing if it doesn't translate into meaningful change in my life.

To continue that thread, Dean Baker at TPMCafe posted this Monday. I am sure everyone heard about the Congressional Budget Office revising its projections of the deficit over the next ten years upward by $2 trillion. But no one it seems caught the projection that we will have high unemployment rates for the next SIX YEARS. They did catch the prediction that the rate will rise to 10% or higher sometime between fourth quarter this year and mid 2010. And I am sure that rate doesn't include the long-term unemployed, the discouraged, and the underemployed. Welcome to the 'New Normal.' (another interesting oxymoron.)

Baker's comments on the 'deficit hawks' is right on also. I will add my own observation on that by asking where the hell these guys were when the Bush Administration finagled us into the Iraq fiasco and, thereby, totally screwed up the Afghanistan operations? They were cheerleading then. How many of them come from districts with a lot of defense contractors providing taxes and jobs? I will leave any assessment of the character of these fellows to others because my own is totally unprintable. I have been trying to break myself of using such profanity since it really doesn't lead to any kind of rational discussion. As evidence, take a look at how the charge of 'socialism,' or 'Nazism', stops any discussion before it gets started. I really don't care to join the circle occupied by Limbaugh and his ilk. I don't like the company.

And there was another good argument on the news last night (and early this morning) for a public option/single-payer system of health insurance. A Teamsters local in Chicago is on strike against SK Manufacturing with whom they have been negotiating a contract for the last TWO YEARS. Without warning (and often during treatments) union members found out that their health insurance had been cancelled. The company blames a third party provider for the snafu but their only action seems to be to promise to continue negotiations with the Teamsters. Haven't heard who that third party was or what their reasons were for the cancellation. Did the company not make its payments? I would love to know. Why should workers be held hostage by their employers for health insurance? Why should workers have to decide (as one woman I knew did) to stay in a job they hate just for the insurance?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good Morning, everyone. We are going through another temperature roller coaster here. Yesterday and today we will have lower than normal highs--temperatures that resemble early October rather than late August. But by mid week we will be back up to seasonal mid-to-high eighties. We took the first of the acorn squash out of the garden. We may get a few more. It is amazing what a couple of weeks of near normal temps will do for peppers and tomatoes. But we still won't get anything near what we should have.

I caught a bit of commentary on CNBC about Michael Moore's new film "Capitalism." If you would like to see a trailer you can go here to Peach Tree. Of course, the reaction from the talking heads resembled the same reaction the Catholic Church had to Martin Luther's 95 Theses. Capitalism is our religion here and questioning it is heresy. Frankly, I would love to see a lot more heretics.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. Last week Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By announced an effort to get senior bloggers to weigh in on the health care debate. She invited seniors to post a blog and then send her a link so she could post it on her web site today. She has garnered a long list of very good blog on the topic of health care reform. Please stop by and read them. Mine isn't there because I had no idea what, or even if, I would write on this topic. I have done so in several of my recent blogs. Most people have mentioned the numbers issues and have either presented facts or debunked the opposition's non-facts. Instead I think I will simply get up close and personal.

I was named for an aunt, my father's baby sister, who died years before I was even a possibility--of pneumonia. She wasn't even 5 years old. I am sure her death caused my grandmother a lot of pain because she was the only daughter in a family of boys. I can't name another child who has died of pneumonia. Why? Because antibiotics were discovered in the 1930s and 1940s, and entered the mainstream of American medicine by WWII. However, what good would antibiotics have been if people couldn't afford to buy them and didn't have insurance that would pay for them. My last course of antibiotics, this last spring, cost around $80. I was lucky my mother was able to pay for them because I have neither a job nor insurance. Why should I have to rely on luck to get medicine I need?

When I was in 8th grade a girl from Poland, a recent immigrant with her parents, joined my class. Though a beautiful girl, most people noticed other things first--the wheelchair, heavy leg braces, and a metal brace that supported her from shoulders to hips. She had been crippled by polio. I have never met another polio victim. Why? Because polio vaccines became available in the mid 1950s and our health authorities required them for any child entering school after that. Moreover, our country was (and is, for the most part) wealthy enough to choose the safer killed virus injectable vaccine over the live virus administered by sugar cube. Countries in Africa have lately seen a surge in polio cases because they have had to make the opposite choice. (Though cost is a major factor in the decision other considerations also entered into the equation--how well the vaccine lasts without refrigeration and how easy it is for untrained personnel to administer also entered in.) But what if we had had the kind of mentality that seems to pervade our current debate on health care reform? What if we had, as a society said, that each individual had to be solely responsible for the costs and, if you couldn't afford it--too bad? Many of the kids who did get the polio shots over the last nearly 60 years got them because their parents had insurance or because they qualified for programs that paid all or most of the cost.

Throughout my childhood, my siblings and I got regular medical, vision, and dental exams and, when needed, glasses and dental treatments. My father had insurance coverage through the Teamsters Union. When I hear pundits talk now about how unions have made us unable to compete effectively with foreign workers I see red. They don't mention that most of those foreign workers against whom we compete have better health coverage than we do and neither the workers nor the companies are on the hook for the costs. Those costs are borne by the societies at large who see their workers as a valuable resource and are willing to invest in them. We see workers and their families as expendable costs to be trimmed to the bone, used up, and, finally, discarded. I don't know about anyone else but I really, really resent the feeling that comes from the realization that I don't count--at least to the economic and many of the political powers that be.

I had good preventative care until I got out of the Navy. Since then it has been haphazard. I have worked for businesses that simply did not offer health insurance. Or when they did, I couldn't afford the premiums even at the highest deductibles. One of the schools I attended had a free clinic which offered services at a discounted rate. That made the stitches I needed for a badly cut knee and the antibiotics I needed for a very nasty case of strepthroat affordable.

Although I am a veteran I haven't lived any where near any Veteran's Administration Facility. However, people I have known who have dealt with the Veteran's Administration illustrate the answer to the question I asked above--what if the marvels of medicine were simply not affordable. My late ex-husband died waiting for an appointment with a doctor. He had been on the waiting list for six months when he died and the appointment was not scheduled until seven months after he died. He had no other insurance. He had to retire and go on Social Security at 62 because of his health problems but he was still too young for Medicare. What about Medicare, you ask? Well, his combined income from his Navy pension and from Social Security made him too 'wealthy' for Medicaid. Too wealthy for help and too poor to pay equals, in this case, a death sentence. And how many other cases are out there and what does it say about us as a society that so many conservatives and Christianist idiots think that is fine so long as we don't get saddled with 'socialized medicine.'

We used to bask in the assurance that the coming generations would have a better life than the current generations. I don't think we can look at the future with such sanguine complacency. My mother has a far better situation than I do; but even that leaves a lot to be desired. Sarah Palin complained about the prospect she feared that 'government bureaucrats' might deny her Down's Syndrome son the care he needs but we are already faced with the reality that insurance bureaucrats can deny care. One of my mother's doctors prescribes a name brand medication because he has found that the generics formulations of that drug gives false readings on the blood tests. But the insurance company will not pay for the name brand and Mom is left footing the bill. But for Sarah and her allies that is fine.

I could go on and on. But I think you get my drift. We need health reform that will curb the costs of medical care. We need health care that is provided through a doctor's office not a hospital emergency room. We need health care that includes medical, vision and dental care that focuses on prevention and maintenance not on crisis management. We need a public option and screw the insurance companies' profits.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Good Morning, again, everyone. I don't know if the public option health care scheme is dead but I am fairly sure that the so-called co-ops won't make an iota of difference for most of us. I read one item yesterday which indicated that the start up cost would be about twice the projected cost of the public option. Here is an article in the Washington Post this morning that gives some of the particulars of the problem. One big one is simply a matter of scale. As a saying that I have seen often of late 'quantity has a quality all its own.' These co-ops simply won't have the size to make an impact on a market dominated by giants. Another niggling concern, given how many of the protesters at the town hall meetings screamed their fear of losing beloved doctors, is that the co-ops will, very likely, work more like HMOs in that they will contract with specific doctors, clinics and hospitals for services. Will consumers be able to keep doctors who refuse to go along with the co-op? By the way, yesterday's stock market seemed to give an indication of how much the health insurance industry liked the turn of political events. On a day when the market as a whole was very down, at mid-day (when I checked) the ONLY advancing stocks were in that industry. Business as usual--profits above the public good. And, if one of the primary aims of reform is, as has been stated repeatedly, to hold down sky-rocketing costs, history indicates that co-ops won't do the job. Again, take a look at the article for specifics.

Dean Baker at TPMCafe makes the same point. And notes the hypocrisy of the so-called fiscal conservatives willing to throw tons of money into a program that cannot work just to insure the profits of companies that make their money by gouging the electorate.

I will further note that this whole debate has been marked by an incredible level of right-wing hypocrisy. On the one hand they don't want a (government) bureaucrat to deny them medical care but they are fine with the notion of a (private industry) bureaucrat denying medical care. As far as I am concerned a bureaucrat is a bureaucrat is a bureaucrat (with thanks to Gertrude Stein).

Joe Sudbay at Americablog has a link to a story that indicates that the debate may not be as over as the mainstream media has portrayed. I saw a bare mention on the nightly news last night of this. I think the progressives who are insisting that there will be no health care bill stick to their guns. I am also half-way afraid that this will play right into the hands of the right-wing idiots 'scorched earth' notions. They will be very happy if nothing at all gets passed since that preserves the status quo and the industry's profits. I just don't know when the something we get is indistinguishable from nothing. And I can always hope that the blue dogs and Democrats-in-name-only get a dose of a different reality from constituents ticked off by their stonewalling.

Danielle at FrumpGazette has a number of choice comments to make especially on the character (or, more accurately, lack of character) of the minions of the right. It is amazing what some 'judicious' editing can do. She makes some other points as well. Enjoy!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Morning, All. I would say 'good morning' but, frankly, it isn't. Unless something is going on behind the scenes that we don't know about (and I sincerely hope there is) the drug companies and medical insurance industry has won the health care non-debate. As I listen to the 'compromise' proposals I wonder, yet again, when will we realize that, sometimes, something is really nothing. Over and over, as the stories of workers who accepted drastic wage and hour cuts along with cancellation of their benefits packages, I asked that question when the sound bites featured workers sadly commenting that at least they still had jobs. I am asking it again as the health care package appears to be shrinking. No public option plan any more. Instead we will have non-profit co-ops that can, theoretically, bargain on the price of health care. So, instead of dealing with for-profit insurance companies we will have not-for-profit entities whose only advantage is that they will only have to meet their operating costs. I said they can, theoretically, bargain on the price of health care but that is rather like saying that an individual worker can, theoretically, bargain with a steel company or a mining company. This is a case where size matters. Unless they get big enough, they won't have any bargaining. And are they going to be required to accept all members who want to join? Sick and healthy with or without pre-existing conditions? If so, then the insurance industry can do what it is doing now--cherry pick. Keep the healthy, prune the ones who get sick and refuse to cover the ones with health problems. They reap the profits and we get shafted. AGAIN. Will we get any legislation that will prevent that if we have an 'option' that provides for the co-ops? The more this goes on the more I am convinced that we no longer have a "government of the people, by the people, for the people." We have a government that gives the illusion that people have choice and power while the corporations run things for their own benefit. By the way, for an idea of how cost effective these proposed non-profit co-ops might be run, take a look at the large majority of non-profits operations. Do we really want 70+% of the funds going to overhead, including executive salaries?

Any one else out there depressed and pissed?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Good Morning, everyone. It has been hot and humid here for the last three days. Only the second week all summer containing any days over 90 degrees. We have had to put the air on more because of the humidity than the heat.

I found this little item posted by John Aravosis on Americablog this morning. Wonderfully ironic and so right on.

Good Morning, again. I started this Monday and didn't get back to it. We do our shopping on Monday and, sometimes, I just don't finish off what I started before hand. Luckily nothing I do has to be done immediately. So now it is Thursday. I have spent a good part of that time trying to rescue my broccoli and brussels sprouts from cabbage worms. Damned little things just suddenly appeared and did considerable damage before I realized they were there. With the heat, which has now moderated a bit, I only went out early in the morning to water and inspect the gardens. Everything was fine Monday morning. Tuesday several of the plants were half eaten. The culprits are now decomposing in my compost bin. I am reluctant to spray. I don't want anything that will hurt the bees, which are finally showing up. I may get some acorn squash yet this year.

I found an interesting little blog by Michael Freedman this morning at Newsweek by way of MSNBC. It reflects a few ideas that have been rattling around my brain for a good many years. We like to boast "We're Number One!!" But we have to be very careful of that boast. In what way are we number one? Obviously not when it comes to life expectancy (we are well behind other industrialized countries). Nor when it comes to infant and maternal health (here we are even behind some supposedly underdeveloped countries). Nor when it comes to industrial production (we won't even go here). And then we have the right wing talking idiots telling us to be afraid that Obama is going to turn us into Europe??? As the kids say 'WTF???'.

In line with the above is the post from Margaret And Helen (written by Helen this time). File it under either the 'be careful what you wish for' or the 'my god what do these people think with' categories. How many have not seen that clip on the coverage of the 'town hall meetings that degenerated into screaming mobs' of the man yelling that elected officials should keep their 'government hands off' his medicare? I don't wish for an America where women visited the beauty parlor weekly. They never could do anything with my hair. I do wish for an America where people could read what they criticize. From what I hear of the health care non-debate, most of them can't. They rely on Palin, Limbaugh, Hannity and Co. to do both their reading and their non-thinking.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Good Morning, All. The warmer weather has been nice. It still feels a bit out of sync though. These temps should have been here a month ago. And geese have come back on their way south. I expect to see (and hear) them later this month. Nothing seems to be coming in its expected time. The garden is doing well and seems to be reveling in the warmth. I do have to watch the water though. Things are drying out so quickly even though all my containers and pots outside are plastic. The nice thing about doing containers is that, at least for me, there isn't as much work once it is all set up. I have caught the weeds before they became a problem. I only found three caterpillars all of which were quickly dispatched to my compost tub. Yesterday I spent more time than usual because I had a new crop of lettuce to transplant from the egg carton starter cups to the garden and I transplanted the lavender out of a large container into its own smaller pot. I hope I can salvage it but the petunias and portulaca just about drove it out. I didn't expect them to spread so.

Tuesday Mom fixed zucchini boats from the one mature zucchini. It was very tasty. The globe shape lends itself to the boats very nicely. We have also used a small Mexibell pepper which had a bit more kick than we expected and a couple of the False Alarm peppers (taken green) which were as advertised--mild with only a hint of heat. I think I will try to save some seeds from the Mexibell a see if they will grow next year.

I found this little item on MSNBC as I scanned the headlines on my way to e-mail. I am, as I so often find myself, of divided mind about this. My first thought was of Bernie Madoff who, I admit frankly, I would not mind seeing in a bread line or public shelter. I would not mind one bit if a large number of the other white collar criminals who have plagued us of recent years joined him. But then I also thought of the majority of criminal cases that have made the new and realized that most of the inmates don't have the resources to pay such fees. I also don't believe that prison inmates should be served substandard or spoiled food, or charged for toilet paper. As one of the people interviewed noted, it doesn't make much sense to release a convict with a bus ticket and a debt of $40k or more. It is hard enough for most convicts to make an honest living when released without that kind of millstone around their necks. And I wonder how much is window dressing--sanctimonious idiots trying to appear tough on crime without doing anything truly constructive about the problem. But the thought that comes most uncomfortably to mind is 'DEBT SLAVERY.'

Time for breakfast, a turn among the garden containers, and some piecing. Bye for now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. So far so good on the weather front. We are getting warmer temps. I really hope the garden responds. Yesterday I harvested the first (and only, to date) zucchini, the first of the pole beans and peppers, and another two tomatoes. The first of the acorn squash did not set. But I have hope. I see several developing female flowers and the bees have recently become more active and plentiful.

Speaking of hope--I had several other thoughts about that story I linked to yesterday and all of those thoughts center on hope. More specifically hopes raised and hopes dashed (or cheated, or misplaced or (chose your modifier). Or perhaps I should say 'expectations' that simply don't pan out for whatever reason. Many years ago, I worked as a teaching assistant at one of the institutions of higher learning I have been associated with over the course of my adult life. I taught discussion sections for the Western Civ classes. It is one of those courses that students should take as either a freshman or a sophomore but I often had juniors and seniors who had put off taking it hoping they could somehow persuade the powers that be to let them skate since it wasn't in any way related to their major. That never happened. Hope number 1 failed. Usually those students came into the course with one of two attitudes: 'D for diploma' or they could skate through and get an A or B because history couldn't possibly be as hard as their major courses were. The first ones usually got exactly what they wanted. The other group however often found out that history could be a very hard indeed at the post-secondary level. These students often had their hopes dashed. I tutored one Chemistry Major who had come in with that expectation and who had the sense to ask for help. Most didn't. Chemistry Major remarked that he never thought history could be as hard a chemistry. I did manage to help him get a C in the course (after he had failed the first of three major tests.)

We absorb our expectations from various sources: parents and other family members, friends, advertising. Take a look at any of the ads for the various schools that have sprung up on the airwaves like toadstools after a rain. They make promises--explicit promises. Go through their courses and you will succeed. You will get a good job and be able to afford a comfortable (even luxuriant) life style. Graduate from their program and they will provide all of the career support and advice you need to get that good job. It is a bunch of hooey, of course. Like all other advertising. But desperation can make fools of any of us and these ad campaigns are designed to catch the desperate (or the inexperienced, or both).

Sometimes we base our expectations on predictions, often from (usually) reliable sources, that simply don't materialize. Twice I went into programs expecting to find stable work at the end and both times those expectations were thwarted by circumstances no one expected. I was old enough and experienced enough that I hadn't taken the 'promises' very seriously. But those were very serious blows to the old ego. I knew I was smart. I knew I had succeeded very well in the programs. But in the end, I failed at the final goal. In both cases these were (supposedly) expanding fields with plenty of opportunity. The opportunities vanished. In one case there were signs of the impending implosion but I was trapped in a box and couldn't see my way out. In the other case it happened overnight without warning.

Along the way, I learned several lessons. 1) Smart, hardworking, and accomplished people can still fail. 2) That failure isn't necessarily anyone's fault. 3) Luck plays a bigger part in success than we like to realize. These aren't comfortable thoughts for most of us. We like to think that this is a meritocracy. Sometimes it is but often it isn't. We like to think that hard work is always rewarded. Sometimes it is but often it isn't. We like to think that failure is always someone's fault. Some of us blame ourselves; some of us find others to blame. We don't like to think that sometimes 'shit happens' and no one is really to blame. Oh, I almost forgot lesson #4: don't believe the promises.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Good Morning, again, on a cool, overcast Monday. We are supposed to have a roller-coaster set of temperatures this week, at least some of which will be at or above normal. We hope. What a year!!

On my way into my e-mail I found this item on MSNBC. I am somewhat amused by the notion of suing the college when the job you trained for fails to materialize. But beneath the amusement, I also feel a growing sense that maybe we should rethink the whole notion of higher education. Many years ago I read a small book (I may still have it!!) titled "The Case Against College" (or something like that, as I said it has been many years since I even looked at the book). At the time I still bought into the myth that education was the Royal Road to advancement. Why don't I believe that anymore? 1) a nephew who has certifications in his field that only, maybe, 300 people in the WORLD have and, during a period of unemployment earlier this year, thought about getting a (worthless, to him) bachelor's degree so his resume would not be automatically rejected because that little block wasn't checked off. 2) A relative by marriage who had to go back to school to get certified in a job she was already doing very well in order to keep that job. 3) Various people I met along the way who went from a bachelor's degree to a master's degree to what ever other degree hoping to get a stable job in the field the loved. Most didn't. Too often the degree is simply a way for lazy employers to weed out the field. The degree does not provide information, knowledge, or skills that are truly required for the holder to do the job. Most of it is a waste of money. And yet what to we hear from the Obama Administration, or the various colleges wanting to recruit students (most of whom will pay for their 'education' with loans)? Exactly the same old song. The road to a satisfying and high paying career leads through some college or other to some degree or other. No one asks why we really need those degrees to do those jobs--let alone those service jobs that our economy generates in such large numbers. Most of us will end up working in jobs (not careers!!) for which a high school graduate would be over qualified. Which is the other educational trap for those of us in the higher age groups.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Good Morning, All. We have a nice sunny Sunday on tap today. Temps are supposed to reach low-to-mid 80s for the whole week. The numbers are in and, according to the weather people, July was one of the coolest on record. For the first time since records have been kept, the temperature did NOT exceed 86 degrees ALL month. July 2007 was the 7th coolest on record. Numbers 1 through 7, you ask? All in the 1880s. If memory serves, and it does because I just looked it up, that just after Krakatoa blew its top causing some cooler than normal years.

Another entry in the 'Why We Need Universal, Public Option Health Care NOW' file: My younger sister got a motor bike for her birthday. She rode the bike for the first time when her partner took her to dinner last week. She got distracted for a moment and crashed the bike. She broke her ankle in something like 6 places, in addition to other variously less serious injuries. The EMTs took her to the hospital where, after she told them she didn't have insurance, they told her, according to both versions I heard, either "I hope you have a lot of money because this is going to be expensive" or "How much money do you have? This is going to cost a lot." Either one, given they had a patient in considerable pain and bleeding all over the emergency room, is pretty damned callous. They seemed to be much more concerned about doing a 'wallet-ectomy' than treating her broken ankle. By the way, Younger Sister doesn't have insurance because she works for a small social service agency that can't afford to provide health insurance if it wants to stay in business and she can't afford the premiums herself even if insurance were available for her, which it isn't because she has 'pre-existing' conditions.

A recurring theme in Chicago news for the last few years has been the struggle Wal-Mart has waged to get a foot hold in Chicago. Zoning ordinances in Chicago proper have to day kept it in the suburbs. So has the objections of Aldermen to Wal-Mart's labor practices. The argument is heating up again with some Aldermen who represent minority districts faced with high unemployment pushing to allow Wal-Mart in to redevelop blighted areas and provide jobs. Perhaps they should read this item I found on MSNBC this morning. I imagine it won't change any minds. The Aldermen who have provided sound bits either want jobs now and hang the future, or they want jobs here and hang anywhere else, or both. The article makes it rather clear that jobs at Wal-mart mean a net loss of jobs both in neighboring areas and over time.