Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hello, yet again.

I thought I was done and then realized I had not yet gone through my e-mail. I found this item. On the one hand I am no longer amazed at abysmal ignorance. On the other, I am sad that I am no longer amazed at abysmal ignorance. I seem to remember that our last President pushed through, with great fanfare especially from his Republican cronies, the 'No Child Left Behind' reforms(?). From the looks of this we indeed have left no child behind. We have left all of them behind (unless they are able to learn on their own.)

I found that article by way of Mark Morford's latest blog. Again, Morford points out the not-so-subtle absurdities which surround us in this 21st century.
Morning all. And no it is not a good morning. The Senate Finance Committee has shot down all of the tepid attempts at getting a public option health care plan into the so-called reform bill. So what we are left with is simply another bailout bill--for the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies. Well we do have sunshine and I may be able to get out and get some of my gardens taken care of. That will make it a better day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hello, Everyone. It is yet another cool day. Yesterday had some nice sunny times but the winds were nasty. The official temps never broke 60 degrees and aren't expected to do any better today. We have already had some rain--enough to at least moisten the patio. And yesterday was totally out of sync. Sometime during Sunday night the power went out. That by itself isn't bad since it came back before anything bad could happen to the freezer or refrigerator. But we overslept by at least an hour because the only clock on power is in our bedroom. The cats were mightily pissed because the got fed an hour late. Have you ever noticed that when one thing goes off the entire day seems to go off? No major disaster but many little annoyances all day. Oh, well. It is over and hopefully today will be better.

I tripped over this commentary as I looked over my Google alerts this morning. The notion of putting a bar code on very piece of leafy green so that it can be traced back to the field in which it was grown in case of some kind of contamination strikes me as another high-tech means of locking a barn door after the horse has left the building. It is only feasible because someone has some computing power they want to use. I like technology. I love my computer and other conveniences but it seems to me that this is just another means of attacking a symptom rather than the underlying problem. I agree with the author that the better way to handle things is to get a better handle on animal wastes which have been the major source of contaminants. As far as the argument about farmers markets and local growers--well we haven't seen any lettuce, little in the way of cabbage, and the only other greens were attached to turnips or beets and totally wilted. Most of the farmer's markets are open air and they don't have the refrigeration needed to keep the produce crisp and fresh.

On the food front, here is another interesting article. The author points out a number of well-taken points. We do have to understand how we came to the point where we find ourselves now. Most of the changes in how we get and handle food came incrementally, and without any notion of consequences that would rise later and bite us in our collective behinds. Often someone addressed a legitimate problem and concern, introduced a solution, and only later did we realize that the solution created a whole new set of problems. Our use of technology will always do that. The 'green revolution' did increase crop yields but that has allowed for a massive increase in population and, when we inevitably outstrip the technology, the crash will be even more severe than the famines that originally led to the technology in the first place.

I had a couple of other interesting thoughts while reading that article. The author quoted a part of the talk where the speaker noted that in 1900 people spent half of their time and half of their money getting and preparing food. In 1900, about half of the population lived in rural areas and were engaged in farming. If my grandparents were in any way typical, they had a large garden from which they obtained most of their vegetables. They also raised most of their meat animals. Their chickens produced eggs they ate and their cows produced the milk they drank. They skimmed the cream and made their own butter. They didn't worry about e coli or salmonella on their greens. They didn't worry about contaminants or toxins in their canned goods since Grandma had canned them all. Very different time. Today even farmers get most of their food from the local supermarket. Another point that struck me is more of a personal one. Given the jobs I have seen and the current pay scale my little container gardens seem a much more satisfying use of my time than working to buy cans of watery creamed corn, woody asparagus, and peas or beans with stems included. Or vegetables and/or fruits with large doses of salt or high fructose corn syrup. Perhaps we would all be healthier if we did spend half our time growing and preparing our own veggies.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Good Morning, everyone. We woke to the coolest temperatures since sometime in the spring. 55 degrees here. We also had, and still have some dense fog. It is time for beans and cornbread as we shift into the winter diet of soups, chili, beans and casseroles. I hope that we have a couple of warm days when we might like a big chef's salad so we can use a couple of the nice large lettuce plants.

I found this item on MSNBC this morning. I understand the concern and am glad someone is thinking about the potential problem of internet crime of all kinds. I just doubt that the either the government or industry can effectively prevent such attacks without destroying the system itself. The most sensitive industries should have an interest in developing security measures to prevent the attacks and law enforcement should be actively involved in tracking down those involved. But the problem is nebulous and the perpetrators range from individuals who get a kick out of a new form of vandalism to governments taking advantage of an almost untraceable way of crippling their rivals and enemies. Some of the measures proposed appear to be using a sledge hammer to swat a fly or a bowie knife when a scalpel would be more effective.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. It has been cooler here lately. And we expect cooler weather over the next week. I really am not ready for this turn of seasons. The winter was soooo long and the spring and summer so cool. I don't think we had more than, maybe, 6 days of summer. Oh, well. As the growing season winds down I have started assessing this year and thinking about next. It hasn't been a bad year. We got plenty of tomatoes when they finally started coming in. The asparagus beans did very well and I plan to plant more next year. The acorn squash only produced four small fruits. I will plant them again next year with a couple of changes. I plan to train them along the trellis more carefully and to fertilize more. We didn't this year because we put in all new garden soil and it came with, they said, 6 months of fertilizer mixed into it. I think everything will do better with some additional feeding. I have been composting our kitchen waste and will be including it as I clean the spent plants out the containers. My fairy eggplant is finally starting to yield and I hope to get some before frost hits. The peppers have been late and a mixed bag. The poblanos delivered only one small pepper. The False Alarm and the Gypsy did somewhat better. The best producers have been the Chocolate Beauty and the Mexibelle. The lettuce has done very nicely and we will plant more next year.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Good Morning, again. I hope the weather will dry out so I can get some more of the garden containers cleaned out and the patio swept. We were supposed to have a couple of days with temps over 80. But that hasn't happened. And we were not supposed to have as much rain as we have had. Oh, well. I guess I will just have to wing it.

I found this on my Facebook wall this morning. I think is sums up the problems we are having now. The problem: the authors say nothing about how to remedy the situation. We have a system which was designed to play off faction against faction in the belief that actions and policies beneficial to the whole would emerge from the chaos. Unfortunately, we have (and have had for some time) total gridlock. Too many factions, too many interests, and no willingness to compromise. We have no statesmen--we have inflated egos guided by the almost religious belief that they and they alone know what is Right. Strike that 'almost.' It is a religious belief--totally immune to any argument or evidence to the contrary.

Mark Morford at SFGate has a related blog this morning. Unfortunately, his best method for dealing with idiots (or the inflated egos I mentioned above) doesn't work when the idiots have the power to make sure you can't work around them. That is where we are now.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Volcker: Obama Plans Maintain 'Too Big To Fail'

Volcker: Obama Plans Maintain 'Too Big To Fail'

Posted using ShareThis
Good Morning, All. Now that I have played with that newly found method of sharing blogs I find interesting I will go on with other matters.

Here is an interesting article I found on Grist this morning. At first thought, one might be inclined to dismiss this as far fetched. But what struck us is a personal observation. The heaviest people in our family are those under 50. My youngest brother and sister (the youngest of our boomers at age 50 and 48) are the heaviest in my generation. Of my mother's five grandchildren two of five are obese, one is overweight tending toward obesity, two are normal weight but one is now starting to gain. One of the grandsons underwent a gastric bypass operation as a last resort to try to control his weight and that case is very interesting. To qualify for the operation the patients have to spend at least a year on a doctor supervised diet/exercise program. If they can loose weight on that program they are not accepted for bypass. My nephew not only failed to lose any weight at all during the program but actually gained more weight. The doctors gave him an exception to the normal one year time limit cutting it off at six months and proceeded to the operation. Worse--the great-grandchildren appear to be following their parents' pattern.

And worse yet--take a look at the suspected culprits and see if you can figure out a way to effectively eliminate them. I can't.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Energy Xtremism

This was an interesting little item I found yesterday. I receive the latest blogs from Tom Englehardt and his guests by e-mail. This time I noticed a new feature (for me, anyway, since I hadn't noticed it before) that let me transfer it to my blog for sharing. Michael Klare writes a good deal about peak oil, oil policy, foreign affairs related to oil policy, etc.

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Energy Xtremism

Posted using ShareThis
Good Morning, All. Well we didn't reach the mid 80s yesterday. For a while it looked as though the rain would pass us by. What we had received over the last couple of days was not even enough to moisten my violas in their pots on the patio table. But, shortly after I watered them we got dumped upon. I don't know how much we got but it looked like a monsoon rain out there. I was planning on sweeping off the patio but now will have to wait until everything dries out.

Mark Morford has a nice blog this morning. The way he starts out you would think he was going to rant about getting older. Not so. But he makes some good points on a very human tendency: to think that something can't happen to us or, if it is inevitable, to think that it is so far down the road that we will be able to deal with it later.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone, on this last day of summer and first evening of fall. We are expecting some rain today but temps in the mid 80s. That flooding in Georgia is somewhat spectacular. Remember last year at this time when all the news was of the drought. Before anyone cheers the end of the drought remember that even desert areas get heavy rain every now and again. Can't win for losing, as the old saying goes.

I found this story on MSNBC which goes along with a notion one of the bloggers I faithfully read had yesterday. I can't link the blog because I get it through my e-mail. But the stats presented pretty much go along with this story. So far this year just over 400 banks have been taken over by the government--i.e., they have failed. The author of the blog cited a report from a private organization that rates banks and noted that he has found this organizations past results very accurate. They gave some 2000+ banks a rating of F (and yes that is an A through F school style rating.) Historically, half of the banks given that rating fail. That means that we can expect another 600 banks to go belly up this year. When such banks fail, the FDIC is usually on the hook for around 25% of the endangered assets. The value of the F category banks were about $2 trillion--half that is $1 trillion--one quarter of that is $250 billion. I do notice one discrepancy--the MSNBC piece says 'only' 94 banks have failed since January. I don't know how to resolve that. But if, FDIC is thinking of raising funds by borrowing from healthy banks then the situation must be serious--and likely to get worse. For my part, I don't really want the banks getting all that profit from a situation they were instrumental in creating. And, the 'too-big-to-fail' boys will get the lions' share. Damn!!!!

This is a cute idea for anyone who wants to do up something different for fall plants. Kerry Michaels calls it a 'jack-o'-plantern.'

Susan Wittig Albert on her All About Thyme site mentions 'Earth Overshoot Day' and provides a link to this site that provides a fuller explanation. The logic behind it is fairly simple. We would need the equivalent of 1.4 earths to sustainably maintain our current consumption of resources. Since we only have this one planet, we have already in ten months consumed this year's resources and now are dipping into capital. If you would like to read more go here and subscribe to Susan's weekly newsletter. Susan also writes the China Bayles mystery series. I highly recommend all of them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. Here it is Monday again and the day before Fall begins. I am already cleaning out some of the plants in the containers. Mostly the warm weather plants that aren't likely to produce anything before we start to get overnight frosts.

Sometime last week Ben Bernanke announced the 'possible' end of the recession. I noticed this morning on the news that someone asked President Obama if he thought the recession had ended and he said he would leave that call to Bernanke. Problem is Bernanke and NERB (which has the duty to call when recessions begin and end) are looking at numbers--not people. Looking at people might just give a very different notion. I found this article on MSNBC this morning which illustrates my point. I noticed several things in it. First--the age of most of the people interviewed--most in their 40s, one in his 30s (who went back to his old manufacturing employer and isn't using the retraining he received), and one in his 50s. I noticed also that none of the statistics provided gave any breakdown as to how age affected the likelihood of a worker finding work (with or without retraining.) Second--retraining is a chancy affair at best. The worker may diligently look at the job prospects in the field they are training for and still be blind sided by the economy. A couple of the people featured had finished retraining but still couldn't find work. One was discouraged because many of his co-workers flooded into the same classes he was enrolled in and the employer who was expected to absorb those workers announced new layoffs. Third--how many of those workers exit the programs with new debt for the retraining. Several people featured received government grants but at least one was thinking about taking out a loan to finish because her unemployment was due to run out and her husband was down to part time. Getting a new job in a new field doesn't necessarily improve your situation if you start off with a load of new debt.

Another snippet on the news last night, I think, drew my attention. President Obama, on another of the talk shows during his Sunday blitzkrieg mentioning that he isn't all that enthusiastic about sending more American troops to Afghanistan. Then, this morning, this post on tomdispatch reminded me of that. Afghanistan was the ONLY place I think the Bush Administration had a legitimate reason for using military force. Unfortunately, that passel of rogues and Keystone Cops performed there as well as they did almost everywhere else--incredibly badly (to put the matter politely). They screwed up everything they touched except for their efforts to shovel vast amounts of money to their compatriots. Any achievable goals they might have had in Afghanistan were quickly overtaken by a nebulous 'war on terror,' with which we are still burdened. But Osama bin Laden is still out there. The Taliban is poised for a comeback. Al Qaeda is firmly entrenched in Pakistan.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Good Morning, everyone. Sunny, dry, and cool again today. Good!!

The big story on all the news media this morning, national and local, is the imminent arrest in the case of the murdered Yale grad student. SIGH!!! Is it really worth all this air time?? Most of my news comes out of CHICAGO, for Christ's sake!! Sorry to shout, but this gets very annoying. I am sorry some assh*** decided to murder a bright, beautiful, accomplished young woman days before her wedding. But can anyone tell me why this story is considered worthy of so much attention on a national NEWS show, or on a Chicago NEWS program, for that matter??

I notice the continuing stream of eulogistic posts on the passing of Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug. I won't link since they (and many more like them) can so easily be found. While I agree that Borlaug should be recognized as a brilliant and dedicated man whose efforts benefitted mankind I would take a bit of exception to the notion that he 'defused' the population bomb. He didn't. Instead, he pioneered technology which merely kicked the can down the road. That is all most technology does. The 'Green Revolution' increased the food supply which has allowed the population to expand until, as is evident in many parts of the world today, many more people will die from a new round of famine.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good Morning, All. And it IS a good morning. The sun is out and the temperature is supposed to stay in the low to mid 70s. We would be happy to have this all the time--no heating or air-conditioning. The garden is slowly winding down. I have a few more lettuce plants but won't plant any more when we use those. I should be getting a nice bunch of peppers off the Chocolate Beauty and may get some more of the Mexibelle peppers. I have pulled the yellow squash plants. They never fully recovered from the powdery mildew and did not look like they would put out any fruit before frost comes. I have three acorn squash waiting to be cooked and frozen with, maybe, two more. I have pulled two of the five plants that have finished bearing. We got a nice head of broccoli from one of those plants with several more coming up. I was able to get the cabbage worm problem under control. The little fairy eggplant has a whole mess of blossoms and a nice little fruit forming so I have hopes of having some of that to cook and freeze.

We are almost set for winter. The apples and peaches are getting plentiful and the grocery store was running a sale on bananas this week--half the normal price. Mom fixed a banana cream pie with meringue (which we are eating now) along with two peach pies (frozen for later.) She is working on a pair of apple pies which will also be frozen and may get some banana nut bread and a couple of pumpkin pies ready for the freezer as well. That should take care of our winter needs and carry us well into next year.

I found this entry on Huffington Post by way of Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By. I can only agree with Ann Minch--these 'bankers' are 'evil, thieving bastards.' I have begun thinking of our country as a 'kelptocracy' not a democracy. The thieves rule here and it doesn't look like that will change any time soon if some of the political pundits are right. Several are saying that the appetite for reform and new regulation of the finance industry is fading fast now that things don't look so bleak for them. We have only one credit card which is paid in full each month and we watch that closely for any signs that the terms have been unilaterally changed or that new fees have been added. Should that happen the issuer will get it back, in tiny pieces, with a stern letter explaining why they have lost a customer of some 20+ years.

And to continue the theme of the American Kleptocracy go to John Aravosis at Americablog. Health insurance premiums going up by 131%--much faster than costs, inflation, or wages. Has anyone any good idea on how we might translate Ann Minch's debtor revolt into a revolt against the health insurance industry?? I would love to hear it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. I have had a nice quiet weekend. Haven't done much but play on my computer and read. Or complaining about the lack of TV programing. Or complaining about the lack of news carried by our mainstream news shows.

That last complaint is echoed by the author of this first blog--a guest on Tomdispatch, Chip Ward. I have also followed what news I can gather on such topics as 'drought,' 'dust storms,' 'food shortages,' and others by way of Google alerts gathering both blogs and news stories. I started following these topics last year during Australia's heatwave and drought. And during the drought that almost dried up Atlanta's reservoir which still has the governments of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida tied up in court fighting for the water. But isn't it wonderful how we get every scrap of 'information' about Kanye West's bad manners at that music awards show, or Serena Williams melt down at that tennis tournament, or the scheduled interview with O.J.'s former girlfriend. And, yes--I am being very sarcastic.

For another take on water problems take a look at this article I found by way of the Oil Drum.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Good Morning, All. It is a good morning but not because of anything on the political scene. I did watch the Presidents address last night and the Republican non-response. I say 'non-response' because I didn't hear anything specific in it--just more of the same from the party that talks about bipartisanship but doesn't walk the walk. They yell about wanting to be heard but what they really want is to dictate the policy as if they won last year's election. They didn't but can't get over the fact.

On the whole, I thought the speech was good. There are aspects I am not enthusiastic about--like imposing fines for not having insurance is someone else thinks you should be able to afford it. I don't really see how an 'exchange' system would work to increase the bargaining power of individuals. But I will withhold judgment until the details come out. If they ever do, given the continued obstructive attitude of the minority party.

I said yesterday that fear seems to be a driving force in this country--and has been since 9/11. This story on MSNBC backs up that perception. Why do some of us think that spying on everyone 24/7 will make us more secure? And more secure from whom?? I remember a number of news stories over the last couple of years about shootings in Chicago near blue light cameras where the cameras were totally useless--because the cameras had been disabled. I am also very leery of shifting the costs for public safety onto private civilian groups. There is an old saying that 'he who pays the piper calls the tune.' Public safety should be a public matter decided and paid for by the public. This is a cheapskate tactic and cheapskate tactics rarely work out as intended.

In a health related note--a segment of the local nightly news noted that Americans could improve their health by cutting down on the salt in their diets. This is in line with the other prescriptions that have appeared with increasing frequency over the last few years. Cut down on sugars, fats, salt, calories, etc. This is one of the few stories that noted a major difficulty consumers face in trying to follow that advice. Most of the salt and sugar and fat in our diets are not there because WE put them there. Manufacturers have put them into the processed foods and mixes we buy. Has anyone taken a look at the amount of salt in nice healthy canned vegetables? We did. And didn't like what we saw.

And Helen at Margaret and Helen has a few very choice, no-nonsense words on the health care debate and about Republicans acting badly--of which we have had a large number recently.

M.J. Rosenberg at TPMCafe puts in print some of my thoughts listening to President Obama's speech last night. As the President mentioned the passage of Social Security over opposition complaints of 'socialism' I remembered that it was a Democratic President, FDR, who faced Republican opposition to get the job done. And when he mentioned Medicare, I remembered that it was a Democratic President, LBJ, who confronted the Republican opposition led by Barry Goldwater to get that job done. But then, I have two degrees and am fairly well read in history. Glossing over who did what to whom and for whom doesn't really help in this situation. I think our Democratic President should not only call out the opposition for its lies and misrepresentations (lesser falsehoods) but should be reminding people of the specifics of this historical process.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hi, Everyone. I will not say 'good morning' because this little item on MSNBC was the first thing I read today. As you can guess, it raised my blood pressure mightily. I am not terribly surprised at who is the author of this obscenity--that good ole blue dog boy, Max Baucus. I will make a couple of points and then move on. First, comparing health insurance to auto insurance (which the article rightly pointed out is mandatory in all states) is a farce of the first magnitude. You can CHOOSE not to own a car. You can't choose not to live unless, of course, they are trying to encourage suicide and I have no intention of obliging them. Second, the proposed fines are a joke on two counts. They are so low, compared to the current cost of premiums, that even the well-heeled would make out financially by simply paying the fine. And, third, what do they plan to do to those who refuse to pay (or cannot afford) the fines? Are they going to revoke your life as they can you driver's license? Third, I see this as an absolute gift to the insurance companies. Do I, at age 60, really represent a quintupled risk over a 20 year old? Fourth, this plan does nothing to encourage the insurance companies to cut costs which, if I read all of the propaganda right, is a major goal in this reform process. Even the so-called triggers I have read about are so absurdly set that even the most insignificant cost saving achieved by the most absurd calculations will prevent any public option from taking effect. If this goes through we will be giving the health insurance industry an early Christmas present.

And for the next little farce--next year Utah seniors who draw social security and work may find that they will lose any rights to unemployment benefits if they are laid off through no fault of their own. Evidently a donnybrook is brewing over whether to extend the current break which allows them to draw at least 50% of the normal unemployment payments. Utah is one of four states, according to AARP, that still has this provision. But, if the law is allowed to lapse, that will go from 50% to 0%. Read all about it here.

Ronni Bennett has a link to Bill Moyers Journal in which he makes some very good points. She does too and has followed the health care issue (and others affecting older Americans) for some years now.

As a child of the mid-to-late 20th century film often speaks my mind well. In the Return of the King, the orc general standing with his army before Minas Tirith sniffs the air and says 'Fear--the city is rank with it.' The same thing can be said of our country. I have watched the coverage of the so-called town hall meetings turned hate-filled donnybrooks and the 'tea-bag express' with total disbelief. How did so many people's thinking apparatuses get turned off?? The local news on Sunday night showed the stop the 'tea-bag express' made in a southern Chicago suburb before heading off to Washington for their big rally. They featured two well off women (one past my age) spouting off about how they are losing their 'freedoms' because of the Obama Administration. Mom and I looked at each other and said "What freedoms???" The reporter thought to ask that very question. I wish they had shown the results but the reporter merely noted that one woman could not even cite a freedom she had lost. The other said she lost the 'freedom to call this a Christian country.' As the youngsters say--WTF???

Each side of the debate on health care is driven by fear. Fear of the economic costs of health coverage lost or soon to be lost. You can smell the fear. It is pervasive.

There is something else as well--a search for scapegoats, a search for blame. That came through in one reporter's coverage of a town hall meeting where a wheelchair bound woman expressed her fear that her insurance coverage would be cancelled leaving her with a bill for $600+ every two weeks for 2 drugs that make her medical condition manageable and the fear that those costs will cost her her home. Somebody from the back shouted that it was 'her fault.' Her fault?? I was reminded of something else; not a movie this time but a biography. During Stalin's purges of the 1930's the writers, artists and others who saw their friends and colleagues disappear into the Gulag tried desperately to figure out why those particular people were taken. If one could just figure out what those people did one could escape their fate by simply not doing that same thing. The poet Anna Akhmatova told her friends that they had to realize that they were on a fools errand because they could be imprisoned for nothing, nothing at all. It was entirely out of their hands. Those of us who are still well off, still have our jobs and homes, still have health insurance seem to be on a similar quest. If they can find the sin others have committed they can simply not commit that sin and thereby escape the consequences. Unfortunately for them, all too often there was no sin. And they may find themselves on the receiving end of the came cosmic joke. They are just a job away or an illness away from disaster. And they have already shredded their own safety net.

Now that I have caught up on my ranting, I will go have breakfast. See y'all.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good Morning, again, everyone. We expect sun and temps in the mid 80s today. It has been a very pleasant week. Just warm enough during the day to be comfortable and nights just cool enough to make for good sleeping. We spent the day out yesterday: an appointment followed by a visit to my sister followed by a hamburger and shake on the way home. We haven't gone out to eat very much this summer. That has been a trend for the last three or four years. We have watched the price go up and the enjoyment go down so we just haven't gone out as much. This year has been so cool that any kind of ice cream hasn't provided any real temptation.

I found a refreshing link this morning on Frump Gazette. The reporter says most of what I have been thinking (and saying) for a long time and many other bloggers as well. We have reached a point in our political life where facts don't seem to matter, where reasoned arguments don't matter, and where common sense doesn't matter. All that matters is how high they can ramp the volume and rudeness so that the other side and any centrist voices can't be heard over the cacophony.

Archcrone at the Crone Speaks makes similar points on this new 'debate' concerning Obama's planned speech to school children on the value of education and staying in school. I remember thinking that the critics had to stretch their arguments to the breaking point to find fault with the comments. But, if the samples Archcrone features are any indication, they have no real arguments. All they have is character assassination, prejudice, and bile.

Erica Barnett at shakesville has this take on the 'good news' lately trumpeted in the mainstream press: women have lost fewer jobs than men overall. My take: so what??? Women are greatly over represented in low paid jobs, often part time, and for wages that don't even cover marginal living arrangements much less adequate ones. My response to the stories that the workforce is not only more feminine but grayer is the same. And seeing the very select older women who were interviewed did not encourage me. Not many of us are hospital administrators or other such professionals.

Helen at Margaret and Helen make similar points. And in case any one is wondering, I raised my hand in favor of calling bullshit by name. And there is a hell of a lot of it going around.

As I noted at the beginning, we spent the day out yesterday. We hadn't traveled the route we took for about a year and it was interesting to note the changes. The last time, about a year ago, we saw all kinds of signs for 'business condos.' Strip mall builders or owners were trying to sell the spaces just like builders of residential condos did (and, I assume, still do). This year I saw only one similar sign telling potential buyers that there are only three spaces left. The implication is, of course, that they are going fast and you had better cash in. They probably hope that not many would wonder, as I did, why there are three left after a year on the market. We saw a lot of empty retail space and I DO mean a lot. Several of the strip malls (new and old) were almost empty. We saw empty store fronts in malls that had never been empty before. Only one of the car dealerships was closed. It had been stripped of even the sign. We don't remember what was there. I always take the economic and financial news with a large grain of salt. Too often it seems the mainstream news is at a wide variance with my experience. What we saw on the drive does not reveal an economy on the verge of recovery or likely to see a swift recovery.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Good Morning, All. Just as I was thinking I hand nothing to share with y'all this morning I came across this. Steve Clemons posted this on TPMCafe. It is interesting if for not other reason than to illustrate the lengths to which some Republicans will go to interfere with the Obama Administration. If this is all true, I have to wonder how many other appointments are being similarly held up. It seems to me that Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy's spirit is alive and well. Can't we have an exorcism, Please!!!

A small bit of the news last night announced that Obama will address a joint session of Congress to try to regain control over the health care reform debate. And he will provide some details of his plan. I hope he does. I also hope that it signals a recognition that the Republicans don't really want bipartisanship on any matter. That has been evident to most of us from the beginning. They talk a good game and then totally fail to deliver. Their definition of bipartisan ship is 'my way or the highway.' It is time to boot them in their collective asses (and the blue dog Democrats with them) and tell them to grow up.

Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By has a good post this morning on the health care issue. She links to a new web site set up by NCPSSM which provides a lot of good information about Social Security and Medicare. Two points she makes should be emphasized to the maximum. If health care reform fails the next option to bring health care costs under control will be cuts in funds. All of those dear protesters who have been shouting that their representatives should 'keep government hands of my Medicare' should note this well. And those who are most strenuously resisting reform and who would lead the charge to cut or even dismantle Medicare are the intellectual children of the 'economic royalists' who tried to kill Social Security and those who opposed Medicare from the beginning. (For those who don't know--economic royalist is the term FDR used to describe those who opposed his economic programs. Make no mistake--they are still with us. Maybe another exorcism??)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. It is beautifully sunny even if a bit cool. I got my gardening section of the shed cleaned out yesterday. I have come to the conclusion that I really don't need any more of the plastic cottage cheese containers or styrofoam egg cartons. I regret that because I really hate throwing those things away. We don't have any easy recycling and on our budget can't afford what the city would charge use for the service. We stopped getting our margarine and cream cheese in the plastic tubs and thereby eliminated about a third of the plastic coming in. But we don't have any alternatives for sour cream and cottage cheese. Oh, well. When we think of other uses for those containers we will keep them again. Next project--organizing the candle wax and candle making supplies.

I found a new Tomdispatch in my e-mail this morning. Tom Englehardt always has interesting comments and interesting guest bloggers. Today David Swanson writes on a theme that has recently started to permeate both news and commentary--the more things change the more they stay the same. Swanson deals with the foreign policy carry-overs from the Bush Administration. I have read several bloggers who deal with economics say the same. I am not surprised. When the news readers, a week ago or so, made a big deal about the slippage in Obama's poll numbers, I wondered where the slippage had occurred. I think it is among those who expected a lot of change quickly. The right-wing critics are not the problem. They never supported him anyway. The problem is among the people who expected immediate action on gay marriage, immigration reform, race relations, etc. I, on the other hand, never expected a sharp break from the past. I did not see any sharp break with very centrist notions and myths and I saw far too many people who have been deeply in the political and economic power structures under both Democrats and Republicans for the last forty years. That is a recipe for tweaking not for significant change.

In a related notion, I noticed last night that the news cited a growing disenchantment among Americans for the Afghanistan adventure. Not long ago, it had overwhelming support but now less than half of Americans (according to whatever poll they were using) still support it. I remember when we first went in there. Al Qaida had been fairly well tied to 9/11 and the Taliban supported and protected Al Qaida. That was reasonable justification. But when Bush took us into Iraq, my first reaction was 'WHAT???' and then 'What is he THINKING??? We will lose everything we hope to gain in Afghanistan AND in Iraq as well!!!' I always thought the shifting rationales for going into Iraq were extremely thin. And I think my first reaction has proven right on. But we seem to be locked in to this insane situation and no one has any notion of how to get us out of it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Well, it is a cool (bordering on cold) morning here. Not a record but still very near it. The weatherman yesterday said that August was the fifth coldest in the last 40 years. Can't make comparisons before that because that was when the Weather Service moved the official weather station away from Lake Michigan. He also remarked that the temperatures are more like those we expect for early to mid-October. Nothing seems to be happening in season this year. When we went on our weekly grocery shopping rounds yesterday I saw trees already starting to turn and some have even lost a lot of their leaves. I am already staging the garden clean ups--which plants will be pulled and when. And we are already thinking about cold weather meals--soups, chili and casseroles. I remember when late August and early September brought some of the hottest weather of the year. Not lately.

I tripped on this little item on MSNBC this morning. We faced something similar a while back when we started paying most of our bills on line. Some of the companies had arrangements with our bank to accept electronic transfers with no charge to us. Others wanted us to set up things so they could automatically transfer payments from our accounts and they wanted to charge us for their convenience. Well we went with the first ones and set up things so that our bank sends paper checks through the mail to the others (which they will do for free because we both have a senior checking account which includes free checks). We resent the notion that we should 1) pay for the convenience these companies want to enjoy and 2) that they should enjoy the freedom to play around in our accounts. Too many things can go wrong and then there is a hell of a mess to clean up. As the old saying goes: to err is human but to really f###k things up you need a computer.

The story also contains the kernel of another issue and it is one that makes me very ambivalent about the moves to reduce mail delivery because of the massive deficit the Postal Service has racked up. There are people who depend on that service. One of the people interviewed in the story did not have internet service at home so he needs to be able to both get his bills via snail mail and to pay his bills that way. It seems that we are creating a new 'disadvantaged' class--those who have neither internet service and limited mail service. And going to a public computer at a library (if your local library is connected) may not be a viable option. Every time we change anything about our on-line service we have to reconfigure our system so that the bank's computers can recognize the computer. If we go in through a different browser or if we go in through a different computer, it doesn't matter. We have to reconfigure the whole thing. It is part of the security system.