Sunday, November 29, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone, on this sunny (or soon to be sunny, it is still early here) Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And no, we are not participating in either. The Christmas frenzy has become increasingly irrelevant, though massively irritating. We don't need much and there is even less that we want, so what is the point? Of course, that isn't what retailers want to hear. (Update on weather--NOT sunny and we just had one hell of a thunderclap that shook the house.) (Update on the Update--we are now getting a heavy rain and it is quite cold as well.)

I found this article on MSNBC which provided a deja vu moment. The major flaw in this article is the author's failure to mention the several drawbacks to Monsanto's Round Up based technology (Round Up itself, and Round Up 'ready' seeds) like the increased use of the herbicides and the natural development of Round Up ready weeds some of which are very aggressive. The focus, instead, is on Monsanto's monopoly on the technology. Dupont has joined the legal fight over Monsanto's refusal to license the technology so other bio-tech firms could piggyback on it. It reminds me of the fight over Microsoft's business practices which is still not fully settled in Europe. Sadly, I expect that the legal arguments will have more effect than environmental ones in modifying Monsanto's behavior.

I absolutely loved this New York Times article and nominate Judge Noah Dear for 'Judge of the Year.' I hope more judges start holding collections agencies responsible for finding the right people to sue. This is the second time this past week a judge has had me cheering. The first was when I saw the news story about the judge who blasted a mortgage company for its behavior toward a homeowner it had foreclosed on and then cancelled the entire mortgage debt. The entire debt!! The company had filed the foreclosure after months of rejecting every offer from the family to refinance the mortgage. The judge found the family's offers very reasonable and the company's actions in refusing to even discuss them reprehensible. I think these collections agents and mortgage 'bankers' are better candidates for drawing and quartering than lobbyists, Kay. Do it in public and have a grand picnic celebration!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. It is supposed to be cool but sunny today. Hope so. Haven't got much planned--just a trip to the library and to my local quilt shop and Michaels. I don't shop at Michaels much any more. They go for the trends and my needlework requires basic supplies for the most part. But I ran out of the yellows I was using for the newest crib quilt top and none of the remaining yellows in my stash are suitable. I have two choices--take one of the yellows and jazz it up with some kind of overdying (which I have never done before--so that will be an experience) or get a bit of new fabric (a couple of fat quarters should do it nicely.) I might do both and keep the fabric as a back up in case I screw up the dying process or in case it yields something nice but not for this project.

Hey, Kay, I think maybe burning at the stake would suit the case on the lobbyists. They are our incarnation of witches--magically converting public good into private gain. And, heck, they don't even need anything more exotic than plain old money. No eye of newt, or dragon's blood.
I had a moment of mental whiplash last night during a news cast. The story started out with the statement that Americans, as a whole, waste 40% of the food produced or processed. I wanted to hear how and where it is wasted but instead the story went into an account of rising levels of hunger in the country. With rising unemployment and underemployment many who were solidly middle class are having difficulty finding affordable food consistently. If we, as a group, waste that much food why is anyone going hungry? Who is wasting it? Where in the journey from farm to table is it being wasted? That is much more interesting to me than that pair of idiots who crashed the White House state dinner hoping to catapult notoriety into a reality show gig.

This article from the Discovery Channel online answers some of that question. Much of the waste the researchers found came in the field as some farmers responded to drops in commodity prices by plowing under their crops. A second big loss occurred with large supermarkets and fast food chains. Families, according to the study, waste about 14% of what they buy or $600/year.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Good Black Friday Morning to everyone. I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving. We did. My niece had a nice family gathering. Everyone over ate a bit but not as much as we once would have. We all seem to have become more moderate over the years. I can remember when the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Years) always came with an increase of 15+ pounds. For the last several years that hasn't happened and most of the few pounds gained were gone within a week. We don't participate in the shopping madness but several others were planning their outings. In fact a couple went out Thanksgiving morning. Or they went online. Of course the news casts this morning features a heavy dose of Black Friday shopping stories. No way to get around that.

I was looking at the calendar this morning and decided that I won't get any new library books when I take the ones I have back tomorrow. I don't want to have to do any extra planning for holiday hours so I won't use the library until after New Years.

Did anyone else see the pictures on the news of Mecca showing pilgrims with umbrellas during a rain storm?? They got more than their yearly normal rainfall in one day.

I found this on MSNBC this morning and I think it is about time such action was taken. The only purpose of the advisory panels should be the public interest not corporate interests. And people whose purpose is to push for favorable legislation while receiving a salary from the very companies and industries being regulated should not be allowed on the panels making up the rules and regulations.

I think I will leave this for now. See you later.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Good Morning, All. Another gray day today. The most we can hope for is that the rain will stop. Not that it really matters since we don't have any outside errands.

Weston Kosova at Newsweek had a good assessment of the Rupert Murdoch/Microsoft deal to list Murdoch's news sites solely with Bing for a generous payment from Microsoft. Some people may decide to pay for the content but many, like me, can't afford to. We will simply say "Oh, well, I sure would like to have read that. I guess I will simply go on to something else." I don't like Bing and don't care for the notion of going to two sites for what I used to get on one.

If you want a good laugh this morning head over to this MSNBC page and check out the cartoons on the right hand side of the page. Most of them do a good job of skewering the holiday shopping binge. I also loved, in a sardonically humorous way, the headline at the top which celebrates the just under 500k jobs lost as the 'lowest' in a year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good Morning, again, everyone. It is a gray and gloomy day. But, hey, it is late November. Damn, where has this year gone?? At least we don't have any errands today. No reason to go out until Thursday when we are going to my niece's (brother's daughter) for dinner. Meanwhile, I have to get out the crib quilt top I finished a while back and get it done. Another niece (Sister's daughter) is due to have her baby in December and this little top cries out for a little girl, which she is expecting.

The REAL Black Friday comes up this week. Of course, most retail outlets have been having early 'Black Friday' sales for the last month. No one knows quite what the sales figures will be but I wouldn't be surprised if we had a six-of-one-half-a-dozen-of-the-other season. Last year's figures were so bad that this year may actually be an improvement by comparison. I don't think it will come anywhere near the better years of the near past though. That is like so many of the figures I see out now. But, and here is the kicker, I wonder how many people are in my boat. For a number of years now we have reduced our gift buying. Some ten years ago, when we had the resources, Mom and I spent $500 plus each on Christmas gifts. Over the years things changed. First, we did a 'Secret Santa' between the adults reserving the rest for the children under 16. Then I started making the gifts I gave the children while mom began giving cards with cash. This year, so far, we have only one dinner planned with my brother's side of the family for Thanksgiving and one with my Sister and her partner for Christmas. The economy and family circumstances have combined to produced a lot more frugal celebrations. That isn't likely to change in the future.

Lauren McKechnie at the Houston Press asks an interesting question: in light of the recent past shortages of Eggo Waffles and Libby's canned pumpkin and the various food contamination episodes over the last couple of years, what are the five foods are so necessary to your life that a shortage would cause you to panic (or some semblance thereof). None of the ones she listed make my list. Peanut butter is a once in a while thing and we quit buying dry cereal quite a while ago. Frozen potatoes would not make the list because we would shift to 'fresh.' But a shortage of fresh potatoes (unprocessed) would cause us to make serious readjustments. Ice cream isn't a large part of our lives either since the last 'cut the volume and keep the same price' scam. We went out for burgers and shakes three times this year, maybe. The weather had a lot to do with that--it was so cool our desire for ice cream simply evaporated. My top list?? Unprocessed potatoes (as mentioned above), pasta, bread, eggs, milk. I wonder what others think are absolute necessities??

We have been hearing stories for a while about banks raising their fees and interest rates on credit cards ahead of the legislation designed to prevent such abuses. But what are the poor banks to do to keep the billions of dollars that roll in from such sources?? Well, here is one answer. Where are honest loan sharks when you need them??

This article in the Des Moines Register is an interesting account of how the recession is affecting one 'Main Street.' Interesting points: the reference to 'The Second Depression,' the number of college graduates applying for McDonalds jobs, the RN who has been laid off TWICE this year (once for 6 months), the drop in the number of flights into and out of Des Moines International in the last 10 years. I am re-reading a book I got almost 20 years ago that was published in 1940 about the decade from late 1929 through 1939--Frederick Lewis Allen's Since Yesterday. Much of it is chillingly familiar--the frantic market that reached new highs just before the crash, the cheerful optimist that the great bull market would return with new highs and profits, the few pessimistic voices overwhelmed by the optimists but who turned out to be right after all. Bernanke is supposed to be a student of the Great Depression but I wonder if he read any of the social histories or just the financial history. Maybe he learned the wrong lessons. Worse some of what they tried to do then is much like what our government has been trying to do now--and with about as much success.

Archcrone at the Crone Speaks has a 'quibble' with a newspaper account of a doctor in Tennessee who is trying to help the poor with their health problems. Basically the reporter starts off with a statement that implies that the poor are solely responsible for 'allowing' their health problems worsen to the point where they are jobless. The doctor makes it clear in her statement that the problem is not one of choice but a lack of resources, primarily money to pay for medical care.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A good Monday Morning to you all. It was a nice quiet Sunday yesterday with plenty of sun and temps in the mid 50s. They say is will change by late Wednesday into Thanksgiving Day. It was a play day. Needless to say I have no real accomplishments--except taking Magic Match to level 21.

At least the U.S. Senate got off their collective butts and moved the health reform bill to the floor for debate. I think one reform needed by that body is to scrap this notion of a 2/3 majority to prevent filibuster. Move all bills to the floor and debate them openly there. Then we have those egotistical idiots like Liberman who is now saying he opposes the bill--after his colleagues bent over backwards to put in unpalatable provisions just to get his vote. By the way the headline was on Huffington Post.

Here is another Huffington Post entry that ticks me off. Microsoft is in discussions with News Corp to pay News Corp to de-link from Google and link instead with Bing which Microsoft owns. Why does that tick me off? I have tried Bing and I simply like Google better. I don't like what comes up on Bing and I don't like the navigation on Bing. So, to get a market share they evidently can't get by out competing Google (or can't get as quickly) they are going to resort to bribery?? Ah, the American way of business!!

For anyone who believes the pie-in-the-sky pronouncements from the financial 'experts' telling us that the recession is over, here is another dose of reality.

Anyone remember the furor over that motel manager who insisted his Hispanic employees change their names so they sounded more Anglo?? Well here is another, wider discussion of the theme. We forget sometimes just how ingrained some of our prejudices are. Does anyone remember an episode of Upstairs/Downstairs from about 30 years ago where the titled lady was interviewing a prospective maid and insisted, when she hired her, that the girl answer to a more plain English name instead of the fancy French name her mother had given her? The lady wondered out loud, in front of the girl, what her parents could have been thinking to give their daughter such an inappropriate name. In that case the question was one of class not race or ethnicity. Lower class or poor people shouldn't have such fancy names. I could multiply these kinds of incidents from fiction or history but the key here is the notion of prejudice (what we think is appropriate, what we think of the character of the individual we are dealing with) and a sense of entitlement (that our standards should be applied).

Here is an interesting pair of ideas from the Halifax Daily Herald--give everyone a carbon tax credit and then tax carbon emissions, and then put a carbon tax on all domestic manufacturing while placing import duties equal to the carbon emissions involved in the production of the overseas product. The author makes an interesting case with a bit of humor.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Good Morning, again. We might get some sun today. That would be real nice. My mood always perks up when the sun is shining no matter what the temps.

Kay commented on the post yesterday. In answer to her speculation about the story involving illegals--yes, most of the exploited workers were illegal and some of the ones exploiting them were also. The similar stories from Europe also involved illegal migrants from Eastern Europe forced into near slavery conditions in Italy and other Western European countries. The problem in both cases was that the systems punish the migrants harshly but don't have much impact on those who exploit the migrants. Three or four weeks ago our local news ran a story about the exploitation of children as young as five on some of the fruit farms of Michigan. State and Federal authorities are now investigating some of the largest producers. I have mentioned our economic race to the bottom before. The key to that race is price. The only way to increase a market (or market share) in an economy like ours is to price your product at a level where almost anyone can buy it. That squeezes everybody involved in the sale, transport and production. Notice I haven't said anything about quality here. Quality is only a marginal selling point. Once, some time ago, when I was in an academic history program, I read a good a lot of the 19th century apologists for slavery. The constant refrain in these writings was the need to use inhumane force to get work out of slaves. It sounds to me the same principle is working in modern 'democratic' America.

This story doesn't really surprise me. Citi is just bringing out into the open what had been beneath the surface of the credit card business for some time. The real money was not in extending what were, essentially, short term loans for a specified interest. The profits came with the fees and penalties, and the interest accrued over a long term. Some time ago I saw a news story on this topic and the person interviewed for this piece said that the industry term for those card holders that paid off their accounts each month was 'deadwood.' Be cause they did not pay interest or penalties. So, at a time when we need a more responsible approach to credit, Citi finds it more profitable to encourage the misuse of credit.
As you can tell I started this on Friday and it is now Saturday. We had yet another technology problem--this time with the cell phones. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since both are at least 5 years old. We pushed them just like we pushed the old iMacs. So we spent the afternoon looking at cell phones, choosing new cell phones and learning to use the new cell phones. That is the worst part of new technology. The nicest part was dealing with the people at the Verizon store. Once we told them what we wanted they steered us directly to the most appropriate (not the most expensive) phones. We didn't get any of the usual pressure to move into a higher price selection.

I just finished a book that might be of interest given the recent MRSA infection stories. It is Rising Plague: The Global Threat From Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal To Fight Them by Brad Spellberg, MD. I was often irritated while I read this book because the author came across as condescending. He frequently included unnecessary parenthetical remarks to explain something that didn't really need explaining, to me at least. Others may not have that problem since they may not have two degrees in biology/zoology and may not have kept up on the growing incidence of antibiotic resistance over the last few years. Most of what he had to say was no surprise and he did have some interesting stories to illustrate his points. Chapter 5 (Lack of Antibiotic Development) did surprise me. There Dr. Spellberg recounted his involvement with a committee which analyzed the leading drug companies development and research investment over the last half century. The situation can be readily summed up: as drug companies have invested ever larger amounts of money in research and development none of that money has gone toward developing new antibiotics even as the incidence of drug-resistant bacterial resistance has exploded. As the good Doctor pointed out over the last period examined in the study (which ended, I think, in 2008) only five antibiotics were under development which was about half the number designed to treat bladder hyperactivity, two less than the number to treat acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome, and only one more than the new drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. Most of the big drug companies don't even have programs to develop new antibiotics any more. This is troubling for another reason. I wonder what programs they have to develop new anti-viral drugs now that several flu strains are showing resistance to Tamiflu???

Archcrone at The Crone Speaks has posted a most sensible item concerning the new guidelines for mammographies and pap tests. Part of the problem with these new guidelines is really poor timing. There is no way they can not get tangled up in the controversy over health care reform. Another part of the problem, related to the first, is that we have a whole group of people who can only function, it seems to me, if they are fear mongering. They led the charge into Afghanistan and Iraq inflaming the fears of terrorism. Now they are leading a charge for the status quo inflaming the fears that some government bureaucrat somewhere will deny some woman somewhere needed medical care. Of course they are ignoring the fact that there are other bureaucrats in allegedly private corporations who are already on a daily basis denying needed care to some man, woman, or child somewhere. I was really pleased to see the medical expert (an MD, by the way) take those idiots to task in very certain terms. If the goal is to reform the system so that individual patients can consult their individual physicians, agree on a medical course of action and then follow through with it, what we are doing now won't get us there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. Soggy and gray again here. No change expected in the near future. But then what do we expect since it is almost Thanksgiving.

I saw this item on Huffington Post just now. I think Oregon's Rep. Peter DeFazio has an excellent point. But then I wondered from the beginning about the wisdom of relying so heavily on financial industry insiders for creative thinking on the recession. And everyone knows that the stimulus, bailout, and other measures have all been totally skewed toward big finance and have done diddly squat for everyone else. But then I am already getting tired of the campaign ads touting how "X," "Y," or "Z" has all these grand plans (totally non-specific, of course) to stimulate business and 'create jobs.' If you believe them I have a beautiful bridge and some wonderful swampland to sell you. I will give you a very good price.

Food First reports that the European Food Safety Administration has rejected the application made by a Monsanto/Cargill joint venture to produce a lysine boosted variant of genetically modified corn in Europe. The article makes some interesting reading.

Barry Estabrook at Politics of the Plate has a couple of very unsettling posts. In one he describes slavery in the South Florida tomato fields. I have read about these kinds of conditions in Europe over the last couple of years. There is a price to pay for cheap goods. Unfortunately, the end user is not the one who pays. The other post concerns a supermarket chain that has been fighting against labor organizations trying to improve working conditions and which now seems to be engaged in filming not the protestors on the picket line but their very young children. Of course, they are maintaining a 'plausible deniability' but I seriously doubt that the photographer would be involved if they didn't encourage him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. Another gloomy day predicted. But looking outside I have some hope that we might get a bit of sun. At least we aren't (I hope) going to get what Kansas has had--plenty of snow. Yeah, THAT four letter word in in use again. I would know it is getting colder even if I didn't have to go outside. One of the cats who hasn't wanted to curl up in bed with me did so last night. He hasn't done that since last spring. And all of them want much more lap time after about six months of being very happy to stay on the sofa. And they get very upset when we have to insist that they stay off our laps.

It looks like the announcement that women should not start getting mammograms before age 50 and then only every two years has created a fire storm. The teaser for Good Morning America, which I have no intention of seeing, announced they had assembled a panel of experts to thrash out what women should do in light of the new information. Like every other bit of advice, this is being presented as though the 'one size fits all.' No one wants to use any more brain power than absolutely necessary to consider whether any advice, old or new, fits their circumstances. And, of course, the news media seems more interested in a lively debate that throws out a lot of heat and very little light. I notice they aren't suggesting that women carefully consider their individual circumstances, and ask themselves and their doctors serious questions on this matter.

Given the state of today's economy, I wonder if the situation described at Adapting In Place will become 'the new normal.'


As you can tell I didn't finish this last night. So, I guess I will continue now. It is soggy and gray today. The hoped-for sun never materialized yesterday.

I have been thinking about the comments I made about the new guidelines concerning mammogram screening as more and more 'experts' and 'women-on-the-street' weigh in on the subject. This whole topic (as is most in medicine now-a-days). There are several threads that are buried in the discussions that few are acknowledging. First, especially in the interviews with ordinary women who may or may not be cancer survivors or beneficiaries of mammograms, is fear. Actually, several fears. One fear is that, for those who have insurance that covers mammograms as currently recommended, those insurance companies will implement the new recommendations to boost their bottom lines. They will charge their customers the same or slightly more for half the service. Another fear is of the cancer itself the treatment of which is costly and potentially disfiguring. If you have insurance, you may have to fight the insurance company to get the benefits you paid for, or you may find yourself cut off for any number of reasons before your treatment is completed, or you may find yourself uninsurable in the future. Coupled along with that fear is one that comes out of the push over the years for 'early' detection. We have been told that early detection means a better outcome and the earlier the better.

But my perverse little mind asks some other questions. How many women can afford (on their own) a mammogram every year? How many are in a situation where they insurance only covers mammograms every other year now? What data might there be on the prevalence of false positives, or the cumulative effects of exposure to the radiation involved, or on the growth rates of different breast cancers, on spontaneous remission? Does anyone remember the news of a while back that aggressive treatment of prostate cancer was often unnecessary? I said above that there is no 'one size fits all' medicine. We are all individuals and our own physical characteristics and psychological make up affects our treatments. Do we have a strong family history of breast cancer? Have we ourselves been diagnosed with breast cancer? These may be indications that we should have yearly mammograms starting even before age 40. The furor has created a lot of heat and very little light, like so much that hits the mainstream media fan. I think I will remain what I have been to date--a medical minimalist with a high quota of skepticism.

Kevin Sachs blog at the New York Times reveals the depths of Republican hypocrisy. At the same time they block any movement on a health care reform bill they claim that the new mammography guidelines are 'rationing.' The question I asked above is very relevant here: how many women (or their families) can afford either the mammograms (on what ever time scale) or the treatments (if the tests reveal cancer) out of their own pockets? Why is rationing by insurance company bureaucrats better than rationing by government bureaucrats? Oh, I forgot. Lobbyists from paid by the insurance company bureaucrats are funding legislators' campaigns. It is very obvious who is paying the piper and who is calling the tune.

John Rosevear at The Motley Fool has a good post on the economy this morning: 'Recovery? On What Planet?' It reflects much of what I have been thinking and seeing from my 'worm's eye' perspective. We hear that the economy grew last quarter which sounds good until we start dissecting the numbers and see that most of the growth was really not growth at all. We hear that consumer confidence is up but wonder why because another of our friends or family has either been laid off, had their hours cut, or can't make their bills. There was a wonderful, if very short, piece on the news this morning announcing that Goldman Sachs apologized for its role in precipitating the financial mess and is going to make a seemingly large sum of money available for lending to small businesses. What was wonderful about the report was the counterbalancing statements that the sum represented a little over 2% of the bonuses Goldman expects to pay this year and that the big banks have cut their small business loan business by several times that amount.

Oftwominds has a good blog this morning detailing another reason why we are not going to see much of a recovery any time soon--or rather not much of a recovery towards what we once thought of as normal prosperity. I have said often over the last few years that we have become a nation of people hired to sell goods made elsewhere to other people hired to sell goods made elsewhere to people hired .... . Exporting our way out of this mess is a fantasy. But then there was another story on the morning news that reflects the problem. Another trade show that has had a long history of being hosted in Chicago has decided to go elsewhere citing the costs involved in holding their conventions and shows in Chicago. A legion of other cities are very eager to cut huge breaks to reduce those costs and thereby attract new convention business. This is another race to the bottom. Those cities gain some but Chicago looses a lot. The two (the loss and the gain) will meet somewhere well south of the middle.

Nouriel Roubini also has a post which underlies a fact that I have noticed before: we are really two economies. And it is the smaller one that is showing some weak signs of recovery. The larger economy, the one most of us inhabit, shows few signs of recovery.

I will leave you with those notions and go have breakfast now. See you later.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Good Morning on this gray and wet Monday. That is likely to be the report for most of this week. I guess we can't really complain since November has been, so far, so much better than October was.

I found this item on Huffington Post which provides links to the original Washington Post story. It should make everyone angry as hell. I am not talking just about the notion that much of the TARP money has probably been lost down some fiscal black hole. What I am pissed about is this:

"The Post profiles CIT's failure and bankruptcy despite $2.3 billion in investments from the federal government, money that US taxpayerswill likely never see (though Goldman Sachs, another CIT investor, stands to make $1 billion from the company's failure)." (my emphasis in red)

Question: Why should Goldman make $1 billion when the U.S. taxpayer will probably loose $2.3 billion? So they make another bad investment decision and come out with a profit?? The article doesn't name all 33 of the companies that are not going to pay the dividends required by the TARP loans. I wonder if any other source does.

By the way, The Washington Post story is even more nauseating. It indicates that 46 companies that had received TARP loans and were required to make dividend payments to the government failed to do so as of Sept. 30. I wonder if the remaining 13 are going to be able to pay the next installment or they have gone under and so aren't counted in the numbers of probable defaulters for the December payment. My bet is on the latter given that somewhere around 110 banks have failed this year.

If Dante were writing The Divine Comedy today, I wonder in which circle in hell he would place the drug company executives. This MSNBC story tells us that they are raising their prices at the 'fastest pace in years." They just had that nice bit of publicity--standing in the rose garden last summer getting praise from the President for their pledge to shave $8billion from drug costs over the next 10 years. Why doesn't the President call them out for the self-serving, self-centered bastards they are?

I was intrigued by this article just reading the title: Robbed Blind by a Pig Wearing Lipstick. He details three ways 'positive' statistics totally screw the average Joe. People used to urge us to 'look for the silver lining.' Now we have to look closely at the dark cloud we have been encouraged to ignore.

I need to correct my statement that 'around 110 banks have failed this year.' The latest count is 123 with the government's take over of three more last Friday night. Thanks to Americablog's Chris in Paris for the update.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. After a very nice weather week we now have rain and clouds. Temperatures are supposed to get into the mid-50s. Most of the weather people have been making comments about how nice and mild November has been so far especially after the crappy October. I told Mom that I would be very amused (like laughing my head off amused) if at the end of the year we had had a normal to warmer than normal year. This one has been incredibly schizophrenic.

Well, President Obama asked Congress to hold off on any 'investigations' of the Fort Hood shootings--and they, essentially, told him where to stuff it. Did anyone expect anything else given that we have a minority party (Republicans) who desperately want to damage the administration in time for next year's off-year elections? Or that we have some Democrats who are Democrats in name only with the same motivations? Or that most of us are highly skeptical, given eight long years of Executive Branch manipulation and malfeasance, of any investigation by the Administration into the failings of the Administration? I am also incredibly sick of the standard rhetoric about 'making sure THIS (whatever this is) doesn't happen again.' The only difference between Fort Hood and Columbine High School or that idiot who opened fire on the employees of the company that fired him two years ago is the site. What does that say about any government's ability to prevent these outbursts?

I found this article on MSNBC this morning. We are already spending a horrendous amount of money on this debacle and now they want to send in an additional 40k soldiers at a cost of $1 million PER SOLDIER. Here is another idiocy we should all give the middle finger salute to. We can't find the money to fix our infrastructure. We can't find the money to fix our social programs. We can't find the money to fix health care. But we CAN find the money for THIS. Those sanctimonious conservative idiots don't want to burden our children and grandchildren with the costs of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, or health care reform but they don't mind passing this cost on to them????

Talk about hypocrisy and playing both sides against the middle--this item from the New York Times by way of Huffington Post takes the cake. Evidently lobbyists for Genentech and two law firms wrote health care reform related statements for 42 Republicans and Democrats. The article says they statements were about evenly divided between the two parties. I will let you read the dirty details. If I had come across this pattern when I was teaching I would have flunked the bunch--for plagiarism.

And thanks to Huffington Post for another entry. I hadn't heard that there was a deal developing that would result, when completed, in Comcast owning a majority stake in NBC. I like Comcast. We have both cable and internet service through them. But I think the operative question is the one at the end of the article: what are they going to do with it. I have been totally bummed out by what has been on tv for some time. We are overwhelmed with situation comedies that I fail to see the humor in. We have a plethora of 'reality' shows that leave me asking 'why in the hell would they put that crap on tv?' We have news shows that are more entertainment than news. I don't think Comcast taking over NBC will make things worse but I am not optimistic that they will make things better.

Then there is this New York Times article (again by way of Huffington Post) that should be put in the "why we are to totally f****d" folder. Everyone who helped precipitate this recession and made out like bandits in the run up are now getting more breaks than the poor b******s caught up in it. Sorry if I am turning the air blue today but I can't vomit far enough to get their pretty suits messed up.

On that note I will continue straightening up the sewing/computer room. I am always amazed at what I find that I forgot I had. See everyone tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Good Morning, All. It looks like we will have a sunny day to start. Hope so. I have to go out to the library today. My books aren't due yet but I have read what I want to of them. I think I said once one one of these posts I no longer force myself to finish any book that loses my interest. I also have two grocery bags of books culled from my collection that I plan to donate. I would really rather not dodge the rain drops.

I know the feeling, Kay. When I read some of the stories and hear some of the asinine statements public figures make, I have the choice of keeping my mouth shut or turning the air blue. Sometimes speechless is the only response that makes sense. There isn't language to express my response adequately.

For those who follow the 'peak oil debate,' take a look at this for a bit of sardonic humor on the topic. Peak Oil Hausfrau at the Energy Bulletin lists 10 ways to talk about peak oil without actually using the phrase.

An interesting item (interesting for me because I don't have to drive it) is the closure of a long stretch of the Cline Avenue overpass by the Indiana Department of Transportation. It is a major north-south corridor here in Northwest Indiana. Evidently the structural supports are so corroded that the entire overpass is unsafe. I have just been reading some articles on it in the Northwest Indiana Times. (I get it by way of Google search but you can easily Google it yourself.) Evidently an access ramp on the same stretch collapsed in 1982 killing almost a score of people and injuring as many. My first question was 'what has INDOT been doing in the intervening years?' My second thought goes back to an observation I made many, many years ago. In our political system it seems to be much easier to get money for new construction but much harder to get it for continuing maintenance or for improvements on existing structures. I have been reading about dangerous bridges and overpasses for the last 30 years in three different states. Four states if you include Illinois where much of our news comes from.

Taddyporter at BitchPhD has an excellent suggestion for ending operations in Iraq--pay for it. Dear unlamented George managed to put most of the badly misnamed War On Terror off the books. Obama did us all a service by insisting that the costs be placed back on the books and in the open. And I, for one, have been totally disgusted by the cadre of Republicans (and their Blue Dog allies) who will spend anything for a misguided military adventure overseas but not a penny for real needs here at home.

Well, it is now late evening and I am off to play Farmville on Facebook.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. Chilly but the sun is coming up so at least we will have that. All the rain from Ida went well south and east of us. We are seeing more frost on the roof tops. Can't tell about the cars since we put the plastic sheeting over the windows a month ago and have a 6ft fence in back. The trees are well past peak color and most have lost their leaves. We see the piles all over town as we go on our errands.

Well, here is something to get your blood up by way of Huffington Post this morning. Evidently, Goldman Sachs studied the potential effect of health care reform legislation on the STOCK PRICES of the five largest insurance providers. Goldman concluded that the best option (i.e., would provide the best increase in stock prices) would be (drum roll, please) NO REFORM AT ALL. Surprise, Surprise!!! (dripping sarcasm). The second best, looking at this metric, would be a watered down version of the Senate bill. Damn, and I thought they couldn't water the thing down any more than they already have. I guess that tells us exactly where the health of 47 million American men, women and children ranks with our corporate masters. Well below the fraking stock prices of the five largest insurance companies. Also notice that isn't profits.

This little item from Gawker brought a sardonic chuckle all around. I couldn't find any link to verify his statement that barista jobs at Starbucks now require a graduate degree but I think he is right on on his summation. I have made similar observations whenever I see ads for various 'colleges' (names of which I don't recognize) or hear the President or one of his people tout education as a way out of un/underemployment. Especially when the students will get out of the programs with a backbreaking load of debt and a chancy (still) job market.

It is now late afternoon and the clouds have moved in. I finished cleaning our plant shelves today. That area becomes a bit of a catch all so most of the effort went into getting things put away. But I also had some small glass candle holders that I needed to clean out so I could refill them--essentially make new candles. I got two poured but will need to get some more of my wax remainders out to get the last four done. I use my small votive candles to form the cores so I don't have a lot of fiddling to do with the wicks.

I haven't seen anything else worth commenting on so I will post now and see you tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good Morning, again. How is everyone out there? We are fine here. We saw some moderately heavy frost on the rooftops this morning. But the sun is shining and the temps are expected to be in the high 50s--not bad for November. We still haven't had a hard frost in our area. Nothing much planned today--just another round of house cleaning. I have another three sets of shelves to get straightened out and we need to clean the fish tank. I will have two grocery bags of books for the library and I found two books I had been looking for--for a long time. I thought I might have given them away by mistake or lost them in moving. Once upon a time I could visualize any book I had and walk right to it--that when I had triple the number of books I have now. I can't do that any more. Damn!!!

Oh, well. On to other things. I came across this article at MSNBC. What it lays out shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed big Pharma over the years. The thing that really concerns me is the fact that the FDA relies on the studies done by the pharmaceutical companies when they decide that drugs are safe enough and effective enough to market. But for years those companies have proven that their profits are much more important than the public's health and safety. Yet we (our government, that is) continue to rely on them to provide truthful and accurate information. Why do we keep expecting these leopards to change their spots?

I am so glad to see that someone is finally questioning, seriously, our presence in Afghanistan. Perhaps I should clarify that. Someone is finally asking what the hell our aims there are. We have lost more lives in Afghanistan and Iraq than we did on 9/11 and spent (squandered, really) more money than was lost in the economy from the reactions to 9/11--and for what?? Those who think we are safer have a very low bar for judging our safety, in my opinion. We have managed to alienate most of those who were sympathetic after the event and even made our staunchest allies question our collective sanity. I have thought for some time that we should have gone in with the limited aim of decapitating both the Taliban and al Qaeda and then leaving them to clean up the mess. And we should never have gone into Iraq. Maybe others are coming around to similar positions.

This whole issue of a commission to deal with Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security annoys me as anyone who has read previous posts knows. I call it the height of cowardice. And I really hate the notion that programs I have paid into all my working life and have been repeatedly assured would be there when I came of age to draw on them are in the hands of these dastardly cowards. And I am even more pissed off at the maneuvering involved--attaching an unpalatable provision to a 'must have' piece of legislation--that is extreme cowardice combined with a very nasty slyness. I have read of a number of people who think Social Security is merely a government run ponzi scheme worthy of a Madoff. However, Madoff's victims (those who were really victims) had a choice we don't have with regard to putting money into the scheme--THEY could have rejected the scheme and not invested. Nobody can refuse to pay the taxes supporting Social Security. This whole commission idea is nothing more than a craven means of theft and the thieves are those we have elected.

If anyone really thinks the 'Great Recession' is really on the mend they should read this and think about the implications. California has, of course, been in the media spotlight with its budgetary problems and political gridlock. But the report cited in this article mentions 10 states with one-third of the nation's population and economic output as being in very fragile economic condition. Just because the Dow is looking good now doesn't mean the recession is over and just because we see a point or two uptick in economic activity or a point or two less in foreclosures doesn't mean that the economy is really recovering--not for most of us.

Maureen Dowd has an excellent opinion piece in the New York Times that totally skewers the big banks who are on schedule to pay out bonuses that are larger than those that generated a public howl last year. If there has been a howl this year it hasn't gotten all that much coverage in the mainstream media. I have only seen a few bare bones mention on the national news shows. CNBC has had a running debate this week on the bonuses but with the usual positions already staked out--on the one hand those who think that government should stay out of setting compensation of any sort and that the banks need to pay their top talent exorbitantly to keep them while on the other the heads point out that most of those banks are still 'owned' by the taxpayers who bailed them out last fall and winter. Owners are supposed to have the right to set compensation rules. And as she also points out the originators of the Protestant Work Ethic would join with Adam Smith to express outrage at what is being done in their names. God's Work?? Not unless you believe in a totally perverse god!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. It is nice and sunny today. Yesterday was gloomy even if warmer than normal for November. It was a wasted kind of gloom since we didn't get any rain to go with the clouds. More house cleaning planned for today.

However, a couple of things caught my attention. The news media has noticed that the big banks are rolling out new credit card fees and establishing new requirements for credit card customers hoping to beat any new deadlines Congress might impose. They are essentially blackmailing us and our political leaders. Either they get to pocket obscene profits without regulation or they will choke off credit. They are hoping that we, as a society, will decide that we need them more than they need us. It feels somewhat like the old Cold War notion of MAD (mutually assured destruction). On the one hand they are right. To keep our economy going the way it had been going we need liberal credit because wages haven't fueled our standard of living for at least the last thirty years for the lowest paid two-thirds (plus or minus) of our population. A middle class standard of living has been possible for most of us only because of borrowing of one kind or another--credit cards, home equity lines of credit, easy credit for car purchases. And even then most of it required two working adults as well as liberal credit. Their tactics will work only as long as a significant portion of us decide that the old way of life is desirable. What happens when we don't?

Another news story this morning raised my irritation level a notch largely because it came close on the heels of a similar irritation earlier during our weekly grocery shopping trip. The supermarket had a sign noting that they would be open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on THANKSGIVING. And people wonder why I hate retail??? That is a wonderful holiday for their workers; but, hey, they should be grateful they have jobs, right?? Then this morning Wal-Mart announced they were going to be open on Thanksgiving--all 24 hours of it. Supposedly they want to avoid a repeat of the incident last year when a temp worker was trampled to death by frenzied shoppers on Black Friday. Really??? It sounds to me like these retailers simply want every nickel they they can get and don't mind screwing their workers, again.

Mark Morford has a good post this morning on the 60 Minutes story I didn't comment on earlier this week. We were also somewhat put out about this story. First, we don't care much for celebrity gossip and are especially put off by such gossip paraded as news. Second, we have no intention of buying or reading Agassiz's book and so didn't want to sit through an unpaid advertisement for it. Third, they devoted two thirds of their air time to that story and only one third to the much more interesting story about the threat of cyber attacks. WTF??? Fourth, we were stuck watching the last 3 minutes of a football game that lasted almost 20 real minutes in order to get to 60 Minutes and were grateful that the powers that be didn't spend the next forty plus minutes going to the tail ends of other football games. I don't know which is the more irritating--the looooong 3 minutes or the overexposure of an former tennis star's confession to bad behavior.

Entitled To Know has a piece that parallels my thoughts (in an earlier post) on the notion some in Congress have of establishing a commission to, as they so nicely say, 're-negotiate the social contract.) We elected our representatives to make the hard choices for the good of us all--not to kowtow to the special interests, not to preserve their political career and electability. They are not doing that job. And now they want to establish this commission to take the heat off themselves and make decisions that will affect all of us, most of us adversely??? Unfortunately, they may just get away with it.

Richard Heinberg has an interesting post today. I am one of those people who cannot see things in a black and white or binary (right/wrong, good/bad) light. When the issues of climate change, or health care reform, or peak oil come up and various pundits come out with their statements of 'problems' and 'solutions' I am most likely to say 'Yes, but...'. One of my teachers, some many years ago, made the observation that for every question science answers several more questions are revealed in the answers. And for every techno-fix to a given problem the fix creates new problems we never even dreamed of. Mainly because we wore the blinders of the 'problem/solution' mindset.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Good Morning, everyone, although it may not be morning still when this gets posted. We have some housekeeping chores on tap today. Yesterday was our usual shopping day and today is our laundry day. Though shopping is a weekly errand laundry is, perhaps, every two weeks. It takes that long for us to accumulate enough for full loads. It may get a little more frequent with the winter because our sweats are much more bulky than our jeans and tee shirts of summer. But today we also plan to sweep the carpets (oh, how we hate carpets. Much rather have smooth surfaces to dust mop) and dusting the book shelves. Anyone who follows this blog knows that we do housekeeping when the spirit moves us and we are thankful that it doesn't move us very often.

Boy, I am so glad that Wall Street bankers are on schedule to receive even larger bonuses than before the catastrophe of last fall when the Government had to step in and save their collective asses. And I am overjoyed that the Dow went up by almost 200 points yesterday. Yeah, that is just dripping with sarcasm because that isn't my reality. This reflects my reality and has for longer than I care to think. When I graduated from high school my classmates and I could expect to land jobs that either paid a living wage immediately or would in very short order. Now even a bachelor's or master's degree may not get you anything like that. I remember a friend from one of the institutions of higher learning I spent so much of the middle twenty years of my life attending looking at the job market some fifteen years ago. She described the offerings as a road to 'genteel poverty.' I find the memory ironic whenever anyone talks about education as the way out of our present predicament.

James Kunstler always provides a good read and this Clusterfuck Nation column is no exception. Periodically in this blog I talk about the diseconomies of scale which few economists want to write about. Banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies are not the only institutions that fall into this category. Governments do also. For the last three years the discussions that dominated the news at this time of year has been 1) the State of Illinois pending deficit and 2) the budgetary shortfall for the City of Chicago. This year is no different and, though the deficits are larger than ever, the story is still the same. The off year election ads are hitting the airwaves and range from the mis-informative to the non-informative, from merely annoying to downright stupid. Just think--day after election day next November we should be seeing the first hats thrown into the 2012 Presidential races. I can hardly wait (heavy dose of sarcasm here).

Well, it hasn't been too bad so far. I got 3 bookcases and two dressers dusted. That is the bedroom. I haven't even touched the computer/sewing/craft room which has 5 more book cases. But I think I have done enough today. Tomorrow I will do the downstairs with its 4 bookcases, 2 media towers, tv and stand. I already have a fairly full plastic grocery bag of books to donate to the local library.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good Morning, everyone. We had a perfect fall weekend with plenty of sun and above normal temps. It seems to be overcast right now but the temperature is above normal and we may yet get some sun.

I found this item on the Google home page this morning. We can file it under either 'Companies acting badly----again!!!' or 'When are we going to realize that normal criminal penalties are no deterrent to giant, global corporations?' So, Phizer paid a miniscule criminal and civil penalty, said its mea culpa in court (or rather one of its subsidiaries did), and promises to be good--and then violates the agreement before, as the author says, the 'ink is dry.' Then take a look at the list of companies caught doing the same thing--repeatedly. I think this paragraph sums up the situation very well--

Marketing departments of many drug companies don’t respect any boundaries of professionalism or the law,” says Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston and author of “Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs” (Random House, 2004). “The Pfizer and Lilly cases involved the illegal promotion of drugs that have been shown to cause substantial harm and death to patients.” (my emphasis in red)

The problem isn't just with the drug companies. All of our 'too big to fail' companies have the same scofflaw attitude. Many of our just plain big companies follow their lead.

After last week's optimistic take on the jobs report, it is nice to see some are rejecting the sugar coating. As this opinion states, telling a dying patient that things are looking up because he is dying slower is not a realistic assessment of his medium and long term prognoses. But--what the hay!!--it sent the stock market up. That's all that really matters isn't it?

Last night 60 Minutes had an interesting segment on how vulnerable many of our critical systems are to cyber attacks. I wasn't really surprised by the information. Nor was I surprised by how little private industries have done to combat such attacks. What did surprise me was the very small mention about the role of the profit motive in this. Companies prefer to look like they are concerned and addressing the problem rather than actually addressing the problem. It is simply cheaper. Usually, any even oblique criticism of so-called capitalism or of the profits that underlie it don't make any appearance at all. And another comment also surprised me--the reference was to simulated attacks on the power grid which showed how vulnerable power generators can be to cyber attacks. The consultants staging the simulations found it ridiculously easy to cripple generators. But I wonder how many noticed the next comments on how long and difficult it would be to get replacements because they simply aren't made in this country any more. Want a nightmare? Think about the result of an attack that cripples the power grid during the hottest or coldest part of the year over an extended part of the country. Multiply what happened last year in several parts of the country when winter storms crippled power companies by damaging the power lines. Some placed did not get back to normal for a month. But think what it would be like if a generator that takes three months to repair or replace goes out. Think the scenario is far fetched? I found this over the weekend at The Oil Drum and it was featured in the 60 Minutes report.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. It is gray today after two nice, sunny days. We are supposed to have temps in the 60s for the next three days. A little above average for a change. The Denver weather made our local weather news. Going from a monster snow storm to 80s made a few jaws drop. Having lived a bit north of Denver for about 15 years, I was not surprised. It was rather typical for Colorado in the spring or the fall.

I found an interesting little article at The Oil Drum today. The author examines the whole notion of 'sustainability' and makes some very interesting points. Every now and then someone comes out and makes the observation that growth and sustainability are mutually exclusive. But growth is so ingrained in economics, perhaps even our psyches, that the notion of a steady state (or no growth) economy seems to be unthinkable. All of the measures by which we gauge economic health are based on increases over some base line. All of our political debates seem to be centered around the notion of 'more' of something for whatever groups want more. Some key points to note from the article: 1) If people don't curb population growth and/or consumption growth, Nature will do it for us. And Nature is a brutal bitch. 2) The main source of problems are solutions. I would add my own observation on the role of technology here. Technology basically increases the carrying capacity. However, please note the laws that deal with concerted efforts to increase either the resource or the efforts to clean up the pollution caused by the extraction, transport, or use of a resource: small increases in population wipe out the benefits of those efforts. Further, if the technology fails, the results are likely to be catastrophic. Famine, drought, and crop failure put more people at risk because there are more people thanks to technologies that allowed the population to grow (i.e., they increased the carrying capacity).

Well, just as I remark on the dearth of economic treatises on the possibility of a no-growth economy I find one, again, thanks to The Oil Drum. As I read this my main thought was that it will be extremely difficult to come up with a notion of no-growth prosperity that can replace consumerism which has been totally imbued with the notion of more. Our jobs give little satisfaction beyond the money which we turn into as many things as possible the winner being the one who has the most of the most expensive toys. Those of us who don't make enough to engage in this race are left questioning our worth because we just can't begin to measure up to the standard.

The Oil Drum has had a larger than usual number of interesting articles this morning. This one has a number of interesting aspects to it. A recent recurring conversation over our morning coffee has been how we seem to have reverted in many ways to our life styles three or more decades ago. We don't eat out much and almost never at McDonalds or other such fast food outlets. We have cut out upwards of 80% of prepared foods. We are starting to grow some of our own during the summer and freezing more locally grown foods. The observation on the effects of our modern system of working for wages are well take. We have made parallel observations on our own. It is ironic how seldom mainstream 'efforts' to combat obesity and diabetes fails to make some of these connections or to really acknowledge how our lives have changed in just the last 70-100 years.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hello, all. We expect to see frost on the roofs when the sun finally comes up. But it is supposed to be sunny so the cooler temps aren't a problem. If the internet behaves, it will probably be a good day.

I found this letter to the editor of the Bellingham Herald. I think the author has a very good grip on the reality of our bastardized political system. The House and Senate make sure that they are taken care of along with the rest of the government. I would rather that they take the same kind of pay cut so many of the rest of the working people in this country have--at least 25%. As Daddy always said 'Wish in one hand and s**t in the other and see which fills faster.'

Well, here it is--Wednesday. I thought I would come back yesterday to finish but got side tracked. I will see what else might be of interest.

The morning news carried the stories of Republican victories in those two widely publicized gubernatorial races and the Democratic victory in the equally publicized House race. The news reader noted that the Republican talking heads are touting the Republican victories as a rejection by voters of Democrats, particularly Obama. They, of course, have noting to say about what the Republican defeat, in a traditionally Republican district, might mean. I didn't expect anything else.

They also took note of the defeat of Maine's gay marriage law. I have thought for some time now that we should take a different approach to the problem of discrimination against gay couples inherent in our marriage laws. Let's simply remove all of the advantages embedded in our laws and customs attached to marriage. Start with the tax code--no more choice of filing 'Married filing joint,' 'Married filing separate,' or 'Single.' Everybody files single and pays single taxes. Next, remove the right of survivorship for surviving spouses with regard to real estate. Follow that up by requiring anyone who has children (adopted or by birth) have their guardianship papers ratified by a court and that they carry those papers with them at all times so they can be examined by doctors, the police, or whoever might have a concern for the children. Also, remove the rights of a spouse to visit a hospitalized adult and make medical decisions. Everyone would have to have a living will and a medical power of attorney. So many of those opposing gay marriage claim that marriage is a 'sacred' institution and we have a Constitution prohibition against the establishment of religion. I would argue that should extend to the religious institutions that derive from religious belief and custom. Virtue has its own rewards, they say. Let's make it so.

I found this Newsweek article yesterday linked on MSNBC. Daniel Gross asks a question that has been in my mind for several years now--why are the stock markets up when the Main Street economy is still mired in recession. His answer makes a good bit of sense. The stock markets track a rather narrow indicator of economic activity--the prices of the stocks of major companies. Not all companies. Every now and then, one of the talking heads on a business channel will note that the numbers are heavily weighted toward the largest companies and a big move by only one or two will take the market way up or way down masking any broader movement in the market. Gross makes the point that those companies are all global companies and there has been a significant shift that most of us on Main Street may not have noticed. Once upon a time, American companies made goods in America to sell to an American market, first, and then to markets over seas. Then, during an earlier phase of globalization, those companies began making goods overseas for sale in the American market, primarily, with surpluses going to overseas markets. Now, however, those companies (nominally American) are producing overseas for sale in overseas markets with the U.S. market becoming more of a secondary outlet. The result is a mirror image of the starting point. In the first case, so long as the U.S. market was strong those companies could make a large profit even if the overseas markets stagnated. Now, the companies can make a large profit if their overseas markets are strong and growing even if the U.S. economy stalls or shrinks. I have mentioned the down side of globalization for labor as workers competed with low wage, no benefit workers overseas whose workplace had few safety or environmental regulations. Essentially a race to the bottom as our workers found their standard of living drastically cut at the same time that foreign workers found their standard of living greatly increased at least by comparison to what they had before. But, and this is the key, our fall was greater than their increase in absolute terms and most of that appeared as profit for the company and as bonuses and/or higher salaries and/or dividend increases for the stockholders. Little of it 'trickles' down to us. But that was when the U.S. was the strongest and largest consumer market in the world. Everything I have read about the rising middle classes in China and India indicate that that won't be the case for much longer and we should be afraid, very afraid, when it no longer is the case.

Tom Englehardt has a guest post by Barbara Ehrenreich on his Tomdispatch site this morning which anyone concerned with both the swine flu and health care reform should read. If a roofing company took $2,000 to repair the roof and did a slow and shoddy job we would be clamoring for our money back. But major pharmaceutical companies took $2 billion to produce the vaccine in specified quantity in a specified time frame, decided to use an antiquated and inefficient method of production instead of newer, more productive methods, and then failed to inform the Government of delays haven't been asked to refund any part of that money. I think Ehrenreich's comments on the role of the profit motive here is key and why health care should not be left to for profit companies.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Good Morning, All. Well, it is now November. My how this year has flown by. We had a bit of sun yesterday. A tease really since it is supposed to be partly cloudy today. October did enter the books as one of the ten wettest and coldest Octobers on record. I am glad it is over because it was somewhat depressing for both of us here. Cold and wet weather just makes us want to hibernate. And the time change doesn't do much for us either. All those who rejoice at the 'extra hour' of sleep don't live with three furry alarm clocks who want their breakfast when their body clocks say they should get it. So instead of waking us at 5:30 the little monsters start yowling at 4:00. I still wish the powers that be would set the time and leave it alone. I say that every year.


Yesterday was one of THOSE days. I had a lot of trouble with Google which made any blogging totally frustrating. As I tried to navigate through the blogs I normally read Google would suddenly fail to respond. I finally got through them all but I wasn't in any mood to write much.

I noticed an interesting item this morning on the news. The UAW is threatening to strike at Ford. They object to the company's suggestion of a freeze on entry level pay and other changes. This was on the morning broadcast news. What hasn't made the mainstream broadcast media is the fact, according to a headline on CNN, that Ford posted a surprise $1 billion profit. Silly me, I have to wonder if the two are somehow related.

Robert Kuttner has an interesting article on HuffingtonPost this morning. I didn't know that there is a move among budget hawks, as he calls them, to tie the creation of a bipartisan budget commission to the passage of an increase in the national debt. The commission would work much like the base closing commission did 25 or so years ago. The commission would make the 'hard' choices on what to cut out of the budget, centering on things like Medicare and Social Security, and then present the package to the legislators for an up or down vote. He makes a good case for why cuts in the so-called entitlements is a bad idea. After all, with unemployment up, wages flat or declining, and slow economic growth projected for at least the next two to three years, what do these cretins think will sustain consumers' buying power. And if the consumer doesn't spend what will replace their two-thirds of the economy??? What really burns me is that these were the guys who voted for funding two wars off the books and voted for anything George Bush wanted, no questions asked. And what I find most reprehensible about this scheme is what was so reprehensible about the original commission: it relieves the individual members of the House and Senate of the responsibility to make politically unpopular decisions for which they might be held accountable at election time. These guys have no guts.

Hey, everyone, I just found a new, to me anyway, site for pet info. If you are like me, you always like to find new sources of information on our furry friends. Mine are always doing something unexpected and every once in a while something comes up, like the tainted Chinese additives of last year, that we need to check out. Take a look at Green Dog's site. It is on Blogcatalog.