Friday, December 31, 2010

Well, it is New Year's Eve. We have very warm and wet conditions. The temps reached the mid 40s yesterday and will be in the mid to high 50s today. I am amazed by how much of our mountains of snow have disappeared over the last couple of days. We are expecting some rain and possible thunder out of that storm that gave so much of the west floods, mudslides, and blizzards. The east looks like it may be dug out in time to celebrate tonight.

I am enjoying the gardening catalogs that have arrived--two ordered and two a complete surprise. Those last two we think came because Mom got a free subscription to "Better Homes and Gardens" with her new mixer (which she loves) and the companies share the mailing list. We sent off our first order--a bay laurel seedling and a mini-greenhouse perfectly sized for a particular spot on the patio.

I guess this is one possible solution to the problem of potential seal level rise and global warming. But I do have to ask several questions--how much would such 'floating hotels' cost, how many can we afford to build, how many of our nearly 7 billion people (according to worldometers) can we accommodate, and who would be left behind?

Here is a mildly humorous entry from Firedoglake on the Republican plan to open the new Congress with a reading (aloud) of the Constitution. Might be a good idea for the idiots among them to be reminded of what the document actually says. We just had another interesting thought. There is a proposal to force each member who writes a new bill to include the Constitutional justification or authority for the bill. So we might be faced with the comedy of seeing 1200 page bills (which they don't read now) with equally lengthy legal brief attached. I feel sorry for the poor trees soon to be sacrificed in this futile exercise.

Yves at Naked Capitalist has this interesting item which takes the robo-signing scandal from the mortgage fraud realm into the credit card collections hell. Not only do people attesting to the validity of legal documents not have to be working at the firm for which they are signing the documents or examining the documents they are signing but they don't even have to be alive to do so. Once upon a time we were proud to say that we were a 'government of laws, not men.' We have now morphed to being ruled by a 'government of corporations, not laws.' If we had to change I would prefer we took a step backwards. Men can die, corporation don't.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good Morning, everyone. Only today and tomorrow left in 2010. Although it hasn't been as bad a year as a couple of the last ones and I often felt the time was going way too fast, I am not sorry to see 2010 go. I have no idea what 2011 will bring socially, politically, or economically. And I am not very hopeful that the morass will be cleaned up any time soon.

However, I found this item among the blogs on the Google alert this morning. You wouldn't think that the final product came from something most of us throw away without a second thought. I wouldn't pay the price because I don't set much store by 'designer' products and I am in the process of making my own--crocheted instead of woven.

A lot of bloggers and others are making up their list of New Year's resolutions. Here is a cute blog post on the resolutions of a garden 'geek.' I don't think I qualify as a garden geek though my one goal (I stopped making resolutions many, many years ago) is to garden more and to increase my efforts at preserving what I grow for winter use.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Good Monday after Christmas to you all and hope you had a wonderful holiday and are recovering well. Thank you, Kay and Lois. We did have a very nice Christmas. Had dinner with Sister and a few friends and relatives. Luckily the snow was well timed for between the times we were on the road and was light. No travel worries for us. If the weather forecasts are accurate (which they often are not) a good bit of the snow on the ground will melt--temps in the 40s and even touching 50 Tuesday and Wednesday with some rain.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve to everyone. Thanks for the e-mail, Lois. Although the political stories have been fast and furious I haven't really felt like commenting on them. And since my gardens are under several inches of snow and I am still cleaning up the sewing room I don't have anything to talk about on those fronts.

The news media and the politicians are celebrating 'the most productive Congress ever.' I hope they don't injure themselves patting each other on their backs. I am glad that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was passed. It only languished on the Hill for how long? I am glad that the new START treaty was passed and that is the only piece of legislation that was dealt with in a timely manner. Everything else had been held up for months while the different sides postured and pointed fingers. I didn't like the gridlock-on-steroids we had but if the last month represents 'bi-partisanship' I don't like it much either.

The morning broadcast news and HuffingtonPost both carried stories proclaiming Obama's plans to reorganize his people. (HuffingtonPost has a link to a New York Times article). I don't think that will do much good because from what I have heard he is looking at people who played a large part in previous administrations. And most of those have also been through the revolving door to Wall Street several times. He really needs authentic new blood--people who can think out of the box. That is a thought that came to me as I watched the CNBC report on student loan debt this last week. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared and spouted all of the non-sense the President and other members of the establishment have been on education--we have to regain the number one spot in terms of the proportion of our people who have college degrees. The reporter asked a question that I have been asking for some time now: college degree for what? Where are the jobs that really require a college degree? Duncan had no answer. There is no plan B.

Another story that has gotten a good bit of coverage in the mainstream media is the price of gas. The national average topped $3 a gallon--the first time ever at Christmas. Oil topped $90 a barrel for the first time in about 3 years. My brother, who came by with a nice load of Christmas sweets (and some very welcome tamales), said that when he stopped to fill up Tuesday the clerk told him that by evening the price was going to go up by $.30 a gallon. The price at our favorite little station is just a smidge below $3. I laughed a bit at another group of talking heads on CNBC who claimed that OPEC countries will soon increase production to off set the hike. Most of the quotes I have read from OPEC ministers indicate they are quite happy with prices between $90 and $100 per barrel. Even if OPEC countries can increase production significantly (and there is considerable doubt on that score from various experts), I doubt they will. Anybody remember when Bush, Jr. went to Saudi Arabia to beg for increased production when the prices hit $140/barre.? We got a lot of relief then, didn't we? (sarcasm alert)

Little Homestead in the City has some pictures of the rains in California. Their place is in Southland--where some of those dramatic pictures of mud encased cars and homes that have appeared on the national news were shot. Luckily they say they are on high ground so their problems was dealing with all the water.

I found these pictures on Quilt Vine. Look closely at the pictures. I almost missed the detail.

Firedoglake posted this today which expresses many of my thoughts on the growing crisis in public pensions. Some talking heads on CNBC discussed this earlier this week and ticked me off royally. One of the men in nice, expensive suits said that people had to realize that states simply couldn't afford to pay those who had been 'over-promised.' Such a nice sanitary word. And total crap. Workers had been promised a salary plus certain benefits in return for their labor. Those who have retired delivered on their part of the promise. Now states and cities, as many companies before them, are determined to swindle the workers out of the promised compensation for that labor. And our legal system is letting them get away with the theft.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good Morning to you all on this Friday before Christmas Eve. Hope you have all of your Christmas shopping done. We do--but then we don't do much. The news readers talked about the hopes retailers have of a good procrastinators' rush this year. For my part I wish we could drive a stake of holly into the heart of the beast we call a consumer economy. Consumption without production has always seemed to me a royal road to poverty.

It is always refreshing to see someone in government express a truth. Evidently the NSA has admitted the futility of trying to make its computer systems totally 'secure.'

It is now Saturday morning. I didn't see much more that was interesting or worth a comment yesterday but I liked that story on computer security so I decided to keep it.

This story on MSNBC sounds all too familiar this year. Same story--different location. We hope that the snow predicted here for Tuesday holds off until the afternoon because Mom has an early morning doctor's appointment. But otherwise we intend to hibernate. Also we hope the snow for Christmas Eve is light because we are supposed to go to Sister's for dinner.

Newsweek (by way of MSNBC) carried a story which should come as no surprise to anyone who follows the developments in manufacturing and the labor market. Manufacturers have accelerated their use of robots and are producing the same amount or more with far fewer workers. That has been the story of the last 70 or so years. The notion that the new jobs will require more training and skills simply means that workers have to find a way to pay for more expensive training and education (often by going deeper into debt) or they will be priced out of decent paying jobs. The question is--will those jobs really bring in enough money for the worker to make the extra expense economically rational? But another thought also struck me--what happens when this level of automation hits China and India?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good Wednesday morning, all. Everything is pretty well back to normal. The city did a great job of getting the streets cleared. We just have mountains of snow to remind us of our blizzard. The weather people say we got 9 inches officially. I think we got more. At least we didn't get the 30+ inches a couple of places south and east of us wound up with.

Here is a nice story from the New York Times by way of MSNBC. I love the comment from one of the cooks--she is making less money but having more fun with less stress. These are the kinds of people our government should be helping--not the paper sellers on Wall Street. Unfortunately, I don't think that $800+ billion package of tax cuts/stimulus will do much for them. And I am no longer a believer in the 'every little bit helps' adage. Too often the little bits are too little even in aggregate.

Treehugger had this video of a container garden on steroids in Berlin. I don't speak German but just watching the video is fun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good morning, everyone. The snow has slowed and, hopefully, has moved out. The landscaping guys our landlord uses came by yesterday and cleared the walks. Another couple of inches fell, or blew in, after so we do have some shoveling to do. The patio and around the car are the primary spots we have to deal with. We are waiting until later when the temperatures are supposed to reach a balmy 20 degrees. From the weather reports this morning it looks like we are getting set up for that nasty pattern that gives us snow every three or four days. Hopefully, the amounts will be much less.

So, Richard Holbrook's last words as he was sedated for surgery were that we had 'to stop this war in Afghanistan.' No s##t!! We should never have gone in the way we did. The whole thing was a testosterone spill in the Bush White House that has cost us more lives and more money than 9/11 did to begin with.

The score for the Health Care Reform law now stands at 2 favorable verdicts to one unfavorable. The tie breaker will be the Republican dominated Supreme Court. The theory under which the Virginia judge struck down the mandate that individuals buy health insurance is interesting. If the Congress (and by extension the entire Federal Government) overreached its constitutional authority with this, I have to ask what government can make such a demand on individual citizens? After all, we have a long history of states requiring drivers to carry auto insurance. Are they going to argue that receiving health care is a privilege and not a right? That is the basic argument concerning auto insurance. You can, with difficulty, choose not to drive but you can't choose not to get sick.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good Monday morning to you all. For all of you east of me, hang on--the storm that hit us is on its way. If it hasn't got there yet. The weather people predicted that we would have 3-6 inches of snow but so far it has been about a foot. They can't say for certain because of the wind which is gusting to 40 mph. We woke to a three foot drift outside our front door. The news readers said that some areas of our county have reported 8ft drifts. And the State Police are trying to rescue more than 100 motorists that got caught stuck along one of our state routes. Our country and several others nearby are under emergency declarations. We plan to hibernate. If things clear up this afternoon we will clear the patio (which has not accumulated a lot of snow), spread salt (because what is there has turned to ice), and try to thaw out the car. But until the roads are clear we aren't going anywhere. The news people asked a representative of the state police what advice she would give motorists about to set out. She said such motorists should 'reevaluate their trip.'

MSNBC carried this New York Times story yesterday morning that has me questioning whether we really ever learn anything from history. Some time in the early 1980s I read stories about potential problems in Saudi Arabia and other oil rich countries that had subsidized education through college (and, in some cases, graduate school). They had an over supply of ambitious college graduates and a serious lack of professional jobs for them. That was the time I also started seeing sporadic stories about taxi drivers with Ph.D.s over here. Tell me again why every American administration since has touted college education as the route to prosperity. Once upon a time advanced education paid off but that was when most people did not get past the 8th grade. I remember my grandfather telling us that after he finished 8th grade he was offered a teaching job. Can't do that now.

HuffingtonPost provided the link to this 27/7WallSt. article on the 'Ten worst drug recalls in history." It is an interesting story. Several of the drugs mentioned I had never heard of.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Good morning, again, everyone. Your thoughts, Kay, parallel my own. If terrorists want to get a good bang for their buck why target a Wal-mart? So far in the news, one alleged terrorist targeted a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and another a military recruitment center. Wal-mart doesn't seem to be high on the agenda. So the announcement, basically, served only to keep the anxiety level high and provided the 'evil empire' with free publicity.

On the tax cut issue, HuffingtonPost had this article this morning. The bottom line (to use a business phrase) is that most economists consider tax cuts an inefficient way to create a minimal number of jobs. But tax cuts are an article of faith in the Republican sect of the Church of Commerce--they are no more questioned or questionable than the existence of God.

Here is another entry in the 'please tell me why these banks are "too big to fail"' file. These are not 'unfortunate' errors. The banks consider these homeowners 'collateral damage' in a situation over which no one has any control and therefore no one (and certainly not the banks themselves) has any share of blame. I am afraid their arguments strike me much like the arguments of a teenage defendant in a murder case just decided with a guilty verdict yesterday in Chicago. The boy's attorney claimed that although their client struck several blows to the victim during the riot in which that victim was killed none were 'killing' blows and, therefore, his client was not guilty of murder. In both cases, the parties were there, they were involved, and someone much more innocent than they suffered. How about some justice? At least the boy was convicted of murder, as he should have been. The banks, unfortunately, have powerful enough friends that they get off.

Rain at Rainy Day Things has a good post on the Social Security tax 'holiday' that was part of the package Obama agreed to this last week. As I wrote a while back, the triage has started. Those who depend on Social Security are only the first who will be considered 'expendable.' And I am not at all comforted by the report from one of the talking news heads yesterday that the revenues Social Security will loose from the 'holiday' will be made up from general revenues.

I put this piece from the Agonist in the 'hypocrisy watch' folder. It doesn't require any comment from me since the author's last line says exactly what I thought as I read it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Good morning to you all. Still cold and likely to stay that way for the next couple of weeks. So far the snow fall has been moderate--only about 3 inches here. More to come tomorrow afternoon and overnight Saturday into Sunday. That last the weather people predict has potential for heavy snow.

Among the bulls##t this morning is this item. Do we really need Wal-Mart getting involved in the national (in)security scam?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Good morning, again, everyone. We are still getting snow. It is lake effect so it shouldn't move too far. Sorry, Kay, but you get your own lake effect over there. They say we are getting set for a nasty storm come Saturday into Sunday. We will hibernate. We won't clean off the patio or the car until later--if the snow stops.

Well, they finally hammered out a deal on the tax situation. I an neither bummed out nor elated. I got nothing out of the Bush era cuts and, since I was unemployed last year, I got nothing out of the low and middle income cuts Obama's people put in as and economic stimulus. I am very cynical and very skeptical, though, because I don't believe either side when they spout their sanctimonious sentiments about these measures. If the business and individuals who are getting the lion's share of the benefit of the tax measure really wanted to or saw an economic need to hire more people they would have done so already. Big businesses are sitting on piles of cash and aren't spending it on employment. Smaller businesses don't see the demand for their goods and services. Either way I don't think that the tax cuts are going to help the employment situation. The continuation of extended unemployment benefits will help those who qualify. But how many will qualify? Large numbers of the unemployed are reaching the end of even the extended 99 week benefits with no job in sight.

This MSNBC story is rather typical of the American condition: we spend more and get less. But what I also notice is that the most basic question isn't answered: education for what? When half of the college graduates are unemployed and half of those employed are in jobs that don't require a college education shouldn't we ask that question?

Nancy Altman at Firedoglake considers something that has been nagging in my mind since I saw the account of the tax compromise that provides a Social Security tax holiday of 2% on workers' contributions. Is this simply the camel's nose under the edge of the tent? Will this 'compromise' make it easier to make bigger and more painful cuts? The Deficit Commission couldn't get a 14 vote majority to send its proposals to the Congress and Senate directly but this might get the ball rolling on enacting this part of their program--to the detriment of us all. And George Washington writing at Naked Capitalist today demolishes the arguments that the cut will either stimulate the economy or foster hiring.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Good Monday morning, everyone. It is COLD. The weather reporter said the temperature is the lowest since early February. We are still on the edge of the lake effect area and may (strong emphasis on may) get more flurries. East of us they may get as much as a foot. We may or may not do our weekly shopping today. It isn't a big deal--we are not short on anything.

I have seen the graph this HuffingtonPost article features often over the last few months. It shows an historical comparison of the current recession and all previous post WWII recessions. Two things about it struck me. First--the depth and extended time. The depth of the unemployment this time is about 20% greater than any of the previous recessions. And we are still bumping along the bottom almost 3 years in. If you extrapolate the curve and assume (which is a dangerous thing to do) that it will follow the earlier patterns this pattern could last not the 4 or five more years people like Ben Bernanke are suggesting but a decade or more. Not a comforting thought especially with some of those in the Republican Choir telling us that the only reason the lazy, unemployed bums are not out getting jobs is that the unemployment benefits are far too generous for far too long. But the other thing I noticed was a definite shift in the pattern of recessions. The recessions before 1981 were short and recovered to pre-recession employment from even steep job losses very quickly. The 1980 recession unemployment rate reached pre-recession levels in just about 22 months. But the last four recessions (1981, 1991, 2001, and the current recession) took much longer: about 30 months for the first two, four years for the 2001, and the current recession at three years and counting. Once can be a fluke. Twice could still be coincidence. But four times?? That just may be a pattern and one that isn't very pleasant to contemplate.

Here is another piece of obscenity aided and abetted by the U.S. State Department which, until last year, kept no statistics on complaints (or anything else related to misconduct) on this program.

HuffingtPost has a poll today which shows a large part of the Afghans they questioned think that insurgent attacks against U.S. and NATO forces are justified (a bit below 30%). Another indication that they are losing confidence that the U.S. led forces can achieve safety and stability for Afghanistan. Just last night ABC news announced a week long (I think they said a week) series on 'Can We Win?' My thought was 'Depends on how you define 'win.' After all we simply declared victory in Viet Nam and left. I wonder what the definition will be this time?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good morning to you all on this first Sunday of December. We had enough snow to provide a good ground cover and the weather people have revised their temperature outlook for the next week---downward. Oh, well. At least we should have partly sunny days for the first three days when we have our usual errands. As usual we are on the borderline. We may or may not get lake effect snow today and tomorrow.

I agree, Kay. Sometimes all you can do is sigh at the mess in our political and economic systems.

Here is something else to sigh about. Because our mainstream media likes to go from dramatic crisis to dramatic crisis the only time we get stories about the debt crisis of states and local governments is when the crisis explodes. However, the crisis has been there smoldering along. In the first year of our 'Great Recession', when the Obama Administration got billions to help states and local governments keep teachers employed, I asked what would happen when the Federal government support ended. We got our answer when school districts laid off droves of teachers even as they got the Federal money because they were also worried about what would happen after the money ran out. Illinois, where the state government has consistently for years underfunded their pension plan, the legislature passed measures this last week to use property taxes and scheduled raises in levy to do so. Mayor Richard Daley (not running for another term) has warned that the Chicago property owners will be hit with a massive bill they can't pay. What we have is another shell game. In an economy which produces little in the way of real wealth we are reduced to robbing some worthy people to pay other worthy people.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Good Saturday morning to you all. We woke to a light coating of snow and anticipate more to come. How much more depends on how the lake effect bands set up. So far the lake effect snow warnings are for counties east of us. I don't know how all this will effect any of you east of me is a good question. The system that slammed the east coast gave us hardly anything at all.

Well, the Wikileaks soap opera continues. It is amusing in a way. The leaks haven't been all that revealing for the most part. I think most of us (anybody who remembers Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, that is) suspected that our government was not terribly concerned with honesty or ethics in their dealings with other countries. Why should we expect honest, ethics or even compassion in foreign affairs when we see none in our domestic affairs. The most honest statement on the matter came from Hillary Clinton when she cited the response of the foreign ministers she was meeting with: "you should hear what we say about you." All of our various 'emperors' have suddenly discovered they are naked. I wondered yesterday how much of the 'hacker' attacks on the Wikileaks site were from government or quasi-government sources. Given the official efforts to shut down the servers who still carry Wikileaks I would speculate that a lot of them are.

Over the last couple of days a thought that had crossed my mind frequently since the great implosion of the financial industry has been mentioned in passing by the mainstream media. We have heard a lot about 'too big to fail.' Now, a couple of items have been described as 'too big to fail but too big to save.' One is Spain which has been referred to for the last year or so as one of the PIIGS--European Union countries whose economies are in fragile condition. So far Greece and Ireland have or are about to receive "bailouts." I put that term in quotes because as far as I can tell the banks investors have been bailed out while the taxpayers of each country are footing the bill through higher taxes and excruciating 'austerity.' Those were relatively small economies. Portugal and Spain are much larger. (The second I in PIIGS is for Italy though little has been said about its economic condition on this side of the pond.) Though each have said that they don't need bailouts we heard the same from Greece and Ireland before the punitive packages were shoved down their throats. The second item concerned Jamie Diamon, CEO and Chairman of JP Morgan/Chase. I can't find the article now but I wondered before if we have reached a point where we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. We have to save these institutions but we can't because we simply don't have the resources.

I just found the article on Diamon and his bank. Skimming over it I noticed something I missed on the first go round. The Dodd-Frank bill which provides a framework for resolving a 'too big to fail' bank wouldn't apply to JP Morgan because 30%+ of its business is outside the U.S. And that sum is headed toward 50%. It appears to me that we are already at the point where one or two big institutions that are interconnected globally could take down the global finance system. Which state is going to backstop that kind of threat??

Friday, December 3, 2010

Good morning to you all out there where ever you are. Cold again and between snow systems. I guess the one that dusted us really clobbered New York and other parts east. The next one is supposed to crank up the lake effect snow machine between tonight and sometime Saturday night. Thankfully we don't have to go out and it looks clear for next week when we next have to do errands.

I agree, Kay. We have to watch the congress critters carefully. I watch the 'snews' now mainly to be forewarned of what they will be doing to me because I know very well that most of them will not do anything for me. All you have to do to understand that is look at the wrangling over the tax cut extensions. The Republicans spout all that lovely crap about how the expiration of the tax cuts will cost jobs and the mainstream dutifully regurgitates it for their mindless viewers along with a couple of interviews from nicely well-fed 'small' businessmen who parrot the Republican line. The Democrats are angling for 'something' in return for caving in on the issue. They would like an extension of the expiring jobless benefits for the long term unemployed but I would be that that extension, if they get it and they don't sell out for something like the ratification of the START treaty, will not last nearly as long as the tax cuts. I wonder how much and how many will be sacrificed on the alter of the god of Predatory Capitalism in the Church of Commerce.

The New York Times and other snews outlets have reported that Wikileaks has been targeted by 'hackers' in a concerted denial of service attack which forced its service provider to take down its web page. I have to wonder who these 'hackers' are and who they work for. I put the term in quotes because over the last several years several governments have been suspected of employing hackers to attack other countries' government and business web sites. Nothing was ever proven because the web is perfectly structured to give 'plausible deniability.'

As I read the latest tomdispatch this morning I was reminded of historical pieces I read once upon a time. The amounts that have been spent on elections in this country have soared into the stratosphere. Although some Republican (Karl Rove, perhaps) said that the $4+billion spent on this last election was a small part of the national GDP, it is still huge amount to my mind. The parallel I see is with the long decline of the Roman Empire when would-be emperors bought the loyalty of the army with outsized promises of monetary rewards which eventually crushed the Roman economy. The 'end game,' according to author Andy Kroll, is continuous political warfare. Well, I would say that that has already come. We are in for an intensification of that war. The press speculation about who will be fighting it out in the next Presidential elections have already begun. Two ads I have seen recently are, I am sure, just the beginning. One is from a group opposing the tax some local areas, including New York City, proposes to place on some types of 'food' and drink which have been linked to obesity and the other is from an association of 'career' (read 'for profit') colleges and universities which have been the target of recent congressional hearings and investigative news reports for their misleading ads and recruitment practices. Both slam government, especially the Federal government, for taking away consumer choice and/or opportunity. So more and more resources will be expended to sway the 'army' of voters the would-be caesars need to install themselves in the halls of power. I think the old Roman system was more honest--and at least some people benefited materially from the bribery. All the majority of our voters get is disillusionment and disappointment. Another parallel comes to mind--the fall of the Soviet Union and our 'victory' in the Cold War. We 'won' because they went broke before we did.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Good Morning, all. Cold here but the snow has ended. The trace was enough for Chicago to get its first official measurable snow fall. We (about 50 miles east) had a measurable fall about two weeks ago thanks to the lake effect. Kitty was not happy with that white stuff. He was very slow going out (just like your guys, Lois), didn't stay out long and came back in much faster than he went out.

I am looking up that proposed tax on bank transactions, Lois. I hadn't heard anything about it. Last February a Democratic Representative from Pennsylvania introduced H.R. 4646 (The Debt Free America Act) which would impose a transaction fee on all bank transactions (even moving money between your own accounts). The proceeds would be applied to the national debt at the same time the income tax would be eliminated. So far it is stuck in the House Finance Committee. says this is a 'hobby horse' bill reintroduced every year in some form by this particular legislator and has as much chance of passing as the proverbial snowball. It isn't supported by the President or his finance team. I have found quite a number of hysterical and/or angry posts on this. Those that refer to a specific bill all refer to the Debt Free America Act. Most have very misleading (a.k.a. FALSE) information such as listing Representatives as either authors or co-sponsors who are not the authors on this bill which has no co-sponsors or claiming that Pelosi or Obama or the Administration is behind the bill. So far, I haven't found any other piece of legislation that would impose anything similar. Since the author (Chaka Fattah) won reelection he will likely reintroduce this legislation in the new congress, as he has every year since 2004.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Good morning, again, everyone. We had a dusting of snow last night. Just a dusting. But then it is December 1. I am still in the midst of cleaning up the computer/sewing/whatever room. As I mentioned before this will be the major project for this month. We haven't changed much in this room since we set it up although we have pared down the things in it. It is definitely time for another culling.

So, if the morning news is correct, the Obamas' proposal to improve the quality of the school lunch programs will get passed--at the expense of the food stamp program. Does anyone else get the feeling that our politicians are pitting one disadvantaged group against another? Remember the post on the 24th where I noted the passage of the bill that would pay Indian tribes for the royalties they never got from the lease or sale of natural resources on their lands and black farmers for the discrimination which shut them out of government payments their white neighbors got? Well that was to be paid for by taking money from the Women's, Infants' and Children's nutrition program. So what we have is a game of Washington musical chairs where when one needful program is instituted or increased another needful program is cut. And all the while they debate whether or not the top 1 or 2% of Americans really should get a tax cut. I called this game 'Washington musical chairs' but perhaps I should call it 'Russian Roulette--Washington style.'

I also noticed the the Deficit Commission announced that the final report will be released today but that a vote on it will be delayed till Friday to give members a chance to read it. The co-chairs claim that they have listened to the criticisms and have made some changes. How many and how substantive no one knows yet. But, if it resembles the proposed program they released a couple of weeks ago, it will be long on broad goals but short on specifics. And, as I have noted before, the devil is always in the details.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars posted this item today. Some months ago a similar protest appeared on HuffingtonPost where Adriana Huffington suggested that people move their accounts from the big banks to small banks that would be more respectful of their depositors. That was when the banks where canceling lines of credit left and right and refusing to loan money to even very credit worthy patrons. In light of the mortgage fraud that has come bubbling out of the fetid financial swamp, I think the call should be renewed for people to shift their funds to small, local banks.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good morning to you all. Things keep chugging along over here with nothing much new. The weather is as unpredictable as the stock market. Only one month of this year to go. Time seems to go faster each year.

I found this little New York Times article by way of MSNBC. It didn't really surprise me that many areas of the South are planning 150th anniversary celebrations of the Civil War and that they are doing so in a way that focuses on succession. Nor is it as surprising to me as it is to the author of the article that they intend to do so without mentioning the issue of slavery. About 12 years ago a fellow history grad student/teaching assistant was incensed when the professor (a temporary one-year hire) she had been assigned to assist wanted to teach the early 19th century section of the U.S. History Survey without mentioning slavery. She made sure that her sections heard a lot about how integral the issue was to the political and economic developments of the time. You can always hide a multitude of sins in how you formulate issues. By focusing on succession and the theory of states rights you hide the issue of slavery and the equally nasty issue of how 'free' labor was treated in the North.

Red Tape Chronicles (also at MSNBC) has an interesting article this morning on ID theft and the use of social security numbers. I had heard about the U.S. Supreme Court case from last year but not the details. As I read parts of the article I had a couple of thoughts that made me wonder about the logic of the decisions. One of the hypotheticals we thought of was pointed out at the end of the article--the problem of what would happen if someone skipped out on a debt and the creditor went after the legitimate holder of the SSN. We thought of two other nasty possibilities. The legitimate worker retires and finds that earnings have been credited to his account that aren't his. That could really mess up his/her situation and cause a financial crisis. Or, the IRS notices a discrepancy on the tax return and goes after the worker for taxes on earning he/she had no idea were assigned to his/her number. Originally, the social security number was issued for one purpose and one purpose only--to keep track of contributions to the system so the amount a retiree was due could be accurately assessed. But over time the number has become a convenient identifier for all sorts of other purposes. It has become THE identifying number for most of us and when someone else, knowingly or not, appropriates it it IS identity theft. It is sad that the so-called justice system has failed to recognize that basic fact.

My only comment on this MSNBC story is "Welcome to the modern world." Modern life comes with downsides. Pollution is one of them and, unfortunately, once generated it goes where it damned well pleases.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Good morning, everyone. So far we have missed the nasty snow and rain some were predicting for this area over the last couple of days. The skies are cloudy but the temps are supposed to go into the mid 30s so any snow we might get won't last long--especially since we are supposed to get some 40s over the next few days.

We looked over our door wreaths yesterday as we decide what to put up of the Christmas decorations. We aren't going to do our tree this year but we do like something seasonal on the door. We need something for Christmas but want it plain so we can incorporate some of our ornaments in it. Since all of our wreaths are on a grape vine base we decided that we would simply strip the old decorations off and build new wreaths as needed. The winter wreath is still looking nice so we will put it up just after New Years. The next one is the spring wreath which we want to put up the first of April in time for Easter. I have plenty of time to think about what to do with it.

The other major project (besides finding and decorating a Christmas wreath) is to get my craft areas cleaned up and organized over the next month. I have let it get so out of control over the summer. I do hate organizing but feel so good when it is done. Besides the floor needs a good vacuuming and the shelves all need a good dusting. I have said before that we usually don't do any heavy cleaning until the spirit moves us and, thankfully, it doesn't move too often. We have other things we would much rather do.

HuffingtonPost had this hopeful story on the job market this morning. Retailers, it seems, are adding a lot of temporary jobs this season and some are turning into full time positions. That is nice but I am not celebrating for several reasons. First, we still are ignoring the problem of what happens to a consumer driven economy when large numbers of consumers can't consume in the heroic manner we are accustomed to. Second, it would not take much to reverse this trend and all of the gains can disappear as quickly as they are appearing. Neither of these two factors encourage much stability. Third, retail jobs are notoriously low paid and usually without benefits or with only minimal benefits.

I just found this rather interesting New York Times story by way of MSNBC. I just finished reading two books by Joan Dye Gussow (Growing, Older and This Organic Life) in which she described her battles with the Hudson River which borders her property. The town in the NY Times story is building up the roadway that separates the subdivision from the river by some 18 inches but a strong some surge won't prevent that flooding and those strong storms are becoming more frequent. And you can't really blame the long time residents because such flooding was an infrequent problem when they moved into their houses. Now the flooding occurs several times a month.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hello to you all on this Black Friday morning. NO, I am not, will not and have not been shopping today. There is nothing we need or want so badly that we will go out. The morning news has shown pictures of the major malls in the area and they are all packed. Nor are we going to do any shopping for Christmas. Several years ago the old tradition of buying gifts for everyone in the family became onerous even for the best-off of us. We went through the phase of doing the 'Secret Santa' for one adult and focusing on the children (under 16, which made some of them unhappy--poor babies). But, although all the grandkids are over 16, the great-grands now number 10, I think, not counting the step kids of the blended families. Too many, and we don't really know their likes and dislikes, wants and needs, well enough to shop for them. There are times when a little bit of money is the only way to go.

We had a nice little Thanksgiving dinner at Sister's. This year she insisted that all of her kids, all adults with families of their own, hold their own family dinners. Both she and Sister-in-Law are getting older and the burden of these mass dinners are getting to be much too much. It was rather nice to have an (almost) adult only meal.

The protest over the 'porno-scanners' and TSA 'security gropes' appears to have gone nowhere. I am not surprised. With most people wanting to simply get to where ever they were going with the least hassle possible during this holiday period, it was simply the wrong time. Many may have been sympathetic to the complaints but had more pressing concerns. I think the attempted strike actually targeted the wrong party. Michael Moore, in one of his posts I get by e-mail, noted that during the health insurance industry's efforts to smear him the major fear of the industry was that his movie, 'Sicko,' might ignite a populist fury that would target them and their profits. As I read that I thought that those who want to reign in the TSA should have targeted the airlines. If enough people decided to take the pronouncement of which ever government official that was who told us that flying was a 'priviledge not a right' seriously and opted to use other transportation alternatives, the airlines would push for changes because their newfound profits would be threatened. What troubles me even more is the hits I have been hearing about extending the airport measures to other areas of mass transit. So some 65 years after WWII we institute Nazi style travel restrictions and sacrifice freedom of movement in the name of security???

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good morning, everyone, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope you will have a very pleasant day with friends and family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Good Wednesday before Thanksgiving to you all. Hope everyone will have a nice holiday though holidays as real holidays are fast disappearing with the triumph of the Church of Commerce. As a non-believer I feel quite free to ignore the constant exhortations to join the sacrament of consumption. As you said Kay, there is little out there I need or want so I can skip the ceremonies of Black Friday midnight mass.

I wonder what the 'snews' media (and, no, that is not a typo) will do now that 'Dancing with the Stars' has had its season finale. Oh, damn, I forgot they premiered a new pseudo-reality show this week: 'Skating with the Stars.' They pre-empted 'Castle' (which I like) to put that shlock on. Every time they do something like that we debate whether our cable service is really worth the price. Sometime in the not to distant future we might just decide in the negative.

Then MSNBC had this item which spiked my cynicism meter. They really do need to repay historic thefts from Tribal resources and they need to redress the discrimination practiced against black farmers. However, to add spending to this bill that then will be paid for by taking money from the Women, Infants, and Children's nutrition program is unforgivable. But then that has been the caveat in the supposed Republican conversion to the anti-earmark position--slip a 'bit' more in that is tangentially related and make sure it goes to your state while paying for it by taking the social safety net.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Good morning, everyone. It was a lazy weekend. Cool and at times a bit wet. Not enough to make up for the rain deficit, though. And the temperature roller coaster continues. We woke to 60+ degrees this morning and expect something near 70. It won't stay long though--snow and highs in the high 30s by Thanksgiving. Perhaps we should rename the 'holiday' Black Friday Eve. Or maybe that won't be necessary since at least two major retailers (Sears and Kmart) have announced that they will be open Thanksgiving day. I always got a laugh out of the yearly campaigns by some Christians to 'put Christ back in Christmas.' They lost that battle over a century ago. But then the Church of Commerce has successfully taken a page out of the early Christian playbook--they have co-opted a popular holiday and made it their own as the Church of Commerce has done with all our other holidays. And its only commandment and sacrament is to buy something--a lot of something whether you need it or not.

MSNBC had this story this morning that I find interesting. US authorities have arrested a Malaysian man whose laptop contained a large amount of sensitive information from, among other sites, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The author asks what we might expect from governments like China and North Korea if a single individual can hack supposedly secure sites like a Federal Reserve Bank and defense contractors. Actually, I have been reading about some other even more disturbing events in cyberspace lately. For instance, there were at least two periods when data streams from the US was redirected through China thanks to an implanted virus. That data included Federal Government, banking, military and other supposedly secure and encrypted streams. I think it was late last year that one of the Baltic countries experienced a serious cyber attack that shut down their government, banking, and other networks. Though the attack was routed through Russia, no one was ever able to prove who actually was responsible.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good morning to you all. Cool and gray again. I don't mind cool, or even cold, if the sun is out. I was sitting downstairs with a book yesterday afternoon when Mom came down and saw me yawning. Was I that tired, she asked. Not really. Just not very energetic. I plan to pour some votive candles to use as cores for larger candles on tap for tomorrow. I am still braiding my plarn rope. Soon I need to get back to my last great-grandchild figure for Mom's jacket. That is one of those projects that is done until another baby comes along. Thankfully, I think most of the grandchild generation is done reproducing.

Like you, Kay, I am also swearing and sighing a lot of late. And, like you, I didn't vote for all of this crap either nor for most of the idiots who put it in place. With the elections of the last few years I have been asking myself a lot of very uncomfortable questions. I was raised with the notion that if you don't vote you can't complain that you didn't have a say in our political affairs. But, if you do vote, how much of the blame must you shoulder for the boneheaded policies that come out of the politicians who were elected? I didn't vote for Bush but I did vote--so how responsible am I for the idiocy that is Iraq? Interesting conundrum. I don't really know how to resolve it.

As you can see, I started this yesterday but didn't get back to it. The weather is much the same. We may or may not get any precipitation. The weatherman last night said that the Chicago areas has had a deficit of 6+ inches since the last downpour something like two-three months ago. I noticed an article a couple of days ago as I browsed the internet which said that most of Indiana is in a moderate to severe drought. Our area is the only part of the state that isn't in drought and we are in the moderate to very dry category. Hope the winter and spring precipitation is more 'normal.'

Another interesting item--CNN presented the results of a poll which asked Americans whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended for all, for only those earning under $250k, or not at all. Not at all posted 15% while the under $250k answer brought in 49% of the votes. Only 35% wanted the cuts extended for everyone. I very much doubt that the 'conservatives' of whatever stripe will listen. Politicians are incredibly adept at ignoring polling results that contradict them even those they claim are definitive (election day, for example.) Actually, politicians are not the only ones who can ignore poll results. Another reporter (on the national news last night, I think) reported that Nancy Pelosi had been elected Minority Leader with a vote of 76% vs. 24%. A major victory you would think; but not for the reporter. Instead she focused on the 24% claiming that it showed 'major fractures' in the Democratic ranks. Evidently she never heard Will Rogers' famous quip: "I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

Mahablog recorded sighting an endangered species: Democrats with backbones. Four of them sent a letter to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner suggesting that if they want to deny millions of Americans affordable health coverage they should first deny themselves that coverage. I can only agree. When someone suggest you should go to hell, he should be willing to lead the way.

The Old Hippie's Groovy Blog has an entertaining exposition on the statistics underlying the Deficit Commission's recommendation to increase the age to receive Social Security benefits. One of Dad's favorite sayings was 'Figures don't lie but liars figure.' This is a great way to get rid of Social Security all together. Those in the lower economic strata won't live long enough to collect the enhanced benefits the Commission recommends while those in the top end will be means tested out. Since no one will collet why not redirect those trillions of dollars into something else--maybe a war in Iran??

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Good morning, again, everyone. Cold and clear here. We had frost all the way to the ground this morning for the first time since early last spring. I have a bunch of leaves on the patio that I need to sweep up into my compost bin. The last batch of leaves and the paper shreds have settled so I now have room for the new. I am poking along with craft work--just finishing some things and getting some others into a useable state. I have a bag of plastic loops from bread and bagel wrappers that I am braiding into a thick cord. I will see how they do in making utility baskets. Should do well--I have started the base for the first one using the same technique I did when I made pine needle baskets in Girl Scouts.

So this is what it takes to get Americans on their high horses to defend their privacy and rights as Americans. After the obscenity called the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretaps, and countless other measures over the last several years we have finally found some intrusion that people won't put up with. We have hysterically treated absolute security as an absolute good that justifies any price without ever discussing whether it is either attainable or affordable.

And then there is this item from Crooks and Liars. A freshman Republican Representative-elect (who is also a physician) demands to know he can't get his government provided health care immediately (it is part of Federal Law, idiot), what in the world he is going to do for the 28 days before the government benefit kicks in, and could he please buy a government policy to cover the gap? Can anyone else spell "goddamned hypocrite"? If this is any indication of what constitutes the new Republican majority in the House, we are royally screwed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Monday morning, everyone. We have some nice, bright sun but it is only in the mid 30s. The weather people are waffling on possible snow but most still have a bit in the forecast. The questions are whether, when and how much which no one is consistently predicting. What had been predicted, as late as yesterday, for Tuesday night into Wednesday is now pushed back to Wednesday into Thursday.

Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars posted this article today. I love the video she links to and wish dearly that more of us would tell politicians that our city, or county, or state and or nation is not for sale. My favorite phrase when a news story features someone who pays some outlandish price for something is "more money than brains." Even purchasers of works of art or antiques elicit that response from me. Needles to say, I am not a passionate collector of anything. But to spend those amounts in a losing bid for office?? Worse, how many spent unfathomable amounts and won? We have a county trustee who did just that and it was her own money. Mom's thoughts were even more cynical than mine. She wonders how much they expect to get from those investments if successful. Worse the past election 'cost' something just north of $4 billion. If this is the best government money can buy we have all been snookered.

This article at Alternet strikes several chords here. Mom's previous doctor had prescribed one of the various osteoporosis drugs some time ago. (Not one mentioned in the article or associated, as yet, with broken bones.) By the time the news stories surfaced about the increased incidents of major bone breakage among women who had been on the drugs for five or more years, she had changed doctors and she went into her last physical with a few questions about the drugs--particularly whether she really needed it and whether it was effective. The first doctor had put her on the drug before she had even had a bone scan to determine whether she had a problem. Given that mom had never had a baseline bone scan, I wondered how the first test could even be used to determine bone loss. That was never explained. She has since had at least one more bone scan which yielded the same readings as the first. So, did the drug prevent bone loss? Or, did it have no effect at all? We have concluded that the first doctor simply, as a matter of course, put Mom on the drug without any clear indication that there was a real need. But it seems that too much of our modern medicine is of dubious necessity. Which is why I am a thoroughly skeptical medical minimalist.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good Morning, All. It is grey and colder here. I have a most unhappy kitty now-a-days. He is used to eating his first helping of breakfast, going outside to survey his kingdom on the patio, coming in to get a second breakfast (we swear he lived with Hobbits in a previous life) and going back outside. Now it is too cool for that and with the garden sleeping for the season not terribly interesting--no frogs, no birds, no foolish moles or other rodents to stalk. Oh, well--seasons pass and he will get more outside time come late spring.

Thank you for your kind words, Jo. I remember your blog--Reading, Ranting, Recipes--fondly. As I read your comment I remembered reading on the profile that you were from South Africa but that totally escaped my mind when I was writing. I thoroughly enjoy your writing and look forward to each post. I am so glad you found a way to keep blogging in China.

I agree, Kay, and would love to see the postage on that junk we get go up. At least a third of the trash we throw out is junk mail advertising. Although I can (and do) make some use of it by shredding some of it for the compost bin, I simply don't have enough room to use all of it and wouldn't miss it if it were gone. We don't even mail our rent check here. We hand deliver it on our last shopping day of the month largely because we like to chat with our landlords. We receive only one bill each month and, if the company would come all the way into the 21st century, we would not get that one. By the time it arrives we have already paid it because we also get the on-line bill. Except for the rent, everything else is paid on-line.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Good morning, everyone. We have had a week of very nice temperatures--the mid and high 60s. Well above normal for November though thankfully not in the range of what California had the week before. The coming week, the news readers say, will be much more normal with a chance of snow. Since we don't really have to go out in it, we don't agonize over it. Over the last few years I was working I hated stormy weather because I had to go out in it. Now, barring an emergency, I don't.

So the U.S. Postal Service is operating at a loss--a BIG loss. I heard the story on the news last night and HuffingtonPost has this story this morning. The Post Office has been pushing for an increase in postage prices for months now though the Rate Commission refused the request. As I read the HuffingtonPost piece I realized the inanity of our current national mind set. We have an agency which is and isn't part of the government. The authority to establish a postal service is in the constitution and we have had that service since very early in our history. Yet in recent years we have decided that we don't want to fund it from tax revenues. Though the service is supposed to be self supporting we insist that its operations be overseen by the government--hence the inability of the service to set its own hours or rates. The postal service is the bastard child of schizophrenic parents (namely us, by way of our elected representatives). We need to make a decision here on whether the Postal Service provides a vital service to the country as a whole. If it does we need to decide what the required level of service should be and then fund it properly. If we decide it isn't necessary we need to look at whether the Constitutional language mandates the establishment of a Postal Service or simply gives permission for the establishment. Like so much else in government, this is not a business decision. It can't be governed strictly by a financial bottom line.

Here is a cute post at Jasmine Tea and Jiaozi. The author is an Englishwoman who is spending a couple of years living in Beijing. I have a while before my birth year recurs so I have plenty of time to find some red underwear.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Good morning, everyone. I started a couple of posts but just didn't get around to doing much with them. I have done a couple of other things. The gardens are officially shut down. I pulled all of the remaining plants earlier this week and capped the containers. I also got the shed cleaned out so I can find things again. I also repotted all of the cuttings I started. Lost the lavender I tried to root--I had them in a two part pot, inner one with drain holes and outer shell without, and the soil stayed much too wet for them. Next year I will put some holes in the shell before I put anything in it. Results to date--no lavender from cuttings, two sage, three basil, one stevia, and the lavender I started from seed last spring. Not too bad considering I am learning (and relearning) this.

Well, the Deficit Commission has put out the 'draft' report and the knives are being sharpened all round. I have read it once and downloaded it for future reference. First take--it contains a lot of good ideas that should be considered carefully and, maybe, tweaked a bit. It contains a lot of other ideas that may be good but, as the saying goes, the devil will be in the details. But this is a draft and nowhere near ready to be voted on. How it morphs over the next three or four weeks will bear watching. The reaction has been predictable--the left hates the changes to Social Security and related programs while the right hate the tax code changes. If the debate follows one I saw last night on PBS is any indication I don't think either side cares to compromise. This New York Times article (by way of MSNBC) indicates the depth of the problem. Too bad--for all of us.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Good Sunday morning to you all. We didn't get out of the 40s yesterday but we, hopefully, will see 60s today and for the next couple. The fall temperature roller coaster is definitely here. At least I will get the last of the plants pulled and the garden containers capped for the winter.

As I said yesterday, I have been on a crocheting binge for the last little while. The tally to date--two pillows and 7 doilies. The one on the left here is the latest. It was supposed to be a 12 inch doily. The mat it is sitting on is 17x28 inches. That is what happens when you use a heavier thread than the pattern calls for. I am not sure what I will do with it. I had thought to stitch it onto a fat quarter I have but the fabric is a bit too small. I will have to look at my stash and see if something else will do or if I can dye something to fit my mental image. I may try this pattern again with lighter thread. That is the nice thing about a stash that is 30+ years building. I have a lot of options.

I like movies and tv--or usually do. That is why our talk here of discontinuing our cable service is only talk. Like most Americans my age, I grew up on both and those visual media are as much a part of life as breathing. Every now and then a scene or theme comes up that resonates with what is happening in the culture at large. One of our favorite fairly recent movies is Ocean's Thirteen which, in the early moments,has an interesting take on aging. Danny Ocean tries to talk his friend Ruben out going into a partnership with a man who has a reputation of 'screwing' all his partners. Ruben tells Danny that Eskimos "put their elders out on an ice flow when they can't hunt anymore. Me--I can still hunt!" That reminded me of comments a professor made in a sociology class I took some 25 years ago (thereabouts) concerning the tendency we sometimes have of romanticizing more technologically primitive people. He cited specifically the documentary 'Nanook of the North' (filmed in 1921-2) and its depiction of the sharing out of a successful hunt. Every one in the extended clan got a share depending on his/her relationship to the successful hunter. Nice system--as long as the hunting is good. The professor remarked that months after the film was released Nanook and his family died of starvation as the game disappeared and most hunts were unsuccessful. The extended family/clan broke up into single family units that wouldn't have to share the meager results so that some might survive. (Note: I have found several different accounts of Nanook's death on line. I don't know which one is factual.) That is a triage system found in many hunter/gather/pastoral cultures. I remember another image from a much later documentary that a history professor showed (History of Technology, this time) on nomadic pastoralists in the area of Pakistan or Iran. The tribe had make its way over very rugged country and one old man was too old and frail to make the trip. In the last view of him he was sitting on a rock by a gorge as the tribe passed over and left him.

Why do these images come to mind? Well, stories like this one bring them to mind. Texas conservatives, now that they have an large majority in the state legislature, are exploring the possibility of withdrawing from medicare--to save the state money. Right now the talk is about money--how much the state would 'save' if they opt out and whether they can afford to lose the matching money that the Federal Government puts into the program. They aren't saying what they would do, if anything, about the 3.6 million children, disabled, and others who depend on the program. And I remember all too well the stories about effect of the economic melt down on health care in Nevada--the women who were going to lose the cancer treatments they were already receiving. The situation has faded from the news media, but I am sure it is still there, if anyone cared to look. It looks like our society is in 'triage mode' and I wonder how many of us will be pushed out on the ice flow. And I am appalled at how little human life is worth to a party dominated by 'right-to-lifers.' Oh, I forgot--we have a right to life only before birth. But that brings back another memory from this former would-be historian's brain. Everyone knows that 6 million Jews from across Europe died in Nazi camps. But another 6 million also died. The slaughter started among the German people themselves--homosexuals, the mentally deficient, those suffering from long term and expensive-to-treat diseases, the frail and ill elderly. The Nazis had a lovely term for these groups: useless eaters. I am sure our conservative ideologues won't be so crass as to use that term but does that matter?

And then there is this bit of idiocy from Senator Lindsey Graham. We have been engaged in a war in Afghanistan for the last 9 years. We have been engaged in a war in Iraq for 8 years. These two together have cost trillions of dollars as well as the lives of 2.5 times more soldiers than the number of civilians killed on 9/11. We have gotten a lousy return on this investment and now Lindsey Graham wants to 'double down'???

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Good morning, all. We had snow overnight. Not a lot. Just enough to cover the grass and my garden containers. The paved areas were, mostly, too warm for it to stay. The daytime temps are supposed to go back into the 50s and 60s early in the week so I guess it is time to clear out the remaining plants, as I said yesterday.

Robert Reich's post this morning sums up my own thoughts this week as I watched the stock markets' celebration of the election results and Ben Bernanke's announcement of continued quantitative easing (QE in economics speak). There are indeed two economies and the one I inhabit is still bouncing along toward a bottom that hasn't yet been reached. I thought his remark on the 'unexpectedly' good employment numbers was pretty good also. However, another writer on another blog (sorry I can't link and I can't remember her name now--should have written it down) had some very good remarks that answered some of my questions about those so-good numbers. Not that many were full-time, permanent positions. (A point Reich also makes.) Further, these numbers are likely to be revised downwards as were the numbers for September because of the overstated jobs from the birth/death model the Labor Department uses. No one has yet said how many of those jobs were temporary and will be gone by early January. Call me a 'Gloomy Gus' but I simply don't trust the numbers anymore.

Russ's Filtered News has a nice compilation of electioneering falsehoods that drove the 'discussion' in the election. That is when the 'discussion' wasn't limited to character assassination.

Friday, November 5, 2010

TGIF to all of you. We have rain with a slight possibility of snow. It may be clearing soon as the Chicago station we watch in the morning reported clearing skies there. But this seems to be coming straight down the Lake. A little ways north and east (in southwestern Michigan) they had snow. This, at least, is somewhat normal. I am flabbergasted by the 96 some areas of Southern California posted yesterday. It is early November, after all!! But I haven't seen a really normal year in a very long time. I noticed my marigolds were looking a little worse for wear yesterday. I think I will have to pull them when things dry out. Sorry to see them go because that leaves only the mums which haven't bloomed much since the initial burst of blossoms. I don't know if I will try to keep them over the winter. Or get new ones next fall. I think all of my remaining herb cuttings will survive. I found new growth on the one surviving stevia and on the lavender plants. The sage and basil are thriving. I may have to repot some soon and give each of the little plants their own pot. It is almost time to get serious about planning next year's gardens. But not quite yet.

I am becoming something of a scavenger. After one of our wind storms earlier in the late summer, I went looking for some drip saucers that I feared had gone flying over the fence and found a very nice, very large, and heavy pot in the street. I don't know whose it was but it is mine now and is resting in my shed waiting for next year. Yesterday, we made one of our rare extra trips to the grocery store and we saw a pot rolling on the street. Another good sized pot--about a 1 gallon size--waiting for next year. It is one of those light plastic things that garden center or greenhouse plants come home in but I will use it until it is no longer useable. Earlier this spring I found a nice rolling cart--wire frame with a wood top. It now extends our counter space in the kitchen. Oh, I found those drip saucers--behind my garden containers.

Quite a number of the bloggers I read daily (or as often as they post) are in the same post-election hangover I am. A couple have decided to give political/social/economic blogging a break for a bit. I hope they will be back soon--they usually write a lot of good, old-fashioned common sense. Unfortunately, their common sense isn't much shared by the political powers-that-be.

I have been in crochet mode for the last little while. I just finished another doily that is now drying on the stretching board. But I now feel the need to shift back to something else. Today I finished the last little boy figure for Mom's jacket and tomorrow will do a large part, if not all, of the last little girl. That should be it. I don't see anyone else in the family procreating any time soon. Then I have to clean up the craft section of our computer/craft/catch-all room. I spent a bit of frustrating time trying to find the boy and girl embroidery figures because I just didn't remember where I had put them. Yesterday, Mom picked up a basket that the cat had upended trying to crawl into the space behind it. There, under the rag rug I have half crocheted were the two pieces I had lost. Mom changed her tune quickly--going from scolding the totally unrepentant kitty to praising him.

Glad you liked yesterday's post, Lois, and you can use any part of it anytime.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good Morning, everyone. I haven't had much to say lately and I have been in a real grumpy mood--one that goes way beyond 'contrary.' I didn't realize that until yesterday when the mood started to lift. Reading a post by Tom Englehardt on his tomdispatch site I realized why. Like Englehardt I found the latest election dispiriting--I would even say enervating and depressing. The ads were everywhere. Towards the end they even invaded previously serene spaces like the History Channel. I really need to decompress after that assault. I have refused to read a lot of the political drivel that is out there dissecting the results but I do have a couple of general thoughts on the results. First, the message each side says they have received from the voters is the message each side wanted to hear not necessarily the message the voters really sent. So the Republicans hear a repudiation of the major Democratic initiatives over the last couple of years and the Democrats hear a confusion of messages. That is what I got from President Obama's press conference yesterday. What messages, you ask? That the Democrats were so focused on getting things done they forgot to reform the process by which they got those things done--and people were not happy about that. (Read earmarks, back room deals, and other such maneuvers). That the financially well-heeled and politically well-connected were taken care of while everyone else sank into the mire. That the voters wanted bi-partisan answers to the country's problems not partisan business-as-usual wrangling.

My thoughts on this--both sides are as clueless as usual. The results I saw were neither a clear repudiation of the policies of the last two years nor a clear mandate for the Republicans to sweep all of those polices away. Yes the Republicans won a lot of House seats, some 19 state legislatures, and several Senate seats. But most of the races were won by a very slim margin. The touted Illinois Senate Seat (so inaccurately described as 'Obama's Senate Seat'--no Senator owns the seat s/he occupies--it belongs to the people of the state) went to the Republican by a whole, astonishing 2% of the vote. If the next two years are as contentious as the last two and the economy remains in the doldrums (as a good many economists expect it will) that those slender margins may swing the other way. The Republicans have re-acquired ownership of this economic mess. And both sides are focused on reviving the economy that was not figuring out what the economy will look like in the future. The economy of the last thirty-plus years was based on debt and the consumer. Middle class jobs have provided stagnant or declining wages over that time and the only way the middle class consumer was able to continue to consume in a middle class style was to go over their heads into debt. Many of the 'optimistic' projections for job growth I have seen don't predict a pick up in job creating for the next two years (the more pessimistic say say five or more) and those jobs won't provide the wages of the jobs that have been lost. As for the debt situation--that won't come back any time soon either. The providers of debt (bans or whoever) have been badly burned.

Both Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that Americans are angry but I don't think either side recognizes the depth of that anger. It goes beyond a lost job or a lost house. And its origins go back well beyond this 'recession.' I remember the Enron collapse and the interviews with workers who were out both of a job and the majority of their retirement savings much of which was in company stock. While the bosses were able to unload their soon-to-be-worthless holdings before the crash the workers were first advised by those bosses to hold on to the stock and then prevented from selling at all. Those workers who were near retirement saw the work of thirty years disappear with the value of the stock--all many had left was Social Security. Where am I going with this, you ask? We are told in this culture that if you work hard you can achieve your dreams. What the last thirty years have proven to many of us is that is a lie. All too many people have worked hard, have saved, have done everything right by the rules of this culture--and find everything they worked for either swept away or threatened. And they are angry. The problem is where to focus that anger. Those who have lost jobs focus it on China, on the companies who moved the jobs to China, on the immigrants the politicians tell us are taking our jobs, on the politicians who argue against extended unemployment benefits because it makes the jobless lazy and unwilling to take a new job. Those who have jobs are afraid that their job will be the next eliminated and they focus on China, the company that might move the job to China unless the workers take a big hit on wages and benefits, et. cetera. Those who have lost homes blame predatory and fraudulent lenders while many of the banks blame deadbeat buyers who knew they couldn't afford the loan and simply gamed the system. There is a lot of blame to go around and the search for scapegoats is in full swing. But the bottom line is--The American Dream is broken and no one knows how to fix it. John Boehner has achieved his but he is among the lucky few.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Good Morning, again, everyone. My cat is very unhappy and has been for the last few days. We haven't let him out first thing in the morning because the temps have been below 50 degrees. This morning we only hit 38. He may have a fur coat but we don't. Sometimes the seasonal changes are unsettling--although he would probably say something stronger. Did anyone else see the little blurb on the news citing a new 'scientific' study which concludes that we should do away with our 'daylight savings' regime? This study found, contrary to popular propaganda, it doesn't save energy and it is very hard on the body. I have said that for years but didn't have numbers to back it up.

I have felt dissatisfied for a number of years by the Holiday creep, Lois. The commercialization only adds to my disgruntlement. Before the economic crash began Visa had a commercial which showed a humming store coming to a crashing halt when some benighted soul tried to use cash or a check. The message was that the 'speed' of commerce (and daily life with it) required the speed of Visa. The speed of commerce also requires consumers who are willing (if not actually able) to spend freely. But over the last several years (well before the 'Great Recession) spending has been less and less rewarding (whether spending on myself or others.) But I still like my holidays 'in season' and this nonsense of a 6 month Christmas 'season' or manufactured 'holidays' like Sweetness Day simply annoy me. I really don't even like to make gifts anymore. In a commercial world I am not at all sure a made gift is really appreciated. Has anyone had the feeling that the recipient of a hand-made baby afghan or quilt would have been just as happy, and perhaps happier, with a commercially produced item they could put a dollar figure on? Maybe I am getting cynical but, over the last several years, I have had that feeling often.

I have had a reasonably productive morning. Actually, a productive couple of days. I am irritated because some of that productivity was spent correcting a problem with something I had done before and the problem was not with what I did but what I used to do it. I recently bought some new wicks from Michaels and used them when I poured a few candles. A couple of weeks ago we tried to light one of the candles and the wick barely caught. A second candle also sputtered and almost went out. I checked over the wicks and found that each had a metal piece and not much else left. Then I checked package. Each of the remaining wicks has a shiny metal core and were supposed to be 'coated'; with what over what I have no idea. So, after a bit of research on line, I braided several wicks out of some spare bedspread weight crochet thread, soaked them in wax, and used them for six votive candles. The one we lit this morning burned nicely and I used the others as the cores for some new candles. I had to completely melt out the wax for the older candles which did not make me happy. From now on--I make my own wicks.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good morning to you all. We woke to calm winds but cloudy skies. We still expect strong gusts but nothing like what we had earlier this week. Of course, with the winds we get the leaves from the surrounding trees. Since I have the compost tub this year I am sweeping them up and putting them to good use. At least as long as I have room in the tub. We are expecting some low temps overnight over the next week. We'll see how much longer the marigolds and mums last. I took some of the marigold seeds to save for next year. I don't know how they will do since they are a hybrid variety. I hope it will be interesting. The overnight lows are getting down far enough that I turned off the water and drained most of the water out of the hose. All these little seasonal chores that remind you winter isn't far off.

The evening news Wednesday night had a brief segment that reflected a trend we have noticed for sometime--all the sneaky ways manufacturers have of raising prices without seeming to have done so. The biggest way is one I have commented on often here--reducing the amount in a package without changing the package noticeably. It is interesting that the news media picked up on this. I figure we can expect even more in the future since commodity prices have gone up spectacularly over the last year.

Did you hear that some of the nations retailers plan to start their 'Black Friday' specials this last Friday of October? That was also on our local news lately. Last year they tried to drum up business by making all Fridays after Thanksgiving 'Black Fridays.' The holiday creep has accellerated. I wonder when they will start the 2011 holiday sales season--January 2?? That way they can eliminate the after-Christmass sales.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Good morning, Everyone. Our weather made the national news. The winds are here along with the wind. They say that the low pressures will be the strongest in some 70 years. We also have, in addition to the high wind warnings, tornado warnings. I quickly go some light weight items into the storage shed this morning. I know I won't do anything outside today and doubt I will tomorrow as the winds are supposed to continue through Wednesday.

I have a link today that should make anyone who reads it angry. I don't think I need to comment.

Weather update: just spent the last half hour downstairs because of the tornado warning that just expired. The sirens went off for, maybe, the 6th or 7th time (barring monthly tests) since we moved in here. But the worst, for now has moved east.

I have written before about our misguided notions about higher education. Here is a link to an Alternet article which very nicely expresses many of my own thoughts on the subject. And, of course, the grand strategy for renewed economic vigor is--more higher education. But where are the jobs for our so supremely educated people? I don't see them now or in the future. Also, think about this little fact--while students here graduate with worthless degrees and a crippling pile of debt employers who could hire them are moving their operations overseas to where other highly educated people are willing and able to work for considerably less. Talk about sending good money down a rat hole.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good Monday morning to you all. We have had some warmer than normal weather and the near forecast has totally eliminated the possibility of a hard freeze for the next week. We also got some nice, though insufficient rain, over night for the last couple of nights. I managed to wash down half of my patio and rearrange the containers on that side yesterday. That half looks so much neater. Fall (and early spring, as Mom reminded me) is such an untidy season. I also spread the compost on two of the containers before trying to put the lids on them for the winter. I say try because the long sides of the containers have bowed out drawing the short sides in so the lids do not fit at all anymore. I keep them on with bungie cords. Now all I have to do is clean out the other side and turn off the water for the season. I guess everyone had a bad season for tomatoes this year. Talking to the siblings at Mom's birthday party over the weekend I get the impression that nothing much did well for them. My patch of tomatoes and peppers probably did the best. Too hot and dry for much too long.

Several days ago, Rain at Rainy Day Things made some good observations and asked some good questions about the intersection of religion and politics in this country. One of her key questions was 'should a candidate's religious beliefs influence whether you would vote for him/her?' That has been rattling around in my mind for several days now leading me into some very strange paths of thought. Rain makes the astute observation that Republican candidates, especially in the South, have a very hard time getting nominated, much less elected, if they don't hew closely to what Rain calls 'christianist' (as opposed to Christian) positions. This article from the New York Times indicates that demands for orthodoxy doesn't just affect Protestants. I remember the storied 1960 election when John Kennedy had to repeatedly make it clear that he, a Catholic, would not be controlled by the Pope. We have come a very long way backwards over the last several decades. Over the last ten years we have seen Catholic bishops threaten Catholic politicians with excommunication if they voted in any way that could be construed as favorable to abortion rights, reproductive rights, or gay rights. John Kennedy insisted on being an American Catholic. The purists in the Church now insist that their communicants be Catholic American. Unfortunately, we have seen the same hardening of lines among some of the Protestant denominations.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I would have told Rain that I never would have considered a candidate's religion when making my choice in the voting booth. Now, I can't say that. Once upon a time, I would have respected the candidate's religious beliefs and been fairly sure that he would have respected mine and would have known where to draw the line. Now, I can't be at all sure of that. I realized that two years ago when Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, was pursuing the Republican nomination. Stories came out about two parole cases that came before him that made me question this matter. Two men, each convicted of heinous crimes, requested parole claiming that during their incarceration they had experienced a religious conversion and reformation. One man's request was refused and he was executed. The other was granted and he was freed with the condition that he leave the state on release. The one that was refused had converted to Buddhism. The one Huckabee granted converted to fundamentalist Protestant Christianity. The one who was freed went on to rape and murder three, I think, women in another state. Mike Huckabee, a born-again-fundamentalist-Protestant-Christian, accepted the 'conversion' of the Christian and freed him while not accepting the conversion of the Buddhist allowing him to be executed. This incident made me doubt that Mike Huckabee could be trusted to administer justice impartially. That means I can no longer trust that candidates respect the religious choices and values of those who don't share those choices and values. In fact I see a contest to demonize anyone outside their own group.

My suspicion of religiously motivated candidates goes even deeper, however. Over the last couple of decades the notions of 'capitalism,' and 'free markets' have acquired a quasi-religious aura. One would almost think that god had delivered them along with the Ten Commandments or that Jesus incorporated them into the Sermon on the Mount. Christian orthodoxy now seems to require an Economic Orthodoxy that seems, to me at least, very much at odds with the origins of Christianity. Now the believer and unbeliever alike are left to their own devices and the mercy of god. Early Christians had a supportive community to care for the sick, the old, the needy. Today's Christianists label that 'communist.' Economic heresy has become synonymous with religious heresy.

To answer Rain's question--once I would not have asked anything about a candidate's religious belief. Now, unfortunately, I have to consider whether that candidate can accord me the respect I deserve as a citizen and voter. I have to ask if a candidate can respect my right to hold different beliefs and whether s/he can respect my beliefs and my right to act on my beliefs. And I have to ask the same questions concerning the quasi-religious beliefs that have flooded our political scene over the last few years. Already my rights to hold a job in some companies has been wiped out because they have a zero tolerance policy on smoking. Though I don't smoke I would always test positive for tobacco contaminants because someone else in my household smokes. Some companies have such a zero tolerance policy with respect to weight? Those companies wouldn't hire me because some insurance companies think I would be a poor health risk even though statistical surveys have shown that weight alone is not a good indicator of how much I would use health services. I feel assaulted on all sides from the High Priests of Capitalism, the High Priests of Health, the High Priests of the Green Church, and the High Priests of the Christianist Churches (Catholic and Protestant). All are intent on forcing their beliefs on me. I don't like it much but I have to consider their 'religious' views when I vote.