Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Oct. 1st, everyone. Goodness where did September go? Only three months left in this year. I said a few posts ago that I was shifting from gardening, which is slowly winding down, back to needlework. Here are a couple of pictures.

The first one shows the two market bags I crocheted according to patterns on the Lion Brand site. I used the Sugar 'n' Cream cotton yarn I had left over from some baby afghans finished and given several years ago. I don't foresee any new baby items in the near future and I don't like leaving the yarn so long. The thing about fabric, yarns and threads is, if you use it, it eventually wears out; but, if you don't, it deteriorates and is wasted. I would rather use it.

I really didn't need another market bag since we have 8 or 10 canvass bags but I had a lot of the white so, what the heck?, market bag it is.

Many, many years ago I started a bedspread. I was very young and ambitious then and often underestimated the time things would require while overestimating my enthusiasm. I had planned a double sized spread, then changed it to a queen size, and then put it, unfinished in the closet. I took recently took it apart but kept the 18 best motifs and made the outer cover for the pillows. I used sections cut from old drapes for the inner envelopes and was pleased to see that the colors nearly match the loveseat. The doilies are from the rescued thread of which I have a lot. I have quite a number of pattern books with pretty items that I will be making. The only requirement--nothing bed or table sized any more.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Monday morning to everyone. As you can tell it has been a blah few days here. Nothing new from the gardens since the season is coming to an end. It is mainly cleaning up and getting everything ready for its winter sleep. I repotted my youngest lavender plants yesterday and brought them inside and transferred my basil cuttings to a pot. They are both on my top shelf by the patio door. The temperature was only 45 this morning which means I really do have to get off my butt and get take the cuttings from the stevia, large lavender and sage. Those all need a bit of help to take root so I will use the rooting hormone to assist them. I have shifted my gardening to later in the day when it warms up a bit. We are also getting our cool weather clothes together and more accessible. So far we haven't seen much color change here. Quite a few trees seem to have gone from green to dead brown (or bare) with not much in between. Some of them should have turned gold or red, or bronze. Not much evidence of that.

We have only about a month before the elections but I have little enthusiasm for it. I will vote but holding my nose all the way. I love the selective bias of the national media. We have had repeated stories on how much trouble the Democrats are in and how low their approval ratings are but almost everyone of those stories fails to mention that the Republican ratings are even lower. It looks to me like nobody "like(s) anybody very much." (Kingston Trio, Merry Minuet--for those who wonder why the quotes.) A couple of interesting Huffington Post articles concerning the campaigns caught my eye this morning. The first involves those candidates who have had financial troubles. It seems that voters are looking somewhat kindly at candidates' financial misfortunes this year and those candidates who hoped to capitalize on their opponents troubles by characterizing them as lacking in judgement or character may be making a serious mistake. I can understand the dilemma. This economy has shown that even the most prudent can find themselves in financial difficulty. There but for the grace of God----. The second story involves several vulnerable Democrats that have found themselves without party support because the National party considers them not worth the effort to save--triaged essentially. Some are declaring their independence of the party which leads to some interesting thoughts about what might happen even if the Democrats maintain a numerical majority in the House and Senate. We may have a Republican party with a significant number of Tea Party Republicans who won't go along with the Republican national agenda and a Democratic party with a significant number of independent 'Democrats' who have no allegiance to the Democratic national agenda. What kind of horse trading will that involve to get anything done?

'What's old is new again' as the last line of this article says. I am not surprised at the increasing number of people interested in food preservation. Two years ago the sales of seeds and gardening equipment increased up to 30%. Last night I saw the first news story about the increasing number of people raising their own chickens (and collecting the eggs) carried by any national news media. The people featured in these stories express two concerns to explain their venture into producing their own food--cost of commercially provided foods (increasing constantly) and quality (controlling what goes in and getting better flavor). Those were exactly the drivers pushing us into growing what we can in our little space, buying from local vendors who get their products locally, and freezing/drying for winter use. The increasing numbers of recalls haven't made for a very trusting atmosphere for large factory producers of foods.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Good Sunday Morning to you all. We are supposed to have cool temps and some sun. Hope so. It was cloudy and cool most of yesterday. I didn't get anything I had planned to do done. No gardening at all. Nothing in my tripping through the internet that sparked a thought to share. But I did get a good bit of crocheting done and I finished a book. I have some on-going crochet projects using the thread I salvaged from the unfinished bedspread I told you about a couple of weeks ago. I really should take some pictures and post them. Perhaps I will catch up on that soon.

HuffingtonPost published this article this morning that I found interesting though not at all surprising. I am amazed that this story has not made any appearance in the mainstream media. Instead we were amused by Colbert's testimony before Congress (in character no less) concerning the plight of illegal farm workers and with Lindsey Lohan's brief return to jail for violating her probation. Well, some people were amused. It seems there is a different standard for Wall Street bankers and manufacturers. If manufacturers knowingly make defective products they are held liable for damages. If Wall Street bankers knowingly construct and sell products likely to fail they make a boat load of money and everyone else takes a bath. Given the situation I am not surprised they are sitting on all that cash they have accumulated since the dark days of the crash and the bailouts. They need it to defend themselves in court.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Well, here it is--Friday, again. Hope everyone has a nice weekend planned. Ours is supposed to be cool with some possible showers. Right now we have March style winds. Chicago has rain which hasn't reached us so far. I did get a bit done on the garden containers yesterday. The Rainbow and Brandywine tomatoes are gone for the season and their pots cleaned up. I had to take a couple of the mums out of the container they were in--they simply didn't like it there. I put them in small pots by themselves and hope I can save them. I am keeping a close eye on the overnight temps but so far the weather people don't expect anything under 40.

Facebook was a pain yesterday. I guess a lot of other users had trouble also because the evening news carried the problem. When I did get on it was slow and lost a lot of the updates on the games. I have been cutting back on the games and the time I spend on them. Part of the problem is I am a bit bored with them.

Well, the Republicans have put out their 'Contract With America II,' oh, excuse me the 'Promise to America.' If you want a nice analysis of exactly what all that hot air would mean take a look at this Washington Post article. I thought when I listened to the sound bites when they announced their so-called plan was 'Nothing new.' That is about the sum total of the whole sound and fury.

So, the Great Recession is over according to the NBER. For a humorous take on the situation go to MSNBC and take a look at the cartoons in the Business section right hand side. The problem with the NBER announcement is simply that it is all about the GDP numbers and that is very misleading. Once the GDP has bottomed out there is only one way to go and, unfortunately for most of us, it isn't going in that direction very fast. I guess the good news is that the talking heads have to stop talking about a 'double dip' since any new economic decline would be considered a separate recession. This article, also at MSNBC, explains the limitations of the NBER declaration very succinctly.

Then there is this MSNBC article that puts things in a nutshell--the economy is schizophrenic. For every bit of not so bad news there is a bit of not so good news out there. The existing housing sales figures ticked up in August which is 'not so bad' but August was still the weakest month for that statistic in some two decades which is 'not so good.' But there is a pithy statement that explains much of the Catch 22 we are in:
"What's becoming increasing clear is that this isn't a normal recovery," said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak. "There's little we can do to create jobs until demand returns, and demand isn't returning.
They can't create jobs until demand returns and demand isn't going to return till jobs do. And the tax cuts, payroll tax holidays, business credits and all the rest of the measures proposed simply won't do much for demand. That means there isn't a hell of a lot government can do except keep spending. But for how long and to what lasting effect? That is the big question.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone. Well, we had a wild time last evening and night. Unfortunately, it wasn't a party. The weather people said winds in the area ranged between 65 and 70 mph. We also had sheets of rain. How much I don't know, but for a brief time it was monsoonal. I hope it dries out today so I can clean up some of the gardens. After 90+ yesterday we should have temps in the 70s today and for most of the next week--except tomorrow which should be in the mid-80s. Wednesday is our trash pick up day and trash littered the street. I went out early to pick up what I thought was one of our bags and to check the lid on the trash bin. It looked like the wind almost blew it off and broke the hinges. Luckily the trash was not one of ours (though I picked it up anyway), and the lid and hinges are fine. On another topic, I did harvest the last of the tomatoes yesterday so we will have fried green tomatoes for dinner with the left overs frozen for later. I will start taking out the Brandywine and Big Rainbow bushes and getting their pots ready for winter. They didn't do too badly for us but would have done better if the extreme heat hadn't hit just when they were flowering so well. I still have some of the salsa tomatoes ripening so I won't be pulling them just yet.

Robert Cramer has a good post on HuffingtonPost this morning. And anyone who voted for Obama and is disappointed and thinking of sitting out the mid-term elections should read it. If the last two years have been disappointing just think of the 8 years before that and think of what the next two years will be like if the Repthuglicans gain more seats. I saw one idiot conservative pundit blowing hot air this last week about how the Democrats can't put any blame on them because the Democrats have such an overwhelming majority they could steam roll the opposition and cram through anything they wanted. That ignores the supermajority needed for cloture in the Senate--which the Republicans have used shamelessly. Cramer is also right on the philosophical differences between the two--top down economics vs. bottom up. I would go further though--our economy has operated on top down principle for the last 60 years. The business model has been to churn out as much of anything as possible because people would buy it in almost unlimited quantities. And if demand faltered launch a new advertising campaign to drum up demand. That is a model that works only as long as prosperity penetrates well down the economic pyramid. Normally, that prosperity depends on a large number of people having good jobs that pay them enough to meet their basic needs and to buy some luxuries. But for at least the last forty years we have had an illusion of a broadly based prosperity. It was maintained not by real wage increases but by debt, especially home equity debt and credit card debt. Trickle-down, or supply side, economics does not work when people simply don't have the money to spend--when the prosperity doesn't reach far down the pyramid. Cramer cites Kevin Philips' Wealth and Democracy which is a very good book. But I would suggest that people start with Philips' Boiling Point to understand the decimation of the middle class since the 1980s. Now Boiling Point was published about 15 years ago but it is amazing how many of the trends Philips identified then have only intensified in the intervening time.

There is another factor people should think about: Throughout history, political power has followed economic power. Remember the famous quip from the King in the Wizard of Id on the Golden Rule--he who has the gold rules. How long do you think our democratic republic will last as large numbers of the once prosperous middle and working classes sink into poverty while more and more of the income and wealth is concentrated in the upper 2-5%. Read the latest statistics and 'be afraid--be very afraid.'

Mark Morford has an excellent and entertaining post today. I don't know how often we have looked up from what ever reading or puzzle working or needlework we were doing to see yet another 'reality' show being hawked on tv. (Note: we rarely waste our time by just watching tv.) We can't really get away from this trend. Even our favorite channels, SyFy and History have the bug. All we can do is refuse to watch. Even the ads are annoying. But Morford makes a very good point: the extremism of the 'reality' shows is part and parcel of an extremism that has permeated our culture. Moderation has gone out the window. And, frankly, just trying to avoid it as much as possible is both irritating and exhausting.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Monday morning to you all. I gave the blog a rest over the weekend. We had a few other things going on and that took precedence. The garden is, as I said before, winding down. We plan to take the last of the Brandywine and Big Rainbow tomatoes while they are still green and fry them up. I will leave the few remaining Fresh Salsa on the vine to ripen and, if the don't before a frost comes along, I will look up a green tomato recipe that we can use them in. I don't know if I will get out into the garden containers today because the sky looks somewhat threatening right now. I hope so because I have to repot one of the stevia and take cuttings to try rooting some new plants. And I should pot the cuttings from the basil--they rooted very easily in water.

Chris Cillizzia at the Washington Post has this article that reflects what is in my mind on the politics of today. I like the headline that HuffingtonPost had for its link: "A pox on both your houses." The recent polls show that the majority of the electorate don't much like either party so it is little wonder that the so-called Tea Party is making a splash. However, the Tea Party doesn't have an answer for me--I don't much like them either. And anyone who thinks they will get their act together and form a coherent party is likely to be disappointed. Right now they are attracting everyone who is dissatisfied with the major parties for any and every reason. That is why you can see the racist signs that the alleged leadership disavows and the signs from Social Security recipients demanding that the bureaucrats keep their 'government hands off my medicare.' If the Tea Party does solidify around a consistent and coherent set of principles it will lose half of its current support. Which half is the question.

Dr. David Katz at HuffingtonPost also has an article that reflects a topic much on our minds here: food, nutrition, and calories. We are not calorie counters here. Nor are we on the locavore or foodie bandwagon. We do like to get our foods as locally as possible and from as many different sources as possible. And we have moved to preparing as much of our meals at home from scratch. Katz is totally right on the notion that calories tell only part of the story on food.

Discovery News had this article this morning by Michael Reilly that intrigued me. Unfortunately for the author I can think of at least two examples that contradict the rosy picture he presents. Privatization of a public resource may or may not be good for the resource base or the people who depend on it. About two years ago the City of Chicago 'privatized' their parking meters and have had nothing but trouble since. The company was slow to upgrade the meters but very quick to raise the parking rates. Many of the new meters, when they were finally installed, broke down soon after. Chicago politicians, including Mayor Daily, have been criticized for accepting flawed low-ball valuations and then accepting too little for the resource. So far no one has benefited from this privatization which has tripled (and in some cases quadrupled) rates, upset established parking arrangements, and inconvenienced commuters and shoppers. Then there is the example of the system the Federal government has in place for selling permits to western cattlemen to graze animals on public land. Many ranchers have overgrazed the public land and did little to restore or replenish it. For many the permits have become a sort of quasi-private property that can be sold, bequeathed, or put up as collateral. This system is not very different from what Reilly describes in his article and it is far too early to tell if the anticipated benefits will actually materialize.

Our nightly news last night had a story that seems to reflect so much of what is wrong with our economy. According to the report, the last factory in this that makes incandescent light bulbs is closing. I identified part of the problem as I listened to the promos--the incandescent bulbs are being replaced in many American homes by fluorescent bulbs that last longer and use less energy. I was not at all surprised when the reporter confirmed my suspicion. I was only mildly surprised to hear that the switch from incandescent to fluorescent has been accelerated by legislation. I was much more surprised to learn that there is not one factory making the fluorescent bulbs in this country. So, on the one hand, we save energy; but, on the other, we lose jobs. I am not sure we are really gaining anything.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Good Morning to you all. It looks like a nice sunny day today a dismal, rainy day yesterday. I will definitely have to do some gardening work today. Along with the rain we had high winds and some of my plants got a bit blown about. Plenty of tomatoes and peppers to dry.

I see the news media has picked up on the increase in the poverty rate. Here is the Wall Street Journal's take on the numbers. I noticed a bit of schizophrenia in the piece especially toward the end. One of the experts noted that the poverty rate only considers income and ignores the 'government' subsidies the poor receive (housing subsidies, earned income tax credits, food stamps, etc.) Said expert remarked that if food stamps alone were counted the rate would have dropped last year a little under 4 million people about as many people as fell into poverty over the year. Are those people really no longer poor because they receive that aid? That seems to be what this guy is saying. And if we no longer count them as poor do they no longer qualify for aid?

I have another quibble with this article. At one point it says that Americans over 65 have done better than younger Americans because our income has gone up a little over 5% because of increases in social security. Which older Americans is he talking about. Mom actually got no useable increase because her Medicare payments went up at the same time. They gave with one hand and took away with the other. And this year she got no increase at all because the fudged inflation figures showed no increase. As a household our income did increase but only because I had to go on Social Security after two-and-a-half years unemployed with no job prospects in sight. If you take last year as your standard, those older Americans who had 401k and other retirement savings probably did get an increase because stocks rebounded--to the level they reached 10 years ago. For them, as for many Americans, they lost a decade.

For the most part, I can relate to this MSNBC article. After several disappointments with the meat we bought from our local supermarket and several disturbing stories about where some of that meat comes from, we shifted to a small local meat market. We also know of one more source for quality meat that is hormone and anti-biotic free as well as grass fed. Three things will keep us from returning to the supermarket: the taste and texture were far better, the price was not that much more, and the service was unbelievable in a world that runs on self-serve. We picked out the beef and pork roasts we wanted and actual butchers cut them into manageable pieces which their clerk separately wrapped and marked. We will be going back for chicken and pork chops next and we will explore what other products they offer.

This MSNBC article reflects some of what we have talked about here--the lack of trust in traditional institutions. Last night we listened to the news story about the FDA's hearings about the genetically modified salmon. What we really don't like is that the FDA is going to determine whether the salmon is safe and, having done that, will allow it to be marketed without any indication that it is GM. So the consumer will not have any choice about whether they consume GM salmon because they won't know and providers won't be required to tell them. The FDA and USDA have done such a wonderful job in protecting the pubic from bacterial contamination in other foods that I have a big problem trusting that the FDA determination in this case will serve the interests of the consumer first.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Good Morning, again, everyone. It is wet outside today so I won't be doing much in the gardens. Mom used some of the dried tomatoes in a casserole yesterday just to see how they would do. They were sweeter than fresh and a little chewier but otherwise not much different. She looks forward to using more of them over the winter and has asked me to plant more of the salsa tomatoes next year for sauce and drying. Sounds like a plan to me.

HuffingtonPost had this story this morning. I think the big banks should buy back the bad loans they sold to Freddie and Fannie. If the two GSEs hadn't bought mortgages over the last two years the entire housing market, including the mortgages the banks thought were solid enough to keep, would have gone down a black hole. Statistics earlier this summer showed that the only houses moving were those sold for cash and those backed by Freddie and Fannie. We bailed out those bastards now let them return the favor.

HuffingtonPost also had this report that should scare the pants off everyone. I might not find it disturbing if it weren't the FOURTH such story I have seen this summer. The others were along the mid-Atlantic and New England coast. And that picture is mind-boggling. I doubt that the oil eating bacteria cited in the story are the cause of the three Atlantic fish kills but no one has explained those incidents. And if the bacterial are the cause of the Louisiana kill--how many more might there be?? BP may have 'solved' one problem (those oh so visible and embarrassing slicks of oil) with their techno-fix (dispersant chemicals) but may have created another one. (Update: the noon news claims that the official explanation is a sudden increase in the water temperature issue.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone.

I wasn't sure I would have anything to post today but then I found this on Natural News. I am not really surprised that the Corn Refining Association is wanting to re-label high fructose corn syrup. I know that we have just about eliminated anything that contains it and, evidently, so are a lot of other folks. We also noticed on the morning news that whatever group it is that advocates for the egg producers had a new ad touting the health value of eggs. Now that a little time has passed since the salmonella scare it is time to encourage the public to buy eggs again. They may or may not be safer (probably the latter) but who cares? Just convince the public that eggs are healthy and push the safety issues out of sight so the producers can get back to selling again. Does that sound too cynical?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good Morning again to you all. The garden is definitely winding down but the mums and marigolds make a pretty show and the herbs are still producing well. I am just waiting till the last of the tomatoes and peppers ripen before pulling the plants. The cuttings I took of the basil are rooting very nicely. I have to try the stevia again--with rooting hormone this time. The lavender and sage look promising but no obvious root growth yet--but they haven't wilted.

The last of the primary elections occur today and, of course, the big story, at least from the view point of the mainstream media which loves dramatic controversy, involves the Tea Party challengers. I see two other stories that deserve play but are either ignored or handled very superficially. CNBC has spewed quite a few words over the last couple of weeks on the theme of 'class warfare.' The talking heads have usually mentioned that when they talked about the proposed extension of the Bush tax cut because they all favor the Republican plan to extend them for all while panning the Democrats for wanting to limit the extension to the lower 98% of Americans. They also mention class war when they talk about the general perception the American public has of the CEO compensation and the various bailout programs that never seem to 'trickle down' to Main Street. The Illinois senatorial election is heating up and we get a lot of their campaign ads because we live so close and almost all of our news comes out of Chicago. And what I see in those ads is a cynical attempt by all sides to capitalize on the perceived 'class warfare.' Alexi Genoulius' ad commiserates with those poor people who have to get by on minimum wage (of $8.50/hour) and claims that 'rich' Mark Kirk, with his expensive car (make was mentioned but I don't remember it) and condo in Florida wants to roll that back. Mark Kirk's ads hit Genoulius for proposals to raise state and federal income taxes while 'rich Genoulius paid no income tax himself last year while Kirk voted 40 times to lower income tax rates. I had more than enough of rich men trying to convince me that they were 'good ole boys' with George Bush and his cronies. I don't trust either of them much and I certainly don't want to have a beer with them. I would dearly love to see elected officials who did not see the interests of giant, multinational corporations as synonymous with the interests of all Americans.

Another rant--on taxes: As I listened to the so-called debate on taxes I suddenly realized that, if we accept the claims all of the parties make on this issue, no taxes would be raised on anyone or any business. The 'pro-business' talking heads claim that if we cut taxes on businesses we will get more jobs and conversely, if we let the Bush tax credits expire, if businesses (especially small businesses) have to pay higher taxes they will not hire more unemployed workers. The 'pro-consumer' talking heads claim that taxes on consumers lead to lower consumption and is a drag on the economy. Question--who the hell do we tax? And does the logic hold water? In good times, when cash is flowing liberally and demand is high, higher costs (including taxes) would enter into the equation and hold down hiring. But in slow times, when money is tight and demand low, it doesn't matter how low you cut taxes businesses will not hire. So, cutting taxes on businesses now will only result in a higher deficit and little, if any, additional hiring. As far as The Consumer, that interesting mythological creature, is concerned lowering taxes on people who have no income to spend will not make them more likely to spend--especially when credit is tight. And then there is that subspecies of The Consumer--the Rich Consumer--who hasn't had to curtail spending because they are still getting richer as his poorer brother is getting poorer. As with businesses, reducing the Rich Consumer's taxes may lead to marginal increases in spending but not nearly enough to compensate for the budget deficit that would result. If we follow the logic of this NO ONE gets taxed and we are left with government spending cuts to get us out of the budgetary hole. What spending do you want to cut? Most of the attention has been on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--but those programs are only about one-quarter of the budget. Another quarter goes directly to on-the-books military spending. Does anyone want to cut the defense contracts that support Boeing and the Seattle area? I think you can see where I am going with this. There is no group and damned few individuals in this country that do not receive some government subsidy. Look back at some of the tax breaks and subsidies BP and other oil companies get. Look at the link in yesterday's post on Alan Simpson and then realize that he is not the only cattleman who gets a massive subsidy through low charges to use public land for grazing. Where do we start to clean out this Stygian stable?

So the last of the combat troops have left Iraq. Or have they? This Reuters article makes me question that assertion. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck--it is a duck. Semantics papers over a lot of s**t.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Good Monday Morning, Everyone. Today is our usual shopping day so we will be doing errands for a while. I say usual because we look at the weather and then decide if we will be doing errands on Monday, or Tuesday, or at all. Luckily nothing is so drastically short that we absolutely have to get it now. And even if we run out of something we usually have alternatives that can be used instead. The garden is definitely winding down. I have a number of peppers to take and maybe a couple of tomatoes. I just hope the remaining ones can ripen before a killing frost hits. I removed the bean plants yesterday. No sense in keeping them since we have all the beans we need frozen and more than enough for seed for the next three or four years. Will they keep that long, you ask? Probably, since I keep all my seeds in the fridge over winter.

Billy Willers at OpEdNews posted a piece I just couldn't resist. The title alone caught me: "Alan Simpson, Social Security, and the Welfare Barons of the Livestock Industry." I am sure Simpson would like to keep his 'entitlement,' so why is he so against me keeping mine? Or against my younger brother and sister from keeping theirs? The last paragraph sums things up nicely. Message to Simpson: "You want my government tit? Give up yours first!!"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Good Sunday Morning to you all. We have sunshine again but we got enough rain that I don't think I will have to water the large containers. But the gardens are definitely winding down. I don't have a lot to do except harvest and dry some of the herbs.

I agree with you, Kay. Mercy over 'justice' any day. Most of us should hope for that. I put that in quotes because what justice is depends very much on who defines it, who is administering it and who is receiving it.

This article on HuffingtonPost should really not be a surprise. And in the middle of a nasty mid-term election, I would be very surprised if it did not become fodder for both sides. How could the poverty rate not go up when people are losing their jobs (and it takes so much longer to find new ones) and losing their homes (the major concentration of 'wealth' for the middle class)? I expect it will get worse as states and cities (who cannot run deficits) cut expenses any way they can. As I said both the Republicans and the Democrats will try to spin this to their advantage. The Republicans will say that the Democrats have been in power for the last two years and have had their chance ignoring the fact that their policies for the previous eight years laid the foundation for this recession. The Democrats will point that out while ignoring the fact that many of them supported the Republican policies and there is no fundamental difference between their philosophies. So what, you ask, tips me toward the Democrats? Mercy--with which the Democrats seem to be more aligned.

Here is another case where 'justice' not only violates any notion of mercy but, I think, any reasonable definition of justice itself--to the detriment of the powerless. Normally, I would agree that when one goes into debt one should have to pay the debt. However, with the chicanery that has become so much a part of the mortgage business (and every other part of the 'debt business), I have to wonder where the justice would really lie. The too-big-to-fail financial institutions had better hope that they will be judged mercifully rather than justly.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good Morning, again, everyone. We are getting a nice rain today although our cat is mightily miffed. He works so hard to get us up so we will feed him and open the door and when he succeeds it is wet. He feels that he, like Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect and, of course, we are responsible. Since it is wet I will postpone any gardening.

I had a long comment on David Brooks' article yesterday. Allison Kilkenny has a good one today which takes a different approach. And, in case anyone wants to point out that slave labor was limited to the south, I suggest they read any good history of industrialization in the north. 'Free labor' is never free when the power is concentrated largely on the other side. The only freedom laborers had was to work them selves to death or starve to death. The freedom to move simply meant to do either in a different location. Southern commentators and novelists of the pre-Civil War period contrasted their labor system with that of the north and, surprise!!, found it more benevolent. The Southerners called the northern, industrial system as 'wage slavery' with good reason.

Susien Madrak at Crooks and Liars has a few pertinent comments on the anniversary 'celebrations' of 9/11. I agree with her on two points: 1) the coverage, as with so much else in our media, does border on the pornographic and 2) I really don't need the reminder. I find this 'cult of perpetual mourning' depressing, irritating, and completely exaggerated. I can understand the families of those who died still feeling the loss but the entire nation??? But then our response to this event has been so thoroughly exaggerated that I wonder about our collective psyche. I don't think it is very healthy.

Nicole Belle, also at Crooks and Liars, very nicely says much of what I have been thinking about the 'Bush Tax Cuts' and whether they should expire. Of course, much of my opinion is founded on my reaction when the cuts were passes: 'Tax cut??? What tax cut??' If you have seen any of the graphs showing who got the lion's share of the cut, you can readily guess why I asked that question. I really, really have a hard time with those politicians who on the one hand insist that we must, must, must address the budget deficit and then, on the other, pretend that tax cuts won't expand the deficit and will actually grow the economy. I simply don't see how either of those propositions hold water. However, I doubt that any of the elected representatives will listen to the polls cited. They have a wonderful ability to ignore unpleasant information that contradicts their opinions. Nor do they feel they have any real responsibility to faithfully represent their constituents. Unless, of course, their constituents are all in the upper 2% of the economic classes.

Charles Hughes Smith at oftwominds has an excellent post on 'conventional politics' this morning. As anyone who read my posts during the election two years ago might remember, I was very skeptical about Obama's promise of change. I wasn't at all convinced that any change he managed to make would be all that meaningful. I was sure that the Republicans would only give us more of the same so I voted for the slim possibility of change. Very few people can think 'outside' the box they are in. Both the Republican and Democratic leaders (as well as the leaders of most of the splinter parties) hold certain beliefs which mitigate against change. Our 'capitalist' system is not only good, but it has been imbued with an almost religious sanctity. Therefore, its basic tenets are never really questioned. Instead, the controversy hinges on just how much tweaking should be done of what parts. Tweaking is not change. So we debate whether underwater homeowners were irresponsible idiots who deserve to lose their homes to foreclosure or whether rapacious and unscrupulous mortgage bankers tried to boost their profits by hoodwinking ignorant but unqualified buyers into mortgages they couldn't afford. Or we debate whether the long-term unemployed are really unable to find jobs or if our 'generous' unemployment benefits encourage them to remain unemployed. Or we debate whether those who don't have health insurance are irresponsible or whether helping them means robbing those who were more responsible and provided their own. Luck, as you will notice, never has anything to do with these situations. The argument is always defined in terms of who 'deserves' what. In our capitalist system there are always winners and losers and for some time now there have been far fewer winners and far more losers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone, on this cool Friday. I don't have much going on today. I need to get the last bit of veggies I dried into baggies and in the fridge. Then I should harvest some of the herbs. They need to be cut back about once a week. I am also thinking about what to repot for inside this winter. It is nice not to have to rush around doing things.

I found this interesting post on Naked Capitalism. Given our ages here (60+) and the fact that one of us has medical conditions that require continuous medication, medical and pharmaceutical topics are frequent morning-coffee discussions. Besides one of us is a retired nurse and the other a former biologist. The notion that the pharmaceutical industry is actively engaged in the production and marketing of 'lemons' squares neatly with our thoughts on this subject. All too often we listen to the marketing spiels and find the long lists of possible adverse reactions far more frightening than the symptoms the drugs are supposed to alleviate. Or we wonder if the new drug is really any better than older drugs that have been on the market long enough to have a track record but are no longer protected by patents.

This op-ed piece in the New York Times got me thinking but not necessarily in the way the the author intended. David Brooks makes a number of interesting points but I think the problem really involves a fundamental human failing: we undervalue the most fundamental aspects of life while overvaluing the most ephemeral. What I mean is very well expressed by a character in a novel I really, really like--Island In The Sea Of Time. Faced with a situation that requires modern people to adopt premodern agricultural techniques, Chief Cofflin notes that fishing, though essential, was an occupation that in our modern times paid little for backbreaking work and offered neither advancement nor security. The most fundamental, most necessary, occupations like farming, fishing, machinist and others are paid the least and respected the least. But this is a failing that has persisted since the beginning of human society. It is all well and good to propose that people get back into work that actually produces something of value but it ignores the fact that we have always fled that work for 'easier' and more prestigious ways to make a living. And the cycle of rise and fall has been persistent throughout human history also. At the beginning of the 20th century the British had a saying that encapsulated it: 'shirt-sleaves to shirt-sleaves in three generations.' Or as the author of an article I read a couple of years ago quoted an unnamed Saudi man: 'My father rode a camel. I drive a BMW. My son flies a jet. His son will ride a camel.'

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Good Morning, All. We continue our cool, dry weather--at least for now. By the weekend we may get some of the remaining rain from Hermine which has been drenching Texas for the last couple of days. How much is always a question with these systems. It all depends on how the system gets directed. The rain would be welcome because I wouldn't have to water the gardens for a couple of days but, with the cooler weather, the plants need less anyway.

I found this article on HuffingtonPost this morning. Evidently Fidel Castro has come to the conclusion (which his brother, Raul, has been saying for a little while now) that their economic system doesn't work for them anymore. I can imagine that the old cold warriors are raising a shout of joy. But my thought: Ours doesn't work for us anymore either. His assessment came in response to a reporter's question of whether Cuban style communism was worth exporting. I would ask the same of our capitalist system. But no one seems to have gone that far.

We heard on the news this morning that Toy 'R' Us is opening a slew of temporary stores to get a jump on the Holiday sales season. Our first reaction was 'Damn, it isn't even Halloween yet." MSNBC also carried the story here. One bright note in this--there will be, maybe, 10k new temporary jobs and the seasonal hiring may take off earlier than usual. I noticed last week that some stores are already putting out their Halloween merchandise. Maybe we should convert all of our holidays that haven't yet succumbed to commercialization to 'sales holidays' and be done with it.

I have been wondering what to say about the 'Pastor' and his plan to burn copies of the Koran down in Florida. Then I found that Helen at Margaret and Helen has said almost everything I was thinking and did so better than I could. Let me say that I am an equal opportunity skeptic. The idiot child pastor has decided he has to combat a 1400 year old lie while I say that we should tolerate that lie and his own 2000 year old lie as well. I find a lot of good in both religions (and others as well) but I think it is a damned shame what people have done with that good which is why I am a skeptic.

Robert Brady has a humorous post at Pure Land Mountain on the problems of dealing with insect pests in the garden. I had an infestation of Colorado Potato Beetles this spring that turned some of the leaves of my ichiban eggplants to lace before I finally got them under control. I don't go quite as far as Bob does. I turned to the pyrethrin insecticide from my local garden shop. pyrethrin is derived from chrysanthemums, breaks down quickly without a nasty residue, and rinses off easily. Also, after my experience with processing cayenne peppers for drying in the dehydrator and Mom's with getting poblanos ready to stuff and cook, I want nothing to do with a hot pepper spray. We were hacking for a week.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone. We had errands to run yesterday and spent most of the day out. I really didn't have anything much to say about the news I read and only had enough time to read a fraction of what I normally read. Since I have nothing new about the gardens I will get right to my commentary.

This article from the LA Times was the first thing I saw this morning. You might think I am outraged by this. I'm not. I have come to expect this behavior. This passage sums up the situation very succinctly:
"This is about intentional disregard for the interests of doctors, hospitals and patients in California, and the pursuit of cutting costs at any means possible," said Adam Cole, the insurance department's general counsel. "It's a story of intense corporate greed."
But the observation could legitimately be made about any of our major corporations. The finance industry has intentionally disregarded the interests of their shareholders, some clients, and the nation as a whole in their pursuit of obscene profits. I doubt that TransOcean and BP were the only companies that pursued their profits at the expense of the environment and local people. The problems these rogues cause affect so many people (and such a wide area) that we absolutely must have good regulation in place and agencies empowered to deal with them. But we still have a strong block of people who thing government can't do anything right and therefore should do nothing at all. Further, those same people still hold to the belief that "the Market" will some how force these criminals in suits to behave nicely in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary

Then there is this article from HuffingtonPost. The article deals, specifically, with the problem the Obama administration has had in getting its judicial nominees confirmed. But as I read this I remembered part of an article I read and a conversation that article triggered. Sorry I can't put up a link to the article but I can't remember which blog I found it on. The article talked about a crisis of authority in this country. At the moment I am remembering the old Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke: 'What we have here is a failure to communicate.' But we have much more systemic failure in this country and the situation has been building for a long time. The failure goes well beyond simply communication. The fundamental bedrock of this Republic is that we hold elections and then abide by the results but I have seen repeated cracks in this bedrock over the last few decades. While I lived in Missouri I saw ballot measures concerning riverboat gambling come up several years running. The proponents got the measure passed the first year. Then the opponents came back the next year with ballot initiates to cancel out the law. Then the proponents...yada, yada, yada. You see where this is going. One party may lose the election but they simply refuse to accept the legitimacy of the other party's right to rule. Obama won his election with a far greater margin than George W. Bush won his elections but the Republicans have refused to accept his right to rule. Their obstructionism has gone far beyond the actions of a 'loyal' opposition. We have a crisis of legitimacy and I don't know how we are going to deal with it.

Time Goes By has a guest post this morning by Saul Friedman that deals extensively with similar issues. I realized as I was reading this that I also miss the old time conservatives. I often didn't agree with them but you had to respect them. They stood for something. I don't have any respect for the so-called conservatives of today. They are shills and hacks too often for something before the political winds blow them in the opposite direction. They do something that Lillian Helman and other brave Americans refused to do before Sen. Joe McCarthy's House Un-American Activities (witch hunt) committee: cut their consciences to fit the current moral fashion. Or what they think is the moral fashion that will get them re-elected. We don't have statesmen anymore--we have political prostitutes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day to all of you. I don't know about anyone else but I really haven't celebrated Labor Day since I was a kid. It has become just another retail 'holiday' and the unofficial end of summer marked by the last cook-outs or what ever. Once upon a time working people had something to celebrate--not so much any more. Everything the Labor Movement gained from the 1930s to the 1970s seems to be disappearing--family wage, health care, pension plans, vacations. I have often thought that the last two-thirds of the twentieth century was a bit of an anomaly. Before that a 'family wage' meant a man's wage plus his wife's (one-half the man's) plus at least 2 kids (each earning half the woman's wage). A work day was anywhere from 12 to 16 hours without breaks. A work week was (usually) 5 1/2 days with Sunday off and maybe you celebrated the feast day of St. Monday if you were too hungover to work. If you were lucky, when you died you had a burial account with the local workers association which paid for a nice funeral. And if you were real lucky you didn't get seriously ill because the charity hospitals were gruesome. I read the news and wonder if that is what we are returning to--with some nasty twists.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Good Sunday morning to everyone and I hope you are all having a nice Labor Day Holiday. We experienced our lowest overnight temp since early May last night. I noticed a couple of days ago that some of the trees are showing the first faintest sign of their fall colors. The seasons are definitely changing but we are ready for the change. We don't really care much for winter but at least we don't have to go out in bad weather in any season. There is nothing so pressing that we have to risk life and limb (or even mild discomfort) by venturing out. That is one thing we definitely do not miss about having a job we have to go to come hell or high water, as they used to say. Soon we will have to close up the windows, reset the storm windows, and put the plastic up. Soon we will be wearing our flannel nightgowns and pajamas and our heavier robes. Soon I will shift from short sleeved t-shirts to long sleeved turtle necks and then into sweats. The normal progression of the year.

I hear you, Kay, about the energy. I have noticed that I don't have nearly as much as I did ten or twenty years ago. But then most of what I do doesn't require that much. I don't think I have spent more that, on average, three hours any one day working my garden containers. Much of the work is done in spurts and none of it is so pressing that it as to be done now. I generally spend a few minutes each morning looking at what is coming up. I took out the Mother's Day tomato yesterday but I could have waited till today (or I could have done it the day before yesterday). I dried about half of the herbs I picked yesterday but the dehydrator did most of the work. All I did was arrange the leaves and sprigs and turn the machine on. Today I will bag up the herbs, label the bags and put them in the refrigerator. Next year I may do a bit more work because I think I should cultivate the beds more often. I don't have a lot of weeds anyway and cultivating for that reason isn't a high priority. But I think the plants would benefit from being in looser soil and cultivation will accomplish that. The key to anything is to find the most efficient way to do what you want to do. A second key is to find out what you really want to do and then do it. Right now, my situation allows me to concentrate on three things I really like to do: gardening, reading, and needlework. When the garden demands attention I shift my energy that way because the books and needlework will always be there to be picked up later (or when the necessary chores in the garden are done.) When the garden is done or dormant I can shift my energy to the other areas. I find that with the garden winding down I have done more needlework. Over the last month I finished crocheting two large market bags and a dozen wash cloths to use up some cotton yarn I have had for years as well as taking apart a half-finished bedspread that I knew I would never finish and using part of it for two sofa pillows that also used up some material I had accumulated. I have some new projects in mind for the winter and a couple I want to finish. We'll see how they go.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone. We had nice cool weather yesterday and will have more of the same today. I definitely am not complaining. Mom and I have been shifting mentally into fall mode for the last couple of weeks. We realized that when we decided two weeks ago not to get any salad fixings because we simply don't want summer salads any more. We are thinking more and more of the cool weather meals like chillies, soups and casseroles. It time for the seasons to change and we look forward to that. I have taken several spent pepper plants and the globe basil out of the garden containers and replaced them with mums and some spare marigolds and portulaca. Mom suggested I leave the mums in place and see if they survive the winter. I will do that. If they survive I can split the plants and pot them in the spring for use next fall. If they don't I can simply replace them next year.

We were taking stock of what we have produced this year something a lot of the gardening bloggers I read are also doing. Some go so far as to measure in how many pounds of veggies they get. Given the small size of my planting area we measure more in how many meals we can get with the produce we harvested or how much of what we would normally buy that we won't have to because of what we have produced. Here are our calculations so far: 1) we won't need to buy any cayenne pepper for the next two years. We have enough drying on a line in the kitchen or that are dry in baggies in the fridge and more is ripening. Next year we will plant some other hot pepper in its place. 2) We have harvested all of the eggplant we would normally eat over a year plus some. We have already had our fill of fried eggplant and have more frozen fresh without any cooking, frozen cooked, and dried. We will try all three over the winter. Next year won't plant the fairy tales variety but will plant the ichiban andonly two plants. 3) We got a good harvest out of our Big Bertha bell peppers and False Alarm (minimally hot jalapeno style variety) and cow's horn cayenne plants; not so good out of the Mexibelle (too small--don't know why), poblano (won't plant again--we only need 8 good sized ones for stuffing with cheese and ours don't get large enough); and a modest yield from the gypsies. We put up a lot of frozen bell pepper slices and dried a lot more of all varieties. I will definitely plant the Big Bertha variety again along with the False Alarm but will put in something else in place of the others. 4) We got a very good yield out of the Fresh Salsa variety of tomatoes which we put into a fresh salsa that lasted most of the summer, cooked spicy tomato some of which is still frozen (we used some already), and some we dried. We only got a moderate harvest from the Big Rainbow and Brandywine varieties. I want to try to start the tomatoes very early next year and get them out early under plastic, and, hopfully, they will produce before the summer heat takes hold. We figure we produced about one-third of the tomatoes we normally use. 5) The yardlong beans produced very well and we have five quarts in the freezer for the winter. That should be enough until next summer when I plan to add Blue Lake pole beans to the garden as well. I also saved seeds from the yardlong that I will plant next year. Since that is an heirloom variety so that should not be a problem. We will see. 6) Our sage, thai basil, stevia, and lavender plants have done very nicely. I will try taking cuttings of those to root inside over the winter. The globe basil is a very pretty plant and smells wonderful but the thai basil is just as pretty and the leaves are easier to harvest. Next year I want to expand the herbs to include thyme, marjoram, rosemary, and other culinary species.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy Holiday Friday morning to you all. I guess we can call summer ended. I know we will probably have some more hot weather but I will enjoy today--low 70s. After last night's heavy rain with a lot of thunder I have to take a good look at the garden. I know already that I will have to pay particular attention to one of the big pepper plants but I have been planning to do that anyway. I has too many large peppers for the branches so the dehydrator will be working for the next couple of days. I will also freeze some of them. We had a nice spaghetti yesterday which included some of our Italian spiced home-ground sausage and some of the peppers we had frozen earlier. Oh, it was SOOOO good.

I agree with you, Kay. I don't like Alan Simpson one bit. But I think he is malicious schemer whose agenda is to discredit anyone who receives (or can reasonably expect to receive) or who supports any kind of government mediated payments. If he can do that they can more easily repudiate the programs under which the payments are made. I read two weeks ago (I think) that the IMF is strongly suggesting that the U.S. repudiate some obligations and you can bet they won't be the Treasury bonds that have been bought by China or other sovereign funds around the world. They want our government to repudiate the obligations owed to our own people. What really burns me up is that a large part of the guarantees Germany (for one) has provided to help Greece out of its economic mess are provided by the IMF which in turn receives a large part of its funding from US.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Good Thursday, everyone. As you can tell nothing much has happened that is all that worthy of comment. The news is the news. It hasn't changed much. It is wet outside this morning so I will move my out of house errands to today and deal with some of my garden work tomorrow. I need to pick up a book from the library and then I will wander around a bit.

I found Dr. David Katz's article on HuffingtonPost this morning. He doesn't say anything I haven't heard before but I absolutely love his assessment of modern life: "The root cause (of most modern disease) is modern living. Everything about modern living that makes it modern -- processed food, suburban sprawl, labor-saving technology, mass media marketing -- is obesigenic, and conducive to the insalubrious application of feet and forks". I also think he is right in identifying the root problem--population growth. It is an interesting and vicious cycle. We need to feed, cloth, and house people but if we do it well we will have more and more people to feed, cloth, and house. We have always relied on technologies of varying complexity to solve the problem but those technologies have two consequences. They solve the problem of producing the more that the initial population requires but they then allow that population to grow to the point where the technologies are strained. And at the same time those technologies produce other not so benign consequences: water pollution, air pollution, soil degradation, and health problems due to those consequences. So we are locked into a pattern of developing a technology and then dealing with the problems of both the success of the technology and the unintended detrimental effects of its use by developing the next generation of technology which will have its own problems of success and unintended detrimental effects.

I found this item at Crooks and Liars this morning concerning Alan Simpson, Co-Chair of that fiscal responsibility committee designed to deal with the budget deficit. Although the committee is supposed to devise ways to fix the deficit overall it seems fixated, thanks largely to Simpson and his ilk, on Social Security, Medicare and other 'social entitlements.' He has taken to spewing outrageous sentiments at people who contradict his own notion of the budgetary mess. Last week he emailed a woman activist whose article noted how devastating a cut in social security would be to older women that Social Security was a "milch cow with 310 million tits" and she should contact him again when she "got a real job." The comments that have the blogosphere up in arms today are directed toward Viet Nam era veterans, their health concerns, and the costs to the Veterans' Administration of dealing with them. As Simpson so nicely put it "The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess," said Simpson, an Army veteran who was once chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee." I think the reactions to each of Simpson's individual 'indiscretions' miss something very, very important. Simpson is attacking and trying to trivialize anyone or any group who has a long established claim on the social, political, or economic collective that is the country. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), author of Leviathan, wrote that Man in a state of nature was engaged in a 'war of all against all' and life under those conditions was 'solitary, nasty, poor, brutish and short.' To cure that and provide stability societies and governments were formed. Unfortunately, it seems to me, society has evolved to a point where we may be recreating the conditions Hobbes saw as pertaining to the state of Man in nature but within societies and governments. We have a war of all against all where the social bonds among us atomized human beings are so weak that life may again be solitary, nasty, poor, brutish and short.

Ronni Bennett's alter ego, Crabby Old Lady, has a good post at Time Goes By today. The experiences she describes sound very familiar. We have also stopped buying the packaged salad greens partly because of the safety issue but also because the packaged greens never keep very well. We don't buy any ground beef any more. We get the cheap beef roasts from our supermarket and grind our own. For half the price of the higher grades of ground beef we get much better by doing it ourselves. We also get the cheap pork roasts and grind it ourselves to make sausage; again for about half the price of the commercially prepared product. We have almost stopped buying canned veggies--way too much salt. For that same reason we will not buy prepared pizzas again either. We have cut so much salt out of our diets that we can really taste it now and the frozen pizzas, canned navy beans, and sauerkraut are unpalatable. Mom drained and rinsed the last can of sauerkraut which left us with a tasteless mess. Now, sauerkraut is supposed to be fermented in brine but the crap we got tasted like the producer had boiled the cabbage, packed in cans with brine and shipped it. We still enjoy our eggs but we buy them from a local year-round farmer's market which gets them from a local producer whose chickens are cage free. Even though the local supermarket did have a sign like the one Crabby saw claiming that the eggs didn't come from the targeted farms we won't go back to the supermarket for eggs. We switched before the salmonella scare for reasons other than safety and the safety issues simply reinforce our decision. We have been so disappointed so often with our commercial food producers that we have reduced our use of those products drastically. We have been told for so long that our market system gives us the widest choice of the best products at the best prices but that is a lie.

I found this alternet article that struck a chord with me. Earlier this year I 'officially' retired. I could say that I had retired two and a half years ago when I lost my last job. Over the intervening time I got applied for a number of jobs but got only one interview which went south within five minutes as the manager noted I was 'over-qualified.' The last time I looked at the job listings I found more work-at-home and other scams than legitimate jobs. Most of the jobs are part time. Why did the article strike a chord? Well, many of the jobs I applied for (and never even got an acknowledgement that they had received my application) were part time but required the employee to be 'on call' for when ever the employer wanted them. For a part time job the employee basically had to put family on hold. And to make a living I would have needed at least three of those jobs while praying I never got sick because none provided any kind of health insurance. Given the prospects I took Social Security at my earliest opportunity. We have a running joke now about all of the jobs that are out there. Neither of us misses them and all the s#$t that goes with them. The author is right--we do need a different approach to work. Something a lot more humane.