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.