The news media and the politicians are celebrating 'the most productive Congress ever.' I hope they don't injure themselves patting each other on their backs. I am glad that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was passed. It only languished on the Hill for how long? I am glad that the new START treaty was passed and that is the only piece of legislation that was dealt with in a timely manner. Everything else had been held up for months while the different sides postured and pointed fingers. I didn't like the gridlock-on-steroids we had but if the last month represents 'bi-partisanship' I don't like it much either.
The morning broadcast news and HuffingtonPost both carried stories proclaiming Obama's plans to reorganize his people. (HuffingtonPost has a link to a New York Times article). I don't think that will do much good because from what I have heard he is looking at people who played a large part in previous administrations. And most of those have also been through the revolving door to Wall Street several times. He really needs authentic new blood--people who can think out of the box. That is a thought that came to me as I watched the CNBC report on student loan debt this last week. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared and spouted all of the non-sense the President and other members of the establishment have been on education--we have to regain the number one spot in terms of the proportion of our people who have college degrees. The reporter asked a question that I have been asking for some time now: college degree for what? Where are the jobs that really require a college degree? Duncan had no answer. There is no plan B.
Another story that has gotten a good bit of coverage in the mainstream media is the price of gas. The national average topped $3 a gallon--the first time ever at Christmas. Oil topped $90 a barrel for the first time in about 3 years. My brother, who came by with a nice load of Christmas sweets (and some very welcome tamales), said that when he stopped to fill up Tuesday the clerk told him that by evening the price was going to go up by $.30 a gallon. The price at our favorite little station is just a smidge below $3. I laughed a bit at another group of talking heads on CNBC who claimed that OPEC countries will soon increase production to off set the hike. Most of the quotes I have read from OPEC ministers indicate they are quite happy with prices between $90 and $100 per barrel. Even if OPEC countries can increase production significantly (and there is considerable doubt on that score from various experts), I doubt they will. Anybody remember when Bush, Jr. went to Saudi Arabia to beg for increased production when the prices hit $140/barre.? We got a lot of relief then, didn't we? (sarcasm alert)
Little Homestead in the City has some pictures of the rains in California. Their place is in Southland--where some of those dramatic pictures of mud encased cars and homes that have appeared on the national news were shot. Luckily they say they are on high ground so their problems was dealing with all the water.
I found these pictures on Quilt Vine. Look closely at the pictures. I almost missed the detail.
Firedoglake posted this today which expresses many of my thoughts on the growing crisis in public pensions. Some talking heads on CNBC discussed this earlier this week and ticked me off royally. One of the men in nice, expensive suits said that people had to realize that states simply couldn't afford to pay those who had been 'over-promised.' Such a nice sanitary word. And total crap. Workers had been promised a salary plus certain benefits in return for their labor. Those who have retired delivered on their part of the promise. Now states and cities, as many companies before them, are determined to swindle the workers out of the promised compensation for that labor. And our legal system is letting them get away with the theft.