Friday, December 30, 2011

Howdy, All.  We did get some sun yesterday and very welcome it was.  I am always amazed at how much my moods improve when we have sun no matter what the temperature.  But today is wet though warm.  Forties today with possible 50 tomorrow--before the more seasonable temperatures return for a couple of days.  The weather people say that this has been one of the 20 least wet Decembers on record and one of the 20 warmest.

Another of my wish books (a.k.a., seed catalogs) came yesterday and I started with my garden lists--what I might like to plant.  The next round will begin to rearrange that list taking into account the space I have and what we can actually use.  So far I have 4 varieties of tomatoes (6 plants between them), two new varieties of sweet pepper (a drastic reduction from previous years so we can use up the stock we have in the freezer), eleven herbs (including four new ones).  I am still contemplating a really pretty sweet corn, an heirloom variety of potato, and an heirloom sweet potato.  I told mom I am going to have to rearrange my seeds into three groups now--those I will never plant again in the foreseeable future, those I am not planting this year but like well enough to use again, and those I am planting this season.  I need to find a new home for the never plant again group.

This is the first post by Gonzalo Lira I have read and I am debating whether to follow him or not.  He makes a lot of sense on the implications of the MF Global bankruptcy.  I think he is absolutely right on the money when he says that the regulators and the rest of the Federal government have conflated those so-called 'systemically important financial institutions' till they are the financial system not a part of it.  Talk about the tail wagging the dog!!  And the handling of the MF Global fiasco is simply another example of the bias of our powers-that-be toward the big banks and financial institutions and against the ordinary citizen.  Most of us are simply the sacrificial lambs on the financial industry's altar.

For those of you following the Maya Calendar debate I thought you might like this cartoon found on Phil's Favorites.  It is a financial blog but has some interesting insights if you are into economics.

Evidently the notion proposed by Lira above (a run on financial institutions) isn't all that far fetched.  MSNBC posted the results of a poll that asked what disaster the respondents were most concerned about.  Sixty-three percent said economic collapse.  The author noted that the pollster didn't specify or differentiate between global or nations but that, it seems to me, is a distinction without a difference.  If the global economy goes down the drain we will go with it.

Mark Bittman has a good NY Times Opinionator piece on the failure of the FDA to produce standards that limit the use of antibiotics in farm animals.  One would think that would be a no-brainer in an era of increasing incidence of multiple-drug resistant bacterial infections but not when it interferes with corporate profits. Another case of the big companies privatizing profits and socializing the costs.  After all they don't have to pay the medical bills or funeral costs of those of their customers who get sick from eating the tainted product.

And this might be one reason why people responding to that poll cited economic disaster as something they most feared.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Good morning, all.  We did get some sun yesterday.  Just not much.  The weather people say we should have rain this morning before the system moves off and the temps move into the mid 40s F.  Still unseasonably warm here.  So far three of my seed catalogs have come in and I have been looking through them.  Right now my gardening plans involve writing down all of the seeds I would like to try.  Next I have to bring the list down to reality.  I also have to start putting some areas I have used as catch-alls for the last several months into some order.

I agree, Lois.  Sears used to be one of our favorite stores but then it changed.  It tried to be trendy (whatever that meant at the time) when we wanted conservative and functional.  On the Illinois issue of tax 'relief' for corporations, I soured on the whole theory a long time ago.  The only ones who benefited from any such deal I have ever seen have been the companies.  The local areas (states, counties, cities) lost taxes and people lost jobs.  This would be considered a criminal scam if any individual tried it.

I think the chimp that just died may indeed be the real Cheetah, Nicola.  According to Wikipedia chimpanzees have been known to live more than 60 years in captivity.  The article I read said that this one had been transferred from Johnny Weissmuller's estate to the Florida refuge in 1960.  Weissmuller was still alive then.

Mom and I had a damned good laugh over this one.  If ours wasn't such a busy-body society it would be one thing but we have so many do-gooders out there who are fine with forcibly medicating any troublesome young brat or eccentric old biddy that these definitions of psychiatric maladies are scary.  And I am not at all comforted that the head of the task force formulating the new edition of the psychiatric bible says it is still a work in progress or that it will contain about the same number of ailments as the old.  I think 300 is way too many to begin with.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Good morning, Everyone.  We had a little over an inch of very wet snow yesterday.  Most of what fell on the paved areas melted and, with temps for today and the next two or three going to 40 and a bit, the snow on the grass won't last long.  The weather people said this year is the second wettest on record.  They haven't said how it stacks up temperature wise but a couple of months got on the top five list.  Right now I see mostly clear skies just before our sunrise so we should see plenty of sunshine unless clouds come in rapidly.

I don't know how many remember the old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies but for those who do I found this item.  The last star of the movies, Cheetah, died at about age 80 in a Florida wildlife sanctuary.

Burning Platform posted this little video explaining our national debt problem.  It would be funny if it weren't so depressingly accurate.  And, according to a couple of stories over the last couple of days, that debt limit that was passed with such dramatic posturing just a couple of months ago, is about to be reached.

Hey, Kay, glad to see you back.  I have tried to be more polite or restrained in my comments but something about the Repthuglicans just set me off.  It may have been that Gingrich aide who compared the Gingrich campaign's failure to get enough signatures in Virginia to 'Pearl Harbor.'  Romney's comparison (to Lucile Ball in the candy factory) was more accurate.  Something else that would be funny if it weren't so utterly pathetic.

I find this story a bit ironic in light of the concerted effort by Repthuglicans across the country to limit the voting rights of certain groups who reliably vote Damnocrat.   But, because poor little Ricky couldn't get his act together, he now wants the Federal courts to step in and modify the state law to suit his needs.

This news dropped like a bomb on Illinois politicians.  They just spent the last couple of months cobbling together a tax relief package for Sears and the CME Group to keep those companies in Illinois and now they have to explain to their constituents how it was worth the cost.  Of course, they didn't get any real guarantees from either company and Sears only promised to keep its headquarters in Chicago.  I wonder how many Illinois stores are on the chopping block.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Good morning, Everyone.  Hope your Holiday was happy.  Ours was very pleasant.  Christmas Eve we spent with my brother and his family while Christmas Day we visited my sister and hers.  Now we are just vegetating.  I didn't see anything much to comment on yesterday so took the day off.  I did get some stitching done on a table cloth that has languished for the last log while.

I guess I can become MaryContrary again.  The idiots give me plenty of opportunity as this piece from Natural News shows.  So I guess Dow wants to fight the problem of Round Up resistant weeds by engineering corn that is resistant to the major component of Agent Orange.  By the time those boys get done we won't be able to grow corn because our fields will be overgrown with multiple-herbicide-resistant weeds.

Along with all of the Christmas shopping news the media managed to glide over (as in barely mention) the fact that only TWO of the seven remaining Republican candidates managed to qualify for the Virginia primary.  Newt Gingrich was not one of the two even though his official residence is Virginia.  But none of the commentators made the same conclusion I did:  do we really want any of these disorganized bozos as president???  These guys and gal couldn't, to use a rather bawdy comparison, couldn't organize a f**k up in a whorehouse.

This morning, over coffee when both of us found our get-up-and-go gone, I remarked that this week between Christmas and New Year's is like being in a state of suspended animation.  Lo, and behold--Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By made the same observation.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Good morning and Merry Christmas to you all.  Thank you, Kay and Lois, for your good wishes.  We are simply relaxing and enjoying the day.  We had dinner with my brother and his family yesterday and will be with my sister and hers today.  Still warm (highs in the low 40), sunny, and dry.  Very much out of the normal for December.

Huffington Post linked to some spectacular pictures from space that seem perfect for the season.  Take a look at the 'Wreath Nebula' and others here.

Enjoy the day!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas Eve to you all.  I don't know if I will bother with any comments on the political/economic scene.  I am recovering from having a bad tooth extracted yesterday.  It was rather impromptu.  I knew that tooth would have to come out but was hoping to wait until after the holidays.  However, the dentist had a cancellation when I called yesterday for my new patient evaluation and then manned to squeeze in the extraction as well.  It all went very well--much better than I remembered dental visits from years ago.  And the rest of the news was better than expected.  I will need some expensive work but my teeth are sound except for the one that isn't there any more.  A couple of caps, a couple of fillings, and a good cleaning.

Enjoy your Christmas with the family, Nicola.  I had never heard of echium before and had to look it up.  Interesting; will merit further research.  I dried several cuttings of lemon balm and use it in brewing my tea.  I know what you mean about the smell when you brush up against the plants.  Our handy man remarked on our lemon verbena and spearmint.  I couldn't move on the patio without releasing the scent of mint, lemon verbena or balm, thyme, and rosemary.  I found an interesting book on sacred and healing beers made from almost every imaginable herb, fruit, or other edible plants.  One of the recipes makes a lemon balm ale.  I may yield to the temptation to try a small batch next summer.

I also love my gardens even when dormant, Kay.  There is something bleak and sterile about the patios without any kind of growing thing on them.  I look out at the containers and I don't really see the dormancy--I see next season and what I might plant.  Anticipation is wonderful.

Follow this link to wonderfully warm and inspiring story from the Daily Mail in the UK.  The world could use a lot more of this kind of eccentricity.

Maha posted links to a couple of absolutely adorable animal videos.  Watch as the kittens and ferrets explore Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Good morning on this day before Christmas Eve.  No change in the weather.  Thankfully we won't get the last round of snow that hit the plains from the north.  Update: yes the weather has changed!!  Sun!!  I almost forgot what sunshine looked like.

I am glad to see another Federal judge is challenging the government's wrist-slap settlements with financial companies.  I hope many more do the same.

This story tells us where disgraced former legislators go after they leave government--lobbying for big business.

Well, the Repthuglicans finally decided to go along with the Senate on the two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment extension.  For the first time the Tea Partiers and their allies over-reached themselves.  One of the commentators yesterday noted that Boehner's news conference was really putting 'a lot of lipstick' on the pig.  Let's see if they are more cooperative in the negotiations for the full year extension.

I don't know if we have become numb to the lies and other forms of prevarications, Kay.  I think most of us now take the pronouncements with a large dose of salt.  I noticed this morning the reporters presenting the bombings in Syria that the Syrian government has attributed to Al Qaeda remarked that it was very convenient timing with the Arab League representatives either just arrived or just about to arrive for talks about the unrest in Syria.  Terrorism has become a wonderful catch all for any opponents.  I am surprised our own government hasn't insisted that the Occupy movement had ties to Al Qaeda.

For those who wonder what my gardens look like in the winter:

The frame at the left of the top picture is the mini-greenhouse.  The cover is folded up in its box for now.  I will put it up again in early March.  I moved it toward the house where I hope it will get enough shade to moderate the temperature.  Last summer it got up to 120F in there.  The tidy cat boxes and white buckets have a capacity of about 5 gal. and are perfect for peppers and tomatoes.  The other containers are all larger.  The milk jugs in the blue container in the lower picture are covering the blueberries.  As I said a couple of days ago, Kuma found them and thinks they are tasty.  I have never tried to overwinter hardy plants in the containers so the blueberries, roses, German thyme, mums, lavender and lemon balm are an experiment.  The lemon balm looks rather pathetic now but below the dead leaves lie some nice bright green leaves.  I have two new containers that are just a little smaller than the big ones in the pictures I got at the end of season sales.  I will put them into production next spring along with a whole bunch of other smaller pots.  Six months from now the patio will look like a jungle again.  One very good thing about container gardening is that the rabbits and squirrels aren't much of a problem even if they could squeeze through the fence somewhere.

Don't worry about going on, Nicola.  Everything you say is right on point.

Green Prophet posted this story that fits well with the Christmas season.

Well, one of my wish books (a.k.a., seed catalogs) came in the mail so I will end this and take a look.  See y'all later.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Good morning to you all.  Can't tell what it is like outside yet.  It is still dark.  But they say we should have light rain with the temps rising to about 40F.  Still unseasonably warm.  What a difference a year makes.  Last year we were watching the weather to see if we would be snowed in on Christmas.  The snow that fell for Thanksgiving didn't melt away before spring.  I had piles of snow on the edges of the patio 4ft high.  We have had only two snow falls that covered the ground but each were less than an inch and disappeared quickly.  The forecasts don't show any significant snow for at least the next week.  We'll see what January brings.  Update: overcast and gloomy with a bit of fog.

No one should be surprised by these developments.  Of course, fingers are being pointed at Al Qaeda.  But Al Qaeda has become the whipping boy for everything nasty in the Middle East.

They keep telling us that the economy is improving and that the Great Recession ended some two-and-a-half years ago but I keep seeing stories like this one.

Found two stories on rising college costs this morning.  (Here and Here).  It is interesting that at a time when various government officials tout a college education as the way for young people to get ahead economically that same government is cutting the grant funding (forcing students to take out loans) and the colleges seem to be most interested in extracting more from their students (while the executives get fat pay and compensation packages.)  And given how many recent graduates can't find jobs and have moved back with their parents I guess I can be forgiven for questioning the real utility of shelling out so much money (especially when it is likely borrowed) for a degree.

Hi, Kay.  I agree on the weather--weird!!  And getting weirder.  I remarked just the other day, for the umpteenth time, that we have said the same thing for the last ten or so years.  Keep warm, my friend, and take things easy.

Glad you came back, Nicola.  Stevia attracted a lot of interest about three years ago--at least that is when I became aware of it.  Like you I looked it up and thought it intriguing.  At that time only one greenhouse carried seedlings so I bought some seeds which consistently failed me.  Thankfully the seedlings did very well.  One or two of the gardeners who blog have said that stevia has an aftertaste they found unpleasant.  I haven't found that at all.  We prefer it to sugar.  During the summer we brew our tea with a couple of sprigs of fresh stevia and I dry it through out the summer.  It is a tropical plant and way too tender to over winter here.  I do my gardening in containers because I only have my cement patio to work with.  I sometimes amaze myself with how much production I get out of those containers.

Hey, Lois, sorry to hear you are under the weather.  Hope that flu goes away soon.  Yeah, Kuma is a character and has become more so as he gets older (he turns 17 this spring) and since the two older cats passed.  Good you didn't get buried as some did elsewhere.  That was a nasty storm and I am very glad it didn't come our way.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  Another gloomy day but warmer than normal.  The temp on the patio reads about 42 F.  It is also foggy and wet.  The weather report yesterday said we may have hit 50 and, if so, that would have been the 13th time this month--highly unusual.  I had to put my milk jug cloches over the blueberries--the Monster Cat (a.k.a., Kuma) found them yesterday and started nibbling.  If they were fully grown I wouldn't mind but I just put them this fall and am anxiously hoping they survive the winter and thrive.  However, his munching sent me to the internet to find out if I should worry about harmful effects. Evidently not.  In fact the blueberry leaves make a nice tea.  When my bushes are fully grown I will harvest some leaves along with berries.  I also plan to double the number of stevia plants because I am already half way through the stock I dried this season.  If I run out, I will shift to honey.

Hello and welcome, Nicola.  I enjoy seeing what needleworkers are doing and reading about people who live in other places.  I have been derelict about my own needlework for the last several months only putting in a stitch here and there.  My goal for the new year (I don't make resolutions) is to get back on my various projects and maybe make progress learning a couple of techniques I have flirted with in the past.  Your cross-stitch is beautiful.  Hope your holidays are happy and the new year prosperous.

Well, it is Winter Solstice and the days will start getting longer.  That is nice.  But I will really rejoice when the Spring Equinox comes and the shadow of the house touches the top of the fence.  The reflection of sunlight off the fence turns my deep shade patio into bright light for my container plants.  That allows me to plant peppers, tomatoes and other sun loving plants in the summer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  It is gloomy but not wet--yet.  It is now very doubtful that we will get snow.  The temperature is 38 F at the moment.  From the forecast I saw this morning, we won't get much, if anything, over the weekend.  The weather people said that we have had five 50+ days this month where last year we didn't have any.

This story matches the weather here--dismal.  I only got through the first page and couldn't stomach reading any further.  I can remember a couple of times in the past ten years when I was sorely tempted to apply for a warehouse job and actually resented a representative at the personnel agency I had just signed up with for not sending me out to such a job.  To say I was desperate is understating my situation.  Reading this I am thankful I didn't get those jobs.

Yahoo news posted this amazing weather picture.

I have been reading stories about the rapidly cooling Chinese real estate market.  Here is another that brings to mind our not so recent past.  Their local governments relied on land sales while ours relied on property taxes--both are screwed for the same reason: plummeting values and demand.

John Aravosis at Americablog posted this item.  I hadn't read about this tactic and it wasn't mentioned in the couple of stories I read.  If this is Boehner's strategy it is indeed a slimy end run.  Aravosis has a link to The Gavel which covers the issue, with further links, in more detail.

I love blog that give me ideas on how to use items I already use in new ways.  This one talks about vinegar, describes how to make your own and lists a variety of items you can use to make homemade vinegars.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good morning to you all on this Monday before Christmas.  Goodness, how warm it is this morning--in the low 40s.  I hope my friends in Colorado weathered the snow storm well.  The weather people predict lower temps here and some snow, but not much.  I finally got the winter wreaths on the doors Saturday.  Looking at the fall wreath I figure I will have to do some refurbishing next year.  The sun through the storm door does a job on some parts of it.

The main story on my Google start up page is the death of Kim Jong-Il.  I won't link because you will find all kinds of stories on your own.  I am not surprised.  I remember the hullabaloo this last spring or summer when his son, Kim Jong-Un, made his appearance on their national scene apparently being groomed to succeed.

The House (read the Repthuglican bloc) are balking at the two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday.  Of course, Boehner mouthed all of the idiot-fringe talking points with the obligatory homage to 'job creators' who need 'certainty.'  Since the 'savings' from the tax holiday was limited to the workers, why 'job creators' would need 'certainty' on this score is a bit of a puzzlement.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good Sunday morning to you all.  Oh my, how time has flown.  Only a week till Christmas.  And two before this year ends.   I don't do resolutions.  I have always found that resolutions, like rules, are made to be broken.  I will begin the serious work of planning what I will plant in the gardens starting in January and when I will start the seeds.  Hmmm--I should probably get the seed starting trays in before we get a heavy snow that I would have to shovel to get into the shed.  And start making the newspaper starting pots.  I want to see how that will work out.

I saw the obituary for Vaclav Havel first thing this morning.  I remember watching the news of the Czechoslovak revolution in the 1980s.  I was a history grad student in Colorado at the time.  Now I am one who has to remember that what used to be Czechoslovakia is now Slovakia and the Czech Republic. How the map of Europe has changed in the last thirty years.

Now that the U.S. has declared victory and left Iraq the assessments of the costs and gains begin.  I think this one pretty well sums things up.  I think the key is near the end where the author writes that there is "simply no conceivable calculus by which Operation Iraqi Freedom can be judged to have been a successful or worthwhile policy."

Thanks, Kay.  I am glad I am not the only one to have trouble with the cf bulbs--and I don't have implants.  I don't mind being eco-conscious but not at the price of serious eye strain.

A couple of days ago I linked to the report of the historically low levels of the Danube.  This comes from a world away in drought stricken south China.  Xinhuanet posted a rather dramatic picture in its story from the same region.

All of the news this morning are ecstatic over the Senate's approval of a 2-month extension of the payroll tax 'holiday.'  I for one am not impressed with either the news media's ecstasy or the measure itself.  Here we are again bargaining over a month or two.  But I am also not impressed because the measure isn't final.  The House has to vote on it and those idiots are balking.  The Senate attached what will, if the measure finally passes, either be a gift to the oil industry or, they hope, a club to beat Obama with in the fall--a.k.a., Keystone XL.  The House wants more cuts to the health care reform measures and to put in the 'doc fix' so doctors who treat Medicare patients won't see their payments drop.  As with the debt ceiling extortions, the Repthuglicans will keep playing this game till the next elections.

I follow a number of blogs devoted to container and/or vertical gardening.  I especially like stories showing inventive ways to use items that would otherwise go into the landfill.  Tree Hugger has a nice post this morning showing one idea from Turkey.

Golem XIV presents a truly Byzantine labyrinth of financial details that should make anyone nauseous. He also explains rather clearly why MF Global's clients will be very lucky to get much of their supposedly sequestered funds back.  What is even more sickening is that this 'looting' is very, very legal.

I wonder how many remember the scene at the end of War Games where the computer learns that in some games 'the only winning move is not to play.'  That is certainly the case with Tic-Tac-Toe or Thermonuclear War and, maybe, in modern finance as this story from the Guardian demonstrates.  I get the feeling that most of us are merely turkeys to be plucked and trussed to our financial lords and masters.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Good morning to you all.  We have light snow but I don't think we will get much and it won't stay long.  The weather people say we should get a couple more episodes over the week but not enough to give us a white Christmas.  Kuma went out a couple of times but wasn't happy with that white stuff.

I saw this on one of the news broadcasts last night and, much as I would like to be more 'environmentally' sensitive on this, I am glad they rescinded the government's ban on incandescent light bulbs.  The compact florescent bulbs are more of a pain to dispose of, is more environmentally hazardous when not disposed of properly, and don't give as much light.  As I have gotten older I find that I need better light to read and do needlework and the cf bulbs simply aren't adequate.

David Kaiser at History Unfolding has some very well targeted remarks about the Republicans and about our current lack of a functioning government.  I especially like the parallel Kaiser draws between the Repthuglican debates and a 'Maoist party' confessional/purge.  I agree that the absence of workable government thanks to intransigent party ideology but even worse is that so many of our legislators seem to think that the absence of workable government is a good thing.

I found this blog by way of Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By.  I will have to visit occasionally and I love the term coined to describe our current political morass: assholocracy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  The temperatures are back to seasonally cool.  In the mid 30s today.  I hope we will see the sun today.  I thought we might yesterday but the sun just teased us before disappearing behind the clouds.

I saw an interesting poll yesterday after I posted which I recalled this morning.  Mom and I were listening to the news reports which--again--featured the stand off in Washington that could shut down the Federal government. (I caught a snippet of a story indicating the idiots may have reached a compromise.)  We basically came to the conclusion--yet again--that this situation will be resolved in three ways: if either party gains supermajorities in both houses, if either party gains the presidency and a supermajority in the senate with a simple majority in the house, or if everything goes totally to hell.  Why did all this bring that poll to mind.  Well, it asked the old question about whether voters thought we should thoroughly clean house and vote all the bums out.  I have seen similar polls in the past and have always noted that, while people are dissatisfied with the bums in general, people like their own bum.  The poll cited yesterday asked the further question--what about your own representative and senator?  The results show an increasing dissatisfaction over the past year with even the voters own bum.  If that trend continues we might see a lot of change in the makeup of the legislature.  I can only hope.  (Note:  just found this bit on the Political Wire with links.)

Joseph Stiglitz has written an interesting article in Vanity Fair that draws some parallels between the Great Depression and, as he calls it, our Long Slump.  His thesis is a variation on a theme I read some time ago that tries to explain the origins of the Depression.  He looks at the underlying weakness in the economy as the weakness of the agricultural sector.  He makes a good argument.  And the parallels between the shifts in our current job market with those of the Depression are also intriguing.

I have been seeing stories about the bankruptcy of Jefferson County, Alabama (Birmingham) for some time.  It is a nasty brew of public corruption and corporate greed that has blown up to monumental proportions--the largest municipal bankruptcy in our history.  This piece from the BBC (go figure--why don't we get these stories from our mainstream media?) puts a human face on the consequences especially for the low income citizens.  Imagine being in a position where renting a port-a-potty, paying for someone to remove the waste, and buying barrels of water is cheaper than paying the sewage/water rates imposed by the local government.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Good Thursday to all of you.  We had rain, and more rain, and more rain yesterday.  I think we still have some misty precipitation because Kuma was slightly wet when he came back in this morning.  I didn't mind letting the little monster out since the temp was around 50.  It won't stay there.  The weather people say the temperature will fall over the course of the day.  We have had the third wettest year on record with two weeks left and may easily move into the second place.  Hell of a note, isn't it.  We have one of the wettest years on record while Texas et al. have the driest.  I saw a couple of headlines yesterday trumpeting the recent rain as '2 inches of drought.'  The implication is that the drought down there is broken.  Maybe--Maybe not.  Let's see what happens over the next few months.  The last couple of years here have been schizophrenic:  wet early and late but extremely dry in between.

I saw this on the TV news this morning.  They didn't exactly say it as the headline for the article does.  The news readers gave the raw numbers of how many Americans were poor or near poor.  The comments passed quickly and without comment but I blinked for a moment and then remarked to Mom that I thought the numbers meant that nearly half of our population falls into those two categories.  Well, my quick, dirty, and without morning coffee (which was still brewing) turns out to be accurate.  But what do the numbers say about the state of our society when they don't even rate a comment??  One item in the story really pisses me off--the quote from that Heritage Foundation asshole to the effect that if you have a good sized house and a wide-screen TV you are somehow not poor.  I am sure a large number of people have a lot of things from more prosperous times.  People may have a good sized house with a good sized mortgage from a time when they had a good job but now the house is in foreclosure and the job has disappeared.  A person may have any number of things from a time when they brought in $50k or more a year but now they only earn $15K or less.  Poverty in this economy is more a matter of how much money you bring in each year not how much stuff you have.

I think you are right, Lois.  Manufacturers do think we are stupid.  But then I don't remember all that many food poisoning outbreaks when I was a kid, when our food industry wasn't dominated by a few large factory processes with a nation wide reach, and we didn't worry much about what whether the product was as advertised on the label.  However, the food producers found over time that they could increase sales by increasing the amounts of salt and sweeteners in their foods.  When the Federal government increased import duties on foreign sugar the food industry scrambled for other sweeteners to replace expensive sugar and found high fructose corn syrup.  So over the last three decades as we have become more and more obese the food industry has pushed foods that exacerbate that problem and covered the change with deceptive lables.  I won't even go into how other aspects of our modern life (sedentary work and leisure, long commutes, lack of sleep) adds to that.  It is all cumulative.

It is so nice this 'job creator' may create more jobs.  I just wish I was confident his workers would survive their employment.

Andrew Nikoforuk has an interesting summary of an EPA report on the contamination of groundwater due to hydraulic fracturing outside a small Wyoming town.  I would say that it puts the entire industry argument about the longevity and safety of fracking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Good morning to you all.  It is unseasonably warm and the weather people expect the pattern to remain for at least another week.  Everyone is wondering if we will get a white Christmas.  It looks chancy at the moment.

Well, the House Repthuglicans put their extension of the payroll tax holiday with, of course, a Christmas gift to the oil industry--approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  If these guys were on the streets they would be called extortionists.

I am not surprised at this given the hysteria that has been whipped up over illegal immigration.  Let's see--first we had Americans with Islamic names put on a travel watch list from which they were never able to get off.  Now we have Americans with Spanish/Hispanic surnames who spend days in detention until they prove their status.  They say no citizen has been unlawfully deported but I have to wonder if that is true and, if true, how long before that happens.

Evidently, that storm that produced the high winds and dramatic waves that hit Scotland also produced the largest wave ever recorded in Irish seas some 60 miles off Donegal, Ireland--a 67 ft. monster.

From high seas and winds in Ireland and Scotland to drought at in the Danube Basin.  Over the last couple of years several areas have discovered the threat drought poses to hydroelectric power supplies.

Tina Dupuy at Crooks & Liars has a perfectly on target analysis of Newt Gingrich and his proposals.  That this Repthuglican is now the front runner for the Republican nomination says volumes of where that once Grand Old Party has fallen.

This Crooks & Liars story had us rolling.  No, we don't find the charges that Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing ten, at last count, boys funny.  But there is something choice when his lawyer, in a news conference after waiving his client's right to a preliminary hearing, tells the reporters that anyone who believes his upstanding client is guilty needs to 'dial 1-800-REALITY.'  The number is real and is for a---gay, anal, phone sex line.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Good morning, all.  Not much to say on the garden, weather or needlework so let's see what is going on in the world.

I thought that the 'extension' of the Kyoto agreements was going to be a toothless measure.  This Huffington Post article reinforces that thought.  I also noticed that most of the reduction in emissions that allowed the industrialized nations 'as a whole' to meet targets are attributed to economic and political conditions not likely to repeat (i.e., the collapse of the Soviet empire and the global recession).

Most of us have heard the story of the Mary Celeste, the ship that was found off the Azores in 1872 fully rigged and provisioned but no sign of the crew.  Evidently that wasn't the end of the ship as this story recounts.  Thirteen years and 17 owners later, she figured in a major insurance scam.  Poor ship had bad luck all the way around.

We have something in our refrigerator we haven't had in a long time--real butter.  One reason we decided to get it was a coupon that took the price of a pound down to near what the pound of margarine would have been.  However, our recent experience buying margarine at two of our local supermarkets provided even stronger incentive.  About two weeks ago Mom picked up a couple of packages of margarine and complained about an oily feel.  When we looked at the container so much oil had seeped past the wrapping and the box to blur the print on the box.  And the large box the individual packages had been shipped in were coated on all sides with oil.  Somewhere along the line the shipment had been exposed to higher temperatures than they should have--high enough to soften and partially melt the margarine.  Since then the packages have been better but still show signs of softening and partial melting.  Oh, we examined the packages of butter very well but they appeared all right.

And I got a bit of an education in pancake syrups this morning.  We let out supply get low so I stopped at the supermarket since we are having pancakes for supper tonight.  Just looking at the product on the shelf you would think we had a marvelous choice of brands of maple syrup.  Well, only two brands were actual maple syrup.  The rest, from the most expensive to the least and from the major name brands to store and generic brands, were all high fructose corn syrup with coloring and (unnamed) flavorings.  The real maple syrup brands were twice the price of the others.  But I decided to get the real thing.

Continuing on the food theme, Blisstree posted this commentary on the large number of food recalls this nearly ended year.  The 'lessons' the author says we should have learned reflect much of the thinking here.  We buy local produce/product when we can.  We buy the least processed product we can.  In the process we have eliminated many of the sources of BPA we were once exposed to.

And then I found this OpEdNews piece evaluating aspects of the propaganda/myth of GM crops.  Two of the most often repeated justifications for GM seeds are  increased yield and decreased pesticide use.  Evidently, according to independent studies, the fail on both counts.  On these failures alone GM crops ought to have disappeared from the market place.  Unfortunately, some very big companies have tied up a lot of money in developing them and want to continue making money on them.  And it doesn't look like the safety issue will tip the balance.  Too bad.  Grist has also picked up on this topic and provides more damning details.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Monday morning, everyone.  We are supposed to have fairly warm weather for the entire week with rain but no snow.  I remarked over our morning coffee that we used to hope we wouldn't have snow for Halloween and were thankful when we didn't.  Now we hope we will have some snow for Christmas and are thankful when we do.  I don't know that the stats say be I suspect our December has been warmer than normal and we have had the fifth latest measurable snow on record.  Let's see if there is anything worth linking to or commenting on.

I have often said that what constitutes 'earmarks' and 'pork barrel spending' depends entirely on who is proposing the spending.  This McClatchy article points that out very nicely.  It points out why any attempt to prohibit the practices are probably doomed to failure.

Tom Englehardt, in his excellent post this morning, says we need to formulate new language to describe our political arrangements.  I wonder how long it will be before companies and corporations demand not only the right to contribute to give unlimited funds to political campaigns but the right to vote.  And how should we apportion the vote?  Perhaps we should give each company a number of votes equal to their American workforce.  Hmmm--I think I get a whiff of the old 3/5 rule where Southern States were able to count each slave as 3/5 of a person for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives.  The only difference is the corporation would be voting directly and the wage-slaves have the right to find employment (if they can) elsewhere.  Hmmm--maybe that would get the bastards to hire people.  Although they might just find it easier to disfranchise the unemployed.

The stock markets always leave me bemused and bewildered.  For months I have watched the various averages going up when any breath of 'good' news comes across our media and down when that news is proved on second look to be less than good or the spotlight shifts to a different problem area.  Last week investors appeared ecstatic over the news that the Europeans had an agreement to deal with their debt crises.  That is plural because each country, with few exceptions, has its own crisis hanging over it.  Today, the hopium has worn off and everyone realizes that the 'agreement' was more smoke and mirrors than substance.

We just saw a piece on CNBC concerning the 'controversy' that led Lowes to pull its advertising from a Muslim show on TV because some conservative Christianist group in Florida complained.  The Christianists object to Lowes 'supporting' a show that 'supports Muslim values.'  The so-called expert agrees with Lowes action on the grounds that given the 'charged atmosphere' they can't communicate effectively.  Problem #1: Lowes has communicated very effectively by letting the Christianists control where and with whom the company advertises.  Problem #2: this was hardly a 'charged atmosphere.'  We hadn't heard anything about it here.  Problem #3: this reminds me all too much of the Tinky Winky controversy way back when when that idiot preacher blasted the Teletubbies because the purple, purse-wielding cartoon character supposedly fostered homosexual values.  Problem #4: how many people outside the Muslim community (and the community of paranoid, bigoted Christianist community) are really watching the program??  I haven't seen the program.  I don't intend to watch it.  It simply doesn't interest me.  For that reason I also don't watch Catholic programming, or Baptist Programming, or BET.  I wonder how many Christian oriented shows Lows advertises on?  Maybe the company should contact the bigots with a list and tell them that, in the interests of fairness, Lowes is pulling its advertising on those as well.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Good morning to all of you out there.  Let's see if there is anything worth linking to or commenting on out there.

Is anyone really surprised by this story?  We are not longer the 'home of the brave and land of the free.'  Instead we have traded freedom for security and, as Benjamin Franklin observed, obtained neither.

I notice the headlines are trumpeting the 'new' climate agreement as 'landmark.'  I don't see it as 'new.'  It is potentially new.  For the most part, it appears to me, the delegates agreed to extend the Kyoto Accords for another five years.  But neither of the stories I have read so far noted that the U.S. refused to ratify that treaty.  The delegates hope to get a new agreement by 2020 that would be binding and have teeth.  But other stories I read over the week claim that this year's emissions of greenhouse gasses set records.  And that was during a year of only tepid growth at best.

John Mauldin presents a similar assessment on the news out of Europe that they have finally formulated a solution to their debt problems.  They still have to hammer out the details and Britain absolutely refuses to go along.  Britain is part of the EU but doesn't use the Euro currency.  That may be the best decision British politicians ever made.  I had a couple of thoughts on Germany's role in this.  Germany can dictate terms because it is, at the moment, has the strongest economy in the area.  What happens if that changes?  Second thought involves the notion that the new arrangement which Mauldin says gives local politicians a way out when they have to impose austere economic measures--their hands are tied by EU regulators.  I wonder how long that will last.  I just had a thought--perhaps the German moves is Machiavellian with the hope of limiting their financial exposure.  This BBC story reports that part of the package is designed to provide euro200 billion.  Problem--what countries are strong enough to provide that money??

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  Nice bright sun this morning to balance temps in the mid teens.  Coldest so far.  But they say it will warm up over the week into the unseasonal 40s--with perhaps even a 50 late in the week.  The south facing areas are clear of the snow we got Thursday night while the snow hangs on the shaded north facing areas.

Karl Deninger at the Market Ticker claims 'we no longer have a justice system.'  I agree and have for a long time.  I noticed how often Jon Corzine claimed that he didn't know how the sequestered funds at MG Global disappeared or where they went.  The pundits said he was setting up his defense against criminal charges of embezzlement.  But his ignorance leaves him open to prosecution under Sarbanes-Oxley.  He and his lawyers it would seem are more confident that he won't be prosecuted under Sarbanes-Oxley and if they can preempt criminal charges he will get off scott free.  How many prosecutions have been bought against mortgage originators for fraud in making loans or against services for perjury in conveying mortgages illegally or banks that illegally foreclose?  The appeals court in Illinois again set aside the conviction of another man convicted of rape and murder in the 1990s even though the prosecution knew the man couldn't have committed the crime.  But then our (in-)justice system has become a part of our national circus.  Compared to the sensational trials of today the O.J. Simpson case was positively restrained.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Good morning.  We woke to a thin blanket of snow.  The weather people say this is the fifth latest date for the first measurable snow fall.  As usual, the traffic report show a large number of crashes as drivers re-learn how to drive in snow and ice.  It is clearing now but the temperatures will stay below freezing.  The blueberries have started to lose their leaves but the stems are still green and they show the beginning of new buds.  The outer eaves of the lemon balm show cold stress but below those I found nice green leaves.  The German thyme is as crisp and fresh as it was all summer--seems to be a very hardy plant.  The roses and mum are also doing well in spite of the below freezing over night temps we have had lately.

I saw a headline with its teaser and, unfortunately, deleted the link before second thoughts came to me.  According to the headline Portugal (and possibly other governments) is raiding pension funds to meet budgetary shortfalls.  They speculate that the practice may move to this side of the Atlantic.  Well, at the state and local level such a raiding of pension funds has been business as usual for years.  Only, here the process involves governments failing to pay their contributions thereby underfunding the plans.  The Federal government has taken that a bit further by giving workers a tax holiday by cutting the employee payroll tax 'temporarily.'  The only senator who has called attention to the likely effect of the tax cut was Kirk of Illinois.  The cut moved the time when Social Security would be drained dry up by three years.  What really pricked my mind (belatedly) was the phrase that what government gives it can also take.  I object to the notion that pension or health benefits are 'gifts.'  Actually, those 'benefits' are deferred earnings.  Workers negotiated for them as part of the compensation packages the employers agreed to.  Taking them away is looting--nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Good morning to you all on this cold morning.  Only about 25 degrees.  Cold enough that even Kuma doesn't want to be outside more than once for a very short time.  The weather people are predicting the first measurable snow of the season tonight.

Before going to on my morning trek through the internet, or those parts that interest me, I think I will rant a bit.  Last night as we watched a couple of foreign news programs on PBS a commentator came on who made an observation that touched a nerve.  I forget now the exact details of the story but it concerned the European efforts to reform the finances of the European Union.  I think the question involved the lack of reaction on the part of the U.S. stock market to the glacial pace of the talks and the lack of results to date.  The talking head wasn't surprised because Americans are more interested in Alec Baldwin's feud with American Airlines.  I am one American who is totally uninterested in Alec Baldwin.  In fact, I am totally disgusted with our so-called news media that focuses on creating as much controversy and drama as possible.  This morning, the news reports concerned the 14-year sentence given to former Illinois governor Rod Blogojevich but most of the story involved the public's reactions.  And, of course, they set up the controversy between those who feel that the sentence was too light given the extent of the corruption and those who think it was too much Blogo helped so many poor people, Blogo didn't sell drivers licenses to people who were responsible for six deaths in a horrific accident, Blogo was part of a pervasive culture of corruption which is how public business is done in Illinois.  (Take your pick)  But throughout the whole process from the moment Blogojevich was arrested the focus was on his flamboyant personality and his antics not on the legal and ethical issues at the heart of the affair.  In both of these cases, the news media has made a self-fulfilling prophecy: that their viewers want to see the controversy and don't want the information.  So what we get used to is fluff.  Which is one reason I wind up turning off the (faux-)news more often.  I hate digging through the crap to get the kernels of information.  Well, we have the 'circuses.'  I wonder if the almost one-fifth of the population getting food stamps qualifies as 'bread.'

I just turned on the news at 11 am here.  And the lead again is Blogojevich and whether the sentence was appropriate.  I had a bit of a thought as the reporter focused and the first interviewee keyed in on 'the apology.'  The man interviewed said he just wasn't convinced by the apology.  Neither was the judge.  But to my mind apologies have become rather cheap.  Anyone who gets caught at any misbehavior and who can't wiggle out of repercussions for it simply apologizes and expects that all will be forgiven.  I am also not convinced by Blogojevich's apology.  Just as I wasn't impressed by Cain's claim that he was right with his God and his wife.  It is far to easy to get right with God for most of our fundamentalists--it requires nothing more than an expression of contrition.  They so readily forget Christ's command after forgiveness--'go and sin no more.'

2011 has been quite a year for firsts.  I linked to articles a few days ago that noted this year's drought in Northern Mexico has been the worst in at least 60 years while Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona have suffered the worst drought since record keeping began in the late 1800s.  I remember linking a while ago to an account of the Eastern European drought has lowered the level of the Danube to a point where shipping has stopped.  Now they say the drought is the most severe in more than 200 years.  And then there is this piece of weird weather news from Scotland.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Good Wednesday morning to you all.  My goodness, how gloomy our skies have been of late.  Yesterday the sun teased us for a brief moment before sneaking back behind clouds.  We haven't had any much snow.  I almost forgot the few light flurries yesterday.  The temps were much too warm and the flakes way too few to accumulate.  The plants in the outside containers are still doing well.  I got the first of the seed wish books yesterday--the Baker Creek catalog.  They sell a fantastic number of heirloom seeds and I have several marked for possible purchase.  Gardening never really stops.  If you aren't actually working in the gardens you are assessing what you did last season and planning what you want to do next season.  (Hey, Hey!!  We have sunshine!!

Huffington Post presents a familiar argument this morning:  we would all be so much better off and more people would have jobs if only the big companies would use that mind-boggling cash reserve and hire people.  Maybe--maybe not.  Focusing on the cash reserves of the big multi-national companies and financial institutions ignores the other side of the problem--a consumer economy where the consumer can't consume.  And it also ignores several other facts.  For most of those companies, their profits don't depend as much as they once did on the U.S. markets.  And those companies are more often now engaged in something other than producing tangible products or services for sale to the consuming public.  Just this morning one of the big banks announced another lay in their investment division and back offices. Thanks to computerization and automation our big companies have been able to get along with far fewer workers but, contrary to the apologists for modern technology, the companies spawned by new technology never created as many jobs as were lost.

I have followed the stories, like this NY Times piece, detailing the problems of the U.S. Postal Service for some time.  As usual, I have conflicting thoughts on the matter.  I can't remember a time when we didn't have mail delivery six days a week.  I can very well remember the time before e-mail when the only instantaneous means of communication was telephone.  I can also remember a time when rural phone service was expensive and often involved party lines.  On the one hand I don't much like the potential loss of mail service or the inconvenience for rural and small town people who depend on the U.S. Postal Service.  They have already lost bus service and air service.  On the other hand, for me, the service has become less a service and more of an annoyance.  Our mail is now 90% advertising of one kind or another.  And every bit of that goes directly in the trash.  However, in the back of my mind, is the nagging concern about another bit of our 'infrastructure' crumbling away.  And the question of whether this country is still, truly, really a 'superpower' in anything other than our possession of the most nuclear weapons in the world.

Toby Wollin at Firedoglake summarizes the Huffington Post summary of the report on the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster that has been all but forgotten by the national media.  I am cynical enough that I am not at all surprised that the deaths of 29 miners as a consequence of repeated safety violations in the name of production hasn't yielded any action by our elected (mis-)representatives.  They are far more interested in making our economy safe for predatory capitalism.  I am not even surprised at the where number of violations.  I am totally blown away by the size of the report--80,000 pages.  I wonder if the verbiage is merely a means of obscuring the facts--a way of burying information in a blizzard of words.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Good morning, all.  Much above normal temps to start out today but falling, they say, through the day.  Also some sporadic rain.  No snow yet.

Hi, Kay, and I also never miss Jan's posts.  Her blog is on my reading list.

Didn't have much to say yesterday.  The Repthuglican circus continues.  One of the clowns decided to call it quits and all of the talking heads are speculating on which of the remaining clowns will be helped most and how much.  It doesn't matter to me since none of the front runners appeal to me at all.

I doubt anyone is surprised at this story.  These cuts have been in the works for weeks.  Some years ago relatives suggested I apply for a job with the Postal Service: good pay, good retirement, and job security.  Well, at the time they weren't hiring and the ads for Postal Service jobs were posted by scammers.  If the plan to close half of the processing centers comes to pass, there will be a whole lot more unemployed people.

Rick Hanauer  posted a good op-ed at Bloomberg.  His confession that he and others in the 1% are not the 'job creators' the Repthuglican idiots claim reflects my own thoughts.  We have a consumer economy.  We can set aside the argument of whether we should have such an economy for another time and simply consider the fact that,  if 99% of the population can't consume, the 1% can't carry the economy.

William DeBuys posted this on Tomdspatch which should interest anyone following climate/weird weather issues.  I am glad that many areas of the Southwest got rain and snow over the last month but the dry spell is no where near over.  Unfortunately, in the back of my mind dwells the notion that we may be past the point of doing anything about the situation--we may have already tripped over the transition and didn't even realize it.

June Calendar at Big-70 has a comment that echoes our sentiments here.  I am glad we aren't the only ones complaining about the tasteless, chemical laden crap our food industry is trying to sell us.  I say 'trying' because we have gone well past the point where we ain't buying'.

To continue on the 'hell in a hand basket' theme, go to Clusterfuck Nation and read Kunstler's latest.  Every time I hear some business suited idiot proclaim that business needs 'certainty' to pull the country out of the economic doldrums my cynicism starts itching.  They have plenty of certainty.  Not a single bankster has been prosecuted the fraud that was and is so pervasive in our financial industry has been prosecuted.  And, according to 60 Minutes last night, there is plenty to prosecute.  And I wonder how big the tab is really going to be in the final analysis and how much our supposedly private banks have pushed onto the public purse.

The Russian parliamentary elections have certainly turned dramatic.  Putin's party got less than 50% of the vote inspire of allegations of fraud that would make an old time Chicago politician blush.  The presidential elections are yet to come but, though Putin is expected to win, one has to wonder what it bodes for Russia's macho man.  I wonder how one says 'vote early, vote often' in Russian.

As we listened to the report on the news this morning detailing the U.S. loss of a stealth reconnaissance drone the Iran has claimed it has recovered, I had a bit of a flash back to several stories about hacking into U.S. military systems.  I wondered if somehow the drone systems had been hacked.  This piece, found by way of The Agonist, quotes from an Iranian news outlet which claims that is exactly what happened.  Of course we are getting information from two equally notoriously unreliable sources--the Iranians and the U.S. military.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  The temps are still warmer than expected for this time of the year.  Don't know how much longer that pattern will hold but I will enjoy it while it lasts.  Not much longer according to the weather people.

Janinsanfran posted this.  Time has done this before--presenting a perfectly innocuous and fluffy piece on the cover of the U.S. edition while putting something newsworthy on the foreign editions.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  We have nice, bright sun for now after a wet night.  More clouds and precipitation predicted for later and over night with possible snow over the weekend.  The weather people said that November as a whole was 5 degrees above average.  The plants in the gardens are still doing well though the mums and lemon balm are showing some stress from below freezing nights.  The blueberries, German thyme, and roses look very good.  The lawn care people came around to clean up the leaves a couple of days ago.  They didn't find much on my patio.  The first half of the leaves went into the compost bin and the second half I swept outside the fence gate (because I didn't have room in the compost.)  Next year, if my experiment in overwintering is successful, I will use more leaves as a mulch.  Didn't think of it this year because I had three packages of cedar chips.

Forbes has a good article on the Repthuglican race this morning.  I don't agree with much of Ron Paul's proposals but I do think someone who hews to principle a bit refreshing.  Few of them could say, as did Lillian Hellman before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, that they "cannot and will not cut my conscience to today's fashions.'  They have no principles or conscience to cut.  Yeah, Kay, they do make Tricky Dick look honorable.

Time leads off with the headline that the Senate approved a $662 billion defense spending bill.  What is buried in the story is the fact that the bill goes another step toward creating a military/police state and the Constitution is one more step toward toilet paper status.

The economics talking heads have been enthusiastic this morning about the employment numbers just released.  MSNBC posted this story.  Skeptic that I am I noticed that the unemployment numbers went down because the participation rate went down.  In other words, more people have left the job market.  Also that a large percentage of the jobs created were in retail, restaurants and hospitality, and health care.  In other words, in the areas that provide a large number of low paying jobs.  And that the retail and 'hospitality' jobs are seasonal jobs.  In other words, here today and gone in January.  I also wonder how many are part time.  The 120k jobs are nice but that doesn't even keep up with the population growth.

A couple of Indian farmers have a truly wicked sense of humor in designing their protest of allegedly corrupt tax officials.  I think their 'gift' was totally appropriate.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Good December to you all.  Here it is the first.  It seems that I was wishing you all a good November 1st just yesterday.  Oh, well, 'time flies' as they say.

The evening news last night had a follow-up story to one they featured about a month ago which pitted Dr. Oz against Dr. Besser on the safety of fruit juices.  Oz had just tested a limited number of samples of apple and grape juices and found a significant number of samples contained amounts of lead and arsenic that exceeded the limits allowed for tap water.  Besser  took vigorous issue with the results: they were too few, from a single lab, without confirming testing.  And the FDA had told him that the levels found did not exceed FDA limits and that the arsenic testing did not differentiate between a harmless version of arsenic and the harmful type.  Now Consumer Reports has followed up and confirmed Oz's results.  Worse Besser found out that the FDA essentially lied to him--on both counts.  The FDA had no guidelines covering arsenic and lead in juices and now are recommending parents limit the amount of juice kids drink.  I am not really surprised about the heavy metal contamination in the juices.  After all, with wide spread industrial pollution, I imagine that a lot of rural areas are affected and the plants will take up the pollutions along with water and nutrients from the soil.  I have read of several of city areas that wanted to establish community gardens only to find the soil so contaminated they had to either scrape most of the soil out and replace it or use containers.  The fact that concerns me is the lies from the FDA.  That agency is supposed to ensure the safety of the food supply and they lie to a physician/medical reporter when he asks them for crucial information.

I notice two headlines saying Herman Cain is accusing his critics of 'character assassination.'  That is funny because one would have to have character before someone could assassinate it.  I see very little character in most of the Repthuglican candidates--an abundance of personality but no character.

The morning news carried a couple of repeats of the story about the former Colorado sheriff who is now locked up in the jail named for him.  None of the stories gave any details beyond that little bit of irony so when I saw the link on the Political Wire I followed it.  There is a lot more hilarious irony to the story.  The sheriff is a Republican charged with trading drugs for sex--with a man.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hello, all, on this cold Wednesday.  The temps are in the 20s but the wind chill drops that into the teens.  At least the winds have died down.  And the snow stayed east and north.  I looked out to make sure that nothing had blown out of place and saw everything is where it belongs.  The wind had the over-the-fence pot hangers swinging like pendulums with the pots inside.  I have them hanging on the cross bars of the mini-greenhouse.  I thought it looked like a good storage space and so it his turned out.  The weather person on our local (Chicago) TV station reported that one of her regular e-mail correspondents has already figured that we have 111 days till spring.  He is already tired of the cold.  I look at all the moisture coming through this late in the year and figure we have worse to come.

I agree, Lois.  College today is not worth the investment of time and money.  But then so much of our educational system is not worth the amount of money (private and public) that has been put into it.  Our local news this morning carried a snippet on a recent evaluation of Chicago's charter schools and it wasn't good.  The way our Federal Secretary of Education and various politicians at all levels of government have touted charter schools you would think they were the magical road to educational success.  I think the key word there is 'magical.'  The students at most of those charter schools scored no better than the students in the regular public school system and those in at least half a dozen did significantly worse.  No panacea there.  You may be right and a system of apprenticeship programs would be more effective.

Tom Englehardt has a nicely satirical piece by Steve Fraser that touches on most of the ills of modern society dominated as it is by predatory capitalism.  Englehardt's intro is as entertaining as Fraser's article.  And both are absolutely right--this system is rapidly consuming our dreams, our futures, and our children. I find it amazing that most of us would find cannibalism abhorrent unless we are talking about fiscal and psychic cannibalism.

Just glanced at the list of items on my Google alert page for 'drought.'  I noticed on which claims that the drought in Texas is now the worst on record since records began in 1895.  That means it beats the benchmark most of us use--the Dust Bowl.  And the recent rains, though welcome, missed many of the hardest hit regions and much, much more is needed to provide real relief.  I couldn't read the article because it was taken down by the time I found the link.  Mexico, especially northern Mexico, is suffering the worst drought in 60 years.  That isn't good for two reasons: Mexico is the world's fifth largest supplier of corn and many of the early veggies for the American market come from Northern Mexico.  And to make matters worse many crucial reservoirs are at 30-40% of their normal levels which means water is going to be a scarce commodity this coming season.  And the lower Danube in eastern Europe is at its lowest level since 2003.

Leigh at 5 Acres and a Dream has a good post this morning that crystallizes many thoughts I have had over recent years.  I grew up at a time when debt had become an 'investment' in the future that would be paid off from future financial gains.  I never really fell for the notion of debt as 'wealth' that has come to dominate much of high finance.  But debt is, as we have increasingly found out over the last 20 years, a drain on our futures.  Debt-as-investment relies on trust: the trust that future will be more prosperous and the debtor can pay off the debt.  Anyone who has that kind of trust now is either extraordinarily lucky or extraordinarily oblivious.  I also grew up with the notion of insurance as a good form of protection against catastrophe: a breadwinner dying unexpectedly, a car damaged, a house destroyed, an unpredictable major medical problem.  But I have questioned it more of late.  We have renter's insurance and there are clauses I simply can't understand.  Some seem to contradict others.  And I have seen too many people who thought they had coverage for whatever disaster they encountered and discovered they did not.  As far as medical insurance--I believe the pervasiveness (until a couple of years ago when so many lost benefits) has been a major factor in the increase in medical costs.  The people who receive the medical services do not pay for those services directly and have no incentive to incorporate economics into their decisions.  The doctors and hospitals provide services but bill the insurance companies whose deep pockets make it all too tempting to inflate the costs for a higher return.  The insurance companies pay but have no real gauge of how effective or efficient the services provided really are.  Disconnect on all levels.  And again much depends on trust--the trust that the treatment is really worth the cost.  I don't have that much trust in the medical establishment.  And on the notion of retirement instruments--that also depends on trust that the money will be there when one retires.  And I don't have any faith beyond when I see my next check has been deposited.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good Tuesday morning to you all.  Wet this morning.  The weather people say we may get 1 to 2 inches of snow but I don't really expect it.  East of us will get that but the system appears to be fizzling out before it reaches us.  We were surprised when the sun came out for a bit yesterday afternoon.

Oh, yeah, Kay.  I think we must be founding members of the 'I'm staying home on Black Friday Club.'  And I would love to see the bought congress critters get tossed out in sufficient numbers to do some good.  I would love to see the so-called 'safe districts' most of them (mis-)represent suddenly become totally unsafe and up for grabs.  And one piece of good news from the morning broadcast:  the recall movement in Wisconsin has more than half of the signatures needed with a month and a half to go.  Maybe Walker will be a half-term governor.

I don't know how often I watched news that someone (usually the Germans and the French) had come up with a solution to the sovereign debt problem and that story alone caused an orgiastic buying frenzy on the stock markets.  Then suddenly some bright person discovered that the 'solution' was anything but and the markets sold off.  This little piece from Zero Hedge puts a bit of light on the darker possibilities.

I am about two-thirds through Michael Lewis' Boomerang and it is a fascinating take on the financial meltdown as it manifested in Europe.  It is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.  I can summarize it so far in a few short sentences.  The Icelandic bankers borrowed foreign money to buy foreign assets which they then sold to each other at inflated prices giving the appearance of fantastic prosperity.  The Irish bankers borrowed foreign money to buy Irish assets that they sold to each other at inflated prices or loaned to land developers who built overpriced homes and commercial property.  The Greek government borrowed foreign money to support inflated government expenditures and inefficiency.  And then Lewis presents the German situation.  The sober German bankers, who would never have approved such loans to German customers in Germany, provided the foreign money that fueled the debt frenzy.  I find it amusing that the Germans are now insisting that their frugal ways be adopted by the spendthrift peoples of the European periphery when part of the problem was the much-less-than-frugal actions of their bankers.

I found this Psychopathic Economics 101 post both apt and amusing.  Is your house insured??  Against what dangers??

Monday, November 28, 2011

Good morning, all.  We had rain yesterday with falling temps.  For the week it will be cool and wet with some snow possible.  But then it is the last week of November.  The rain should end later today for a bit so we should be able to get out weekly shopping done without getting wet.

I saw a snippet of this story on the morning broadcast news but no details.  The reporter did say that the total (for now) was $1.2 trillion.  What wasn't said was how many big FOREIGN banks got our money.  That is one aspect that pisses me off.  Another is the fact that these are private businesses whose risks (and costs) have been shifted from them to the private sector to the taxpayers.  So a significant portion of the bailout went to foreign private businesses which simply compounds my disgust.  And the Federal Reserve and the banks fought tooth and nail to keep the details secret.  Once upon a time, we were told that a democracy required an educated and informed electorate.  Another indication that democracy is functionally dead no matter the pronouncements of our political class.  Firedoglake also points out that the Fed earmarked $7.7 Billion to rescue the financial sector or 11 times the amount of TARP.  These are mind boggling numbers.  And I have to ask a question that has come to mind frequently over the last four years:  when is the red ink so deep that there is not enough money in the world to wipe it out?  And when do the printing presses break down from a long period of excessive use?

The New York Times posted this article which reflects many of the conclusions I have come to over the last decade.  They still tell us that a college degree is the way to a comfortable middle class life.  But I noticed nearly ten years ago that blanket prescription had a lot of holes in it.  It depends upon the subject, the school, the connections the student has, and other factors as well.  For many they will never recoup the cost of their education.  Furthermore, many graduates will find that the career they trained for has been eliminated by technology.  The pundits used to tell us that technology created as many jobs as it erased.  That was a lie.  Combine that trend with government policies and globalization and you get the current split between low level jobs they used to describe as 'entry level' and upper level professional jobs with no bridge between.

The news readers tell us that Black Friday sales set records.  The first question in my mind was how much was on credit and how many of those consumers will file for bankruptcy in January or February.  It is amazing how many of our pundits are almost orgasmic over the sales figures as though it really signals an economic revival.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Good morning, all.  Well, Black Friday is gone and we now have Small Business Saturday.  Then, of course, after a brief respite for Sunday (once a day of rest), we will get Cyber Monday.  Lovely, we have almost wiped out Thanksgiving and in its place have three shopping holidays.  Perhaps we should have expected that development given that the economy is 60+% consumer driven.  I wondered this morning if we would soon see a 'Consumerist' Advent Calendar.  You remember this calendars with little windows and you opened one each day leading to Christmas?  Well, soon after that thought I saw the new Wal-Mart commercial which touts 'Cyber Week.'

The news talking heads are still talking about the stupid idiot who pepper sprayed others in line to get an X-box.  Really??? An X-Box??  If I were starving I might do that to make sure I (or my family) got food but an X-Box??  But I am really offended by the attention this a$$ got from the media.  And I can't even express my disgust with the ones who brought guns and knives.

But then insanity seems to pervade our lives.  Consider this story.  Corporate tax rates both too high and too low?  Well, I guess a company would find it worth while to have a tax corporation charging them millions if that company can create a 57k page return and reduce the tax burden on $14 billion in profits to zero.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Good morning to you all.  And no I am not shopping today.  I have never engaged in the Black Friday madness.  If I were still giving Christmas gifts as I did ten years ago, I would probably have finished it already.  But I soured on the consumerist version of Christmas long ago.  However, one holiday at a time--I hope your Thanksgiving was pleasant and satisfying.  Ours was.  We joined my sister and her partner for dinner.  Our brother and sister-in-law, nephew and his daughters joined us.  It was a nice gathering: good company and good food.

Just when I think I have heard a story that illustrates how low we have fallen as a civilized society another pops up that has me shaking my head in disbelief.  Like this one.

As many of you may realize, I am an extreme skeptic on anything political and I think with good reason.  I always have questions in my mind when I read political articles and blog and take any pronouncements with a ton, rather than a pinch, of salt.  This Burning Platform post indicates why.  I never now whether those idiots are talking about real absolute cuts in the total spending or just a reduction in the increase in total spending.  One would think that the automatic 'cuts' required with the failure of the (faux)-supercommittee would reduce our troops to eating dog food and fighting with broken bows from the bleating coming from Leon Panetta's mouth.

We have all said that the weather has been weird this year and the year isn't over yet.  Check this out.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Good morning, everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving.  Hope you all have a lovely day with friends and family.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good morning, all, on this day before Thanksgiving.  We have a couple of errands to do today but otherwise it should be an easy day.  Not that any of our days are hard or rushed.  In fact, we refuse to be rushed.  It makes life so much easier and controls the blood pressure.

This story sums up the mishigas of the (not-so-)supercommittee.  Most had little hope that it would really succeed in the first place but are disappointed anyway.  Many of us feel a strange combination of disappointment and relief: disappointment that these morons couldn't come to a compromise and relief that they didn't come to a compromise that would severely shred what is left of our social safety net while giving the wealthy another free pass.  I understand the rationale for the committee.  After all, a similar committee managed to reduced the number of military bases in the U.S. after congress failed to deal with the matter.  But the very different result this time reveals just how broken the entire system is; and that is reflected by the comments of those who find their faith in the system seriously challenged.  Phil at Phil's Favorites has some wonderfully biting comments on both the failure of the committee and on the current Repthuglican Scrooge-like attitude towards anyone not in the upper 1% or associated with a defense contractor.