Friday, January 21, 2011

Good morning, again, on this most frigid day of the winter so far. Our patio thermometer stood at 0 when we woke this morning and dropped to -2 before we finished our coffee. Thankfully, this extremely cold stretch isn't supposed to last very long. By the time we need to do our weekly errands Monday it should be tolerable again. Hope everyone else out there who is in the cold belt is staying warm.

I agree, Kay, on the education issue. What is troubling is that once, in the not so very far past, I would have considering going back to school to upgrade my skills and urged everyone else to do the same. I followed the that very typical pattern of returning to school whenever the economy took a serious dip to get additional degrees or training thinking that, surely, after the economy recovered the jobs would be there. Usually, I was disappointed. The jobs I did take were tolerable only because they were supposed to be temporary. Unfortunately, they lasted much longer than I had figured. All along the way, I often wondered what those coming behind be were being taught and/or learning because they seemed so unprepared. The first question I ask when I hear politicians press the case for educational 'reforms' is what do they mean by reform"? I never get more than platitudes and schmaltz--nothing specific. Needless to say, I no longer suggest additional education. Especially not in an environment which requires the student to foot the full bill, usually by hocking their future for the education that may or (more likely) may not secure that future.

Oh, and thanks for the suggestion of using apple juice to cook the oatmeal. I hadn't heard of that before but is sounds yummy. Mom had but had not thought of it in years.

I wonder about the Haiti situation also, Lois. Especially since the other exiled dictator, Jean Baptiste Aristide, is making noises about returning (if he hasn't already). The U.S. government has had a long history of preferring to work with right wing dictators--after all they are more likely to smooth the way for U.S. companies to act without restraint.

So this is finally bubbling to the surface in the foetid swamp that is our economic system. About a month ago, Meredith Whitney (a financial annalist) created a bit of a furor when she declared, on CNBC, that there was a wave of municipal bankruptcies coming that would deflate the value of municipal bonds. A number of writers since have spilled a large amount of ink (or pixels, since this is the computer age) declaring that she is not only wrong but dangerous in spewing such destabilizing muck when the economy is recovering. Now the government is trying to find a way to legitimize state bankruptcy in fact if not in name. I notice that the first target is to find a way of getting out from under the debts owed to the pension funds that government officials from all parties have deliberately underfunded for years. This makes me angry. Our law and order nuts among the economists decry the trend of individuals walking away from underwater mortgages (a form of contract) as immoral but when workers are defrauded of a large part of the compensation they had been promised for the labor they have already delivered (under another form of contract) they consider it just another business strategy. The problem is that if the state actually doesn't have the money to meet its obligations then trying to collect the pensions is like trying to get a harvest out of barren ground. But, by God, I want someone to pay for the fraud besides the workers who are the victims of the theft.

Ira Chernus has a new post on tomdispatch which also raise your blood pressure a bit. The introduction alone should really make you question the priorities of our Federal government--and our leaders, Republican or Democrat. The money involved in the so-called reconstruction of Afghanistan (and Iraq, which the intro doesn't mention) could have fully funded the various states' pension plans. Instead they have gone to pad the bottom lines of well connected companies who have provided substandard, shoddy, and over priced projects in a foreign country. The first part of the post ties into the 'culture of cruelty' mentioned yesterday. Note especially the argument Chernus' host provided for his seemingly contradictory behavior: he knows his near neighbors are hardworking and disciplined people and he will willingly help them but those across town he doesn't know. And they may be lazy, shiftless and immoral for all he knows and so is unwilling to expend his precious time and money on them. I doubt he is very willing to find out if his prejudice is justified. (The notion of the Myth of American Security (or Insecurity, as Chernus puts it) is also interesting but one I have read about for a number of years. It formed a significant part of Tom Englehardt's End of Victory Culture, which is a very good read.)

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