Monday, February 28, 2011

Good morning to you all. We had rain and, maybe, some hail late yesterday evening and last night. A good bit of thunder and lightning as well. A large part of the snow is gone and I hope by the end of the week the majority of what is left will be gone as well. Though the temps are not supposed to be warm we expect them to be above freezing. Do you realize that we are only two weeks away from putting our clocks forward again? I still wish they would leave it alone but the politicians don't seem very intent on really serving their fellow citizens.

I intended to post yesterday but found myself in a depressed/sour/contrary mood. The news is much the same day in, day out. You probably can guess that from the last sentence above. I spent the late morning and afternoon stitching on that table topper I started a couple of weeks ago and listening to Pandora through our new blu-ray player. It was a nice, relaxing day though the news shows in the evening somewhat spoiled it. Too much Oscar/Post-Oscar, Charlie Sheen, and Moammar Qaddafi (however you spell his damned name). I think I will find out how well the player handles music cds. I would much rather listen to music right now than to what passes for news.

The Washington Post has this story this morning and IF the Federal Government can consolidate its agencies and departments we might get somewhere with the budget. I expect it will be a long slog because bureaucrats are nothing if not adept at protecting their turf. And I doubt that the consolidation will hit the root cause--a syndrome akin to the more often found affliction seen in non-governmental society: the' there-oughta-be-a-law syndrome.' The governmental analog says 'if you have a problem create a new agency/department/whatever to deal with it.' They do that instead of identifying whether the problem is one government is best suited to handle and then seeing if their is already an agency that can deal with it efficiently.

I got this report in my e-mail this morning and it makes so much sense that I have to wonder at what kind of advice our Presidents have been getting for the last 50-odd years. I could say more but I won't. I will say that the discussion of the role for diplomacy reminds me very much of what Clausewitz wrote in 'On War' in the late 1820s.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Good morning, everyone. It is official--this has been the snowiest February on record a little over an inch. And we may get a bit more tomorrow morning. Also, this month places 8th on the all time snowiest list and the blizzard 3 weeks ago made the 2nd place for a single storm total. But the temp on our patio was 38 this morning though it had lost a couple of degrees by the time we finished our coffee. I so want my garden containers clear of snow; I may go out later this week and try to uncover them. I started my tomatoes and peppers inside yesterday and got a bit of a surprise--one of my ground cherries has emerged. I wasn't expecting that for another 2 weeks at the earliest.

This New York Times story (by way of MSNBC) presents one of our current dilemmas but without asking a crucial question: at what point is the benefit derived from the tapping large amounts of natural gas and the creation of jobs in the energy industry cancelled out by the air and water pollution? I love the one interviewee's quote: 'We're burning the furniture to keep the house warm.' But I think the real assessment would be: 'We're keeping the house warm but we have to wear respirators and can't drink the water.'

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Good morning, everyone, on this last Saturday of February. Good Lord, this year is already two months old. We actually got a good bit of sun yesterday and the snow that had accumulated wasn't all that much--maybe two inches. We got another, perhaps, half inch over night. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be a sloppy mess with snow followed by rain followed by more snow. I hope that by the end of the week I can get my garden containers uncovered. I laid out the peppers and tomatoes to start in one of the starting trays. No sign of the ground cherry yet but I didn't really expect to see them since they are a very slow germinating plant.

The Libyan situation still dominates most of the news but there isn't much to say with respect to it. We noticed that our gas prices have gone up--drastically. For the last month they had been fluctuating between $2.95/gal and $3.15. Tuesday they hit $3.29. Thankfully neither of us have to go to a job or any other daily activity and, if necessary, we can curtail our driving even more. I feel for those who can't. It can be amusing to watch the CNBC stock ticker. Yesterday, the price of oil seemed to fall a bit (evidently when the Saudis promised to make up for any shortfall by ramping up their production) and then started rising again, slowly. For the first time I saw an industry commentator question whether they really have the excess capacity they claim. As he said they won't let independent auditors in to actually check their claims.

It seems another source has realized that this recovery is a recovery only in the sense that cooked numbers say it is. And that the jobs are economy is 'creating' are in no way comparable to the ones it is losing. I think we are well on our way to finding out how closely something can resemble nothing.

There are some interesting cartoons on MSNBC dealing with the rise in gas prices. Go to the business section where the link is on the right hand side. I especially love the one in which 'Egypt,' 'Libya,' and 'Bahrain' yell 'Freedom,' 'Democracy,' and 'Liberty' while the 'USA' mumbles 'What about gas prices? What about gas prices?' About says it all, doesn't it.

Earlier this week, I said I would love to see a graph which showed union membership over the last 30 years, wages (adjusted for inflation) over the last 30 years, and the percentage of private industry employees with health and pension benefits over the last 30 years. Haven't seen that but one of the commentators on CNBC did come out yesterday and note that union membership has gone from just under 25% (I think) to just about 12% while the yearly wages have declined by $3,000/year (adjusted for inflation). That pretty well sums up our predicament, don't you think?

I love this item from Grist and I find Ms. Silk exactly the kind of rebel I can relate to.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Good morning, everyone. We got, maybe, three inches of snow overnight. It hasn't ended yet but is supposed to shortly. The temperature on the patio sat at freezing so I doubt this will stay around very long. Unfortunately, they say more is coming and we don't expect to see the sun vey much (if at all) till next Tuesday. Oh, well--winter just doesn't want to give up.

I notice that the news media has found the issue of 'unfunded' pension obligations and the budget implications. I wondered how these pensions could be unfunded when the union members have been paying part of their incomes often for years. Only one public official interviewed last night actually came out and told the viewers how this happened. Basically the states' governors and high officials decided to postpone their scheduled payments hoping to catch up at a later date. Later has arrived and they are still behind with no hope, given the sorry state of the economy, of catching up. I have seen news accounts of such measures in Illinois for the last five or six years every time it came time to balance that budget and postponing the pension payments was a great way to provide the illusion of a balanced budget. Some states have borrowed from the Federal government to pay some of what is owed to the pension plans and now those loans have to be repaid as well. I would call this fraud but I doubt anyone with any real power will nor will the perpetrators of this rip-off be held accountable to the people they have defrauded.

Then, however, I had another thought. I wondered where that pension money has been held. Is it put into treasury bills, municipal or state bonds, or some other investment? Everyone knows what happened to the 401ks and other such instruments private pension funds used. Some may have regained their former value but many have not. And I wonder if they are seeing a problem akin to the one facing Social Security. Back in the 1980s, Alan Greenspan and others in the Reagan administration 'reformed' social security. Seeing the wave of baby-boomers coming in beginning early this century they increased the withholding to 'pre-pay' for the benefits. But those excess funds had to be held in treasury bills to be cashed in when needed. This year, for the first time ever, Social Security is scheduled to pay out more than it will get in withholding and will have to tap the $2.5 billion in treasuries to make up the shortfall. Problem--whenever anyone wants to cash in treasury bills the government has to come up with the cash and now that means either getting the cash from the general revenue or borrowing it. Social Security doesn't have a problem of an 'unfunded' liability; the government has a cash flow problem some want to cure on the backs of the people who are supposed to receive the benefits. Getting back to the states and their 'unfunded' pension obligations--they definitely have one problem in that they have (criminally, in my mind) failed to make the payments they were obligated to make into the pension funds. But they may have another problem which has to date flown under the radar: if those pension funds are held in treasury bills or municipal/state bonds will the states and local governments be able to convert those instruments into cash when they are needed? The real question nagging at the back of my mind is whether the current attack on public unions and the demand that they give back pension and other benefits only the first of a series of attacks?

I found this National Employment Law Project study by way of HuffingtonPost this morning. It explains why this doesn't really feel much like a recovery in spite of the NBER declaration that the Great Recession ended in June of 2009. It puts some numbers to the impression I had that we lost more high wage jobs during the recession and have gained, mostly, a paucity of low wage jobs back during this 'recovery.'

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hello, again, to everyone out there. The weather is doing what has become usual here--gloomy with a chance of rain and/or snow. I hope the majority of that snow missed you, Kay. I am glad you have a generous neighbor boy who helps with the shoveling.

This morning our local (that is to say, our Chicago) news carried a blurb about the prank pulled on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The merry punker called pretending to be one of the Koch brothers, the billionaire siblings who have been underwriting a lot of the Tea Party and ultra conservative groups. I read about this some yesterday and a couple of the stories carried partial transcripts of the conversation. The news story simply told of the prank and that Walker is vowing not to be 'distracted.' If the stories I saw yesterday are accurate, he should be extremely embarrassed and not worrying about the distraction. The prankster suggested that Walker plant provocateurs in the crowd to stir things up. Walker responded that he and Republican leaders had considered that option and did not consider it feasible. Note: he didn't reject it because it was morally wrong but because he doubted the tactic would accomplish what ever he wanted it to. Isolated incident? Momentary lapse? Maybe; but then consider Walker's response in light of this Rolling Stone story about the U.S. military directing their 'informational operations' and 'psychological operations' teams, illegally, against visiting U.S. officials. MSNBC also carried this story with a link to the original. Crooks and Liars (and yes, Lois, I do love these guys!!) just posted this item. I do hope that the Government Accountability Board (a bipartisan, independent ethics board) does investigate.

This firedoglake article shows why I think we are very close to the line, if not over it, of abandoning the right to call ourselves a 'society of laws.' Notice the section on the health of the Wisconsin pension plan. It isn't in any real trouble at all. Notice also how the current and past governors of New Jersey created much of their pension plan problem by diverting the funds from the pension plan to other uses. Illinois did much the same. But ordinary working people are being told they have been 'over promised' and must shoulder 'some' of the burden for getting us out of this fiscal mess. Can anyone else spell 'hypocrite'?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good morning, everyone.

Though it is a gray day (again!!) with a strong possibility of snow or rain, this MSNBC story brightened my day. Maybe we should import some of this.

The morning news said that Al Jazeera is negotiating with Comcast to have Comcast carry their English news channel. I would gladly add that to my viewing schedule.

Well, I am sure that everyone knows that Rahm Emanuel has been elected Mayor of Chicago. I was struck by the fact that no one mentioned a Republican candidate which got me wondering what happened to the Republican Party. Evidently they decided not to contest the election. The last Republican mayor was elected 80 years ago.

I guess the State House is the People's House unless some Republicans feel that the People aren't really our sort of people. From Crooks and Liars comes the story of peaceful demonstrators being shut out of their Ohio State House.

Also from Crooks and Liars--it is about time the EEOC looked into this kind of discrimination.

If this account from Think Progress is accurate we should consider renaming Wisconsin the People's Republic. Restricting citizens' access to the internet was the first tactic Hosni Mubarak took. Scott Walker has taken a page out of Mein Kampf --get yourself elected (somehow) and then cancel democratic institutions.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good morning, again, to you all. We got our inch of snow and the temps are just above 20 degrees. We decided to postpone our weekly shopping to Wednesday. Normally, we go out on Monday but the weather has been wet (or icy) and dismally gray. We don't think the driving would really be all that bad, by why go out in this mess if you don't have to?

For anyone who is still confused about what is at stake in Wisconsin take a good read of this HuffingtonPost article this morning. I think the main problem is that none of us have any experience with really nasty labor confrontations. Note the reference in the article to the 1886 strike that the then governor attacked with state police. We haven't had that kind of violence since the Federal government, in the depths of the great depression, recognized the right of workers to unionize and collectively bargain. We have had long and bitter strikes and some that had episodes of violence but none that had the armed police killing strikers. The article also makes a point that the bill basically negates any meaningful right to collective bargaining--what is left after you are banned from bargaining on benefits and the issue of wages is limited to the rise in inflation? Especially in an economy where the government lies about the inflation rate?

It looks like those Iranian warships are passing through the Suez Canal on their way to Syria. I have noticed that most of the news media have focused on the Israeli reaction (extreme concern) and wondered what Egypt would do. What most of them don't recognize is that there is damned little Egypt can do because the international convention that governs the canal requires that all commercial shipping and warships must be allowed to pass. This article from RTTnews explains the treaty implications far more clearly. Last I heard not state of war exists between Egypt and Iran and the only way Israel could deny Iran passage is if they decided to bomb the canal. I hope that isn't likely.

I hear you, Kay, and would also like to ignore what is happening in this seriously wigged out country. I am so thoroughly sick of the righteous and self-righteous shouting everyone down. I absolutely hate the right-wing notion that a 51% majority is a landslide that gives them the right to run roughshod over everyone while a 55+% majority for the other side is a paper-thin squeaker that is in no way a 'mandate.' Note that Walker won the Wisconsin governor ship by a 52-47 margin--hardly the landslide the news media has made it out to be.

Like you, Lois, I try to tend my own little patch and hope for the best. I have had recurring epiphanies concerning just how well my interests are protected by the various powers that be and always they have come up short. I get really tired of being the expendable party whose good is always sacrificed for the 'greater good.'

This kind of story simply heightens my total lack of faith in our governments. One of the basic functions of government is to protect the health and safety of its people but more often than not over the last several years they have failed that mandate. The owner of Wright County Eggs was able to maintain his operations in several states even though several states' health departments and the FDA knew about serious health and safety failures. The peanut processing company had multiple citations at more than one plant for health violations before an e. coli outbreak forced its closure. We can't depend on the 'private,' for profit company to protect their customers but we can't depend on the government either.

I just noticed an ironic juxtaposition on CNN today. They showed a story on the teachers' demonstrations against a union busting bill in Ohio (worse than the one in Wisconsin) with a story about the efforts by the Federal government to recruit what they term 'stem' teachers--that is teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math. These teachers have already had a successful career from which they can retire and the government underwrites their certification programs. On the one hand a local (i.e., state government) is trying to curtail the rights of teachers to bargain on the conditions of employment while, on the other, the Federal government plans to train specialized teachers they won't have to hire and pay. Does anyone else see anything terribly wrong with this?

I visit a lot of blogs each day. I don't spend a lot of time at each one but here is one I will be visiting more often. The table runner pictured is so very cute!

I just got this at the Indianapolis Star by way of firedoglake and I gave a shout of joy. Indiana Democratic State Senators have joined Wisconsin State Senators in exile in Illinois (some may head for Kentucky) to deny the Republican dominated Senate a quorum to ram through a union busting bill.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Good Sunday morning to you all. We had nice bright sunshine yesterday. It was the kind of day that makes temps in the 40s pleasant. Our patio thermometer registered mid-30s this morning and we expect a storm front later today. I am hoping for rain because that will wash away much of the remaining snow and I hope the snow predicted for tomorrow fails to materialize. I am so ready for spring. Next weekend I plan to start the tomatoes and peppers and maybe some other seeds. And I need to see if I can get the supports in for the plastic covers. Around the first of March last year I tried to work one of the containers and my spade bounced off the frozen soil. We'll see what happens.

Well, it's now Monday--the start of the last full week of February. This year is passing as fast as last year did. As you can see I really didn't have a lot to say yesterday. The news was more of the same old, same old and the commentary was all in the same predictable vein.

William Astore on tomdispatch this morning has a very good post concerning the best ways to support our troops. He has a number of very good observations on the hypocrisy of our modern style of warfare--and on the futility and waste of it.

The Washington Post has a good article on the how the Tea Party and their Repthuglican allies have hijacked the national debate on various issues. You can see this process going on in the news coverage of the protests in Wisconsin. Most focus on the economic issues which are given the slant that greedy public unions whose members are coddled, over-paid, and the recipients of generous but unearned retirement and health benefits for which they pay far too little are bankrupting us. Completely ignored in this is the history of those same unions taking less pay for greater benefits and job security. Also completely ignored is the move to emasculate collective bargaining--after all what is left to bargain about if you can't include benefits and wages are capped at the inflation rate--which the government has claimed has been non-existant for the last two years? Nowhere does the fact that over the last 30 years private employers have successfully stymied wage growth and have converted pension plans to 401k (worth considerably less than employees expected) and reduced health benefits. I suspect that if you put up a graph of the decline in union membership against the decline in the number of employees with benefits and the stagnation (or fall, if inflation is considered) in wages you would get a revealing correlation.

For more on just how stacked the message from Wisconsin is check out this story from firedoglake. This is one reason why I don't rely on the mainstream media to give me either news or analysis.

We have been slowly coming to the realization that our government is failing to serve our needs--just as people in the middle east and north Africa are. It is nice to know that our legislators do consider the welfare of some groups as this story shows. (sarcasm alert!!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Good Saturday morning, people. We are back in the cool temps for a while. A new storm is approaching but the snow should stay north of us. If we get rain it should go a long way to clearing the rest of the snow off the patio. I can actually see the better part of all of my containers. Update on the cuttings I took last fall--only one basil, one sage and one stevia are left, and the first two are not looking good. I think the light level through the winter is simply not sufficient to keep them happy. During the summer I get strong reflected light off the white fence but I don't have that in the winter. I don't think I will take cutting for plants to keep over winter any more.

Has anyone else noticed the emphasis the news media have been placing on the Wisconsin labor story? They concentrate on a broke state and the cuts the governor wants to make to the state workers' pensions and health care (by making them pay more of the costs). When the workers or the labor leaders mention the cancellation of collective bargaining rights the reporters and commentators pass it off without comment. It makes it appear as if the state workers are coddled, spoiled, overcompensated brats throwing a tantrum. Then ABC last night juxtaposed interviews with a retired couple, both retired state workers, who spoke generally about how they felt they earned their comfortable retirement and mentioned that they and other union members took smaller pay raises to get the health and retirement benefits against the owner/operator of a small coffee house/restaurant who complained that he had to put aside hard to come by money for retirement and was spending almost $400/month for health insurance (without vision or dental) which required a $5k+ deductible for each family member. He resented 'paying' for the cushy lives of state workers. This is something I have noticed frequently over the past decade--the politics of resentment. One of the candidates for Chicago mayor played this card last week. He eulogized his youth growing up in an ethnic neighborhood working at his father's business and bragged about how they lived 'paycheck to paycheck' while the target of his ad grew up in an affluent north suburb in privilege and wealth. At that point, if I were a Chicago voter, I would have voted for Mickey Mouse before I would have voted for him. I am sick and tired of the politics of resentment and envy. I would have been impressed with the business owner if he had detailed the costs he had to wring out of his business and then said he thought the benefits state workers' had won by hard collective bargaining should have been extended to everyone. As it is, I am sorry he is such a resentful asshole.

I agree with you, Kay, absolutely and totally. I applaud the Wisconsin Democratic Senators for their stand. I am also concerned and a bit afraid because I see this country going backward a century to a time I do not want to experience. I have read too much of the history to want that. Does anyone really want to go back to a time when shop girls could only eat a slice of toast and a cup of weak tea most days because they had to spend most of their meager earnings on lodging and on maintaining their 'respectable' appearance to keep their jobs? Do we really want to go back to a time when children younger than 10 worked 12 hour days (or more) for one-quarter the wages of a grown-up or women were paid half of what a man was paid? Do we want to go back to a time when the elderly were either a burden on their families (if they had families) or went to the 'poor house' which had a deservedly ghastly reputation? And can any working person really look fondly on a time when they had no choice but to accept what ever pittance an employer wanted to give or starve because any attempt to join forces with other workers to collectively bargain was met with hired thugs, often Pinkertons? We say we value education but at the time I am discussing most white children completed less than the6th grade and black children much less than that. My grandfather qualified as a teacher with an 8th grade education. Teaching paid so little he went back into farming.

I will admit that I have my own resentments and this is one of them. I resent it on two levels. First, I resent that we are even building this infrastructure in Afghanistan when I read about towns and counties in this country turning paved roads back into gravel because they can't afford the upkeep, when Hawaii is going to a four-day school week to save money, when medicaid cuts are terminating life-saving treatment for our poor and when the governor of Wisconsin engineers a budget crisis to justify cancellation of state workers' collective bargaining rights. I also resent paying American companies good money for a shoddy job (I would have used another 'sh' word but I have already sworn a bit in this post.) And that, unfortunately, seems to be the standard for 'reconstruction' in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a number of news stories, not given much coverage in the mainstream media, have revealed.

This MSNBC story deals with another of my resentments--the fact that despite a lot of money and time spent on investigations of the mortgage fraud there have been few charges and no jail time for the perpetrators.

On the cancer issue I posted yesterday--I would have agreed with you, Lois, some 30 or 35 years ago and so would most cancer researchers that we should have a cure already. At that time I was a biology/zoology grad student researching steroid hormone action and many of the cancers were linked to that class of hormones. What researchers found was that there is no such thing as 'cancer.' Rather there are a variety of cancers and many of them may look very much alike, are very hard to tell apart and they respond very differently to treatments. There is only one form of cancer I can think of off the top of my head that has been linked to one and only one cause--mesothelioma which is a lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure. There may be others now and I haven't kept up with the field. Most are like breast cancers. Some are statistically linked to dietary factors and frequency of childbearing/breastfeeding. But others can't be linked to any specific factor. Some require estrogen; others don't. The treatment for one group doesn't work at all for others and may actually cause more harm than good. The same holds true for almost every other class of cancers. When I was that much younger (and extremely enthusiastic) grad student most researchers believed that we would have a cure for cancer within a very short time. Needless to say, reputable researchers aren't that sanguine any more. Given the past history, I think any 'cures' developed will be expensive and have harsh side effects and may not (depending when in a person's life time the diagnosis comes) lead to any great improvement in the quality or quantity of the patients life. As I have said here often, I am a medical minimalist and the mere fact that there is a palliative for a given condition out there doesn't mean I think it is worthwhile in all situations. I don't mind the research going on or that it is paid for with tax dollars; I do mind when pie-in-the-sky predictions are made on the basis of preliminary results and when the news reporters mine the studies for the most dramatic items at the expense of sober consideration of those results.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Good morning, everyone. I wasn't sure I was going to post anything today but I found this tomdispatch post by Tom Englehardt that was so on point. As so many of our political news pundits have said since the new congress began and the budget battle heated up, the only debate has been over paper cuts to the 'non-defense discretionary' part of Federal spending. Most shake their heads and wonder why 'SocialSecurityMedicareandMedicaid' (and they are all mentioned in the same breath as if they were all the same program with the same problems) isn't seriously considered. Englehardt asks the same about our 'defense' spending. I have been asking that for some time. The question is akin to the comment one of the demonstrating teachers in Wisconsin (where the Repthuglican Governor hopes to ease the state's budget woes by negating the public employees' rights to collectively bargain): He asks us to take one for the team. But who else is he asking to take one for the team? That is a damned good question and no one is answering because that might open up a discussion of their own sacred cows.

ABC news last night touted their coming series: 'Made in America.' They asked whether one could furnish a home with all American made items and how much it would cost. And they asked the viewers to look around their living rooms and see how many items they could identify that were entirely made in America. We did and the only items we could definitely identify were the doilies--made from American spun cotton thread by my hands. I hope the series is well done and I will be watching.

Mat Yglesias at Think Progress has a nice short blog today on a medical story that appeared last night on the ABC national news. It concerned a population of dwarfs in South America that seen to be highly resistant to cancer and diabetes. Their death rates from those sources are fare less than the general population and medical researchers are hoping to develop a preventative by studying this group. I find it interesting to see the graph because, although the study found the dwarf population very resistant to diabetes and cancer (which the news report stressed), the dwarves were more likely to die of heart disease, convulsive disorders, and alcohol related problems than the general population (which the reporters failed to mention at all). I, like most, would welcome a reliable cancer preventative but not at the expense of having to deal with a higher likelihood of dying from heart disease of convulsive diseases. Yglesias makes a very good point at the end--with the debate over health care 'costs' we often forget that those costs are someone else's means of making a living. Whose living do we decide is expendable?

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars has a piece on the Wisconsin mess that people should read. It is one thing to have a budget crisis that many states have which developed from a combination of bad planning and a falling economy. It is an entirely different matter when the governor of a state enacts a massive tax cut to create a budget crisis simply to provide a pretext to break union bargaining rights. I call the second a fraud on the public and malfeasance in office.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good morning, everyone. We already have 50 degrees on our patio. How quickly this snow is melting. I woke up this morning to see large swaths of grass on the north side of the building. Even our patio (on the south side) has much less snow on it. The weather people say that we may push the record temp for the day today.

This story from Huffington Post has me asking some questions. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is one of several federal agencies and other parties trying to deal with the mortgage mess and that agency is proposing to settle with the big banks for a modest penalty (less than $5 billion--and yes that is modest given the size of these entities) and some modifications to some mortgages which may include principle reductions. I agree with the title of the article--this lets these vampires off the hook. Thankfully, not all of the agencies are on the same page as the OCC and the states' attorneys general are definitely not. I am very uneasy when a member of the Federal Reserve describes robo-signing as a 'flaw' and not as the fraud and perjury it is.

The Huffington Post has a new column--'The Watchdog'--to keep tabs on regulatory agencies and lobbyists. The headline story makes me very glad I no longer live in Missouri. Talk about taking a giant step backwards.

I put this item in the "OMG!! How the hell did they do that?!!??" folder. Follow a couple of the links because this is fascinating.

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post has a good piece on the problem of Medicare, Medicaid and medical costs that reflects my thinking on the problem. All of the proposals to cut the budgets for Medicare and Medicaid attack only the spending side of the equation and do nothing for the cost side. And, in the end, all the cutting results in is increasing the pool of people who simply can't afford needed medical care.

Anyone who really thinks the 'market' is an efficient organizer of economic activity needs to read this alternet blog post. Exporting 99% of the food grown in the area and importing 95% of the food consumed is not efficient.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Good morning, everyone. I looked out and, omg, I could see parts of my compost bin and small sections of my garden containers peeking out from under the snow. They are only covered by 3 ft of snow instead of 5. And there is a two foot gap below our mail boxes. We may get rid of the better part of this over the next week since we aren't expecting any daytime temps below freezing. We are keeping the cat in much to his displeasure. We let him out a few times Sunday and he spent monday somewhat listless and off his feed. We think he may have gotten some of the residual 'salt' we used on the ice. Unfortunately, the little monster seems to like any standing pool of water that isn't in a bowl better that what I put down for him. So, for his own good, he is staying in until I can clean off the patio no matter how much he complains.

That was cute, Kay. I hadn't heard 'Uncle Sam's Canoe Club' before. Over my life I have discovered more occupations that I wasn't suited to than those I was. Military life is definitely in the 'unsuited' category. Like you I tend to speak my mind and I am not overly respectful of authority simply because it is authority. When I was in boot camp one of the DIs overheard a caustic comment (not mine) to the effect that the speaker saluted a certain officer simply because she was wearing the uniform. The DI threatened to hang up an empty uniform an have everyone salute it if that was the sentiment. My thought--how could you tell if it were empty or if that particular officer were wearing it? I did keep the thought to my self but my tongue was sore for a week. I am also not very accepting of threats and threats seemed to be the major means of discipline. Especially threats that punished the whole group for the transgressions of one. I was very glad I never took up smoking so the withdrawal of smoking privileges didn't bother me. And, when one non-com at photo school threatened any of us who failed to keep her hair within regulation length with a trip to her 'barber,' I cut my hair to the shortest pixie I ever had. I hate providing anyone with weapons to use against me.

My skeptical attitude toward authority is amplified when it comes to looking at politics, sociology, or economics. Most of what passes for authoritative pronouncements is pure self-important twaddle. Somewhere along the line most of our authorities have had the logic centers of their brains disengaged, if not removed all together.

I am absolutely fascinated by how long it took the mainstream media to get onto this story. I read stories about the increase in basic foods for the last three months (since the Russian heatwave and drought destroyed 30+% of their grain crops last fall. Some may think I have a morbid taste in google searches (which include items like 'agricultural disaster area' and 'drought') but I would rather know what is going on that might impact our finances rather than being blindsided. I think it is much better to prepare for the worst and hope I am pleasantly surprised than to be unpleasantly surprised when the worst happens. That is why I thought this Daily Kos story interesting. The possibility of flooding with snow melt has been lingering in the back of my mind since that has been a frequent occurrence over the last decade. I know how much snow we have gotten (20 inches alone in that last blizzard) and we didn't get as much as some of the areas north and west of us. We can look forward to the snow melting rapidly here because we know that it will run off without flooding us out. It would take a flood of biblical proportions to damage us---but then that is what eastern Australia is dealing with.

I don't think I need to add any comment to this posting on Jesse's Cafe Americain. He is absolutely right.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Good morning, again, everyone. I am amazed at how much of our snow mountains has melted away. We still have a lot left since most of the snow that fell from Christmas through the blizzard had survived. But we are supposed to get a couple of 50 degree days and one that may even get into the 60s. From the weather person's mouth to God's ear; I hope they are right.

I can relate to your frustration, Kay. I never joined in the protests of the 1960s--I was still in junior high and high school through the most active years and then I enlisted in the Navy. My family was blue collar working class and none too sympathetic to the protest movements. Most of them still aren't unless the protest is a union action. Most of my 'protest' is individual and, like you, it involves exercising my right not to buy something. Or involves making my opinions known however unpopular they might be. I don't like what the industrial agriculture and food manufacturers have done to the food supply so I take action to avoid as much of it as possible. I don't like what Wal-mart and other big box stores have done to our local economic environment and avoid it as much as possible. Besides, the quality of the goods leaves a lot to be desired and I absolutely hate spending good money for crap. I saw an article on strategic mortgage defaults where one of the people interviewed said that the bank seeking to keep him paying on his underwater mortgage said the hit to his credit rating would make him economically invisible because he wouldn't be able to get credit again. As far as I am concerned, being an economic ghost is far better than being a debt slave. We aren't in the market for a mortgage and all credit card offers go into the trash. Although we may feel that such individual actions are futile, given the fact that corporate interests have a hammerlock on our government withholding our financial support may be the only meaningful political option we have left. Apply the Republican philosophy of government finance to the economic tyrants--starve the bastards.

Going on to other things--I found this story from while searching for more information on a story posted by Natural News. Some unscrupulous ass$#%#s in China are marketing a 'fake' rice made from potatoes, sweet potatoes and plastic. You read that right--plastic. It is causing a bit of a furor in Viet Nam and Singapore right now.

This is an interesting post for a couple of reasons. Don't let the fact that it deals specifically with India and the comments of a Nobel Prize winning Indian economist. The ideas apply well here. We (especially our politicians) are fixated on growth with no real mention of how that growth should be used. As I read this I suddenly realized that all mainstream economics is really an application of the" trickle down theory". Or to use another frequently cited phrase: "a rising tide lifts all boats." We don't engage in any kind of serious discussion about how society should use the fruits of growth because we believe that those should be reserved for the parties we think have created them--the entrepreneurs and the financiers. We totally ignore the fact that no matter how creative and productive those groups are without the people who did the actual work of production and who then used the proceeds of their labor to buy the products crated society would never have even entered the stone age much less progressed beyond. And then there is the other basic assumption which failed during this last recession and bit a whole lot of us in our collective and individual asses: growth goes on forever.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Good morning to everyone out there. I agree, Kay. The sooner all this snow melts the better and I have my fingers crossed that we don't get a spring blizzard. You are so right--they have happened all too often in my lifetime. We often talk about moving somewhere else where we wouldn't have to worry about snow and cold. But all the areas we think of have their own drawbacks--like hurricane season down south or tornado season southwest of us. We figure we will take the devil we know best and make do.

It was a productive weekend on the non-blogging front. I finished the last two of the great-grandmother's jacket figures. I will post pictures once they are washed and pressed. I started a little cross-stitch table topper that has languished in the not-yet-started bin for the last decade. I don't know anymore which of us bought it originally but it needs to get done. I transplanted my lavender, sage, and one of the basil. I don't know if the lavender and basil will make it to the time I can put it into the gardens. We'll see. Later this week I need to transplant the other basils and the stevia which are doing well but do need larger pots. I couldn't do these with the others because the potting soil was frozen at the bottom of the bag. It should have thawed out by now. And I have four ground cherry seeds started. Those are about the smallest seeds I have ever seen--maybe a third the size of a tomato. I need to review my plans and see how many of each plant I want to start and when. I have often said over this winter that we have been hibernating--usually when we had bad weather that required a change in our normal shopping pattern. But I wonder if I haven't been hibernating in another sense as well--I got very little needlework done over the winter. Now that seems to be picking up.

Your comment, Kay, on whether we used up all our outrage in the 60s struck a chord because I have read it more frequently lately. A number of bloggers who remember and may have participated in the demonstrations then are wondering about the lack of vigorous protests now. I don't know if anyone has a good answer. But then, as I look at the news, I can't tell anymore when protests are real and when they have been manufactured. Reporters looking at the so-called Tea Party Movement found that a number of the associated Tea Party organizations are shells and have no more than a name only presence. A significant part of the opposition to government policies seem to come from the 'astroturf' fringe rather than the true grassroots. How much of the protest energy has been co-opted?

Taking a different view on the topic, Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By contrasts the revolution in Egypt (still very young and fragile) and its promise of democracy to the United States which is in the process of losing its democracy. Instead of one Hosni Mubarak stealing our lives and livelihoods we have a cabal of moneyed interests intent on doing the same. She wonders if the kind of demonstrations we have seen in Egypt (and saw thirty years ago against a war in Asia and for civil rights at home) will come again when we are driven by the corporate run kleptocracy into similar poverty. I have heard that notion frequently in the coverage of the Egyptian protest--the Egyptians protested, many pundits claimed, because they had nothing left to loose. Well, the Egyptian middle class (small as it is) also joined the protest and they still had a great deal to lose, comparatively. Perhaps they were faced with the prospect of a slow but definite decline into poverty or the possibility of a successful revolution that might preserve their prosperity and provide a foundation for a better life in the future. That reminds me of the dilemma of our Founding Fathers. They were men of position, influence and property whose future under continued and strengthened British rule would only decline. They rolled the revolutionary dice and, although we wound up with an independent republic with strong democratic tendencies, many of them lost what they had. Some recovered. Some went on to greater fame and fortune. Many did not. The key wasn't a population so poor they had nothing left to lose but a group who were willing to risk what they had. Now-a-days we have a lot of people who are only too happy to suggest that we have to sacrifice to stabilize our economic situation but the sacrifices they demand are always made by someone else. The big banks and financial institutions are too big to fail (and too big to be accountable for their frauds). The wealthy are too important to tax. The big corporations demand tax cuts to create jobs and expect that no one will be so impolite to not that they have been off-shoring jobs with gusto for the past several decades.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Good morning again to you all. We are supposed to get temps in the mid thirties today and, by the middle of next week, close to fifty. It feels like it has been a long time since we got those temperatures. Hopefully, all this snow will melt slowly. And I hope it is gone by March 1 when I want to take the covers off the garden containers and put up the plastic. This winter has been so lo-o-o-o-o-o-ng.

Most of the news has been about Egypt and I really don't have much to say about that. I did hear that some Republican idiot has criticized Obama for not supporting the Egyptian protestors strongly enough. What a bunch of crap. I didn't stick around for the full story so I don't know which Republican idiot it was. If the protest had been ruthlessly put down the story would have been that we didn't support our dear friend and ally sufficiently. I do so wish that we could develop a new foreign policy which did not depend on poking our fingers so deeply into other countries' internal affairs. I wish I could believe that we are going to let the Egyptians settle their political matters by themselves--but I am absolutely sure that we won't.

As you can see, I didn't find much to say yesterday. Our news media is like a high-beam searchlight. We see a little bit of something before it moves on to something else. I wonder where it will go now.

I thought this HuffingtonPost entry this morning was really good. The teaser headline was 'promise impossible.' I wish I thought that some candidate would come up who would tell the electorate that he isn't promising anything because he couldn't be sure of delivering on those promises but I am sure that won't happen. Worse we have a bunch of blue-tinged or red-tinged chameleons who promise one thing to one group and another to the next and on down the line. They don't even acknowledge that their promises might be contradictory. We have that kind of a situation in Chicago now. One candidate proposed putting new taxes on some 'luxury' services while cutting the general sales taxes by 20%. He hasn't promised any specific changes--just changes. One of his opponents has slammed his proposed new services taxes while not mentioning the sals tax cut and promises to hire a thousand new police officers without saying how that would be paid for. The city has had to scramble for each of the last five years to close increasingly larger budget deficits so from what part of a shrinking budget does he get the money? Needless to say, he hasn't specified. I, for one, am heartily sick of this style of politics.

For the last month or so I have seen more frequent rumblings about 'doing something' about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. This post by Shahien Nasiripour on HuffingtonPost sums up the arguments and implications fairly well. I think the issue marks a definite change in our traditional thought about homeownership. The Federal Government created Fannie Mae in the midst of the Great Depression to help homeowners threatened with foreclosure and, by most accounts, did a fairly good job. Certainly a much better job than the Obama Administration's HAMP program. In the late 1960s Fannie was restructured as a private, government-sponsered enterprise and joined by Freddie Mac. Both institutions reflected a belief that wide spread homeownership was good for the society as a whole. Now I have to wonder if we, as a society, are still committed to that belief. Instead, like so many other fundamental values, the whole notion has been undermined by corrosive changes in our economy: mobility in the search for new opportunities, the widespread illusion that what went up (house prices) would never come down, the drive to make more money by pushing more mortgages of lower quality through the system, thirty years when real middle class income did not keep up with inflation, and the loss of millions of jobs that once paid a middle class income disappeared.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Hopefully, this is the last day of extremely frigid temperatures. I have to get our last bag of cat litter out of the car. We find that is the best place to store it until needed. It doesn't take up any of our limited space inside the house and it is a nice bit of ballast for the car in these snowy times. But I don't need it right now so it will stay where it is until temps warm up tomorrow. Our patio thermometer showed -5 this morning. The morning news said the wind chills were -17 degrees. Much too cold for this old girl to go out barring a life-or-death emergency.

Anyone who thinks we can easily shift much of our energy needs away from oil should carefully consider this story. The materials involved in the production of nuclear fuel are toxic at several levels but one of the first costs the company wants to cut are those involving employee safety and health. And this isn't the only problem. Enter 'nuclear waste and groundwater contamination' into your search engine and see what you find. I even saw one story which claims the there has been detectable contamination near a French nuclear plant and they are considered the most advanced and safest systems now operating. And one which cited a study predicting contamination of the local aquifer if the Yucca Mountain site ever gets operational. Nuclear energy presents potentially devastating problems from mining to refining to fuel processing to transportation to final storage of the waste. And none of those problems have been solved.

This MSNBC story falls into the 'finally somebody is connecting some dots' category. I have seen three stories about weather and food price increases over the last 2 days on mainstream sources. Two of them mention the drought in China which is devastating the winter wheat crop there. I have been reading about that for the last month on the internet. This morning the news report noted that corn reserves are at a 15 year low.

And then there is this MSNBC story which intrigued me given this story on HuffingtonPost. On the one hand, more people need home heating assistance because of the sour economy and severe weather while, on the other hand, the Obama Administration and some of our budget cutting hawks want to cut the funding because prices of oil are below the 2008 level. That seems to be the fashion these days: deciding who you will kick to the curb or push under the bus in the name of fiscal responsibility.

I am no great fan of the insurance industry. More often than not in recent years they seem to be using any excuse to raise rates and deny payouts. So when I saw the headline on this story I was skeptical (to put it mildly). However, it is a very good story on the vagaries of trying to prepare for potential disaster in a world suffering weather events outside anyone's experience. There is an old saying about generals preparing to fight the last war rather than the next one and something similar seems to be going on here--we prepare for the disasters we expect and are blind sided by the unexpected, which seems to be happening more frequently of late.

According to Crooks and Liars those freshman Republican legislators who refused their government health insurance are getting an eye-opening experience of dealing with the 'open market' for coverage. Poor things!!! (sarcasm alert)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good morning to you all. It is cold this morning. Cold enough that I decided to renew my library books on line and stay in until next week. We had a mix of sun and snow yesterday; not much of the latter, thankfully. The air temp was only 5 degrees with wind chill well below zero. We expect more of the same tomorrow. Needless to say--we are hibernating. At least the newest storm is passing well to the south although some of the clouds did come in and prevented the temp from falling into the below zero range.

I find it fascinating (and more than a little repulsive) how everything the Repthuglicans want is now bless with the holy notion of job creation. Including their attacks on the EPA. I noticed a story a couple of days ago about Issa's questionnaire to business on what regulations should be loosened to 'help' them start hiring again in which one of the top suggestions was from energy companies to loosen the regulations on polluting streams and waterways. Question--who is going to clean up the mess? This is simply a continuation of the old way of doing things--externalizing the costs (and harm) while privatizing the profits. Ordinary people are left with the interesting possibility of being thankful for jobs working for the outfits that are poisoning the water we have to drink, or the food we eat, or the air we breath.

I also noticed the President's efforts of late to woo business. Again the focus is on jobs but I have a habit of asking embarrassing questions on this front. Questions like--how many jobs will actually result from all his concessions? Several years ago several news stories appeared concerning local governments suing various companies to get back at least some of the money they had spent (or foregone in tax abatements) on luring companies to their areas on the promises of jobs. Jobs that had never materialized before the companies left taking all the benefits with them and leaving a budgetary hole for the government to fill. The underlying dynamic will not change whatever concessions are made on regulations and taxes--many of these companies are convinced that moving their operations overseas and shipping their products back to the workers they laid off is more profitable that producing here. The only way we can make it profitable enough for them is to match China's or India's wages. And the last I heard the average wage in China was one-tenth that of the U.S. Even if we reduced our standard of living to a third of the poverty line level, I am not sure that American Big Business would be hiring all that many workers. The U.S. market simply doesn't supply enough of their profits for them to bother accommodating it any more.

And, if you believe, that small business is going to step up and increase hiring any time soon in the numbers this economy needs to make a serious dent in the unemployment rate, check into Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds. I suspect that the only reason that the unemployment dropped to 9% (as of last reading) was that enough people ran out of benefits to create that miracle.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Good morning, everyone. The weather people noted earlier today that this winter marks the fourth consecutive winter with snow totals over 50 inches. That is a record. Our normal seasonal snow fall--about 25 inches. I, for one, am very tired of winter and really, really, really want spring. I am tired of seeing my garden containers covered in a minor mountain of snow. Oh, well, I can continue anticipating warmer weather. Several of the bloggers I check in with occasionally are already planting their seeds inside. I will start some of mine next weekend. The ground cherry first because it has a very long germination time--about 35 days according to the info I have found. Then around March 1 that will be followed by the tomatoes and peppers.

For something a bit different take a trip to Jasmine Tea and Jaozi for some pictures to the annual ice festival in Harbin, China.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Good morning, everyone. I didn't have much to say yesterday. The weather is what it has been and all we can do is adapt to it. Many areas are still digging out up here. The city had front loaders scooping up huge buckets full of snow and loading it into dump trucks. First time we have ever seen that in the ten years we have lived here. The blizzard (and its aftermath) and Egypt have dominated the news and it has reached the point where there is little that anyone can say that is really enlightening about either.

I did read an interesting post on John Mauldin's 'Outside the Box' weekly e-mail column on Egypt that reflected much of what is in the back of my mind. The author took the 1979 Iranian revolution as a starting point to consider the possibilities in Egypt. Neither our journalists nor our intelligence people (CIA) were well informed because neither group had many (if any) Farsi speakers. Their sources of information were, therefore, quite limited. The journalists dealt with liberal, western educated people who spoke English and seemed to share the western journalists' liberal values. The CIA dealt with the Shah's security forces (SAVAK) who had limited sources of intelligence themselves and were not willing to share much of it. Neither dealt with the masses of Iran who were not western educated, did not speak English, and were deeply religious. Everyone overestimated the strength of Iranian liberals and underestimated that of the Ayatollahs until the latter had taken over the revolution and established a fundamentalist Shi'ite state. I am glad to see that (at least among the journalists) we have a fair number of Arabic speakers getting their stories. But I also notice that most of the sound bites come from people who speak at least some English. And I have to wonder how much that colors the information we get. I am also extremely uneasy about the picture that is developing concerning our governmental relationship with Egypt's government. On the one hand, Mubarak has been seen as a staunch ally for the last 30 years. We have essentially turned, in public, a blink eye to rigged elections and other problems. Now, suddenly, we seem to be pressuring him to leave. Whoever takes over cannot be seen as kowtowing to the U.S. if they want to retain the confidence of their people and they also have to wonder when the U.S. will push them under the bus--however useful they have been in the past. I don't think the U.S. will gain much however this mess ends.

This HuffingtonPost piece I first saw yesterday (and reread today) also reflects some of the more subterranean thoughts in my mind. Subterranean because it is painful to dredge them up and consider them in daylight and some of the implications that come to mind are also disturbing. Once upon a time we were, justly, proud of the notion that we were a society of laws and not of men. That the law applied equally to all citizens no matter how much money or power they had. But now, it seems, some are more equal than others. We may, finally, be getting some prosecutions for the fraud that underlay the mortgage mess. But we aren't getting the story from our supposedly 'free' press which prefers to shine a spotlight on Lindsey Lohan's latest faux pas. Worse, our financial institutions respond to the fraud by trying to absolve themselves of any blame while holding the recipients of the loans totally responsible for them. And when they find that judges in foreclosure cases demand the paperwork (which the banks have failed to maintain properly) they ran to congress and almost got a law passed which would have, retroactively, washed the taint off of the robo-signed documents they wanted to use in lieu of a proper title chain. Only Obama's veto of that bill prevented that travesty. The old conclusion from Animal Farm needs to be updated a bit: "Some (corporate) citizens are more equal than others." And if you aren't a corporation, you are screwed. Question--are you really a citizen any more?

I had an interesting thought as I read this story from MSNBC. Is 'death by GPS' really any different from 'death by road map'? Before GPS many of us used to get a new Rand-McNally (or other) atlas every couple of years. That was how we navigated and it wasn't at all unusual to find detours and road closures along the way. I don't know how many people died because they followed the road map blindly into a dangerous situation. I guess the high tech angle makes it more 'newsworthy.'

Friday, February 4, 2011

Good morning to you all out there and hope you are staying warm and safe. We had nice bright sun yesterday though it didn't warm us up much-only got to about 15 degrees. Expecting the same today just a bit warmer. Before the blizzard I could see most of my garden containers but now only a small part of one is still visible. Most of my compost bin is also covered. I do wish spring would hurry up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Good morning, all. I don't know how much snow we finally got. I would guess a little over 20 inches. Now we have to dig out. It looks like our city's snow removal has been effective and we had no dramatic pile of motorists stranded for hours in the snow as we did in that big snow in December. I am sure the world knows all about the mess on Lake Shore Drive over the last two days. I am very annoyed with the local news coverage of that incident and I don't think the Chicago officials have anything to apologize for--unless a lack of prescience is now a personal fault. The way the reporters have behaved one would think they acted with a singular disregard for public safety by not closing a major north-south thoroughfare at the first hint of snow. I don't know what it is about journalism today but I it seems to me that it lacks any common sense of balance. It is too bad so many drivers got caught in the mess but their situation was simply bad luck and, perhaps, bad driving. But we are so used to taking our little mobile bubbles of comfort (a.k.a. cars) anywhere under any conditions and getting where we want or need to go without any fuss. We get pretty pissed off when nature puts a kink in the process. And then we have a 'news' media who has to blow any such situation into a major dramatic confrontation. If we want civility anywhere in this country, maybe we should start with our journalists.

Blizzard aftermath--update. Well, we have the car clear and a path to it. But that was some work. We made the mistake of laying down salt before the storm and the lower two layers was variously frozen slush. We decided that during the winter we are going to keep the gate open so we can move any snow out without having to throw it somewhere. Damn that was work. Mom saw the snow removal people drive past assessing what they have to do. From what we saw they have their work cut out.

Peter S. Goodman has a good post on the economy at HuffingtonPost this morning. He illustrates exactly why I don't believe the up-up-and-away stock market is any real indicator of the health (or lack of health) of my economy.

By now most people know that Cyclone Tasi hit northern Queensland, Australia. That area is a bit north of the areas that got flooded. What most people probably don't know (unless they are my kind of weird) is that the country is already into a hot summer. Half the country is baking and the other half is boiling.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good morning to you all. It is now 3:45 am. Normally we would still be asleep for another 2 hours. But around 2 a big front loader was clearing snow and the sound along with the reflection of the powerful flood lights off the snow and our very agitated cat woke us. Since we couldn't go back to sleep we got up and had coffee. We will probably nap during the news this afternoon. After all, that is what recliners are for, isn't it? We are in a bit of a lull right now but the backside of the storm hasn't hit yet. I can't tell what the wind is doing. Even the Guardian in the UK is covering this mess.

Don't worry, Lois. We aren't going to do anything outside until tomorrow at the earliest so we will be staying warm. Our temperatures are supposed to go into negative digits over night tonight and tomorrow with single digit day time highs. There are enough stupid people out there trying to get somewhere in this mess. We won't add to that stupidity.

Update--2:45 pm--so far the storm ranks number three on the all time worst list and may be closing in on the second spot. We had a bit of sun but the clouds came back in and we have had intermittent snow showers. The weatherpeople are now predicting a low temp tonight of -10. I don't think we'll be doing much snow removal tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Well, the predominant news story here is the coming snow storm. We had about an inch over night but the big storm is due to arrive this afternoon. All of our weather people are amazed at the numbers their models are projecting. One noted that he had never seen blizzard warnings and watches issued so far in advance of a storm, in fact before any snow fell at all. We are well situated and even if we had not made it to the grocery yesterday we would not have been more than inconvenienced. Our only real worry is the electricity. However, our area has rarely lost power and never for more than a few hours. The supermarket was crowded yesterday. They had almost every register going and customers stood 3 and 4 deep. We will see what happens.

You know the fiscal situation for states is bad when conservative 'lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key' politicians consider something else. That, according to this MSNBC story, is exactly what has been happening.

This little story makes me more than a little angry. Have government officials arrested the officials of this 'sham' university, subjected them to searches, or put radio transmitters on their ankles? I hope the Indian government raises holy hell with the State Department over this.

I have seen several stories on the decision by that Florida judge that the health care reform legislation is unconstitutional. I won't post any links because these stories are all over the web. I want to make two observations. First, why didn't the judge agree to an injunction if he is so sure the legislation is unconstitutional. He refused to go along with that. And, on the legal theory the opponents put forward that congress cannot legislate economic inaction--what poppy cock. Other forms of government can, in the legal exercise of their mandated actions, and have required drivers to purchase auto insurance (enforced with fines, jail time, and suspension of license) and to vaccinate children (enforced by refusing to enroll unvaccinated children in public schools). I am sure there are other actions in which citizens are required to engage in an economic activity by making some designated purchase. Why should the Federal government be restricted from such action? And the mere fact that the medical insurance industry is one of the largest in the country makes no difference at all.