Saturday, April 30, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Yesterday was a very nice day. We had sun and it was dry. Today is supposed to be the same and the week forecast is for more of the same. I worked with a couple of the containers yesterday. The soil is nice and workable. I left the first lettuce and the marigolds out overnight under the plastic tents. They are fine so the next transplants will be left out also. The Teddy Bear sunflowers, melons, and cucumbers are up. I am still waiting for the beans. I want to get the tomatoes in their final place over this weekend--after I get the last two tents up. Everything is looking good so far.

That tornado storm has now moved into second place on the list of deadliest outbreaks in U.S. history. Latest numbers range from 332 to 337 depending on which report you get. I had thought that it couldn't possibly reach the first ranked tornado outbreak (700+ deaths) until I read that more than 400 people are still missing--in Tuscaloosa alone.

This article from Market Watch surprised me. I have noticed that under the boosterism of most of the economic media there are undertones of unease and pessimism--but not often and not so outspoken.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Good morning to you all. We have sun early this morning for the first time in a long time. And the weather is supposed to be sunnier and drier over the next week. I was a bit worried about my tomato and pepper seedlings because the temperatures over night were forecast to range from the high to the low 30s. But they are all under the plastic tents and they look good so far. I think I will finally get to work the soil in the containers today and over the weekend. I have a number of seedlings that need to be transplanted.

I stopped by the local Menards yesterday just to see what they had. Not much of interest yet. Not surprising considering how cold this spring has been. I expect they will be fully stocked in about two weeks when the gardening season really takes off here. By then I will be in the market for plants to fill out what either hasn't thrived or that I didn't start myself.

Anyone who has read more than a few of my musings over the last couple of years knows I have become a confirmed skeptic on the value of most, maybe 99%, of higher education. Stories like this one confirms my evaluation of the whole scam that is not only college and university education but the way we finance it. I found that story by way of this one and the author makes several excellent points. I love his assessment that a well trained cat can pass most college courses today.

In a spring that has been marked by really weird weather following by an equally weird winter producing yet another 50+ inch snow season, here is a capper.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Good Thursday morning, everyone. We may get some sun today. The weather report last night said that we have had only 8 days without rain this month. Amazing. As much as I have complained about the weather this month I am very thankful that we don't live south of here. I have lived much nearer some of the areas that have been so hard hit. My grandparents once lived about 40 or so miles from Cairo, Illinois, which is now being evacuated because of flooding. I see some weak sun trying to break through the clouds.

Several days ago I noted reports of metal thefts. This story takes it to a new low.

I absolutely love stories that take apart the statistics upon which so much of the economic news is based. This one examines five government stats you can't trust. It is so nice to find out that your gut feeling that the books are being cooked is right on target.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Still wet and on the cool side. I think that when we get some dry time with or without sun) I will work up the covered beds. The tomatoes should be transplanted soon. The peppers have a bit more time before they are big enough. I almost lost one of my four Vietnamese multicolor peppers--it was a bit too cool overnight for the smallest one. Luckily a couple of days and nights inside revived it. I am thinking of keeping the plastic tents up over winter and seeing if a couple of the herbs I want will survive. I remember growing rosemary, oregano, sage, lavender, and a couple of others in raised beds when I lived in Colorado. They acted like perennials--much to the surprise of the people at the nursery where I bought them. I wonder if they will do the same in the containers here.

This MSNBC story rang a bell for me. Again, I wonder if I am simply a canary in the coal mine. About five years ago I yielded to the inevitable and filed for bankruptcy. That was after two years of struggle with spotty employment, reduced income thanks to low pay and cut hours, and banks that refused to work with me. I promised myself at that time I would never have a credit card again. Everything is paid by cash, debit card, or check and I watch the bank account very carefully. I was amazed at how many credit card offers I got after the bankruptcy and was so annoyed by them that I started shredding the applications and sending back to the offering company in their own postage paid envelopes. The one nice thing about the recent downturn is that the number of offers has declined by about 90%.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good morning on another rainy day. This weather is so frustrating. I wonder if we are on schedule for a record--most days in a row with rain? The weather people said it has now been nine days in sequence. I can't get the soil in the containers worked till it is dry enough for me to get out there. And I have seedlings that should be put in their proper spots. And I have a cat who is very unhappy that I can't make the rain stop so he can go outside.

Thank you for the birthday wishes, Lois and Kay. We don't whoop it up on any occasion any more. We simply acknowledge the day and go on. In spite of having all of our plans discombobulated it was a pleasant day.

We were supposed to go to Mom's doctor's appointment, go out to breakfast, pay our rent, and do our weekly grocery shopping. But we got in the car and---silence, no go, nothing. Thankfully, the battery simply died--suddenly and without warning. Mom had planned to replace it next week anyway when she was going to take the car in for its oil change and general spring maintenance. She has roadside assistance and they sent out a very nice fellow who jumped the battery so we simply moved up the work and added a new battery to the list. But she needs to make a new medical appointment and our breakfast out will be postponed to that date. I really hate it when the machinery we depend on fails us.

The sun peaked out and fooled me into putting the seedling trays out. Fortunately, I put them in the mini-greenhouse. Otherwise the short deluge would have clobbered them. Oh, well.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter, all. We had rain overnight but it is supposed to dry out and get up to about 60 with a few patches of sun. We hit 70 on our little patio yesterday and I decided to leave the peppers and tomatoes out under the plastic. I just checked up on them and they seem quite happy. I pulled out the seeds to decide on which plants to start (or restart) next. I will do that a bit later. I have a bunch of seedlings that need to be transplanted. I had hoped that they would go straight into the large containers but the weather isn't cooperating.

The news has been carrying the gas price story almost daily. But it all sounds so much like the last spike a couple of years ago. And I doubt that anything will or can be done at the governmental level. The only thing that would bring prices down will be what so many of the economic talking heads have called 'demand destruction,' people simply stop buying as much. We will get a look at the prices tomorrow when we go out for Mom's yearly physical.

I finished transplanting the marigolds and the petite rouge lettuce a bit ago. After a break I will get some more seedlings started. Enjoy your Easter, everyone.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good morning, Everyone. Still cool and wet here. We keep hoping for sun and dry but nature isn't cooperating.

The news has made a great deal of President Obama's new task force to investigate the rising gas and oil prices. He made all of the expected comments condemning 'speculators' taking 'unfair' advantage of consumers. All of the news stories cite the same causes for the rapid rise: unrest in the major oil producing areas and rising demand from developing countries (especially China and India.) This CNBC story (found on Chris Martenson's Blog) brings in another probable culprit that has been totally ignored to date--the weakening dollar. I think it is interesting that some experts are predicting $6.00/gal gas before the end of the summer. Are they preparing the public for bad news? And there is this story from Zero Hedge which cannot be good news for our oil/gas prices.

Most of us were probably cynical and skeptical about the Iraq war and this story from the Independent indicates we were probably right to be so. If the concern was really weapons of mass destruction why were the US and UK governments giving away rights to Iraqi oil? This leads me to conclude that the whole operation was 'home invasion' on a massive scale.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Good Friday morning to all. It is gray and wet--again. My seedlings did get some sun under the plastic yesterday. They will stay inside today. Starting tomorrow, when we should be seeing some sun again, they will stay outside overnight. None of the overnight temps are supposed to stay above 40 degrees. Some of them need to be transplanted into their permanent homes with my milk jug hot caps protecting them.

I hadn't heard about copper and converter thefts in Colorado, Lois. We had a spate of copper thefts that made the news here about a year ago that included the electrocution of a couple of not-so-bright boys who tried to cut live wires. And I would believe the crap that has been thrown at teachers over the last decade or more. Schools have been in a perpetual state of crisis for at least that long. The politicians have only two suggestions for the 'problems'--throw more money at the situation or micromanage while cutting the budget. I used the quotation marks because I wonder whether the problems are really problems or just political talking points for politicians seeking some advantage. And I wonder what our society really expects our education system to accomplish and whether the system can really accomplish those ends.

So our political Pollyannas are extolling the economic recovery with every fiber of their being. Charles Hugh Smith has a few pertinent observations on often unacknowledged facets the boosters would rather ignore.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good morning to you. I hope the clouds move out. If we get sun and temps in the 50s, which the weather people say we will, I can put the seedlings out under the plastic. Bur right now I see frost on the rooftops and the thermometer on the patio reads 32.

I saw several stories yesterday about the new regulations put on the airline industry touted as a "passengers' bill of rights." Several of the people interviewed had the same response: "it's about time!" As usual I had a somewhat contrary thought. Answer me this question: "what does it say about the state of American business when the Federal government has to force an industry to treat its customers decently?" We have come a very far distance from the notion that good business involved good customer service. We still give the idea lip service. A large part of the proposed regulation on the mortgage industry is much the same. It says something pretty depressing when the government has to promulgate regulations requiring the business to obey the law and treat customers with respect and decency.

When we went shopping on Monday we drove past our favorite little gas station and were very glad we didn't need to fill up. It was packed. We didn't have to look far for the reason. The posted price was $3.92 which was $.22 lower than the other stations in the area. Normally the prices varied only by a penny or two. And that $3.92 was $.25 more than it had been the week before. Some stations in Chicago are charging $4.50+.

Here is another entry in the 'contracts don't mean anything any more' file. I can see the move to assign a PE teacher to 2 schools (depending on how many students are in the school). But to insist that teachers essentially work for free for 5 days during what is left of the school year and to count three snow days as furlough days already paid for requiring the teachers to refund that money to the school board is worse than cruel. And then for a school board member to remark that 'at least they still have a job' is beyond cruel. I am sure the teachers had a contract but no one takes contracts seriously. Just take a look at how seriously the new Superintendent of the Chicago school system took his contract with his current school system just signed in February. He seems to think that just because he didn't go looking for the new opportunity he should be able to skip out on his contract. Would you expect much 'good faith' if you were negotiating with this opportunist?

Two stories in sequence on Chris Martenson's Blog caught my eye. The first involved the dramatic increase in copper thefts in a Georgia town. The second concerned the arrest of two suspects who are charged with stealing catalytic converters in a California. Little wonder given the dramatic increase in metals and other commodities recently.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Good morning, everyone. I am so ready for some warmer weather but, according to the forecasts, I have to wait a while. All of my tomato and pepper seedlings are doing very well. I would love to put them outside but I don't see the point when we don't have the sun. The temps are not much of a problem because it is much warmer under the plastic. I am planning what to start next weekend. The poppies didn't sprout so they are on the list along with the beans, mellon, cucumbers, and sunflowers. Right now, the forecasts show sun and 60s for next weekend.
Well, here it is, Wednesday now. Not much worthy of comment from yesterday. I had to get a couple of books back to the library and do a couple of other errands which cut down on my blog and news reading time. We had quite a light and sound show last night with a lot of lightning and thunder. The rain was fairly heavy also. So far the mini-greenhouse and the tents have been very stable. All were in place this morning in spite of the strong winds. Thankfully, the fence does provide a lot of protection. Next Monday and Tuesday we are supposed to get sun and temps in the 70s. I hope so!! (Update: just looked over my seedling tray and got a very pleasant surprise. Five of my poppy starts have broken the surface! I won't have to start any new ones this coming weekend.

The news has covered the McDonald's hiring blitz heavily. I had a couple of other descriptions because I really am sick of the whole thing. I guess 50k jobs is good news for an economy that has lost so many and will be losing even more as various governments try to deal with their economic realities. In Chicago the process had some hitches that caused some bad feelings. Several locations stopped taking applications before many people got to submit theirs. And then called the police to eject both the frustrated job seekers and the press covering the story. I also noticed that the company is trying very hard to break the burger-flipping image of their McJobs. As usual, they concentrate on the people who started as crew and are now owners of their own franchises. Nice, with Walmart the people that ensure the profits are under compensated. I noticed that the pay the local reporter cited for managers and assistant managers was not much more than my late, ex-husband made as an assistant manager of a sporting goods store 30 years ago. And then I read this in Huffington Post--is it any wonder I really don't think much of our economic system?

Another story I have followed with a bit of skeptical amusement is the S&P/U.S. credit rating story. Monday, as you may remember, Standard and Poor's affirmed the AAA rating but downgraded their outlook on the U.S. from stable to negative. Some of the talking heads emphasized the affirmation while dismissing the downgrade. Most simply say they see no way the U.S. would default and dismiss any disapproval from the international credit markets because 'they have no other safe investment avenues.' I take those comments with a grain of salt--there is always a way and other safe investments can always be found. Other pundits consider the S&P move a 'wake up call' for our politicians that they had better get off their butts and do something about the debt (specifically, raise the debt ceiling and then get busy reducing it). Most of these 'experts' think both of these will happen because nobody wants the consequences of failing to address the 'debt problem.' Well, we have a bunch of ideologues in Congress and they might just decide that default would be the better route--no matter who gets hurt. This Huffington Post story simply strengthens my skepticism as does this piece from Robert Reich. However, S&P made another argument that hasn't shown up in the mainstream arguments on this matter presented here. This one, I think, has more teeth to it. We still have a financial system dominated by 'too big to fail' institutions. We still have a mortgage mess that is no where near resolved and won't be for a long time. The math here is frightening. And Yves Smith at Naked Capitalist picked up on this story and has a couple of other good points on the matter.

Chris Martenson has another dismal assessment of the status of the U.S. economy and its prospects.

Chris Martenson also has a piece which ties into the tax piece I had yesterday, Lois. The charge that almost 50% of taxpayers actually pay no taxes isn't exactly a lie--it depends on which taxes one is talking about. Most non-income taxes are regressive and the lower income brackets pay more of those than the rich. On Federal income taxes, it is possible for a wage earner to earn too little to have taxes assessed. I have done that twice--thanks to very low income and qualifying for the earned income tax credit. What really burns me is how someone like John Paulson makes multi-billions but pays no income tax because he is a hedge fund manager who can leave the profits in the fund indefinitely deferring the taxes. The article is a bit long but it is very informative.

I am sure this will be appealed but it is nice to see a successful prosecution of someone in the mortgage fraud mess. I wonder if any of my favorite financial bloggers have comments on the case.

I think this story can be filed under the 'unintended consequences of advanced technology' file.

Here is a container gardener who thinks like I do. I think she has a more extensive garden but we handle the slugs the same way. Last year I bought an 18 pack of Sam Adams Summer Ale for me and the cheap stuff (I won't name the brand) for the slugs. Worked like a charm.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Good morning, everyone. It is a gray and wet Saturday. And the temps are supposed to fall through the day. The weather person on the morning news said we are lucky because the rain is supposed to end before evening--otherwise we might have had snow. They also said that the temps are more in line with March not April. We wondered if anyone remembered what April once felt like--it seems like a long time since we had a 'normal' weather pattern.
Good morning, again, and it is now Sunday. As you can see I didn't have much to say yesterday This cold and wet pattern is supposed to stay around through the week. I had hoped for some dry and sunny weather so I could get out and work the containers. I was glad to see that the tents on the containers were still intact. That wind last night had me worried. Of course, I am counting my blessings considering the wicked weather the south has had. I need to update my computer records for the seed starting so I can start reassessing my procedures.
Good Monday morning, to you all. Let's see if there is anything out there I want to comment on. Actually a pair of stories peaked my interest this morning. A major theme for the last week has been the tax deadline (today.) This morning the news readers noted that half of all families in the U.S. pay no taxes. Of course, the readers provided no details--like why so many had no taxes due. Did they make too little to have a taxable income after their deductions? How many lived on non-taxable or minimally taxable income? In either case what does that say about our economic system that so many people have so little income they have no tax burden? And then there is this piece from Huffington Post. The author doesn't break down the information to answer the two questions I asked above about those who have no tax burden. However, it seems the wealthiest, who have a nominal tax rate of 35%, will actually pay only, on average, 17%. This is for individuals only--nothing about the largest American companies that pay no taxes at all. I think a tax code over haul is in order that both reduces the nominal tax rates and the number of exemptions, credits and so on. There is something incredibly dishonest about a system in which high end taxpayers bleat about how unfair their tax rate is while they are actually paying half of that.

I guess the story on taxes really depends on the figures you want to cherry-pick to make your point as this story from MSNBC shows. One of my favorite lines from film was the one in Category 7 where the Secretary of Energy tells the news media that the U.S. was a 'first world country with a third world energy system.' It seems to me that we are trying to fund a first world country with a third world tax system. How long will that continue?

I am sure most of us have seen that cute E*Trade baby. The Reformed Broker has this spoof that is absolutely hilarious. Enjoy!!

Yahoo! News asks a pertinent question considering the scathing Senate report about the quagmire that was (is?) Goldman Sachs: will anyone going to jail? The consensus seems to be: no! No new information, no appetite on the part of the Justice Department, and it would be hard to prosecute on the basis of Goldman executives' vague answers to the Senators' "fuzzy and tactless" questions.

This story from November 2009 explains the context of this story found by way of Chris Martensen's Blog. The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that a law suit against JP Morgan and several local Alabama firms and elected individuals may proceed. The law suit contends bribery, under the table (illegal) payments, and other criminality. The really sad thing is that this case has been dragging on for more than two years.

Chris In Paris posted this comment this morning. But then this pattern has been seen often in the past. Red states in general claim more of the Federal largess while the blue states pay more. Guess who would get hurt most by austerity?

I have been watching the latest fiscal soap opera on CNBC--the S&P continued the US credit rating at AAA while shifting it from stable to negative. At the moment the DOW is down almost 220 pts. Jesse's Cafe Americaine has a point: this is the same credit rating agency whose services were for sale during the financial crash and who, to earn their money, created fictional AAA ratings on those credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities that tanked so spectacularly. Who do you trust?

Tosh McIntosh has a good post this morning that does hit home. The main problem though is that to many of us voters like our scoundrel while damning their scoundrels. And our scoundrels get re-elected by voting for what ever Federal benefits they can bring home.

Job Jones posted this one. No comment needed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Good morning to you all. We are supposed to get some high winds today but, thankfully, won't (they say) get snow. I won't put the seedlings or the starting tray out. It looks like the clouds are already moving in so they wouldn't get much more sun outside than in. I stuck my spade into the soil of a couple of the containers and it should be workable soon. It is still a bit wet.

I agree with you, Rain. We have to worry not only about the people elected and who they think they are representing but also about the electorate, itself. I have just started Martin Davidson's The Perfect Nazi and what he writes about Germany between the world wars, when the Nazi party rose to power, have some eerie echoes in our present situation. Hitler was not at all out of sync with 'ordinary' Germans. In fact, in many significant ways he mirrored them perfectly. The question for us is how much do our public figures reflect the worst of our natures? And given the superficial and sensation seeking news media, how can we know? What I do know is that I see very little in our financial and political leaders that reflect my beliefs and values. You mentioned our current status as mercenary to the world and Donald Trump's grasping thieving greed. I can only agree.

More tidbits from that Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on the housing collapse. I wish we had a Hercules to clean out this Stygian stable but I don't see that anywhere. I just had an interesting thought, though--the finance industry is only one stall in our Stygian stable society. For the last week I have seen a teaser for a piece of investigative journalism concerning tax cheating. The reporter claims that 10% of Americans see nothing wrong with cheating on their taxes. Over the last 20 years I have read or listened to reports of rampant cheating on college campuses. One story claimed that as many as 25+% of college students cheated. Hardly a week goes by when the news media does not carry another story about a scam making the rounds, often for the umpteenth time. I don't think we have become a nation of grifters but what proportion of grifters do we need in our population to pervert our economy and society?

In another chapter in the Huffington Post coverage of the report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the report also lambastes the credit reporting agencies for acquiescing to the banks demands for better ratings on its 'fantasy investments' (my description) and then suddenly downgrading those investments creating a panic. This, to my mind, is just another stall in our stinking financial stable. It was a fraud. First the inflated ratings made it appear that the banks investments were more solid than they were and that the banks were, therefore, more solvent than they were. It undermines the notion that investors, or their agents, can find accurate information on which to base their decisions. We are supposed to be informed consumers of all things but who do you trust to provide true information?

MSNBC carried this NY Times story. It amazes me how spectacularly elaborate or inventive criminals can be. And this MSNBC story simply reinforces that conclusion.

Robert Reich has an interesting blog this morning that sparked a bit of discussion here. His first point is particularly on point: ten and twelve year budgets (as proposed by Paul Ryan and President Obama respectively) are nonsensical. And for a reason which he did not mention. A couple of bloggers commented on recent poll results which showed Americans are incredibly disenchanted with the Republicans, the Democrats, and the Tea Party in almost equal measure. The results, if they really reflect the mood of the electorate and if that mood remains as strong or even strengthens, indicate a very real possibility of the control of Congress shifting back to Democrats. That means that any budget agreed to in October may be undone by a new Congress in January. Under our current situation the longest time for which a budget could be almost guaranteed would be two years. If it were enacted in January following an election year for the period expiring in the January following the next election cycle. (And note that the fiscal year goes from October to October not January to January.) To see this in action, take a look at the Health Care Reform Act passed last year but threatened by a new Congress ideologically committed to either repealing it out right or to defunding it if an honest repeal isn't possible. But the Act itself isn't going to be fully implemented until 2014 (if it survives that long.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Good morning, Everyone.

I heard the initial news coverage of this story last night. I got a bit of a giggle because the Senate tore Goldman Sachs and the entire finance industry a new one. Finally. My only question is--why are so many former Goldman executives now working for the Obama Administration? The problem, of course, will be moving from the findings of the committee to enforceable regulation of the finance industry. Look at how Dodd-Frank was, and is, being watered down.

I did watch most of President Obama's address yesterday. Nice statement of values but he didn't make a strong enough contrast between his 'vision' of American and the Repthuglican's. He provided very few specifics. And, given how the last few 'negotiations' with the Repthuglican opposition went, I have no great confidence that he will stick up for any of his so-called values. Maha, at Mahablog, reflects my concerns when she cites Krugman's sentiment: what Obama laid out is great if that is the end result. It won't be if the end is somewhere halfway between the principles Mr. Obama outlined and Paul Ryan's budget proposal. If that is the final case, it will simply be a question of who gets most royally screwed.

In the late 1930s, the Federal government initiated a number of programs that encouraged farmers to implement conservation practices to rebuild soils damaged by the Dust Bowl. This story from Huffington Post tells us that those old practices have fallen out of favor. Not compatible, I guess, with industrial farming. NY Times has taken note of this story as well. This is one reason why I don't believe we really learn from history. Three generations later we are committing all the same mistakes again. What's that definition of insanity? Oh, yeah, doing the same things over and over expecting a different result.

This make a lot of sense to me. All that kept the largest U.S. banks, which played a very large role in the financial collapse, from going totally toes up were large Federal bailouts and the continued promise that they would get further help if anything went south. The only difference between them and Fannie and Freddie is honesty.

I read this story to Mom and she said, 'They wouldn't do that. They are all honorable men.' (wink, wink) I replied, 'There is no honor among thieves.' (sarcasm alert)

I agree, Lois. I, also, love my country but hate the pandering politicians running it. You are right on the 'crap' spewing from the Fukushima plant. The 'favorable' wind for the Japanese does blow our way. The only thing we can be thankful for is there is a lot of ocean between us and them, and not buy pacific salmon (or other fish like the macerated pollack McFish sandwiches) for the next couple of years. So far the radiation from Fukushima is detectable but not at dangerous levels. But we should watch the situation closely and not trust the authorities all that much to look out for our well-being. Michael Klare, who has written some interesting work on the oil industry, has an interesting article at TomDispatch this morning. Tom Englehardt's comment about how concealing descriptive language can be is right on and think of how many times it is used in other contexts I have read McKibben's book, Eaarth, and found it very interesting. I don't know that Klare's vision of Eaarth as an avenging entity punishing man for his hubristic depredations is all that different but it makes equally good reading.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good morning, everyone. We had a very nice, if cool, day yesterday. But the mini-greenhouse and the tents are working very nicely. After nearly cooking my seed tray on our 80 degree day I have figured out how to keep the temp in the greenhouse in a more tolerable range and the seedlings seem to like it. The peppers, tomatoes, and bay tree have done very nicely under the tents. We got a hose reel and I managed to put it together. It is doing fairly well but I have to take our hose off and check the o-ring because I had a leak there. As soon as we do that it should work nicely. We could have purchased an already put together reel and saved some frustration, but we saved $15. After I rested a bit, I decided the bother was worth the savings.

Jan Schakowsky has proposed increasing the marginal tax rates on the wealthy. Go, Jan!!! Wish I could vote for her but I don't live in her district (or state).

As the old saying goes "The more things change the more they stay the same."

I guess all that talk about transparency is just talk. I am so glad I have a small local bank that has no ambitions to play with the big boys. They tell us that we, as consumers, have a duty to be informed but they have no reciprocal duty to inform us, even when we ask.

Job Jones has an on point post this morning. How screwed up can this country get? I have a nasty feeling that over the next two years we will find out. This item, also by Job Jones, is wonderful. I love the term retromingent as applied to our unfriendly neighborhood Repthuglicans.

Christina at Whats New In My Kitchen has an interesting story. The eldest of my two brothers and I both had allergies as kids. We both outgrew them. But Mom and I have often wondered while listening to various stories of kids trying to cope with food allergies what the hell is going on. Over the last couple of days the local news carried the story detailing how all the kids and teachers who share the class room with one child with a severe peanut allergy have to wash their hands and rinse their mouths before entering. And, as Christina says, our food world is dominated by highly processed foods that incorporate incomprehensibly processed parts of other foods. Product X doesn't have whole milk but does have 'milk solids' or 'milk proteins.' Product Y doesn't have peanuts but was prepared with peanut oil. Recently the salmon industry lobbied for the right to market GMO Atlantic salmon without noting that it was a genetically modified fish. How many canaries are there in this coal mine?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Good morning, all. Sunny this morning but colder. But if the temp reaches 60 I will put the plants out under the tents. I am still not comfortable with leaving them out even with cover.

So, the Fukushima site now is a level 7 disaster. Chernobyl is still considered the worst because of the area affected. One talking head this morning said that the Japanese are lucky because the wind has been, for the most part, blowing out over the ocean and not across land. I still find it amazing that we are absolutely unwilling to tolerate any level of risk of terrorism but are quite willing to risk a greater risk of nuclear disaster to achieve an ephemeral reduction in our dependance on foreign oil.

And 'Happy Times Are Here Again'. At least from some. Unfortunately, not for those on whom the profits of these companies really depend--their ordinary workers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Good Monday morning to all. We did get into the 80s yesterday. I put the newly seeded tray in the mini-greenhouse and nearly cooked it. I didn't expect the temp under that plastic. The containers didn't get that hot. I think tomorrow, when it is supposed to be dry and sunny, I will shift its position to where it will get morning sun and afternoon shade. If we get sun later today I will put all of the seedlings out under the tents. I don't trust the night time lows so I will bring them in at night.

This story (thanks to Chris Martenson's Blog for the link) is fascinating. UK and Dutch private investors put money into Icelandic banks. Icelandic banks went belly up because of irresponsible practices. The UK government made good those losses to the tune of 2.3b pounds and demanded that Iceland (with a population of about 320k) reimburse them. The measure has been rejected twice by voters and now the UK is threatening to take the Icelandic government to court. This whole thing is a crock (you can guess of what). These were private investors in a one country who invested in a private bank in another. Just because the investors' government decided to make them whole I see no reason why that government should unilaterally demand repayment. But then, we here in the US, have too-big-to-fail private banks that have been bailed out of their irresponsible, private decisions by our government at taxpayers expense. And they have become even bigger in the process. I don't think its better to be raped by your own government than a foreign one. Either way, the costs of private folly have now been transferred to the public and the private actors are free to be stupid again expecting to be bailed out when their stupidity again catches up with them. Additional note, this story quotes a British minister who claims that the rejected deal was 'negotiated.' However, if the matter had to be put to a vote of the Icelandic electorate how can the negotiations have resulted in a binding agreement if the vote is negative?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Good morning to you all. We should have 80s today with plenty of sun before a storm front moves in. How severe our weather will be depends on how far north the front goes. I don't mind the rain but I really don't want the thunder, lightning, high winds. I put most of my seedlings out under the tents yesterday and plan to do the same today. They appeared to like that. The tents are warming the containers nicely. I may be able to transplant all of the seedlings into the beds by later this month. I got my lettuce, spinach, poppy, lemon balm, love-in-a-mist started and marigold and started some seeds to replace what didn't germinate in the last batch. Today I want to fill some of my pots--not to plant yet but to put on my trash tote to keep the monster cat from trying to explore over the fence. I may just move it to were a couple of containers are now and move the containers into the trash tote place. We put it where it is only to make it easier to get to during the winter--which was a good move given how much snow we got this year.

MSNBC has this NY Times story this morning which doesn't foster peace of mind when considering the Japanese nuclear industry. I wonder how widespread these labor practices are world wide.

Anybody else out there getting really tired of the 'birther' assholery? According to the Constitution, it doesn't matter where Obama was born and it doesn't matter that his father was Kenyan. His mother was an American citizen. That makes him a natural born American citizen. And that is all that is required. I wish the news media would make that point and then refuse to cover any further birther nonsense.

Teagan Goddard's Political Wire has a short but revealing perspective on the budget compromise: during the 8 days our 'leaders' fought over the budget that cut a shade over $38 billion the debt increased by a shade over $54 billion.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Cloudy here with a bit of very light fog. We are supposed to get somewhere in the mid 60s to low 70s and sunshine. If so I will put all of the transplanted seedlings outside for some sun. I also have a pile of seed packets to be either started or restarted.

So, we have a budget agreement--or so they say. I won't consider it done till it is finally voted on and signed. This mess reminds me of a quip from the Soviet era. Soviet workers supposedly said 'The pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.' I would change it only slightly. We pay our legislators to work for us and they pretend to work for us.'

At the beginning of the last century, President Theodore Roosevelt called the Presidency a 'bully pulpit.' And he used it effectively to get measures like a Pure Food and Drug Act and a Meat Inspection Act, and other progressive measures. His cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt vigorously used the platform the Presidency provided to vigorously attack the effects of the Great Depression. President Obama, it seems, thinks of his office as as much more passive and behind the scenes. This NPR story gives a good description. I am not so sure this is leadership.

I love this commentary found on Crooks and Liars.

Robert Reich has an excellent assessment of the whole mess in our government: government by bullies. And no bullies are more vicious than those who think they have god on their side.

Then there is this commentary from Job Jones at andthisourlife. His take on the miraculous discovery of 14k votes for the Repthuglican candidate for Supreme Court Justice is also right on target.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Good morning to you all on this Friday of the first full week of April. Can you believe that? This year is already one-quarter over and only three weeks away from being one-third gone. It is chilly and wet this morning. I won't complain--not when I read of large areas suffering from heat waves, floods or continuing drought. Temperatures are projected to be 75 and 80 over the weekend and in the high 50s to low 60s over next week. I plan to put my seedlings outside under the plastic for some time. They should like that.

I thought it was interesting that one of the 'how to' pieces on my Google start page tells how to relax during a week off work at the same time the headline sections trumpet no deal on the Federal budget that threatens to provide large numbers of Federal employees with an unplanned vacation.

If this were Illinois, everyone would be terribly suspicious. Given the history of this Wisconsin County Clerk, I think suspicion is warranted. Evidently you don't need to follow the old Chicago maxim ('vote early and vote often') if you have a 'fat-fingered' county clerk. Evidently I am not the only skeptic on this matter. Crooks and Liars has this from Susie Madrak and this by karoli.

Charles Hugh Smith has an interesting continuation of posts on 'The Devolution of the Consumer.' For some years I have asked what would happen to a 'consumer' economy when the consumer couldn't consume at the accustomed level. Well, the economy over the last 30 years provided a bandaid for the problem: easy credit. While wages (adjusted for inflation) have stagnated and consumption has been sustained and expanded by home equity loans, credit card offers left, right and center, and the shift to 'liar' loans in real estate. Added to that has been the decoupling of consumption from payment. The medical industry (including pharma) provided the goods, the individual customer consumed the goods, and some form of insurance paid the bill. A university or college or trade school provided some form of education, an individual customer consumed the education, and some other entity (the Federal government directly or private banks guaranteed by the Federal government). In both cases the a large number end consumers isn't responsible for evaluating the service and determining whether they are worth the cost. And in both cases, it is very difficult for the individual consumer to judge accurately whether the benefits are worth the costs. Now the easy credit is gone, employers are pushing more of the costs of health insurance off onto the employee (if they provide it at all) and more individuals find they cant afford the cost on their own, and the role of the Federal government (or any government) as a guarantor of benefits is increasingly under attack. The question I asked in the beginning may finally be answered when the three-legged stool (provider, consumer, payer) topples.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Good morning, everyone. We had some sprinkles of rain yesterday but it cleared out and we had sun later in the afternoon. Right now all I see outside is fog. I managed to reach some of the containers I wanted to transplant the tomatoes and peppers. They are getting way too big for the little starter trays. I will do that later. Kuma got outside yesterday and promptly explored the top of the garbage tote and the top of the fence. Last summer I kept some of the medium pots on top until I had to open it or take it out to the curb. I will have to find those pots and put them out again.

Yesterday, for the third time in the last couple of weeks, I was so disgusted with the news that I put something else on. Of course, the major story concerned the possible (likely?) shut down of the Federal government but, as usual, all we got were dueling soundbites and inane commentary. The evening news wasn't much better. I was really irritated by the story about the effects which focused on military families. I do sympathize with people who are going to be devastated by an interruption in their income thanks to the bastards in Washington. I really do; but I wondered, given those were military families, who they voted for last November. I also wondered that with a couple of the civilians interviewed. If they voted for Tea Party or far right Repthuglicans, what did they think would happen? But I resent the fact that the Senators and Representatives, and the President will all get their pay uninterrupted while military personnel won't. I just love the story this morning which referred to the one-week continuing resolution bill proposed by the Repthuglicans. It would fund the Defense Department through the rest of the fiscal year and they are calling it a bill to secure military pay. They also want to cut 3 times the amount out of the budget that was done over the last several continuing resolutions and put in all of the policy points from the hard right. Don't you all just love blackmail? I just had a perverse thought--how many of the far right and Tea Party candidates actually ran on doing just what they are doing? One of the charges in disputes in Indiana and Wisconsin was that the candidates never campaigned on the issues they pursued, or soft soaped their positions. Not only do we have blackmail but we also have duplicity at a very basic level.

I found this AP story first thing and, as the contrary person I am, had a very contrary thought: whether a technology is 'green' or not depends very much on your definition of 'green.' Nuclear is 'green' only if you consider carbon emissions. Isn't it wonderful that the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant didn't emit any CO2? But what about the radioactive emissions? And how do you balance the 40 years of no carbon pollution against the unknown length of time the radiation will hang around?

I thought this was interesting. The first wave of a mountain of debris from the tsunami will wash up on Hawaii's shores later this year. And yes, I did say 'first' wave. Over the next few years some of the debris will go on to the west coast of the U.S. before bouncing back to Hawaii in about five years. What is left will wind up in that great Pacific garbage patch to decay over the next decades.

You are right, Kay. Those of us in the lower 90% of the economic ranking are s$#t-out-of-luck. The only thing we can do is try to figure out how to survive on what we are getting. I read a good deal in self-sufficiency or urban homesteading or other blogs that focus on the notions of using what you have effectively, reusing or repurposing what you have, and doing without the non-necessities you can't afford to pay cash for. Like you, I depend on my Social Security. And, since I am too young for Medicare and can't afford health insurance, I have to hope I don't develop a serious illness that breaks my budget. I wish I didn't have to depend on Social Security but two years of a fruitless job search during which I was denied unemployment have left me very sour on the job market. Worse for my psychological outlook was the realization that nearly all of the numerous jobs I applied for would pay for even a modest lifestyle. Too few hours (most were part-time) with too little pay per hour (minimum wage is not a living wage.) Telling me that I can either cut back my spending or find additional work doesn't cut much ice with me. Over the last six years (when my paid employment became far more chancy) we cut our food costs by half (even with the increase in food prices over the last couple of years). We count ourselves lucky that our landlords have not raised our rent in the 11 years we have been here for our two-bedroom townhouse. We combine our shopping errands so that we limit our driving and right now we spend between $35 and $45 per month on gas. We eliminated one car. And at two points in the last decade I had two jobs (at one point three) simultaneously. I bought a bit of financial ease with a nasty tole on my emotional and physical health. I don't have the stamina to do that again. I don't resent the upper 20% having plenty but I do resent the fact that too many of us in the lower 80% have too little.

Update--the fog has burned off and I have transplanted all of my peppers and tomatoes into larger containers--not outside. I noticed a couple of the peppers and tomatoes are a bit weak. If they don't make it I will buy seedlings locally.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Good morning, all. The skies cleared up pretty much yesterday and we had sun--nice bright sun.
We didn't get any of the rain the weather people had predicted. So far, the skies are cloudy but what will happen later--who knows. It looks like tomorrow will have worse weather so I will go to the library and do my usual errands today.

Burning Platform has a nice (though long) post this morning I found via Chris Martenson's Blog. Everyone was so ecstatic last Friday over the 210+k jobs created the last week. Well, the Democratic politicians and the economic talking heads were ecstatic. Me--I am as skeptical about the economic statistics as I am about reports of scientific/medical news. How good the news is depends on which stats you want to look at and whose arguments you want to believe. By the way, Kevin Phillips (who is quoted in this article) has been rather prescient for the last 25 years in his various books. I have American Theocracy and have read it a couple of times. I also have his Boiling Point which I cringed as I read. All of the trends he saw 15 years ago destroying the middle class have only accelerated in the intervening time.

Thanks, Lois. Mom's appointment went very well. All the tests results were right where they should be. She is in the same boat you are in, Kay. She has a couple of conditions that require careful medical supervision and her medication must be carefully monitored. And we find ourselves in an interesting situation because the 'conventional' wisdom--going the cheapest route with generic forms of her medicine--simply won't do. Her endocrinologist, the doctor she saw yesterday, told her that the generics give false readings on the tests which led her previous doctor to over prescribe. But, and this is the point of being a 'medical minimalist,' she questioned the reasons for the doctor's refusal to allow the generic substitution. She got a satisfactory explanation. My sister-in-law, the one mistakenly treated for lupus, fought with her doctor and actually had to switch to another before she could get the tests that revealed the mistake. The point is to ask questions and keep asking if we aren't satisfied with the answers.

On the candle thing, Kay. I don't do anything fancy. I got into it because I simply hated the waste of burning a candle and finding a large amount of wax left over. So I started keeping the remains and melting them down for new candles. I do have a couple of candle molds--simple geometric shapes--but I don't use them and probably won't in the future. I much prefer jar candles. I have taken to braiding my own wicks because I haven't been overly happy with the ones I have found at Michaels. The biggest tricks to this are to secure the wick to the bottom of the jar and to have the patience to fill slowly in small amounts that cool before adding more to make sure you get the jar filled properly. I recently found a specially formulated adhesive to attach wick anchors to the bottom and will try a couple out next time.

Mark Morford has a blog that supports your position, Kay. Obama looks good compared to the idiots so far appearing in the Repthuglican fold. I think my major problem with the political situation today is the level of sanctimonious crap being spewed, especially from the right but also a few on the left. Unfortunately, that crap is answered from what is left of the middle with the notion of 'compromise.' I was struck by a thought that has often occurred as I listened to the President and Speaker Boehner talking to the press yesterday after the White House meeting came up empty that there is no real compromise possible in this debate. Obama said that the Damnocrats had agreed to a dollar amount of cuts above what the other side had demanded but now the argument has shifted to what should be cut. And what the so-called deficit hawks want cut are all of the programs that most benefit people in the lower half of the economic scale. We take the pain while they get the sanctimonious satisfaction. And in the end, whatever 'deal' comes out will be twisted to fit the notion of 'compromise.' Excuse me while I throw up. Morford noted the accomplishments of the Obama Administration. Yes, there have been accomplishments but, to my mind, all of those accomplishments have given more to the big banks, big pharma, big oil, and the upper 1% than to the rest of us. We bailed out the biggest banks and those banks are now deeply embroiled in the fraud of the foreclosure mess. We passed health care reform but the biggest advantage has gone to the health insurance industry. Workers got a 2.5% holiday on the social security withholding tax for one year and a continuation of the extended unemployment (without doing anything for the increasing numbers of 99ers) while extending the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy for two years.

Teagan Goddard's Political Wire has this on Paul Ryan's budget proposal released to great fanfare yesterday (while the White House meeting was tanking). Isn't it wonderful what you can do with optimistic assumptions?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Good morning, everyone. It looks like we may get some sun today--at least between lines of showers. I was actually able to get my little spade in the soil yesterday. I rather thought that the containers had thawed out after looking at the amount of water draining out the bottom. I think I will be able to get the hose hooked up because the night time temps aren't supposed to go below 30. I won't be doing much with plants until thursday because we have Mom's doctor appointment this morning which we are combining with our grocery shopping. Tomorrow, as the best of the next couple of days, I plan to do my library run. Sometime this week I also want to get some candles poured. I spent some time yesterday melting and draining left over wax and getting the candle glasses cleaned up. I am slowly getting rid of the small ones which will go to Goodwill as soon as I finish them up.

I like your picture, Lois. I can relate to the feelings. Most of the time I feel just like I did 40 years ago. Other times I feel like I might be 20 years older than I am. About four years ago I changed my auburn wigs for salt-and-pepper. It was time. Those ever-present commercials for the 'age defying' and 'wrinkle reducing' skin treatments just annoy me. I earned every damned wrinkle and gray hair I have. I absolutely hate that schizophrenic commercial for the men's hair color product: "My hair says experience," says one self while the other counters with, "Mine says energy." What a bunch of crap.

As I have said before, I am a medical minimalist. So I am as skeptical as you are, Kay, when considering medical information. One relative was misdiagnosed with lupus, given powerful drugs for ten years that caused a number of other serious conditions, and now has to get those drugs out of her system to treat the real problem--rheumatoid arthritis. Another was diagnosed with MS, couldn't tolerate the drugs prescribed when he could afford them (not often being without insurance for most of the time), and then found that the symptoms disappeared when he cut out the soft drinks he almost lived on.

Not surprised you didn't know Obama has announced his candidacy for re-election, Lois. He announced it via his web page (facebook page??--not sure which). No, I didn't see the actual announcement. I got it by way of CNBC which had been carrying teasers all weekend.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Good morning to you all. It is gray and miserable outside. We didn't get much sun yesterday and probably won't get any today. That makes for a day when all we want to do is vegetate. I didn't get any of the chores I planned on doing done. We'll see what I get done today.

Has anyone noticed the new wave of stories dealing with autism lately on the various talk shows and 'snews' media? I am generally very skeptical of any health stories on the mainstream media and that skepticism spikes when I hear the statistics that 1 out of every 110 children are not diagnosed with autism. Why? Are these kids being over-diagnosed? That has been a big contention with the numbers of children diagnosed with ADHD. It makes you wonder how many kids were needlessly drugged into a stupor so parents and teachers didn't have to deal with normal, active kids. So now 1 in every 110 kids need expensive drug or behavioral intervention? Who is supposed to pay for it? Or, if those statistics are real, why do we have a surge of diagnosed cases? It seems that doctors have been diagnosing an increasing number of allergy, asthma, ADHD, and autism over the last 30 years or so. Better diagnosing tools? Or something in the environment? Given the number of chemicals in common use that have been shown over the last few years to have harmful or undesirable consequences, I would guess the answer is heavily weighted toward the latter explanation.

So, President Obama is running for reelection. That is no surprise. What floored me was the notion that his team is planning to raise $1billion dollars for the campaign. The last Presidential campaign was mind-bogglingly expensive and, in my mind, totally wasted. If this is the best political system 'money can buy,' we have been swindled.

This seems to be a day for personal observations without linking to articles. Here is another. I remember a segment of a U.S. history class dealing with the causes of the Great Depression (the one in the 1930s not the recent Great Recession). One theory that has stuck with me and that has come to mind as the argument concerning the national debt concerned a fundamental shift in the economy. By around 1920 the manufacturing sector of the economy first equalled agriculture in terms of product value and numbers of workers and, at the same time, the consumer became a larger part of the economy. But by 1929 the manufacturing sector had a crisis of over-production, the consumer sector was not strong enough (or large enough) to pick up the slack and the agricultural sector was in the middle of both the dust bowl and their own crisis of over production spurred by farmers trying to produce as much as possible to overcome the problem of low prices. So we had an economy sitting on a three-legged stool and some one was sawing into the legs. Today, agriculture employs about three percent of the workforce while major agri-business corporations control most of the resources and garners most of the profits, manufacturing constitutes less that 20% of the economy (my own very imprecise guesstimate), the consumer is now 60+% of the economy but much consumer activity was based on access to easy credit which has dried up. The largest sector of the economy (by profit) has been the finance, real estate, and insurance group. But real estate is on the ropes and whether it is rebounding depends on who you read and which economic tea leaves (a.k.a., statistics) they are reading. Finance and insurance don't produce any tangible goods and the profits don't spread very far in the economy beyond the upper 1-5%. Government (especially Federal) is coming under attack from many angles--businesses and individuals who are increasingly strained by this lack-luster economy. Does anyone see something is this mess that can return this economy (and the people who depend on it) to the kind of prosperity we have come to expect? I don't. The major drivers seem to be the consumer and the Federal Government. Whether the consumer is coming back also depends on which prognosticator is looking into which crystal ball. Even though my financial situation is much better than it was (thanks to taking Social Security as early as possible--waiting was not an option)--I am not going back to the kind of gung-ho spending I was once used to. Confidence has nothing to do with this. If the Federal Government puts on the breaks is there any sector of the economy that can take up the slack? In the 1930s no economic sector was strong enough to counteract the contraction. Though the details differ the basic situation seems to have reappeared.

I finally found an interesting (interesting enough to link and comment on) article. Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds posted this today. I love his description of modern economists, what ever their school of thought (a.k.a., mental straight jacket), as creatures born in the morning and living in the bright daylight but never having experience the darkness of night. He is absolutely right. None have ever had to think about economics in which cheap energy was not the dominant factor facilitating economic growth.

I just got a good laugh from the CNBC segment concerning the NFL stalemate between the players and team owners. This is described as a contest between 'the billionaire owners and the millionaire players.' But that isn't what tickled my funny bone. The talking head claimed that the parties would come to an agreement before really endangering the coming season because the economics of the matter (a.k.a., the economic losses to each side) are too great to ignore. This talking head has obviously had a very scanty historical education. I, on the other hand, remember reading the reassurances of various very respected economists who insisted that the era of wars between major industrialized countries (read European and North American) was impossible because the potential damage to the economy was simply too great to even contemplate. That was the received wisdom between 1900 and 1914. WWI started in August of 1914. When the greed itch flares up, all bets are off.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A good Sunday morning to you all. I tented four of my six big containers yesterday before I ran out of plastic. I have enough plastic left for one more but I have to adjust the height of the a-frame. I think I can use a couple of the walls-'o-water to help warm up the soil in the last one. We are supposed to have temps in the 50s and 60s so by the end of the week most of the soil should be thawed and, hopefully, warm enough by mid month to start putting in plants. The bay seedling we ordered in January came yesterday so I have to pot it today. I also need to transplant several tomatoes and peppers. Those seedling are growing vigorously. Maybe next weekend I will start the spinach and lettuce seeds.

I found this Vanity Fair article by Joseph Stiglitz from a link on Chris Martenson's blog. An interesting take on where we are and how we got here--and why things won't be getting much better for the vast majority of us any times soon.

Seeking Alpha has this little piece describing the problem of inflation in Argentina which has me wondering whether Argentina will be the next Zimbabwe and whether we will be going that route also. It is interesting that the first thing governments seem to do is cook the books to make a dangerous economic situation seem less dangerous. Notice how we haven't had any inflation for the last two years?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Good morning, everyone. We had some sun yesterday before the clouds moved in. I was actually glad to get some rain overnight. I tried to dig a bit in the containers but they were solidly frozen. I was able, barely, to put the uprights from my trellises in so I could create the a-frames which will hold up the plastic tents. I will get that done today after everything clears off and it warms up. The temps are supposed to go into the 50s today and go even higher over the next week. Update: the sun just came out!!! Yippee!!!

The Economist has an interesting piece concerning the parallels between our banking melt down and the supply chain disruptions caused by the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear emergency. Few economists want to consider the very fundamental fact that each system was large, highly interconnected, and increasingly prone to failure. Both systems are so complex that the people supposedly in control really did not understand how they worked or what could go wrong--until it went wrong. Those few who did sound a warning were not the trusted experts and dismissed by those who supposedly knew (and didn't know they didn't).