Monday, October 31, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  I haven't seen much I cared to comment on for the last couple of days.  What can you say when everything seems to be continuing in the same pattern with hardly a change even in the details.  The stock market went up dramatically on the 'hopium' of a much ballyhooed 'solution' to the European debt/banking problem totally ignoring all of the parts of that situation that remain unaddressed.  The Repthuglican Presidential Contenders Comedy Show rolls on.  Herman Cain is currently the star clown and, shades of Clarence Thomas and John Edwards, et al., we now have charges of sexual harassment!  The so-called 'Super Committee' continues its deliberations but a 'compromise' appears as far out of reach as ever inspire of the assurances from leaders of both parties that they are really, truly  in good faith.

CNN has featured segments today on efforts by various parties to trademark 'Occupy Wall Street,' 'We are the 99%,' and other slogans associated with the new movement.  Evidently two competing applications have been filed for 'Occupy Wall Street.'  Over the summer a bit of a firestorm erupted among some of the blogs I follow over the attempt by a family in California to trademark 'Urban Homesteading.'  I have wondered for sometime if our language is devolving into meaningless sounds.  I addressed this notion in a part of a blog that disappeared when blogger froze up on me.  There I considered the notions of 'natural,' 'organic,' and other such terms.  They have been taken over and stretched so out of definition that you can't rely on the idea that whoever is using them means what you might think they mean.  But, in a society where the dollar and bottom lines are the only things that matter, what else would you expect.

I love reading James Kunstler's weekly blog.  He says much of what I have been thinking about the latest effort to shore up the European debt/banking system and does so very astringently.

Well, since it is Halloween (or Samhain for those of you who are of the modern pagan persuasion) here is a link to Ronni Bennett's blog where she has posted some pictures of some very artfully carved pumpkins.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good morning, again, to all of you out there.  Hopefully, today will go better with the blogging.  The weather is the same as yesterday: wet, cool, miserable.  At least I don't have to worry about the containers drying out right now and I don't have to move the inside plants because they won't get any more light by the south door than they would by the north.  At least we don't have snow yet.

The part of yesterday's blog that disappeared into nothingness concerned how words seem to have lost meaning in today's world of 24/7/365 advertising.  The link I lost featured the misuse of the word 'artisan.'  That term gives the impression of small-batch, hand-made and quality goods.  But fast-food restaurants use it to describe hamburger buns and industrial chip producers use it to sell tortilla chips.  But that is only the tip of the iceberg (as the old saying goes.)  We have 'natural' flavors that aren't, 'organic' products that stretch the definition, and 'environmentally friendly' industries that fit the definition only if you cherry pick the factors on which you base the definition.  Politics has given us the absurd notion of 'compassionate conservative,' 'job killing' referring to taxes on the top earners who may or may not (probably the latter) create jobs, and 'job creating' describes any legislation that cuts government jobs while funneling the 'savings' to pet supporters.  Oh, and corporations are 'persons.'

I just had a thought as I was reading yet another story about a city discussing consolidating, closing, or in some other way cutting schools to close a big budget gap.  I won't link to it because I am sure all of us have nearby schools that have had similar problems.  My thought involves the history of public education in this country.  Back in the early 19th century when Indiana was being settled one section of township acreage was set aside (by law) to support public schools.  At the same time, Catherine Beecher (sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe) spent considerable time and energy pushing the establishment of frontier schools and the hiring, for the lower grades at least, women teachers.  In addition to teaching the children of frontier settlers to read, write, and cipher, she thought women teachers (besides being cheaper than men) would also 'civilize' the uncouth children of the frontier.  Later on, others pushed public education to foster literacy and numeracy as well as inculcate the values industrial employers required in workers: punctuality, sobriety, and obedience.  Now-a-days, it occurred to me, when we have fewer industrial employers and fewer such jobs and more of the work is handled by computers and computerized automatons public education is a value more often given lip service than real resources.  Today we don't have peasants coming from the farms of Europe or America to acculturate to the demands of an industrial workplace.  Nor do our employers require the numbers of workers they once did--so they don't want to be taxed to support a system of mass education.  We have been raised with the belief that education is the high road to middle class prosperity and what ever might lie beyond it.  I think it is time to question that received wisdom.

Charles Hugh Smith (oftwominds) accurately describes, to my thinking anyway, the real result of the Obama Administration's new home re-fi plan:  perfection of debt slavery.  I would go further, however.  The whole structure of our present economic system is to turn all of into debt slaves.  Get the individual hooked with student loans (which almost can't be discharged in bankruptcy) then progress to a car loan, a home mortgage and consumer loans (i.e. credit cards).  It wasn't all that long ago that insolvent debtors were thrown in prison.  Lately some states have been trying to revive that institution (sorry, don't have the links to the stories).  Even without that effort, most of us are in debt prison--the bars are simply invisible.

Jesse's Cafe Americain posted a cartoon that more than adequately sums up our current economy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good morning to anyone out there.  Thunderstorms rumbled through here last night.  Only dropped a third of an inch of rain so at least we aren't too wet today.  But we aren't supposed to get any sun today and the temps won't get out of the 50s till next week.  Hope you don't get too much snow, Lois, and that you get some new jobs soon.  And glad to see you back, Kay.  Hope the situation in Kay's World is settling down.

Obama has moved from a limited new program to help a few homeowners who are underwater to a new limited new program to help some people with student loans.  This article sets out the particulars of his proposed program.  I don't know how many people this will help but I suspect not as many as promised.  I suspect the whole aim for these programs is to kick the can down the road hoping that the economy will recover to the point where jobs that pay enough for those students and former students to begin paying off the whole bill.  I don't expect that any time soon.

I had more on here but blogger froze and lost the rest.  I am pissed so I will quit for today.  Bye, all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Good morning, All.  We should have some sun, temps near 70, and perhaps some rain today.  Time to do more than think about needlework as the garden in now on autopilot till spring.  I did some cross-stitch Sunday on a small table cloth that has languished since April.  It is about half done.  However, for now, let's see what I find on my daily trip through the internet.

Gary Weiss posted this opinion piece that expresses a number of thoughts that have been in my mind of late, both on Obama generally and on the new mortgage refinancing initiative just announced.  My long deceased ex-husband used to yell at dithering drivers 'do something even if its wrong.'  Unfortunately, after a pattern of ineffective, half-hearted and limited initiatives, we are so used to the programs doing so much less than advertised we are more than a little unimpressed with new ones.  I don't know how many stories I have read over the last months of underwater homeowners seeking to refinance who were told by their banks that they couldn't even talk refinancing until they were delinquent in their payments.  The new program won't even touch them.  The homeowners who are current will have to have an immaculate credit rating.  How many will be able to qualify?  I agree with Weiss--few to none (i.e., bupkiss).  I will probably wind up voting for Obama next time.  Not because I WANT to.  Rather because none of the brainless, soulless, and heartless Repthuglicans have presented me with any reason to vote for them.  And I won't sit it out or vote for a third party candidate because I really, really, really don't any one of those idiots in the White House.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hello, again, everyone.  Not much going on here.  Enjoying the moderate weather before another cool front comes in mid week.

I like this story--a lot.  I am not a technophobe or luddite--but I am not a technophile either.  We depend on technology way too much and for things the technology may not be suitable for or for which the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.  We habitually adopt a technology without really considering the harm it may do until that harm rises up and bites us our collective asses.  Or we try to adopt a technology only to find that it really doesn't fit our lives.  It took me a couple of PDAs to realize I work better with paper and pencil.


I started this on Sunday but didn't post.  If I hadn't found the above story I would simply have deleted the start and begun another post.  Let's see what I find today (Monday).

A thought, as I read this article:  we seem to be expecting far too much of politicians, especially our Presidents.  Unfortunately, the campaign so far indicates that that will continue to be the case as each of the contenders out line what THEY WILL DO for us.  As we have, or should have, found out over the last three years is that no President can do anything without cooperation from the legislators we send to Washington.  The article does indicate exactly how divided both expert and political opinion are on the economic problems is and how complicated the issue is.  As long at that opinion remains divided nothing will get done and, as long as hard line political positions remain in place along with an unwillingness to compromise, no one will be able to untangle the messy skein of economic problems affecting us.

The CNN news had teaser alluding to the 'image problem' the banks have and how little faith ordinary Americans have in the banking/finance system.  Well, I remember reading about such image problems going back almost 200 years.  Andrew Jackson killed the National Bank by refusing to re-charter it.  He thought that banks should be local and that a National Bank had an unfair advantage over local banks while discriminating against local borrowers.  Even local banks had an 'image problem' by the Civil War. I remember a scene in the movie Gettysburg where a Confederate general compared the British to the banks.  The British would come in on the Southern side only when their help was no longer needed just as banks would only lend when the borrower was no longer in debt.  A major part of the Populist and Progressive movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries involved deep dissatisfaction with two vital institutions seen as distant, unfair and unresponsive: railroads and banks.  Any of that sound familiar?

I absolutely love this article at MSNBC and hope the movement grows.  The only thing I disagree with is the notion that the banks are turning to customers to cover the costs of maintaining their accounts after regulations kicked in to cap overdraft and swipe fees.  It isn't to maintain the accounts; it is to maintain the profits their shareholders get and the fat compensations for the top execs.

This story is annoying, frustrating, and angering on a number of levels.  First, I don't think we should be giving government loan guaranties of any amount to any foreign company or to any American company for any operation in a foreign country.  Second, if the company is right and there are no contract manufacturing facilities in the U.S. that can do the job that is an incredibly sad assessment of the state of U.S. manufacturing and perhaps they should have required that Fiskars establish such facilities in the U.S.  And, why aren't the Repthuglican idiots in Congress rising on their hind legs about this?  They are all so incensed at the Solynra deacle but handing out money to a foreign company?  At least Solyndra is American and hired Americans.  Fourth, I am getting extremely tired of all of the promises of companies (U.S. or foreign), and politicians (Repthuglican or Damnocrat) who excuse any harebrained expenditure on the exaggerated claims of jobs.
 Good morning, everyone.  I thought I would show you what my gardens have become.  They are definitely no longer jungles.

I put the lemon verbena (foreground) and the rosemary (background) in pots and moved them indoors.  They spend the nights on the shelf by the patio door and in the mornings, on sunny days, I move them to our front (north facing) door to get the sun.  I hope that will be enough to keep them healthy over the winter.  Both are hardy only to the level of Florida and the Gulf coast.
I have 9 over the fence pot holders which now hang on the cross beams of my mini-greenhouse frame.  I put the empty pots in them for storage.  The pots--I cut the tops off 1 gal. vinegar containers and punched holes in the bottoms to make them.  I have bought some pots over time but for the small ones various food containers work very well.  The only problem I had was to get the plants out after the season.  They were all very root bound.  I may have to repot some of the plants at intervals over the season next year.
 Here are two of the three large containers I have put hardy plants I hope will over winter well.  I put the three miniature roses, mums and German thyme in the blue container, and lemon balm and lavender in the pink one.  I made the decision to keep the lavender and lemon balm at the last minute--after I had cut the lavender back.  I found some cedar shavings we had picked up some time ago--for what I forget--and put that as a mulch on these and the blueberries.  Why do I have the trellis stakes in the containers?  Well, I will fix them up as the frame for the plastic covers I will put in in the spring.  The soil isn't frozen now.  Easier.
 Here is a closer view of the blue container.  The mums have finally bloomed again.  I think the growers must somehow force the plants to bloom simultaneously.  I was very concerned when the buds remaining after the first blooming didn't open.  But I decided to leave it alone and see what happened.  As you can see they seem to have happily adjusted.
 These are the little Top Hat blueberries.  They are supposed to reach 2 ft tall and 2 ft wide.  Perfect for containers.  In the spring I will put them in individual pots and see how they do.  I hope they do well.

Last spring my sister gave me the Christmas cactus below.  It wasn't doing well and she couldn't figure out why.  I wasn't at all sure I could do anything for it but, as you can see, it is happy now.  It should bloom nicely.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Good morning on this last Saturday of October.  I can hardly believe I am writing that.  We are supposed to have sunny skies today and temps in the low 60s.  East of here they had frost warnings.  I am not too worried about that because the three tender plants are now indoors and seem to be doing well.  With clear weather I will get the last clean up chores done and the tools put away for the season.  I think I need to transplant the spearmint plants also.  They are doing very well inside.

I just found a thin film of ice on the covers of the trash tote and the compost bin when I emptied the remains of the coffee and grounds this morning.  And the roofs across the street have a good bit of frost.  The plants outside, however, are fine.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Good morning on this very chilly Friday.  But I think I saw clear skies so we should see the sun today.  Good.  The gray rainy weather of the last couple of days depressed our moods.  We got the storm windows closed and the plastic up on the windows today.  Last night it was cold enough that the temperature in the house dropped to 66 degrees.  We put the furnace on to take the chill off but our normal winter temperature setting is 68 or 69 degrees so it hasn't had to work too hard.  (Update:  I may be wrong on the sun.  Looking out the patio doors I see clouds moving in from the direction of Lake Michigan.  Damn!!!) (2nd Update: the lake clouds have stayed north.  We do have sun!!)

We just rearranged our freezers.  By accident.  Mom wanted to get out a bag of frozen peaches for a pie and we had to dig out everything to get at them.  Since we had almost everything out we decided to reorganize.  I hadn't kept count of everything I put in from the gardens.  We have a full plastic shopping bag of small baggies of stewed and sauced tomatoes.  Two bags of similarly packaged peppers, plus the ones we have in the small freezer for immediate use.  I will have to rethink how many pepper plants I put in.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good morning to you all.  We still have rain and high winds today.  Those gusts were high enough yesterday to send two shelf liners I had weighted down in the greenhouse frame flying.  I was afraid the weight I would find the weight (a large aquarium decoration we aren't using anymore) in pieces but it flew into one of the containers.  I will pick up it all up when the weather clears.  The over-the-fence hangers are still in place.  They just sway a bit in the wind.  The pictures of the 25 ft waves on the lake were stunning.  The police had to close the jogging and bike paths because of the waves.

This story produced a feeling of deja vu.  Last week the local (Chicago) news had a couple of similar stories.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed budget included a 50% increase in water bills and canceling the exemption (i.e., free water) for non-profits.  That last is already under fire from the city council and the suburbs that get their water from Chicago will probably scream because while they will get the increase they won't get any benefit out of it.  The increases are earmarked for a program of sewer and waterline improvements.  Some of those are 150 years old--some are still wood.  Unfortunately, that isn't the total of the infrastructure needs.  Some local politicians are trying to focus public attention on the problems of decaying bridges in Chicago as well.  Again--deja vu.  I saw the same kind of stories a bit more than 10 years ago when I lived in Missouri.

Just saw a lead into a story which cites a new poll.  It claims 50% of the respondents thought Obama didn't 'deserve' to be re-elected.  That doesn't say, however, that those respondents thought any of the Repthuglican wanna be candidates deserve to be elected.  I don't want any of those idiots in any office.

Tom Englehardt has a good post on his tomdispatch site and asks a very good question:  isn't it time to expand the notion of 'too big to fail' from the financial institutions that are most responsible for the current economic woes to the military/intelligence complex?  As I read the comments on how the 'troops' have become sacrosanct I thought about the last 2 centuries of the Roman Empire.  During that time, when the borders of the Empire collapsed toward the core and the economy shrank, military expenditures spiraled upward, one emperor after another came to power promising fat bonuses to their supporting troops.  And several were deposed by troops disappointed by what they received.  The same time period saw more military failures than successes and the troops turned against Roman citizens more often than against external enemies.  Makes you wonder where we are going doesn't it?

Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By addressees a feature of the business propaganda that has annoyed me as well.  Every time some reporter asks today's Big Business CEO or financial pundit or Repthuglican politician self-righteously demanding tax cuts for business, that the EPA be muzzled (if not strangled), that all undefined unnecessary regulation be eliminated the do so in the name of providing certainty for business so business will suddenly hire all those millions of people now out of work.  Ronni eviscerates the whole demand for certainty.  Given that the only certainty in life is uncertainty.  That is why we need support systems.  Unfortunately the current Repthuglican philosophy advocates dismantling any such systems in the name of 'fiscal responsibility.'  They advocate 'moral hazard' for the lesser mortals but not for their aristocratic friends and now certainty for those friends but not for anyone else.  And the ugly fact is that certainty won't produce jobs and they all know it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Well, we are halfway through another week in a year that is passing all too rapidly.  Cold, rainy, and high winds (especially tonight into tomorrow.)  Kuma is very unhappy.  I let him out once earlier.  He came back in wet and I haven't let him out since.  He has been very vocal about his displeasure but I am not happy about the possibility of a wet cat rubbing against me.  And it is time he got used to the change in seasons.  He will be even more unhappy when the snow flies.

I wondered how long it would take for the fallout from the Stuxnet worm would start landing.  Red Tape Chronicles says that a new worm based on much of the code from Stuxnet has surfaced.  Duqu (a.k.a. Son of Stuxnet) is in an information gathering phase but like its parent it attacks command and control computers.  Experts speculated last year (based on its target--Iran's nuclear program) that Stuxnet had been produced by government sponsored Israeli and American hackers.  If so, Duqu is a fitting blowback. Another genie we can't but back in the bottle.

Charles Hugh Smith posted a good piece this morning that distills what I have been thinking for some while now.  One of the implications of his reasoning is very uncomfortable but is not on anyone's radar (except for a few odd-balls in the blogosphere).  We came to where we are by a long road over a generation or two.  On the journey we changed as a society and some industries grew very big and very wealthy.  The only way those industries can stay on top is to maintain the society created and keep us addicted to debt driven consumption.  If we change our attitudes and habits those industries are going to hurt--mightily.  But the only way we, as individuals, are going to survive is to tear down the habits and values we have developed over the last 2 generations.  The Tea Party and regressive Repthuglicans claim we should 'starve the beast.'  I agree but I think they are focused on the wrong beast.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  Let's see what is on the internet this morning.

I saw a blip of a story on this earlier.  First Arizona, now Texas.  I wonder how many more states will get dust storms.  Several people told interviewers they have never seen anything like this.  I don't doubt.  The last time Americans experienced anything like this was in the Dust Bowl years--70-odd years ago.

I was a bit amused by two interesting data points on the news over the last couple of days: September's retail sales numbers were up slightly and the largest banks saw a slight increase in credit card delinquencies.  Anybody wonder if the two might be linked?  And then Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism indicates that it isn't just credit card delinquencies that have ticked upward.  I agree with her assessment--the so-called recovery is so close to nonexistent that calling it a recovery stretches the definition to meaninglessness.

Then there is Herman Cain who seems to think he is running for Joker In Chief.  All we need--another candidate who shoots from the lip.  I don't know which is more disgusting: Cain's 'joke' or the enthusiastic response to a plan that might just electrocute someone.

Here are a couple of cute cartoons that capture the problem with our current economy.  Enjoy!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Good Monday morning to everyone out there.  We had rain till midday yesterday but today is supposed to be sunny if a bit cool.

I found this little story about a push by some Australian banks to get more customers for their insurance, loans and credit cards.  If the banks down under are so engaged you can bet that banks over here are also. I think there is something wrong with a business model that depends for its viability on perpetual growth as finance seems to do nowadays.  Nothing grows forever.

Earlier this summer I was thinking about trying to get a plot in the community garden a couple of blocks away from us next season.  I think I mentioned it in one of my previous blogs.  I decided against it for two reasons.  After the heat of July (which was murderous) the prospect of trudging four blocks carrying what ever tools I needed on a daily basis was not at all attractive.  And Mom reminded me of an incident a couple of years ago where vandals destroyed the containers a couple of the occupants of other townhouses in the neighborhood had put in.  Evidently such vandalism and theft is becoming a major problem in some areas.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Good morning, all.  Cool again and will be for the entire week, with several days even cooler.  But then it is Autumn.  Not much going on--just shifting from gardening to needlework but not really engaged with either yet.  I have been so lazy lately.

Well, this is good news--if it holds.  I think we should decide that Iraq's stability is in its own hands and get the hell out.  They have problems we can't solve and they don't involve al Qaeda or terrorism.  Then we should get out of the other big black hole over there--Afghanistan.

Hey, Lois.  Just a thought on your last comment--unfortunately we are the fools and we are rapidly being separated from our money.  Every time someone mentions changing Social Security or decides that the really can't pay for the pension plans called for in previously negotiated labor contracts.  We have given our labor or our money for a future promise which someone somewhere has decided isn't really worth as much as when the promise was made.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has some links to stories that poke holes in the accusation that Iran was behind a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador.  I nether believe nor disbelieve the accusations.  I just simply do not trust the government (whether in Repthuglican or Damnocrat hands) to tell the truth.  But I am an 'equal opportunity' skeptic--I don't trust Iran either.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Good morning, everyone.  Our roller coaster weather continues.  Last weekend we had sun and 80s.  This weekend we won't get out of the 50s.  The seasons are definitely changing.  We had wind yesterday and expect more of the same today.  I haven't had to pick up the leaves on the patio yet--haven't had any.  But that will come soon and I will have more in my compost bin.  We plan to close up all the storm windows and put up the plastic on the windows this week.  That chore has been in the back of our minds for a bit as we watched the weather patterns.

This story both surprises me and doesn't surprise me.  Like so much else in our predatory capitalist system,  higher education has become a mine field that can as easily plunder the people it is supposed to serve.  The "for profit" education system has become a scandal that the mainstream media has only sporadically discussed.  The victim in all this mess is the student who is often left with unmanageable debt (much of it not dischargeable if t is government guaranteed student loans) and either no degree or a useless degree.  This scam resembles the subprime mortgage scam.  Organizations whose profits demand increasing numbers of loans expanding to exploit people ill-equipped for college and inexperienced enough to be conned into believing that the debt can be repaid easily when they get good jobs with their degree.  In both cases the student gets stuck and the perpetrators of the fraud get off scott free to continue the fraud with new marks.

Lois and I have exchanged a few thoughts on the electoral system.  Eli at FireDogLake has a few remarks on the Occupy Wall Street movement.  He links it to the fact that voters have been negated in our electoral process.  The 2008 election landslide should have given Obama and the Democrats the right to legislate but the Republicans set out to negate the election results and succeeded.  We have entered the era when election results , even landslide election results, an nothing except for as media talking points.  But what does that say about American 'democracy?'

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hello, All.  We have rain today.  Good thing--it means I don't have to water anything left in the gardens.  I think it is time to disconnect, drain and roll up the hose for the winter shortly.  I don't have many plants to water so using the large watering can will be no problem.  If I need to--I haven't had to water the plants for the last two weeks.

Good morning to you all and what is now Friday.  We had a very nice, steady rain yesterday which has now cleared out.  We figure that this week sometime we will lower the last storm windows that are still up and put up the plastic over the windows.  We are supposed to get high winds today so I won't be opening the door for the cat.  He is already mad at me.  Nor will I get the last of my chores outside done.  Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and calm so those can wait.  As you can tell I didn't have much to say yesterday.  We'll see what I find today.

I agree, Lois.  Finding that an experiment worked is nice.  And I agree on the voting observation also.  I have often wondered what good my vote did--increasingly so in recent years.  I didn't really buy into the Obama slogans last time around but I trusted the other side even less.  It wouldn't be so bad if the elected leaders took the votes seriously but, as you said, they don't.  Your story about the storm water assessment resembles what is happening in Chicago.  Emanuel promised that property taxes wouldn't go up but his budget (just published Wednesday) includes increased water bills (a real whopper), increased fees to park, increased city stickers (especially for heavier vehicles) and I don't know how many other fees.  They may not get you with taxes but they will get you with 'fees,' which are taxes by another name.

I thought Herman Cain's "9-9-9" plan was somewhat simplistic but this story from Huffington Post makes me wonder about where he gets his ideas.  Do we really want a tax plan stolen from a computer game?

There is so much right on the money in this opinion blog about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that I hardly know where to begin the comments.  I have also had the feeling that those in politics and our mainstream media are not really listening to the demonstrators.  They want a single unified message and they aren't getting it spoon fed to them so they simply tune out and tell us there is no message.  Wrong!!  The message is that there is something systemically wrong here--the system is broken.

Coley Hudgins at Resilient Family echoes that sentiment in his blog post.  He is absolutely right: we can't rely on either big government or big business to pull us out of our current mess.  They are both much too invested in preserving the status quo.  Problem is we, individually, have to figure out how to break out of the dogma box we have been conditioned to accept from birth.  Most of us really, really, really want someone to save us and reestablish what we are so comfortable with.  That, perhaps, explains the wild oscillations in the electoral results of the last three cycles

Green Prophet had this interesting story about a village in Turkey which went completely off the country's electric grid.  A few years ago the electric company cut them off after they couldn't pay the bill.  They decided to invest in their own wind generated power which allowed them to both pay off their old debt and to pump water that freed them from the water utility as well.  Sounds like a plan.

Paul Krugman, also, has a good assessment of the current political situation and the Republican Party specifically.  But I think that in this world, which Krugman claims no one really saw coming, neither party's dogmas are working.  This piece from Michigan Today indicates that acting on the old dogmas, as the Federal Government basically did in constructing the TARP bailout, may actually be counter productive.  The banks which received the TARP funds were no more likely to lend money than were those who did not (though the whole rationale for flooding them with all that money was to give them the wherewithal to lend) and when they did the loans they made were riskier (though high risk lending was thought to be a major precipitating factor in the financial meltdown) and they shifted money into riskier investments.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hope you all are having a good Wednesday.  We get to continue our pleasant late August weather in mid-October.  It has stretched to a few more days than originally predicted but the next week is supposed to be cooler and wetter.  I have to wash down the patio now that all of the plants have been pulled--except for those that I want to overwinter.  The last ones I pulled yesterday surprised me.  I forgot I had put the plants into cut-down plastic juice containers that I sank into the soil of the container.  I hoped that would provide the plants with protected soil where they wouldn't have competition from nearby plants.  It worked very well.  The lemon balm and marigolds were in with tomatoes and both sets of plants produced nicely.  Next year I think I will try the same but with the cardboard oatmeal containers instead.  Those decompose over the growing season.  I also need to clean and oil my tools for the winter--before I put them away till spring.

Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post has some very good comments on the 2012 elections and the faith the electorate has in whether the results will change anything.  Evidently we don't have much faith that things will substantially change or that anything that changes will substantially improve our economic lives.  I agree totally.

I found this disgusting item at Crooks & Liars.  I don't know which sickens me most: the city government calling the process of loosing 1400+ street lights for failing to pay its utility bill, replacing 200 with more efficient lights and calling the process 'lighting improvement' or the cop who offered to make sure a business was not broken into (after the owner had already had a roof-top air conditioning unit stoled after the lights on his street came down) if he got paid $650 every two weeks.   A case of colossal mismanagement compounded by official misconduct and extortion.

But then Susie Madrak's piece (also at Crooks & Liars) clearly ups the ante on official misconduct and extortion.  We have gone back over 100 years in time to when the police and army units regularly turned out to protect the well connected business owners from protesters, peaceful or otherwise.  Often peaceful was only in the eyes of the cop or soldier and anyone anywhere near the vicinity of a protest could be clubbed into insensibility without cause or accountability.  Or perhaps only 50 years ago during protests over the Vietnam War.  We have really come a long way, haven't we, baby?

I am sure we all believed the statement Merkel and Sarkozy put out over the weekend that they had a plan to solve the European Union's fiscal problems (to be announced later).  The markets evidently liked it a lot.  Me?  I am a unrepentant skeptic.  Especially when I read stories like this one found by way of a link at Naked Capitalism.  Why should Hungary raise warning bells?  Because of its connection to a Eurozone bank which has links to other Eurozone banks which Merkel and Sarkozy have basically promised to backstop to infinity and beyond.  (Too bad Buzz Lightyear can't take on this problem.)  I wonder how many problems have been invisible because the country involved isn't part of the Eurozone?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good Tuesday to you all.  We still have some nicely warm unseasonal weather.  The mornings have been cool enough that we need our sweaters but warm enough later to open both doors for the breeze.  Another sign of the changing seasons--they are turning off and draining Buckingham Fountain in Chicago today.  I looked out yesterday and noticed that even the taller and later leafing trees are well into their change of color.  And many of the smaller trees that leaf out earliest are bare.  Looking out at my nearly bare garden containers I definitely have to do some research on cold tolerant plants for next year.  My miniature roses are still blooming and doing very nicely in the large containers.  I may get some more mum flowers as the new growth on the plants are putting out nice buds--if we don't get a killing frost.  The blueberries are doing very nicely.  I wonder how soon they start bearing--hopefully next year.

Hey, Kay, glad to see you back.  Hope you can raise a bit of hell out there.  I saw that that Repthuglican poster boy for obtuse idiocy, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, is going to run against Marci Kaptur.  I hope he gets buried.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Well, here it is.  Monday yet again and now the middle of October.  We wondered yesterday where time goes.  It just seems to disappear into thin air.  I don't know how much I will find to comment on but we'll see.

I finally made a decision about the last of the herbs and will try to overwinter the lavender and one of the lemon balm.  That means I will have three tented containers: one with the blueberries, one with the lavender and lemon balm, and one with the roses, mums, and thyme.  We may get some more mums flowering from the new sprouts that have come up since they were transplanted into their present position.  All I have left to clean out are the impatiens in the flower box on the table and the container with the last of the lemon balm, basil, and some marigolds.  I got the greenhouse (sans cover for now) straightened up and most of what was there put in the shed.  The gardening is almost thoroughly done--except for the end of year assessment.

I noticed the news media (local and national) still have a problem understanding the Occupy Wall Street movement.  One of the local reporters asked one of the demonstrators, who had just said she lost her job that day, when they would end their demonstration and 'go back to their lives.'  My thought: it would be nice if she had a life to go back to.  But, in this society and economy, those who have lost their jobs have lost a large part of their lives and any means of funding what remains.

Herman Cain's incredibly callous and self-righteous statement this weekend telling those who were demonstrating that if they were out of work or poor to blame themselves and not business or the banks reminded me of a discussion a friend and I had about 15 years ago.  It was one of those intense 'meaning of life' as we both worked through seismic changes in our lives and covered everything that was wrong in our lives and the world.  We came to an interesting conclusion: neither of us liked either major political party.  We didn't like the Republicans because they tended to insist on individual responsibility for everything--even for events that the individual had no control over--while absolving society at large for any sins of commission or omission.   And we didn't like the Democrats because they tended to blame society for everything while absolving the individual.  Things haven't changed much.  However, I will say that when in doubt we should make the most charitable assessment.  After all, the Bible did say that of faith, hope, and charity the latter was the greatest.  I guess our Christianist Repthuglican idiots trying to convince us they should be President for got that part of the Bible.

This little article is more than somewhat misleading.  It asks how many taxpayers would be paying if the cap on the amount of earning subject to the withholding were lifted.  Not many, is the author's answer.  Problem--true not many more individuals would be paying.  However, we a talking about individuals who earn about 60% of the income.  That is a lot of money and that is the real crux of this issue.  Not the individuals because all individuals pay on their income up to $106K (if I remember rightly) so no one is really escaping the tax.  It is the lion's share of the income that is escaping the tax.  As my Dad always said: figures don't lie but liars figure.  And this article present's one big lie.

I am amused by the pundits who are shaking their heads because incomes and home prices seem to have slid--again.  The recession ended, they say, two years ago.  OMG are we facing a double or triple (in the case of housing) dip?!!?  I am amused because I have said since they announced the end of the recession that their mathematical model was screwing them up and didn't reflect reality.

Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds has a nice entry in the 'reality vs illusion' file.  I noticed that almost the first story on the morning news was a report that Merkel and Sarkozy had a new plan to cure Europe's 'debt problem.'  Again, I thought, and was amazed that the stock market went up by better than 200 points from the open.  The European debt problem (sovereign and otherwise) is no more solved than our debt problems (also sovereign and otherwise) but we have a lot of people who obviously prefer the illusion to the reality.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Good morning, All.  Another day of above average temps and sun.  I will get a bit more puttering done on the patio.  I still have two large containers to take care of.  I left them for last because I still haven't made up my mind if I want to try to over winter the plants or just start new next spring.  By the end of the coming week I will have that all figured out and the tent frames up over the two (maybe three) containers that will contain all of the hardy plants I hope will come up next season.  So far that includes the three roses, the mums, the German Thyme, and the three blueberries.  The only question marks now are the lemon balm and lavender.  Lemon balm started from seed very easily and lavender I can find at the garden shops and nurseries easily.  The books say that both don't really produce well until the second and third years but the lemon balm produced very well this first year.  My rosemary. lemon verbena and bay tree are doing nicely so far.  The only problem has been the sunlight--all need much more than they get on the shelf by our north facing patio door.  So our daily ritual now includes moving them to the south facing front door where they will get stronger light and full sun at least 5 hours a day.

Huffington Post put this story up this morning--another nasty Repthuglican piece of legislation.  I don't know which 'nanny state' interference is worse--the right wing or the left wing.  The broad cast news from South Bend had a story about the Danish tax on fatty foods and the readers wondered it such a tax would fly over here.  And our worthless senators and representatives insist on dealing with this worthless crap instead of really working out something that will help relieve the economic mess.

The news media has carried stories about the Haqqani network working across the Pakistan/Afghanistan border attacking US facilities and troops.  Here is what they haven't said:  we created them.  Just like the Taliban.

Just an observation on the news coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement:  the pundits are supposedly trying to understand what the 'movement' wants.  They universally find the aims incomprehensible and they convey that confusion to their viewers.  For example, most of the 'man on the street' interviews almost invariably featured the most incoherent spokesmen they could find.  But no one seems to remember that the Tea Party Movement was, and is, almost equally contradictory and incoherent.  Why do they give so much respect to the latter and none to the former?  Could it be that the corporate masters understand the Tea Party mantra of social conservatism and government spending cuts but can't (or don't want to understand) the OWS demands for prosecution of financial fraud and corporate criminality?  I saw a teaser for an interview with Milton Friedman once (didn't see the interview and can't remember the interviewer) where he claims that throughout history all societies have been fueled by greed.  I would agree but also observe that throughout history every society and every religion has attempted to curb greed.  No society has lasted very long if greed has been allowed to run rampant.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Good morning everyone and how are you all on what looks to be another lovely day here in Northwest Indiana.  I haven't got out into the patio yet but I have a couple of little things planned.  'Tis the season for small things in the gardens--cleaning up, washing up, and putting away.

Pandora is on already.  It is only a bit after 7 a.m. but I have already blown a gasket with the news so it is off.  The news reader I was watching was interviewing some dumb-ass Repthuglican senator (from Wyoming, I think) about the Wall Street demonstrations that have now spread to most large cities.  He has decided that the demonstrators are being paid by the "Unions."  It is amazing how labor organizations have become the font of all evil for those idiots.  I was so pissed I could hardly get out a coherent swear word.

But I also found this little item on a link provided at Chris Martensen's Blog.  I wrote yesterday that the primary way we will get out of this economic quagmire we are in is through action on the individual and local levels.  I wouldn't move to Panama but downsizing has actually been on my agenda for several years.  The first round came when Mom and I moved in together and combined two households into one. Together we had just too much to fit in the new place.  Since then we have engaged in several more rounds.  Though we have accumulated some new stuff, over all we have considerably less than when we started.  But then such a course of action is definitely not what the commercial and financial powers-that-be want us engaged in.  Just think of all of the attention paid to 'consumer confidence.'  They want mindless consumers who still think that more automatically translates into better, are drooling over the next 'new' thing, and is willing to put it on credit to get it now.  Debt slavery is indeed back--the creditors just can't put us on the auction block.

Also yesterday, I wrote that we have been acting like Popeye's friend Wimpy for a good many years now--at least two-thirds of my life time: promising to pay for the hamburger we want to consume today sometime in the future.  Karl Denninger at the Market Ticker explains exactly how that works and why, for most of us, it was a no-win situation and thoroughly unsustainable.  And I think the prescription for the malady is on the money.  The same kind of hypocrisy that led to Tea Party signs demanding that the government keep its hands off the Tea Partier's Medicare while cutting government spending is mirrored by companies that benefit from special government protections which insulate them from their own folly.  Another case of moral hazard for thee but not for me.  I think the possibility of getting the government protections removed are about as good as the probability of a snow ball surviving in the kind of July we had this year.  And about as good as seeing the bankers who engaged in mortgage and foreclosure fraud prosecuted.

I saw a couple of references to this idiot's statement yesterday.  Here is a link to the Huffington Post piece I got by gmail.  Someone should tell this ass that in a capitalist economy, which he and his buddies tout, nobody has a 'right to make a profit.'  If enough of your customers are unhappy with his costs and move their accounts he won't make a profit.  He is betting they will stay put whether from a misguided perception of benefit or from shear laziness.  If they do move on, what is he going to do?  Force them back a gunpoint?  Sue them for his rights in court?  You have an opportunity to make a profit but you don't have a right to it.  Talk about an attitude of entitlement!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hi, everyone, on another absolutely beautiful Thursday.  I would add 'so far,' but from the forecast the string of sunny days in the 70s will continue.  I was lazy yesterday and just trimmed the lemon verbena. Just looked at what else is waiting outside.  Wednesdays are our normal garbage collection day so the tote was out on the curb waiting to be emptied.  It was full so I couldn't clean anything more out of the garden.    Normally I put most of the plant matter in the compost bin but that is nearly full so now most is going in the regular trash.  I hope the compost will collapse enough for the leaves that I will soon have to clean off the patio.  The fall turning is progressing with some of the smaller trees already nearly bare.  The long range weather predictions are out and we are supposed to have another brutal winter.  Hope not but we are well situated and bless we had a prolonged (a week or more) without electricity we should be ok.  The Good Morning America show featured the snow in the California mountains expected to top out at about 2 feet.  And the shortest turn around between the last spring and first fall snow since we started keeping records.

R.I.P. Steve Jobs.

Well, Sarah Palin won't run for President.  For once the woman has shown some spark of intelligence.

I just found this insane item.  So the Spanish pharmaceutical industry is sitting on a manure pile of unpaid bills racked up by the regional Spanish governments.  Therefore they want to repackage those unpaid debts into securities that can be sold on the markets and guaranteed by the national Spanish government.  The companies get paid now and the Spanish taxpayer is on the hook somewhere down the road.  Back when our finance industry was packaging mortgage debt to be sold as investment instruments there was at least some rationale--the mortgages that formed the substance of the securities were backed by tangible property.  Unfortunately, when the value of that property tanked the value turned out to be very thin air.  These drug companies are talking about bundling and selling currently uncollectible debt backed by--not a damned thing.

You asked a very good question, Lois.  How, indeed, are we going to get out of the mess we find ourselves in?  I have a feeling that we will progress by a muddle through path and things will change in unpredictable ways.  For the last thirty years we have treated debt as a form of wealth and we spent it recklessly.  We are, some of us anyway, beginning to see it as it is--a claim for current expenditures that will reduce our futures, an eating of our seed corn that will reduce our future harvest.  We can't be Wimpy any longer promising to pay on Wednesday for a hamburger today.  Take a look at this interview with Michael Lewis for some examples of how we will get out of our fiscal swamp.  The Vanity Fair article I linked to a couple of days ago was also one of his.  We will get out of this from the bottom up though decisions by individuals and local governments.  And the first step is to figure out what our resources are and to live below them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Good Wednesday to you all.  I can hardly believe this week is half over already.  I got the tomatoes pulled and all but the Vietnamese peppers.  I have delayed taking those because they are still quite pretty.  But I can't delay much longer.  Their leaves are turning and they clearly don't much like the cold temps over night.  Or the lack of sun now that the house shadow covers the entire patio to the level of the top  of the fence.  My gardens are anything but a jungle these waning days of the growing season.

Reading Robert Reich's piece this morning I had a moment of 'historical' flashback.  Greece has borrowed heavily from European banks who have borrowed heavily from U.S. banks.  And Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke expressed a basically open ended pledge to backstop the world's financial system.  What kind of historical event can possibly provide a parallel, you wonder.  Well the period between 1919 and 1929.  The Treaty of Versailles saddled Germany with both the onus for starting WWI (a fair assessment of the situation) and a massive reparations debt motivated by a equally massive thirst for revenge rather than fairness (and therefor probably very unfair).  Germany had to rebuild as well as transfer large payments to the 'winners' of the war.  To accomplish that they had to borrow heavily and they borrowed from their former enemies, especially the U.S.  England and France also had to rebuild and they wanted (and needed) to trade with the U.S. who needed to trade to pay down the debt incurred from the war.  So England and France (primarily) insisted on full payment of the reparations so they could pay for goods from the U.S. and rebuilding.  The U.S. wanted to get paid so our banks loaned to the Germans who used part of the payments to pay the reparations.  So between 1919 and 1929 the U.S. made loans to Germany who disbursed it to pay interest on the U.S. loans, to pay the reparations and to pay for their rebuilding.  England and France received the reparations and used the monies to pay interest on the loans they received from the U.S. to fund the war, buy goods from the U.S. and to rebuild.  The U.S. needed to bolster trade to keep their factories going so they continued to lend to Germany.  By 1929, this spiral collapsed helping to propel the world into the Great Depression.  Today we have a similar spiral and sometime the spiral has to collapse.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hello, All.  Got a bit more cleaned out in the gardens.  Took out the portulaca and petunias and pulled the stalks of the tomatoes I cut down earlier.  The little blueberries are doing very nicely.  One had a branch I thought might have been nearly broken but it has strengthened and is now standing up rather than dragging on the ground.  I will get a bit more cleaned out today.  A couple of the blogs I read regularly use the declining days of fall as a time of introspection.  I can agree on that.  My mind goes to how the garden progressed, what plants did well, what plants simply didn't work, and how to make the garden easier and more productive next year.  Sometimes the thought go beyond the gardens to things I have experienced in the past and how I might have done things differently.  I don't really regret anything but there are definitely aspects I can learn from for the future.  This is a good time to contemplate those things.

I got back from my errands this morning just in time to catch New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's news conference.  He is actually one of the few Republicans out there (as opposed to Repthuglicans).  He has decided to stick with his original gut feeling and not run for the Presidential nomination.  Good for him!!  But I have to wonder whether those 'reporters' were deaf or simply had a problem understanding such a simple two letter word as NO.  Is it the N or the O that they can't figure out?

Well, maybe Citi's website will crash as many times as BofA's has since its new debit card fees were announced.  Given the info in this L.A. Times story that should be in the works as well as a whole bunch of depositors doing what one featured in the story is doing--pulling their money out.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hello, All, on this first Monday of October.  Can you believe it?  This year is already three-quarters over. Temperature is in the low 50s and expected to rise to the low 70s.  That is the expected pattern for the entire week with plenty of sun.  I did check out the little blueberry plants and they are happy so far.  By the end of the week I will have the tent frames up for the containers I intend to keep over winter--the blueberry container and one other with mums, roses, and thyme.  I was surprised how well the roses have done in the large container--much better than they did in smaller pots.

I linked to a long but enlightening Vanity Fair article yesterday.  This post at Huffington Post reinforces some of the points made in that article.  We are where we are, politically, because the parties have gerrymandered safe districts where the incumbents don't fear rejection from the voters, money has shifted to supporting the fringes, the most active voters are on the fringes.  Long term trends have driven centrists out and reinforced the polarization.  I don't know how many of you have seen the Dune mini-series but I am reminded of a scene in it when I think about the morass that is our legislative branch at the moment.  Paul has a vision of Mother Ramallo where she tells him 'When rage and politics ride in the same cart the whirlwind follows.'  Well, we have rage and politics in the same cart now.  And I would add that rage is fueled by a religious fervor that makes compromise even more unlikely.  After all, what True Believer would ever want to compromise with the Devil?

The evening news last night had an interesting, but all too brief, segment on a recent analysis (sorry, I forget by whom) of the latest jobs bill President Obama is now pushing the legislative branch to pass.  The bottom line of the report that the reporter focused on was if the bill stimulated the creation of the number of jobs the administration estimated those jobs would cost the tax payers $200k each.  The reporter challenged Treasury Secretary Geitner on that figure.  He didn't contradict the numbers but he simply insisted that the cost should per job isn't the only consideration because it doesn't include the multiplier effect from those workers with money to spend and the economic effect of the improved infrastructure.  Well, several warning bells started clanging in my mind.  First, not all of the funds will go toward infrastructure construction.  Remember that the massive $878 billion stimulus bill of two years ago provided only about $80 billion for infrastructure.  Given that experts estimate we would have to spend as much as $2 trillion over the next five years to bring the roads, bridges, airports, etc., to adequate levels--the amount provided is clearly inadequate. If I remember accurately a large part of the jobs bill is earmarked to providing incentives for businesses to hire veterans and for local governments to retain teachers, police and firefighters.  The stimulus package also had provisions for the retention of teachers and 'first responders.'  The local governments took the money and gave out pink slips anyway. They either used the money to close deficits or hoarded the money in case the recession did not end as quickly as the economic experts predicted.  I think the jobs bill might just have as much impact at the stimulus did--not nearly as much as hoped.

Another story on the evening news featured Howard Cain's non-apology for his failure to admonish the crowd that booed the gay soldier at that GOP debate.  I say non-apology because he excused his failure on the grounds that someone else controlled the agenda and he couldn't interrupt.  That was self-serving BS.  Any one of them could have interjected but non of them had the gumption to do so--Howard Cain included.  His other comments admitted only a failure to understand how his failure would appear to a wider audience.  In other words, he and his fellow candidates presented an unfortunate image.  The fact that they colluded in an extremely rude and disrespectful display for another human  being (who happened to be an active duty soldier) who had a right to ask a question of potential political leaders was somehow of no concern.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good Sunday morning to you all.  Cool again.  In fact the temperature is the coldest since early May, perhaps.  We expect sun and a high in the mid 60s today with 70s for the rest of the week.  The rain has, thankfully, moved off to the east.  Unfortunately, the people now getting it don't need it.  I wish it would have gone to Texas or to the southeast.  But with clear skies for almost a week (fingers crossed!) I will get the last of the plants cleared out of the containers and get the compost added and worked in.  I have resisted cutting the stevia because I want it to bloom.  It survived the high 40s last night so it should survive the next week.

Just finished processing the last of the peppers--False Alarm--for the freezer.  Got two-and-a-half quart baggies out of that last spurt.  We are still bummed out because the supply of pint baggies has almost dried up.  The supermarket only had one brand and it was way more expensive than the pints.  We like the pints because they hold just enough for one casserole or pot of soup without anything left.  Oh, well.

I have already turned off the (s)news.  The dominant story is the Amanda Knox story.  They are really building the drama.  The local news featured the Tea Con 2012 convention in Chicago this weekend.  Again too much attention to an insignificant story.

I have a simple solution to this kind of controversy.  We should reform the tax codes--all tax codes including property taxes--and remove the exemptions for religious establishments.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hello, again.  We start off today cool but with anticipation of a 'warming' trend for the week.  It is amazing how a cool snap changes your perception of temps in the 70s.  But we should have nice sunny days which will help because I have a good bit of cleaning up to do in the gardens.

One of the lead stories on WSBT (the South Bend station on cable) concerned Bank of America's new fee for debit card users.  A customer interviewed by one of the bank's ATMs said she planned to switch banks and an official with 1st Source Bank remarked that his company hopes to gain a bunch of new customers thanks to the fees.  Good.  I would love to see a large movement of customers away from BoA and the other too-big-to-fail banks (who took our bailouts) toward to local banks.  I wonder if the big banks are relying on 'bank inertia' (as this MSNBC article calls it )  to keep their customers.

This Vanity Fair article is a bit long but is well worth the read.  It took me a while but then I don't read as fast as I once did and I took my time over it.  Every now and then I find authors trying to wrestle with how we came to be where we are now with our broken economy.  This author makes several interesting points, all well illustrated and argued.  First up--the controversy over Meridith Whitney's supposed prognostication that the municipal bond market was due for a catastrophic decline actually distorted what she had really said and obscured important points she really had said.  And it covered up the long process whereby state and local governments had seriously underfunded its employee pension funds while racking up massive debts.  And that the states were in a less precarious position than the cities and counties because it would push the costs of covering their own debts by shorting the local governments.  (Which has happened as anyone following the problems of contractors, cities, and school districts trying to get promised money out of the state of Illinois.)  Second--the political situation in California which to my mind very closely resembles the conditions for national politics (though the author did not point out).  Combining safe gerrymandered districts where polarized voters elect intractable representatives who have no incentive to compromise and are strapped by term limits and the requirement that any tax or spending bill be passed by a two-thirds majority is a recipe for stalemate.  Third--human nature.  We seem to have an inherent tendency to grab short term gratification without any real thought to the long term consequences.

I have been wondering for the last several years how much 'investors' (read 'speculators') have influenced the markets.  This article seems to parallel my own answer to the question--they have a greater influence than traditional supply and demand mechanics.  I rather resent the SOB at the end--I don't like the notion that speculators can run up the cost of food but, since 'Most Americans eat too much anyway,'  it is okay to gouge them (and other less affluent consumers).