Thursday, November 10, 2011

Good morning and, oh boy!, did we get wind yesterday.  Supposed to have more high winds later today.  A number of the trees that had kept their leaves so far were stripped bare.  When things dry out I have a nice lot of leaves to sweep up into my compost bin.  I will have to press the last batch down a bit to make room.  The temps reached 32 or 33 degrees last night and we expect temps a bit lower tonight.  But all the outside plants are still doing well.  Kuma isn't at all happy--I refused to let him out.  He may have a fur coat but I don't.  My quick excursion to check on the plants lasted a whole 30 seconds.

The news media has spent a good bit of time on the Rick Perry gaff on the 'debate' last night.  All of it has been focused on how well this candidate would do in negotiations with foreign leaders if he can't even remember the three departments of government he would eliminate if he were elected.  My problem is more with the departments he would eliminate.  If I remember the Constitution, the management and regulation of interstate commerce is a mandated responsibility for the Federal government.  It seems logical to me that you would need a department of commerce to do that.  I don't have a problem with a 'brain freeze,' as one commentator called it.  I do have a problem with a candidate who doesn't seem to know the responsibilities of the level of government to which he aspires.
Matt Browner Hamlin at Americablog brings up another point that has been in the back of my mind but which no moderator at any of the debates have bothered to ask: what about the effect of any of the various programs and proposals on people--the people who work with or depend on the programs affected to begin with.  But then they may be just as blind as Joe Walsh was when he was asked by a reporter about the people who would be left without jobs if his plan to substantially reduce the Postal Service went into effect:  he didn't care about government jobs only private sector jobs.  These guys simply don't believe that government jobs are 'real' jobs.  But no one is telling them--to their faces-that they are full of bull crap.

I read this story and had a bit of mental whip lash.  I thought I remembered a story on our nightly news showing dramatic pictures of sedated rhinos being transported by helicopter upside down tethered by their feet.  But, I wondered, how can they transport extinct animals and I was sure the story mentioned black rhinos.  Well, I don't , thankfully, have incipient Alzheimer's.  According to Wikipedia there were four subspecies of black rhinoceros and the Western subspecies was recently declared extinct.  But there are three others.

I have been reading about this mess for a bit better than a year now.  Anyone surprised by the filing hasn't been paying attention.  Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone has another story that goes into more of the sordid history.  This one has everything required of a good soap opera (except the sordid love angle): crooked politicians, greedy banks pushing credit default swaps, and screwed taxpayers. 

We had a bit of a laugh here yesterday as we watched the CNBC commentators as the stock markets did their swan dive.  What is so funny about a market melt down, you wonder?  Well one talking head wondered why the markets were so gloomy.  After all Greece was in the process of setting up a new government and replacing Papandreu.  Italy was finally getting rid of Berlusconi.  Both of those moves had to be good news.  Just then I quipped that the traders had 'sobered up,' remembering Bushie's description of Wall Street in the aftermath of that collapse.  And another of the pundits replied, as though reading my mind but want to be nicer about it, said that reality had set in.  And then went on to ask, as I have been here in our living room, whether any change of government can really help the situation.  For me the question is rhetorical--I doubt anything can really help.  It needs time.  The pundits haven't got to that stage yet; but they, at least some, are asking the question.

John McCain is, according to Reuters, again predicting the rise of a third party as Americans become more disenchanted with the current two.  Well we already have other parties (Libertarian, Green, Socialist, et al.,) but none have been able to command the loyalty of enough voters to challenge the Repthuglicans and Damnocrats.  We have had a few examples in our history when a large enough third party has done just that.  In the 1840s and 1850s the Republican Party (now degenerated to Repthuglicans) entered the political arena to contest elections with the Whig and Democratic parties.  They eventually replaced the Whigs and, thanks to a Democratic party divided along a North/South axis, put Lincoln in the White House in 1860.  The populists of the late 19th century we never able to overcome internal splits (east-west/urban-rural) but did cause some concern for the Republican and Democratic organizations.  The Progressives were also a bit of a challenge around the turn of the 20th century but by about 1920 the movement had dismantled and absorbed with the business oriented Progressives going to the Republicans and the more liberal and labor oriented going to the Democrats.  I wouldn't mind seeing a viable third party develop; I just wouldn't want the history of the 1840s and 50s resurrected today.  That was way too messy.

Several people have reposted this story, or linked to it, over the last week.  I haven't commented or linked to it because it takes a bit to get through the charts.  But I think I can simplify it from my own experience.  As some readers may remember, I am one of those highly over-educated people who have dived into several disciplines.  In the course of my academic life I have a lot of biology courses including some in microbiology.  One of the first things micro students see is a lovely little bell curve describing the growth of bacteria in a fresh medium.  Those look just like those Hubbert used to describe peak oil production.  (And note: he correctly predicted both peak American production and peak world production.  World oil production has been flat for the last 6 years inspire of the price spikes and falls.)  The author notes Hubbert's criticism of our industrial society--it depends on continued growth.  And growth in our economy has been following a bell curve pattern.  It is approaching exponential growth for a brief time and the fall can't be far off.  As pointed out, nothing in nature (no system, no population, no resource) grows at an exponential rate for very long.  Only with pure numbers can one work with an exponential curve.  But the numbers don't reflect physical reality.  That is something our politicians either don't know or can't admit.  Perhaps you are ahead of me on this one.  We are in a box: our system requires continued growth for stability but we obviously aren't growing.  If Greece, Italy, Spain, and other of the PIIGS can't grow how are they going to solve their debt problem?  Worse, the latest info (at least some of it) shows that Germany and China are also slowing down.  How are the saviors going to save themselves?

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