Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good Thursday morning to you all. It is frosty this morning--as in 'damn, we have frost on the roofs and windshields!!!' But we are supposed to get into the mid 40s so I may get some time to work on the patio. I got the shelves put back in the mini-greenhouse and tied them in. As I did that it occurred to me that the tear to the cover may have come when the shelves went flying. Before I put the cover back on I have to repair that tear. I also want to find out how workable the soil in the containers is right now before I get them all covered. My Big Rainbow seedlings are growing like weeds. I made that comment over coffee this morning and Mom asked if I was sure they aren't weeds. The leaves are right so I doubt they are anything but tomato. To transplant them I need to get into the shed which is right now a jumble of things just put in any old way (since I straightened it out last fall.) Yesterday was also productive in that I got the spring wreath put together and hung, sorted the silk flowers for the summer wreath which I will put together at the end of June to hang on July 1st. It took me longer to think about how I wanted to put the wreath together than the time the actual construction took.

I was so disgusted by the news yesterday that I switched to Pandora for most of the day. They simply presented nothing new and they repeated it to the point of nausea.

Well, Kay, I noticed that your Repthuglicans passed that anti-union measure that their Repthuglican governor is expected to sign. You have my condolences. Our Damnocrats in Indiana returned home last week after spending a month in exile in Illinois. They did get some minor concessions from the Repthuglican majority but this story indicates that they didn't get near enough.

Shahien Nasiripour at HuffingtonPost notes the celebration in Washington over the supposed profit the government has garnered from the bailout of the major banks. He also notes the fact that the 'profit' depends on selecting the numbers you want to consider. And not all the 'losses' are financial. We now have a system in which the 'too big to fail' institutions are bigger than ever, are a fragile as ever, and as insulated as ever from their own folly.

Robert Reich, also, makes some good observations on the cherry picking of data to create some celebratory good news that is considerably less than good if other, equally valid, data are taken into account. Interestingly, this morning on CNBC, one of the talking heads actually used the term 'bifurcated recovery.' The stock market is strong, the dollar seems to be strong, and companies are making profits. But what about the rest of us?

I thought that Obama supports 'transparency' in government. This story, which got a slight mention on last nights news suggest that he is for transparency--except when he is not. Another reason not to vote for him next time around. I really am getting tired of all of the distasteful things our various levels of government does in my name.

I love this story on the Cornucopia Institute page. I hope the case goes against Monsanto. I don't think it is fair or just for Monsanto to benefit from its inability to keep its seed from contaminating its neighbors crops. I also love the argument that the benefits from the transgenic seed is much over stated especially when the damages are calculated.

Here is a story which made none of the national news media. The opening few lines are especially sad: nowhere was the disconnect between the political movers and shakers in Washington and ordinary people more evident than at that rally--and nowhere was it more irrelevant. I am not sure what the author meant by 'irrelevant' but I know exactly what it meant to me. Nothing we say and no facts we cite will have any bearing on the issue because most of the Repthuglican and Damnocrat seat warmers will listen.

Just watched a segment on CNBC that trumpeted the 'good news' that people who retire this year will need $230k to pay for their medical care--'good news' because it is down from the projected $250k for retires of previous years. Even the new amount is more than half the money I earned over my entire lifetime. What the hell makes these guys think I had the ability to save that kind of money? Figuring on $10k per year over 40 years (and many years I made considerably less), I would only have received a total of $400k. Uncle Sam would have taken between $80k and $100k--leaving $300k. Renting at (an unrealistically low) $500/month (or $6000/year) that amounts to $240k over the 40 year working life. Which leaves only $60k for forty years worth of food, clothing, medical care, cars and their associated costs. Does anyone else see anything wrong with this situation?? I really get annoyed when those so-called experts start spouting these figures without any consideration of how they translate into real life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good Tuesday to you all out there. Not too much happening here. Just wishing that the warmer weather would come in permanently. But it is spring after all and the old saying that fits almost everywhere I have ever lived holds here as well: if you don't like the weather wait five minutes--it will change. But the storm they predicted to hit here today through tomorrow is going to stay well south so it will be dry and I can get some of the gardens covered and rearranged--finally.

I agree with you, Lois. Voting now seems to be merely a question of which Stooge you want to vote for. Unfortunately, we simply cannot be sure who the stooges are stooging for--not for us, certainly.

MSNBC linked to this NY Times article that provides some details a phenomenon I have talked about all too often here: the incredible shrinking product at the grocery stores. We rarely buy canned goods any more--partly because of the decline in quality and partly because we don't like being scammed. And the stealth decrease in product is a scam.

This South Carolina proposal resonates with me and is similar to a number of measures I have read about introduced in several states to reassert local rights in consumer issues. We have changed out some of our lights from the incandescent to the compact fluorescent but with mixed results. I had to go back to incandescent for my chair side lamp because I couldn't find any 3-way bulbs in the fluorescent when the last one burned out. Returning to the old bulb confirmed my suspicion that the light was not as bright and took a long time to reach full brightness. Nor am I all that pleased to gain energy efficiency at the cost of dealing with the mercury in the fluorescent bulbs.

George Friedman, writing at Stratfor this morning, asks an interesting question I have mulled frequently over the last two decades: 'what ever happened to declarations of war?' He does a good job of covering the post-WWII situation when Presidents from both parties skirted the Constitutional requirements to wage war by other names without Senate approval. As I read Friedman's remarks I had a thought: this situation is driven by globalism more than anything else. Our growing international commitments parallel the increasing use of military force without following Constitutional procedure. also deals with this question and provides some additional interesting insights.

Robert Creamer at Huffington Post makes some excellent observations on the various proposals to 'reform entitlements.'

Job Jones at andthisourlife has some excellent observations that express much of what I have been thinking of late. Ronni Bennet at Time Goes By isn't much more optimistic. And I am getting extremely resentful of the extremely well-off and their politician shills insisting on their perks while insisting that the rest of us (who find ourselves with less and less) 'share the sacrifice.'

Monday, March 28, 2011

Good Monday morning to you all. We are still in the middle of a cool spell here which is supposed to end Thursday when we should get back into the fifties. I didn't do much yesterday--very lazy Sunday. And didn't see much to comment on. See what happens today.

A number of bloggers (but very few of the talking heads in the mainstream media) have remarked on the interesting fact that none of the big fish in the mortgage scandal at the heart of the economic meltdown have served jail time or even suffered serious financial hits from fines for their bad behavior. But some one has been convicted and jailed according to this NY Times story. But I also notice that the brokers who facilitated the 'fraud' haven't been prosecuted and one got a reduced sentence by testifying that the 'culprit's' signature was genuine (though handwriting experts cast doubt on that). Sad that the broker gets half the sentence of the so-called fraudster when he was at least as guilty of the fraud. But a story the appeared, all too briefly, on our local news leads me to wonder. A lawyer with a Chicago law firm has confessed to removing the signature page on a mortgage and adding pages with new fees and taxes before reattaching the signatures. I wonder if the Feds will charge the signer with fraud also.

I love this Chicago Sun-Times op ed that asks a serious, but mostly ignored, question: If the Social Security recipients are not getting a raise because there has been no inflation for the past two years, why are the premiums for Medicare going up? The author asks similar questions on the questions of rising property tax rates in the face of falling property valuations and the rising tuition costs at public colleges and universities while, again, there has been no inflation. I just love the way the various figures are massaged into meaninglessness so that ordinary people get shafted.

James Kunstler at Clusterfuck Nation has a good post this morning. I agree with him on Obama. I voted for Obama last time around but won't next. If any Democrat appears to challenge him I will vote for that candidate in the primaries. If Obama is the Democratic candidate I will not vote for him no matter what. I won't vote Republican either.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good morning on this frosty Friday. I saw frost on the garbage tote and I don't doubt that the car has a coating as well. I am glad I went to the library yesterday. I had to take the cover off the mini-greenhouse because the wind toppled it twice yesterday. When I put it back on I will have to repair a tear. Damn!! I think I need to rearrange the containers so I can put the greenhouse against the fence where it will have more protection from the wind. Not now, though. It is too cold to do much outside.

Well, it is now Saturday. I didn't have much to say yesterday. This is the first article I saw this morning. I am not really all that surprised. I recently read an article which quoted Sarah Palin expressing the sentiment that she would do what she wanted until a court told her she couldn't do it any more. So I should commit murder until a court tells me I can't?? These guys have so much respect for the law until it conflicts with their programs.

And then there is this Huffington Post piece that reinforces what I have seen from my perspective on this economy. We do have two economies and the one in which I am located is not recovering. I was pleased to note that the mainstream media have finally noticed the fact that the big companies that have largely recovered from the recession have also been able to squirm out of paying most, if not all, taxes. Not just taxes on profits made overseas and not repatriated but taxes on profits made in this country. CNBC had Barney Frank on yesterday and I loved the way he took control of the interview and shredded the usual position CNBC takes--you know, that government should not regulate business because that makes it more difficult for them to do business, that they are so onerously taxed that they cannot hire more workers and bolster the recovery, and that the finance industry really didn't cause the economic melt down. In spite of the interviewer's strenuous efforts, Frank demonstrated that U.S. global companies created exactly zero jobs the last time they got a tax holiday on repatriated profits, that the companies that are lobbying for lower corporate taxes are sitting on trillions of dollars they aren't spending on jobs, and he placed the blame for the financial crisis squarely where it belongs--with greedy companies that cut corners, failed to do their research, and committed outright fraud. Bless you, Barney Frank.

On the continuing saga of the Gulf oil conundrum, Huffington Post tells us that the company whose soon to be abandoned well has been tagged as the source of the new oil slick is disputing that designation. Given that I don't trust either source of information, I will only say that the facts are up in the air on this one. Rocky Kistner links to Rachel Maddow who cited another Coast Guard theory on the source for the 100 mile slick--dead algae and plankton. Her quip is on the money--we have traded the BP oil slick for dead zones. That quip may be a very accurate description given the drastically lowered fishing yields.

I have often thought (and said) that Repthuglicans and their allies want to turn the clock back about a hundred years--back to times when labor unions were illegal and strikes were broken up by the national guard, the army or by hired thugs and back to when most children did not graduate from high school and no laws mandated school attendance or outlawed child labor. Maybe I was too generous in my estimate and this lends credence to my suspicion. According to Wikipedia, the U.S. outlawed debtors prisons in 1833 and the states quickly followed suit. Perhaps they would like to take us back 1500 years to the Roman world when debtors were sold into slavery (along with their families) to satisfy their debts. Barbarism on the rise in the 'land of the free'.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good morning to you all. We had a dusting of snow over night. It stayed on the grass and cars but not on the sidewalks or streets. At least we didn't get the 12+ inches parts of Wisconsin and Michigan. At least my seedlings are doing well. All those that sprouted from the earlier planting are growing nicely and the second round of seeds are starting to sprout. So far two more Brandywine tomatoes and ground cherry have made their appearance along with two catnip and one Fresh Salsa tomato. Right now I have a very annoyed cat. We shifted some of our furniture around and Mom and I switched which recliners we sit in. He normally sits on my foot rest (when he can't squirm his way onto my lap). Last night he sat on the ottoman looking from her to me and back again looking arrogantly annoyed. He tried her lap but decided he wasn't really happy their and finally settled down at my feet. He simply doesn't like having his pattern interrupted.

The mini-greenhouse was blown over sometime in the last couple of hours and I had to set it back upright. The wind has picked up and the temps have dropped a couple of degrees since we had our coffee. Luckily no damage--but the next time I put the wire shelves in I am going to tie them down. I had decided that I won't take it apart next fall after the growing season is over because I am not sure the cross-pieces will take the stress (they are plastic) but I will take the cover off. The wind can blow through the frame.

I found this Huffington Post story last night. After telling everyone that the slick of goo that spans 100+miles in the Gulf of Mexico was simply a normal plume of silt and other gunk from the river, the Coast Guard has 'discovered' it is actually oil spilled from a well an oil company is capping before they abandon it. The company told the authorities that they had spilled 'a little' oil in the process. Is it any wonder ordinary people don't trust official pronouncements.

On the matter of trust--I really hate the way our industrial food companies muck up the food chain. Like you, Lois, I wish they would either stop or label the crap plainly so I can avoid it more easily. The way they avoid telling us what they put into it or what processes are involved in the making of the 'food is nothing short of fraud.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good morning, all. Cold and wet today--though they say we may get a brief period of sunshine. We are so glad we are not in Michigan or Wisconsin and not because those states have Repthuglican governors since our Repthuglican governor is simply keeping a lower profile. Those folks are expecting up to a foot of new snow today. Needless to say I won't be doing any outside tasks. I did notice that the catnip is starting to sprout. I need to find some patterns for crocheted balls that will be suitable for cat toys.

I found this story at Green Prophet this morning. Another wonderful 'advance' from the same food industry that has given us 'pink goo.' What is worse is that the industry is getting 'better' at hiding significant information from its customers--with the complicity of the government that is supposed to protect us. Think about the ruling a couple of months back that GMO Atlantic salmon did not have to be labeled as 'genetically modified.'

Robert Reich calls out the Congressional Repthuglicans on their claim that reducing the Federal deficit will create jobs. Only two conditions would result in their claim being proven true. First, we exclude Federal jobs and those jobs that depend on Federal business from the definition of 'job.' Or, second, decide that given enough time the private economy will recover to the extent that it can absorb the laid-off Federal workers. The first is a sure fire method. The second holds only if you give things enough time. Reminds me of a quip in Heinlein's Time Enough For Love. Lazarus Long says that you can teach a horse calculus if given enough time--defines as a million years or so.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good morning to you all. We had thunderstorms over night with sporadic heavy rains. Supposed to get more today. I did notice yesterday that the shadow the house casts over the patio is receding which is good. Thanks to that white fence and the reflection I can plant a lot of varieties that should actually have full sun--like tomatoes and peppers. I don't think I will be able to get back out there until sometime next week--too cold and too wet. As Mom says Old Man Winter just keeps hanging on here.

I agree, Lois. Too many people in critical jobs just don't seem to be doing their jobs. What really burns me up is that description of the lab tech at the center of the Army crime lab scandal. His supervisors thought him a valuable and productive employee. I have a news flash for them: If they could not rely on his results he was neither productive nor valuable.

The news media has spent a good deal of time raising questions but shedding little light on the Libyan situation. It appears that the 'coalition' that initially supported the no-fly zone is already cracking with Norway and Italy rethinking their participation. The U.S. is in charge now but plans to reduce its involvement and let 'god-only-know-who' to take over. No country seems to be volunteering as of now. The aims of the operation are unclear beyond establishing the no-fly zone and 'protecting civilians.' Unfortunately, in what has become a civil war, who is a civilian? For a good discussion of the complexities involved take a look at this Stratfor piece. We have way too many questions and far too few answers. But our political leaders aren't asking any of the important questions.

Thanks to Crooks & Liars for this discussion of exactly how the Repthuglians define 'shared sacrifice.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good Monday morning, and happy first full day of Spring. We had some surprise sunshine yesterday and the temperature actually touched 60 degrees--which it is supposed to do today as well. Thunderstorms over night. It was a very lazy weekend and I did almost nothing. Nice to be able to do nothing and not feel guilty about it.

I found this McClatchy report by way of HuffingtonPost this morning. I don't think I need to comment much on it and any comments would be way too profanity laced to put here.

This updated HuffingtonPost report contrasts starkly with this MSNBC report. River sediment??? Surely the Coast Guard can do better than that!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Good Sunday morning to you all. The weather is supposed to be wet and cool today and that is the pattern for the week--with possible light snow sometime. I hope the latter doesn't materialize.

I wonder how long it will take the mainstream media to pick up on this? Question 1: Where is the oil coming from? Question 2: What is it doing to the gulf ecosystems and to the fishing?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Good morning, again, everyone. I didn't get the containers tented. I just didn't want to get out in the cool temperatures. I don't mind working in the 60s; but the fifties are another matter. So I started some new seeds--some to replace ones that didn't sprout from the first batch and the herbs. We'll see how these do.

I agree, Lois, the situation in Japan is scary. I wasn't too worried about the reports that the reactors were venting hydrogen. I remembered that the radioactive isotope of hydrogen emits a low energy particle that doesn't penetrate the skin. It is potentially dangerous if ingested or inhaled in very large amounts. When they talked about cesium, however, that had me more concerned but for people over there not here. The distance protects people in our territories. I wish I could believe that we would rethink and reject the nuclear power option but I doubt that.

This HuffingtonPost story is very troubling. The story details 14 'near misses' at U.S. nuclear power plants in 2010 alone. Considering we have 104 (if I remember the number correctly) such plants, that comes to better than 10% failure rate. We were very lucky that none of these blossomed into a major incident. The feature of this story that has me scratching my head in bewilderment is how many of the incidents were repeat failures and how often the failure to either follow proper procedure or to adequately train personnel contributed to the emergency. We are unwilling to accept any possible risk of a new terrorist attack whether it is 1 chance in 100 or 1 in 1000 or even less. But we accept a 1 in 10 chance that one of our nuclear power plants will suffer some level of failure. This is insanity. By the way, we live about 50 miles away from one of the plants featured in the story and, coincidentally, the local evening news had a story on that plant last night giving everyone the 'feel' good assessment that all was well. Maybe--for now.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Good morning, everyone. I did get part of my work on the patio done. I got the mini-greenhouse put together and in place but did not get the containers tented. I got side tracked getting the leaves that fell just prior to our first snow last fall scraped up and put in the compost bin. I didn't get that done last fall because most of that snow did not fully disappear until this week. Yesterday was absolutely lovely with bright sun and temps that touched 70. We had the doors open and raised the storm window on the front screen door to let in the breeze. The monster cat was happy because we left the back screen door slightly open so he could go in and out at his pleasure.

I have seen an increase of the 'post-mortem' stories concerning the failure(s) at the Fukushima nuclear plant. I take all such stories with a good dose of salt from the 'hind sight' shaker. And most of the reasons why are described in this Red Tape column at MSNBC. And then there is this HuffingtonPost story which should be taken in tandem with the Red Tape piece. We have industrial sites (power, oil, whatever) whose risks can never be assessed and Federal regulatory agencies that must rely on the regulated industries for the information required to assess the risks and with strong disincentives to adequately regulate.

If this HuffingtonPost report is right Fukushima now ranks with Three-Mile Island. Question now is: will it match Chernobyl?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good morning, everyone, and Happy St. Patrick's Day. We are supposed to hit between 65 and 70 degrees today with at least the early part sunny. Time to get the little greenhouse put together and the plastic tents over the containers.

I also hope that that nuclear plant that is planned for your part of Colorado isn't built, Lois. This story, like the ones I linked to yesterday, illustrates the major problem. Companies have a built in economic incentive to minimize the risks to the public and the environment. And we all know that government agencies are not as effective as they should be at regulating any large industry in this country. Consider how the Repthuglicans in congress are trying to water down or cancel the regulatory legislation designed to prevent another financial meltdown. For profit companies would rather spend money lobbying for loose (or no) regulation than spend that money on safety.

Will wonders never cease? Finally someone has confirmed my deeply held suspicion that the 'any job is better than none' mantra is total crap. One of the news shows had a garbled throwaway line on this last night.

According to Keith Olberman's blog (by way of nakedcapitalist), Wikileaks strikes again--this time with information (never mentioned in the mainstream media) that there have been repeated problems with the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant itself and Japanese regulators failed to deal with the problems as they were revealed. I wish it didn't sound so much like our very dysfunctional system of (non-) regulation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hello and a good day to you all. Hope today is as sunny as the weather people predicted. We had rain yesterday buy a rather gentle rain--not the down pour we have come to expect. The last little bit of snow should disappear with temperatures in the 50s. Thanks, Lois, for you good thoughts and, to paraphrase the old saying, from your keyboard to god's eyes.

This should be interesting and I only hope to read more such stories. Unfortunately, I think this tactic is going to all too common--shifting monies that the governing legislation directed for one purpose to an entirely different one.

I really do wish the Japanese could catch a break with their Fukushima reactors but the news just goes from bad to worse. I noticed an increase in the number of online stories concerning the possible demise of the nuclear industry with this event. I rather expect that for the next decade or so the push to build nuclear generation capacity will be blunted but sooner or later it will come back. After all it is only 25 years since Chernobyl. I find it terribly interesting that when it comes to the possibility of a terrorist attack on American soil any amount of risk is not acceptable and so we pour billions into a system that restricts our rights, subjects us to intrusive actions from authorities, and functions mainly to heighten our fears. When it comes to building nuclear power plants, however, the standard is much lower--we seem willing to accept the fact that crap happens and that we can't guard against everything. The Japanese built that plant to withstand a 7.9 quake and a 20ft or so tsunami. That was the largest event in their history for that region and happened in the mid to late 1930s. There is one definite connection between the two possible catastrophes--they are events most people have absolutely no direct experience with and which scare most people out of any sanity they might have.

Of course, one can argue that sanity left the American political scene a good while back and this story confirms that opinion. This little piece of asininity is as useful as the proverbial tits on a bull.

I have often expressed my skepticism about the role of profit in corporate America. Robert Reich puts the case very simply--for profit companies are all about making as much profit as possible and have large incentives to minimize the probability of their operations catastrophically failing and to 'low ball' the estimates of potential damage to people and the environment. I would take that a step further: They have every incentive to minimize any costs to themselves to repair the damages their failures cause.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Good morning, again, everyone. I didn't have much to say yesterday though, as usual, I read my usual news and blogs. The weather people tell us that we should have temps in the mid forties to the sixties over the next ten days. Yipee!!!! The garden containers are thawing. I was actually able to get the shovel into the soil yesterday although I did encounter some frozen patches. I think I will be able to get the plastic up shortly. The peppers are doing very well--ten of the 12 seeds I started have sprouted. Hopefully things will continue on this path and I will have a good season.

Much of the news coverage of the Fukushima nuclear plant centered on the release of radiation, the threat of a melt down and whether something similar could happen here. The coverage was considerably better than I expected from media that are not noted for handling complex and technical stories with any kind of detail. They did at least indicate that the kind of radiation released is important. But many of the most important questions were not really asked. They might get some play if one line of the story this morning is true--they said that the waste containment pool of one of the plants was boiling. The waste and how it is stored has always been a bigger concern for me than the simple operation of the plant. This Stratfor report indicates that the situation is, indeed, becoming more serious. One of the troubling aspects of the coverage of our own nuclear power industry is the prevalent notion that 'it can't happen here.' Chernobyl wasn't Three Mile Island either and Fukushima isn't either of those. And the next nuclear disaster won't be Fukushima II.

However, another problem comes to mind--can we really trust the so-called experts and authorities? As anyone who reads these blogs know I am a confirmed skeptic on almost all issues. And I don't believe much of what I read and the rest I take with a ton of salt. This Crooks & Liars post demonstrates why. We never get the 'full' story on anything and, with technology related stories, most of us do not have the expertise to make anything like an informed assessment. The basic question I have on most of these issues is: Can we really trust companies whose reason for existence is profit to make decisions for the good of the people generally that might reduce that profit? I don't thinks so. After all, in our system the damages they can expect to pay in the case of even a catastrophic mishap is simply a 'cost of doing business' and already considered in their operating budgets. I don't like being anyone's 'cost of doing business.'

Charles Hughes Smith at Of Two Minds has an interesting article that discusses the potential impacts of the unrest in the middle east and the Japanese earthquake/tsunami on the global economy. Gives one some food for thought.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good morning to you all. I wasn't sure I would find much to say today. Everything is a little 'late' because we never change our clocks before we go to bed. We always do that in the morning as our coffee is brewing. I found this set of before and after pictures of affected areas in Japan. They are absolutely stunning. Just roll your cursor over the picture to see the differences.

Jon Walker (no relation) has this suggestion on Firedoglake that makes a lot of sense. He cites one example of a successful union-owned bank but another route some unions and others found was to form credit unions. I once worked for one that started with a workers in a specific industry and has since expanded to anyone who wants to join. But here one has to be careful. I don't know how well credit unions, as a group, have fared in this miserable economy. And, like banks, you can probably find bad actors. But I think the key is to keep the bank (or credit union) focused on the local people and their needs. Once a bank (or credit union, or company) is cut off from that base and no longer dependent on it and no longer responsive to it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Good morning to you all. We have wind today but should also get some sun. I may be able to reach the last of the containers to take the lids off. We had a block of snow about 6 ft by 3+ft by 4ft in that area that also spread over the three big containers on that side of the patio. The other side melted off quickly so those containers have been open for a week now.

The news had a good bit of coverage on the Senate hearings on Muslim radicalization. Then I read stories like this one and am amazed at the myopic stupidity of some of our legislators. Of course, the militias are white and largely fundamentalist christianist so I guess they are somewhat ordinary. It is only brown, non-christianist radicals that scare the crap out of our elected leaders. Or it is only brown, non-christianist radicals that can be used to scare the crap out of their constituents so they are more easily diverted from much more pressing matters--like how the proposed budget cuts will screw us over. And then Russell King (no relation he emphatically declares to N.Y. Rep King) has a superb take on this drivel.

The news concerning the Fukushima nuclear power plant, damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, seems to go from bad to worse. Stratfor gives some of the details and some of the possibilities. NHK provides more details on the story including some statements on the explosion that may have damaged the containment structures and the expanded size of the evacuation zone around the reactor. Perhaps we should look much more carefully at any proposals to expand our own nuclear industry. After all, Japan's nuclear plants are state of the art and incorporate multiple levels of safety and redundancy. For a more personal account go to Bob Brady's blog Purelandmountain.

It seems that the Wisconsin public employees' union isn't the only one proposing to boycott a bank that is seen as unfriendly to members interests. Political, religious and other leaders in New York are closing their accounts at Chase to protest the banks past practices including predatory loans, failure to negotiate re-financing, and paying obscene bonuses to the people at the top who helped create the mess. Good for them. As I have said before--starve the bastards.

Last night's Nightly News contained a little throw-away line that we should all pay some attention to. Japan had only a few minutes warning of the tsunami because the quake that caused it was so close to the shore. (The sirens in Japan went off almost as the quake tapered off). But Hawaii and California had much more warning because of the network of tsunami sensors maintained by the National Weather Service and NOAA. But those agencies are slated in the proposed GOP budget (for the rest of this fiscal year) for some big cuts. More on the story here. And Crooks and Liars has also made some good comments on this pit of penny pinching.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Good Morning, again, everyone. We are supposed to get some sun today. I hope so. My plants need it and so do I. Several of my peppers have popped up. I just looked over my planting calendar and I hope to get some more seeds started next weekend. If the weather predictions are on target I might actually be able to work the soil in my containers this week and get the plastic tents put up. The last time I checked the beds my shovel bounced off the frozen soil.

Woke this morning to the news of the quake in Japan. That is actually the second major quake in about 4 days for them. Three, if you include the major after shock from the first quake. The mainstream media didn't report that--not enough drama since there wasn't a lot of death and destruction. They barely mentioned the latest Chinese quake about three days ago. We wondered if we are simply getting more news because there are more occurrences or if there are actually more disasters happening. However, when the quake is the fifth strongest in Japanese history...? And the winter we have had was one of only five to top 50 inches of snow...? And last year was tied for the warmest on record...? Maybe we really have pissed off Mother Nature.

MSNBC has some good cartoons this morning--painfully funny. Go to the business section and click on the 'Trapped in the Economy' entry on the right hand side.

So this little item has resurfaced and the first thing the banks do is threaten their customers with higher fees or no more free checking programs. At least that was the news coverage in the snippet from last night. As usual we responded with what we would do if our bank decides to do either. Go back to cash and checks. But I have much more sympathy with the merchants than I do the big banks having worked in a small business that saw a lot of their receipts go for the swipe fees. The business closed after three years never having made a profit. I will be honest--it wouldn't have made a profit without the fees. But the fees were just one more nail in the coffin.

The Economic Populist puts in words many of the thoughts I have had as I listened to much that passes for news lately. On the one hand you have the Repthuglicans pontificating that we must (absolutely must) 'reform' Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid before we bankrupt not only ourselves but future generations (to the biblical 7th generation, maybe??). And on the other we have John McCain and others declaring that we must (absolutely must) establish a 'no-fly zone' over Libya to prevent Gaddafi's massacre of his own people in what has become a civil war. And he does so without ever saying where the money would come from to pay for yet another war. God, I wish some one of our giant pharmaceutical companies would invent a sanity pill.

I have often thought that the only really effective way to punish business for their anti-labor and other anti-social actions is to boycott. Evidently the unions and their supporters in Wisconsin have also hit on that. Of course, some of the biggest offenders are global in scope and how much a boycott in this country would hurt is an interesting question.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I would say good morning but the over night news from Wisconsin rather contradicts the notion. I do, however, hope everyone out there will have a pleasant and fruitful day.

I wondered when I listened to the morning news how the Wisconsin Repthuglicans had managed to get the legislation passed; that is, by what maneuver they had done it. Here is Huffington Posts' description of the events. I wasn't sure exactly why separating the anti-union provisions from the budget provisions made a difference but this CNN story explains that without the fiscal matters the legislation required a smaller quorum well below the majority the Repthuglicans have in the senate. I thought that might be the case because a number of states require a supermajority quorum for budgetary bills.

For a very good analysis of the implications of Wisconsin for the rest of the country go to Rainy Day Things and read Rain's take. All her points are right on the money but one I think needs to be emphasized more is the question of 'who is the 'our' in 'our movement?' When I taught Western Civ courses (way back when) I inevitably had to answer the question students raised about how the ancient Greeks could have a 'democracy' when the majority of their people had no voice. After all women and slaves couldn't vote. I told them that the matter is all in the definition--who is by definition part of the 'demos' (people). And then you refine the definition even more since women were considered part of 'the people' but only for determining who among each succeeding generation were citizens but they had not voting rights. Anyone remember the end of 'Animal Farm?' "All animals are created equal; but some are more equal." We are now deciding who is more equal.

Here is another 'sign of the times' story from Huffington Post. Although the buzz word in today's politics, economics and society seems to be 'transparency,' I would say that the true governing principle is 'opacity.' If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, bamboozle them with bullshit (as the old saying goes.) It doesn't matter so long as their money becomes yours. Or in this case so long as their debt becomes your profit.

This story illustrates why I don't rely on American mainstream media for information. I have been reading about the depletion of the Oglala aquifer for the last twenty years or so but the sources have rarely been the media. Recently the notion of 'peak water' has been gaining coverage. This article shows the complexity of the problem that has been largely under the radar.

I missed the "60 Minutes" program featured in this Huffington Post story. That program, like so many that used to be among my favorites, has become too much oriented toward 'infotainment' and are too light on the 'info.' Again, the subject of this story--the right to clean water and adequate sanitation--has surfaced in the mainstream media sporadically over the last couple of years but with no resolution. Except, of course, to leave things alone to get worse. Note the impact of the proposed federal budget.

To segue only slightly, Grist has an interview with James Howard Kunstler (who is one of my favorite writers) on the topic of the "American Dream become nightmare."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Good morning to you all on this Ash Wednesday. We have rain but not as much as the weather people originally thought. Most of the energy with system stayed well to the south. Daytime temps are supposed to stay in the 40s so what is left of the snow should be gone even though we are supposed to have a couple of minor spurts over the next week. I still have a pile of snow where we put what we shoveled from the path to the shed, the trash tote, and the gate. But it is only half of what it was yesterday morning. I agree, Lois. It is nice to see sprouts coming up. I just hope I haven't, in my enthusiasm, started them too early. I am thinking of delaying the next round--the lettuce, spinach, beets, and herbs--until later in the month. I hope that the snow will be gone and the containers thawed enough to get the plastic tents up.

Your comment on your teacher friends who have retired reminded me of a story I read last week from Wisconsin. The department that deals with retirement filings for state workers noted a large increase in the numbers of state employees deciding, suddenly, to retire. It seems a clause in the contract, which expires in the middle of this month, requires the employee to file the request at least two weeks before the expiration date or they will loose health benefits that would roll over into their retirement health plan. For some that would amount to $10k or more. Many had planned on working for several more years but faced with a 'use it or lose it' scenario--they decided to use it. Can't blame them.

I wonder if the Wyoming legislature will decide to rename their state capital 'Beijing.' Since the ozone pollution from the gas rigs has exceeded even that of L.A. on its worse days and has come in at double the EPA limits, it looks as though the state is seeing the downside of their economic boom. I wonder if the situation will get so bad that having a 'blue sky day' will be as noteworthy as it is in the Chinese capital.

Thanks to our wonderfully informative mainstream media I doubt very many people know about the film that won the 'Best Documentary' category. It is 'Inside Job' and I loved the trailer enough that I will buy the disc when it comes out--and I don't usually buy documentaries. Go here for more info.

This story from Grist stirred some memories for us. Some time ago we read the labels on the milk we usually buy and were surprised to find that only 20 calories separate the whole milk from the skim milk. We asked ourselves what real benefit we got from drinking skim milk when whole milk is so much more palatable. Mom has been on cholesterol lowering medication for some time so we were a bit worried there but her blood tests did not budge any after we went back to whole milk (and whole milk cottage cheese and whole milk cheeses). We both figure that the 'convenience' of not having to stir the oils back into the peanut butter isn't worth the rest of the crap that comes with it. At present, we avoid anything that touts low or no fat.

This is sad but oh so typical. Who is going to tell the spooks at the CIA that their pensions were 'over-promised?' And how many other Federal pensions, like most state pension plans, have been criminally underfunded?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good Fat Tuesday morning to you all. Google seems to be behaving well this morning. We'll see if it continues. About half of my tomato seeds have sprouted and I have to bring out my other starting tray because several are already too tall for this first one. Since our inside temp is set at 68 and the area by the patio door is actually a bit cooler than that, I figure that the germination time may be as much as 20-50% longer for some of these seeds. No peppers up yet and still only one ground cherry.

I agree, Lois. Michael Moore says it like it is and minces few words doing so.

While reading some of the various articles and blogs I suddenly realized how much a little time has changed things. Does anyone else remember the stories that surfaced on the new broadcasts every year in August and September concerning the dedicated teachers dipping into their own slender resources to buy needed supplies for their classes? Basic things like paper, pencils, rulers? My how heroically the news media painted them. Now no one remembers and the news media is not reminding us. Please don't tell me that it isn't the teachers the Repthuglican idiots are fighting but the greedy, selfish unions. After all who makes up the unions? If the unions are selfish and greedy then the members must be also. Where did all those heroic, sacrificing, and selfless teachers go?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Oh, I am so tired of snow. We got about 2 to three inches overnight. Blast!!! I got most of my containers uncovered and the temperatures were high enough to melt some of the ice just before this round. Well, I can celebrate a bit--five of my tomato seeds have sprouted. Four Big Rainbow and one Brandywine. I need to check my schedule to see when I need to start some more seeds.
As you can see I didn't have much to say yesterday (Sunday). The news either isn't news or is 'same old--same old.' We'll see what I can find today.

I noticed this Huffington Post item this morning. I can think of a couple of other governors who should also face recall efforts which I sincerely hope would be successful.

Then there is the on-going discussion of the rapidly rising oil prices focusing on the equally rapidly rising gasoline prices. This story, noting that the Obama Administration is considering opening the 'strategic reserves' to dampen the price hikes, is fairly typical. But I have a couple of nagging thoughts about the whole situation. I have also read experts opinions that we have plenty of oil and the price hikes are entirely out of alignment with the realities of the situation. Mostly the writers attribute the rise to fear and speculation. And the Saudi government has promised to make up any shortfall due to the Libyan situation. Given how often the 'experts' have been surprised lately over reports of oil inventories that are suddenly more than, or less than, what they had expected, I am not at all sure we should rely on the experts estimates on supply. Given other reports that the Saudis have over stated their reserves by a whopping amount (variable depending on the source of the story) and other experts questioning the ability of the Saudis to actually carry through with that promise, I am not at all sure we should rely on those promises either. So many of the statistics we hear are so massaged, surgically altered, or otherwise manipulated by which ever group wants to make its own point I really have a hard time making heads or tails of any given economic situation. Which brings me back to the matter of 'fear and speculation.' Isn't it a sad state of affairs when our economy is held hostage by the lily-livered and the greedy?

But then that last question is somewhat answered here by Michael Moore.

I am going to have to quit here--for some reason I can't get back onto my Google home page.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Good morning, everyone. We should be getting some heavy rains today. The weather reports last night noted that large areas of Indiana (south of us) and Illinois may experience flooding because this system will be followed by another due in next Wednesday. I was really glad to see that none of the projected daytime temps are supposed to fall below freezing. I have a couple of containers that have two to three inches of ice in them and that will take a bit of time to melt away.

I rather like our system for the water also, Lois. A decade ago we might have gone the faucet or pitcher filtration route without thinking about the filters we would have to replace continuously. At that time I was desperately trying to find some way into a full time job that would pay for my rather modest lifestyle and time was as much at a constraint as money. Now we have the time to use more labor intensive methods (like cooking from scratch and gardening), are not so easily seduced by promises of 'labor saving' products (which we have often found to be overblown), and are cautious about solving a problem with a process that requires an increase in our trash and an expenditure that may be bearable now but may not be sometime down the line.

So, Hillary Clinton says we are loosing the 'information war.' I wonder what has taken her so long to figure that out. I noticed the (very slight) mention on a newscast a couple of weeks ago that Al Jazeera is negotiating with Comcast hoping to be included in the Comcast line up. I hope that comes to fruition. Much of what she said before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was right on target. Several times a week I tune into the PBS News Hour and a couple of foreign news programs on another PBS channel. I can't begin to tell you how absolutely wonderful it was to get news without commercial interruption and without a single mention of Charlie Sheen. If Al Jazeera does come to Comcast I hope it is included in the package I already have and not on one of the premium packages. I will definitely tune in.

Robert Ellsberg has a wonderfully sarcastic comment on how right the GOP is to blame Teachers, et. al., for the economic crisis. Wonderful to see someone call out the right wingers for their blame-the-victim game.

And then there is this post from Robert Reich that pretty well sums up the 'good' news on the employment front that was supposed to push the stock market higher. Again I feel somewhat like the canary in the coal mine. I said above that I once desperately searched for one job that would pay a living wage. I never found it. The closest I came during the last decade was a job as a legal secretary paying $10/hour for a 32 hour week and a period of about 8 months when I had two (and at one point 3) jobs paying between $6.50 and $9.50 per hour. Between them I actually got about 48 hours/week. In each case, though, the net pay was only about two-thirds what I needed to pay my full share of the expenses. I am sure it has gotten worse over time. A year after I left the inventory counting job I saw an ad for the same job starting $1/hour less than I started at. Those 8 months I split my time between three part time jobs was the most exhausting and depressing of my life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Good morning, everyone. There wasn't really much to say yesterday as most of the news consisted of continuing stories and I had a trip to the library planned and a couple of errands to do. The latter took more time than I expected because finding one of the items on my list was a very difficult task. We have not liked the local tap water for some time. It is very hard and making tea and coffee with it is less than satisfactory as the calcium mixes with the acids and tannins to make a scum that is unappetizing and hard to clean off the surface of the pots. We can't put in a household water softener system since we rent this little townhouse but we didn't want to get either the system that attaches to the faucet or the kind that works in a pitcher. Both require filters that have to be replaced and we didn't really want something else that has to be thrown in the trash. About a month ago I was skimming through a new book on basic food preservation methods and found a small section on water quality in the introductory chapter. That author suggested a couple of different low tech ways to get rid of the calcium. One of the methods was to boil water for 20-30 minutes and, when the water cooled, skim the floating calcium and then decant the remainder of the water, carefully, so the calcium on the bottom isn't disturbed. The procedure works beautifully--no floating scum on either coffee or tea and nothing sticking to the sides of the pots. So we decided that we would like a container with a spigot for the treated water. I tried Menards. I tried Home Depot. I tried Target. At Target I thought would look in their bottled water section for the larger sizes and simply take one of them home. Well those don't come with a spigot any more and I really did not relish picking up a 2 gallon jug every day to set up our coffee. I finally found what I wanted thanks to the suggestion of a salesperson at Home Depot. Someone he knew got a stoneware crock with a spigot from a local bottled water supplier. And that is what I finally got. It holds about two gallons easily. The only draw back was that it had been designed to be the decorative dispenser for the five gallon jugs and had no lid. But we are inventive we are. I figured we could use one of the small stoneware plates or a bowl until I remembered a set of stoneware canisters we got from one of the relatives. I am using the larger one to hold plastic bags in the sewing/computer room and have never used its lid with it. That lid now sits atop the new water reservoir. We always seem to want something that has been discontinued or that most stores sell only on a seasonal basis now-a-days and we are always out of season.

I saw this story right off this morning and thought: Kay, you are probably apoplectic right about now. And rightly so. For some time now, twenty years at least, I have had the nagging feeling that the late 20th century was an interlude or an aberration in human history. Most of us alive today cannot remember when unions were illegal and any attempt to unionize was met with state sanctioned violence. Most of us alive today cannot remember when the working class could live a middle class lifestyle because they were well paid. Most of us today cannot remember a time when the elderly did not have the cushion of Social Security. Most of us today cannot remember a time when children as young as 8 or 10 worked in often dangerous conditions doing hard labor for 12 or more hours a day and few would get through the 4th grade. But that is what we seem to be going back to.

Then HuffingtonPost had this little story that proves the old adage that 'figures don't lie, but liars figure'. It all depends on the numbers you use to do the figuring. We have been bombarded with stories of late about how unfair our corporate taxes are and that the 35% tax rate on business revenues is one of the highest in the world. That may be true but that doesn't say what proportion of the GDP businesses actually pay in taxes and that has been going down steadily since its high in the late 1940s. That raises the question: if our corporate taxes are the highest in the world how come business are paying so little of the tax revenues?

This should have come as a surprise to no one and I am amazed at the number of supposedly intelligent and supposedly well-informed commentators who were surprised. Much as I despise the loudmouthed bigots who have neither a sense of propriety nor shame, I don't see how the Supreme Court could have come to a different decision. I would suggest that communities who want to effectively and non-violently deal with these assholes take a page out of a couple of communities who did not get nearly enough publicity--they made sure that every available space anywhere near the funerals was occupied before the Westboro people arrived.