December 28, 2011

better days ahead . . .

it is intriguing that this slightly neglected plant (myrtus communis) might one day be allowed to express the exuberance of its lineage . . .

that, with a little benign neglect, it might one day look like
this . . . a true myrtle, a roman myrtle . . . so I have some hope for this almost orphan who may weather my "too busy elsewhere" neglect to achieve some potential of expression . . .

December 22, 2011

when is a beer in Texas really a beer . . . ?

Or, when is speech really free . . . ? Evidently many of us in Texas only thought we were drinking a beer or maybe an ale because the brewers couldn't always tell us the truth. That's weird as hell . . .
Texas brewers can finally call a beer a beer.

They can call an ale an ale.

They can also tell folks where to find their beers and their ales, as well as their malt liquors.

Ruling in favor of plaintiffs who asserted that some Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission rules were unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said the state was effectively forcing brewers to lie about their products.

The commission said it won't appeal the ruling.

The plaintiffs, Authentic Beverages, Jester King Craft Brewery and Zax Restaurant & Bar, argued in an Austin courtroom that the word beer encompasses all malt beverages, while ale means a style of beer that is made with a certain kind of yeast through warm fermentation.
Just wondering if this will affect my favorite Houston brews?

December 21, 2011

midwinter . . .

clock ticking . . .

Except for the inevitable "he said, she said" angle, McClatchy has a pretty thorough story on the likely tax hike.
WASHINGTON — The bitter showdown of Republicans versus the White House and congressional Democrats over a Social Security tax break grew uglier and more tense Tuesday, and the result is that 160 million people face the increasingly likely prospect of a tax increase Jan. 1.

The GOP-led House of Representatives, by a 229-193 vote, formally disagreed Tuesday with a bipartisan Senate plan to extend the current tax rate for two months. Employees have paid a 4.2 percent tax this year; it's scheduled to go up to 6.2 percent next year unless the current rate is extended. The House vote makes an increase likely.

Read more here.

TPM manages to review the events leading to the mess without the "he said, she said" tangle.
This debate started when President Obama introduced his jobs bill, the priciest provisions of which were a one year renewal (and broadening of) this year’s payroll tax holiday, and an extension of emergency unemployment benefits.

Republicans were never wild about moving ahead with either of these items to begin with — but a very public campaign by President Obama made it too politically toxic for GOP leaders to oppose them outright. Instead they just made it as difficult as possible for either to pass. They could’ve agreed to support the measures without paying for them, or to pay for them with war savings, as some Dems to suggest, or with a mix of payfors that included a balanced mix of tax revenue and spending cuts. Likewise they could’ve agreed to pass the measures “cleanly” — without attaching unrelated policy riders to the legislation.

But they did neither. And it created a huge problem.

December 20, 2011

House GOP set to raise taxes on 99%ers

Chairman Boehner and House leadership have decided against allowing the Senate extension an up or down vote and are playing games instead - they evidently think it is a strategy to kill the taxcut extension while not actually having to vote against it.
Hanging in the balance are 160 million American workers who would see the taxes that fund Social Security rise by 2 percentage points on Jan. 1, doctors who would get hit with a 27.4 percent cut to reimbursement rates for treating Medicare patients, and recipients of welfare and certain unemployment benefits that are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

Read more:

December 18, 2011

all rocks go to heaven . . . dogs go too . . .

Maybe I could attend Catholic church if this is an example of their theology . . . you've got to visit the blog and see the sequence of signs . . . at least as good as the old Burma Shave signs.

December 17, 2011

will the good folks on wall street get a chance to help rebuild main street . . .?

If you don't regularly review Dan Froomkin's column column on Huffington Post, you may be missing more than you realize.
Advocates of a tiny but lucrative tax on financial transactions are increasingly hopeful that President Barack Obama's need to more firmly establish himself as the Main Street candidate in 2012 will lead him to back the measure.

The tax -- though nearly inconsequential on a per-trade basis -- would reap billions in revenue from Wall Street's most rapacious institutions while also cutting down on their incentive to engage in the high-stakes, lightning-fast gambling that has proven particularly lucrative for them, at the expense of others.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced legislation last month that would impose a 0.03 percent fee on financial transactions, an amount so small that its sting would only be felt by speculators who rapidly move vast sums in and out of trading positions.

But because of the enormous volume of transactions, the new tax would still raise $350 billion in next 10 years, according to nonpartisan congressional scorekeepers.

The bill is "generating some interest in the White House, and I'm hopeful that the president will pick up on this," said Harkin, a fifth-term senator.

"I think there's interest in the White House at looking at sources of revenue, and I think this is one that's got their interest," Harkin said. "They haven't said yes, they haven't said no."

Mike Lux, a progressive strategist, said he thinks that despite some internal opposition within the administration -- most notably from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner -- the tax may be an idea whose time has come.

December 16, 2011

1949 - 2011 . . . .

The lines from Edna Millay's poem "Dirge Without Music" come unbidden to my mind at some deaths:
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
When reading Christopher Hitchens I have at least as often been exasperated, even irritated, rather than admiring. But he also sometimes shared piercing insight so that the moments, even months, of exasperation have been worth it for the moments of flashing brilliance. There will doubtless be many of his friends or colleagues who will pen moving and thoughtful tributes. I think that David Frum's tribute on FrumForum is probably as good a place to start as any . . .
One sometimes hears of people who try to model their writing or their persona on Christopher Hitchens’ example. The results are usually absurd and sometimes perverse. Christopher did not offer a model of what to think. He offered a model of how to think – and how to live. Fully. Fearlessly. Joyously. And then, alas too soon, of how to die: without bluster but without flinching, boldly writing until the fingers moved no more.

December 13, 2011

flying away . . .

Thinking about my friend DK . . . aka DKS and DMS . . .

We miss you DK . . .

thinking about gifts and such . . .

Amazon and similar sites (are there similar sites?) are a godsend when choosing gifts for great grandchildren but there is something so impersonal about the way we cruise along not able to keep up with the "perfect" gift for a niece, grandchild, etc. But then, was there ever a perfect gift? I don't remember getting such a thing . . . I have appreciated many of the thoughtful gifts that I have received, but (and this may be almost universal for folks over 12) the giving is more fun than the receiving. UNTIL . . . until suddenly we're inundated with "buy this" or "No! buy this" and our children (grandchildren) are exposed without our references . . . Christmas (not the religious aspects) is not living up to my expectations . . .

But, finally, it's what the family pulls together each year that makes the difference, that sets the tone for the next year, the next decade . . . I remember the Christmas mornings of my childhood (some of them) and mostly they are positive memories - mostly. Our responsibility as parents and grandparents may be to prepare out family get-to-gathers in such a way, that it can be a positive memory for our children and grandchildren.

let's drug test congress . . . not the unemployed!

Michael Ettinger has it exactly correct when he says that it is congress that needs to be tested for drugs.
The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives Thursday proposed allowing states to require drug tests for anyone receiving unemployment benefits.
I’m not sure why they think that those who have had the misfortune of losing their jobs in these difficult economic times particularly need to be tested for the use of illegal substances. But if they’re gung ho for drug testing, it seems like we ought to be sharing the blood-drawing joy. I can think of plenty of places where it would be much more useful.

It seems far more important to the nation that members of the House of Representatives be free of the influence of reality-altering substances than unemployed people. After all, when members of Congress make decisions under the influence of hallucinogens, it affects the entire country. Your average unemployed person? Not so much. And truthfully, which group of Americans demonstrates more evidence of drug-induced behavior? If you have any doubts, take a look at the House Republicans’ budget proposals.

December 12, 2011

time to get tough . . .

Jonathan Bernstein in The New Republic thinks it is time to get tough . . . He has a suggestion for President Obama . . .
Throughout 1903, the Senate minority was blocking several nominations put forth by the White House. President Roosevelt should have been able to wait for that Congressional session to adjourn and make his recess appointments before the next session was scheduled to begin, by Constitutional mandate, on December 7 of that year. However, House Speaker Joe Cannon refused to go along, keeping the House in session throughout the break.

In response, the Senate leadership concocted a plan. On the big day of December 7, the Senate convened, adjourned, and immediately began an entirely new session. As The New York Times report had it the next day:

The conclusion has been reached that between the time of the falling of President pro tempore Frye’s gavel signifying the conclusion of the extraordinary session and the calling to order of the Senate in the regular session of Congress, an appreciable lapse of time occurred. In this time the appointments technically were made. … There was but one fall of the gavel, but one stroke, and but one sound.
And in that instant, Roosevelt made 168 military promotions that normally would have to have been approved by the Senate, as well as “about 25 civilian appointees.”

Was it legal? No one knows with certainty, as it wasn’t adjudicated in the courts.

December 08, 2011

Twas the night . . .

A fun poetic parody posted at Cheers and Jeers on Daily Kos:
Twas the night before Wednesday, and all through the camp
Occupiers were settled under the glow of street lamps
Their banners were hung from their tent poles with care
Peaceable assembly is why they were there
Some slept quietly, some sawed logs,
A few were awake updating their blogs
They donned winter coats and warm winter hats
They slept on bubble wrap and flimsy foam mats

When out on the street there arose a great din
Like a band of thugs drunk on vodka and gin
The riot cops' knives were out in a flash,
Tearing open the tents, with a hack and a slash

The moon up above watched the police army grow
Illuminating the mayhem in the park down below.
When what to our bleary eyes should appear,
But Lieutenant John Pike, parachuting down in full riot gear

A goon with a goatee all scruffy and thick
We knew in a moment he must be St. Prick
More rapid than eagles the officers came,
Pike whistled, and shouted, and then he proclaimed:

Click here to read it all!

December 06, 2011

Not all Iowa Republicans are pre-neanderthal . . .?

There is a very interesting (even surprising!) post on Daily Kos (The Jed Report) about the GOP view of undocumented aliens who have been in U.S. for 25 years who "have paid taxes and not broken the law" during those years.
There's obviously a lot more to immigration policy than the issue that Romney and Gingrich battled over, and it's not like Gingrich has the world's greatest position on it. (For example, he opposes a path to citizenship for long-term immigrants who came here illegally.)

But it's important to recognize that even among Republicans, Mitt Romney's decision to side with the neanderthal extreme backfired. As you'll see later today when we release national results on the same question, Republicans across the nation are even more strongly opposed to Romney's stance than they were in Iowa. That's actually good news for America: unlike Mitt Romney, most Republicans think immigrants should be treated like human beings.

December 04, 2011

no matter the reality . . .

Here is a story worth reading about how the scientific method works - some of the people not so well, but the result gives us hope but also a warning about how some of us want what we want no matter the reality . . .
In 2006, scientists announced a provocative finding: a retrovirus called XMRV, closely related to a known virus from mice, was associated with cases of prostate cancer. But other labs, using different sets of patients, found no evidence of a viral infection. Before the controversy could be sorted out, another research group published a 2009 paper containing an even more intriguing claim. XMRV, it said, was associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a disorder that some had claimed was purely psychosomatic.

Reaction came quickly. The CFS community, viewing a viral cause as a validation of their malady, embraced the finding. One author of the XMRV/CFS paper, Judy Mikovits, landed a position as research director of a private foundation dedicated to CFS. A company associated with the foundation started offering tests for infections.


It's no surprise that patients who frequently had their disorder treated with dismissiveness would respond positively to indications that it had a concrete, biological cause. But demonizing scientists who don't support something that appeals to you is never going to end well, especially when all indications are that the scientists are being careful and thorough. Unfortunately, we're now seeing more of this sort of behavior in areas as diverse as climate change, vaccine safety, and animal research.

December 02, 2011

protecting the one-percenters . . .

The Baltimore Sun talks economic pig-heaven.
Much of the GOP counter-proposal seems to have been fashioned for political effect — including a prohibition on millionaires and billionaires receiving food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). We don't know what budget documents Republicans have been t studying, but when last we looked, Warren Buffett's SNAP card wasn't one of the bigger drivers of the nation's deficit.

To be charitable, it's good that Republicans have at least shown some interest in extending the payroll tax break. It's the kind of policy that they've endorsed in the past, but Mr. Obama's interest in it (as part of his jobs bill) initially cooled theirs.

Still, what's maddening about their counter-proposal is not simply that Republicans would hold the well-being of millionaires over all others but that they would do so under the guise that they are looking out for "job creators," as if the rich were chiefly responsible for growing the economy.

Here's a news flash: The wealthy don't drive the economy. Job creation depends on both investment and consumption. The payroll tax can stimulate both sides of that equation, but keeping down taxes for the rich has little bearing on either. If it did, the country would be in economic pig-heaven, as effective tax rates on the highest earners among us haven't been lower in 30 years.

spot on . . .

Chuck Raasch on permanent campaigning.
The Republicans are paying the costs of the permanent campaign. President Barack Obama is reaping its benefits.

But ultimately, the permanent campaign hurts everyone by valuing ambition over governing competency, by exposing governance to the corrosive effects of constantly negative messaging and by giving leaders excuses for postponing big decisions. The length of our campaigns for president should cause Americans to again ask if the process produces the best nominees and presidents.

2011 should tell us that the answer is no.

November 30, 2011

community gardening . . .

Many of my favorite stories end up in a garden. This story from The Arizona Republic of a homeless man who found a backpack containing $3,300 and searched for the owner is no exception.
Tally says that he now has his dream career.

"I'm blessed," he said, adding that he hopes to return to school to further his horticulture studies.

He is in the garden almost every day planting, digging and cultivating food that is distributed to community volunteers and to the food pantry.

"I just don't want anybody to have to take something out of the garbage to eat," Tally said, explaining why he spends so much time in the garden.

Recently, he started managing an internship program that allows people who are homeless to volunteer in the garden.

Read more:

November 29, 2011

testing the media waters . . .

I agree with Arianna Huffington.
Mitt Romney's brazenly dishonest ad is far from the garden-variety truth stretching we're used to in political campaigns. It is so breathtakingly cynical it should cause us to question whether a candidate that would put it forth is fit for any public office -- let alone the presidency. Along with being deceitful, the ad is also a challenge to the media. It's like when a toddler looks right at you and slowly and deliberately spills a glass of milk. The child wants to see the reaction. It's a test of boundaries. If there's no reaction, then the message is that it's okay. That Mitt Romney hasn't been forced to apologize for this ad, that he hasn't been forced to fire the team responsible for it, isn't just a failure of Romney's -- it's a failure of our media culture.

November 22, 2011

maybe it is about love . . .

There is something to this . . .
Based on the Word, The Christian Left believes it’s obvious that the primary message of Jesus was love -- Love for God, and love for our fellow men and women.

Matthew 22:37-40 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Matthew 7:12 Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward in heaven will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Mark 10:43-45 Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.

John 13:14-15 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.

Love God and love people.Forgive people over and over again, as you have been forgiven by God over and over again. Show mercy, as you have been shown mercy by God. Help the weak, the sick, the depressed, the poor, the jailed, the oppressed, the marginalized, the outcast -- for one day you could be weak, sick, depressed, poor, jailed, oppressed, marginalized, outcast. It is also the only reasonable response to God’s overwhelming grace – sharing the same grace with the world.

we need to listen . . .

It is still happening (in Alabama, and across the nation) . . .
His name was Rocrast Mack. An Alabama prison inmate, death at age 24 came at the hands of six corrections officers, who took turns battering him with their fists, feet and batons in retribution for a minor altercation with a female guard earlier that night, according to witness accounts and prison records.

Civil rights advocates call Mack's death an avoidable tragedy, the inevitable product of a profoundly dysfunctional state corrections system in Alabama that ranks among the very worst America has to offer.

It is a system flooded with low-level drug offenders like Mack, who was sentenced to 20 years behind bars after pleading guilty to selling $10 worth of crack cocaine to an undercover cop in 2009.

Read John Rudolf's full column on Huffington Post:

laughed out loud . . .

It is nice from time to time to have the knowledge in one's guts confirmed. Faux News indeed!
The study, which controlled for demographic factors like education and partisanship, found that "people who watch Fox News are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government" and "6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government" compared to those who watch no news.

Dan Cassino, a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson, explained in a statement, "Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News. Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all."

November 18, 2011

climate change discovery . . .

The Discovery Channel is airing Frozen Planet (Discovery was involved in the joint-production of the series) but they will not show the series in its entirety . . . Seems folks in the U.S. don't believe in climate change.

The timing of a one-sided global warming programme could be particularly sensitive in the U.S., where climate change is an issue in the presidential race.

GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry accuses climate scientists of lying for money.
A poll earlier this year found that the majority of Americans believe that if climate change does exist, it is not caused by humans.

Fifty-three per cent of Republicans say there is no evidence of climate change, while the number is far higher among Tea Party supporters, with 70 per cent saying the theory is 'junk science' pushed by groups with a vested interest.

Sir David Attenborough presents and authors the series, the seventh episode of which, entitled 'On Thin Ice', looks at how the planet's ice is changing and what it means not only to the animals and people at the Poles but also the rest of the planet.

Read more:

Senator Sanders says . . .

On Nov. 17th 2011 roughly 200 people packed the Senate Budget Committee room and hallway to hear Sens. Bernie Sanders, Barbara A. Mikulski, Ben Cardin and Rosa DeLauro urge the super committee to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

November 15, 2011

listening to Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy . . .

Today's received-in-the-mail The New Yorker (Nov. 14, 2011) has a couple of fine quotes from W. H. Auden:
To Pray is to pay attention or, shall we say, 'listen' to someone or something other than oneself.
I like that . . . it may reach my notion (mostly unexpressed) of prayer . . .
The second quote is maybe as good, one of his last poems, a haiku:
He has never seen God,
but, once or twice, he believes
he has heard Him.

November 11, 2011

Hey, fellow vets, I salute you . . .

The Christian Science Monitor answers why Veterans Day falls on 11/11 . . .
American troops made significant headway in 1918, rebuffing a German offensive along the western front and moving Allied forces deeper into enemy territory. By November, Germany had had enough. It agreed to a cease-fire, signing the official armistice at 5 a.m. on November 11. The treaty took effect six hours later. On the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month," as the saying goes, the world knew peace once again.

The "War to End All Wars" had ended. For the next 36 years, America remembered November 11 as Armistice Day.

We (all of us in our country) must continue to do what we can for all of the vets needing a place to live, needing work . . .

November 09, 2011

the 1% party . . .

Tim Dickinson has a fine (must read) history of the GOP, Reagan, taxes, etc. in Rolling Stone detailing how we got to today's Party of NO.

Republicans talk about job creation, about preserving family farms and defending small businesses, and reforming Medicare and Social Security. But almost without exception, every proposal put forth by GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates is intended to preserve or expand tax privileges for the wealthiest Americans. And most of their plans, which are presented as common-sense measures that will aid all Americans, would actually result in higher taxes for middle-class taxpayers and the poor. With 14 million Americans out of work, and with one in seven families turning to food stamps simply to feed their children, Republicans have responded to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression by slashing inheritance taxes, extending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and endorsing a tax amnesty for big corporations that have hidden billions in profits in offshore tax havens. They also wrecked the nation's credit rating by rejecting a debt-ceiling deal that would have slashed future deficits by $4 trillion – simply because one-quarter of the money would have come from closing tax loopholes on the rich.

Read more:

November 02, 2011

ten commandments . . .

If I were writing 10 commandments (which I am not!), I would probably start here with Penn Jillette's suggestions for my inspiration. I would not start in the Bible.
5. Be there for your family. Love your parents, your partner, and your children. (Love is deeper than honor, and parents matter, but so do spouse and children.)

I like the rest of the suggestions as well . . .

October 31, 2011

occupy . . .

E.J. Dionne Jr. explains why Paul Ryan is unhappy.
It's hard to justify more tax cuts for the wealthy in a country that is becoming more rigidly stratified by class.
. . .
Telling the truth about inequality is politically wise, and morally necessary.

October 29, 2011

the big puma . . .

Lance Berkman has a world series ring! While many of us in Houston regard the Big Puma as one of the Astro greats he is also clearly a Cardinal.
Berkman, a 36-year-old lifelong Texan who graduated from New Braunfels Canyon High and led Rice University to its first College World Series appearance in 1997, hit the historic game-tying two-out, two-strike single in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 on Thursday night.

The Cardinals were twice one strike away from losing the World Series in six games, but they bounce back to win 10-9 in 11 innings and captured Game 7, 6-2.

Berkman went 1-for-3 with two runs scored in the deciding seventh game.

October 24, 2011

bird and hawk . . .

Session I Improvisation of Genius of Jazz CHARLIE PARKER alto sax and COLEMAN HAWKINS tenor sax (date 1950) with: Hank Jones - Piano,
Ray Brown - Double bass, Buddy Rich - Drums.
By Peppe Ruotolo

October 16, 2011

the blame game

While Robert Downey, Jr., a movie actor, is asking us to forgive someone, Herman Cain, an ex-CEO and president wannabe, is suggesting that we electrify anyone attempting to cross the U.S. border away from a port of entry . . .

Actually, Mr. Cain is full of ideas about who is to blame and who, like himself, are blameless . . . Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute explains why Mr. Cain is pointing in the wrong direction . . .
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain responded to a question about the Occupy Wall Street protests by saying, “Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

Here are the facts: This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released new data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showing that there were nearly 3.1 million job openings in August. However, we know from other BLS data that there were 14 million unemployed workers in August. In other words, there were nearly 11 million more job seekers than job openings.

The ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is now 4.6-to-1. A job seeker’s ratio of more than 4-to-1 means there are literally no jobs available for more than three out of four unemployed workers. In a given month in today’s labor market, the vast majority of the unemployed are not going to find a job no matter what they do.

string theory . . .

September 30, 2011

global crisis?

Is it really possible that the biggest political story of the coming U.S. presidential race is the Euro crisis and its global consequences - a story that few of us are probably closely following . . . ?

my main man . . .

no . . . no . . . no . . . and no . . .

A piece (Republican Gridlock Holds Consumers Hostage) from The Star-Ledger Editorial Page that hits the nail squarely on the head.
Republicans aggressively fought the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and came away with a big scalp: Warren herself, the architect of the new agency, stepped down as nominee and returned to Massachusetts to run for the U.S. Senate. With any luck, voters there will send her back to Washington to continue challenging those who would shield banks and big business at the expense of the American consumer.

You’d think, having ousted Warren, the Republicans would get down to the people’s business. Think again. Now, the Party of No is refusing to confirm President Obama’s new nominee, Richard Cordray, unless the agency is restructured — that is, essentially gutted of its powers to protect consumers. This has nothing to do with Cordray’s credentials — he’s the highly regarded former state attorney general of Ohio — and everything to do with the political gridlock that has enraged voters and engendered cynicism with government. And it lays waste to the lessons that were supposedly learned after the collapse of the mortgage industry and housing market in 2008, when consumer ignorance combined with banking’s predatory practices to create a disaster.

September 29, 2011

they are liars . . .

When Republicans (or anyone else) make a claim that they know to be untrue that is a lie . . .
After President Obama unveiled his jobs and deficit reduction plans, he took to the road to draw a contrast between himself and the Republican politicians who want to end his political career. Obama's proposes to spend money now on hiring people and cutting taxes temporarily to spur further job growth, and pay for it in just over a year, in large part by raising taxes on wealthy Americans.

The Republican vision -- phasing out safety net programs like Medicare in order to maintain low tax rates on the same group of affluent people -- is far less popular. So in their own tried and true way, Republicans recast Obama's plan for "shared sacrifice" as "the largest tax increase in history."

What a difference! But also untrue.

Beethoven redux . . .

This is really kind of big and cool news . . .
A movement of a Beethoven string quartet, lost in 1799, is to be given its premiere in Manchester on Thursday, after its discovery and reconstruction by Barry Cooper, professor of music at the University of Manchester.

The premiere will be given by the Quatuor Danel at a seminar open to the public at the University of Manchester.

Here is a bit of Beethoven (since we're not in Manchester today) . . .

September 27, 2011

paying for water . . .

Maybe we Texans didn't pray hard enough - seems our governor thought prayer rather than budget was the only answer worth pursuing . . . At our home, we also didn't budget for the drought but we also didn't rely solely on prayer - we used our "rainy day" nickels and dimes and kept water on our trees - our 16+ pines, oaks, maples, magnolias and lemon tree are still alive. Only the maple shows stress but that predates this year's drought. Houston on the whole has not fared so well. The drought continues to be devastating . . .
Tree casualty projections across the eight-county Houston area run as high as 66 million by the nonprofit Trees for Houston. The city will be removing only those on city public land.

"Droughts are like a Category 3 hurricane that moves very, very, very slow," said Tom Combs, vice president of the Texas region for DRC Emergency Services, the Mobile, Ala.-based company that would get the work if the spending is approved Wednesday. DRC is the city's disaster debris contractor. Combs said he does not know how many trees the company removed in the wake of Ike, only that DRC carted away 5 million cubic yards of debris, some from public land, some from private.

trickling with will durst & morning joe . . .

Okay, so we tried trickle down for a while . . . is it maybe time to try trickle up?
This past year hasn’t brought much good news about our economy. The nation’s unemployment rate is still at 9.1%, going down only half a percentage point since 2010. The USDA reports that 50 million Americans continue to struggle to put enough food on the table each day. And locally it doesn’t look much better – California’s unemployment hovers around 12%. Here in San Francisco, the list of families waiting to get into shelters is at it’s highest point since November 2009.

Class warfare! An oldie but a goodie, and about as unexpected as finding green grapes in a fruit salad. Why is it always a war with these guys? The culture war, war on Christmas, then they accuse Democrats of being emotionally unequipped to go to war. Well, which is it?

When taxes are raised on the rich, oh sure – that’s class warfare. But when libraries are closed and national parks left to rot so rich people can have more money, that’s trickle-down economics. What Barack should do is rename his efforts to balance the playing field with trickle-up economics. That would at least confuse them (not that they need more confusion) – “You know what, you’re right! It is a class war you started it and your side winning.”

The Republicans are especially upset about a proposal called the Warren Buffet rule, which calls for billionaires to pay taxes at the same rate as their secretaries. The GOP puts more faith in the Jimmy Buffet rule which holds that anybody who worries about coming up with next month’s rent money next should start drinking margaritas until they pass out.

What is it with the rich? How much money do they need? How many cars can you drive? How many imported Beluga caviar cream cheese canapés can you consume at a single cocktail party?

September 25, 2011

climate change and looking for vacation spots . . .

Greenland may soon be as green as its name - a holiday place for all the folks treading water in southeast Texas . . . but, oh wait, maybe the melt is slowing down or maybe we got the facts wrong . . .

September 24, 2011

red and saucey . . .

I am a graduate of Odessa High School and today is the celebration of my graduating class' 50th reunion. After much consideration, I have chosen not to go. Mostly because I knew so few people and of the very small cadre of friends, one is dead and another evidently terminally ill. During my school years, from Antelope, Texas for 1st grade to OHS for 12th grade, I did not attend the same school two years in a row. For me, it was hard to make lasting friendships. It is really from the army that I first met people that became important enough to me that I I continue to think and worry about some of them now (some 40+ years later). Not so for more than perhaps 3-4 people I knew in high school (Permian and Odessa combined) - I attended Odessa High for my sophomore year, Permian High for my junior year (its first year of existence) and back to OHS for my senior year. So, auspicious day or not, I have chosen to be somewhere else doing something else.

I am making tomato sauce to enhance my home-grown eggplants. I enjoy making red sauce (for pasta, eggplant dishes, veggie patties, a whole range of things) more than I can adequately explain. It is one of my favorite routines in the kitchen.

It's Mahatma Gandhi.
It's the top!
It's Napoleon Brandy.
It's the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
It's the National Gallery
It's Garbo's salary,
It's cellophane.
It's so sublime.

Or, to paraphrase Kid Sheleen, "it's just swell, the way I figured it would be . . . oh, it is just fine."

September 23, 2011

product placement without recompense . . .

A joy of living in Houston is not the wet weather, no longer the wonderful commute times, and not the beautiful beaches. All of this is more or less acceptable (less more than 'more' oft times). What is a terrific joy is our local brew! If I were a beer drinker, which I am, I would drink Saint Arnold brown ale which I do. I am a most happy camper with my fingers wrapped around a beautiful, deep copper brown ale of extraordinary taste!

nothing much . . .

Nothing begat nothing more and nothing less; nothing more never lived with anyone in a pretty how town; nothing less never made no plans for nobody with Nowhere Man.

September 22, 2011

Roman poetry is fine, but . . .

Despite Sextus Propertius, I doubt that absence ever made a heart grow fonder. If it did, beyond perhaps a few hours, it was mostly faulty memory. It's being there and sharing that fosters fondness and caring that can weather storms not yet sighted on the horizon.

taxes and class warfare . . .

September 20, 2011

bumper sticker . . .

There is supposedly a bumper sticker out there that says "I refuse to believe that corporations are people until Texas executes one of them." This got me wondering - how many wooden stakes would that take?

September 19, 2011

more numbers to add . . .

59% surveyed in the most recent New York Times / CBS poll say that jobs (32%) and the economy (27%) are the most important problem facing the country - the budge deficit is a very distant third (8%). I hope to see the President continue to hammer his theme of jobs, jobs, jobs. We need people to be able to return to work - we need jobs.

this adds up . . .

Some folks don't think union busting is class warfare; however, taxing millionaires may be . . . I think this quote from President Obama adds up. . .
"Either we have to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, or we have to ask seniors to pay more for medicare, or gut education," he continued. "This is not class warfare. It's Math."

thinking out loud . . .

I continue to be deeply disappointed in this administration's overall accomplishments. I continue to completely support this administration and will have no hesitation voting in 2012 for the President and, to the extent possible, in attempting to lessen influence of Boehner and cohorts.

September 09, 2011

some scary notions . . .

Hunter over at Daily Kos has some scary notions about Replublican presidential views and choices . . .
There is a hunger for mean, among the conservative base, and a hunger for punishing the nebulous other, whether that means the unemployed, the poor, the sick, the old, union workers, public sector workers, immigrants, disaster victims, Muslims, or anyone else. Rick Perry may suit them in a way that a Bachmann, Santorum, or Cain could not. He is just as fringe as any of those tea party favorites, but he has something each of them lacks: He looks like a Republican president. Specifically, he looks like their most recent Republican president.

hair on fire?

Okay, I did not watch the President last night. I'm finding little enthusiasm for politics in my psyche lately. It's bad enough to hear the 5 minute news summaries in the a.m. on KUHA though I do miss listening to AlJazeera reports on KPFT - my timing on driving to work . . . So I have little stomach for the ongoing chatter from D.C. while the country continues to be pummeled by lack of available work with liveable salary. However, is it possible we may be turning a corner of sorts - will the dialogue actually become about jobs and people needing work and less about deficit cutting (which mostly seems to mean cutting social security, medicate, medicaid, etc.)? Maybe a ray of sunshine falls with purpose on Paul Krugman's keyboard?
First things first: I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.

Of course, it isn’t likely to become law, thanks to G.O.P. opposition. Nor is anything else likely to happen that will do much to help the 14 million Americans out of work. And that is both a tragedy and an outrage.

The good news in all this is that by going bigger and bolder than expected, Mr. Obama may finally have set the stage for a political debate about job creation. For, in the end, nothing will be done until the American people demand action.

September 07, 2011

drying out . . .

The weather in Houston is evidently not expected to get wetter during next several months.
As a result, we should see the current drought persist through next spring over most of Texas, including the greater Houston area as La Niña intensifies. Yes, Texas will likely see some welcomed wet periods at times during the fall and early winter as the polar storm track occasionally shifts south bringing quick bursts of precipitation associated with cold fronts and other fast moving disturbances; however, below to well-below-normal precipitation will likely by the dominant weather trend over most of the state though next May.

September 06, 2011

reflections on a muddy pool . . .

If you haven't already read this confirmation of what many of us have been saying for a while . . . do read it!

It continues to amaze me that so many "thoughtful people" seem so unpreturbed by today's political mire . . .
Barbara Stanwyck: "We're both rotten!"

Fred MacMurray: "Yeah - only you're a little more rotten." -"Double Indemnity" (1944)
But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

September 03, 2011

have a nice labor day weekend . . .

is there no law of our side . . . ?

Not only did Murdoch give himself a raise and a bonus for effective leadership but does it occur to you that about 1% of the population in the U.S. is continually thumbing its big fat nose at all the rest of us?
S&P is poised to provide AAA grades to 59 percent of Springleaf Mortgage Loan Trust 2011-1, a set of bonds tied to $497 million lent to homeowners with below-average credit scores and almost no equity in their properties. New York-based S&P stripped the U.S. of its top rank on Aug. 5, saying Washington politics were making the country less creditworthy.

From Romeo and Juliet
I will frown as I pass by, and let them take it as they list.

Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them, which is disgrace to them if they bear it.

Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

I do bite my thumb, sir.

Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

SAMPSON [Aside to Gregory]
Is the law of our side if I say ay?

GREGORY [Aside to Sampson]

No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.

September 02, 2011

there's a stench in the air . . .

This kind of elitist bullshit is what is truly un-American.
Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote?

Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery.

Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.

September 01, 2011

gypsy airs . . .

Elenin is coming . . . Elenin is coming . . . Elenin is coming . . .

"And this is the Ninth and Last Sign:
You will hear of a dwelling-place in the heavens, above the earth, that shall fall with a great crash. It will appear as a blue star. Very soon after this, the ceremonies of my people will cease."
The comet Elenin which will pass by Earth October 16 and because of all the doom and gloom from different corners of the universe NASA recently issued a release to answer some of the questions they have received.

One of my favorites is the question
Why aren't you talking more about Comet Elenin? If these things are small and nothing to worry about, why has there been no public info on Comet Elenin?
And also, why don't we hear more about who built the canals on Mars?

Picturing America

The Linen Hall Library, in cooperation with the U.S. Consulate in Belfast, is hosting Picturing America, an exhibition portraying masterpieces of American art that depict iconic people, places, and moments in American history. The exhibition coincides with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States ten years ago this month.

The online gallery is well worth a visit.

let's talk about jobs . . .

Yes, I've heard the grumbles . . . and heard some of the crowing from the dysfunctional side of the aisle . . . But . . . I think that Chris Cillizza has a point:
But Obama and his political team were smart to reschedule the event for (at least) three reasons.

1. No one wins a process fight: If Obama had doubled down on the Sept. 7 date, the coverage leading up to the speech would have focused heavily — if not exclusively — on the process (why the White House had done it, etc.) of the speech rather than the policy of it. Process battles, while beloved by reporters, are rarely a good thing for politicians and policy-makers. (See the health care debate and the fight over raising the debt ceiling.) Obama wants and needs to begin to build momentum — from a policy and a political perspective — from this speech, and turning it into a process story would be the exact wrong way to do that.

2. Get the last word: If Obama had stuck to Sept. 7, it would have allowed every Republican presidential candidate a real-time opportunity to respond (and criticize) his proposal. The coverage of the speech would be inter-mingled with coverage of the debate, meaning that Obama’s preferred message would be decidedly muddled. By waiting a day, Obama can more tightly control his message and get the last word (or close to it) of what will be a pivotal week in the presidential race.

3. Pick your audience: Given House Speaker John Boehner’s (Ohio) resistance to putting the speech on Sept. 7 and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s promise to block such a move, Obama would likely have had to give the speech from the Oval Office if he wanted to deliver it next Wednesday. (The logistics of setting up such a major speech somewhere out in the country are daunting and not something the White House would likely have done.) Some of Obama’s least effective addresses have been from the Oval Office, and his team knows it. They wanted him to speak to a joint session of Congress for a reason — to send a powerful visual and rhetorical message that he can’t solve the economic problems of the country alone. To walk away from that preferred backdrop simply to prove a point makes no political sense.

August 31, 2011

pushing the old panic button . . .

Yes . . . No . . . Maybe? This from the Delaware News-Journal:

"We panicked," said Ken Crow, president and co-founder of Tea Party of America.
O'Donnell will speak for 10 to 15 minutes at the rally at the National Balloon Classic Field in Indianola, 18 miles south of Des Moines.

UPDATE . . . or maybe not . . . ?

where the money goes . . . and goes . . .

A report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) finds that for some U.S. firms it costs more to pay their CEOs and their Lobbying firms than to pay their U.S. taxes.
In putting together its study, IPS chose to compare CEO pay to current U.S. taxes paid, excluding foreign and state and local taxes that may have been paid, as well as deferred taxes which can often be far larger than current taxes paid.

Peoria looks east . . .

. . . and from the Peoria Journal Star we learn that this is how it is playing in Peoria:

PEORIA — Rest assured, East Coast, Uncle Sam will be there for you in cleaning up. You may have to swap some other government services down the road for the immediate help, but hey, the most critical thing now is that your political leaders have arrived to do the math.

Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Fox News Channel that Congress would "find the money if there is a need" to assist ravaged local communities in the wake of the twin wallop of an earthquake and a hurricane, but that it would mean offsetting the price tag dollar for dollar "with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere."

You know, it goes without saying - which is why it should have been left unsaid - that the federal government has unprecedented budget challenges, that this is one more its leaders hadn't reckoned on, that "monies are not unlimited" and that it's probably going to require moving some dollars around. But with 41 people dead in 11 states as a result of Hurricane Irene as of this writing, $7 billion and counting in estimated property damage, nearly 3 million people still without power, homes and roads and businesses under water or swept away, don't you want a firefighter coming to your rescue right now rather than a bean counter to remind you the meter is running? Don't you want to hear from a sympathizer-in-chief rather than a scold-in-chief lecturing you about the foolishness of borrowing to buy that car when you should have been planning in advance for a loved one to get sick?

leaping public interest in a single bound . . .

This from the Detroit Free Press should be read in its entirety . . .
To understand why the income gap separating the nation's wealthiest citizens from everyone else is growing, and why it will likely continue to do so, it's instructive to examine the dramatic changes underway in presidential campaign financing.[...]
The notion that [super] PACs operate independently of the candidates they seek to promote is a fiction founded on legal distinctions that would be laughable if they were not so cynically fraudulent.

The only practical difference between the candidates' campaign committees and the new dedicated super PACs is the lack of fund-raising limitations on the latter.

The net impact of such chicanery is to assure that the nation's elected representatives, like its financial assets, are in the pockets of an ever more exclusive minority of 21st Century plutocrats.

August 25, 2011

24 days of triple digit temperature in Houston . . .

Wow! Houston's coolest day in August. It only reached 95 degrees today at Bush International. I was talking to A. about wearing a sweater tomorrow but maybe not. It is supposed to warm up again. And I haven't even cooled off any . . . Oh, bother!

et tu kinky . . .

I had always thought that Friedman's kinkiness hid a streak of real Texas gut-level common sense - turns out it doesn't hide as much as I had thought.

August 21, 2011

dulce et decorum est . . .

Latin volo ut lego. I want to read Latin and comprehend what I read (at least to the extent that I can read Chaucer (which is not without some stumbles). So I've got myself a "Latin Made Simple" book and have been working through it.

A. tells me Latin was a difficult slog for her (at high school). All languages look difficult to me. Part of the difficulty with Latin for English speakers is that Latin, unlike English, is a highly inflected language.

I should have a slight edge here since I studied Magyar and learned it well enough to be given a Diploma from the Defense Language Institute West Coast Branch at the Presidio of Monterey, California. Hungarian is also an inflected language - the spelling of the words rather than their order in the sentence indicates the meaning.

The impetus for this was an old army bud, another "Monterey Mary" (as grads of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey are called), who used a Latin phrase that I thought sounded familiar but could not decipher. When I deciphered the phrase, I realized that it fit the conversation so well that I was jealous that I could not as easily toss these bon mots into summing up a statement.

I say "read Latin" because I have some expectation (hope!) of being able to do that - but there is small chance (shrinking to zero) that I will also learn to speak it - reading it out loud perhaps (like the Lord's Prayer which I understand a lot of people are able to read aloud).

As an aside - there is a story of sorts behind how I found myself at the Presidio in Monterey studying Hungarian. I did not do so well with trying to learn Spanish in junior high school, but ah well . . .

After high school I had decided to join the service with the hope of travel, etc. So, I went to the Army recruiter in Odessa, TX and was sent by bus to Abilene, TX for a physical. Well, I didn't pass the physical - I am deaf in my left ear. It is a birth defect and something that I was so used to coping with that it never occurred to me that the Army would think it a problem. They did. I wasn't accepted. So I tried again to pass the physical - and again was denied. I was in Albuquerque where my Dad lived and decided to give it one more go. As I sat in my soundproof cubicle pushing the button when I heard something in one of my ears - I just starting pushing even when I heard nothing. The midshipman giving me the test (don't know why I was being tested by naval personnel) stopped the test and spoke on the mike into my (good) ear, "Boydstun, you really want in that damn bad?" I said, Yessir. I soon learned that you don't say Yessir to midshipman, but there it was, I wanted in that damn bad. Anyway, the midshipman flung out his arms toward me, as though showering me with gifts, and exclaimed, "You're in the Army!"

I was in the Army. So I went to Monterey and studied Hungarian and was stationed in Germany as a voice intercept operator. In Germany, I was trained on radio receiver to intercept military voice transmissions. There were several of us in the same room performing a variety of intercept chores and we needed to inter react with one another - I was told to keep one side of my headset on one ear with the other ear exposed to the room so that we could coordinate as necessary. Well, I obviously couldn't keep my deaf left ear exposed to the room so I covered it with the headset and then propped the other side on my good right ear in such a way that I could hear both the noise from the receiver and the noise from the room. It was an interesting 2-3 years in Germany.

But I never felt the need to learn Latin until now. My Latin is good enough to read Wilfred Owen, but I want to go beyond that. And, as Poirot might observe, it should help keep the little gray cells active.

August 18, 2011

I liked this guy . . .

Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a full-time job.
- Adlai E. Stevenson

free women too . . .

"The history of free men is never written by chance but by choice - their choice."
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

from Americana . . .

This is a quote that I should perhaps attempt to memorize and utilize (the memorization should be easy enough . . . )
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.-Winston Churchill

August 03, 2011

missed birthday . . .

I seem to have missed the birthday (yesterday evidently) but the mystery birthday is . . . one of my favorite actresses . . .

It's Not the Uke Blues

I was so sad and forlorn I was going to sing the blues.
So I pulled out my Ukelele and tried to pay my dues.
I pulled up a few minor chords just because.
But...then ...what I didn't know was...
You can't play the blues on a Ukelele.
No, you cannot play the blues on a Uke.
You should try a mouth harp, a guitar or even a banjo,
But. you shouldn't play the blues on a Uke.
I mean how can you be sad thinking of Hawaii?
With those palm trees and the ocean all around.
How can the plink tink of a Ukelele.
Do anything but get rid of your frown?
You can't play the blues on a Ukelele.
No, you cannot play the blues on a Uke.
You should try a mouth harp, a guitar or even a banjo,
But. you shouldn't play the blues on a Uke.
Well Jake Shimakaro plays “while my guitar gently weeps”
But he's known for doing the Ukelele impossible.
Picking up and singing with my Uke makes me sappy.
I suddenly forget all the reasons to be unhappy.
You can't play the blues on a Ukelele.
No, you cannot play the blues on a Uke.
You should try a mouth harp, a guitar or even a banjo,
But. you shouldn't play the blues on a Uke.
Geneva Fry
used with permission

July 29, 2011

give me that old time religion . . .

Time for the 14th amendment . . . it's good enough for me!

no, no, not samozas . . .

Whaaaaaat? Ban samozas? How can the world forge forth without the basic necessities of life? Okay, wait a minute. I admit that I no longer eat Samozas. But I love the damn things! They are great! Too rich (and I'm not talking meat samozas because I've never had one) but still - food of the gods! The only way to properly prepare an edible greasy potato - I love the damn things! But, it seems that they have a triangular shape, you know, like the trinity . . .
No reasons were given for the bizarre move, announced by militants in vehicles mounted with loudspeakers.

However, residents of a south Mogadishu settlement and Afgoye, a town 30 kms south of the capital where the ban was imposed speculated that the Islamists may have associated the triangle-shaped snack with a symbol of Christianity that is not compatible with their strict version of Islam.
O world! Listen to the madness all around you! Ban Samozas? You might as well ban skinny dipping! Some things are basic to humanity . . .

what recovery . . . ?

This column by Richard Wolff is exactly on point . . .
The so-called economic "recovery" since mid-2009 was chiefly hype, a veneer of good news to disguise and minimise the awful underlying economic realities. The few (large corporations and the rich) who bear much of the responsibility for the crisis made sure that the government they finance used massive amounts of public money to support a recovery for them. The mass of the population was excluded from the government-financed recovery for the few. We now have the summary official statistics to expose this grotesque injustice.

July 28, 2011

my plans for the weekend . . .

We keep a book in our Kitchen that both A. and I very much enjoy reading and looking through: Kitchen Garden by Anna Nicholas.

It is a beautiful, informative little book. We like it . . . and, it doesn't now
cost as much as we may have paid for it. I expect to try a recipe from it this weekend when family come over: Garlic Broth Provencal.

Here's the recipe, simplicity itself, and I'll report back our reviews: add 6 (or more) crushed cloves of garlic, sprig of sage and a bay leaf to 2 1/2 pints (6 cups) of salted, boiled water. Boil 8 minutes and remove from heat. Beat 1 egg (come on folks, make it an egg from an uncaged, free roaming chicken who wasn't fed a corporate mash of growth hormones, etc.) in a large bowl, then still beating, gradually strain the broth into the bowl (add salt if needed and your doctor will allow it) and lots of black pepper (don't even talk to the doctor about the pepper!) until it tastes the way it should. Serve with your favorite (unsliced) bread (French should do nicely even if it isn't the favorite). Enjoy!

I intend to try this . . .

July 19, 2011

the worse, the better . . .

Comment by George Packer in the New Yorker:
The sociologist Max Weber, in his 1919 essay “Politics as a Vocation,” drew a distinction between “the ethic of responsibility” and “the ethic of ultimate ends”—between those who act from a sense of practical consequence and those who act from higher conviction, regardless of consequences. These ethics are tragically opposed, but the true calling of politics requires a union of the two. On its own, the ethic of responsibility can become a devotion to technically correct procedure, while the ethic of ultimate ends can become fanaticism. Weber’s terms perfectly capture the toxic dynamic between the President, who takes responsibility as an end in itself, and the Republicans in Congress, who are destructively consumed with their own dogma. Neither side can be said to possess what Weber calls a “leader’s personality.” Responsibility without conviction is weak, but it is sane. Conviction without responsibility, in the current incarnation of the Republican Party, is raving mad.
Read it all . . .

July 18, 2011

looking for cylons

I took this picture before I started watching the new (actually no longer "new") Battlestar Galactica series on Netflix (damn them, raising prices at a time like this) but I'm sure there must be Cylons down there and I ain't going down . . .

if you decide to post a comment

If you want to post a comment on this site, we welcome it. You can post as anonymous or use a name. You do not need to use both a name and an url. The choice name/url evidently means one or the other. If I were as facile with blogging settings and explaining them as I am with growing and consuming delicious okra my explanations here might be more satisfying . . . we will delete obnoxious bullshit but not necessarily obnoxious comments.

July 16, 2011

things i like to eat . . . and eat . . .

No recipe needed on this - just wide noodles with a few olives and veggies - including carrots, red peppers, few leafs of chopped cabbage, halved cherry tomatoes, fresh ground hard cheese and yummy for the heart and tummy.
The pictures don't do justice to this wonderful soup - cod soup is a staple Saturday lunch at our house - ingredients depend on what is in season (either in our garden or at the farmers' markets) with assist from the freezer as needed. A glass of cab, my cod soup and thee . . .

pandering to wall street . . . again

This story by Jim B. Stewart in The New York Times deserves a close read.
The economy is still suffering from the worst financial crisis since the Depression, and widespread anger persists that financial institutions that caused it received bailouts of billions of taxpayer dollars and haven’t been held accountable for any wrongdoing. Yet the House Appropriations Committee has responded by starving the agency responsible for bringing financial wrongdoers to justice — while putting over $200 million that could otherwise have been spent on investigations and enforcement actions back into the pockets of Wall Street.
How is it putting over $200 million back into the pockets of Wall Street? Because, even though the Republican controlled appropriations committee report cited the Federal debt as a basis for cutting the SEC budget, the budget of the SEC is funded not by taxpayer money but from levied fees on those that the SEC regulates - which, of course, includes Wall Street. That means the over $200 cut from the budget stays in the pockets of the very people who were so instrumental in causing the current rescission. It's more Repub hocus pocus.

July 14, 2011

cuts sometimes bleed greviously

Ms. & Mr. CongressRep, Bernanke is talking to you . . . again!
(Reuters) - U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress on Thursday that overzealous cuts to government spending in the short term could derail an already fragile recovery and said a U.S. debt default may wreak financial havoc.

"I only ask ... as Congress looks at the timing and composition of its changes to the budget, that it does take into account that in the very near term the recovery is still rather fragile, and that sharp and excessive cuts in the very short term would be potentially damaging to that recovery," Bernanke told members of the Senate Banking Committee.

places i've been . . .

this ain't mayday, but . . .

The day the empanadas vanished

We have a local chain of grocery stores here in Houston (I think there is one in Austin and perhaps even elsewhere in region) that are unusual in the width and variety of stock offered. The international section is unbelievably comprehensive for a local grocery store - especially for items from Mexico, South America but also from far east, Europe and mediterranean area. It's the only place in town where you can almost always find a can of delicious smoked sprats (these from Latvia).

When A. and I first moved to Houston we were delighted to find that the bakeries in most Fiesta stores made a wide range of American and Mexican baked goods, including a variety of quite delicious empanadas. Our favorite became the apple empanada from a particular store (now closed because of freeway expansion - our freeways in Houston will soon cover the entirety of East Texas!) but most other stores had comparable apple empanadas so wherever we were if we saw a Fiesta store and felt the need, we would stop by for our empanada fix. Delicious. For years they were delicious.

About three weeks ago, we were shopping at our local Fiesta - looking for sprats actually for a surprise birthday party - and realized we had not eaten breakfast. We finished our shopping, went by the bakery and grabbed us a couple of empanadas and started back to the house, empanadas in hand. For some reason - perhaps our recent, slightly more austere, diets - but for some reason the empanada, while delicious, seemed a little too sweet. I am certain that the empanada was the same as before. But I guess I wasn't. After one bite, I stared at the portable pie in my hand (one eye on the road as I was driving) and realized it was not the most nutritious item available to staunch our hunger. I turned to A., "Do you realize what is in this thing? Look at it - do you know what we are eating?"

"An apple empanada?" she asked, clearly aware that she did know what she was eating.

"No," I said. "Look at it."

Okay, I'm not eating it, she said and she didn't and I didn't and we don't and evidently we won't anymore. We still go to Fiesta - but now we buy their fresh apples in the produce section (organic when they have them) rather than the empanadas which clearly are not made from the apples they sell in their produce section. I'm sure that those apples come with complete filling in large tins from . . . where? I don't know, but we don't eat them anymore.

July 12, 2011

wabi-sabi sunflower

The transcendent beauty of this poor bedraggled sunflower, unsuccessful springboard for a squirrel after bird seed, calls forth from my soul some understanding for the struggles that the uncouth volunteers in my garden must bear against the brunt of my weeding frenzies - they cannot or will not blend into the blandness of tomato, pepper, and basil plants but push forward with their otherworldly attempts to express some individuality demonstrating their unique right to a small spot in the garden, a spot that was clearly their own before the cultivation of my trim near-identical rows of easy eatables.

I like sunflowers.

July 04, 2011

July 4 Garden Pictures

We actually had our family holiday celebration yesterday - so today is kinda laid back and easy - run with the dogs early a.m. followed by day of easy living... I like days of easy living, a St. Arnold's ale and a bit of homemade cod soup.

The sunflower is a volunteer - probably from our being able to again share seed with the neighborhood birds since we no longer have backyard cats. There is an upside and a downside to this. We miss the cats. But while we had the cats, we missed the birds. I like cats fine. I also like birds and sometimes likes don't mix so well - sometimes likes require a little care and shepherding.

This flower is a reminder that life and living, relationships and sharing, are all ways always complex and mostly worth the trouble. I like sunflowers.

The rose is a survivor. A surprise and delight that is tougher than nails! Thorny anyway. It is an "almost wild rose" or some such name from a local nursery bought (with companions) a few years ago to live near a sweet olive tree reported to top out at about 12' or so. Well the sweet olive is double that in size and throws an immense shade that roses (including their almost wild kin) don't tolerate well. Roses like their sunshine!

After living in the shade of the olive tree for the last 2-3 years, the rose was mostly three or four sticks with a few leaves and no flowers. It would occasionally struggle to produce a petal or two of pink, but no real flowers. Finally we decided to put a shade-lover, a lover of the darker sides of living, in its place. We briefly considered tossing the bedraggled rose on the compost. But no, we decided, even in this hottest June on record (or at least since 1906) for Houston, we decided to try a new home for the rose. We transplanted the rose to another sunnier corner of the garden and watered it (I keep wanting to call the rose a her but I'm going to keep calling the rose an "it"). I was pretty sure that it would die in this heat, but how little credit we sometimes give to the urge for life - the urge to express oneself. So! one short month later, we have this terrific "almost wild" rose smiling into the early morning sunlight. I like roses.

June 07, 2011

Paul Ryan a Deficit Hawk? Give me a break!

Wikipedia defines "deficit hawk" as someone who places great emphasis on keeping the federal deficit in check:
Deficit hawks are fiscal conservatives who believe the best way to reduce the deficit, pay off national debt, and balance the budget is by increasing taxes in addition to cutting government spending. George Voinovich of Ohio was perhaps the most recent best-known deficit hawk in the United States Senate, as were Warren Rudman of New Hampshire, Phil Gramm of Texas and Fritz Hollings of South Carolina and Bob Dole of Kansas during their years in the Senate. The Peterson Foundation is a prominent advocate of this position. The Concord Coalition is a bipartisan political advocacy group made up of deficit hawks and is perhaps the largest and most influential political advocacy group dedicated to promoting a balanced budget.

So, if you buy that definition (and the examples) as at least near the mark, is Paul Ryan a deficit hawk as the media states over and over ad nauseum? Give me a break!

I completely agree with Jonathan Chait over at the New Republic when he declaims in an aside
Stop calling Ryan a "deficit hawk." He voted for all of Bush's tax cuts. He voted for all the wars. He voted for Bush's Medicare prescription drug bill. He voted against the deficit-reducing Affordable Care Act. He voted against the Bowles-Simpson plan. He opposes any deficit reduction plan that increases revenue. Ryan is anti-government but he is clearly not a deficit hawk.

This guy Paul Ryan, this Ayn Rand acolyte, is not a deficit hawk by any stretch of the definition - but just because his Republican friends are loudly proclaiming him a savvy deficit hawk does not mean that the bulk of the media should follow suit. Give me a break!

Don't you believe it!

June 03, 2011

It is a Republican Mess

I mostly try to stick to topics like gardening, family, poetry, dogs and cats and ignore the sour winds of politics but the idiocy (long rampant) is getting more and more ridiculous.

Secretary Timothy F. Geithner met with House Democratic and Republican freshmen who have expressed doubt that there is a risk in not raising the debt limit even as Moody's Investor Service was issuing a stern warning of consequences.

According to the New York Times, one of the Republicans evidently told Secretary Geithner, "We didn't create this mess."

The Times story included its own rather mild assessment:
Independent analyses have shown that more than half of the $14.3 trillion debt is from policies enacted during the past decade when Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress, and much of the rest from lost revenues and stimulus spending and tax cuts since Mr. Obama took office at the height of the financial crisis and recession.

Okay, this needs to be hammered! Let's do the simple and stark analysis here: "over half" of the debt is from Repub policies and "much of the rest from lost revenues and stimulus spending and tax cuts since Mr. Obama took office." Those lost revenues and tax cuts are leftover detritus the Bush administration and the stimulus spending (some started under Bush) are virtually all that has kept the economy from a complete tank. This needs to be repeated and repeated these Republicans who are now yelling for cuts, cuts, cuts (but not cuts in war costs) are creators of this mess and their tax cuts for the rich are a big part of it.