Posts

Showing posts from 2007

Hey, IOWA! (EYE-OH-WAY)

Image
Do Something to Shake It UP

Pick a Democrat who will keep the campaign alive, kicking and a little crazy (without really hurting any of the candidates).

Pick a Republican who represents the best of what Republicans once were.

OK... Even though I thought the old SeniorJunior would not endorse anyone, it looks like I really do. If I look back over the stream of thought in this blog, I can't help but notice that one Democrat seems to be mad at all the people I'm mad at: Big Hedge Funds, Big Chemical, Big Oil, Big Retail, Big Insurance, Big Media, Big Moralists and the Big Lobbyists for all of them. Global Warming Denyers, Poor Consumer Regulation, and all the other flat-earthers go in the list as well.

And who, you ask, might this Dem candidate be? Why...

JOHN EDWARDS, of course.
PIX CREDIT

NOTE: I REALLY LIKE THEM ALL, THEM DEMS. I'LL SUPPORT AND WORK FOR WHOEVER WINS.

But... Giving Edwards the win in Iowa will shake things up. The populist tone of the election will amp up …

GOOD (Sucko, screwed, bollixed) JOB, BUSHIE

Four Body Blows to a Staggering Presidency

This morning's NY Times and Washington Post front pages features four stories documenting the gross failures of the Bush Administration (and its enabling Congress). Economic, foreign and domestic failures stack on the stinky pile Prez Bush is leaving for his successors to try to clean up.

ECONOMIC

NY Times:
Fed Shrugged as Subprime Crisis Spread
Some excerpts:

Today, as the mortgage crisis of 2007 worsens and threatens to tip the economy into a recession, many are asking: where was Washington?

An examination of regulatory decisions shows that the Federal Reserve and other agencies waited until it was too late before trying to tame the industry’s excesses. Both the Fed and the Bush administration placed a higher priority on promoting “financial innovation” and what President Bush has called the “ownership society.”

“The Federal Reserve could have stopped this problem dead in its tracks,” said Martin Eakes, chief executive of the center (for Res…

Why No News Story on This Biggie?

Me, John Edwards, John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich

All four agree that the way to a fair and universal health plan for America is to DO AWAY WITH FOR-PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES. We don't want "socialized medicine" with the government running the health biz. We don't want health care to be "free." We want every penny to be paid by the recipients of the care, just on a progressive ability-to-pay, non-profit insurance basis. The House Bill (HR 676) that describes this approach is called "The New Medicare" or "Medicare for All." (If Edwards were still in the Senate, I betcha there would be a Senate Bill.)

OK, great idea. Over some years, we gradually phase out the for-profit insurance companies, and transition to the Medicare-like system with tiny administrative costs comparatively. Nearly all the health care money goes to actual health care providers. What a concept!

Inherent in this plan is an absolutely HUGE news story waitin…

Touristas, Montezuma's Revenge, Etc UPDATED

Image
YEA! Improved Meds for Fearless Travel

Science News (One of my favorite magazines) reports that there is a patch now for greatly reducing your chances of getting bowel bombed on your next trip to a 2nd or 3rd world destination.

In case you need reminding about how Vengeful Montezuma can really be, read this.
My image of a really bad case
Pix source

If you are a subscriber to Science News, read this. (If you are not, become one. It's a great weekly that will make you scientifically literate overnight.)

Since the announcement of this marvelous breakthrough came at "at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene" in Philadelphia, I reckon it's not really on the market yet, but start bugging your doctor and your pharmacist for your early adopter rights.


Have a nice trip.

What Do Bullies Do?

Image
PICK ON THE LITTLE GUY
(...Because there are no lobbyists for them - and they can't make huge politcal contributions. And Republicans have no regard for the little guy these days.)

NOTE:

Food stamps, perhaps the logo for the littlest guys, are dwindling just as the need is growing.

Purchasing power for most salaried and hourly employees is flat or diminishing.

Veterans (overwhelmingly "little guys") with PTSD are under-diagnosed and under treated. Veteran care in general is a mess. Private "contractor" soldiers get paid ten times as much as soldiers in our voluntary armed services.

40+ million Americans have no health insurance. Health care costs are hyper-inflating. Over a third of our health care dollars go to insurance companies' administration, executive salaries and shareholder profits. (Insurance companies have A LOT of lobbyists and make HUGE political contributions.)

National Institutes of Health are losing federal funding. Plus the Forest Service,…

Deny, Deny, Deny

Image
Is a Fact Not a Fact If You Disagree With It? Or If Its Existence Inconveniences You?
What’s with all this denial of facts?Why deny there is dangerous climate change going on?Why deny that the vast human population is influencing climate?Why deny that evolution has been the dominant force of change in living organisms?Why deny that species are going extinct under human assault?Why deny that we are over-fishing the oceans?Why deny … well you get the drift.Once “facts” are established, then proven and re-proven and confirmed and re-confirmed, the “ ”s go away, and they are then just facts.But the denying just keeps on going.And the simple fact is that nearly all of this kind of denying comes from the right side of the political spectrum.As if your political position should have any effect on facts.
Is there something inherent about “conservative” thinking that makes denial a central tenet?It’s often difficult to see what the connection is between a given political position and the factu…

It's Not a "War" on Drugs [UPDATED]...& Should They Be Legal?

Image
What, ME Libertarian?

Want to see a powerful piece on "The War on Drugs?" Dennis McCuistion's Public TV Talker puts this "war's" feet to the fire.


As much as I lean more Liberal than Libertarian, I found myself saying a few amens to this session. Criticizing the WOD is a political hot potato too scary for most elected types to even consider, but it is a massive boondoggle that deserves some serious revamping. (Great comment from an audience member: "There's no "War on Tobacco" and smoking is down from 65% to 21% of the American population. Drug use is up." What's wrong with that picture?

And later this week, the show tackles "Should Illegal Drugs Be Legal?" Whooee, baby. Those Libertarians are wild. [UPDATE: OK, here is the next show. Good stuff.]

Fox Business Channel - True Colors

Image
No Delay in Getting Right

I love CNBC for its energy, humor, expertise and credible reporters.

I love Bloomberg TV for its straight-ahead, no-whooshes production plus expertise and credible reporters.

I gave Fox Business News a chance, sampling it maybe 20 times since it went on, even with my great distaste for Fox News. So far, no love.

Why I don't love it: It feels smarmy to me. (Maybe all those blonds?). "Happy Hour" is ridiculous - especially up against Fast Money on CNBC. And CNBC's Larry Kudlow is a better fiscal conservative than anybody on Fox.

But wait! There's more I don't love. Yesterday afternoon, Cutesy Cavuto wanted some "expert" commentary on the bipartisan move in Congress ( The bill passed 291 to 127, with support from 64 House Republicans) to clamp down on predatory lending practices. Who did he get? Tom Delay no less, who promptly said it was Democrats trying to ruin a "great market system" that had put "million…

Amazing Optical Illusion

Image
As Big as The Sun

The exploding comet (!!) 17P/Holmes now has an atmosphere that is bigger than the sun.

You can read all about it, including where it is in the sky, how you can find it and how you can watch it apparently eat a star. All exciting stuff if you have so much as a whit of astronomy in your soul.

Even if you don't, CHECK THIS OUT. If you don't think this is animated, your brain works differently from mine.
Let me know.

T-t-t-t-TRILLION! updated

The First Trillionaire

It's gotta happen. One of these days somebody - probably a Bahrainian you never heard of - will become the world's first trillionaire (Wired Magazine says it will be Bill Gates). Imagine if whoever it is has Bill and Melinda Gates's charitable sensibilities!

Let's see, a trillion is a thousand billions. A billion is a thousand millions. A million is a thousand thousands. So a trillion is a thousand thousand thousand thousands.

That's a lot. It looks like we will spend even more than that on W's war.

(I've been interested in how little Americans seem to realize how much a mere $billion is. Even our newscasters seem to phumpher around with the difference between a bil and a mil.)

The best commentary I've seen on wasted trillions is in today's Christian Science Monitor (one of my favorite newspapers). Commentator Woody Taschmakes the fine suggestion "If Iraq is worth $1 trillion, let's allot just as much to benefit hum…

Big Oil “Can’t Afford” to Pay Taxes Like the Rest of Us

Those Poor Big Oils

Here are excerpts from two news items in yesterday and today's Wall Street Journal (still my favorite newspaper, but I'm worried).

Rangel Proposes Cuts
In Tax Overhaul Bill

"... Companies that us and accounting method known as last-in, first-out to value their inventories for tax and financial-reporting purposes would be required to shift to a new method -- a move that likely would result in a higher tax bill in many cases.

The elimination of last-in, First-out, or Lifo, would hit big oil companies and some manufacturing and retail firms. Lifo allows the value of goods held in inventory to be recorded at current prices, which reduces the taxable gain."

[In other words: Suppose Shell Oil bought a million barrels of OPEC oil for $72 a barrel last year, and now it's worth $90. Shell refines it now. Their "cost" for the raw material can be booked at $90, greatly reducing their taxable profit from the refined product. SD]

"Critics of Li…

Wal-Mart - The Big Ugly (UPDATED)

Image
Darn it, Wal-Mart... Come ON



I've been grousing about (and resolutely not shopping at) Wal-Mart and Sam's Club for years, mainly for three reasons: (Put "allegedly" in all the legal places below - they don't like criticism.)

1. An early Wal-Mart store wiped out most of the local retailers in my small Texas home town.

2. Their treatment of suppliers has been vicious - becoming a small manufacturer's biggest client, then grinding down their prices by threatening to quit buying. Then - ultimately - taking their purchase of the product offshore, occasionally using the original U.S. supplier's design to define the outsourced product.

3. Their treatment of their own employees has been rough, too. Avoiding medical benefits by manipulating hours to keep a high percentage of their workers "part-time," thus ineligible, for instance.

BUT THERE HAVE BEEN SOME "IMPROVEMENTS"

Maybe. It's hard to know whether the better health care plan we read…

Fresh Water Fright

Image
We Need a Really BIG Plan

Water, water nowhere. Speaking of Fright Night, imagine how bad it could get and how fast. Turn on the tap and get a dribble. Short, cold showers. Brown, crispy grass. Very dirty cars. Dirty clothes/dishes. Not to mention famine and giant forest fires.

Rent a copy of Soylent Green. Note that one minor note in it's symphony of a dystopic future (2022) is a scary fresh water shortage. It's even scarier than the movie's main theme.

I strongly believe - probably since I live in the western U.S. - that the most immediate threat of global warming is megadrought. Snowpacks are shrinking as fast as the North Pole sea ice. That means dry streams, rivers and reservoirs out here. And surely you've heard about what's happening in the normally wet southeastern U.S.

The New York Times Sunday Magazine today (10.21.07) has a blockbuster piece on the subject called The Future is Drying Up. [You have to "subscribe" to read it, but it'…

Ayn Rand Ridiculousness

Image
Nobody Considers What the Brain Surgeon Wants

* I have a Libertarian pal who sends me stuff from the Ayn Rand Institute to make his side of our various arguments. They are always good for a giggle in my view. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the latest screed.

Atlas Shrugged and Today's Healthcare Controversy
October 16, 2007"While Atlas is 50 years old, it contains many timeless truths that are just as relevant today as they were when it was first published."Take the realm of health care. Most Republicans and Democrats are proposing forms of socialized medicine--under euphemisms like 'universal health care,' 'national health insurance,' etc. Everyone talks about how to protect patient's 'right' to health care--but no one talks about the rights of the doctors that create this value. This is a deadly evasion that one of the characters in Ayn Rand's novel, Dr. Thomas Hendricks, an eminent surgeon who quits the field, eloquently ex…

Dog On

Image
A Breed Apart

A friend recently asked me about Airedales. My response was so succinct, I think I'll share it.

Airedales are big (70-90 pounds), curly-coated lovebugs.They were bred originally in Great Britain to catch the various critters in the granaries and on the docks. So they are “self-directed” hunters, i.e. hard to train as pointers, sitters, etc.But, man, can they catch squirrels, chipmunks, and the like.They are very people-centered, loyal and affectionate.Every one of them I’ve met would like to be a lap dog, even at 80 pounds.Oooof.

Jake & Friend

If smitten with Airedale need, check out the Southwest Airedale Rescue site. Read a warm, mushy true Airedale saga right here.

Demon, Demon Burning Bright

I love to quote myself. At least I'm sure of the source.

Back on June 7, 2006 I was in upper umbrage about the demonizers from the right: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Michael Medved, et al. I took a special swipe at the Queen of Queazy Ann Coulter.

Now with her latest spew about Jews, I would like to repeat myself.

The Mother Superior of demonizers on the right is Ann Coulter. Her new book "The Church of Liberalism - Godless" paints all "Libs" with one tar soaked brush. She could have worked for any of the great Demonizers of the past. She would have been a star of the Inquisition or - need I say it - she would have been a fine lieutenant for Joseph Goebbels. She gets the right wing Medal of Honor for slimy propaganda. She is the Big Lie boogie queen.

There, I feel better. If you want to read the whole rant, click this.

Plastics for Obeisity, Cancer and Diabetes - UPDATE

Image
BPA UPDATE In my first post on this worrisome pollutant that is universal in our "better living through chemistry" environment, I asked, "Do you recognise polycarbonate plastic when you see it?" That's the plastic that leaches out the bad stuff BPA. Here's a picture from the September 29 Science News of some examples.
See anything you might use? What if the current diabetes epidemic, the scourge of fat folks and the stubborn persistence of cancer are all made worse by this handy kind of plastic?

Do you know any kids who look like this?
Poor baby. She's going to have an almost impossible time losing that weight as she grows up IF her obesity was caused by BPA - and there is a distinct chance it was if her mother was exposed during pregnancy.Although the chemical companies are doing all they can to keep us from hearing the bad news about this omnipresent plastic, it is slowly leaking out - so to speak. The latest article in Science News is a good recap …

Small Inventions Make Me Happy

Image
The Shower Curtain Wonder

I don't really like shower curtains. They are forever sticking to my shoulder or my rump and feeling totally icky in the process. Especially in hotels. Who knows whose shoulders and rumps have left their spore on that slimy plastic?

Someone read my mind.


Can you tell how this shower curtain is bowing out? At shoulder and rump level, it's a good three inches outside the edge of the tub, completely out of the way!

That bowed piece of metal at the top, a shower curtain rod for the 21st century, holds the curtain well away from contact. It's all made possible by the simplest technology.

A small block of aluminum with a slot for the bar. Made in Taiwan, surprise!

The modest traveler's hotel Days Inn in Glendale, CA has these. Maybe the whole chain has them by now. My personal thanks to the genius who thought this was worth doing. I'm now a loyal customer because of it.

Great Response to Ken Burns' "The War" [UPDATED}

[Update: In "Comments" at the bottom of this is a dramatic, first-person, poetic account of one man's experience in WWII. It challenges how any war is depicted, no matter how well it is done. It also challenges the "Greatest Generation" idea. Most of all it reflects how devastating war is to individuals. Read it.]

Well Said


There is the war (Iraq, Afghanistan and, God forbid, Iran) and "The War," Ken Burns' powerhouse World War II documentary. Being of an age that made me a kid during the actual WWII years, seeing the newsreels that Burns uses so effectively, knowing the relatives and neighbors with dead and wounded kids, doing the paper drives, living with rationing and the whole nine yards, I have the visceral response to "The War" of memories revived*.

But beyond that I have an even more powerful response. I was pleased to find an articulate, passionate commentary that captured nearly every element of this other response of mine.…

Horny Toad!!

Image
Back from Extinction, or Just a Curtain Call?

Yesterday, just outside our courtyard gate, sitting on a rock and trying to soak up some fine fall New Mexico sun, a baby horny toad! I was stunned. So I grabbed my trusty Cannon and shot this.


With all the news about them disappearing, I hardly knew what to do next. So I just moved the little darlin' to another rock less in the way of our foot and dog traffic. Should I have put it in a terrarium? Taken it to a toad conservatory? Shipped it to TCU?

Finally I decided because we keep a chemical-free environment here in the mountains (7300 feet) it would be as safe here as anywhere. And clearly its momma and poppa were doing OK somewhere nearby.

So I'm thrilled. Those "horned toads" are really lizards, but to me they are little dinosaurs, and to have some roaming the homestead is an honor.

Dan Rather Sues for Truth

Image
An honest Rather mistake

Dan Rather's $70 mil lawsuit against CBS might be something of a biggie in terms of defining "the corporate media," it seems. I strongly feel this label needs defining, since the Right blithely labels the very same companies "the liberal media." (Talk jockey Rush Limbaugh calls them the "drive-by media," confusing all but hardcore dittoheads.)

The most exhaustive review of the whole Rather/CBS/Whitehouse/Pentagon substance is in Salon today (Sept 27, '07) as Sidney Blumenthal gets after it in gate. He addresses the point that has seriously bugged me ever since the "W stiffs his National Guard Service" story was smothered under allegations of one piece of evidence being bogus, the memo allegedly from Col. Jerry Killian. That point is that the story about Bush skipping his duty was true and proven by many other pieces of evidence.

In the context of the whole "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" dirty tricks e…

You Are What You Eat

Image
Granted, not everyone loves brussel sprouts as much as I do. Truth is, this fellow will never become obese.

Credits: Wife Dorothy the master gardener.

Hopeless Fat [Updated]

A young woman in good health caught a cold. She was a jogger, played tennis, biked and hiked with her boyfriend. In other words, she was more active physically than the average. But she caught a cold. Her eating habits were pretty much nominal American, some fast food, but not to excess. She was 5' 5" and weighed 130 pounds.

Five years later she is obese, weighing 187 pounds. When she started gaining weight, she increased her physical activities and cut out most of the fast food. At 153 pounds she started giving up. Jogging became too hard. She looked ridiculous on a bike. Her growing hunger drove her to less healthy foods.

All because she caught a cold. The specific cold virus she was unlucky enough to be infected by was adenovirus-36.

When America started porking up a few decades ago we started blaming our bad habits - with some justification. But TV, fast food, computer games, P.E. program cuts, etal aren't the entire problem, apparently. Check out this Science News artic…

Fiscally Conservative Republicans

Just as W is asking for another $50 billion for the Iraq war (the Iran war buildup?), Gary Trudeau hits the old nail on the head again. Have a giggle - or a gasp - by checking out this Sunday Doonesbury.

The Surge Splurge Urge

Image
[As perhaps you can tell, I don't vent about the Iraq war very often, but this just steamed me up to venting pressure.]

With the inevitable stay-the-course message coming in the "General Petraeus" (NOT!) September report, we should all ingest and digest this news:


Dang! With over two million Iraqis already displaced by the war, the "Surge" is making things worser faster.

And there's all the news about the inability of the current Iraq government to ever heal the sectarian hatred... Well, just add a bunch of salt to the coming news of "progress."

Hedge Fund Tax Cheats

Heartfelt letter:

Representative Heather WilsonU.S. Congress, House of RepresentativesWashington, DCDear Rep. Wilson This is from the Wall Street Journal 9.14.07.I hope you are one of the lawmakers working on this.We have to close all the loopholes in paying taxes, for the good of the country.• The Situation: U.S. lawmakers are examining a tax perk enjoyed by hedge funds.• Background: Many of these funds lend money like banks but, unlike traditional lenders, often don't pay taxes on the profits.• Consensus? While some tax lawyers say these transactions are proper, others argue that many variants are legally dubious. Hedge funds, which control liquid pools of capital with little regulatory oversight, are a growing presence in the lending business. They increasingly take part in lending syndicates with traditional banks, often indirectly, and also make direct loans, frequently to riskier or smaller companies that may have difficulty obtaining traditional financing. Indeed, the additio…

UPDATED News the Chemical Companies Don't Want You to Hear

[UPDATE AT END]

My Suspicious, eh? button was pressed when I heard such good corporate citizens as Dow, Bayer and Hexion Specialty Chemicals were fighting to suppress government regulations on one of their very profitable chemicals. They just might succeed, since their lobbyists are making sure the government (Health & Human Services) sees mostly industry-funded research.

The stuff is BPA and is rife in plastic baby bottles, plastic-lined cans of food and lots of other plastic products like toys and sippy cups. In the studies not funded by the chemical companies, BPA is shown to have mucho bad impact on test animals; stuff like diabetes, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, male reproductive problems, obesity, and behavioral changes stemming from imbalances in the endocrine systems. Its worst effects are on babies in the womb and those recently emerged therefrom.

And - surprise! - "Other studies – mostly funded by the chemical industry – have claimed little or no effect of BPA."…

NOT "Socialized Medicine"; Public Health INSURANCE

I notice there are only two arguments from opponents to universal health care in the U.S.

1. There are long waiting lines for medical service in countries that have it.

2. We can't afford it.

Both are mostly wrong. "Long wait" is a relative thing. How long do all those people in the U.S. have to wait if they have no coverage? They might wait until they are deathly ill and have to go to the emergency room. Talk about expensive care, and we all have to pay for it.

"Afford it?" We who spend more money on health care than any other people on earth? And what do we get for all that money? 37th rank in the world in public health, that's what.

I firmly disagree with the well-worn politicians' statement: “There is no single prescription to solving our nation’s serious uninsured problem”. There is a prescription that’s working quite well in many first world countries, which I am sure all those Senators, Congressmen and Administration types know all about.

Let me be c…

Another Shot at Ethanol

Food and Fuel Should Not be in Competition

OK, you know where I stand. Corn is not a very good feedstock for making ethanol. There is still a net negative energy exchange in manufacturing ethanol from Corn. Sugar cane and sugar beets are a lot better and they have a net positive energy balance. Look it up. And, weirdly, the whole grow-convert-use corn ethanol cycle is as bad for the environment as gasoline use.

But the worst thing in the corn/ethanol equation is that corn is an important food.
It's in hundreds of things we eat. Whole food chains are dependent on corn. The meat industry, including chickens, requires a lot of corn. Not only beef cattle, but dairy cows need corn.

Corn being diverted to our new passion for ethanol (said passion involving a federal subsidy) is already raising food costs all over. Check out this rant.

And it's worse than just higher prices in our supermarkets. It will likely mean starvation for those on the low end of the money pole.

By our corn-centric a…

U.S. Slipping Behind?

Image
An article in yesterday's (6.25.07) Wall Street Journal (my favorite newspaper) suddenly jelled with several other things I have read in the last few days. The Headline: French Firm Vaults Ahead In Civilian Rocket Market.

There was a launch last month of Arianspace's Arian 5 from France's spaceport in French Guiana.







The Administrator of NASA - our guy Michael Griffin - was there and is quoted as saying the huge (20 stories tall) Ariane 5 is "probably the best in the world, very smooth and very impressive." ArianeSpace has "powered past" Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Tellingly, our guys "scoffed" at some of ArianeSpace's technology until they saw it work.

That's one.

That clicked with another story out today (6.26.07) about China taking a big step toward finishing the "longest sea bridge in the world." It's over 22 miles long and also has " the longest cable-stayed structure of its kind" as the center piece.
















That&#…

Food Prices Rocket - Ethanol Shmethanol

Here’s another of my fav issues, the stupidity of the ethanol craze.This from the Christian Science Monitor, one of my favorite newspapers.
ATLANTA and BOSTON - A gallon of milk in Birmingham, Ala., is expected to cost $4.50 this summer, perhaps more. At Wetzel's Market in Glen Rock, Pa., the New York strip steaks that were on sale for $4.99 a pound last Fourth of July will be $6.99 this year. In Boston, some shoppers report checkout prices on certain items that are 30 percent higher now than last summer. "Prices are incredible," says Suzanna Wyman, shopping Monday at Shaw's Supermarket in Boston's Back Bay. "Milk, I heard, is going up even more.... I love fresh peppers and vegetables, but they're too much. Cereal is very expensive compared to what you used to be able to get it for." The reason people are smarting: Inflation in grocery aisles is up by more in the first six months of 2007 than in all of 2006. That means food costs are on…