Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When is it our turn?


Word of the Day: eldritch

another word I've been curious about...

Merriam-Webster’sWord of the Day

eldritch

\EL-dritch\
adjective

Meaning
: weird, eerie

Example Sentence
Christina accompanied her ghost story by playing a recording filled with creaks, howls, and other eldritch sound effects.

See a map of "eldritch" in the Visual Thesaurus.

Did you know?
"Curse," "cobweb," "witch," "ghost," and even "Halloween" — all of these potentially spooky words have roots in Old English. "Eldritch," also, comes from a time when otherworldly beings were commonly thought to inhabit the earth. The word is about 500 years old and believed to have come from Middle English “elfriche,” meaning “fairyland.” The two components of “elfriche” — “elf” and “riche” — come from the Old English “ælf” and “rīce” (words which meant, literally, "elf kingdom"). Robert Louis Stevenson wasn't scared of "eldritch." He used the term in his novel Kidnapped: "'The curse on him and his house, byre and stable, man, guest, and master, wife, miss, or bairn — black, black be their fall!' —The woman, whose voice had risen to a kind of eldritch sing-song, turned with a skip, and was gone."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kill! Kill! Kill!

Why is the first instinct to spray deadly chemicals? Because it's easy? Because somebody's cousin has a contact with a chemical company? At least they are thinking about actually pulling the plants out and not spraying chemicals all over the place.

Nowadays, the best deterrent to keeping illegals out is the economy itself, but this is of course (hopefully!!) not a long-term solution.

Border plants to be killed to reveal smugglers
By DANE SCHILLER Houston Chronicle
March 24, 2009, 12:11AM

The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.

If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.

“We don’t believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area.

“It is unprecedented that they’d do it in a populated area,” he said of spraying the edge of the Rio Grande as it weaves between the cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Border Patrol agent Roque Sarinana said the pilot project aims to find the most efficient way to keep agents safer and better protect the nation’s border. “We are trying to improve our mobility and visibility up and down the river,” Sarinana said. Criminals have grown adept at using the dense foliage to elude capture, he said. “They can come over almost undetected,” he said.

Should the Border Patrol project prove efficient, cane removal could become part of its arsenal of tools that have been used along various parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, including walls, fencing and look-out towers.

Members of the Laredo City Council have raised concerns about the spraying program and called on Mexico President Felipe Calderon to intervene. Mexican officials are raising concerns the herbicide could threaten the water supply for Nuevo Laredo.

A U.S. government outline of the project indicates the Border Patrol is going to test three methods to rid the 1.1-mile bank of river of carrizo cane, which has thick stalks that form tight, isolated trails that can be dark and all but invisible from higher up on the bank.

One method calls for the cane to be cut by hand and the stumps painted with the herbicide, Imazapyr. Another involves using mechanical equipment to dig the cane out by the roots. It is unclear if herbicides would be necessary in this scenario. The third and most controversial removal method calls for helicopters spraying Imazapyr directly on the cane — repeatedly — until all plant life in the area is poisoned.

The Border Patrol said that after using the herbicide, it plans to make the river’s edges green again by planting native plants. Johnson-Castro said he has no issue with removing the cane, a non-native plant brought by the Spaniards centuries ago. The challenge, he said, is how it is done.

“We are saying it is one hell of a big deal,” he said.

Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas said he believes federal officials when they say testing shows the chemical is not dangerous, but that he also realizes opponents of the project have concerns to evaluate.

“It is a complicated situation because we have to think about protecting our border,” said Salinas, a retired FBI agent. “But let’s do it in a sensible, reasonable way to make sure humans won’t be harmed, nor the vegetation, nor the animals, nor the environment.”

The original story is here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bob Cesca nails it

Bob Cesca says it quite well here. The Republican projection is just textbook. I have never seen such a display of inept ignorance in my life as I am witnessing with todays Republicans. They're grasping at straws and sinking further and further into the quicksand of irrelevance.

Why Does Obama's Teleprompter Hate America?

by Bob Cesca

Posted March 25, 2009

Without a doubt, many of the attacks from the far-right against President Obama have amounted to nothing more than the political equivalent of speaking in tongues. The attacks are only marginally more coherent than Steve Carell's Brick Tamland character from Anchorman shouting "LOUD NOISES!" for the sake of shouting something. Anything.

The most ridiculous of the loud noises are the ones that entirely ignore the legacy of the previous president. Specifically, the very same people making the loudest noises about President Obama have also spent the last eight years spastically applauding President Bush's worst trespasses every step of the way. The far-right's staggering disregard for the significant flaws of the former Republican president confounds logic when measured against their ridiculous attacks on the current president.

ATTACK: President Obama took a vacation to Hawaii.
REALITY: President Bush set a record for presidential vacations during two wars and a major hurricane.

ATTACK: President Obama's budget could double the national debt.
REALITY: President Bush's spending actually did.

ATTACK: President Obama is "shredding the Constitution."
REALITY: You mean there's a Constitution left to be shredded?

ATTACK: President Obama chuckled while talking about bailing out the auto industry.
REALITY: President Bush routinely smirked and grinned while talking about the significantly more serious issues of war and military casualties.

ATTACK: President Obama is incompetent.
REALITY: Do I even need to do the list?

ATTACK: President Obama is presiding over a one-party fascist government.
REALITY: This is not a joke.

So. Loud noises!

This is sort of like a fan of the Jonas Brothers accusing Death Cab for Cutie of selling out. Devoid of logic or basic consistency, these attacks are reduced to being nothing more than angry shouting. Speaking in tongues. All told, there isn't a single Bush flaw that hasn't been hamhandedly projected onto President Obama, and we're not even three months into the Obama presidency.

But wait. There's more.

As has been the case for too many years, more than a few of these crazy bombs have made the too-short journey from the far-right's psychotic pit of despair and into the establishment press. But in the case of the newest round of loud noises, the opposite is actually true.

ATTACK: President Obama uses a teleprompter when delivering prepared remarks. This clearly means he's a moron and intellectually incurious and incompetent and hopelessly doofish. Impeach! Impeach!

This one appears to have started with a February item by Dean Barnett in the self-satirical Weekly Standard in which he wrote that President Obama is unable to deliver prepared remarks without a teleprompter. You mean the president doesn't memorize his speeches like other modern presidents? And by "other modern presidents," I mean zero other modern presidents. Shocking.

Then, earlier this month, Carol Lee wrote a piece for the Politico. Her angle was, in essence, that President Obama's New Fangled Word Squares from Outer Space sometimes make it difficult for photographers and videographers to get a clean view of the president. Poor, poor news media. Why does President Obama's teleprompter hate America?

In the past couple of weeks, the teleprompter attack has gone full-blown viral among far-right tea baggers and bloggers (who, by the way, still haven't "gone Galt" as promised). Michelle Malkin, for example, posted a series of terrifically unfunny photoshopped images of the president and his teleprompters. Drudge ballyhooed a hilarious blog written by -- get this -- the president's teleprompter. And random members of broader wingnuttia have taken to calling the president "TOTUS" (Teleprompter of the United States).

So funny! I tell you what, here's more fuel for the far-right bloggers. A gift from me to them. President Obama, it turns out, needs a pen -- a PEN! -- in order to write words on paper and to sign his name. Zing! Pow! Time to work up some awesome Obama's Pen photoshops. In Pen We Trust! Barack HusseINK Obama! Sharpie of the United States -- or "SOTUS."

But okay, I get it. The claim from the far-right is that, without his teleprompter, President Obama is a dumb stupid. Yes, far-right Bush dead-enders are equating verbal performance with intelligence.

Say what you will about his politics, but no one with any degree of honesty can claim with a straight face that President Obama isn't one of the smartest presidents of the last 50-plus years. The president's impromptu speaking style, which the far-right misperceives as somehow "stupid," is actually the president being thoughtful and prudent. And yes, he occasionally stammers and uses common verbal tics, but does that mean he's "stupid?" Or disconnected? The same faction of people who proudly champion anti-intellectualism as a virtue are currently accusing a very smart man of being an idiot. Let me know if you can figure that one out. While you're at it, what the hell is a "peeance freeance secure Iraq?"

The teleprompter attacks have become so inexplicably widespread that, Monday night, David Letterman aired a bit called "Teleprompter vs. No Teleprompter" about how stupid the whole teleprompter thing has become. Leading into a video comparing a clip of President Obama using a teleprompter and George W. Bush stammering without one, Letterman basically said (paraphrasing): "This is seriously all they've got?"

Little did Letterman know that on Tuesday night the Great War on Teleprompters would reach new levels of hackery. Immediately following the end of the president's prime time press conference, David Gregory on NBC and Brett Baier on FOX News Channel reported that the president used a teleprompter for his customary prepared statement at the top of the event. As if that was somehow unusual. Baier, by the way, read his remarks from a teleprompter.

Meanwhile, the AP's Washington Bureau Chief and Karl Rove Enabler, Ron Fournier, described the teleprompter as a "crutch." Fact: all presidents read a prepared statement at the outset of their press conferences. More on that presently. The whole Fournier item is one long, shameless, desperate grab for far-right blog links. (Quick aside: in the comments under the Breitbart posting of Fournier's article, a far-right commenter wrote: "Grab some John Galt gear from [Café Press store link] and join us at your local Tea Party this April 15th." Yeah do that, because nothing says "deliberately not earning money and withdrawing from society in order to bring down the economy" quite like promoting and selling John Galt swag. Consistent!)

A "crutch," is what Fournier called it. This implies that using a teleprompter is somehow easier than reading from printed pages. That's definitely not always the case. Just ask John McCain. If you've ever tried to read a speech or some dialogue from a teleprompter, it just rolls along -- sometimes too quickly, other times too slowly. If it's manually operated, you have to rely on the judgment of the operator and hope they're paying attention. It's really quite unnerving unless you've really mastered it. But if you have, why go back to reading from pages? There's no point. It's like learning to pilot a jet, but then only ever traveling bareback on a donkey.

In politics and the media, teleprompters are about as commonplace as microphones and people named "O'Donnell." Some use a teleprompter, some use paper, some use cue cards, some use both. Really, what difference does it make whether prepared remarks are read from paper or Perspex? Either way, we're talking about prepared text printed on a readable medium. The teleprompter isn't some space-age interdimensional portal that automatically injects your audience with nitrous oxide and mild doses of heroin, drugging them into an involuntary state of euphoric torpor. It simply allows the reader to deliver a speech without looking down at the podium. That's all.

Once again, there's no other way to describe this attack other than to call it "loud noises!" amounting to schizoid, nonsensical garble. Just like any Glenn Beck show, in fact -- maudlin platitudes that, if shouted loudly enough, sound very serious.

So ultimately if the intention is to turn "teleprompter" into a bad word, then good luck running Sarah Palin in 2012. Sarah Palin -- whose one bright shining moment came complete with a teleprompter, and whose most damning moments came without one.

BobCesca.com

Find the original here.

Crackdown on tax havens

Here's another one of those "FINALLY!" items. We need to close down all these tax haven loopholes. Why in the world do we allow companies to use our resources here in this country (manpower, roads, water, etc etc) and then stiff the government by shipping items and profits oversees to avoid US taxes? Lost taxes run into the billions.

Obviously, the government has a hand in it, and they need to quit. No doubt some in Congress have been bought off by big business to allow them to do this. We need to QUIT giving EVERY advantage to the already wealthy. It's all about greed.

Now, a few more FINALLY! items and we might be done, such as: start enforcing regulations in the securities industry; increase regulations on hedge funds; reinstate the Uptick Rule; aggressively investigate and prosecute Bush admin officials for torture and other Constitutional violations; end the Iraq War; (insert your own FINALLY! item here)

IRS launches crackdown on offshore tax evasion
By Corbett Daly Corbett Daly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Internal Revenue Service announced new steps on Thursday aimed at getting taxpayers hiding money in offshore accounts to pay up, promising not to file criminal charges for those who voluntarily fess up to hiding money overseas.

"This is a chance for people to come clean on their own," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman told reporters. While promising not to prosecute criminal charges, the IRS would impose penalties and interest on past due taxes, he said.

Switzerland agreed earlier this month to relax its strict bank secrecy rules and cooperate more on tax evasion to fend off a global crackdown on tax havens. The country has been under pressure because of an IRS tax fraud investigation targeting UBS AG.

IRS memos sent to agency examination staff said offshore tax cases should "receive priority treatment."

"Offshore cases sent to the field are work of the highest priority," said one document, which was made public by the IRS. "Examiners should utilize the full range of information gathering tools in properly developing offshore issues with special emphasis on detecting unreported income. This includes interviewing taxpayers, making third-party contacts and timely issuing summonses to taxpayers and third parties."

The story is here.

Treason? Yes

It's rather comical, and certainly Freudian, to hear some right-wingers, notably Rush, accuse the Democrats of plotting to destroy the Constitution and take over the country, when in fact it is quite obvious that this is what Bush was very close to doing. Can you say "projection?"

Obama and the Democrats inherited the job of trying to put it all back together again, kinda like Clinton had to do after the first Bush.

Do the Secret Bush Memos Amount to Treason? Top Constitutional Scholar Says Yes
Wednesday 25 March 2009
by: Naomi Wolf

Legal expert Michael Ratner calls the legal arguments made in the infamous Yoo memos, "Fuhrer's law."

In early March, more shocking details emerged about George W. Bush legal counsel John Yoo's memos outlining the destruction of the republic.

The memos lay the legal groundwork for the president to send the military to wage war against U.S. citizens; take them from their homes to Navy brigs without trial and keep them forever; close down the First Amendment; and invade whatever country he chooses without regard to any treaty or objection by Congress.

It was as if Milton's Satan had a law degree and was establishing within the borders of the United States the architecture of hell.

I thought this was -- and is -- certainly one of the biggest stories of our lifetime, making the petty burglary of Watergate -- which scandalized the nation -- seem like playground antics. It is newsworthy too with the groundswell of support for prosecutions of Bush/Cheney crimes and recent actions such as Canadian attorneys mobilizing to arrest Bush if he visits their country.

The memos are a confession. The memos could not be clearer: This was the legal groundwork of an attempted coup. I expected massive front page headlines from the revelation that these memos exited. Almost nothing. I was shocked.

As a non-lawyer, was I completely off base in my reading of what this meant, I wondered? Was I hallucinating?

Astonished, I sought a reality check -- and a formal legal read -- from one of the nation's top constitutional scholars (and most steadfast patriots), Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been at the forefront of defending the detainees and our own liberties.

Here is our conversation:

Naomi Wolf: Michael, can you explain to a layperson what the Yoo memos actually mean?

Michael Ratner: What they mean is that your book looks moderate in respect to those issues now. This -- what is in the memos -- is law by fiat.

I call it "Fuhrer's law." What those memos lay out means the end of the system of checks and balances in this country. It means the end of the system in which the courts, legislature and executive each had a function and they could check each other.

What the memos set out is a system in which the president's word is law, and Yoo is very clear about that: the president's word is not only law according to these memos, but no law or constitutional right or treaty can restrict the president's authority.

What Yoo says is that the president's authority as commander in chief in the so-called war on terror is not bound by any law passed by Congress, any treaty, or the protections of free speech, due process and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The First, Fourth and Fifth amendments -- gone.

What this actually means is that the president can order the military to operate in the U.S. and to operate without constitutional restrictions. They -- the military -- can pick you or me up in the U.S. for any reason and without any legal process. They would not have any restrictions on entering your house to search it, or to seize you. They can put you into a brig without any due process or going to court. (That's the Fourth and Fifth amendments.)

The military can disregard the Posse Comitatus law, which restricts the military from acting as police in the the United States. And the president can, in the name of wartime restrictions, limit free speech. There it is in black and white: we are looking at one-person rule without any checks and balances -- a lawless state. Law by fiat.

Who has suspended the law this way in the past? It is like a Caesar's law in Rome; a Mussolini's law in Italy; a Fuhrer's law in Germany; a Stalin's law in the Soviet Union. It is right down the line. It is enforcing the will of the dictator through the military.

NW: The mainstream media have virtually ignored these revelations, though it seems to me this is the biggest news since Pearl Harbor.

MR: I think that's right. We had a glimmering of the blueprint for some of this -- when they picked up Jose Padilla, the military went to a prison and snatched an American citizen as if they had a perfect right to do so.

Now we can see that these memos laid the legal groundwork for such actions. We knew the military could do this to an individual. We did not know the plan was to eliminate First Amendment constitutional rights for the entire population.

NW: If Bush only wanted these powers in order to prosecute a war on terror, why does he need to suspend the First Amendment? Isn't that the smoking gun of a larger intention toward the general population?

MR: Part of this plan was actually implemented: for instance, they tried to keep people like Padilla from getting to a magistrate. They engaged in the wiretapping, because according to these memos there was no Fourth Amendment.

They had to be planning some kind of a takeover of the United States to be saying they could simply abolish the First Amendment if the president believed it was necessary in the name of national security. It lays the groundwork for what could have been a massive military takeover of the United States.

Here they crept right up and actually implemented part of the plan, with Padilla, with the warrantless wiretapping. Yet they are saying in the White House and in Congress that it is looking backward to investigate the authors of these memos and those who instructed Yoo and others to write them.

But investigation and prosecutions are really looking forward -- to say we need the deterrence of prosecution so this does not happen again.

NW: What about the deployment of three brigades in the U.S.? How should we read that?'

MR: With terrorism as less of a concern to many, but now with the economy in tatters there is a lot more militant activism in U.S. -- the New School and NYU student takeovers, protests around the country and strikes are just the beginning. I think governments are now concerned over people's activism, and people's anger at their economic situation. I don't think those brigades can be detached from the idea that there might well be a huge amount of direct-action protest in the U.S.

There could have also been a closer election that could have been stolen easily and then a huge protest. Those troops would have been used to enforce the will of the cabal stealing the election.

NW: As a layperson, I don't fully understand what powers the memos actually manifest. Are they theoretical or not just theoretical? What power did the memos actually give Bush?

MR: They were probably, in fact almost for sure, written in cahoots with the administration -- [Karl] Rove, [Dick] Cheney -- to give them legal backing for what they planned or wanted to carry out.

What I assume happened here is people like Cheney or his aides go to the Office of Legal Counsel and say, "We are going to need legal backing, to give a face of legality to what we are doing and what we are planning." When the president then signs a piece of paper that says, "OK, military, go get Jose Padilla," these memos give that order a veneer of legality.

If you are familiar with the history of dictators, coups and fascism (as I know you are), they (the planners) prefer a veneer of legality. Hitler killed 6 million Jews with a veneer of legality -- getting his dictatorial powers through the Reichstag and the courts.

These memos gave the Bush administration's [lawless] practices the veneer of legality.

NW: So are you saying that these memos actually created a police state that we did not know about?

MR: If you look at police state as various strands of lawlessness, we knew about some of this lawlessness even before this latest set of memos.

But the memos revealed how massive the takeover of our democracy was to be -- that this wasn't just going to be a few individuals here or there who suffered the arrows of a police state.

These memos lay the groundwork for a massive military takeover of the United States in cahoots with the president. And if that's not a coup d'etat then, nothing is.

NW: Can I ask something? I keep thinking about the notion of treason. In America now, people tend to read the definition of treason in the Constitution as if they are thinking of a Tokyo Rose or an American citizen acting as an agent for an enemy state -- very much a World War II experience of the traitor to one's country.

But I've been reading a lot of 16th and 17th century history, and it seems to me that the founders were thinking more along the lines of English treason of that era -- small groups of Englishmen, usually nobility, who formed cabals and conspired with one another to buy or recruit militias to overthrow the crown or Parliament.

The notion that a group might conspire in secret to overthrow the government is not a wild, marginal concept, it is a substantial part of European, and especially British, Renaissance and Reformation-era history and would have been very much alive in the minds of the Enlightenment-era founders. (I just visited the Tower of London where this was so frequent a charge against groups of English subjects that there is a designated Traitor's Gate.)

So clearly you don't have to act on behalf of another state to commit treason. The Constitution defines it as levying war against the United States or giving aid and comfort to its enemies. It says nothing about the enemy having to be another state.

When the Constitution was drafted, the phrase "United States" barely referred to a singular country; it referred to a new federation of many united states. They imagined militias rising up against various states; it was not necessarily nation against nation.

Surely, when we have evidence Bush prepared the way to allow the military to imprison or shoot civilians in the various states and created law to put his own troops over the authority of the governors and the national guard of the various states, and when the military were sent to terrorize protesters in St. Paul, [Minn.], Bush was levying war in this sense against the united states?

Hasn't Bush actually levied war against Minnesota? And if our leaders and military are sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, and there is clear evidence now that Bush and his cabal intended to do away with it, are they not our enemies and giving aid and comfort to our enemies? Again, "enemy" does not seem to me to be defined in the Constitution as another sovereign state.

MR: You are right. Treason need not involve another state. Aaron Burr was tried for treason. I do think that a plan to control the military, use it in the United States contrary to law and the Constitution and employ it to levy a war or takeover that eliminates the democratic institutions of the country constitutes treason, even if done under the president of the United States.

The authority given by these memos that could be used to raid every congressional office, raid and search every home, detain tens of thousands, would certainly fit a definition of treason.

This would be the president making war against the institutions of the United States.
-------
Naomi Wolf is the author of "Give Me Liberty" (Simon and Schuster, 2008), the sequel to the New York Times best-seller "The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot" (Chelsea Green, 2007).

The original article is here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quoth Baker Creek

More memorable fragments from the Baker Creek gang.

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
-Thomas Jefferson

This President is going to lead us out of this recovery.
-Dan Quayle

One who plants a garden, plants happiness.
-Chinese proverb

We're still here trying to get the word out that 330 farmers are quitting every week.
-Willie Nelson

Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.
-Mahatma Gandhi

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.
-James Madison

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.
-George W. Bush

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Force always attracts men of low morality.
-Albert Einstein

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
-Benjamin Franklin

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, no culture comparable to that of the garden...But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.
-Thomas Jefferson

Free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.
-George W. Bush

Saturday, March 21, 2009

190 and dropping

Around early-December 2008, after gorging at Thanksgiving, the wife and I both noticed that our weight was a little too high. I topped the scales at 210 and she weighed in at 140. Considering that I am 5'11" and she is 5'2", both weights were just too much. Too high.

Fortunately for us, we have a treadmill and a Total Gym set up on the 4th floor, so we re-committed ourselves to exercising more and losing some weight.

Since that day in December, one of us gets up around 4:40am on a workday and put in 30 minutes on the treadmill. The next day, the other one does it. In the evening, one of us will put in 20-30 minutes on the Total Gym. On the weekend, we each will put in about an hour on the treadmill and some Total Gym. And we'll take either Saturday or Sunday off.

Here we are in late March, and I weighed in at 190 this morning. She hit 130. It's easier for me to lose the weight since I had more to begin with, but the difference is noticeable on both of us. I've dropped from a 38 waist to a 36, and she can now wear all those clothes she had put aside because they were too tight.

Ain't gonna stop here though. I want to drop another 10 and so does she. If we can maintain our discipline, we'll get there. Oh, and we also have been consciously cutting back on food portions and reducing the ice cream injections to only one or two per week (we were having ice cream almost every night - duh!).

Damn, we're starting to look pretty good, if I do say so myself. Of course, she always has looked pretty good to me. We sure feel better too.

This entry is not really put here to brag as much as it's a marker laid down to look back on. Anyone can do it. Just get off the couch. Push away from the table. You can do it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Robert Scheer on Democracy Now!

From the March 19 episode of Democracy Now! You can read the transcript here. First is Part 1.




and here's Part 2

Electric cars for all!

I have not been overly concerned about "Peak Oil" and the myriad of doomsayers who are predicting a total breakdown of civilization. I have (perhaps misplaced) confidence that humanity's innovative nature will rise to the challenge and meet the needs of a modern, technological society. While I am trying to grow more edibles at home, it's not so much out of a fear of those items no longer being available in stores as it is a pursuit of personal satisfaction.

Despite our bullheadedness and persistent selfishness, I still believe that we will solve our problems long before we devolve back into cave-dwellers fighting over every scrap of food or clothing.

The following could be one of those solutions.

From the Desk of David Pogue
Electric Cars for All! (No, Really This Time)

By DAVID POGUE
Published: March 19, 2009


Last Sunday, "CBS News Sunday Morning" broadcast my report about Better Place, a radical, overarching plan to replace the world's gas cars with electric ones—really, really quickly. The nutty thing is, it just might work; the streetside charging outlets for these cars are already under construction in six countries and two U.S. states. (You can watch the story
here.)

As always, there wasn't enough time on TV for the whole interview. So here's a longer, edited excerpt of my chat with Better Place chief executive Shai Agassi, former SAP executive.

DP: Explain how this is different from all the failed electric car programs that have come before.

SA: Most of the car efforts were done from within the car, and assuming that there is no infrastructure change at all. It's as if people were trying to build cars, but skipping over the gas station.

We started from the infrastructure. We came up with an electric car that would have two features that nobody had before. 1) The battery is removable. So if you wanted to go a long distance, you could switch your battery instead of waiting for it to charge for a very long time. And 2) It was cheaper than gasoline car, not more expensive. Because you didn't buy the battery. You paid just for the miles and for the car.

DP: So what will you guys make? What will you do?

SA: We sell miles, the way that AT&T sells you minutes. They buy bandwidth and they translate into minutes. We buy batteries and clean electrons--we only buy electrons that come from renewable sources--and we translate that into miles.

DP: What are we talking about here? What's the infrastructure you're building?

SA: We have two pieces of infrastructure. 1) Charge spots. And they will be everywhere, like parking meters, only instead of taking money from you when you park, they give you electrons. And they will be at home, they'll be at work, they'll be at downtown and retail centers. As if you have a magic contract with Chevron or Exxon that every time you stop your car and go away, they fill it up.

Now, that gives us the ability to drive most of our drives, sort of a 100-mile radius. And that's most of the drives we do. But we also take care of the exceptional drive. You want to go from Boston to New York. And so on the way, we have what we call switch stations: lanes inside gas stations. You go into the switch station, your depleted battery comes out, a full battery comes in, and you keep driving. It takes you about two, three minutes--less than filling with gasoline--and you can keep on going.

DP: But it sounds like you're talking about a parallel universe, where there are hundreds of thousands of charging spots and switch stations. There aren't any.

SA: Well, that's what we're building. If you think of our first location in Israel, we will have about a quarter of a million charge spots before the first car shows up. Just like you wouldn't buy a cell phone on a network that wasn't built yet. You have to first build the network. And then let the cars come in.

And so we put a massive investment in big infrastructure projects: Green jobs. A new electric infrastructure for cars.

You can read the rest of the interview here.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wal-Mart takes the cake

Okay, so this is how I imagine this conversation went:

Walmart Employee: 'Hello 'dis be Walmarts, how can I help you?'

Customer: ' I would like to order a cake for a going away party this week.'

Walmart Employee: 'What you want on the cake?'

Customer: 'Best Wishes Suzanne' and underneath that 'We will miss you'.


STOP LAUGHING! You just can't fix stupid!!!

David Cay Johnston said it

David Cay Johnston appeared on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman back on February 2, 2009. Yeah, I'm a little slow. There is so much media, so many books, magazines, newspapers, web articles, TV shows and radio programs to read, watch, and listen to that it can be overwhelming.

We finally got around to watching this episode of Democracy Now! and Johnston talks a lot of sense. Too much, in fact. His ideas will likely never be implemented, but they should be. The US has gone overboard when it comes to protecting big business and wealthy individuals. We are a long, long way away from "government of the people, by the people and for the people." Add the word "wealthy" in front of each instance of "people" in that previous statement, and it is a more-accurate picture of America today.

Guest:
David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist. He has the cover story in the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine, titled ‘Fiscal Therapy’ His most recent book is titled Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill). He is a former reporter at the New York Times.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama is meeting with Democratic congressional leaders at the White House today to discuss the nearly $900 billion economic stimulus package that the Senate will debate this week. Senior Republicans warned on Sunday they were unlikely to back the bill without changes to what they see as controversial spending provisions.

On Wednesday, the House approved an $819 billion version of the plan, but despite an all-out lobbying push by President Obama, not a single Republican voted for it. Obama said he hopes to get the bill through Congress by mid-February. In his weekly presidential radio address, he urged the Senate to pass the bill.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Americans know that our economic recovery will take years, not months, but they will have little patience if we allow politics to
get in the way of action and our economy continues to slide. That’s why I am
calling on the Senate to pass this plan, so that we can put people back to work
and begin the long, hard work of lifting our economy out of this crisis. No one
bill, no matter how comprehensive, can cure what ails our economy. So just as we
jumpstart job creation, we must also ensure that markets are stable, credit is
flowing, and families can stay in their homes.

AMY GOODMAN: The Senate is taking up the bill as news continues to emerge painting a grim picture of the state of the economy. Major US companies announced layoffs in the tens of thousands last week, and new figures show the economy is shrinking at its fastest rate in nearly twenty-seven years. Meanwhile, the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits has hit a record high.

David Cay Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist. He has the cover story in the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine, called “Fiscal Therapy.” His most recent book is called Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill). He joins us now from Rochester, New York.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, David Cay Johnston.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. Let us start out with your assessment of this nearly $900 billion economic stimulus plan.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, probably not big enough, and the Republicans have some credibility on the Christmas tree claim. Even some of the Democrats have not acknowledged this. They need to focus on those things that will increase demand. We’ve had twenty-eight years of supply-side economics. The data is eminently clear: it was an experiment, a radical idea, that did not work, in general. A few successes, but overall it was an utter failure that put us in this mess.
And so, the concerns need to be on getting money out there right away; more money for people who are unemployed; extending unemployment benefits longer, if necessary; and then investing money in places where it can be spent quickly that will provide a return. Infrastructure does that, but it takes time. There are lots of scientific research projects that were unfunded, particularly medical projects, for a lack of will by the Bush administration to fund them. We could triple the number of projects that were funded overnight. And there are other areas that could get spending going that will result in people being hired, putting money in their pocket and doing something to build for the future.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about—well, in Mother Jones, “Fiscal Therapy” is the title—“Getting the economy back on its feet, giving taxpayers a break, saving your retirement fund and your kid’s college tuition? Done. And it won’t cost you a penny.” What is it that you are laying that you feel could save the economy?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, fundamentally, several key pieces. One is, you and I are allowed to save, if we have a 401(k) plan, up to $22,000 a year without paying taxes; if we don’t have one, up to six, if you’re an older American. But executives, movie stars, athletes are allowed to save unlimited amounts of money. Hedge fund managers, unlimited amounts of money, without paying taxes. We should end those deferrals. It will bring in hundreds of billions of dollars.
Secondly, the Cayman Islands and other little parasitic operations like it are causing enormous damage to the state of our government’s finances. In 1990, about ten percent of corporate profits were taken in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. Today, it’s roughly one-quarter of all corporate profits. The only purpose served by these operations is to reduce the financial viability of the United States of America government. There’s no reason for us to continue allowing these rules. And the ways that individuals use the Cayman Islands are the same devices that are used by terrorist organizations and narcotics dealers to hide their money, as well as spouses trying to cheat the other spouse in a divorce.

One of the things I suggest is that we stop the business of college. We have turned college from an investment in the future of the country into an $85 billion business. It is so unbelievably profitable. Commercial banks, over a long period of time, make a 17 percent annual return on equity, but Sallie Mae makes about 50 percent per year. That’s unconscionable. It’s unnecessary. And we need to get away from that, so that we develop the most valuable resource we have: young minds.

AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, we’re going to break, and when we do, we hope you guys can get a new mic on you. We’re having a little trouble with your sound. David Cay Johnston is author of the piece in the latest Mother Jones magazine called “Fiscal Therapy.” He was a longtime reporter for the New York Times. His latest book is called Free Lunch. Stay with us.
[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is David Cay Johnston, and he is the longtime reporter for the New York Times, no longer writes for them, won the Pulitzer Prize, has a piece in Mother Jones magazine called “Fiscal Therapy.”

I wanted to turn to a comment by Democratic Congress member Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, one of the authors of the stimulus plan. He was on a panel on ABC’s This Week with Republican Senator Jim DeMint. This is some of what he had to say.

REP. BARNEY FRANK: The notion that everything is solved by a tax cut, of course
there are sensible tax policies you can have. But there are public needs we have
in this society—

SEN. JIM DeMINT: Sure.
REP. BARNEY FRANK: —that cannot be accomplished by a tax cut. No tax cut builds a road. No tax cut puts a cop on the street. No tax cut educates a child in the way that it ought to be done. So this—only tax cuts, at a time when I think we have a deficiency in some areas that are important for the quality of our life, is a big disagreement.
SEN. JIM DeMINT: But, George, we—we have programs. I mean, we’re reauthorizing our highway bill this year.
REP. BARNEY FRANK: At too low a level.
SEN. JIM DeMINT: And, well—well, let’s talk about making it a higher level, but let’s don’t say it’s a stimulus when it’s a government spending plan. And all of these things, the needs in our society, education, these are things we debate every year.
REP. BARNEY FRANK: But spending can be stimulus. I don’t understand what you think stimulus is. If—
SEN. JIM DeMINT: But this is the largest spending bill in history, and we’re trying to call it a stimulus when it’s just doing the things that—
REP. BARNEY FRANK: Well, let me tell you what I think is the largest—
SEN. JIM DeMINT: —you wanted to do anyway.
REP. BARNEY FRANK: The largest spending bill in history is going to turn out to be the war in Iraq. And one of the things, if we’re going to talk about spending, I don’t—I have a problem when we leave out that extraordinarily expensive, damaging war in
Iraq, which has caused much more harm than good, in my judgment. And I don’t
understand why, from some of my conservative friends, building a road, building a school, helping somebody get healthcare, that’s wasteful spending, but that war in Iraq, which is going to cost us over a trillion dollars before we’re through—yeah, I wish we hadn’t have done that. We’d have been in a lot better shape fiscally.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That is a whole ’nother show, so I’m going to—
REP. BARNEY FRANK: That’s the problem. The problem is that we look at spending and say, “Oh, don’t spend on highways. Don’t spend on healthcare. But let’s build Cold War weapons to defeat the Soviet Union when we don’t need them. Let’s have hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars going to the military without a check.” Unless everything’s on the table, then you’re going to have a disproportionate hit in some places.



AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, what about what Congressman Frank has just said?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, the congressman was exactly right: spending—tax cuts have not worked. The Bush tax cuts, all of them were financed with borrowed money. And where did we end up at the end of the Bush administration? If you add up all of the bailouts that the Bush administration did in the fall, the investments, the spending and the guarantees, it’s over $8 trillion. How much money is that? It is more than all of the income taxes paid by all Americans for the entire eight years of the Bush administration.

The fact is that if you don’t fix and maintain roads, you can’t move goods around efficiently, the economy suffers. If you don’t spend money on higher education, on research and development, the economy suffers. This notion that government money is, as a student once said to me, taken out in the ocean and just dumped has to go away. We need to recognize that government, which is the biggest single part of our economy, is absolutely vital, if we’re going have a robust economy. That doesn’t mean there isn’t waste and stupidity. And corporate America has plenty of waste and stupidity, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about that. I wanted, though, to start with the tax troubles, since you’re a tax-writing expert, on both Geithner and now the latest news on Daschle. Let’s go with Daschle, who has not yet been approved as secretary of Health and Human Services. Explain what his problem is.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, beyond his problem with having been paid enormous sums of money by the insurance companies, which are a central feature in our healthcare problems, Mr. Daschle was provided with a car and driver by a hedge fund as part of his work for them. When you receive a perk like that, you have to pay taxes. He owes—I think it’s $143,000 in taxes on this. He wasn’t apparently candid with the Obama people upfront about this.

And my guess is he is the norm. If the IRS had the money to check up on everyone who works for these big banks and hedge funds, I think they would find vast amounts of perks that are not being taxed. This is what I—part of my arguing that there are two systems of taxation in the United States, separate and unequal: one for working people and one for the rich and powerful, particularly those who own businesses or control them. Daschle’s problems are very troubling, and—but my guess is that if we had a thorough investigation by the IRS, we would find out he’s the norm among those people.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, one of the jokes right now—I heard the refrain over and over on television all weekend—was, of course, the Democrats are for increasing taxes, but never pay them.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, I don’t know how many Republicans aren’t paying them, because none of them are up for appointment to positions right now—or a couple of them, not very many. And there may be—I have no reason to think that this is a partisan thing. It’s a money thing.

AMY GOODMAN: And on that issue of receiving money from the health insurance industry, can you elaborate on that further?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Daschle, who is unquestionably, among legislators, a leading figure in understanding and knowing about healthcare, went out and made a lot of money from speeches. I mean, I give speeches for money. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that per se. But he received so much money, and it came so heavily from the insurance companies.
I mean, why do we need to have health insurance? Do we have kindergarten insurance? Do we have police insurance? Do we have road insurance? This is a bizarre system that we have that is unlike that anywhere else in the world, gives us the highest costs in the world and does not make our health status better.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that a little further, because people are so used to health insurance. It’s equated with free market capitalism, yet not the same in other countries. Explain how it operates and how it could be different. You actually have big companies like General Motors now who are really changing the tune in this country around healthcare.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yes. Well, Amy, if you have a business, you have to devote a lot of resources not to running that business, but to negotiating for and dealing with health insurance companies for your workers. Our competitors, the Canadians, the Europeans, the Japanese, the Australians, etc., in all other modern countries, the costs of healthcare are on the books of society, and you don’t insure for that, because this isn’t a risk you’re insuring for; it’s a cost. You know what it will be every year from the size and age of the population.

And so, a friend of mine, a former Fox News anchor, thought recently—found a lump in her breast. She’s moving to France. She’s not fully into the French system yet. She went to her neighborhood clinic, because under their system you do have to go to the neighborhood clinic. They saw her in a matter of minutes. They quickly determined that all she had was a cyst. They treated her. And she was out the door after paying a hundred-euro fee. She would have paid no fee whatsoever if she had been fully in their system.

And they don’t have doctors devoting hours and hours to cost accounting. We don’t make kindergarten teachers do cost accounting, or police officers or prosecutors. Why do we have doctors doing cost accounting? Because a narrow band of people have become fabulously, unbelievably fabulously wealthy off of this enormously inefficient system we have in America, which doesn’t fit with the principles of capitalism. You know, Adam Smith, who figured out market economics and whose book is still in print 233 years later, said that any policy that benefits the majority of the people must be a good policy. Well, this is not a policy that benefits the majority of the people.

And health insurance companies have an incentive to not pay. I have a son who had a heart attack. He was taken to one hospital, nearly dead, put in an ambulance, taken to the next hospital, and his health insurance company refuses to pay for the ambulance, because they say, “Well, why didn’t you drive yourself?”

AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, I wanted to go back to the issue of war and what war is costing and when we’re talking about a stimulus plan.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, let me give you just two—one thing to think about your income taxes. The interest on the debt—the debt that Ronald Reagan promised, if he was elected, he would end—is so great now that it equals all of the money that will be withheld from your paycheck in January, February, March, April and part of May. All of the rest of the income taxes you will pay for the year go to war. They go to the Pentagon budget. Remember, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan are not on the regular budget. They go to the Energy Department, which is the bomb-making division of the military. And they go to Veterans Affairs, paying for past wars. And as Joe Stiglitz pointed out, in terms of personnel costs, the peak year for World War II was 1993.

One of the major reasons that we are in so much trouble in this country is that what Reaganism has brought us is spending without taxing, spending that money in ways that are totally unproductive and counterproductive and impose huge costs on the future. And this huge national debt, which is going to get worse with the stimulus, no question, and put us in danger down the road of a big inflation—but what the national debt does, what “borrow and spend” does, is it takes taxes from people who work—because that’s about 85 percent of all income tax money, from people who work—and it transfers it to capital, people who own the national debt.
And who owns the national debt? Banks, insurance companies—oh, those are businesses we’re having to bail out—the thugs in China who shoot independent union organizers, and some older wealthy Americans. It’s a redistribution scheme to take money from working people and redistribute it to capital through the tax system. I’m curious, by the way, why the Republicans don’t see this, since they oppose redistribution down. You would think they should be out there actively opposing redistribution up. And a few of them have been.

AMY GOODMAN: Looking at the stimulus plan, about $275 billion in tax cuts—that’s the House plan—$545 billion in domestic spending. Explain the tax cuts and the spending and how you think it should be broken down.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, it’s ridiculous to think that business tax cuts will result in hiring people. I happen to also be the chairman of the board of a little company that I formed with one of my sons. We hire people. We hire people because we have more business. We don’t hire people to get a tax cut. That’s just the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard. Business decisions are made on the basis of demand. We need to be spending this money to increase demand.
That’s not to say that our income tax system isn’t a complete mess. I’ve written two books about that. But this is just not the way to stimulate the economy. My biggest concern is that the stimulus package will not be big enough in the areas that will get people not losing their homes and not accelerating that problem of losing their homes. And if it doesn’t work, imagine what you’re going to be hearing a year from now if the Obama administration has to go back and ask for more money: “Well, this failed, why would we give you any more money?” Better to ask for more than you think you need now and pledge not to spend it if the economy recovers, much smarter to do that.

Now, there is one other wrinkle in that, and that is, the Republicans in the House all voted against this bill. It was a free vote for them. They knew the bill would come back to them, so they can be against it before they were for it when the final bill comes back. But if the Republicans seriously continue to fight the idea of a stimulus, and the economy declines, I do wonder if it might not be part of Obama’s strategy to then just have cut the rug out from under them as the economy gets worse, because people are not going to be driven towards Reaganism by an economy that’s declining.

And it is declining even worse than the statistic you said. It declined in the last period at a rate of 3.8 percent. But when you add all the inventory, that is, all the goods that were manufactured but not sold, it really declined at a rate of 5.6 percent. And it will get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, do you have any assessment of Judd Gregg, the Republican of New Hampshire that looks like he could be named as the Commerce Secretary, the Republican, the third Republican in the Obama administration, what his record is?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I don’t at all, Amy. But I do want to go back to Geithner, because you mentioned him earlier in the show. My column in Tax Notes today is about Mr. Geithner, and it is about how it’s hard to believe his claim that he didn’t know he was cheating on his taxes. I find his testimony implausible, but I do suggest that there is a way to redeem and show that he cares. One of them is to ask all of the tax software companies to report on whether they can find any of the kind of errors that he says existed and correct them, because part of his duty as Treasury Secretary is to make sure the tax system works efficiently.

I suggest that he should also ask the IRS to conduct a thorough investigation in several areas that are relevant to his work. And it will be interesting to see whether, as Treasury Secretary, Mr. Geithner does anything to show that while we gave him a pass on his taxes, he is in fact a man of character and integrity and that he will work to do something we haven’t seen in twenty-eight years: protect the integrity of the tax system, because, as Edmund Burke said in 1793, “The revenue of the state is the state.”

AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, the issue of these Wall Street firms who have gotten bailout money giving $18 billion in bonuses?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, first of all, why aren’t we letting companies fail? What is it the government knows that we don’t know, that in a capitalist system they are not allowing failed enterprises to fail, including banks, and then you clean up after them? This does not make a lot of sense. We’ve spent vastly more than we should have needed to already, and yet they’re asking for more. Paying bonuses when a company loses money—maybe there’s an individual trader whose unit made a profit, and he’s entitled to a bonus, but none of the senior executives and the overlay at the top. It’s unbelievable they did this.

And Congress can deal with this, by the way. Congress can pass a retroactive tax law. This isn’t like criminal law. After all, Congress passed, and Senator Grassley supported, a retroactive tax increase on students who saved money to pay for their college education. Well, if we can retroactively raise taxes on students who saved money for their college education, by golly, Congress can go after these guys and tax away that money. The tone deafness of this is just utterly beyond belief.

AMY GOODMAN: The former mayor, Giuliani, has said that that $18 billion in bonuses will be very important for New York tax revenue.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, it will be. New York State has created an economy that depends on the lower half of Manhattan for 15 or 20 percent of its revenues. That’s unfortunate. That’s part of this whole device we’ve done, where we have increasingly put the tax burden on those at the top, not as a share of their income, because their incomes have grown so much, but as a share of total government revenues.

Our concern ought to be with the integrity of the system. We need to have a tax system that people believe is fair and honest, if we’re going to have our country continue. You know, at Syracuse University’s Law School today, I’ll be teaching my class on how the laws of the ancient world influence the world today and the moral principles underlying the law. And every society that has allowed its tax system to become a cash register for the rich has collapsed pretty quickly after doing that. We need to keep in mind that this is a democratic society. All of us have a government to benefit all of us. And we shouldn’t be forcing you and I to pay taxes to give to the wealthiest people in America in any manner, way, shape or form, but especially not through these bailouts followed by bonuses. Congress has got to act on this and act decisively and not just jawbone, as, fortunately, President Obama did the other day.

AMY GOODMAN: And Tax Code 382, talking about loopholes?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Transfer pricing. This is the issue by which companies take their profits offshore. A company builds tennis shoes in Vietnam. The finished tennis shoe loaded on a ship costs $1 or $2. While that ship is on its way to the port in Los Angeles, they sell it on paper to themselves at a company in the Cayman Islands, then they resell it to their American distribution company. Well, they price it so that all the profits get taken in the Cayman Islands. The US government does not get much, if any, revenue off the manufacture of that shoe.
This is an unbelievably abused system. We know from some court records now, because it’s all done in secret, that some companies got good deals from the IRS and others got bad deals because of this recent, relatively recent, practice of having companies negotiate their taxes. You and I don’t get to go in and negotiate our taxes. There’s a set of rules, and we have to follow them, and the government verifies our income. There’s no reason to allow this system to continue. All it does is undercut the vitality of the government of the United States of America, which is absolutely fundamental to our liberties.

AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation journalist. He has written a piece called “Fiscal Therapy” in the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine. His latest book is called Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill).

You can watch the video of this program here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Square foot gardening

We have an unusual space for gardening: a tiny front yard (where we pulled up all the grass and put in plants) and a rooftop deck. The front yard is not fenced, and so we have not planted much there. We do get a fair amount of foot traffic from the neighborhood, and we're afraid that people would steal our produce. We have, although, planted several herbs down there which any neighbors can pick when they need a herb for a meal. But the front yard is not conducive to planting much in the way of food.

So that leaves the rooftop deck. The best and worst things about the deck are the wind and the strong sunshine. The wind blows probably 5-10MPH faster on the 4th floor deck than on the ground, drying everything out. And the sun will just bake bake bake whatever is up there.

What to do?

We've been considering adding a greenhouse up there to shelter plants from the wind and sun. That's an expensive, practically permanent addition to the house. We're moving slowly on that, but in the meantime, we're taking another look at "Square Foot Gardening." Check out Mel Bartholomew's website here.

Rather than haul a ton of dirt to the roof and plant a 4'x4' square of garden space, we decided to build a 4'x4' wooden block and place containers inSIDE of that.


So, we have four rows of containers:
  • four 12" pots on the first row
  • four 12" pots on the second row
  • a 14" pot + a long rectangular planter on the third row; and
  • three 16" pots on the back (fourth) row.
The three pots in the back row all have tomato cages in them, as two of them have small tomato plants and the third we have planted some Bush Lake 47 green beans.

So instead of 16 1'x1' grids, as you would get in a typical 4'x4' square foot garden block, we have 13 pots of varying sizes, inside the 4'x4' block. We'll see how well it works.

From seed, we are hoping to grow:

  • nasturtium (edible) flowers
  • cucumber (bush)
  • mesclun mix (salad greens) (sprouting!)
  • marigold (edible) flowers (sprouting!)
  • swiss chard (sprouting!)
  • chamomile herb (sprouting!)
  • butterhead lettuce (sprouting!)
  • mizuna (salad green) and
  • green beans

This is also the first year we'll try to install a drip irrigation system, using Raindrip products. One would hope that, in the garden, each year will be better than the last. One would hope.

Can't post any pictures at the moment because of a glitch with the camera which should be fixed very soon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm sorry, Rush!

Picture this. You're a Republican who just accidentally offended your leader Rush Limbaugh. You know that your only option is to bow down to King Rush and offer a groveling apology. But you have to do it fast before Leader Rush calls you out. What can you do?

Luckily, we've uncovered the
secret Republican Apology Machine >>
RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Republican Congressman Phil Gringey, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Republican Congressman Eric Cantor and House Minority Leader John Boehner have all recently begged for forgiveness after criticizing the conservative talk radio host - and now you can give it a try! >>

Check out I'm Sorry Rush, the fastest and easiest way for a Limbaugh-Loving Republican to express the error of their ways to the king himself. Now you can draft your own "apology" to Rush just like the pros do it. Best of all, we'll share your "apologies" with Rush personally.

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With tongue firmly in cheek,LiAnnaCare2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hippy Motors

...coming soon to our smart car!!

Welcome to Hippy Motors, we are a small family/friendly business who design and make car stickers and decals from good quality car vinyl. We have many designs including flower car stickers, symbols, butterflies, fairies, peace and anti-war, which look wonderful on any type of vehicle (please see our customer pics for proof!) We also make family car stickers, Banksy stickers, music, VW's stickers/decals.

Got your own ideas?.. then ask us for Custom work.

So cheer up the car parks, festivals and motorways of this world and spread a little 'Road Peace'. Notice your car among the thousands on our crowded roads by making it unique with your choice of car stickers.

Go here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Memorable

You can sometimes find good quotes in the oddest places...but in a seed catalog?

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
-Abraham Lincoln

Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.
-Luther Burbank

I hope...that mankind will at length, as they call themselve responsible creatures, have the reason and sense enough to settle their differences without cutting throats...
-Benjamin Franklin

How vile and despicable war seems to me! I would rather be hacked to pieces than take part in such an abominable business.
-Albert Einstein

Wisdom is better than weapons of war...
-Ecclesiastes 9:18

America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.
-John Quincy Adams

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.
-John F. Kennedy

Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought!
-Helen Keller

We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.
-Benjamin Franklin

Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
-George Washington Carver

I let no man drag me so low as to make me hate him.
-Booker T. Washington

The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force.
-Thomas Jefferson

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
-Mahatma Gandhi

We have guided missiles and misguided men.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
-Albert Einstein

There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors. This is robbery. The second is by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.
-Benjamin Franklin

Fight Club...against your will

Yeah, I didn't really like the original title of this post. It was a bit insensitive.

This is just a horrible story out of Corpus Christi, TX. Rotten in so many ways.

Warrants issued for 6 tied to fight club

Associated Press - March 12, 2009

McALLEN, Texas — Corpus Christi Police issued arrest warrants Thursday for six workers accused of organizing a 'fight club' where residents of a state facility for the mentally and developmentally disabled fought each other for the staff's entertainment. The six, all listed as Corpus Christi residents, are charged with injury to a disabled person.

Timothy Dixon, 30, Jesse Salazar, 25, Guadalupe Delarosa, 21, Vince Johnson, 22 and Dangelo Riley, 22, were all charged with a third-degree felony and had a bond of $30,000. Stephanie Garza, 21, was charged with a state jail felony for failing to stop or report the fights; her bond was set at $15,000.

"I think that our department opened a big can of worms statewide," Wilson said. "The people running this school didn't come out smelling too good." Wilson said the investigation continues and additional arrests are possible.

Last week police identified 11 staff members in about 20 short videos of fights at the Corpus Christi State School, one of 13 state facilities for the mentally and developmentally disabled. The videos were on a cell phone, belonging to Dixon, that provided to a police officer.

Four of the employees were no longer working at the facility, having been fired or resigned before the videos became known. The other seven were placed on emergency leave last week, and are in the process of being fired.

Wilson said the six charged Thursday were identified in videos of fights in which residents were injured. Some of fights dated back to 2007.

Gov. Rick Perry responded by ordering a moratorium on new admissions to the Corpus Christi facility and demanding the installation of security cameras. A lack of supervision on the overnight shifts is believed to have created the atmosphere for the Corpus Christi fights, which took place in the early morning hours.

Beth Mitchell, the managing lawyer for Advocacy Inc., a non-profit with federal authority to monitor abuse and neglect at the facilities, said Thursday that recent interviews with residents at the Corpus Christi facility suggested the fights may have involved more people than appear in the videos.

Mitchell called the abuse at the school "rampant" and said, "there are a lot more people involved because it becomes a culture." Mitchell also cited two incidents investigated and confirmed by Texas Adult Protective Services in the past year in which staff at facilities in Mexia and San Angelo instigated residents to beat up others.

"I don't think it's the organized fight club going on in Corpus Christi," Mitchell said. But interviews with the residents suggested they feared losing privileges such as going outside or to the canteen if they did not follow orders to fight, she said. Last summer, a female resident at the San Angelo State School, beat up another female resident at the urging of a staff member. The attacker told investigators she was afraid she would be punished if she refused.

In November, several staff members told a resident to attack another man whose room was next to a nurse's station. No one intervened and the incident was not reported to Adult Protective Services until two shifts later, when staff noticed the victim's bruises, Mitchell said.

A Justice Department report in December found at least 53 patients in Texas' facilities died in 2007 from preventable conditions that were often the result of lapses in care. It also charged that the facilities violate residents' rights.

According to state records obtained last year by The Associated Press, 53 employees at the Corpus Christi State School were fired for abuse or neglect between fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2007. Another 24 were suspended.

There were 229 confirmed allegations of abuse or neglect at the Corpus Christi State School between fiscal year 2004 and fiscal 2008, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The agency investigated 5,443 allegations of abuse and neglect at the facility during that five-year period.

The absurd original story, that makes me sooooo proud to be a Texan, is here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Today's word: glom

The original meaning was a lot more aggressive than I knew.

Merriam-Webster’s
Word of the Day
glom
\GLAHM\ Audio Pronunciation
verb
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Meaning
*1 : take, steal
2 : seize, catch
Example Sentence
“She signed an affidavit of confession attesting she glommed more than $284,000, the company contends.” (Frank Donnelly, Staten Island Advance, September 15, 2008)
Did you know?
It's a classic case of glomming: Americans seized on "glaum" (a term from Scots dialect that basically means "grab") and appropriated it as our own, changing it to "glom" in the process. "Glom" first meant "steal" (as in the purse-snatching, robber kind of stealing), but over time that meaning got stretched. Today, "glom" often figuratively extends that original "steal" sense. A busy professional might glom a weekend getaway, for example. "Glom" also appears frequently in the phrase "glom on to," which can mean "to appropriate for one's own use" ("glom on to another's idea"); "to grab hold of" ("glom on to the last cookie"); or "to latch on to" ("glom on to an opinion" or "glom on to an influential friend").
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

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