Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Country of Origin Labels Start Today

Don't forget that you should be seeing Country of Origin labels on your food today.

Here are some questions and answers about the new laws and no you still are not going to find out what is in SPAM.

What does the new law require?

That retailers notify customers of the country of origin -- including the U.S. -- of raw beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and whole ginseng.

Where will I see the labeling?

Anywhere it fits. The rubber band around asparagus; the plastic wrap on ground beef; the little sticker that says "Gala" on an apple. If a food isn't normally sold in packaging -- such as a bin of fresh green beans or mushrooms -- the store must post a sign.

Aren't many foods already labeled?

Some fresh produce already uses origin labeling as advertising. "Fresh from Florida" or "Jersey Grown" or "Vidalia Onion" tags don't have to be changed under the new rules; the shopper should realize they're all U.S. products.

What's the biggest exception?

The labels aren't for processed foods, meaning no label if the food is cooked, an ingredient in a bigger dish or otherwise substantially changed. So plain raw chicken must be labeled but not breaded chicken tenders. Raw pork chops are labeled, but not ham or bacon. Fresh or frozen peas get labeled, but not canned peas. Raw shelled pecans, but not trail mix.

What if the foods are merely mixed together?

They're exempt too. So cantaloupe slices from Guatemala are labeled. Mix in some Florida watermelon chunks, and no label. Frozen peas and carrots, no label.

As for bagged salads, the U.S. Agriculture Department considers iceberg and romaine to be just lettuce, so that bag gets a label. Add some radicchio? No label.

Must all stores comply?

No. Meat and seafood sold in butcher shops and fish markets are exempt.

What if companies buy food from various places -- beef from both U.S. and Mexican ranchers, for instance?

That's a bone of contention between large U.S. meat producers and smaller ranchers that produce exclusively U.S. animals. Tyson Fresh Meats, for instance, says it's too expensive to separate which of its cattle came from which country. So in a July letter to customers, Tyson said it would label all beef "Product of the U.S., Canada or Mexico." The National Farmers Union is protesting; the USDA is considering the complaints.

Aren't country labels on some processed foods?

Yes, tariff regulations have long required that a food put into consumer-ready packaging abroad be labeled as an import; that doesn't apply to bulk ingredients.

When does the change take effect?

The law goes into effect today, though the USDA won't begin fining laggards until spring. Violations can bring a $1,000 penalty.

Small Victories

I took my lunch break to run up the road to Whole Foods and burn some of my precious gasoline. The situation here in the Atlanta area is still in the tank(pardon) with regards to finding gasoline and they are saying two more weeks before it gets better.
Anyhow, today was pretty much a first. I walked out of Whole Foods without spending more than $50. actually only $48.45. I can't remember the last time that happened. I usually impulse buy stuff that I really don't need. This week I passed up the bread, wine, cheese and snacks. I only bought one small piece of grass feed beef(Georgia) and one small pack of Rosie boneless organic chicken thighs.
What else did I get for my $49?
1 organic butternut squash (California)
1 small organic eggplant (locally grown, NC)
2 small organic zucchini (locally grown,NC)
6 nice locally grown Jonagold apples( GA,not organic)
1 small locally grown purple cabbage (organic,SC)
a handful of locally grown green beans (not organic, SC)
1 6pk of 365 ginger ale (Madam)
2 organic kiwi (NZ)
2 Bosc organic pears (Washington)
3 Vidalia onions (Georgia)
4 jugs of Lakewood Super Veggie juice (organic, Florida) This is a splurge since it is $3.99 a bottle but I like it and have an 8 oz glass every morning. It is a luxury though.
1 dz organic brown eggs supposedly free range and hand gathered but who knows which were a pretty good value at only $2.49. Kroger's organic eggs are $3.59.

Doesn't seem like much food for nearly $50 does it? That should get me through the week though as I cooked up a big pot of pinto beans yesterday. I only really feel guilty about the 2 Kiwi and the pears but on my current regimen it is mostly fruit and vegetables and I need a little variety, don't I? Don't answer, but I have been on the low glycemic, high fiber, minimal meat regimen for 5 weeks(including 2 weeks of travel) and have shed 20 pounds. If I would give up my evening wine I could do even better.

Digby Says It

Having some work issues that are taking all my time for the moment but if you get a chance you might want to stop over at Digby's place and have a read. Good stuff and really worth thinking about.

Is it time for the New Deal II? Some very persuasive arguments can be made and we sure as hell aren't making much progress with the current state of affairs.

Do I smell a revolution in the air?

Oh! The stock market is moving in the right direction this morning. Maybe the fears about the mass sell off in the hedge funds on the first day of the fourth quarter were over wrought. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Whoops! Bailout Fails in House

Updated: The dem/rep numbers are no longer accurate and the final tally is 205 Yay,228 Nay

The closeness of the bailout vote tells you how contentious this is.

The vote was 200 yay 224 nay. Dems: 136Yea 94 nay. Rep: 65 yea 130 nay.

Not going to happen today that is obvious. Can't say whether I am relieved or upset. Looks like the DOW is taking it hard and currently is down over 700 points in just a few minutes. Ouch!

Got to be another way to go about this like nationalization or whatever. I think the giveaway is just too much for many to swallow and I don't blame them.

There is no doubt that something has to be done but I think jiggering the Bush/Paulson plan was not it. New sheet of paper and start over.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Crockpot Apple Butter

Enough politics! It's fall and the apples are here. Millions and millions of apples are rolling in from the Georgia mountains but it is apple season everywhere. It is the time to capture some of that goodness and apples won't be better or cheaper until next fall. One of the greatest gifts our German ancestors brought to America was Apple Butter. Traditionally it was a time when neighbors would get together and have a big day making gallons and gallons of apple butter over open fires in big copper pots. Most of us don't have the time or the equipment to make apple butter in the traditional way but you can make your own apple butter using a crockpot.

To get you in the spirit let me quote from the Genesse Farmer of 1839 which gives a lovely account of a rural farmstead during the fall when the apples are at their peak.

The host should in the autumn invite his neighbors, particularly the young men and maidens, to make up an apple butter party. Being assembled, let three bushels of fair sweet apples be pared, quartered and the cores removed. Meanwhile, let two barrels of new cider be boiled down to one half. When this is done, commit the prepared apples to the cider, and henceforth let the boiling go on briskly and systematically. But to accomplish the main design. the party must take turns at stirring the contents without cessation, that they do not become attached to the side of the kettle and be burned. Let this stirring go on till the liquid becomes concrete-in other words, till the amalgamated cider and apples become as thick as hasty pudding.
Now to make your own crockpot apple butter:

A 5 quarts or so nice apples(I like tart apples) which should nicely fill your 5 quart crockpot when peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks. I actually fill my crockpot until it almost over flows since the apples will cook down quite a bit. To the apples add 2-4 cups(depends on how sweet your apples are but I usually split the difference and use 3 cups) of granulated sugar and I actually like to use natural sugar and 1/2 cup of sorghum syrup. (You might have to look around for sorghum syrup and if you can't find it you can use light unsulphured molasses) Add 4 teaspoons of good ground cinammon and a 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Some people add a half teaspoon of ground cloves as well but this is a personal taste and I like it both ways.

Set the crockpot on high and cook covered for an hour then turn it to low. Stir and cook covered for another 23 hours or so, stirring every few hours. Yes, it is a long time but this is what it takes. When the apples have become soft enough after a few hours, take a potato masher and break them up. If they look too "liquidy" then leave the lid tipped for a while until they thicken. The mixture should turn a nice dark brown as it cooks and become pretty smooth. Depending on the apples you might have to use a hand blender to smooth out the texture. It should be nice and smooth and not chunky. Once it is done you can jar it up and can it(see note below) or keep it refridgerated. Once you taste it on hot biscuits you will be making this every fall.

An old man up the creek from my Mom used to make apple butter every fall and put it up in quart jars. If you were lucky enough to time it just right he would sell you a couple of jars for five bucks or so. It would go fast so timing was everything. This was made in the traditional way, in a big copper kettle over a hardwood fire and stirred and simmered all day and night. It was absolutely heaven which is where he is probably making it now.

This is a recipe adapted way back when (1998) from an article in the Atlanta paper about Joe Dabney who won a James Beard award for his cookbook Smokehouse Ham, Spoonbread, & Scuppernong Wine. If you want to learn something about Appalachian Mountain cooking this is a great resource.

NOTE: If you are canning this, put into 1/2 pint clean, sterilized jars and seal while hot, then process half-pints or pints 5 minutes in boiling water canner. 1,001 feet to 6,000 feet, process for 10 minutes, and above 6,000 feet, 15 minutes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Watched

I managed to stay up and watch the debate. McSame did better than I thought he would and actually looked alive. McBush needed a solid if not overwhelming win tonight to change the dynamic and he didn't get that. Obama faltered a couple of times and he was a might too polite to his opponent but over all he came off Presidential and knowledgeable. I think the win goes to Obama. He stood up against McSame and in his opponents supposed strong suit matched him blow for blow. McBush spent too much time dwelling on what has been and not what will be and that was the wrong approach. He was, I thought, a bit condescending as well which I think will hurt him.

Bets on the Bail?

Now that McBush has blinked and will debate tonight I think it might be fun to speculate on the excuse or excuses the McSame team uses to get Sarah Palin out of the debate with Biden next week.

I'm sure it won't be anything so predictable as a family emergency

How about Russian troops spotted in the Aleutians and the only person that can save us is Sarah and her moose gun?

How about she doesn't want to embarrass Biden so she is not going to show and trounce him?

She is going to round up mothers from all across the country to bake cookies for the world's largest bake sale and will use the proceeds to bail out Wall Street.

Rumor has it that the McSame team has held a mock debate and a news conference and that both were absolute disasters which you can well believe after seeing her CBS interview.

If you have any good ideas for a possible excuse for Sarah "Lookout "Bull Winkle" Palin to dodge the debate leave them in the comments.

Worthwhile Reading over at the Big Orange

You might want to read Hunter's post over at the Big Orange. What is the Money For?

Here is Your Morning Kick in the Ass

If you want to know why so many of us are upset with the whole concept of a bailout of Wall Street then this should explain it .

Using your and my money which should be paying for something important like SCHIP, or Medicaid or food stamps. The government spent it propping up the failed AIG and now the former CEO (who, BTW, is still charged with fraud dating back to his days at AIG) Maurice Greenberg is selling his shares which are currently valued at $3.02 per share for a cool billion dollars. That's right folks. $85 bilion of your money went to prop up AIG while it's ex CEO walks away with a cool billion bucks.

It is a very long shot on whether the American taxpayer will ever see any of the bailout money back from AIG so we might as well write it off now and move ahead. What's even a bigger hoot is that the "plan" McSame sprung yesterday, you know the one with the tax breaks, would have allowed Greenberg to keep all the money. Even now with the the GOP break in capital gains Greenberg is going to keep most of it.

Another Start In Shrub's Crown

Last night saw the biggest bank failure in United States history. Via the New York Times:
Washington Mutual, the giant lender that came to symbolize the excesses of the mortgage boom, was seized by federal regulators on Thursday night, in what is by far the largest bank failure in American history.
Washington Mutual is by far the biggest bank failure in history, eclipsing the 1984 failure of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust in Chicago, an event that presaged the savings and loan crisis. IndyMac, which was seized by regulators in July, was a tenth the size of WaMu.
Congratulations George hows does it feel to have the honor of destroying the largest financial institution ever? How dis it happenl? Justlike every other bank failure the depositors pull out all their money leaving the bank with more debts than assets and therefore insolvent.
From WSJ:
Federal regulators said WaMu has suffered an exodus of $16.7 billion in deposits since Sept. 15, leaving the Seattle thrift "with insufficient liquidity to meet its obligations." As a result, WaMu was in "an unsafe and unsound condition to transact business," according to the Office of Thrift Supervision.
After the FDIC took possession of the bank, J.P. Morgan Chase purchased the assets of WaMu and for everyday depositors nothing will change and the banks will be open for business Friday just like every day. This is not a good sign for the rest of us though. It may be just a hint of what we see coming at us in the future.

You may remember that JPMorgan had tried to buy WaMu earlier in the year for $8 a share. The deal didn't happen because the WaMu's CEO was going to lose his job and not make enough on the deal. Now just a few months later WaMu shareholders are left with nothing. Now it is just the taxpayers left holding the bag.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not Cow Farts

Jeebus, when it rains it pours. If this gets verified by independent scientists we are in a world of hurt. This kind of event will feed on itself with an endpoint that could be disastrous. Note that this is a single report and needs to be checked independently but not good news if verified.

The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.


In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.

An Idea

We have an election in just over a month and there appears a good chance that Obama will be President-elect. Paulson has already said that the plan is to spend maybe $50 billion a month and Schumer has suggested we start off with maybe $150 billion or so and see how things go.
How about we split the difference and give the Treasury $75 billion to start which will at least tide them over until the election is past. Surely $75 billion will keep them happy for a month or so. Once we have decided on the next President we should let the President-elect and his team figure out the next steps that are needed, if any. Even if the $75 billion is wasted or stolen or whatever it won't completely prevent the new administration from doing some much needed investment in America's future.

Asking for $700 billion with no oversight or recourse is just an attempt to hogtie the next administration and we shouldn't tolerate it or as we say down here in the South "That dog won't hunt." The new administration should have a big hand in deciding how this deal is settled.

Still Panic Gas Buying in Atlanta

The QuikTrip on the corner evidently has gas though the BP and Exxon on the opposite corners are not pumping. Lines out to the street as people top off their tanks. There is actually enough gas coming in to the area but the panic buying is causing the outages. The EPA has dropped the requirement for low sulphur gas for the time being so to hell with clean air.
I am still pretty much at full as I have only had to run out for some quick groceries and I'll just wait for the herd mentality to wear off. I still have to make a run to Whole Foods which is about five miles away as I am almost out of fruit and Super Veggie juice and maybe only two days worth of yogurt on hand but if runs to the grocery are my only needed trips I can hold out for a month or more and there is always the bicycle. There are several social events on the weekend which will require the car but both are within 10 miles. This is one of the weekends where I get to dress up in my kilt as a friend throws his own mini version of the Highland games and Saturday night is the annual "Sip o' the South" to raise money for Bulloch Hall and I have paid for rather expensive tickets so I will go and collect on the open bar and food. The theme is Cajun this year so it might be fun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kill it Dead with Extreme Prejudice

Updated below:

The more I read and understand what this whole bailout plan is about the more it stinks even with all the things Dodd and company want to add. It is a no win no matter how you look at it. Stepping in with any more money above and beyond the 700 or 800 billion already committed to help the markets is insane.
Today Obama laid on the line what this bailout will mean for our future.Every proposal for universal health care, transforming our energy system, helping people pay for college, and so on may go down the tubes, if the Democrats allow this robbery by the Republicans to go forward in any shape or form.

"Does that mean that I can do everything that I've called for in this campaign right away? Probably not. I think we're going to have to phase it in. And a lot of it's going to depend on what our tax revenues look like," Obama said on NBC.

It needs to be snuffed, choked, stomped and strangled until it is dead, dead, dead. There is no way this makes any sense for the future of America. This is simply an attempt by some to make one final raid on the Treasury before the purse strings are completely in Democratic hands. It is nothing more than gift to Wall Street on the backs of the American middle class. Mark my words...any Democrat that supports this in any form will have his or her head handed to them in November.
Read this bit from Kos on Newt Gingrich's comments today if you think I am full of it.

Update: Here is a more detailed post from Markos and it says and asks everything that is troubling me about this whole deal. Read it and ask yourself: What's the rush? And, why is George Bush driving this? I don't trust them and they have never, ever given me or you a reason to. Why should we start now when so much is at stake?

I've Been Reading, So Should You

The following links require a strong cup of coffee, tea or the alcoholic beverage of choice. It's not easy stuff to swallow but the more I grasp of where we are as a nation the angrier I become.

Billmon then wipe your eyes and read Kunstler.

If you still standing you might also visit MandT over at Agitadiaries or even Joe Bageant

Don't say you were not properly warned.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Light, Though Dim, at the End of the Tunnel

via Krugman

This sounds like a move in the right direction. If you're interested in the text then Politico has the text. (warning PDF) This is a major challenge to Paulson’s approach by Dodd. I think the ball is in Paulson's court to explain why this isn’t a saner way to approach this problem. Senator Dodd is earning his keep on this one.

Further from Krugman...

I’ve had more time to read the Dodd proposal — and it is a big improvement over the Paulson plan. The key feature, I believe, is the equity participation: if Treasury buys assets, it gets warrants that can be converted into equity if the price of the purchased assets falls. This both guarantees against a pure bailout of the financial firms, and opens the door to a real infusion of capital, if that becomes necessary — and I think it will.

Positve feedback from Krugman and he feels that this plan or something like it has a good chance going forward. Let's hope so.

You Really Need to Read This

If you are interested in exactly how the U.S. and world finds itself in the current economic mess you can't do better than reading this post over at DKos by Devilstower. It goes step by step into the process and will give you a clear understanding of how we have gotten where we are. It's ugly. It also reveals the sad reality that there probably isn't enough money in the entire world to undo the damage done. The value of the debt swaps through various vehicles exceeds the GDP of the entire world. This was a Ponzi scheme of epic proportions and may just be the undoing of us all and here we are getting ready to pump another $700 billion into toilet.

Actually It's 1.8 Trillion Dollars and Climbing

The corporate media keep batting around the figure of $700 billion for the new "plan" and I have even done it here. But the $700 billion is just a fraction of what the total bail-out is or will be. The real cost of bailing out the greed and stupidity is already at $1.8 trillion and no doubt will crawl even higher.

—Up to $700 billion to buy assets from struggling institutions. The plan is aimed at sopping up residential and commercial mortgages from financial institutions but gives Treasury broad latitude.

—Up to $50 billion from the Great Depression-era Exchange Stabilization Fund to guarantee principal in money market mutual funds to provide the same confidence that consumers have in federally insured bank deposits.

—The Fed committed to make unspecified discount window loans to financial institutions to finance the purchase of assets from money market funds to aid redemptions.

—At least $10 billion in Treasury direct purchases of mortgage-backed securities in September. In doubling the program on Friday, the Treasury said it may purchase even more in the months ahead.

—Up to $144 billion in additional MBS purchases by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.The Treasury announced they would increase purchases up to the newly expanded investment portfolio limits of $850 billion each. On July 30, the Fannie portfolio stood at $758.1 billion with Freddie's at $798.2 billion.

—$85 billion loan for AIG, which would give the Federal government a 79.9 percent stake and avoid a bankruptcy filing for the embattled insurer. AIG management will be dismissed.

—At least $87 billion in repayments to JP Morgan Chase.

—$200 billion for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Treasury will inject up to $100 billion into each institution by purchasing preferred stock to shore up their capital as needed. The deal puts the two housing finance firms under government control.

—$300 billion for the Federal Housing Administration to refinance failing mortgage into new, reduced-principal loans with a federal guarantee, passed as part of a broad housing rescue bill.

—$4 billion in grants to local communities to help them buy and repair homes abandoned due to mortgage foreclosures.

—$29 billion in financing for JPMorgan Chase's government-brokered buyout of Bear Stearns in March.

—At least $200 billion of currently outstanding loans to banks issued through the Fed's Term Auction Facility, which was recently expanded to allow for longer loans of 84 days alongside the previous 28-day credits.

Get out your handy little calculator and add it up. That is a huge amount of money going where? To put it all in perspective here are some of the "big ticket" numbers from Bush's 2007 budget:

* Veterans' benefits at $73 billion
* Education was $90 billion
* Interest on US debt was $244 billion
* Medicare $395 billion
* Defense was $548 billion
* Social Security was $586
In total, the 2007 federal budget was a total of $2.8 trillion and Paulson wants only $1.8 trillion.

NO Petrol Around Here

Good thing I don't have to go anywhere this week. All the gas stations are out of gas. People were panic buying on Saturday and today is the result. I would expect that things will improve by the end of the week but we will just have see. Instead of traveling this week I just have to write the reports on my last two weeks of travel.

Got some brush cut this weekend and other little chores around the manor. Saturday was a bit frustrating as the new Ryobi brush cutter/trimmer I bought week before last froze up and the cord wouldn't pull. I returned it to Home Despot with the idea of buying a better one but after much run around it turned out they couldn't provide with me with a trimmer that could be turned into a brush cutter. Lowes, on the other hand, turned out to have just the ticket. I wound up with a Troy-Bilt 4 cycle trimmer that has attachments such as a brush cutter and even a small tiller. Runs much quieter and starts nicely and does the job on brush. It is a little heavier than the Ryobi and therefore tires me out a little sooner. No mixing of gas however and that is good.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Won't Say I Told You So

From the UK Times;

Staff at Lehman’s New York office who helped to cause the world’s biggest corporate bankruptcy are to share in a $2.5 billion bonanza.

The bonus, which has been described by London staff as a “scandal” has been pledged by Barclays Capital, the British-based bank that last week acquired Lehman’s American operation and took on 10,000 staff.

The $2.5 billion (£1.4 billion) pot, which has been ring-fenced as part of the acquisition, has caused huge resentment among the 5,000 staff in the firm’s European and Middle Eastern operations who are not guaranteed to be paid after this month...
Yeah let's have the taxpayers fund this whole system. No worries.

It's a Scam, Pure and Simple

Since it is Sunday morning and I am a good neighbor I am not going to go out early and fire up the brush trimmer and continue my assault on the garden and seeing as how the Sunday paper hasn't arrived yet there is nothing left but to prattle on a bit about the "plan". The more I read the more it seems like a good old scam. You have to remember where good old Hank came from. He was the CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the big players and all the good old boys he wants to bail out are his old drinking buddies. They belonged to the same private clubs and all came to work in their penthouse offices in limos. Paulson is looking for one last raid on the Treasury for his good friends because he knows the Republicans have only a few more months in which to feed at the public trough. Hello! Paulson and his Republican friends created this crisis, if it is a real crisis, and now they want even more money to fix it? Sounds very suspicious.

Paulson, Bush, Bernanke and whoever are threatening Congress with a "market meltdown. They are asking for 700 billion bucks and unlimited discretion in how to spend it and with absolutely no, nada oversight. Nowhere have I seen a justification of the 700 billion dollar number. How do we know that 700 billion is required? Could the job be done with 50 billion? Who knows? Yes, there is some turmoil in the market and yes some of the big banks are insolvent but that is not the fault of the American taxpayer, it is the fault of GOP de-regulation and a lack of oversight and poor judgement and greed on the part of all of Paulson's buddies on Wall Street.

So here we are with Paulson, Bush and company trying to rush Congress into giving them a real big shit pile of money with no oversight. It worries the hell out of me that they are insisting that there is no time to think it through, do any due diligence and if Congress doesn't act immediately then a disaster will occur on Tuesday. Anytime someone tries to rush you into a decision, especially about money and power, without giving you time to think it through and doing some research, alarm bells should go off and the red lights should flash.

Paulson wants to bail out his friends at the highest levels on Wall Street. Remember that this is Paulson's world, the one he has been a part of all of his life. He doesn't want it to change. He wants the same friends that have been in charge to stay in charge and he wants them all to stay wealthy and comfortable. He doesn't give a shit about all the little people because regardless of what happens they are going to lose their jobs anyway.

Paulson and Bush are rushing Congress to act before any meaningful reform is included in the bill and before there are a lot of conditions and before there is time to properly re-regulate the market. There is a reason Paulson is rejecting any talk of Wall Street executives suffering any kind of punitive actions. He is calling it a "poison pill".

At some level or degree the economy is in a crisis. The question that needs to be asked, is it in a crisis of sufficient magnitude to warrant giving an appointed government official 700 billion dollars to do with as he pleases ( even to the point of buying foreign toxic paper) and literal dictatorial powers? I don't think so. Congress does not need to sign a blank check and give legal immunity to Paulson for how he spends it.

Don't forget that the Republicans are really good at this scam. They have used it before with great success. It worked with the Patriot Act and they turned right around and repeated it with AUMF. Here's the drill. Create a crisis, real or a lie, then rush Congress into granting dictatorial powers and unlimited spending authority to deal with it. Bush and Paulson are betting they can pull it off one more time.

I think this time cooler heads should prevail. We have some form of crisis but it is not going to blow up tomorrow or in the next two weeks. Congress needs to look at it closely and make sure the financial crisis is dealt with effectively and that the right people are in place to watch over it. We need to insure that there is some punitive action on those responsible and that the markets are re-regulated.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Legalizing the Theft of this Century and the Last

Okay finally got the detail on the bizarro effort underway in Congress to strap the American taxpayers with all the costs of the drunken brawl and debauchery that have been Wall Street under the GOP.

Here is the current draft for the latest plan. It's brilliantly simple. The three key provisions: (1) The Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to $700 billion of any mortgage-related assets ( they can just transfer that amount to any corporations in exchange for their worthless or severely toxic "assets") [Sec. 6]; (2) The ceiling on the national debt is raised to $11.3 trillion to supposedly pay for this scheme [Sec. 10]; and (3)the kicker...wait for it:

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency" [Sec. 8].

Translation, this bill authorizes Henry Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry at his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes. Talk about the crime of the century. He can do anything with all this money and there is no recourse for the American taxpayer except "suck it up sucker."

Have you noticed that there is absolutely no punishment mentioned for the perpetrators of this fiasco? They all get to walk away free with their huge salaries and golden parachutes intact. No one is going to touch their bank account in the Bahamas or their big yacht or their private jet or the five or six houses they have around the country. Must be nice.

I Think It is Time to Get Nervous

Updated below with some later comments from Paul Krugman

Here’s the source of my uneasiness: the underlying premise behind the buyout seems, still, to be that this is mainly a liquidity problem. So if the government stands ready to buy securities at “fair value”, all will be well.

I keep hearing that this is all a liquidity problem and that if the government steps in and provides some liquidity then everything is all right. More and more it seems the problem is more fundamental and that is a lot of these banks and other financial institutions are just flat out insolvent in that their liabilities outweigh their assets. It is not so much that they are unable to provide for demands for cash by selling assets but that there is no market for their assets.

Fundamentally the problem is that huge numbers of bad loans were made and in turn lots of people made highly leveraged investments in those bad loans. Even worse, still more people bet on those loans by insuring them. The loans are bad and were from the get go and that means that the mortgages are not going to be repaid in full. Nothing is going to happen to housing prices in the near term except them going down further(that's why it's known as a bubble)and here the Democratic Congress is talking about buying all this toxic paper from the banks at "fair market" prices. What the fuck are they thinking? A lot of people have made a lot of money off this scam and I mean a lot of money and now we are just supposed to take all the liabilities...just like that? No thank you!

I don't have the details of whatever plan is being hammered out but if what I know so far is any indication of where it is going them I am against it 100%. Any Democrat who votes for this is insane. If you want to know the truth I think this is an opportunity for Barack Obama to step in as the current leader of the Democratic party and tell Congress that George Bush and his cronies are not going to cripple and Obama administration with another couple of trillion dollars in debt. Bush is already leaving an unbelieveable mess to clean up and another couple of trillion in debt will cripple any chance of Obama inacting any positive progressive reform. Thanks but no thanks.

George Bush and the rest of the crowd have already robbed the American people to the tune of 3 or 4 trillion bucks. War, oil, lost jobs, and screwed economy and we are just about ready to give them the last crumb from the cookie jar? Who has made all the profits off the mortage business and the derivatives? Not the American taxpayer that's for sure and now we are just supposed to casually accept the premise that unless we whip out our credit cards one more time and pay for all the stupidity and greed everything will come down around our heads? I say let the dice fall where they may it's about time the American taxpayer got something for their money except a "thank you for allowing us to screw you one more time".

Update: from Krugman
I hate to say this, but looking at the plan as leaked, I have to say no deal. Not unless Treasury explains, very clearly, why this is supposed to work, other than through having taxpayers pay premium prices for lousy assets.
I hope I’m wrong about this. But let me say it again: Treasury needs to explain why this is supposed to work — not try to panic Congress into giving it a blank check. Otherwise, no deal.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bush and Company to Reward Stupidity

The Dow has taken another giant leap upwards this morning (up $429 at this moment). Seems all the investors(including Warren Buffet) are glad to see Bush and his buddies reward the stupid greed that got us into this mess. Who knows how much this additional bailout will cost you and I, the American taxpayer.

We don't have any money to provide health care to ALL Americans.
We don't have any money to help out Americans losing their homes.
We don't have any money to do what's right for our veterans returning from a stupid and unnecessary war.
We don't have any money to fund SCHIP.
We don't have any money to repair our crumbling infrastructure.
We don't have any money to rebuild New Orleans.
We won't have any money to rebuild Galveston.
We don't have any money to even provide ice to the evacuees in Texas.
We don't have any money for food stamps for the poorest Americans.
We don't have any money to extend jobless benefits to millions of Americans.
We don't have any money for anything necessary.

We do have plenty of money to pay for an unnecessary two trillion dollar war.
We do have plenty of money to bail out Bears Stearns.
We do have plenty of money to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
We do have plenty of money to bail out AIG.
We do have enough money to bail out all the banks and money market funds that were stupid enough to buy derivatives and worthless mortgages and manage to pay their executives millions in salary and benefits.

When the average American working stiff needs a little relief or financial help, Bush and the rest of his devil's spawn tell us to get a job or cut back or even get a second job. No problem. They have theirs, the jets, the houses in the Hamptons and the little place in Vail. With their wealthy country club buddies though it is a different story. Where's the checkbook? What do you need? Only 50 billion, no problem...you sure we can't make it an even 100? Don't worry about paying it back the American taxpayer has you covered. Don't even think about returning the money you have salted away offshore or selling that 100 foot yacht.

Some estimates are that the American taxpayer is going to wind up taking responsibility for 2 TRILLION worth of bad judgment and greed with very little chance of getting any of it back or at best a few cents on the dollar.

I'm no economist but I do know something about money management and the concept of throwing good money after bad. This may be the right thing to do to prevent a total collapse of the system, as corrupt as it is, but it just seems to me that the villains in this whole mess aren't ponying up every last cent of their record salaries and options. Just yesterday it was announced that three of the big wigs at Citibank are going to share about 120 million dollars worth of golden parachute money on their way out the door.

cross posted at Steve Audio

Great Depression Part Two?

Robert Kuttner in The American Prospect is telling us that Only a Roosevelt-Scale Counterrevolution Can Prevent Great Depression II You can, of course, judge for yourself but it makes sense to me.


September 30, 2008 is the day that we get some much needed changes in food labeling. If you're a foodie like me, that means we are finally going to get Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling! the actual law calling for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) was first passed in 2002 but big agribusiness fought it in the worst way. They complained it would cost too much when there was clear evidence that it didn't raise fish prices years ago when it was instituted for seafood. COOL is already required for seafood but now it will be extended to beef, pork, chicken, lamb, fruits, veggies, and peanuts. Processed foods are exempt. There is a good article in the Chicago Tribune about COOL... New Law Requires Labels on Meat.

You are still going to need to be careful because the new law has some serious loopholes where the Bush USDA went down on the big agribusinesses. Labels are not going to be required on processed foods. The definition of processed being the addition of another ingredient. If you get frozen carrots from California they have to be labeled but frozen peas and carrots from Bulgaria don't require a label. The other big gotcha is in imported livestock. Under COOL, meat from cattle imported into the U.S. for immediate slaughter can bear a label that states that it's a product of its origin country and the United States, even though the animal was raised entirely outside the U.S. There are some other nuances that need attention but the responsible manufacturers and distributors will label everything regardless of the loopholes.

After September 30th the new rule is that you don't buy anything without a country of origin label and if your grocer tries to get away with doing so, make sure you ask him or her what they are trying to hide. The next step is to insist on country of origin on everything, processed or not. Ask the parents of 6000 plus babies in China about food labeling and quality if you don't think it is important.

No Water for You!

There is at least some good news hiding in the high food prices and economic troubles we are facing.

Sales of bottled water go flat as consumers return to the tap

The ubiquitous plastic water bottle, long the bane of environmental campaigners, is being ditched by consumers in Europe and the US as incomes slump and people return to the tap for a free drink.

Sales of the world's best-known brands, including Aquafina and Volvic, have tumbled in some countries as weakening economies take a toll on household incomes and consumers become more concerned about the environmental impact of throwing away the plastic packaging of a liquid that can be drunk for free.

In the US, where bottled water consumption is higher than in any other country, supermarket sales are at their slowest rate since bottled water became popular a decade ago.

Total sales volumes are up just 1 per cent this year (including recently popular brands such as Glaceau that contain added vitamins and fruit infusions), according to US soft drinks newsletter Beverage Digest. This compares with growth of 11 per cent over the same period last year, and more than 21 per cent in 2006.

It's a shame that we have to come to a point of being economically forced to do something that is right for the environment but I'll take it where I can get it.

Better Than a Poke in the Eye

Just blew in from Memphis and see that the market is up 374 right now but I am still afraid to update Quicken with my investments. I may get the courage over the weekend when I've had a glass of wine or two or three.

Give me a while to catch up and I'll be back and if you haven't noticed its now the Palin/McCain campaign. Whoops!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

At Least some Memphis BBQ

Finally made it back to Memphis from the wilds of middle Tennessee. Bad enough being in the middle of nowhere but I have been surrounded all week by McSame fans. Can't be more excited about Moose killer. Listening to them without responding(the client you know) has been a huge drain on the psyche...I think "cream crackered" is the operative phrase.

Even though we got back late to Memphis we did manage to go get some Memphis BBQ. We tried Neely's on Mt. Moriah. Excellent port ribs and very respectable pulled pork and definitely worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood. Heads above the Rendezvous which is highly overrated. Seriously not in line with my new food regimen but it is Memphis afterall. I will be back on the straight and narrow tomorrow.

Other than the bad politics a good week and the client was very happy we came. Looking forward to a week at home.

Congrats America

Congratulations American taxpayer you now own AIG and its billions in debt. Anybody added up how much the Fed has put on the Visa card recently? $200 billion? $400 billion? The amount is really unknown until all the bad debt is counted and no one knows how much that is. How many of the AIG CEO's and big wigs are going to suffer? None.
Don't look now but rumor has it that Washington Mutual is the next candidate and how much that will cost us is anybody's guess. America has been broke for years and now we are just piling on the debt that will be paid by you, me and our children and grand children.
It's just going to get uglier.
Have a nice day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who Knew He was a Techno Wizard

This is going from ridiculous to just plain stupid.. Who knew that the high tech wizard John McCain actually invented the BlackBerry. Here I am using it everyday and all this time I thought Research In Motion, a Canadian company, invented the thing. Boy am I embarrassed.
Asked what work John McCain did as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that helped him understand the financial markets, the candidate's top economic adviser wielded visual evidence: his BlackBerry.

"He did this," Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters this morning, holding up his BlackBerry. "Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce committee so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that's what he did."
The McSame people are seriously unhinged.

UPDATE: via AmericaBlog--Now it seems that McCain has claimed to have invented cell phones and WiFi as well.
Here are the words straight from his lying mouth.:
I am the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The Committee plays a major role in the development of technology policy, specifically any legislation affecting communications services, the Internet, cable television and other technologies. Under my guiding hand, Congress developed a wireless spectrum policy that spurred the rapid rise of mobile phones and Wi-Fi technology that enables Americans to surf the web while sitting at a coffee shop, airport lounge, or public park.

HP is Cutting 24,600 Jobs

Ouch! The Bush/McSame economy takes its toll, once again. After the third quarter GDP numbers come out, we are going to see much, much more of this.

P.S. One of McCain's top economic advisers, Carly Fiorina, used to run HP. She got herself a "$21 million severance package" when she was booted out the door. She got hers.

Update: I actually left off the fact that HP gave her $21.4 million in severance pay, plus another $21.1 million in stock options and other benefits. All this for terrible job including 20,000 laid off on her watch.

You Want Fries with That?

Or maybe "Paper or plastic?" All of us reaching retirement in the next few years better start practicing our work phrases for retirement. Yesterday we all got to watch at least 20% of our retirement savings vaporize while we listened to Alan Greenspan tells how bad the McCain tax plan was. Hello Alan? Don't you remember telling everyone that ARMs were the way to go and that the financial industry was fully capable of managing itself.
It's ironic, I was driving through Westchester County, NY last week among all the giant gated mansions and private schools and luxurious country clubs. I didn't really realize it at moment but I was looking at your and my savings sitting there. All the "fat cats" have skimmed theirs off the top and have their huge bank accounts(mostly offshore) and they have their private jets sitting at the Westchester Country airport just waiting for a quick trip to the islands and we are cocerned about filling up the car next week.
Yeah, I know I am one of the lucky ones that actually have had an opportunity to save a little for retirement, have a job and a mortgage that will be paid off in a couple of years but that doesn't mean I can't be pissed at what these "financial wizards" have done to us as a whole.
When you think that over $700 billion in American wealth( a large part of it the savings of regular working stiffs) disappeared in a few short hours yesterday it really boggles the minds. The worst thing is that it is not over.
All you people in Texas and Lousianna buck up and get through your immediate crisis and try not to think about where the money is going to come from to get you back on your feet. Somehow we will get it worked out. It will take some time but it will get better just as soon as we get the Republicans out of the driver's seat.
Have a nice day!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Travel Day

Off to Memphis this morning and then on to Ripley, TN. and that is not very exciting. I hope everyone had a good weekend. Maybe Steve and Stella and the girls will have their power back today. All the rest of you Gulf Coasters...good luck with the cleanup. I'll be back when I get to the hotel tonight(in Dyersburg,TN as Ripley doesn't have one).
Have a great Monday.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Show Me the Money!

This is good!

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign announced Sunday that it raised $66 million in August, marking another record fundraising month for the Democrat. The August total was second to the $55 million Obama raised last February.

He reached the $66 million mark with help from more than a half million new donors.

Obama's total for August was almost $20 million more than the $47 million Republican rival John McCain raised last month.

Obama's campaign said that with the latest figures he had more than $77 million cash on hand.

Enough Already

A couple of days ago Kevin Drum came up with "The 'Enough' Club," comprised of media people that have transitioned from loving to loathing McCain.

Here are a few additions to the club;

* The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tony Norman: "You once said you'd rather lose an election than lose a war. Is it worth winning an election if it means forfeiting your soul on the altar of political expediency? How does a man survive five years in a Vietnamese dungeon only to allow himself to be turned into a cynical marionette by the nihilistic disciples of Karl Rove?"

* The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jay Bookman: "The volume and audacity of lies pouring from the McCain campaign is startling and even historic…That's really something, lying straight out about a FactCheck group, knowing that you're going to get caught but not giving a damn about it. With stuff like this, the McCain camp has cut any remaining tethers to reality and integrity and is now floating wherever the winds of illusion and whimsy may take them. It's quite remarkable, and quite insulting to the intelligence of the American people."

* The Kansas City Star's Barb Shelly: "These are old tricks we've been seeing in local elections for years. Distort. Twist. Deceive. Damage. And the winning candidate drags a load of public contempt into office. I had hoped for better from McCain.... John McCain may win the presidency this way, but he will lose the respect he has acquired over the years."

* The Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh: "Here's the question voters should be asking themselves this week: Just how stupid does the McCain-Palin campaign think I am? The answer: Dumb enough to hoodwink with charges so contrived and cynical they make your teeth ache.... The McCain campaign has shown it's ready and willing to say preposterous things to win."

Update: Here is another candidate(member) of the club...

The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman, who had a column quoted in a McCain campaign ad this week, appears to have grown tired of the Republican nominee's tactics.

[P]oliticians are not saints, and campaigns are not conducted under oath. We all expect a certain amount of deceit from people running for office, in the form of fudging, distortion, exaggeration and omission. But the McCain campaign's approach, as [the "lipstick on a pig"] episode illustrates, is of an entirely different scale and character. It is to normal political attacks what Hurricane Ike is to a drive-through carwash. [...]

Why does McCain insist on running such a mendacious campaign? There is plenty an honest conservative might say in opposition to Obama.... But McCain has concluded that a fact-based case about Obama isn't enough to prevail in November. So he has chosen to smear his opponent with ridiculous claims that he thinks the American people are gullible enough to believe.

He has charged repeatedly that his opponent is willing to lose a war to win an election. What's McCain willing to lose to become president? Nothing so consequential as a war. Just his soul.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday Wander

Back home safe after an uneventful trip back. Out this morning at 8am for a haircut and noticed that the price of gas had jumped about $.50 overnight and that there were short lines at the QT. I waited for a few minutes and filled up but paid $3.999/gal for regular. Looks like someone is taking advantage. I saw a Shell station a bit later with $4.299/gal.

Looks like Galveston took it pretty hard last night and that Houston is getting pounded as well. Mighty large storm and they are estimating $81 million in damages...ouch!.

Doesn't look like the storm will affect my travel next week as it ought to be north of Memphis by Monday morning. That's good.

Just getting caught up with things so after I wander around the "tubes" and get my expenses done, catch up the checkbook and schedule bills I may be back.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Travel Day, Into the Storm?

Traveling back to Atlanta this afternoon from White Plains, NY. Right now the big potential problem is thunderstorm here this afternoon and Ike doesn't seem to be close enough to Atlanta to cause problems there yet. The people along the Gulf coast are in for some serious weather and we are keeping our fingers crossed that everyone and especially our Texas friends are going get away with minimal problems. Depending on Ike's path my trip to Tennessee next Monday may be a little questionale.
Good week here and the weather has been very nice. A little fall coolness in the air and just a little rain.
All you Texans out there please be safe and that goes for the rest of you along the Gulf Coast. We'll be keeping you in our thoughts.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's The Day

Here I am just a relatively few miles from Ground Zero 9/11/2001. While I am sure there is long screed, or hundreds even, out there on the tubes let's just say it in as simple as terms as possible.

We honor the sacrifice made by everyone that horrible day, whether intentional or not. The firefighters, police and others who charged the scene in an effort to save the innocent victims deserve our highest honor and the people who were caught and died while just going about their everyday lives are to be equally honored.

The great shame brought to our country should also not be forgotten. Those people who squandered the great opportunity to bring our country together by cheapening the disaster and wrapping themselves in the flag and using 9/11 to further their misbegotten political and greed driven goals are traitors to all that has made this a great country. It has brought our country to a new low and is a great tragedy, not unlike the terrorist attack itself.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Double Down

There is absolutely no way the Republicans can claim to be fiscal conservatives without lying. The Bush/McSame economic policies are crushing the country under a growing mountain of debt while their buddies in Big Oil and on Wall Street walk away laughing with huge profits, CEO salaries that would feed a small country and increasingly lower taxes. The federal deficit will jump from $161 billion up to $407 billion in only one year, which trumps the record high only outdone by Bush in 2004. What part of wrong direction don't the McSame supporters understand?
The presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said the $407 billion deficit for this fiscal year is "more than $1 trillion worse than the budget surplus President Bush promised for 2008 in his first budget."

The Obama campaign charged on its Web site that Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican presidential candidate, "wants us to think he represents change, but he wants to spend $3.4 trillion more than President Bush on tax cuts, most of which will go to the wealthiest corporations and big oil companies and leave more than 100 million middle-class families without a dime of tax relief." It said Obama "will bring real change by cutting taxes for middle-class families and small businesses, paying for all his proposals to reduce the deficit, and will put America on a path towards fiscal responsibility and a stronger economy."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Anger Management Test

This is really credit to Atrios but it is via Digby which comes before Eschaton in my alphabetical blogroll. Whatever, it is so true it hurts.

Keep this in mind because it's absolutely true:

At this point even Republicans all know it's full of shit, but they don't care. It pisses off liberals! And that's really all they care about.

Apply this to any issue that seems to drive us nuts, from choosing Palin to "drill, baby,drill."

It's how they motivate their asshole base.

Please Some Good News

OK...that's enough. Two mornings in a row the news has been that McCain is leading in all the national polls. This is not what I need first thing in the morning. The thing is I just can't believe that the majority of my fellow countryman think McCain is a better choice for President that Obama. I can't even believe that McCain is even a valid or appropriate choice for President much less better than just about anyone. We need this polling thing turned around and turned around now but I have the suspicion that the PTB (powers that be) want to weaken the momentum of the Obama campaign by falsely reporting that in spite of the overwhelming mood in the country of a need for change the candidate that represents no change is preferred. IOW why support Obama/Biden you are running against the conventional wisdom.

In other important things I have accepted a bet with David Duff the Contrary over the outcome of the U.S. election. I owe him a bottle of Jack Daniels if McCain wins and he owes me a bottle of Macallan 12 if Obama wins. As some commenters have challenged by selection of Scotch I was just trying to keep each of our investments comparable. I am confident that I have a new bottle of Scotch in my future.

Gotta run this morning as the client has decided that an 8am start is the plan for the week. Play nice and you guys in Texas get ready to hunker down.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

On the Road Again

Well the little respite after holiday is over and I am back on the road tomorrow morning. Off to Danbury, CT via White Plains, NY for a week of client "tune-up". We try and visit all our clients at least once a year and make sure they are cooking with gas, so to speak. This week I will also be training a newby to do these tune ups. He's probably my replacement.

A good productive weekend though. Got my new compost tumbler assembled and loaded with its first load. I checked it today and it is cooking right along. I should have a load of compost in two weeks or so.That's assuming Madam will turn the crank every day and give it a tumble.

Finally broke down and started the process of replacing all the toilets in the house with water saving ones. A thousand bucks later I am the proud owner of 3 American Standard Champion 4 toilets that will flush an entire bucket of golf balls with only 1.6 gallons of water. To be fair I do get $50 bucks for two of the toilets from the county for installing water saving stuff. We are waiting for the install people to call and set the day...maybe by the time I get back on Friday night I will be "newly toileted". I am not sure the septic tank is up to the golf ball test though.

I also bought a brush trimmer this weekend so that I can get to work on reclaiming my big garden. Got about half the 6 foot weeds whacked today so another day should get me to the point I can till. House guest next weekend (father of the most recent bride in the UK) so no gardening next weekend. The next week I go to Tennessee for another tune-up and then my calender is clear for the rest of the year. Scary huh?

Finally, tomorrow is my birthday and I turn 59. Not doing too bad for an old timer but I do feel the aches and pains now and again. The big thing is losing some weight. Some of the pictures from vacation are shocking to say the least. I have been trying to focus on high fiber and low glycemic index foods for the last couple of weeks and I'm 8 pounds lighter as a result. I did finish "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan over the weekend as well and if I follow his guidance I should live for another 30 or 40 years with no problem. Eat Food, Not Much, Mostly Plants. Food being something your great grandmother would recognize as food and the rest is self explanatory. I've been circling this mind state for a long time but this final tome did the trick. Deadly serious about the food in my life. Not vegetarian but meat(if any) is a side dish and not the featured player. Only organic, preferably local and in season and absolutely nothing processed (i.e great grandma). Any meat will be grass fed beef or pasture raised... no feed lot cows and not industrial chicken or pigs. With my new resolution on food it should make my week in Connecticut interesting. Needless to say I will be looking for a Whole Foods or the equivalent as soon as I arrive. Surely Danbury has something I can eat.

I'll check in with you guys from the hotel tomorrow night and update you on my food adventures.

Fish Provencal

I thought it was time to share a good fish recipe. This is really a good foundation method that can be adapted to pretty much any type of fish. The secret ingredient is Herbes de Provence which is blend of basil, fennel, rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram and some other stuff like lavender. This is really a simple recipe but it is also one that is easy to mess up by overcooking the fish. In baking fish the trick is to keep the fish in a moist cooking medium and not cooking directly in the high heat of the oven. In this recipe we use a nice blend of ingredients from the mediterranean but don't feel restricted to these. Yellow squash, fennel, carrots, peppers, all kinds of vegetables can work just make sure they are fresh. The tomatoes, olives, garlic and onion are a must however.

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus some some more for the pan
1 onion, chopped( I like vidalia or red onions best for baking)
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 small zucchini, cut into large dice
2 tomatoes, chopped ( you can peel and seed them if you want but I don't)
1 tablespoon herbes de provence
20 black olives, such as niçoise or kalamata, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 6-ounce fish fillets or 1 24-ounce piece(halibut, cod, tuna, swordfish, mahi-mahi, snapper, sea bass, tilapia, etc,)

Preheat your oven to 375° or 350° if convection. While your oven is heating brush a shallow ovenproof casserole with some olive oil and sauté onion, garlic, and herbs in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Just cook them until they just begin to soften, maybe 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and the tomato and sauté until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the olives and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put the fish in the oiled casserole and brush with more olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Carefully spoon the vegetable mixture over the fillets or fish. Into the oven and bake until just barely firm in the center. This should be about 10 minutes. Serve immediatelty. This goes nice with couscous.

Just because I specify herbes de provence in the recipe doesn't mean you could subsitute fresh thyme or basil or oregano or just parsely if that is what you have. Dried works, just don't use as much.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Laugh Out Loud

Or as my grandpa would say "Shut my mouth wide open!"
From TPM
GOP Congressman: Calling Obama "Uppity" Wasn't Racist
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Georgia Republican, released the following statement in defense of his having called Barack Obama "uppity": "I've never heard that term used in a racially derogatory sense. It is important to note that the dictionary definition of 'uppity' is 'affecting an air of inflated self-esteem --- snobbish.' That's what we meant by uppity when we used it in the mill village where I grew up."

Hello! What a bald faced lie. Lyn Westmoreland is a Georgia white boy and every white Southerner will tell you that calling a black "uppity" is exactly the same as saying that the black person acts or thinks he is a good as a white. It has been that way for hundreds of years. The big difference between now and 50 or a 100 years ago is that we don't typically beat black people for acting "uppity" anymore.

Full disclosure: I am a white southern guy as well and I have lived here all my 59 years.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Meat for the Dogs but Little Else

There is plenty of comment this morning on the "tubes" about Sarah Palin's speech to the RNC last night and I don't need to add anything. Will Bunch pretty much echoes my feelings calling it Sarah Palin’s Speech to Nowhere.

I hope America wakes up tomorrow and realizes that Sarah Palin’s words were rousing — and completely empty, that they offered no road map (let alone bridge) for America other than more of the bogus partisan name-calling that has gotten us into the mess that we’re in now.

If you want a more detailed view of the lies spread out to the dittoheads last night you need to go no further than the AP's Jim Kuhnhenn who very carefully tears apart piece by piece all the lies told by Palin and her cohorts at last night’s convention. He pretty much debunks every word. Here is his stuff via HuffPo:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her Republican supporters held back little Wednesday as they issued dismissive attacks on Barack Obama and flattering praise on her credentials to be vice president. In some cases, the reproach and the praise stretched the truth.

Some examples:

PALIN: “I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending … and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress ‘thanks but no thanks’ for that Bridge to Nowhere.”

THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a “bridge to nowhere.”

Make sure to read the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's a Hog!

Thanks to a link from Ragebot I did a little research on the new IE8 beta 2. Unless your machine is cooking with 4 or more processors forget it. To paraphrase one of the posters at Slashdot it uses twice as much RAM as Firefox 3 and saturates the CPU with six times the number of threads.
The folks at Devil Mountain Software found that in a multi tabbed browsing test IE8 Beta 2 consumed 380 MB of RAM and spawned 171 concurrent threads. I have a pretty good PC but that is too heavy for me. I will just stick with Firefox thank you very much.

Real Food

I am currently reading Michael Pollan's latest "In Defense of Food". There are some pretty startling things in just the first chapter which deals with what the American consumer has been told is good "food". I wasn't aware of the fact that there is not one definitive study that proves that a diet high in saturated fats increases your risk of heart disease nor is there a study that proves a low fat diet is any healthier than a high fat one. Some very interesting reading.

On a slightly different note there is a new member of the blog roll La Vida Locavore by Jill Richardson. Very good food site. Today Jill points us to an article by a dietician Does Natural = Healthy. Here is one bit that caught my attention;

Examples of foods that may be genetically modified include - potatoes, soybeans, chicory, squash, sugar beets, alfalfa, corn, canola, flax, papaya, and tomatoes. About one-third of all corn crops and three-fourths of all soybean crops are genetically modified.

That's a much bigger list than I would expect. I knew about corn, soy, cotton, and canola but papaya and squash? What the article doesn't mention is that genetically modified foods aren't separated out from non-GM foods so you can't assume that 2/3 of the corn products you buy are franken food free. It's all mixed together, so any non-organic corn products you buy probably has some GM corn in them.Your only safe bet is organic which by definition cannot have GM content.

BTW, Were you aware that the government has just ruled that High Fructose Corn Syrup is a "natural" product? Neither was I. You might also note that HFCS is almost always made from GMO corn and if you haven't been paying attention then start reading labels...it's in everything.

Get Focused

All this talk and news coverage about Sarah Palin this and that and pregnant daughters is pushing a lot of important stuff out of the news cycle. It is not important in the grand scheme folks. It is obvious that McSame picked Palin for all the wrong reasons and for strictly political reasons.
We are not seeing anything in the corporate media about the "gestapo" tactics of the police in MSP and the tremendous effort by the government to suppress constitutionally protected free speech and assembly. We are not getting any hard information on any issues. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might as well be non-existent.

There really are some serious things to discuss and understand.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Something with Green Tomatoes

When I pulled up all the tomato plants last week I wound up with a lot of golf ball sized green tomatoes. The larger ones made a meal of fried green tomatoes but the smaller ones were a puzzle. This weekend I decided to try and use them. Turned out pretty good.

Slice of the top and hollow them out with a melon ball tool. Just take out all the seeds and jelly and discard. Shave a bit off the bottom so that they will sit flat. Depending on how many tomatoes you have, make a mixture of two parts feta cheese and one part low fat small curd cottage cheese a bit of olive oil, fresh ground black pepper and some dried oregano. No need for salt as the feta is salty enough. Stuff the hollowed out tomatoes with the cheese mixture and top with a few bread crumbs and a drizzle of olive oil and bake at 350F for about 40 minutes until the crumbs brown and the tomatoes have softened a bit. I used a small gratin dish. The tartness of the tomatoes and the cheese are a nice match and it is something to do with all these tomatoes. I haven't tried it yet but another nice stuffing would be a mixture of equal parts finely chopped onion and cheddar.

I have done similar things with zucchini when I was trying to find different ways to use the abundance from the garden. A fun thing with zuke's is to cut them about an inch or so thick crosswise and using an apple corer or a melon tool make a hole in the center and stuff with a cheese stuffing of some sort and bake them the same way. Think of them as vege doughnuts.

Yeah, I know I can always make green tomato relish but I have a half dozen pints from last year to use up first.

Monday, September 01, 2008

It Can't Happen Here

Looking around the web and reports from friends highlights the fact that something very bad is happening in Minneapolis-St. Paul. There's something coming down in Minneapolis-St. Paul that looks very menacing-- real "Can't Happen Here" fascist, gestapo tactics that look they are coordinated from on high-- with FBI and Homeland Security participation.

Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald are in Minneapolis and have some first hand reports. Looking pretty ugly. There are a bunch of posts up at Firedoglake about all of this.

Can't Happen here my ass!

Update: Here is the story of how Amy Goodman was arrested at the RNC. Ugly!
You can watch Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! talk about her arrest and the arrest of two of Democracy Now! producers here at Skippy's place


The nicest thing for me about the Palin pick is that I don’t even have to think twice about her to know I reject her. If you think evolution is “just a theory,” you are not my kinda folks. Think abortion should be illegal no matter what, even in cases of rape and incest- not my friend. Think intelligent design should be taught in science classrooms- you're an idiot. I need not go on. I don't have to think and analyze experience or other qualifications. Simple clean and absolutely black and white.

Gustav came ashore a little while ago as a Cat 2 storm which is still plenty dangerous. Most people have evacuated Nola and the other coastal areas so there will hopefully not be much loss of life and maybe only a small amount of property damage. Hang on everyone and be safe. We have our fingers crossed.

Going to be a quiet day here a Fallenmonk manor. I did all my chores over the weekend so I am clear to putz around today. Madam and I did go and see Mama Mia yesterday. It was cute and in spite of myself I like Abba's music. I have an Abba greatest hits CD on my Ipod that is great to just zombi out with. No thinking required.

All you south coasters be careful and be safe.