Tuesday, March 31, 2009

PC Virus Alert -- Protect Yourself

From Americablog

If you are a Windows user you should be aware that a BIG virus will hit tomorrow.

Also, please make sure every Windows machine is patched. Follow the instructions of your Operating system here.

Also, there is a free removal tool being provided by Mcaffee and it can be found here.

Make sure you click on the link on the upper right for the STINGER application.

If they are already infected, the WORM prevents the anti-virus software from updating automatically and it prevents people from getting to security websites. What is worse, if they did not update their OS with the Microsoft patch I sent you before they got infected, the WORM makes the system THINK that it already has that update! What this means is that the end-users Windows OS will not update itself to fix the hole that the Worm is using. The end-user will see a dialog box that tells them their system is already up to date and does not need the patch. It is the WORM that is making the system tell the end user that!

At this point, the only way I can determine that a person can be 100% sure to be un-infected is to run the STINGER application I sent you earlier. I ran it on all of my personal systems. If they cannot get to that site, I would be concerned as that may mean they are infected.

These links have been verified.

Hold the Pistachios

Updated below:

Hold the pistachios! Don't eat them--but don't throw them away yet. The FDA is issuing this advisory after a Central Valley plant issued a recall.

A California food processing plant is voluntarily recalling up to 1 million pounds of roasted pistachio products that may have been contaminated with salmonella, the Food and Drug Administration announced Monday.

The nuts came from Setton Farms in Terra Bella, California, about 75 miles south of Fresno. They were largely distributed in 2,000-pound containers to food wholesalers who would then package them for resale or incorporate them as ingredients in other products, such as ice cream and trail mix.

This is a recall based on testing by Kraft foods and not based on an outbreak of infections. Kraft found strains of salmonella during routine testing.

While no one has gotten sick this could have a another massive ripple effect like the peanut debacle--Setton is the second-largest pistachio processor in the nation.
The FDA says this is directly related to a recall issued by Kroger on Friday, when it yanked several cans of private-label pistachios due to salmonella.

The FDA wants consumers not to eat any pistachio products for now. If you have any on hand, don't throw them out--more recalls could come later, and keeping them on hand will make it easier to trace the contamination.

Update: The FDA has a brand new pistachio recall page on its website. Now you can keep track of pistachio recalls along with the peanut butter recalls which continue to come in every day and now add up to nearly 4,000 products.

Thanks to Steve at YDD for mentioning this in the comments. I have been meaning to post this but stuff interfered.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Too Wet to Plow

Updated Below:

Afters days of rain it is way too wet to garden but the grass is ready for its first mowing of the season. On the way to the mailbox just a minute ago I noticed a couple of fire ant hills that have cropped up along the driveway. That, most unfortunately will require fire ant poison. I really hate using any kind of insecticide or poison but fire ants require special attention here in the south. They will take over if not dealt with summarily. The good thing is that the poison is very specific to fire ants and can be applied in very small amounts and only on the hill. It actually affects the queens reproduction and without the queen the rest of the nest is finished.

Potatoes are just about ready to plant but I am going to give them a few more days of light before I do. The ground temperature is still pretty cool and the sets won't do anything as long as it is below about 50 or so. You gain nothing but a good chance of them rotting if you rush it.

Anyhow, I have finished looking at the several thousand job postings for the day and actually found one that got a resume submitted and now it is time to drag out the lawn mower and mow the grass. This will not only be the first mowing of the season, as I mentioned, but the first time I have done it personally in a couple of years. The yard service was the first thing to go in December so now I have yard chores as well. Fortunately, I have all the equipment and plenty of time in which to do it now and the exercise can't hurt. That's rationalized so off to work.

Play nice. Oh! I also got my two tickets for the Master's in the mail today from a friend. So there will be one day of holiday next week to view the last day of practice next Wednesday. That will be fun. Even though golf is one of the "good things" that has temporarily(I hope) been lost a day in Augusta at the Masters is quite a treat.

Update: So much for mowing. I couldn't get my practically brand new Honda mower started. It will start and run for a minute when I spray some starter fluid in the carb but then it dies. I checked the plug and the fuel lines. It ran a couple of months ago just fine and I ran it out of gas. I filled it with fresh gas and pulled on it for a couple of hours this afternoon. Exasperating! I guess I will have to take it in to the mower place and see what is wrong. My 30 year old tiller starts on the 2nd or 3rd pull but it is an old fashioned cast iron Kohler behemoth with nothing fancy. The Honda is a "Quick Start" OHC super mower with all the safety stuff and interlocks. Probably something simple but I can't figure it out. Probably going to cost me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Planting the seeds of a revolution

The title of this post is also the title of this op ed by Pulitzer Prize Winner Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe, which begins

YOU HAVE to admit that this gives new meaning to the idea of a "shovel-ready project." There are now 1,100 square feet on the South Lawn of the White House being transformed into a kitchen garden. If Americans follow the first family's lead, the seed pack will become the new stimulus package. At least we'll have something to do with those pitchforks after the AIG bonus babies surrender their money.

As you would expect from someone like Ellen Goodman it is very much worth the few minutes it will take to go over an read. I did a quick post on the new White House garden but Ellen's piece very much puts a different perspective on what this may mean for all of us. As an organic gardener for more than 30 years and a gardener of one sort or another for all of my nearly 60 years...mind you, some of it seen as terrible punishment when I was a wee lad, it really excites me to see home gardening rise into the mainstream as something that is good to do.

The whole article needs reading but I want to share just a few more bits and some of the facts because this is about more than food and gardening. It is about a revolution in the way Americans think about what they put on the table or in 'Shrub speak' what they "put on their family".

But there is something else about the incredible edible project that also makes me do a fist bump. The Obamas aren't just eating the view, they are eating the lawn.

What Michelle and the kids and the crew did the other day was to drive a shovel right into the heart of that American icon: the lawn. They literally took the most pampered lawn in America, dumped it in the wheel barrel, and carted it away. All that was missing was a chorus of "This lawn is your lawn."

Is it possible that along with local, organic food, the First Garden can promote the thoroughly subversive idea that this symbol has seen its day?

This is the sea change. This is a revolutionary idea...what if we abandoned our obsession with our lawns?

Here are some of the facts and figures from the article:

  • 40 million acres of lawn, more than for any other agriculture product
  • 270 billion gallons of water weekly - enough to irrigate twice as many acres of organic vegetables
  • $40 billion per year on seed, sod and chemicals. What a waste!

As Goodman notes,

We mow the lawn, we fertilize it, we pesticize it, we water it, for the absurd purpose of keeping this useless patch in a deliberate state of arrested development.
Environmentally, sensibly, she is correct. The chemicals that we dose our lawns with cause massive environmental degradation. Most of it winds up running off into our water supplies where it causes untold harm. The herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers poison our children, pets, and wildlife.

I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have the space to grow a vegetable garden or even a few square feet of bare earth or even a porch to grow a tomato in a pot. You can still participate in the revolution however. Look around and you may find a CSA or a community garden where you can lease a space or you can patronize a local farmer's market where local farmers and gardeners sell their locally grown produce. There are ways.

Besides reading the article and starting your own vegetable garden or patronizing your local growers...if you have a lawn, reconsider it, especially if you are paying someone like ChemLawn to poison you and your environment.

h/t to teacherken at La Vida Locavore for alerting me to the article.

Too Much Salt

  • We eat too much salt:
  • Americans already eat way more than the recommended amount of salt, and now the CDC finds that even lower recommendations apply to 70% of us.

    New data show that the average U.S. adult consumes one-and-a-half teaspoons of salt every day. That's a half teaspoon more than the basic daily recommendation of one teaspoon (about 2,300 milligrams of sodium).

    But the recommendation is much lower for people with high blood pressure, people over 40, and all African-American adults. These groups should be eating no more than two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt (about 1,500 milligrams of sodium) per day.

    More than two out of three Americans -- some 145.5 million of us -- are in those categories, the CDC now calculates.

The thing is that most of the salt in our diets doesn't come from the salt shaker or from added salt to the foods we cook at home. It comes from processed foods. The American Heart Association says up to 75% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods such as tomato sauce, soup, condiments, canned foods, and prepared mixes.

Salt isn't the only high-sodium chemical in our diet -- there's also baking soda, baking powder, and MSG. And on food labels, you'll see it in a myriad of other ingredients such as disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium benzoate, and so on.

It's OK to add a pinch of salt when you are cooking to brighten flavor but you can reduce or eliminate a lot of the need for salt as a flavor enhancer by using other things to enhance or otherwise brighten up a dish. A bit of grated lemon or orange peel(zest) and likewise citrus juice from lemons to grapefruit. Vinegar and wine are great as well to add a bit depth to a dish. I use balsamic vinegar(an inexpensive one) quite often instead of salt and it only takes a teaspoon or so. You won't actually taste the vinegar but it will definitely improve flavor in such things as soups and stews. I keep white and red vinegar, rice wine vinegar, balsamic and apple cider vinergar on hand all the time. Don't forget a bit of Tabasco or other good hot sauces either(Cholula with the little wooden cap from Mexico is a good one). A tiny bit added to scrambled eggs or cooked veges in combination with a dash of wine vinegar makes a world of difference and really does eliminate the need for much or any salt. If you make a conscious effort to reduce salt you'll find you become far more sensitive to the amount in your food and therefore need even less to get the job done.

The biggest way, again, to reduce the amount of salt in your diet is to get rid of processed foods wherever possible. Try reading the labels for sodium sometimes and you will be shocked at the salt in most of the boxed and packaged foods.

Remember, for most of us, no more than two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt (about 1,500 milligrams of sodium) per day is the upper limit. A few Fritos or a handful of pretzels and you are toast.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bush Gardens

Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shanty towns. At his news conference on Tuesday night, President Obama was asked directly about the tent cities and responded by saying that it was “not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.”While encampments and street living have always been a part of the landscape in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, these new tent cities have taken root — or grown from smaller enclaves of the homeless as more people lose jobs and housing — in such disparate places as Nashville, Olympia, Wash., and St. Petersburg, Fla.

Meanwhile, the unemployment numbers continue to increase:
In another snapshot of the ailing economy, the number of workers collecting state unemployment benefits rose to a record 5.56 million earlier this month, while new claims climbed to 652,000 last week, a separate government report showed.
On another front we have The Governor of California: actually taking a positive step with regards to the growing number of homeless in the state and the proliferation of "Bush Gardens".
“Together with the local government and volunteers, we are taking a first step to ensure the people living in tent city have a safe place to stay, with fresh water, healthy conditions and access to the services they need,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “And I am committed to working with Mayor Johnson to find a permanent solution for those living in tent city.”
Governor Schwarzenegger has closed down the growing 'tent city' in Sacramento, and offered up the state fairgrounds in an effort to provide some safe, healthy alternatives for those experiencing homelessness. It is a start.

Bad Faith Squared

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake has the whole deal but if what she is saying is true then Citigroup and BofA have reached the bottom of the sleaze barrel and have punched through the bottom.

As Yves Smith and other predicted, BofA and Citigroup have already begun gaming Tim Geithner's private-public partnership plan (the Public/Private Investment Partnership, or PPIP). Remember our old pal Stanford Kurland, who milked Countrywide for $200 million, and is now financed by Blackrock to buy up toxic mortgages at thirty cents on the dollar? The New York Post says companies like his are being outbid -- by BofA and Citigroup.

Now remember, TARP money was supposed to "unfreeze" the credit market and be used for lending. And the PPiP plan was supposed to get the toxic assets off the balance sheets of the "too big to fail" banks, at prices of .50 to .60 on the dollar, because the banks didn't want to take the hit of selling them at what they are actually worth. But instead, BofA and Citi took the TARP money and bought more toxic assets:

Healthy is Not Hard

You've probably noticed that more and more products in the grocery are being marketed as "better for you". It has become a major part of marketing food. Every food manufacturer wants to define their product as more “healthy” than the other brand or just as healthy as fresh and naturally produced food. Companies are going crazy trying to label food products with all kinds of numbers or symbols, regardless of the truth, that their products are "better-for-you" choices.

It's really not all that hard if you just stop and think and do a little research plus throw in a bit of common sense. Thankfully (with a h/t Marion Nestle) the Strategic Alliance, a component of the Oakland-based Prevention Institute devoted to “promoting healthy food and activity environments,” has produced a working definition of a healthful food. Its report, Setting the Record Straight: Nutritionists Define Healthful Food, (warning PDF) applies three principles:


Healthful Food is wholesome.
  • It includes whole and minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, meats, fish, and poultry.
  • It contains naturally occurring nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients).
  • It is produced without added hormones or antibiotics.
  • It is processed without artificial colors or flavors or unnecessary preservatives.
Healthful Food is produced, processed, and transported in a way that
prevents the exploitation of farmers, workers, and natural resources, and
the cruel treatment of animals. The process of healthful food production:
  • Upholds the safety and quality of life of all who work to feed us.
  • Treats all animals humanely.
  • Protects the finite resources of soil, water, air, and biological diversity.
  • Supports local and regional farm and food economies.
  • Replaces fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.
Healthful Food should be available, accessible, and affordable to everyone.
  • Distributed equitably among all communities.
  • Available and emphasized in children’s environments such as childcare, school, and after-school settings.
  • Promoted within institutions and workplaces, in cafeterias, vending machines, and at meetings and events.
  • Reflective of the natural diversity found in traditions and cultures.
That's pretty succinct and easy to understand. It's actually just common sense and reflects a concern for the world we live in and minimizes the negative impact we have on it. Not so surprisingly you will also find that adhering to these principles will make your food taste better and make you feel better. It will also cause you to actually prepare and cook your food yourself instead of relying on someone else to do it for you. Most of all, in the long run, it will save you money and reduce your impact on the planet.

Agent Orange Was "Safe" Too!

Either stupid or insane! The people living on either side of the Rio Grande have every reason to be upset about this harebrained idea and to demand thorough testing and a serious consideration of alternative methods. EPA assurances aside, herbicides are dangerous and anything that kills a wide variety of plant life is not safe to use anywhere or any time. Has everyone forgotten that the government told us DDT, Agent Orange, Chlordane, Round-Up and all the rest of the now banned pesticides and herbicides were safe? (Round-Up is not yet banned but recent testing has shown that it does have deleterious effects on humans). Yes, there is some small chance imazapyr is safe but without years of testing it's hard to say what kind of impact it could have on people, wildlife and the water supply. Holy Shit! Agent Orange is still having an impact in Vietnam today fer Chrissakes! The comment on imazapyr from the EPA is not reassuring..."Imazapyr technical is relatively nontoxic via the oral route of exposure, and only slightly toxic via the dermal and inhalation routes of exposure," What the hell is "slightly toxic"?
Applying herbicides on a 1.1-mile stretch of the U.S. side of the river was part of a test project, Prichard said, but the CBP decided to postpone the $2.1 million experiment to address community concerns.

Residents of two Hispanic communities near Laredo, Texas -- Barrio de Colores and Barrio El Cuatro -- filed a lawsuit late Tuesday asking a federal court to intervene. Prichard said Wednesday morning he was unaware of the lawsuit.

Among the complaints in the lawsuit, the communities allege the CBP failed to assess the environmental impact adequately, failed to consider reasonable alternatives and failed to notify the public adequately.
Somebody with the sense the Goddess gave a crab apple needs to nip this whole idea in the bud before someone decides that the "risk" is minimal. The Rio Grande waterway is habitat to thousands of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects and an important part of the Central American flyway(Hello! its spring migration folks!). Has the effect of Imazapyr been tested for long term on all of the species inhabiting the area? Have long term effects on humans and human reproduction been tested? You bet your sweet ass they haven't and before anyone allows the first whiff of spraying there better be a 100% assurance that there is absolutely no risk to anyone or anything. Of course, like in most other similar situations the government will just railroad everyone and or lie about testing and just do it anyway. The reality is that a small herd of goats could probably clear the whole area in just a few months while fertilizing and providing the occasional tasty BBQ for the locals but that is not insane enough and way too low tech.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Sacrifice?

I missed part of President Obama's press conference last night because I wasn't paying attention to the time. I did, however, catch the strange question from NBC's Chuck Todd. I've mulled it over I still find it hard to believe he, or anyone in the corporate media are so clueless, that they feel justified in asking such a question.

"Some have compared this financial crisis to a war, and in times of war, past presidents have called for some form of sacrifice. [...]

"Why, given this new era of responsibility that you're asking for, why haven't you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?"

The president answered by pointing all of the myriad ways in which Americans are already sacrificing during this crisis. That should have reset Todd's brain and recalled it to reality but it didn't. In a follow up, Todd asked why Obama has called on "specific" sacrifices from Americans. Once again, the president explained, " American people are making a host of sacrifices in their individual lives."

The problem with Todd's question points out something that the media just doesn't seem to grasp. "Sacrifice" comes in two flavors. The first is "no choice" as in millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, savings, and health care. They aren't sacrificing because they want to or because it is the right thing to do. These are the people that President Obama is trying help. These people have already sacrificed quite a bit and it is what is making the economy bad. If the president asks Americans to sacrifice more, it will just make the economy that much worse.

The other kind of "sacrifice" is "voluntary". It's where I have more than I truly need and so I share it with you, even if by doing so I have to eat macaroni one meal a week instead of roast beef. "Sacrifice" is not the millionaire giving his pocket change to a bum on the street...that's some form of charity but painless. Sacrifice entails loss, either involuntary or voluntary. Someone making a seven figure salary that voluntarily gives most of it away to the needy and then lives on the $100,000 left over is sacrificing the "high life" and doing good work but still "sacrifice" is a strong word.

Somehow the media seems to believe the president is going about this all wrong. Obama should ask us to sacrifice more during the crisis. The administration should make conditions even more difficult for Americans. Yes, some of the top 10% should maybe take a little off the top and spread it around or pay a little higher tax rate as Obama has suggested but unless there is another World War where we need to sacrifice for the war effort then Americans are sacrificing plenty, thank you very much.

How can these people be so completely backwards...very strange.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Too Complicated

I would post something about the latest plan to save the world of finance but I don't understand it and so I will pretend to be a Republican and complain about Obama chuckling too much on 60 Minutes.
Then again I could pretend to be the GOP Idiot from Minnesota Michele Bachmann and just threaten armed rebellion, which by the way is kind of dicey for someone in her position. I know she probably hasn't read it but there is the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which, I think, might apply:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Just Saying...

Anyhow...it is kind of quiet around the blog. It's Spring and the garden is demanding lots of attention and is in direct conflict with my multi-pronged campaign to find gainful employment. I am doing the traditional reactive thing of scanning the thousands of posted jobs on many, many job sites and getting daily emails based on stored search criteria. Most of this are for jobs in my area of expertise. I launch resumes and coverletters to the ones that match my impressive skills and wait, and wait for a response other than "Thanks for the resume...we'll get back to you."
The other prong is proactive and is taking even more time. This is an effort to transition into natural and organic food industry. This means building a network, finding and talking to people in the industry and figuring out how my skills and experience might benefit them. Not easy and I am really starting from scratch. Anyhow, lots of research, lots of letter writing, lots of phone calls looking for contacts and information about the industry.

More than you needed to know, but that is why you are not seeing much activity around here. I am thinking of working nights on the job hunt stuff and days in the garden but I just haven't figured out where I can fit in sleep.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Documenting the Tragedy

Enigma4ever is doing a stellar job of documenting the tragedy that is affecting millions in this country. This is stuff you aren't seeing in the corporate media. Stop by Watergate Summer and her new blog The 2009 Depression and take a look at how your neighbors are being treated by this economy. It is still being called a recession by everyone, but I sure am beginning to feel that depression is more apt.

Greed and Stupid Beget Pain

There is another thing about spending the daylight hours of the the last three days digging in the garden besides fresh air, good exercise and preparing for eating over the coming months and that is, it takes your mind off the fact that the majority of us in the nation are "well and truly fucked".

From Matt Taibbi’s latest article at Rolling Stone:

The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers. …

…So it’s time to admit it: We’re fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we’re still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream.

A pretty good summary of where we are I would say.

While some might be able to quibble over a few details, Taibbi gets to the heart of the situation we find ourselves in fairly well. The crude and painful reality is that the financial "wizards" have managed, over the last decade or so, to rape and pillage the entire economy. Our national wealth has been hijacked into a vast scheme of money chasing even more money and less and less of our energy and productivity has been used to create tangible things like a sustainable and healthy food system or valuable and useful consumer products or smart and much needed infrastructure. We are no closer to being energy self sufficient, no closer to having a national health care system and more and more people are going hungry. The great majority of the vast resources of the country, and the world's for that matter, have been ruthlessly plowed into meaningless and fundamentally worthless financial investment instruments. In other words, we have spent the last decade or more building a huge pile of fictional shit and what's worse is that we can't even use it for fertilizer for Goddess' sake.

What’s really sad is that it appears a huge number of apparently intelligent people still don’t see the big picture. Even sadder, it seems, is that this large number includes the Obama Administration, which appears to be in tweak rather than overhaul mode. My fear is that the people closest to the game and complicit in its creation are the ones in the positions to do something material to get some badly needed corrections in place. One might despair!

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Spring Sir!

The immortal words of Max Klinger always come to mind on the first day of Spring. It is such a lovely day I have decided that in honor of the Vernal Equinox ( with happened at 0744 this morning BTW) it is a great day to go get another load of horse manure. You never have enough horse manure! It is still cool so I won't get too work up and then I can come back and continue preparing for all the planting that will happen over the next couple of weeks. Darn seed potatoes still haven't come and it is past time for them to be in the ground. Maybe today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More on the White House Garden

I know this is only interesting to us gardeners but this is interesting:

On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn’t like them) but arugula will make the cut.

The First Lady said that while the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables.

The Obamas evidently like Mexican cooking and the garden will have cilantro, tomatilloes and hot peppers. I sure hope they have better luck with cilantro than I have. Every time I try and grow it, it bolts before I have had a chance to really harvest any. They also have lettuces planned that will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. Something really cool is that a White House carpenter who is a beekeeper will tend two hives for honey.

I have spent a large part of the day in the garden today and yesterday. It does take work but the rewards are great. All the peas planted last week are up and we strung the support for them today. Pak Choi and other Chinese cabbage is going well as is the roquette, chard and lettuce. Spinach hasn't broken through yet but the first of the French breakfast radishes are peaking out. Onions got mulched well yesterday as did the garlic and everybody got a drink of fish emulsion. Cauliflower, cabbage an brocolli plants are all starting to settle in and show some growth. Didn't lose a one to the shock of transplanting. Leeks are still basically invisible but I think I see some growth. I also managed to put in a new 4x6 asparagus bed yesterday. I won't get any this year and not a lot next but by year after we should be rolling in the stuff.

Normal May Be a Ways Off

In the cover story for the next issue of the Washington Monthly, James Galbraith, a University of Texas economist and senior scholar with the Levy Economics Institute, has a sobering analysis of the economic situation we now find ourselves in, just how serious the economic crisis is, and why the current plan may be well short of an effective solution.

In short, if we are in a true collapse of finance, our models will not serve. It is then appropriate to reach back, past the postwar years, to the experience of the Great Depression. And this can only be done by qualitative and historical analysis. Our modern numerical models just don't capture the key feature of that crisis -- which is, precisely, the collapse of the financial system.

If the banking system is crippled, then to be effective the public sector must do much, much more. How much more? By how much can spending be raised in a real depression? And does this remedy work?

It is not pretty and discusses how a lot of the plans and assumptions are based on economic models that don't really address the complexity of the situation as it now stands. The key assumption, that of a self-stabilizing economy, is at the root of why this recession is no like the other post war recessions. Bascially, Galbraith believes that the "return to normal" is off in the distance, and the steps taken by the White House, so far, are going to come up short...way short.

If Galbraith is right, and his arguments make sense, it means that tens of millions more Americans will be out of work over the next five years, regardless of the current stimulus. It means that the big banks really are failed and worthless and that they will never resume normal lending in spite of how much money the Treasury pumps into them. It means seriously bad times.

Galbraith just doesn't talk gloom and doom and does offer some recomnendations for a more comprehensive approach... This is definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

What's Obama doing with a Hoe?

From ABC News: There will be a White House vegetable garden. The article doesn't say anything about it being organic but if the First family family will eat the produce then you know it will be. It will be interesting to see if the family actually spends any time in the garden doing the chores like weeding and picking off the occasional pest. A lot of people, like Alice Waters, have been pushing for this and it seems it will come to pass.

Good job!

Chicken Crimes or Not?

I'll be in court this morning. One of the locals got charged with violating local zoning ordinances due to his pet chickens. Andrew Wordes has a dozen or chickens in the back yard and someone complained that he was violating the rules against livestock. One part of the city zoning says chickens are livestock and another part excludes them. There is a very active backyard chicken group in the area and they are meeting at the courthouse this morning to support Andrew and yours truly will be there. Interestingly, so will CNN and all the local TV stations. For some reason this little spat has garnered quite a bit of publicity and even hit the national news. I may even be on CNN this morning!
I don't have chickens(yet) but I resent the city telling me I can't keep a few around if I want to. All the other cities around allow a up to 25 or 30 "pet chickens" except Roswell. I can understand some limits and restrictions but I have over an acre of room and no immediate neighbors and a dozen or so chickens wouldn't bother anyone. Besides, depending on how the economy goes producing your own eggs may be a matter of survival and not just a hobby.
So anyhow, this morning is set aside for the right to keep chickens. If you happen to be watching the local Atlanta news or even CNN today you may see me and the other chicken supporters. We are all wearing something yellow so we will be easy to spot.
I'll be back later.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Morning Break

I have to run out and find some more peat pots...my tomatoes and peppers need some more room but if you have a few minutes you can use them wisely by reading Joe Bageant's latest essay, Skinny Dipping in Reality. It will be worth the time.

I especially liked the part beginning with this paragraph:

Enter Buddhism. It is damned near impossible for any literate person to launch off on a teleological trajectory without being sucked into the gravitational force of Buddhism. Especially if the launch is powered by LSD, which is the difference between a journey on foot and a ride in a rocket sled. By the way, there is no Buddhist commandment that says, "Do not take drugs," though most Buddhists do not. Nor is there one that says, "Do not drink," though it's not the most recommendable thing to do. Buddhist leader Trungpa Rinpoche, founder of Boulder's Naropa Institute, got drunk often, got laid too, and was very controversial for it. Our American Calvinism makes us equate morality and rightness with prohibition, especially of pleasure. The Christian church has always been about controlling its followers. Buddhism is not so much about prohibition, except for harming life. It's not even about religion, but more about the ultimate order of the world and liberation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Everybody Is Irish Today

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh or Happy St. Patrick's Day. I actually celebrated my Irish heritage on Sunday with the corned beef and cabbage and soda bread. Even though it is not really Irish it seems to have developed into an "Irish" thing here in the U.S. Most likely it got associated with the Irish back in the days when the Irish immigrated due to the potato famine(An Gorta Mór) in Ireland and settled in close proximity with the Jews in places such as New York and Boston. The typical Irish were too poor in Ireland to eat beef and when they did "ha'e meat" it was probably a pork joint. Cabbage and potatoes were a part of the regular fare though, at least until the Great Famine. If you have an opportunity to spend anytime in Ireland, especially out in the country, you will still see evidence of the disaster of the potato blight. Estimates are that a million Irish died from starvation and another million emigrated, mostly to the U.S. Most historians consider the famine(between 1845 and 1852) as a dividing line in Irish history. It surely changed Ireland forever and had a huge impact on America.

So today is a great day to celebrate the contributions made by our Irish ancestors to what American is today and even if you have no Irish blood.. today it is ok to pretend that you do.

Monday, March 16, 2009


The long awaited and very much delayed Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) finally takes effect today, despite massive efforts by primarily the beef industry to make it go away. What did the meat producers object to? It's too expensive, too difficult, it’s really just another trade barrier, and - the best one - consumers don’t care where their meat comes from. As of today, COOL is law. Now we need to see if anyone pays attention to the new rules. I, for one, am just curious mind you, since I really don’t care where my food is produced as I am sure you aren't either.

American CEO's Are Geeting the Idea

Interesting bit from Chris at Americablog. According to a report issued by the Business Roundtable, a group representing America's CEO's, the American health care system is hurting us competitively in the world marketplace.

The report from the Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of major companies, says America's health care system has become a liability in a global economy.

Concern about high U.S. costs has existed for years, and business executives — whose companies provide health coverage for workers — have long called for getting costs under control. Now President Barack Obama says the costs have become unsustainable and the system must be overhauled.

Americans spend $2.4 trillion a year on health care. The Business Roundtable report says Americans in 2006 spent $1,928 per capita on health care, at least two-and-a-half times more per person than any other advanced country.

In a different twist, the report took those costs and factored benefits into the equation.

It compares statistics on life expectancy, death rates and even cholesterol readings and blood pressures. The health measures are factored together with costs into a 100-point "value" scale. That hasn't been done before, the authors said.

The results are not encouraging.

The United States is 23 points behind five leading economic competitors: Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France. The five nations cover all their citizens, and though their systems differ, in each country the government plays a much larger role than in the U.S.

The cost-benefit disparity is even wider — 46 points — when the U.S. is compared with emerging competitors: China, Brazil and India.
This, of course, is not what you are hearing from our buddies on the right and the GOP. According to them, we have the best health care in the world and if anything it just needs a little tweaking on the edges and we are as good as gold. Doesn't it make you feel good to know that we are falling behind such economic powerhouses as China, Brazil and India.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Food Safety Legislation - Get a Balanced View

Food & Water Watch has just put out a statement on food safety legislation. There is a huge amount of misinformation flying around about the various changes that are pending for food safety. You have to ask yourself who stands to lose if harsher food safety laws are put into place when you read all the alarmist stuff that is circulating. It is really important to look at consumer oriented information and not just the main stream media which has a vested interest in keeping their sponsors happy.
The dilemma of how to regulate food safety in a way that prevents problems caused by industrialized agriculture but doesn't wipe out small diversified farms is not new and is not easily solved. And as almost constant food safety problems reveal the dirty truth about the way much of our food is produced, processed and distributed, it's a dilemma we need to have serious discussion about.

Most consumers never thought they had to worry about peanut butter and this latest food safety scandal has captured public attention for good reason - a CEO who knowingly shipped contaminated food, a plant with holes in the roof and serious pest problems, and years of state and federal regulators failing to intervene.

It's no surprise that Congress is under pressure to act and multiple food safety bills have been introduced.

Two of the bills are about traceability for food (S.425 and H.R. 814). These present real issues for small producers who could be forced to bear the cost of expensive tracking technology and recordkeeping.

The other bills address what FDA can do to regulate food.

A lot of attention has been focused on a bill introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (H.R. 875), the Food Safety Modernization Act. And a lot of what is being said about the bill is misleading.

Here are a few things that H.R. 875 DOES do:

1. It addresses the most critical flaw in the structure of FDA by splitting it into 2 new agencies -one devoted to food safety and the other devoted to drugs and medical devices.

2. It increases inspection of food processing plants, basing the frequency of inspection on the risk of the product being produced - but it does NOT make plants pay any registration fees or user fees.

3. It does extend food safety agency authority to food production on farms, requiring farms to write a food safety plan and consider the critical points on that farm where food safety problems are likely to occur.

4. It requires imported food to meet the same standards as food produced in the U.S.

And just as importantly, here are a few things that H.R. 875 does NOT do:

1. It does not cover foods regulated by the USDA (beef, pork, poultry, lamb, catfish.)

2. It does not establish a mandatory animal identification system.

3. It does not regulate backyard gardens.

4. It does not regulate seed.

5. It does not call for new regulations for farmers markets or direct marketing arrangements.

6. It does not apply to food that does not enter interstate commerce (food that is sold across state lines).

7. It does not mandate any specific type of traceability for FDA-regulated foods (the bill does instruct a new food safety agency to improve traceability of foods, but specifically says that recordkeeping can be done electronically or on paper.)

Several of the things not found in the DeLauro can be found in other bills - like H.R. 814, the Tracing and Recalling Agricultural Contamination Everywhere Act, which calls for a mandatory animal identification system, or H.R. 759, the Food And Drug Administration Globalization Act, which overhauls the entire structure of FDA. H.R. 759 is more likely to move through Congress than H.R. 875. And H.R. 759 contains several provisions that could cause problems for small farms and food processors:

1. It extends traceability recordkeeping requirements that currently apply only to food processors to farms and restaurants - and requires that recordkeeping be done electronically.

2. It calls for standard lot numbers to be used in food production.

3. It requires food processing plants to pay a registration fee to FDA to fund the agency's inspection efforts.

4. It instructs FDA to establish production standards for fruits and vegetables and to establish Good Agricultural Practices for produce.

There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends to work for one size of agriculture - the largest industrialized operations. That's why it is important to let members of Congress know how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market producers different from agribusiness. And the work doesn't stop there - if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we can't afford to ignore.

But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the authority to do much about it.

You can read the full text of any of these bills at http://thomas.loc.gov

Cool Foods Garden Guide

Thanks to Jill at La Vida Locavore who pointed us to the Cool Foods Campaign site and their Garden Guide. This is really a great resource whether you are an old hand at gardening or just wanting to get started. Everything from deciding what kind of garden to plant and what to plant. There is even a section on preserving foods. The guide is loaded with great links as well to additional resources. If you are thinking about a little or big garden then you need to visit this site.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Black Gold

Just got back from getting a load of composted horse manure. Great stuff and potent medicine for the garden. This stuff is still smoking and composting. The new expanded metal floor my daughter put in the wagon worked great (Thanks minimonk!) The nice girl at the stable even helped me load and it cost me nothing but a little shoveling. I love free shit :-)... I was really surprised when I pulled up and she came out to greet me with a lovely English accent. She has lived here for about 16 years but originally came from Manchester. I guess I owe her a few tomatoes and melons for the assistance, plus I will be back for more horse poop before too long.

Really turned a bit cooler here. Only 52 at three in the afternoon which is 20 degrees cooler than just two days ago. There is still no forecast for frosty temperatures on the horizon which is good.

The cool weather prompted a nice pot of pinto beans the aroma of which is now drifting through the house. I inherited my grandmother's earthenware bean pot and I am not sure if she inherited or not. It is perfect for a pound of beans, an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a dash of red pepper flakes and a bay leaf. Fill it with the above and water to the top and into a 300 degree over for 3 or 4 hours and you are ready to eat. Buttermilk cornbread required, of course.

Supposed to start raining soon and rain all weekend which will pretty much put a halt to garden work. We need the rain and everything is done that needs doing this time of year. I may put some more lettuce and chard in the dirt this afternoon but it is not critical...just an excuse to dig.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Banana Nut Bread - Overripe Banana Solution

Madam Monk likes bananas and there are always some in the house. Sometimes there are some that are too ripe for her and the best solution is banana bread. I've tried a bunch of recipes and the one from the old Betty Crocker cookbook is still the best and it's really simple. The good thing is that even if you are not ready to make the bread today or tomorrow you can freeze overripe bananas and just thaw them when you are ready to make the bread.

Banana Nut Bread

Preheat the oven to 350F and adjust the rack to the lower center of the oven.

You'll need at least 3 very ripe bananas for this recipe.

1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans (both are nice but the walnuts have a stronger flavor)

cream the shortening and sugar and then add the eggs one at a time and mix until smooth. Gradually add the flour(with the other dry ingredients well mixed in) and mashed banana alternating between the two. Mix until smooth but not too long as it will develop the gluten in the flour as make the loaf tough. Fold in the nuts and then pour the mixture into a well greased standard bread pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a skewer or knife comes out clean. Be careful not to overcook it or it will be dry and 5 minutes too long will do it. Let it sit in pan on a cooling rack for a few minutes then turn it out on the rack and let it cool completely. It's really best if it sit wrapped overnight but you can sample it after it cools. A cold glass of milk goes great and so does a nice cup of tea.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shopping Informed or Ignorant-Your Choice

If you are interested in what's not good for you on the fruits and vegetables in your market there is a new edition off the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides, it now includes the latest government data. This handy guide shows you the fruits and veggies with the most and least pesticides, so you know which to always buy organic and which are pretty clean even when conventionally grown. You need to try and always buy organic but it is not always available or practical to do so. If you have to buy conventional produce then you might consider washing them with a mild solution of vinegar and water before you use them. Just make a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and put it in a spray bottle you can keep by the sink. Water works but the acidity of the vinegar will help remove a little more of the contaminants and it helps with bacteria as well. The danger spots on most fruits are the stem and flower areas so give those an especially good scrub.

Never, ever forget that the government said that highly toxic pesticides like DDT, chlordane, dursban and others were safe right up to the day the EPA banned them.

If you want, you can also sign up to get the EWG's newsletter Farm & Food via email. The newsletter will keep you informed of the latest developments in food safety.

According to the EWG's latest testing the worst offenders are:

Consistent with two previous EWG investigations, fruits topped the list of the consistently most contaminated fruits and vegetables, with seven of the 12 most contaminated foods. The seven were peaches leading the list, then apples, nectarines and strawberries, cherries, and imported grapes, and pears. Among these seven fruits:

  • Nectarines had the highest percentage of samples test positive for pesticides (97.3 percent), followed by peaches (96.7 percent) and apples (94.1 percent).
  • Peaches had the highest likelihood of multiple pesticides on a single sample - 87.0 percent had two or more pesticide residues — followed by nectarines (85.3 percent) and apples (82.3 percent).
  • Peaches and apples had the most pesticides detected on a single sample, with nine pesticides on a single sample, followed by strawberries and imported grapes where eight pesticides were found on a single sample of each fruit.
  • Peaches had the most pesticides overall, with some combination of up to 53 pesticides found on the samples tested, followed by apples with 50 pesticides and strawberries with 38.

Sweet bell peppers, celery, kale, lettuce, and carrots are the vegetables most likely to expose consumers to pesticides. Among these five vegetables:

  • Celery had the highest of percentage of samples test positive for pesticides (94.1 percent), followed by sweet bell peppers (81.5 percent) and carrots (82.3 percent).
  • Celery also had the highest likelihood of multiple pesticides on a single vegetable (79.8 percent of samples), followed by sweet bell peppers (62.2 percent) and kale (53.1 percent).
  • Sweet bell peppers had the most pesticides detected on a single sample (11 found on one sample), followed by kale (10 found on one sample), then lettuce and celery (both with nine).
  • Sweet bell peppers were the vegetable with the most pesticides overall, with 64, followed by lettuce with 57 and carrots with 40.
According to the latest EWG studies the least contaminated are:

The vegetables least likely to have pesticides on them are onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

  • Over half of the tomatoes (53.1 percent), broccoli (65.2 percent), eggplant (75.4 percent), cabbage (82.1 percent), and sweet pea (77.1 percent) samples had no detectable pesticides. Among the other three vegetables on the least-contaminated list (asparagus, sweet corn, and onions), there were no detectable residues on 90 percent or more of the samples.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on any of these least contaminated vegetables. Tomatoes had the highest likelihood, with a 13.5 percent chance of more than one pesticide when ready to eat. Onions and corn both had the lowest chance with zero samples containing more than one pesticide.
  • The greatest number of pesticides detected on a single sample of any of these low-pesticide vegetables was five (as compared to 11 found on sweet bell peppers, the vegetable with the most residues on a single sample).
  • Broccoli had the most pesticides found on a single type of vegetable, with up to 28 pesticides, but far fewer than the most contaminated vegetable, sweet bell peppers, on which 64 were found.

The fruits least likely to have pesticide residues on them are avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, papayas, watermelon and grapefruit.

  • Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples had detectable pesticides on them, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue.
  • Though 54.5 percent of grapefruit had detectable pesticides, multiple residues are less common, with only 17.5 percent of samples containing more than one residue. Watermelon had residues on 28.1 percent of samples, and just 9.6 percent had multiple pesticide residues.
If you are interested in more information go over the EWG Foodnews site and wander around.
For those of you that need some additional information there is some information available from Uncle Sam.

U.S. EPA. 2002. Protecting Children from Pesticides.
Available: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/kidpesticide.htm

U.S. EPA. 2008a. Pesticides and Food: Why Children May be Especially Sensitive to Pesticides.
Available: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/pest.htm

U.S. EPA. 2008b. Pesticides: Health and Safety. Assessing Pesticide Cumulative Risk
Available: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/cumulative/index.htm

U.S. EPA. 2008c. Pesticides: Health and Safety. Human Health Issues.
Available: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/human.htm

U.S. EPA. 2009. Pesticide Industry Sales and Usage [accessed February 24 2009].

US EPA. 2006. Accomplishments under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).
Available: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/regulating/laws/fqpa/

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Patience, Patience

This weather is making it really hard to stay in my office and concentrate on the things I need to be doing. Right now(1pm) it is 76F and sunny. All my pepper, tomato, eggplant, artichoke, and other plants are out in the sun and just begging to be put into the garden. It's too early. It's too early. It does feel like spring has sprung though, as evidenced by the picture of the blooming Bradford pears across the street from the house.
I just have to be patient for the non frost tolerant stuff...just a few more weeks and it should be safe for them to go into the garden and to begin planting the other stuff. I just need to be satisfied that most of the early spring stuff is in and growing as I finished up the Pak Choy and other Chinese cabbage last night along with a planting of spinach. The seed potatoes will be here soon from Seed Savers Exchange and they will keep the gardening bug in check for a while. If you are interested I have La Ratte (a French fingerling), Yukon Gold, Desiree (red) and Austrian Crescent potatoes on the way. This year I am going to experiment with growing method. Lay out the seed potatoes on newspaper in the garden and cover with 12 inches of mulch(hay or grass clippings) and just keep adding to the mulch as the potato plants come through. No tilling or hilling and supposedly very easy to harvest. We shall see.


Organic Doesn't Mean Perfect but Definitely Better

As you know I have been an organic gardener for a long, long time and as such I've been a supporter and subscriber to Organic Gardening magazine from The Rodale Institute for more than 30 years. In response to an article in the NY Times It's Organic, but Does That Mean It's Safer? they have produced a very good article about the safety of organic food. This is one of the things that Rodale does well. In plain language they explain how organic IS better than conventional, and what the limitations of organic are. The absurd thing is that PCA's Texas plant was certified organic even though they were totally filthy. The good thing is that Obama's USDA team has all ready changed the requirements for organic inspectors in that they also have responsibility to report issues around food safety in addition to their organic testing and certification (bottom paragraph).
  • Organic agriculture uses life-giving production practices that yield sustainable levels of healthy crops that are demonstrably more nutritious than their conventional counterparts in very specific ways. Certified organic farms do this without using toxic materials (routinely used in conventional agriculture), meaning they are producing food and economic good without contributing to agricultural pollution from these materials. Thanks to them, all of us-organic consumers and everyone else-enjoys a reduced risk of negative environmental, climate and human-health impacts.
  • The same safety standards and inspections apply to all food processed in the US. There are federal, state and often county requirements for food processing, retail sale and food preparation, with enforcement that varies from lax (as in the peanut case) to abusive (as in the case of raw milk in some jurisdictions), but often with enough common sense and responsibility that most food (of whatever dubious quality) comes through to the consumer without pathogenic contamination. Organic food gets no pass just because it's organic, so what works (or fails to work) for non-organic food applies to the certified food, as well.

    Organic farms and organic processors have additional inspection and documentation, at each step of the way, to ensure that the entire range of organic standards is followed. This means there are more eyes and more attention given to production and handling, a layer and audit trail of process/input material review that conventional agriculture does not have.

    "No other food system in the world is based on the requirement for integrated natural practices the way organic is," Moyer said.

    He points out, however, that organic standards do not address food safety. That was never the intent, as it is already the being addressed by a patchwork of existing structures and regulations.

  • To bolster what organic inspectors already do in terms of checking on extensive organic criteria aimed at preserving food quality and traceability, the acting director of the USDA's National Organic Program decreed Feb. 25 that all organic inspectors-as accredited representatives of the USDA-are also obligated to formally report health or safety violations or visible indicators of potential threat, such as pests or feces. No facility will henceforth receive or maintain organic certification "...when current health or safety inspections have not been granted or renewed for the facility."

Good Old Days?

The more I read and try and understand where we are economically the more I fear that "The Good Old Days" are now. I am not seeing any encouraging news from any source right or left and every person in the know is saying the same thing. "It's going to get worse."

Paul Krugman thinks that the "bold" Obama economic plans are not enough to stop the slide.
The latest data confirm those worries — and suggest that the Obama administration’s economic policies are already falling behind the curve.

To see how bad the numbers are, consider this: The administration’s budget proposals, released less than two weeks ago, assumed an average unemployment rate of 8.1 percent for the whole of this year. In reality, unemployment hit that level in February — and it’s rising fast.

Employment has already fallen more in this recession than in the 1981-82 slump, considered the worst since the Great Depression. As a result, Mr. Obama’s promise that his plan will create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010 looks underwhelming, to say the least. It’s a credible promise — his economists used solidly mainstream estimates of the impacts of tax and spending policies. But 3.5 million jobs almost two years from now isn’t enough in the face of an economy that has already lost 4.4 million jobs, and is losing 600,000 more each month.

There are now three big questions about economic policy. First, does the administration realize that it isn’t doing enough? Second, is it prepared to do more? Third, will Congress go along with stronger policies?
I tend to agree that if Obama tries to go back to Congress for more stimulus he will likely be rebuffed. You have to admit, from their historical track record, these are not bold people. They try and satisfy special interests at all costs and you rarely if ever see them just do what's right and necessary without all kinds of triangulation and compromise for this special interest or that one. They are always looking out for the next election or the next campaign contribution and not for their constituency. So here is more from Krugman....

So here’s the picture that scares me: It’s September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it’s still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed.

But he can’t get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.

O.K., that’s a warning, not a prediction. But economic policy is falling behind the curve, and there’s a real, growing danger that it will never catch up.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday, Monday

After a glorious weekend of warm weather and a large amount of gardening we are ready for another week. I got all the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in the ground and the leeks. Didn't quite make it to the Chinese cabbage. I did check this morning and there are no deer tracks through all my hard work and they didn't remove netting so that's one good thing.

Yesterday was supposed to be my first day to claim unemployment. I got into the website ok but evidently made some kind of error and the site displayed the message that my PIN had been suspended. After an hour of busy signals this morning I finally got to talk to someone at the DOL and after they checked they told me I have to come back into the office to have my PIN reset. Evidently you have to sign a form in person. So now I get to drive back down to Atlanta to sign a form. Doesn't seem highly efficient to me. If you make a mistake on the website you are screwed until to make the trek back to the office. That will kill a couple of hours this morning.

Off the wilds of midtown Atlanta...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Almost Spring

Absolutely glorious weekend here in Atlanta. Highs in the 70's. Got a massive amount of garden work done yesterday and more is on the schedule for today. Yesterday, I got the 3 varieties of peas in the ground. 40 feet of Sugar Snaps. 20 feet of Snow Peas and 60 feet of English Peas(Green Arrow). These are all in 20 foot rows which required 12 post holes and the large bamboo poles at each end so that I can string the netting for the peas to climb on. A lot of work. The poles will also serve for pole beans after the peas are done in about 3 months so it will serve double duty.
Also got the first planting of lettuce, (Oak leaf, tennis ball, and flame) in the raised bed. I started the plants about 6 weeks ago. Still more lettuce plants to plant today (2 varieties of Romain or Cos). Also today is getting the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants in the ground and the Bok Choi and Chinese Cabbage. Not going to get the carrots, beets and leeks in the ground this weekend as the ground where they go is still too damp to till. Maybe next week. It's a lot of work but the payoff is wonderful. Just getting the stuff in the ground is difficult but I also have to protect it from the deer and rabbits with netting which adds a couple of hours to each task.

Anyhow, I am all carbed up after buttermilk pancakes with maple/agave syrup and nice crisp bacon and as soon as I can get a few chores done inside I am off again to the garden.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Climbing Deeper

No good news on the employment side of the game this morning. The national unemployment rate is now 8.1% but we all know that number doesn't reflect the real number of people unemployed or underemployed which is likely 3 times as high.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The U.S. economy continued to hemorrhage jobs in February, bringing total job losses over the last six months to more than 3.3 million, and taking the unemployment rate to its highest level in 25 years.

The government reported Friday that employers slashed 651,000 jobs in February, down from a revised loss of 655,000 jobs in January. December's loss was also revised higher to a loss of 681,000 jobs, a 59-year high for losses in one month.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a loss of 650,000 jobs in February.

The unemployment rate rose to 8.1% from 7.6% in January. It was the highest reading since December 1983 and higher than economists' projections of 7.9%.

The survey of households found 12.5 million people are now unemployed, the most since records started being kept in 1940.

Gaining Steam

From what I can see from way down here, the health care summit was a success. It brought all the stakeholders to the table and now everyone has at least some buy in on this process. This is not 1994 and a lot of things have changed. Health care costs have quadrupled and more people than ever are without any health insurance at all. Public support is both larger and deeper than at any time in history. People are recognizing that this is not just a health care crisis but an economic one as well. For those of you that aren't on the Obama email system here are the President's closing remarks via email.

Let me just close by saying this -- because somebody asked for marching orders. Number one, all of the groups here need to stay involved. And I know you will. Number two, we will generate a report or a summary of the comments in the various breakout sessions that will be distributed to all the participants. Number three, I know that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and the other leadership are interested in moving a process forward, and so unlike the fiscal responsibility summit where I think we have to have some discussion about mechanisms and how do we make it work so that it takes, I think here you've got a bunch of committees that are eager and ready and willing to get to work.

And so I just want to make sure that I don't get in the way of all of you moving aggressively and rapidly. I've got some very strong ideas and the White House will be providing some guideposts and guidelines about what we think we can afford to do, how we think it's best to do it, but we don't have a monopoly on good ideas. And to the extent that this work is being done effectively in these various committees, then I assure you that we are going to do everything that we can to work with all of you -- Democrat and Republican.

But the one thing that I've got to say here: There's been some talk about the notion that maybe we're taking on too much; that we're in the midst of an economic crisis and that the system is overloaded, and so we should put this off for another day. Well, let's just be clear. When times were good, we didn't get it done. When we had mild recessions, we didn't get it done. When we were in peacetime, we did not get it done. When we were at war, we did not get it done.

There is always a reason not to do it. And it strikes me that now is exactly the time for us to deal with this problem. The American people are looking for solutions. Business is looking for solutions. And government -- state, federal, and local -- needs solutions to this problem.

So for all of you who've been elected to office or those of you who are heading up major associations, I would just say, what better time than now and what better cause for us to take up? Imagine the pride when we go back to our constituencies next year and say, you know what, we finally got something done on health care. That's something that's worth fighting for, and I hope all of you fight for it.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Something Good

Here is another silver lining on the economy. People are planting more home gardens. All the seed companies are experiencing double digit growth. People are beginning to realize for $10 worth of seeds and some not so hard work you can reap hundreds of dollars worth of food right in your backyard. Even if you don't have a backyard you can sometimes lease a small spot in a community garden. One of the commenters here, Flying Squirrel, is doing that in Long Island. Another good thing is that growing your own food means you are going to have to cook it yourself and not rely on preprocessed food. You are going to get more wholesome food and less chemicals on top of saving money. In spite of lower fuel costs and commodity costs food prices are rising so now is the best time possible to try your hand at a little backyard farming.

Oh! and if you have any questions about how to go about your backyard gardening please feel free to ask here in some thread. Just enter your question "off topic" and I will try and answer. I have been doing the organic gardening thing off and on since I was a kid and that means slightly more than a half century of experience. If I don't know the answer I will find it.
Hard economic times are acting like instant fertilizer on an industry that had been growing slowly: home vegetable gardening.

Amid the Washington talk of "shovel-ready" recession projects, it appears few projects are more shovel-ready than backyard gardens. Veggie seed sales are up double-digits at the nation's biggest seed sellers this year.

What's more, the number of homes growing vegetables will jump more than 40% this year compared with just two years ago, projects the National Gardening Association, a non-profit organization for gardening education.

"As the economy goes down, food gardening goes up," says Bruce Butterfield, the group's research director. "We haven't seen this kind of spike in 30 years."

At W. Atlee Burpee, the world's largest seed company, seed sales will jump 25% this year, Chairman George Ball estimates. "It's weird to have everyone else you talk to experiencing plunging markets. We're on a roll."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?

From Bloomberg:

Companies cut 697,000 jobs in the U.S. in February as the recession’s grip tightened, offering no sign the pace of the decline in payrolls is easing.

The drop in the ADP Employer Services gauge, a survey based on payroll data, was larger than economists forecast and followed a revised cut of 614,000 for the prior month.

Employers are cutting staff as demand plummets in the face of strained credit and battered housing and equity markets. The Labor Department may report in two days that employers cut payrolls in February for a 14th consecutive month, putting jobs losses in the current downturn at more than 4.2 million, according to a Bloomberg survey.

“We doubt any of these numbers have hit bottom yet,” Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics Ltd. in Valhalla, New York, said in a note to clients. “Employment is tanking right across the economy.”

If there is any bright side to all of this bad news it’s that high unemployment and the sliding economy are going to increase demand for things like single payer health care that would stick around even if you do lose your job. More and more people are going to see value in making the safety net a little bit broader and stronger. It's not much, but you have to find something positive in all the bad news.

The Vultures are Back

Cookie Jill pointed this out in the comments and it really wasn’t the best way to start the day:

Whether they deserve to be or not, Countrywide Financial and its top executives would be on most lists of those who share blame for the nation’s economic crisis. After all, the banking behemoth made risky loans to tens of thousands of Americans, helping set off a chain of events that has the economy staggering.

So it may come as a surprise that a dozen top Countrywide executives now stand to make millions from the home mortgage mess.

Stanford L. Kurland, Countrywide’s former president, and his team of former company executives have been buying up delinquent home mortgages that the government took over from other failed banks, sometimes for pennies on the dollar. They get a piece of what they can collect.

“It has been very successful — very strong,” John Lawrence, the company’s head of loan servicing, told Mr. Kurland one morning last week in a glass-walled boardroom here at PennyMac’s spacious headquarters, opened last year in the same Los Angeles suburb where Countrywide once flourished.

The next thing we are likely to hear is that George Bush and Darth Cheney have teamed up and formed a company to sell cheap Bibles for big bucks to the families of those killed in Iraq with the name of the lost loved one inscribed in gold. Oh! and if you buy two you get a genuine picture of Shrub in his flight suit with the "Mission Accomplished" banner. with a simulated signature, of course.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

It's Called Fraud

Let me see if I have this straight. AIG insured a bunch collateralized debt (subprime mortgages, etc.) and for doing that they made a lot of money, a big pile of it. When it turns out that the value of all these CDO's was crap and AIG was required to come up with the money, they didn't have it.
AIG was/is an insurance company that guaranteed a bunch of stuff but they never really had the money to cover their promises.
That's fraud in my book and everyone at AIG that took money for underwriting all this worthless stuff when they surely knew better needs to be made very poor and spend some time in the hoosegow. They sure as hell don't deserve any of the taxpayer's money.
This privatizing the wealth but socializing the risk thing is way, way out of hand.

Monday, March 02, 2009

It's Time for Single Payer Health Care

You are going to be hearing a lot of nonsense from the right and other idiots about single payer healthcare in the next weeks and months as the big insurance companies gear up to fight President Obama's call for a fix to the current system. Whatever you see in the media about how we can't afford it and socialism and French and you'll never be able to see a doctor and just look at England and Canada....just ignore it. The reality is that we cannot afford not to have "Medicare for all".

Here is some of what we can expect to see if we adopt a single payer health system in this country. It is from a larger report that you can read here.

Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private. The Institute for Health and Socio-economic Policy(IHSP) is a non-profit research group for the National Nurses Organizing Committee. According to the analysis of their proposal for a single-payer universal health care system, IHSP found that “full medicare benefits for all” would have these immediate effects:

* $317 billion in increased business and public revenues throughout the US economy.

* 2,613,495 new permanent jobs, at an average of $38,262 per year.

* $100 billion in additional employee compensation.

* $44 billion in increased tax revenue.

The biggest impact of the proposal would be coverage for the 46 million uninsured Americans, but ‘Medicare for all’ would also get rid of the “current chaos of eligibility, exclusions, family coverage, premium costs, and high out-of-pocket expense,” unenviable consequences of the present system.

How Ironic or Should I Say Moronic

Moronic is probably better. According to Steve Benen at Political Animal a whole scurvy cast of wingnuts have joined Oxycontin Boy in the call to have President Obama's agenda and presidency fail.
Over the last few days, Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum, and Michelle Malkin have joined the Limbaugh-inspired group of conservatives who are publicly hoping that President Obama fails. Yesterday afternoon, RedState's Erick Erickson kept the ball rolling with an item headlined, "I Too Want Barack Obama to Fail," encouraging other conservatives to rally behind the campaign to undermine the president.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't these the same people who ranted and raved long and loud just a few short years ago when some of us on the left had the audacity to question George Bush's litany of idiocy? If I remember correctly our patriotism was questioned and there were even calls for rounding us up and putting us in Gitmo or something even worse. How short the memories.

Not everything President Obama will do or wants to do is going to get my 100% stamp of approval. For one thing, he's a little to centrist for my taste. If I had my druthers we would have a socialistic revolution and not just nibble around the edges of social democracy. The U.S. and the world needs radical change and this calls for bold steps and not baby steps. For too long the U.S. and the world has been under the thumb of big business whether it be energy or finance. For too long we have spent on guns and not butter. For too long we have screwed the environment in the name of "progress" and destroyed our future and that of our children on wasteful and useless plastic junk made at the expense of third world labor and sustainablilty. We need radical change.

One good thing about all these calls for the failure of Obama is that we on the progressive left could not have wished for anything better to highlight the shallowness, insanity and downright idiocy of the right and with it the GOP than to see them rally around a campaign so antithetical to our history and meaning of what it is to be an American. Keep it up suckers and pretty soon the only people that will rally 'round your cause will be those so bereft of hope, courage and a belief in the power of the American dream that your cause will be relegated to the trash heap of history for the next century. You can sit around and wipe the snot off each others faces while the rest of us try and rebuild the world into a better place.

As Steve reminds us...
John Wayne, who was very conservative, was asked for his thoughts after JFK defeated Richard Nixon in 1960. "I didn't vote for him," Wayne said, "but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."
It's such a simple and obvious sentiment. That it eludes so many conservatives is a genuine shame.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wet Weekend

It rained most of the day yesterday and today it has turned to snow. The temperature is still above freezing so we are only getting accumulation on the grass and roofs and not on the roads. It is supposed to fall into the mid twenties tonight so we'll see what tomorrow morning brings.

Managed to get out in between the rain squalls and harvest another load of bamboo. I just couldn't stand to see it just plowed down. I have more than I need but...
My daughter return my trailer yesterday after putting in a welded floor. I had replaced the wooden floor twice and each time it rots out. Now I have expanded steel which should last a while. I have already used it to get a load of bagged leaves I found on Craig's List and next week I have a close source for horse manure...oh boy!

Busy today getting Madam signed up for a Medicare Advantage plan. What a nightmare. I am not a dimwitted type and I struggled to understand the ins and outs. Medicare supplements versus Medicare Advantage. Part D or no. I really wonder how someone a little farther on in years or without good language and reading skills gets through it. I wonder how many people are so confused they just give up.

Working on my script for my web page today as well. One of the services provided by my career consultant is a web page and video services to help you produce your own little 30 second "elevator speech" that can be viewed by prospective interviewers or others you are interested in having some interaction with. Tomorrow is recording day so I have to have this thing polished, memorized and rehearsed for tomorrow morning.

I have thrown in a couple of pics of the snow and wildlife. It had only been snowing for about an hour when these shots were made. Snow was coming down pretty heavily. There is also a picture of some of my future garden plants. I am running out of room as you can see so the end of March better show up pretty quick.