Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day In More Ways Than We Want

It's Memorial Day weekend and the 'unofficial' beginning of summer. People will be BBQ'ing and hitting the lakes and parks and many will be enjoying their first days at the beach. For many it will also be beginning of the end of 'beaches' for many years to come and as some have already discovered, the end of 'beaches' has already arrived. I am speaking, of course, of the disaster in the Gulf and what it will mean for years and years to come. The effort to "Top Kill" the well has failed and while other tricks remain to shut down the well, their success is even less assured than the 50/50 Top Kill. We are looking at the real possibility of never completely shutting down this well!

The general public hasn't really grasped the magnitude of the disaster yet. Horrifying images of dead birds and turtles coated in oil or struggling in the deadly, sticky mess are few and far between in the major media. Pods with dozens of bottle nosed dolphins washed up on an oil stained beach are not to be seen but eventually they will be. The tons of dispersants pumped into the gushing oil nearly a mile below the surface have created vast underwater clouds of black death. Some are headed to sea and via the loop current around and through the Florida Keys and up the Atlantic Coast while others are headed North to further coat and destroy thousands of miles of delicate and life sustaining coastline around the Gulf. We haven't seen anything yet.

Here is one example of what we're all going to be hearing about for the next several months, if not years, to come:

Marine scientists have discovered a massive new plume of what they believe to be oil deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico, stretching 22 miles (35 kilometers) from the leaking wellhead northeast toward Mobile Bay, Alabama. The discovery by researchers on the University of South Florida College of Marine Science's Weatherbird II vessel is the second significant undersea plume recorded since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20.

The thick plume was detected just beneath the surface down to about 3,300 feet (1,000 meters), and is more than 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) wide, said David Hollander, associate professor of chemical oceanography at the school. Hollander said the team detected the thickest amount of hydrocarbons, likely from the oil spewing from the blown out well, at about 1,300 feet (nearly 400 meters) in the same spot on two separate days this week.

The discovery was important, he said, because it confirmed that the substance found in the water was not naturally occurring and that the plume was at its highest concentration in deeper waters. The researchers will use further testing to determine whether the hydrocarbons they found are the result of dispersants or the emulsification of oil as it traveled away from the well.

The first such plume detected by scientists stretched from the well southwest toward the open sea, but this new undersea oil cloud is headed miles inland into shallower waters where many fish and other species reproduce. The researchers say they are worried these undersea plumes may be the result of the unprecedented use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil a mile undersea at the site of the leak.
So while this Memorial Day is and should rightly honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifices for our way of life we should also possibly pause in memorial to the vast and beautiful Gulf and its shores which we will not see again in our lifetimes. So very sad.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Turkey Babies

They are not cooperating in the photo efforts but here is at least one picture of the new turkey family. There are a total of 9 chicks but some hide while the others eat with mom and then they change places. Mom patiently herds them along and waits as they all pop through the chain link fence before she bounds across. She wasn't too pleased when a squirrel got to close to the brood and chased him across the yard. We've been putting some chicken scratch out for them as you can see.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

So Far, So Good

The news from the Gulf is good as far as it goes. The "Top Kill' seems to be going as planned but it is early in the game and we are just going have to wait and see. There is still a lot of oil about and the story and environmental damage is far from over. We'll see the ravages of this disaster for a generation but I'll take whatever good news there is to have.

I've got to go out and get something for aphids...the only thing I am aware of  that will be organic is a pyrethrin solution of some sort. I've tried the organic oils(rosemary, clove, etc.) and they are not very effective and there are just too many aphids on the tomatoes to continue to hand pick them and the lady bugs are falling down on the job. If you didn't know, aphids are born pregnant and go for generations without having to actually get a male and female together...good survival strategy but hell on gardeners. The good news is that I am staying ahead of bean beetles and potato beetles. So I am off to the garden center with murder on my mind.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's a Flock

Our daily turkey visitor surprised us today. Instead of just wandering around and pooping in the birdbath she brought her 9 chicks for a visit. Very tiny and surely just hatched. There is obviously a tom turkey somewhere around! I'm working on getting pictures so just bear with me. It was rather interesting to watch her chase squirrels and chipmunks away as to give her brood space. I find it rather amazing that with all the coyotes, hawks, owls and who knows what else that a lone hen turkey can brood 9 chicks and then have the brass to take them on a walkabout. This is in the middle of town no less. I have been throwing a bit of chicken scratch out in the morning for the turkey and I guess I had better buy another bag tomorrow at Tractor Supply. She has most obviously not read the latest Draconian statutes about backyard poultry enacted by the city.

Pocket Knife

When I was traveling and flying so much I stopped carrying a pocket knife for obvious reasons. I used to carry one all the time, usually just a small two blade job. Since I am not traveling anymore, and not likely to, I have started carrying one again. The one I carry now is a small version of the classic Swiss Army knife. It has two blades, a flat blade screw driver with bottle opener, a cork screw, an awl, and a can opener. I didn't realize how much I missed having these things in my pocket all the time and I find myself using it several times a day. It is especially nice when I am in the garden and don't have to walk all the way back to the house for a tool. Does anyone else carry one or has the Dept. of Fatherland Insecurity got everyone cowed? I can remember the time when a man wouldn't think of being without at least a pen knife I think my grandmother even used to have a small knife in her purse. MacGyver would be proud.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Because They Can

As much as I don't want to believe it, things in the Gulf are going pretty much as expected:
The effort to stanch the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was mired by setbacks on Monday as state and federal officials feuded with BP over its failure to meet deadlines and its refusal to stop spraying a toxic dispersant. The oil company had indicated that it could stem the flow of oil on Tuesday by trying a procedure known as a top kill, in which heavy fluid would be pumped into the well. But on Monday morning the company’s chief operating officer said the procedure would be delayed until Wednesday. At the same time, BP was locked in a tense standoff with the Environmental Protection Agency, which had ordered the company to stop using a toxic chemical dispersant called Corexit by Sunday. But BP continued spraying the chemical on Monday, despite the E.P.A.’s demand that it use a less toxic dispersant to break up the oil. The company told the agency that no better alternative was available.
At a news conference Monday in Louisiana, state and federal officials continued to hammer BP over its response to the spill.
“BP in my mind no longer stands for British Petroleum — it stands for Beyond Patience,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “People have been waiting 34 days for British Petroleum to cap this well and stop the damage that’s happening across the Gulf of Mexico.”
“What we need to tell BP,” he added, “is excuses don’t count anymore. You caused this mess, now stop the damage and clean up the mess. It’s your responsibility.”
The EPA says stop and BP says fuck off. Let me explain, if I may, why BP thinks it can get away with this.

All emotion aside, if that's possible, you can understand why BP is doing as it's doing. They may be lousy at environmental protection or shutting off runaway oil wells but they do understand the world in which we find ourselves and they know how to make money and preserve capital.
They know down to the penny how much money they have paid to a large number of politicians from both parties. They have looked at what happened to Exxon when it came to actually paying for the Exxon Valdez disaster. I am sure they realize that one of the major parties wants to get rid of the EPA altogether. BP is looking at the situation and weighing the consequences of each and every action and what it boils down to is  the best business decision for them is do whatever they want because, fuck all, they and the rest of corporate America have insured that there will be little or no consequence for corporate malfeasance. They know their shareholders will look the other way. They know that same day sales at their thousands of company owned gas stations is unaffected by the disaster and their lack of effective action. They know that their bought and paid for politicians might make bellicose speeches damning them to hell for the disaster but who won't, in the end, do anything about it. Finally, they know they have better and more lawyers than the any shrimper or oyster-man along the Gulf coast.

The hard truth is that companies like BP and all the rest have created a corporate oligarchy where the corporation is king. Look at the recent Supreme Court decision of campaign financing if you are in doubt. If you still question that reality then look at the true agenda behind the 'tea party' movement. The so called fight for 'individual rights' and 'small government' is in actuality a not so subtle effort to free businesses and corporations from any government oversight whatsoever and make the oligarchy complete. That's the way it is folks and other than a major class revolution I don't know how to do anything about it. We have no one to blame but ourselves. In our ever endless search for more, better, and shinier we have sold our souls to the devils and the contract is signed in blood. Oh! And that's not your blood but the blood of your children and their children.

A Day Off Mostly

Yes, I am on 'the tubes' in the middle of the day. I had to take a break from the garden. Somehow, some when I did something to my right knee. It doesn't hurt actually but occasionally, when I put weight on it, it feels like it is going to give way. It doesn't, thank goodness, but it sure does make one walk carefully. I thought a day off might be in order. There is, as always, stuff to do out there but the weeds are pretty much under control and no pests are in imminent danger of taking over. I did spot potato beetles and bean beetles but just a couple and they have been dispatched.

The Goddess is a real trickster when it comes to garden pests. Both of the aforementioned beetles along with the squash beetle are varieties of lady bug or lady bird beetles which is a garden good guy. You have to look really closely and actually count the spots on their shells to detect the difference. Why these three beetles are vegan and the good lady bug is a carnivore is a puzzler. I lost the battle with bean beetles last year on my second planting of beans (and that was a shame as it was the heirloom crop) so I am being especially diligent this year. This is the largest planting of potatoes I have ever done so potato beetles haven't been a concern and I could hand pick the little devils off previous crops but this year there are just too many plants to examine minutely. The good news is that since I haven't grown a lot of potatoes there shouldn't have been that many beetles overwintering in the soil. Don't ask why I planted so many potatoes...I just got carried away.

Digging potatoes is, however, a favorite childhood memory. My grandfather used to plant a lot of potatoes and harvesting them in the fall was like a treasure hunt. I can still remember how exciting it was to discover those potatoes as granddad would fork over the hills. There always seem to be another one or two hiding in the dirt if you just scrummaged around a bit.  I am sure part of the fun was getting so dirty but we used to fill basket after basket while all the time having the best of fun. I am sure a little of that childhood excitement will return when I dig potatoes a little later this year..well at least for the first 30 or 40 feet.


I decided yesterday morning that a burger on the grill was in order. I did grill a whole chicken a week or so ago but this is the official grilling season kick off. (I actually grill all year but whatever) Neither Madam nor I are fans of the traditional hamburger bun so I decided that I would whip up a focaccia for the bread part. If you are in the mood for a burger (or any other sandwich for that matter) this bread makes a great bun and it is 'easy peasy lemon squeezy' to make. Once you have a burger with a fresh focaccia bun you'll be spoiled so this is a warning.

This makes the traditional 10x15 loaf.
You'll need:

500 g flour or about 4 cups (I actually use 400g of regular all purpose flour and 100g of whole wheat but all A/P is fine)

400 g water or a scant 1 1/4 cups
1 pkg instant yeast (also known as rapid rise or quick rise yeast and yes regular active dry yeast will work jus slower and you'll have to proof it in water before adding it)
1.5 Tsp Kosher salt or about 10g
4 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for the top
1 Tsp. fresh rosemary leaves chopped (You can use other herbs here thyme, basil or oregano are all good but if you use other than rosemary then use dried herbs as fresh ones will burn in the oven)
1/2 - 1 Tsp coarse salt ( I use Maldon Sea Salt but its hard to find)

Mix the flour, yeast, water, oil, salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or your food processor with the dough blade and mix on low until all the ingredients are combined. Turn off the mixer and let it rest for 10-15 minutes while the flour fully absorbs the water. On medium mix the dough for about 5 minutes more until it is cleaning the sides of the bowl. This is a wet dough so oil your hands before working with it. Turn the dough into an container that is well oiled with olive oil and cover. Let it ferment(rise) for about an hour until it doubles in size.

Dump the risen dough onto a well oiled 10x15 baking sheet with sides (jelly roll pan) and spread it out to cover the entire bottom of the pan. If it resists being forced out into the pan just let it rest and relax for a few minutes and continue to smooth it out. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof for 30 more minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and with your oiled fingers poke the dough about every inch or so until your finger touches the bottom of the pan. Recover with the plastic and let it rise or proof for another hour or until it doubles. This all depends on the room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and gently drizzle/paint the dough with more olive oil being careful not to deflate it. Sprinkle with the coarse salt and chopped herbs. Slide it into the middle of your oven and it should bake about 25 to 30 minutes or until it is nicely browned on top. Remove from the oven and onto a wire rack to cool. I usually drizzle a little more oil on it at this point as well but it may be oily enough for you. Your call.

After it's cool you can cut it into sandwich/burger size squares  and then spit the squares in the middle to form sandwich/burger buns.

Just so you know, I served my burgers with fresh Vidalia onions sliced paper thin, fresh tomato and romaine lettuce leaves. The burgers (fresh ground chuck 80/20) were grilled medium with a thin splash of tamari(soy sauce) and a sprinkle of Penzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning. Oh! And Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard. That pretty much defines what I call a perfect burger.

Oil Still Flowing and Caribou Barbie is Still Lying

Well nothing positive over the weekend on the oil spill. Now BP is saying they will try the "top Kill" on Wednesday morning. Never been attempted on a well this deep. Let's keep our fingers crossed. If this doesn't work then it may be August, when the relief well is complete, that the oil stops flowing. The devastation grows daily with more oil washing up in marshes and on beaches all along the coast. You just know thousands and thousands of gallons are flowing into the loop current and are headed into the keys and beyond. So sad and so preventable.

Sarah 'Where's the Money' Palin accused Obama of rolling over to BP because of all the money his campaign got from oil companies. The lady, and I use that term with a smirk, should actually check the facts before she runs off at the mouth. If she did she would find that of the millions pumped into political campaigns over the last 10 years some 75% has gone to the GOP. In the 2008 campaign Obama got 800 K$ and change and the dickhead that placed Sarah on the national stage received over 2 million. You won't see her statements challenged in the media however.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Big Storm

The bottom just fell out here. Major thunderstorm just rolled in. Checked the radar and it is ugly...lots of red coming my way. They are calling it a 'Severe Thunderstorm'. We had a pretty heavy rain last night but it is coming down in buckets right now. All the mulch I put in the garden over the last few days is probably going to relocate itself in this downpour...C'est la vie!

Inside Job

I'm not sure I want to see this movie:

If you don't quite get what happened to the global economy over the last two years, or who's at fault, you're not alone. Indeed, that's nearly everyone's situation. The big crash of 2008 and 2009 and its ongoing ripple effects -- such as the European fiscal crisis that's rendering my visit to France a little cheaper every day -- seemed to come from nowhere as if by natural causes, as unpredictable and unmanageable as the Icelandic volcano or a Gulf Coast hurricane. Charles Ferguson is here to tell the world that the crisis that wiped out trillions of dollars in wealth, threw millions of people out of their homes and out of work, and further widened the gulf between rich and poor was no accident. It was a crime. Ferguson, a former software entrepreneur and policy-wonk scholar turned filmmaker, is definitely no left-wing bomb-thrower or closet Marxist. But he plays one in the movies, you might say. His new documentary, "Inside Job" -- arguably the smash hit of Cannes so far -- offers a lucid and devastating history of how the crash happened, who caused it and how they got away with it.
There was nothing reasonable or decent or redeemable about the world of high finance, in Ferguson's judgment, by the time the 21st-century bubble reached its peak around 2006. As he illustrates with a damning parade of interviews, images and public testimony, the financial industry had ridden 20-plus years of manic free-market deregulation and neoliberal fiscal policy from one crisis to the next, surfing a rising tide of greed and corruption. (There are several people in this movie, prominent among them former George W. Bush advisor Glenn Hubbard and Harvard economics chairman John Y. Campbell, who will rue the day they agreed to talk to Ferguson.)

In a captivating conversation with former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (who looks here like a knight in shining armor, believe it or not) Ferguson suggests that the financial industry has become a criminal class insulated from society, where profit justifies everything and morality and ethics, not to mention basic human decency, are totally irrelevant. Gaining remarkable access to a wide range of financial insiders, experts and academics, he builds a persuasive case that by conquering Washington with piles of campaign money and conquering the economics discipline with free-market ideology (and more piles of money), the financial industry built a fortress of deregulation that allowed it to plunder the peasantry with no control or oversight

From the sound of it this movie will probably push me over the edge. I'm already supremely pissed off at the mess that the financial insiders have created. Maybe if this thing gets a big enough audience it will push some real financial reform instead of the pablum we are being fed as reform The sad truth is the reality that the Democrats are too complicit in this mess for political purposes and the GOP is just beyond the pale.This folks are bought and well damn well stay bought.

Really Not Fair

I've talked about this before but now its come up again. Senate Democrats are proposing legislation titled, The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. Among other things this bill will extend unemployment benefits and COBRA extensions. (Full disclosure-I am getting both) They're trying to schedule for a vote next week before the recess. The good thing is that there is a way to pay for some of this which should keep the GOP at bay. By removing a special tax loophole available to money managers. This is a really, really a big loophole that allows some of the richest people on Wall Street to pay the lowest tax rate. These folks don't get a 'paycheck' per se but are paid based on profits with a process known as 'carried interest'. This method means that they are taxed as if this were capital gains and not a regular income. It means they pay 15% tax while the rest of us pay twice that or more. Big, big loophole.

The thing I am very irritated by is that Maria Cantwell, John Kerry and Mark Warner are backing the fat cats on this and don't want to see the loophole removed. Granted they are all very wealthy Dems and these guys are probably good buddies but it is endangering extending unemployment benefits and COBRA assistance and not the Democratic thing to do. I might note that unemployment benefits are taxed at a higher rate than these multi-millionaires are paying. I don't care if they make buckets of money but I think they should pay the same taxes as the rest of us. What's fair is fair.

H/T AmericaBlog

Not Greece

Paul Krugman says the United States isn't in any danger of turning into Greece:
The truth is that policy makers aren’t doing too much; they’re doing too little. Recent data don’t suggest that America is heading for a Greece-style collapse of investor confidence. Instead, they suggest that we may be heading for a Japan-style lost decade, trapped in a prolonged era of high unemployment and slow growth.
.... It’s not that nobody understands the risk. I strongly suspect that some officials at the Fed see the Japan parallels all too clearly and wish they could do more to support the economy. But in practice it’s all they can do to contain the tightening impulses of their colleagues, who (like central bankers in the 1930s) remain desperately afraid of inflation despite the absence of any evidence of rising prices. I also suspect that Obama administration economists would very much like to see another stimulus plan. But they know that such a plan would have no chance of getting through a Congress that has been spooked by the deficit hawks.
In short, fear of imaginary threats has prevented any effective response to the real danger facing our economy.
The latest bad news on the markets and continued high unemployment tell the tale. Unfortunately, the deficit hawks are winning the day and the government is not going to do anything about addressing the underlying problems. I agree that growing government debt is a problem in the long term but we should be taking a lesson from Japan and doing everything we can to get the economy moving again strongly. It won't happen but even if we have to add additional debt we should be doing something. I don't think a deflationary spiral is that far out of the realm of future possibilities and that would be a very bad thing indeed.

To Good To Be True

I must say that Tea Party joke candidate Rand Paul is, at least, fun. This morning on "Good Morning America" he once again refused to answer questions about is 'real' opinion on the Equal Rights Amendment and the Fair Housing Act and managed to put his foot in his mouth, not once but twice. First he criticized President Obama for getting tough with BP as 'un-American' and then, as regards to the spill itself, said that people need to understand that sometimes "accidents happen". I wonder what he thinks the 'B' in BP stands for and what about the spill does he consider an 'accident'? This was no was a sure thing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Something Good

I mentioned that I was being lazy today in my last post and not working in the garden. Don't worry it's not being neglected as you can see. It's doing swell. I did spend a little time early today checking for pests and tying up a few tomatoes and pulling the occasional weed. Also picked a little Swiss chard for dinner.

As always click on the pic for full screen. In case you are not a gardener. To the right from the scarecrow are eggplant, peppers, chard and squash. Then comes leeks, broccoli and cabbage, potatoes, more peppers, then a mass of tomatoes and finally peas and beets. You can see the sugar peas in the back right and to the left of them are the green beans(under the teepees), moving left are okra, more peppers, more okra, then a bunch of different squash and on the far left some of the sweet potatoes.

Nothing Good

Looks like BP now owns the Gulf of Mexico!

There is a lot of good coverage of the oil spill so I won't bother repeating any of it here. It is not encouraging that the thick oil is now fully invading the Louisiana marshes...there goes thousands and thousands of livelihoods for  a generation or more not to mention the breeding grounds for shrimp, birds and hundreds of other species. Looks like they are going to try a "Top Kill" this weekend by pumping rubber, mud and cement into the well. Never been done at this depth...not encouraging considering the failures so far. The thing that still infuriates me is that BP and the MMS know a blowout was likely maybe even inevitable with this well and did absolutely nothing to prevent it. Now that the oil has reached the loop current the Keys and even the East Coast should start getting very worried. Hell, at this rate oil from the Gulf could be washing up on British beaches before we know it.

Not a good day for the market. Every indicator is off more than 2%. Last I checked the Dow was off 250 points. Now that the market has fallen below the levels seen back in early May who knows where the bottom lies. I wouldn't be surprised to see it fall below 10,000 by next week.

As you can see, I'm blogging in the middle of the day which means I am being lazy. I had to wait around for the A/C guy to come for the spring check-up and now that it is up above 80F I just can't get excited about hitting the garden. Madam has requested banana bread so I'll do that instead.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Large Amounts of Bacon and Sausage are Bad For You...Duh!

Well knock me over with a feather!
Eating two rashers of bacon or a sausage every day can increase your risk of heart disease by nearly half, scientists claim. Their study found meat that has been cured, salted or processed in another way can also push up the likelihood of developing diabetes. It linked the salts and chemical preservatives used on processed meat to ill health if the products are eaten regularly.
I'm just dumbfounded to learn that consuming large quantities of fatty meats that are full of sodium and nitrates are bad for me.The good news is I don't eat this crap every day. Maybe once a week for bacon or sausage. Yeah, yeah but I am a Southern boy and too long without pig meat and we die.

Milestone Tragedy

The Pentagon now reports that 1,000 of our sons and daughters have died in Afghanistan. This is not a good milestone and certainly not one to celebrate. I only ask what benefit we will gather for this high price?
I'll steal a paragraph from Derrick Crowe at FDL:
Here is this wide altar, Afghanistan, on which our empire leaves its tribute to the true god of all empires. One thousand of the young, blown apart by rough-made bombs buried on roads to nowhere, shot by snipers, or worse, by their own. One thousand sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, neighbors, mentors, students, friends, husbands, wives, lovers. A thousand goats led into the wild to appease the spirit of the wilderness, the maker of weapons, sent to the desert for our impurities.
More here 

Just Keeping a Finger In

Not much to talk about that is not already being covered pretty completely. Glad to see the Prez is appointing a special commission on the oil spill and off shore drilling. Seems like a good idea.

Bad news from Florida as tar balls are showing up in the Keys. Might not be associated with the big spill but it's likely that the deep water oil has entered the loop which is really bad news.

Some important elections around today especially in Arkansas and Pennsylvania. Anti incumbent backlash looks to play a role. If the people of Arkansas are smart they will give Blanche Lincoln her walking papers. She has been misrepresenting the people there for years.

Surprise, surprise I am off to the garden. Weeds wait for no man! All the rain in the last few days has awakened them in the worst way. Another nice dinner of peas, lettuce and broccoli from the garden last night and probably a good chance peas will be with us again tonight....a good thing I love them. I'll even 'graze' on  a few while I toil this afternoon. Whoever discovered the 'mange tout' or Sugar Snap pea did a good thing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Upping the Ante In the Texas Schoolbook Wars

It looks like arch conservative wing nut Don McLeroy is not going to exit the Texas State Board of Eduction without raising the insanity to the maximum. His latest Texas textbook proposal would require teaching high school students about "alternatives regarding long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare" and "efforts by global organizations to undermine U. S. sovereignty."

The man is criminally insane and needs mental health care in the worst way. It looks like he wants to do as much damage to the students of Texas as he can before he is justifiably tossed out by the voters next year.

Four Futures

As the disaster in the Gulf continues to play itself along with no end in sight and our worst fears become reality it is worth contemplating what our future holds with respect to climate change. Sara Robinson at A World of Progress has an excellent discourse on the realities of what we face.

The four generic futures were first described back in the 1970s by Dr. Jim Dator, founder of the futures program at the University of Hawaii. In her article Sara takes a look at each of the four possibilities.

1. Continuation - Business as usual. This is not just the deniers but those people who intellectually understand and accept the reality of global change but are so wed to the status quo that they’re incapable of dealing with it rationally.
2. Collapse - The end of the world as we know it. This is the Jared Diamond/James Howard Kunstler/Limits to Growth scenario, where civilization’s immensely complex and brittle systems break down, and life winds down to something more simple and local. This should not necessarily be considered a “worst case” scenario but one in which we recognize the limits of our environment and adapt accordingly. I, for one, lean this direction.
3. Discipline - We acknowledge and accept the magnitude of the problem, make a serious plan to deal with it and commit to following through. There will be sacrifice and change but much of what we value today may be salvaged. This is the path advocated by most environmentalists and climate activists.
4. Technology and Innovation - We rely on our ability to create technological solutions and carbon-free energy sources that will solve the problem.

Everyone has a favorite scenario but as Sara notes, we should be planning and considering all four as equally likely. This is not easy as "the powers that be" have a vested interest in the Continuation and Technology scenarios which translates, for them, into 'success'. They naturally discount Collapse and Discipline which translates into 'failure' in their book.

To quote Sara:
Our best hope, then, is to formulate a detailed plan (Discipline) that makes a serious investment in moving us quickly, calmly and in a fiercely committed way toward a new energy paradigm. We need to re-tool our economy and government to perpetuate this new system, one that acknowledges the boundaries of this planet and emphasizes more humane values. We need to face our new limits and find creative, joyful ways to live within them. As part of that discipline, we should also be openly talking about our fears (and hopes) for what Collapse might look like and figure out how we still might survive and make satisfying lives in even drastically reduced circumstances. The more familiar and comfortable we are with the full range of possible trade-offs we’re facing — including the most extreme ones — the more likely we are to be able to make whatever choices become necessary with intelligence and grace.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Much Bigger Than We are Being Told

Several different scientists using the film footage provided by BP of the actual oil spilling out of the pipe have calculated that the flow is as much as 10 to 20 times greater than the 5,000 barrels per day that we are being told. Different methods have been used to calculate the flow but all are saying the flow is much greater. This is not good news.

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.
Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.
A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.
The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's Vidalia Onion Time

I had my first Vidalia onion of the season last night. Thinly sliced with some cucumbers. A little cider vinegar, olive oil and a couple of teaspoons of sugar, salt and pepper. Marinated in the fridge for an hour. Ate the whole bowl. It was the only side to a grilled chicken. It's a traditional way to fix them here in the South and I am hard pressed to find a better way to enjoy that marvelous onion. Could very easily appear on the table again tonight. You should be seeing them in the store in your neck of the woods any time now. Don't miss them. They are pretty damn good just cut in half and roasted as well. A little drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. 400 degrees for forty minutes will do the trick.

If you are into onion rings try making a batter with just beer and flour with a dash of cayenne or Tabasco and a little salt. You can use the deep fryer if you have one but they cook just fine in a big skillet with about an inch of canola or peanut oil. Don't make the onion slices too thin or they will just burn.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nightmare Blooming

The nightmare of the disastrous Gulf oil spill is growing. Bryan at Why Now? reports that in addition to sea turtles washing up, dolphins are now as well. It is not unusual to have a  dolphin wash up this time of year as it is their calving season in the Gulf and it may not have anything to do with the oil but I wouldn't hold my breath. What is even more alarming from Bryan is the news that BP is not sharing information with the researchers in Florida on what they are doing and testing. Looks like it might be time for a little court action to insure the very experienced marine scientists in Florida are getting all the information and in a timely manner.

So What Happened In the UK Elections

According to this post at Firedoglake the financial giant BNP Paribas threatened to lower Great Britain's credit rating from its current AAA if Nick Clegg didn't make nice with David Cameron. Evidently the de facto ruler of Britain now is a Frenchman named Baudoin Prot, the chief executive officer of BNP Paribas.

It will very interesting to see what happens from this marriage. Probably going to be a rough march for the common folk. I haven't talked to any of my Brit friends to get their take.

The Race is On

Why is the current Gulf spill not getting the TV coverage of other recent spills. Brad Plummer at the TNR takes a look with a spiffy graph.

The big news this morning is that the first tiny tomatoes have appeared in the garden and now the race is on to see which variety gets the prize for the first ripe tomato. Cherokee Purple has some tiny fruits and so does the Hybrid Margherita plum. My bet is on the plum but will just have to see if the old heirloom Cherokee has the stuff. I've added a couple of hybrids to my tomatoes this year but there are plenty of heirlooms(Italian Heirloom, Costolutto Genovese, Beam's Yellow, Amish Paste and the Cherokee Purple) as well. The three other hybrids are Celebrity, Applause and Razzleberry.

In other exciting garden news...there are plenty of lady bugs on patrol on the tomatoes and potatoes. Chard is ready to start harvesting and we have already had one nice batch of sugar peas with more just a day or two away. No sign of broccoli flowering but some of the cabbage is starting to head. The first flower buds are showing on yellow squash and zucchini.

In other news it appears the Brits have a new PM in the form of David Cameron the Conservative with Lib Dem Nick Clegg as deputy. When all the wing nuts read that the UK has a new conservative PM they are going to think it portends great things for them in the fall. Some of them might be smart enough to know that even the Conservative party in the UK is to the left of most mainstream U.S. Democrats but I doubt it.

Anyhow, it is Wednesday and old people's day at the grocery so I am off to do my minimal shopping. Madam is off with Mini Monk for a day wandering North Georgia so I am flying solo. With the garden starting to produce more than just lettuce, spinach and radishes the tab should be very low today. Bananas, juice, milk, yogurt, onions, and a few other odds and ends. Getting a bit low on 3 buck chuck so Trader Joe's is in the mix today as well and I am out of beer,, which is my reward for a day in the garden. And yes, the bill at TJ's will be more than Kroger since I buy wine by the case but even then the food and beverage bill for the week will be less than $100 which is my weekly goal. Cooking from scratch, baking your own bread, growing a garden and not using any prepared foods is the key to low grocery bills.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What About the Other Gulf Oil Platforms?

Is it just me or have I missed the discussion? No one seems to be talking about the other oil platforms extant in the Gulf of Mexico and whether some immediate program to insure they are properly prepared and protected from a blowout like the most recent one. As of 2006 there were 3,858 oil rigs in the Gulf. Are any of them equipped as the ones in Noway with the ability to remotely shut them off if necessary? Are they all equipped with the proven ineffective 'blow out preventers'? Shouldn't we be talking about an emergency program to do just that? I know everyone's focus is on cutting the flow from the Deepwater Horizon but it seems like the powers that be ought to be looking forward a bit more. Yes, they are talking about splitting up the MMS now but that is a little like the proverbial 'shutting the barn door' thing. It just seems like everyone is behaving like this is some giant 'one off' and could never happen again. Just saying.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Light Off?

I know it has been very quiet around here lately. Just scattered bits with little or nothing to say. The spill in the Gulf is grinding on my mind and I am taking it personally. I haven't written that much about it but I think about it almost constantly and the news just gets worse and worse. My only haven seems to be in the garden where I can focus on other things, simple things that don't require much thinking. It is calming and restorative. I pulled some weeds this morning, there are always weeds, and I am getting ready to go back out and spread a layer of straw around the sweet potatoes I put in the other day. The sweet potatoes will be in the ground all summer and into fall and straw will help with the weeds to a degree and even out the moisture swings and even though the wheat straw will sprout itself it is easier to deal with than the other weeds. Still only 64F at 1pm so it will be a nice cool afternoon to work. There are two pairs of red headed woodpeckers staking out territories on the south and east sides of the garden and if nothing else I can lose myself in their comings and goings. That's the thing about gardening. There are miracles everywhere you turn and when you are quietly gardening the Goddess sometimes lets you sneak a peek under her petticoats.

Oh! and the title of this post refers to the 'light at the end of the tunnel' which lately it seems like someone turned off.

Monday, Monday

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Happy belated Mother's Day to all that are such. Turned cool last night and it was only 54 here in the Northern burbs of Atlanta this morning.

We lost a great one over the weekend. Lena Horne passed away at age 92. She was one magical lady. RIP.

Not looking good on the Gulf Coast oil spill this morning. Oil is still gushing and the westerly winds are sending the slick toward Florida and white beaches of the pan handle and Alabama shores. Oysters are going to be in short supply for a long, long time.

Things are looking up for the markets this morning after the EU decided to get serious about supporting the Euro and giving Greece a leg up. The DOW is up over 250 points this morning which is nothing but good news.

Al Gore had some painful things to say about the oil spill in the Gulf and other things. The painful part is his affirming that in spite of the damage being done by the spill in the Gulf and our continued insistence that we need more and more oil and coal, regardless of the cost, that nothing will change. We will continue to use more and more oil and coal, we will continue to poison our planet and ourselves and continue to spend money we don't have on foreign energy. Very depressing.

The Prez should nominate Elena Kagan to the Supremes this morning. Not much of a paper trail on her as she has never been on the bench. From what I can see she should be fairly liberal but not in every way.

Well, it should be an interesting week.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Romaine Lettuce Recall

Just in case your not paying attention to the news...if you live in Alabama, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia or Wisconsin then you should be aware that there is a big recall of romaine lettuce due to infection with E. Coli. This is not the usual strain 0157 but 0145 but just as serious. Read the link for the details.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Stamping Out Hunger

Bryan at Why Now? reminds that Saturday is The National Association of Letter Carriers’ annual food drive, Stamp Out Hunger, takes place in most areas this Saturday, May 8th.  The nation's food pantries are in dire straits and demand for their services is far outstripping supply. This food drive is a big contributor to food pantries across the nation and they really need some help.

If you are of a mind, fill a bag with non-perishables and leave it by your mail box on Saturday. If that won't work for, you most post offices will have a collection points. It doesn't have to be a lot, just a few cans of soup is better than nothing but of course, the more the better.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Better Off Than Nashville

We got a lot of rain over the weekend, at least 2 inches, but my garden redesign seems to have done the trick and there was no running water damage. Still standing water in the lower area but it is between the rows and seems to be going away pretty fast. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the deep soaking though. It looks like the folks in Nashville got the worst end of the storms...pretty nasty up there.

My sweet potato slips came in the mail on Saturday but it will be too wet to get them planted today. If you aren't growing a few sweet potatoes in your garden you should give them a try. They don't mind poor soil and grow so fast that they actually choke out weeds for the most part. They don't require much care at all and for a small investment produce a nice crop and will store all winter. I still have a few from last year's crop that are just fine and still very delicious. I like the Beauregard variety as they have the darker flesh and just seem to be sweeter. They do need a little space though as they spread.

Noticed a few aphids this morning on the tomatoes but organic gardening and no pesticides means there are also lady bugs busily munching away on the little devils. There seem to be enough lady bugs to do the job so I won't have to spend hours picking aphids. No sign of bean beetles or potato beetles yet but they will be along soon. Both are pretty resistant to organic pest treatments so they will require hand picking before they get a foothold. The eggplant are beginning to show some damage from flea beetles but if I am diligent with the insecticidal soap I can keep them down. Can't use anything much stronger as tomatoes and peas are blooming and while I haven't seen but one or two bees they should show up in force pretty soon.

I am off to dust the cabbages and broccoli with Dipel BT dust as the rain washed the last treatment away. Plenty of cabbage butterflies fluttering about but no cabbage worms yet due the diligent dusting. Then it is lawn time as the rain did wonders for my crop of clover and dandelion.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Money Sure Talks And When It Does We Lose

We all knew that the insurance companies and medical establishment were spending big money lobbying Congress over the Health Care Reform bill but now Roll Call has crunched the numbers and come up with the absolutely unbelievable figure of $876 million spent by medical interests lobbying Congress during the health care fight:
Medical interests alone shelled out more than $876 million in lobbying expenses during the 15 months beginning in January 2009 and ending in March, when Congress passed the sweeping overhaul.
Those stakeholders, including the drug industry, doctors, hospitals and manufacturers of medical products, were responsible for one out of every five dollars doled out on lobbying during that period, according to a CQ MoneyLine analysis of lobbying disclosure reports filed with Congress.
While we unwashed and smelly hippies were foolish enough to believe that there was some small chance that American health care costs would be brought into line with the costs of other industrialized countries it is clear now that we were out gunned/spent all the way round.

A good example of how we lost the progressive battle is evident in just the spending of the drug companies through their lobbying arm PhRMA who spent a whopping 253 million dollars. For their big investment they managed to keep out drug re-importation and direct Medicare drug price negotiation, and were able to add very long exclusivity periods for biologics to boot. Those three items alone would have saved American consumers 100 billion dollars over the next 10 years. Of course, American consumers saving means drug companies missing 100 billion in profits. Can't have that, so their 253 million netted them at least 100 billion. That's a mighty fine return on investment if you ask me.

I just can't help wondering what kind of health care system we could have in this country if there were some limits on how many Congress critters you can buy a year?

h/t Jon Walker at Firedoglake

BP Has Limited Liability for This Spill

According to the Great Orange Satan 

Matthew Wald of The New York Times reports the details of the previously obscure Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a $1.6 billion fund financed by a minuscule tax on oil -- eight cents per barrel, which Wald says is roughly 0.1%. According to Wald, the fund is designed to pay damage claims resulting from oil spills, though not cleanup and containment costs. But that's not all it does. It also limits the liability of oil companies like BP.
Under the law that established the reserve, called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, the operators of the offshore rig face no more than $75 million in liability for the damages that might be claimed by individuals, companies or the government, although they are responsible for the cost of containing and cleaning up the spill.
The fund was set up by Congress in 1986 but not financed until after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska in 1989. In exchange for the limits on liability, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 imposed a tax on oil companies, currently 8 cents for every barrel they produce in this country or import.
The tax adds roughly one tenth of a percent to the price of oil. Another source of revenue is fines and civil penalties from companies that spill oil.
That's a pretty good deal the oil companies negotiated back then...for the opportunity to make unlimited profits and lobby the government with unlimited money(BP spent 16 million on lobbying last year) the get a limit on the liability they face to the tune of 75 million. 75 mil is chump change to someone like BP. We ar so screwed.

Not Too Bright

I am not making fun of the attempt at a terrorist bombing of Times Square in New York on Saturday night. If it has been successful a lot of people would have been injured and we should all be glad the 'bomber' is evidently as dumb as a box of hammers.

Granted there was potential for explosion and fire with respect to the propane cylinders and gasoline but whoever put this mess together obviously can't read, use the internet or think.

1. Using firecrackers to set off a fire doesn't work. There is very little actual explosive and thus very little actual 'fire' even in the most powerful commercial firecracker. He would have been better off with a pack of matches and a burning cigarette. More time to run and a sure fire ignition.

2. Garden fertilizer is not explosive. Even if it has a little ammonium nitrate mixed in. Pure ammonium nitrate is explosive if mixed with fuel oil (diesel fuel or home heating oil) while packed tightly in a confined space and ignited with an industrial blasting cap. Oklahoma City is good evidence of that but it takes a lot of ammonium nitrate to get a significant blast.

3. Causing a BBQ grill type propane tank to explode is virtually impossible. There is a reason you don't read reports of them exploding in the news. They are very well engineered. When they are heated they have a pressure relief valve that releases pressure before they can explode. You can throw one in a fire and it will soon vent gas in a great 'poof' but it won't explode.

4. A vehicle's VIN (vehicle identification number) is marked in a few more places on a vehicle than the little metal strip in the window. The engine, transmission and drive shaft are just a few.  This is done to hinder auto thieves who strip stolen cars for parts. The VIN on the trans axle was how they traced the van used in the bombing of the World Trade Center so many years ago. I am sure the New York police have traced the vehicle's owner by now.

This dude went to a lot of trouble for nothing...and if he thought he wouldn't be caught on camera in a place like Times Square then he didn't do a lot of research or reconnoiter. Let's all be thankful we had an incompetent boob this time. Chances are we won't be so lucky if there is a next time.