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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Too much of a good thing

Today was Grinnygranny's flex day, so I took a day off and we went up to Dixon's for apples. It was their first day. The apple orchard is just past the Cochiti Golf Course fifty miles from Albuquerque. It's down in a valley between two towering bluffs and the area is magnificent. Atn nine thirty in the morning about five miles from the small cinderblock building where you get the apples we hit bumper to bumper gridlock. It took two hours to get to the dirt road that leads down to the orchard. Auntypesty and I joined many others in hiking down to get in line for the apples. By the time we walked the three miles down, waited in the hot sun, got our apples and back up to the gate where the parking is, Grinnygranny and E's girlfriend with her child had finally reached it. We then turned around and went home. Four hours to get four bags of apples (half bushel bag for fifteen bucks). These are Champaign apples, and they are fantastic. There were still cars stacked up at the spot where we hit gridlock four hours earlier. Last year when we went on the second weekend they were out of Champaign apples after the first weekend. This year everyone decided to be there on the first day. It was nuts.
We've been going to get Dixon's apples for twenty five years. There have been years where they had a late frost and didn't open, but most of the time it's always been a nice drive, get the apples maybe have a picnic by the stream that runs through the area under big cottonwood trees then head back. It didn't take more than three hours from the time we left home and got back. Add two hours travel time to the four hours sitting in the hot sun and wasting gas it's just not worth it anymore.

Such a shame. Golden Delicious apples that you get in the grocery store come close to the Champaign, but not quite. We'll have to savor these while we can.
I don't think we'll go back again. Such a shame.
Penni's husband is posting on her caringbridge site. His posts are not encouraging. Please keep her in your prayers.

This was in the Saturday paper.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sad news

Mom received a call yesterday that Penni is being put on stronger pain medication that will cause her to sleep most of the time. She left today to be with her for what time is left.
The hardest part right now is the waiting.
Grinnygranny's Mom, in Nebraska, was in the hospital for the last few days with Pneumonia, but is getting better and will be in a nursing home for a few weeks until she is well enough to go back into her apartment.
If all holds we're planning on going up to Dixon's on Friday to get apples. It's the first day they're open and if you want to get those Champaign apples you have to be there early.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cassandra speaks again

To those without a classical education, Cassandra was the daughter of Priam who was blessed by Apollo with the gift of prophesy, but because she rebuffed the god's advances he cursed her by making it so no one would believe her.

Today we have an economic Cassandra, his name is Paul Krugman. Ever since Ronald Reagan proposed Trickle Down Economics he has eloquently and succinctly refuted the conservative economic philosophy of Phil Graham and all the other kingpins of their economics.
For the past seven years he has written article after article in the New York Times explaining just how stupid the tax cuts were, warned of the housing bubble years before it happened. Today is his latest explanation and prophesy. It's eye opening.

Cash for Trash


Some skeptics are calling Henry Paulson’s $700 billion rescue plan for the U.S. financial system “cash for trash.” Others are calling the proposed legislation the Authorization for Use of Financial Force, after the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the infamous bill that gave the Bush administration the green light to invade Iraq.

There’s justice in the gibes. Everyone agrees that something major must be done. But Mr. Paulson is demanding extraordinary power for himself — and for his successor — to deploy taxpayers’ money on behalf of a plan that, as far as I can see, doesn’t make sense.

Some are saying that we should simply trust Mr. Paulson, because he’s a smart guy who knows what he’s doing. But that’s only half true: he is a smart guy, but what, exactly, in the experience of the past year and a half — a period during which Mr. Paulson repeatedly declared the financial crisis “contained,” and then offered a series of unsuccessful fixes — justifies the belief that he knows what he’s doing? He’s making it up as he goes along, just like the rest of us.

So let’s try to think this through for ourselves. I have a four-step view of the financial crisis:

1. The bursting of the housing bubble has led to a surge in defaults and foreclosures, which in turn has led to a plunge in the prices of mortgage-backed securities — assets whose value ultimately comes from mortgage payments.

2. These financial losses have left many financial institutions with too little capital — too few assets compared with their debt. This problem is especially severe because everyone took on so much debt during the bubble years.

3. Because financial institutions have too little capital relative to their debt, they haven’t been able or willing to provide the credit the economy needs.

4. Financial institutions have been trying to pay down their debt by selling assets, including those mortgage-backed securities, but this drives asset prices down and makes their financial position even worse. This vicious circle is what some call the “paradox of deleveraging.”

The Paulson plan calls for the federal government to buy up $700 billion worth of troubled assets, mainly mortgage-backed securities. How does this resolve the crisis?

Well, it might — might — break the vicious circle of deleveraging, step 4 in my capsule description. Even that isn’t clear: the prices of many assets, not just those the Treasury proposes to buy, are under pressure. And even if the vicious circle is limited, the financial system will still be crippled by inadequate capital.

Or rather, it will be crippled by inadequate capital unless the federal government hugely overpays for the assets it buys, giving financial firms — and their stockholders and executives — a giant windfall at taxpayer expense. Did I mention that I’m not happy with this plan?

The logic of the crisis seems to call for an intervention, not at step 4, but at step 2: the financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to — a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That’s what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It’s also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review “by any court of law or any administrative agency,” and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

I’m aware that Congress is under enormous pressure to agree to the Paulson plan in the next few days, with at most a few modifications that make it slightly less bad. Basically, after having spent a year and a half telling everyone that things were under control, the Bush administration says that the sky is falling, and that to save the world we have to do exactly what it says now now now.

But I’d urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don’t let yourself be railroaded — if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we’ll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future.


Pleasant weekend

Had a pleasant weekend. Golfed on Saturday and just took it easy on Sunday. Broncos and Cowboys won, so that's a plus.
Ann Littlewolf sent me some pictures by e-mail that just make your eye pop out. I posted them at the Captain's Log blog. Take a look.
Mom had E over to help get her new house ready before she moves in. The walls are being painted, weeds pulled up, a couple of trees taken down, and then the planting begins. Should keep the kids busy for awhile helping her out. 
M's boyfriend is going to school in Santa Fe, but he makes it home for the weekends which makes her happy. Not too sure his parents or we are that happy with it.
Penni's last post on her caring bridge has me concerned. She needs all our prayers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Temporarily back to normal

Grade book is now up to date, and I'm making due. It will be a while before I get a new computerf from the tech department (I'm on the list). I miss the laptop, it had seen its better days, but you don't work with something for six years without a certain amount of attatchment. When I got it, boy was it miles better than the first one which had Window 98. This was XP with Office Professional, twice the speed, CDR and what even most laptops today lack an RCA jack which could hook up to a TV to show powerpoint and movies. Hard to think that before lightpros came down in price that was the best way to have students see a powerpoint presentation. Two years ago it crashed and I had to reinstall, it just never worked the same again. It was slower and I lost the video drive so it wouldn't show movies. By that time the school had purchased everyone cheap DVD players so that wasn't a problem. Still what was cutting edge just a few years ago is now little more than scrap and of little value. I had to go into all my e-mail addresses and other sights and change the passwords, which I should have done more often anyway. The computer I'm using now is so slow and freezes up anytime you try to get it to do more than one function that I'm ready to take a sledge hammer to it. The hunk of junk is wanting to install updates so I need to get off right now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Long day

Walked into my classroom today to find it was broken into over the weekend. The laptop computer I've been using was stolen. It was six years old, had crashed and been restored, not the best computer in the world, but it did my grade book just fine. I had a backup disk, but it was over a week old and I've had to update it some, not a total grade meltdown.
Had to move over one of my desk tops with a huge monitor onto my desk. I won't get another laptop, but the Tech dept should get me a better desktop hopefully with a flat screen monitor.
The one drawback of being in a portable.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What were you doing...

In my generation the What were you doing? question was about JFK's assassination. For some it was MLK's assassination, or RFK's or John Lennin's maybe even the day Elvis died. In Oklahoma it's about the bombing of the Murrah Builing. The rest of the country seems to have amnesia on that one. This weekend it's the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. I really have nothing to say about it that Bruce has not already so eloquently expressed in a speech delivered on the Oklahoma State House chamber on Feb. 11, 2003.

We must especially beware that any liberty we suspend for fear of terrorists could easily be forfeited for generations to come. The freedoms we enjoy in our democratic society are worth whatever dangers we will face, whatever risks we must take, and whatever sacrifices we choose to make. America must not retreat from two and a quarter centuries of hard won civil liberties. Never before have we settled for being the land of the safe and the home of the secure. We’ve always had the courage to strive to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.Instead of the frightful overreaction we have witnessed since September 11th, our nation would do better if it would respond to terrorism the way the people of Oklahoma responded to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. That bomb did not prompt us to surrender our civil rights or to infringe on the rights of others.
Unlike our federal government:
We did not suspend the constitution.
We did not send the police out to round-up, lock-up or expel all the foreigners and immigrants in town.
We did not hold suspects indefinitely without access to the courts or to counsel.
We did not tape conversations between suspects and their lawyers.
We did not suspend the laws requiring probable cause for wiretaps or search warrants.
We did not expand the role of the military in domestic law enforcement.
We did not torture suspects to obtain information, nor did we allow surrogates to torture suspects for information.
We did not create a military tribunal to try and execute suspects without applying the Constitution or state and federal laws.
We did not endorse assassination as an alternative to capture.
We did not create a private foundation to issue ID cards to all citizens.
We did not create a network of free-lance spies to report anything that might be considered suspicious.
We did not create a massive computer system to keep tabs on every aspect of our citizen’s daily lives.
And, we did not use the bombing as an excuse to suspend the first, second, and fourth amendments and then attack militias or invade white supremacist compounds to make them disarm.
What we did was to rescue survivors, clean-up the wreckage, rebuild our city and bring the criminals to justice.
The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building did not destroy the freedom-loving, risk-taking, self-sacrificing spirit of the people of Oklahoma. Neither should the criminal acts of a few terrorists destroy the freedom-loving, risk-taking, self-sacrificing spirit of our nation.
Since September 11, 2001 it has become commonplace to say that the world changed that day. Some things did change. Several thousand precious, unique and irreplaceable lives were lost and the lives of many more were irreparably harmed. I must object, however, to assigning any significance to the evil that transpired that day.
In my mind, the most important lesson to be learned from that day is to be found in the images of heroism and the examples of self-sacrifice demonstrated by the men and women of the New York City fire department and police department and others like them. We need to learn from the people who left places where they were safe and secure and walked courageously into harm’s way to rescue the victims of a grave injustice. From them we learn that there are some things in life that are more important than safety and more valuable than security. Only those who have learned that lesson have the capacity to truly calculate the price of freedom and security.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Science Under Attack

Michael Prescott (no relation) has an excellent article on the media tempest in a teapot over the Large Hadron Collider.
It seems like everytime science tries to advance there are the luddites screaming the sky is falling in.
I was reluctant to watch Fox's new show The Fringe because of the way they advertized it. A group of special agents to stop the evil scientists that are producing tissue regeneration, teleportation and other awful science. I called it the anti-Star Trek. In all of the Star Trek incarnations the science and technology advanced mankind (and alienkind) in the future and it was a good thing. It remains about the only part of Science Fiction that was positive instead of negative. The Fringe was interesting more about pitting 1960's idealized science against todays big corporation, greedy use of science. I was rather amuzed by one of the character's being Blair Brown when the special agents using the 60's scientist (released from a mental hospital) uses an old sensory deprivation tank right out of Altered States (which Blair Brown was in though in this show she's working for the big bad corporation)
It is still disconcerting that most Science Fiction is negative and one political party is able to get votes by leading the charge in denouncing science and fueling the general populations fear of it.

Technology is the practical  application of science. Think of all the nice technological gadgets that we just can't live without anymore: cell phones, lap top computers, the internet, video games, planes, trains and automobiles, air conditioning, etc. None of them would be possible without the science that blazed the trail. How can a society so tied to technology be anti-science?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Smooth sailing

Finally getting adjusted to the new schedule at school. I still think it is the stupidest schedule ever devised, and tell everyone within earshot what I think of it and how much better the 4X4 would have been -- not that anyone is listening.

Mom is signing the papers on her new house tomorrow and then there are the joys of packing and moving, but the rewards of getting her out of that awful apartment make it well worth it, and besides she'll be coming to get her couch and microwave that much sooner.
Last I heard Penni is doing well.
We're still trying to get M a job so she can start filling up the Windstar with her own money.
There was a nice truck parked at the car lot down the road from us. a new model, V8 engine with automatic transmission and very reasonably priced. I was thinking of trading in my truck (I don't drive it much except to the dump and the golf course, but I'm really tired of shifting the standard transmission.) anyway I took a look at it and decided to keep what I have, the windows were tinted so dark it would have been like driving in a cave.
E drives the truck some, his 3 year old step son really likes looking out and seeing everthing he can't see from his seat in the car.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Captains Log new look

I'm revamping my Captain's Log blog.

Last night at the Writer's to Writers meeting the presentation was in how to use the internet to promote our books, and the using blogs was brought up. I used to have the novels I'm working on blogged and did get some excellent comments that helped as they were in the creation process, but they got a little too unwieldy so I closed them down. Now I'm going to us Captains Log as a snippet blog. I'll be posting snippets of my writings. It will keep me working on the craft, the creative juices flowing and maybe more comments on my writing that will help me grow.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Political Post

I've purposely not mentioned the name of the Republican VP nominee, though I have given my impression of her. I would really rather not sully this blog by mentioning either of that party's candidates.

The Yikes blog summed up my thoughts pretty well:

Look at what’s happened since the closing night of the Democratic Convention. Sen. Obama gave what was indisputably a great speech — a historic speech. A speech that people should have been talking about for DAYS. But did they? NO, because politics is war, and McCain shot back immediately with his Gov. Sarah Palin assault rifle. And guess what has happened? For more than a week now all people are talking about is SARAH PALIN.
McCain had a full week of publicity for his campaign, while Sen. Obama pretty much fell off the radar screen.
And guess who is helping fuel the fire? The so-called progressive blogosphere.

Political ju-jitsu -- use the other person's strength agains them. The political party of indignation using the dems indignation to give their candidates a week of free publicity because they don't know how to shut the @#$% up. I've watched two Bill Maher specials on HBO and on both of them the women on his panel kept telling him to lay off of her, that any jokes he makes against her only makes him look like a bully and she gets the sympathy vote, and he's too stupid to listen.

For those who have been faithful readers of this blog during the primary season I supported Hillary Clinton, my choice was not supported by the others voting at the time. Time to move on. 
I had great respect for Barak Obama at the time and have seen him grow in the process. I felt that Clinton would weather a brutal mudslinging campaign better than Obama, but he proved by winning the nomination that he has the resilience to back bounce from the body blows leveled at him. He has my full support.

My take on this election is that it is a referendum on the American Spirit. The dividing line between the Democrats and Republicans is Reason and Superstition.

Reason is based on the real world and trying to figure it out in order to solve problems. Listen to Obama's speeches whether it's on race or the economy, or health care, terrorism or taxes. He difines the problem and lists ways in which they can be solved. I know, I know it's academic, dry, boring, makes the average listener actually have to think, but he approaches the American Public as equals and has a basic belief that we can vote for someone who knows what they are doing. 
The Republicans love to quote Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, yet in that book is one of the best examples of how reason works I've ever read: "When two men disagree on a subject they may discuss and debate the issue, but they let reality dicide for them which one is right. One may be right and the other wrong, but both profit." (I didn't feel like scanning the entire book to quote this word for word, but you get the idea)
Notice what decides the issue is reality. This reinforces my opening statement: Reason is based on reality.
Notice Republican advertizing: It has a complete disconnect with reality.
Think of all the things in the last eight years that Bush has said that are unreasonable. "I know in my heart I'm right." concerning his invasion of Iraq.
"I looked it his eyes (Putin)..."
Are the current Republican candidates any different? They have a one size fits all explanation for everything: "He was a POW."

Superstition: is based on blind faith or "belief" which is determined by emotion. In politics the emotion that is played on is fear. The Republicans have used the fear card since 1948 and fall of China to Mao ZeDong. Richard Nixon's entire political rise was do to being a "Red baiter" 
Superstitious people don't think for themselves they get everything they need to know from an authority figure who has a simple solution to a complex question, and a catch phrase that acts as a manta. . 
God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
My Country Right or Wrong.
America Love it or Leave it.
 When you try to discuss an issue they only know the talking points they've been coached in and that's all they can say even if it makes no sense compared to the facts. If the facts don't fit their belief then obviously the facts are wrong. How else can you explain the disconnect for over a hundred and fifty years between the facts of evolution mentioned even in the Bible with Creationism? Why they still stubbornly insist Iraq had something to do with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when from all gathered facts Iraq in no way threatened us. Why? Because Bush said so, because Cheney said so and God elected them to office.
There is no arguing with a person who has their mind made up, don't confuse it with facts.

Will Obama reason with the American Public and will the voters look at the reality that Republicans have done to the system of government since Richard Nixon to destroy our checks and balances?
Will they understand the reality of the bankrupt policy of "Trickle down economics" refuted in 1896 by William Jennings Bryan in his Cross of Gold Speech, buried temporarily after the nightmare of the Great Depression and Roosevelt's New Deal, only to be revived by Ronald Reagan that has led to the last 28 years of Savings & Loan and banking corruption that is now culminating in the economic and real estate melt down?
Will they realize that in those 28 years the only time of peace and prosperity (with a ballanced budget) we've enjoyed came under a democratic presidency, who only had 2 years with a democratic majority in congress?
Will the voters look at the reality of so many other problems too numerous to list or discuss here or listen to the fake father figures that blame everything that has happened on the political party out of power for the last eight years and then say "Trust me?"

It's an election of reality versus media spin. A real nailbiter!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Time to relax

I thought this would be a nice weekend to golf every day. Actually the courses aren't that busy on this holiday weekend. I went out walked nine holes Saturday and tried to do 18 on Sunday. I made it to 12. It was misting and it came down rather hard while on hole 11, we waited it out and went on. On the next hole there is a steep hill to walk down after the tee box. On the way down I slipped on the mud hit my back on the ground and my back tightened up. I walked back to the club house, called grinnygranny to bring me a change of clothes as my backside had a half inch of mud all over it. The back's still a little sore today so I don't think I'll get in any more golf this labor day weekend.
Today is just take it easy, don't make any sudden moves and watch tv.