Archive for August 2011

Bits and Pieces

I see where others in the Progressive cause have recognized what I have about the proposal for jobs (Opportunity Knocks for the Democrats). ran this story which is my favorite: Obama Unsure on Whether to propose Jobs Ideas that Can’t pass or a Jobs Ideas that Can’t Pass.  Meanwhile E.J. Dionne was on Hardball recommending basically the same thing.  He could not see why the President wouldn’t lay out a plan that would actually create jobs because no matter what he does the Republicans are going to shoot it down.  Meanwhile I heard the Washington Media questioning Richard Trumka, head of AFL-CIO when he said the they would not support politicians who proposed half measures.  Their stock question is, but what’s the point if it can’t get by the Republican Congress.  The point was standing up for things we really believe in instead of what won’t work and won’t get by Congress anyway and giving voters a real choice in 2012.  Finally there is a ray of sunshine in political circles.  We can only hope Obama stumbles upon it.

Meanwhile on the N.J. front, there was another lesson for Obama if he is not buried in his I am the man of compromise bubble.  There was Governor Christie, who I rarely agree with or like, taking on the press on his handling of the Irene threat, showing who was in charge and being very, oh should I say it, Presidential.  It was clear who was in charge and what he believed when reporters asked him if he (government) over reacted, he took them on. He knows what he believes and is unafraid to stand for it.  It is everything Obama isn’t and needs to be if he is ever going to be an effective leader (Daily Beast).

The papers today indicated that Irene is going to be one of the top 10 costliest disasters ever.  Meanwhile more of the Republican morons are jumping on the band wagon of only paying for the repairs by stealing money from other programs instead of borrowing.  Think about it.  What is really happening is a disaster hits and it simply takes more money out of the economy and further depresses our recovery (both economic and from Irene).  Paul Krugman addressed this in purely economics terms to demonstrate how this is just basic bad economics in his blog (Disaster Relief Economics).  As he pointed out, where were they when we decided to go to war and wanted to pay for it with borrowing instead of cuts to other programs.

Dick Cheney, in the form of Darth Vader, is out there again reinventing history.  This is a very good thing for Democrats because he reminds a very fickle voting population about the mistakes that were made.  I found it interesting that he wears it as a badge of honor that he is a war criminal.  “He did what had to be done.”  Meanwhile Col Lawrence Wilkerson (Collin Powell’s Deputy) explained how “what had to be done” (torture) got them bad intelligence.  This remind anyone beside me of  Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”?  When questioned by one interviewer on whether what they did in Iraq lowered the world’s esteem of the United States, he simply replied he did not believe that.  Like the rest of his brethren in the Republican party, facts are purely subjective.  He is truly an evil man who has little use for the law or democracy.

Finally, there is an editorial on controlling feral pigs where they have become a problem (Hawaii, Texas, California) (High above the Hog).  I could not help myself.  All I could think of was is this about feral pigs or piggy Republicans who are doing great damage to our country as they swill from the trough and make sure none flows over to the rest of us.  We need a national control program so that the damage they cause is greatly reduced (feral pigs and Republicans).  One suggestion from this article on feral pigs that we might want to listen to for Republicans is this:  “Most important, we must deal with the hunters who are helping pigs spread. Laws on the transportation and release of hogs should be toughened so that the penalties reflect the damage done.”  I read that as the corporations and monied interests who are controlling our politics today, creating the Tea Party (and then turning them loose), and owning the lobbyists.  You know we could learn a lot from nature if we would just pay attention.

Our Decline While We See How Small We Can Think

New Road Signs will Now Wait – The administration plans to issue a proposal Tuesday to eliminate dozens of deadlines for replacing traffic signs to comply with safety standards initiated under the Bush administration to save money.

Astronauts May Have to Abandon Space Station – A Russian cargo ship carrying supplies to the station crashed last week, which could affect the crew’s return.

FEMA Cuts Back on Tornado Assistance – In Alabama, 32 counties of the 65 counties declared federal disaster areas after tornado outbreaks in April will be affected by the suspension of FEMA money

California High Speed Rail – Cost ballooning on proposed route putting project in jeporady

19,000 Teachers Laid Off in California – With declining budgets, schools in California have laid off more than 19,000 teachers.  Reality will hit home this fall for many school children and their parents

Republicans Become Anti-Science Party – In 2010 all the GOP Senate Candidates and in 2012 all but one of the GOP presidential candidates denies Global Warming.  Then there is creationism…

Steve Jobs, Creative Genius of Apple, Passes the Torch – Mr. Jobs, facing his illness, relinquishes his position as CEO.  Can Apple maintain its creativity and market savvy?  Can we?

Republican Candidates Reinsert Religion into Politics – The lessons of the Enlightenment seem to be ignored as GOP political candidates insert conservative Christian dogma into how they interpret the world.  Michele Bachmann blames earthquake and hurricane on God

As Rachel Maddow stands in front of the Hoover Dam and tells us this is what our grandparents left for us, asks us what are we leaving for our children, all of the above seems to say nothing.  We have become a small selfish nation that refuses to invest in our future and is falling back on magic and spiritualism to explain the world around us.  All of our problems are being blamed on those others who are trying to steal what we earned.  I wonder if Paris Hilton earned what she earned?

We did not get where we are overnight and it took 30-40 years of thinking small and being unbelievably selfish to reduce us to what we are today, unable to support our astronauts, can’t even afford new road signs, gutting our schools so we don’t pay taxes, and half the nation turning to spirituality to explain the world around them.  It is going to be a long slog to crawl back out of the gutter.  First we have to learn how to dream the big dreams again.

I Told You So

Last week in my blog earthquack, I wondered when these nitwits that we have for Republicans would blame the earthquake in Washington on a warning from God. Well enter Michele ‘fruitcake’ Bachmann:

“Apparently God not only cares about who wins the Super Bowl and the Oscars–now he also cares about how politicians behave. Speaking to a crowd in Florida over the weekend, GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann said Hurricane Irene and the rare earthquake near Washington, D.C., were God’s warning that He’s upset with politicians in the capital. “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians,” Bachmann said. “We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ ”

And the stupid shall inherit the earth, what’s left of it.

Oh yeah. A spokesperson for Bachmann said she was just kidding. Just like a conservative friend of mine use to tell me Rush Limbaugh was entertainment. There are people out there that listen to and believe this dribble. Like I said, the stupid will inherit the earth if we continue to to tolerate this level of stupidity.

Who Said it Best Today: Paul Krugman on Republican Anti-Intellectualism

Today in Paul Krugman’s Op-Ed in the NYT (Republicans Against Science) he took up a subject I have worried about (Eschewing Science), electing people who reject science and inconvenient facts that don’t line up with their ideology.  As Paul put it:

“So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the G.O.P., extends far beyond the issue of climate change.

Lately, for example, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of “charlatans and cranks” — as one of former President George W. Bush’s chief economic advisers famously put it — to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to “fancy theories” that conflict with “common sense,” the Journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyze things like financial crises and recessions?

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.”

In the meantime, FEMA, has stopped funding for any projects not yet approved for tornado and flood damage due to past extreme weather events to pay for ongoing Irene response.  And you can guess who are squealing like pigs.  All those good Republicans who don’t want to pay for anything, because as we all know, the private sector will take care of us.  Anti-intellectualism at its zenith.

Hurricane Coverage

Was it just me or was the coverage of Hurricane Irene more like show and tell for 8-year olds? “Hi, I standing here in the rain, and there is wind. See the sign shake? A few minutes ago I step into a big puddle and got wet.”

What is it about keeping us informed about the storm and the real damage it is causing that requires some reporter to stand out in the storm and tells us stuff we can see with our own eyes. Sometimes you have to wade through 45 minutes of this egocentric babble before we got any meaningful news.

Now extend this kind of reporting to our political issues and there is no surprise where we are.

Mind Numbing Stupidity

Bachmann Promises Fast Economic Turnaround With Tax Cuts – Lead from NYT story dated 27 August. Between 2005 and 2010, the country plummeted from No. 1 to No. 15 in the world in terms of the economic competitiveness of our infrastructure. That was during the Bush “miracle” when he cut taxes to the lowest rates in 60 years, created no jobs, and bankrupt our treasury. So please explain to me again Michele, just how this is going to work? Considering how many people listen to this woman and the rest of them, it gives moron a whole new meaning.  Now I know how people make money selling all you can eat diets for losing weight.  There are a ton of people out there that will believe anything.

Opportunity Knocks for the Democrats

Usually when I write this blog, what I see and feel is frustration and resignation. Frustration that we are doing all the wrong things, and resignation that there is little that can be done. I don’t know why, but when I was writing my blog yesterday (A Failure to Communicate and an Opportunity to Seize the Agenda), it occurred to me that the Democrats have just been handed the biggest opportunity of their lives. So I thought I would expand on it.  Yes the Democrats wasted 2008, but they did it hoping that middle of the road pragmatism would win the day. It did not and the Republican’s pounding of them on the debt ceiling extension has opened a door they would be a fool, not to go through.

I got this idea when as I noted in my blog yesterday, the NYT’s characterized the politics of the debt ceiling debate as antics. The word antics cast aspersions on both parties when the real antics were the Republican’s ideological totalitarianism (no tax increases period). But more importantly, the NYT miss-characterized the tactics as antics, when it is raw political strategy and if successful,  will be an economic path that will destroy America.  So far they have been winning.  And then I thought, why not, bring on the “antics”.  It is time for both sides to play.

Here is what you have to know to make this idea work and to find it acceptable. The Republicans are not going to let anything pass that will help the economy, nothing, nada, zilch. Their strategy in 2012 is to make the Democrats look ineffective and what they will agree to simply won’t work so that they can then claim that Democratic policies simply have proven to be ineffective.   Democrats have to get over their bleeding hearts or their pining for some bipartisan nirvana where Republicans actually care and will compromise to help an ailing nation. It doesn’t exist between now and November 2012. And that knowledge shall set you free.  You don’t have to get anything done, because nothing useful is going to get done.

The Republicans have shown their hand and the nation is aware that they are more or less responsible for both the stalemate and the economy. Now is the time to really demonstrate and underline that fact, to draw clear distinctions for the way forward.  The way to do that is to stop politically calculating what might pass, since nothing that will work will, and come up with a real plan to put people back to work. This plan has to be reasonable, accepted by mainstream economists, and fairly intuitive to the voters.  Forget arcane things like patent reform or payroll tax holidays because the issue is jobs.  Propose things that create jobs.

The NYT offered one such plan on Saturday, (Mr. Bernanke’s Warning) that included an aid package to states to reemploy laid off teachers, firefighters, policemen. The problem with the NYT’s approach was they were still calling for politicians to work together, and the Republicans are not going to play. So be bold and look at extending unemployment benefits and a stimulus plan that is nothing but infrastructure improvements. Maybe even some debt relief for mortgage holders who are underwater at the expense of the banks who everybody hates. The point here is to craft a reasonable way to put people back to work and come up with a funding scheme that involves some tax increases on the wealthy or even accept some deficits with a plan for cuts later.  Then let the hijinks begin.  Fight for it.

And here is where Democrats have to stay focused.  The Republicans are never going to go for it.  They are going to fight it tooth and nail  or find poison pills because it might work.  So stay reasonable, keep pushing, but don’t compromise away any effective policy thinking they might support it.  They won’t play, and between now and 2012 Democrats can underline who is the problem, how intransigent they are, and most importantly, finally show what Democrats stand for.

They key here is don’t come up to the plate (like Obama is likely to do next month) with some milk toast plan for the economy because you might get one or two Republican votes.  IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.  So hang in there, fight for your positions and your values, draw clear distinctions between you and the Republicans and reap the benefits in 2012 in the polls.  The strategy is not for some minimal relief in 2011 or early 2012.  It is for all the marbles and getting the country moving again in 2012 after the election.

It is fool proof, but sadly not Democratic proof.  They have to have courage, and never forget that nothing is going to pass between now and November 2012 to help the economy, so they should be fighting for what they really stand for, not what they think Republicans might allow.  The NYT would call that antics, I would call it a real strategy for the only way forward.  The Republicans have teed up the ball for you and all you have to do is hit a home run.  The question is are you smart enough to seize the opportunity, savvy enough to stay disciplined, and willing to come out swinging?  All the marbles depend upon it.

A Failure to Communicate and an Opportunity to Seize the Agenda

Today in the New York Times, an editorial (Mr. Bernanke’s Warning) on the Bernanke speech gave us this:  “The weak economy cannot tolerate any more political antics, policy mistakes or inaction.” Political Antics?  Once again the media fails to point the finger at the offending party or to understand that these are not antics by the Republicans, but deeply held religious views.

Just what political antics gave the Republicans 98% of what they wanted?  Well, brinkmanship by the Republicans so I guess maybe we should start saying the Republicans antics instead of misleading the American people by implying that both sides somehow caused this.  They could have gotten substantial cuts if they would have agreed to some token tax increases and they did not.  There is only one party at fault here and the problem is ideological totalitarianism by the Republicans.

Mr. Bernanke actually said, ““The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well.”  Now let’s think about this realistically.  This was a messy process that should never have happened.  Cutting should not have been the lynch pin to extending the deficit ceiling, but it was, and made so by the Republicans.

Everybody wants the negotiations to be civil and reasonable.  Everybody wants bipartisan solutions.  So everybody elected these fruitcakes who now have a strangle hold on the Republican party and they are never going to be reasonable.  They believe what they believe with religious fever.  The only way for the NYT and Mr. Bernanke to get their wishes is if the Democratic Party capitulates to the Republicans.  See, now we have nice negotiations, and their are no antics.  The Republicans demand, and the Democrats capitulate.  Actually that is what happen earlier this month, it just took the Democrats a while to collapse.

So let’s all of us get real here.  The Republicans have one goal in the next 14 months and they don’t care about the economy.  They and their benefactors have the economy right where they want it and they don’t care about the unemployed.  They want to see Obama fail and so far he is playing right into their hands.  They will only pass things that won’t help.  Add to that the ideological totalitarianism of the Tea Party and there is never going to be any useful legislation much less reasonable negotiations.  Have you all been asleep? So what does that leave us with?

Gridlock.  Realistically nothing useful is going to happen until after 2012.  That is very bad for the economy and the unemployed, but there is a silver lining here.  Instead of continuing to play the Republican’s game and being blamed for their antics as we saw in the above referenced editorial, there is this wonderful opportunity to finally draw the line and clearly distinguish the Democratic Party from the Republicans.  Remember that narrative thing I keep talking about?  Well right now the narrative is controlled by the Republicans, it is the deficit, and it has frozen any action to help the economy.

So why not draw that line of distinction?  Put forward policies that would really help.  Let the Republicans block them and don’t let them water them down to be ineffective in some misguided attempt to appear bipartisan.  Stand firm and you start to draw the line, develop a different narrative, and clearly distinguish what is the problem, Republican ideological totalitarianism.

And yes Virginia, it is time for political antics.  Put stuff in your plan that is a poison pill to these guys like reasonable taxes to pay for them.  No, they won’t go anywhere, but they weren’t going anywhere anyway and they clearly define who is the problem.  This next 14 months until the election is a wonderful opportunity for the President and the Democrats to seize the narrative and change the country in 2012.  All they have to do is recognize reality and grow a pair.

So Much Insanity

David Brooks in his op-ed piece today told us:  “The rise of the Republican presidential candidate reflects fundamental shifts in the electorate, and it’s time to take him seriously.”  David is right.  The fundamental shift in the electorate is toward brain dead.  Maybe that amoeba that is eating brains in the South is more widespread than we thought.

Timothy Egan tells us:  “A conservative in Eastern Washington State runs for local office on a platform of shooting illegal immigrants on sight. A Republican senate candidate in Nebraska compares poor people to scavenging raccoons. And the leading Republicans who want to take Obama’s place deny the existence of basic science, scoffing at everything from evolution to the global consensus on climate change. Is gravity next?

The answer is yes, gravity is next if it gets in the way of Republicans and their benefactors.  Eric Cantor, leader of the pack who wants to cut government including geological services that study and track earthquakes, NOAA that tracks hurricanes, and FEMA that responds to them, tells us that there will be no aid to states impacted by Irene unless he can squeeze out more budget cuts.  We are living in a time when up is down, and down is up, and rational thinking is put on hold.  We are doing just the opposite of what we ought to be doing on so many fronts and nobody seems to want to question the lack of results.

The “viable” Republican candidates who don’t believe in science and with Irene bearing down on them as one more example of the ever increasing intensity of weather phenomenon, continue to deny climate change and the need for us to take it into account in our planning for the future.  Of course, they don’t think we should plan for the future because that would be government and the market place will provide for us.  They have done so well for us up to now.

These same guys want less taxes just like Bush bankrupted the economy.  They want less regulation like the gross abuse by the financial institutions that brought down our economy didn’t happen (oh, I forgot, it was Freddie and Fannie’s fault).  Then they want smaller ineffective government as our problems worsen and the only agency that can deal with them is our government.  Our infrastructures decay, we cut back on education, for profit medicine gets unaffordable, and our economy continues to crumble and their answer is more of the same.  We have lost our fucking minds.

On the economic front, if you read and follow Paul Krugman, he has been right every step of the way, and we continue to ignore him and others who warn that we have unlearned the lessons of the Depression and Japan’s stagnation and guarantee ourselves a  a long lingering recession/depression.  Today he forecast exactly what Bernanke would say at Aspen, and it flies in the face of what the same man said about Japan in similar circumstances back in the 90s (Keynes/Bernanke).  We are ignoring our lessons of economics while we continue policies that make things worse.  It’s insane.

Finally, as John Stewart so ably pointed out, the conservatives think the poor who pay no taxes should pay more instead of taxing the “job creators”.  They are shocked, shocked, shocked that poor have refrigerators.  No, I am not making this up, see the video (The Daily Show).  As John pointed out this is almost 50% of our population who has less than 2.5% of our wealth (that in itself should indicate a real problem), if you took everything they have, it would not quite be the same as rolling back tax rates to the Clinton years.  We have lost our collective minds as we become selfish, self centered, and stupid.

For my part I am just not going to be politically correct anymore.  When somebody tells me they don’t believe in evolution I will simply tell them the truth, quaint religious idea that shows your ignorance.  When somebody tells me that there is real dissent about global warming, I will ask if they took a stupid pill.  When they tell me that continuing on our path of gutting government and doing nothing about economy is the only way to save it, I will ask them if they failed history, economics, and have memory loss about the Bush years?  It is too bad the press won’t start doing their job and making fun of this nonsense.  It might wake up the country.  On the other hand, maybe that water born  amoeba that eats brains is now throughout the country.


Vine/Wine Friday

8/26/2011 - Finishing 1st round of irrigation this year. 96 hrs drip in each block.

Vine: Well we are having an extraordinarily mild summer as the rest of the nation smolders.  Our little heat wave that will extend through the weekend reaches a high of 92 degrees (a cool 60 each morning).  It is perfect grape growing weather if we would have started out on time, but the grapes are a month behind.  Yesterday as I wandered among the rows I detected a slight bit of veraison in Syrah and Mourvedre, none yet in the Grenache.  Usually by this time we have nice red grapes and it is time for slow ripening.  I would expect with the weather staying warm, in about a week everything will be in the middle of veraison and by two weeks, we will have nice red grapes.  We are at least 6-8 weeks from getting near harvest.I am just doing my first round of irrigation if that tells you anything.

Veraison just starting in the Syrah

But with reddened grapes, comes the birds so I will have to break out my kite birds although I don’t really think they do much good.  Other than that, there is not much to be done in the vineyard.  I was up early the other morning and there were about 10 turkeys wandering through the rows and about three rabbits.  Lightner smorgy is one of their favorite haunts.  Good to know I am providing a nice safe grazing area for these guys. The deer fence keeps the coyotes out.  It has been gopher hell this year and I will be out there trying to find their runs and poisoning them by dropping pellets in their main tunnels.  They don’t really hurt the plants anymore, but they create passages for rain runoff in the winter that badly erodes my steep slopes.

As far as the quality of the fruit, this year is kind of interesting.  I have lots of bunches with very little shatter, but many have a few “rasins” mixed in.  I have no idea what caused that other than the cool/snow spring could have damaged some of the flowers.  But no sunburn this year as we are maintaining cooler temperatures and no 100 degree days.  So if we get to the end, and there are buyers for the grapes, it will be a very interesting year.  If we have early rains, well, all for naught.

Some "rasins" in the Mourvedre bunches

Wine: Small wineries are struggling in this economy.  It is interesting how some wine makers think the grower is a bank and can front their late payments with interest free loans.  I will start carrying a 1.5% penalty for late payment per month so I am not giving out interest free loans.  I understand and will work with people who are making good wine and struggling, but they have to share the burden.  Usually around here the agreement is half when they take the grapes and the other half in March since their cash flow is also an issue.  It costs about (me) about $1500 per acre to grow grapes (mostly labor and equipment).  So late payments hurt.  Right now it is the sign of the times.

It has been a while since I have posted about my food and wine experiences so I will not try to bury you.  Last year at this time we were having a wedding for my niece (and 200+ others) up here and it was pandemonium.  So this year I had most of the people who worked to make it happen up here for a little barbeque and enjoy the patio overlooking the vineyard without all the stress. It was dinner for 10 and I cooked a very simple (good chicken from Whole Foods) chicken dinner, with sliced garden tomatoes, salad, roasted vegetables, sourdough french bread, and cup cakes for dessert.  The chicken was breasts and hindquarters soaked in peanut oil and Lawry’s garlic salt for a couple of hours.  Then you barbeque it over very hot charcoal to make the skin nice and crispy.  The wine was a real surprise in that it was the first Merlot that I have had that I would call very tasty.  It was a Blackstone Merlot and it went very well with the chicken.  It was a simple dinner with friends on the patio as we watched the sun set and the stars gather.  It is what life is about.  Carpe Diem.

Roses in the Upper Vineyard