Thursday, October 30, 2008

Get a rope!

Tim Egan in his NYT blog writes of the mood of the country:
If Americans are walking without a skip in their step, and maybe with a pitchfork in one hand, you can’t fault them. Gallup found that one in five people say their finances have already been hurt “a great deal.” On Tuesday, consumer confidence fell to the lowest level since the Conference Board started tracking popular sentiment 41 years ago. A bare 11 percent say the country is headed in the right direction.

Read all here. I still feel that with all the billions and billions of bucks floating around the debacle, we could afford one lousy billion to fund a special prosecutor's office to take a look at the financial manipulations and peculations that led to the mess.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This cowboy can't be throwed

There's a big lab at the UT Med branch in Galveston that houses some of the most frightening organisms on the planet, the viruses such as Ebola that could well wipe out half the human race if they got loose in the population. [Whether that would be a totally bad thing is a discussion for another post.] Despite the fact that Galveston Island gets whomped by some ferocious winds, the people at the lab swear that it is unsinkable.
“It’s crazy, in my mind,” said Jim Blackburn, an environmental lawyer in Houston. “I just find an amazing willingness among the people on the Texas coast to accept risks that a lot of people in the country would not accept.”

Read the whole story here in the NYT.

Monday, October 27, 2008


While we were driving around north of Loop 410 in San Antone, I noticed a sign on a big-barn restaurant looking to hire line servers. The wage on offer was $9/hour. Despite that, there are panhandlers on a lot of street corners with whiny signs soliciting handouts. Nine bucks an hour is really pretty good pay for a job that almost anyone is equipped to do. Does panhandling pay better than that?

Sign for the times

Guy who sends me stuff sends this:

Made you grin, didn't it?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day of devotion

Oh boy ... today we observe a day of high significance in our belief system. We have studied the holy writings [Racing Form] and will make a pilgrimage to the temple at Retama. I love Breeders Cup race day. Last year we were in Montevideo and went at Hipódromo Maroñas, the track there. [You don't see grubby old horseplayers kissing each other on the cheeks at Retama, but that was quite ordinary at Maroñas.] We hope for signs of favor from the gods of the place and that our offerings at the sacrificial counters will be returned to us nine-to-twofold at least.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bad joss

The NYTimes reports a 51.4% drop in Q3 profits. A CNBC crawl reported that the stock has been reduced to junk status. Per the Gray Lady herself:
The company raised its quarterly dividend last year to 23 cents a share from 17.5 cents. Analysts have criticized that move in light of the company’s dwindling profits and noted that the dividend was a chief source of personal income for members of the Sulzberger family, who control the company.

Ahh, the newspaper biz, unraveling before our eyes. To read the Times on the Times, go here. Much as the paper can annoy with its biases, it's still the most thorough paper we have in this country and it's sad to watch it tanking.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


About 9:50 this evening, our long-awaited norther arrived ... the trees outside started to audibly flailing around and the temp dropped. It's a fine day that the first norther arrives in South Texas. You can figure on going from mostly T-shirts and shorts to jeans and T-shirts, but with flannels over them. Maybe put away the cotton summer cap and get out the wool winter job. Dog mostly ate the winter corduroy cap. Too bad. We can consider more stews and soups because the pot simmering on the stove adds both desirable warmth and a tantalizing perfume to the atmosphere in the house. I know, I know ... it'll be back up in the mid-80s in a day or so, but it's nice to savor the idea of the first serious cool-off. Not too far north, people are suffering and snowy. We can skip that.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mexican corruption

Sometimes the profound corruption of Mexico can leave even an old observer simply gobsmacked. From a piece in the Houston Chronicle:
Tens of thousands of teachers are blocking highways and seizing government buildings across Mexico to protest a federal education reform ending their longtime practice of selling their jobs or giving them to their children.

Read all here. What can you hope for from a country where teachers' jobs are considered property that can be sold or bequeathed?

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Friedrich von Blowhard of 2blowhards has some good questions about things undiscussed in the current presidential campaigns – trade deficits, high personal debt, disadvantageous trade relations, bad health care, overly powerful interest groups, and insufficient research and development in this country. It’s a list of complaints that should be talked about but won’t be. Read it all here. The comments in the Friedrich post have a link to a similar and interesting discussion on a UK site. We all seem to be content to sit and watch a damn good country and people be sold off and sold out for a handful of silver while we fret and obsess over relatively inconsequential matters, many of no genuine public concern. I am constantly taken aback by the venom on posts on the Vicad discussions over matters as meaningless as school names.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Here's a story from the UK Guardian to lock your bombtosser jaws:
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Read all here. Are there no paving cobbles in America? No pitchforks? No ropes?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Depends on whose ox

The latest NYT/CBS poll tells us that 89% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, a record low. Author-&c Ben Stein recently spoke to a group of the comfortable in La Jolla, Calif., an enclave of the comfortable, and found them less then comfortable:
In fact, they are among the angriest upper- and middle-class people I have ever seen. And the most frightened and worried. (In a way, they are now feeling the way ordinary workers have been feeling for years.)

Read all here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mostly recent flora

It's this stuff or politics and the economy, and I can't face any more of that ugliness.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Besides the house vermin – Seadrift, Verminella [I got to name that one], and Spare Cat – we get nature's own vermin who show up at the food bank that runs on our front porch. We caught this one the other night. He just scuttled up the trellis and then froze at the top. No, there's not a little possum skeleton bleaching up there. It finally went off while we were out walking. An old guy used to distribute papers on press day when we printed the Stilwell, Okla., Democrat-Journal was named Poss Waters. I'd bet nobody has thought of him in 25 years until I just did.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Succinct summing-up

Friend just passed along his wife's assessment of Sarah Palin: 'Good curb appeal, but you look closer and she has termites.'

Saturday, October 11, 2008

**Adrift avifauna

The fall is a wonderful season here, what's with the transients headed for the south and the waning of summer heat. Our little fountain is a birdy Peaceable Kingdom. The hummingbird is sitting on a fan blade in the livingroom. Poor little wicker wandered into the house through an open door and decided the fan was a refuge. Wife caught it gently and let it go outside; it flew away happy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't forget this one

One Marilou Johanek, writing in a column in the Toledo Blade on an underreported scandal in the White House:
And now there are official findings of fact about the politically charged dismissals of U.S. attorneys conducted to satisfy a White House agenda. Scandal-weary Americans may be inclined to dismiss yet another administration disgrace, but what happened at the Justice Department is too big a deal to ignore.

Read it all here Just more of the corrupt policies coming from W's administration. The DJIA dropped something like 400 points this morning while W was telling us that everything is jes fine, jes fine. Boy's got no credibility left in this world. Why don't we impeach him to keep him out of mischief for the next couple of months? And then maybe try him for treason for all the harm he's done to this country.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It happened again

I came in from watching debacle TV, leaving the DJIA down some 150. By 10 or 15 minutes later, it was down 300. I took a nap and when I got up, the market was down around 680. Maybe I should skip the naps. I've been watching debacle TV as I was watching the Weather Channel a few weeks back. Hurricanes seem more easily predicted than any course in store for us here. It's not reassuring to see most of the people on the business channels. They seem to be mostly guys with grating East Coast accents and slicked-back hair, more like second-rate real estate salesmen than masters of the universe.
On the brighter side of life, sportsman-author Kenneth Reese hollered me over this morning as I was perambulating the pup and asked did I want some flounder, as he'd had a great night, finding the bay bottom practically paved with flounder. He later brought by an ice chest full of nice fish and gave us three. Dinner tonight was a broiled flounder and a bottle of white. It does soothe the pain to dine well. Wonder what tomorrow will bring, both for debacles and for dinner.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Crime in **Adrift

Though I skipped it, my wife caught the monthly city council meeting last night. She reports on police activity this month: "At the city council meeting tonight the acting police chief reported that during mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Ike Seadrift had one crime. Someone broke into a shed and stole 2 cases of beer for a hurricane party. Culprit was apprehended; he paid for the beer, and the shed's owner declined to press charges." A perfectly understandable and necessary bit of scrounging and properly excused by the victim.
In another cops and courts tidbit, our local police chief was found not guilty on a goofy charge of official oppression. We went in to town and caught the testimony Tuesday morning. The purported victim was a mumbling, brain-fried doper already convicted for stealing copper; on the stand he was completely unconvincing. Other prosecution testimony was not much more plausible, the DA seemed befuddled by it all, fumbling for questions when he had a witness on the stand, and the jury was reportedly out for only half an hour, which means they probably went out, agreed on 'not guilty' in one quick vote, and had a cup of coffee so as not to appear too hasty. As a homeowner and taxpayer, I hope the trial didn't cost the county much.
Tali Villafranca was defense attorney and ran the DA nuts with objections during questionings. It's a good tactic to keep an opposing lawyer from getting a rhythm going. Tali used to do it well with Dexter Eaves. I love trials.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

DJIA down 500+ again

I laid me down for a siesta this afternoon with the Dow at –threesomething and awoke with it –fivesomething. Can't turn your back for a minute. I don't even have much stashed and have lost 40% of it this year. A joke I read somewhere: Forget putting all the money into gold. The situation is serious ... I'm putting all the money into rice.. OK, I really haven't lost a penny until I cash something in, but still ...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Eternal verities

Roger Cohen, writing on the Opinion page of the NYT, cites a Kipling poem, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" as apropos to our world today and particularly the political and economic situation. I love it when Kipling gets some proper respect, because he knew a thing or two. Part of the poem reads
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

Read the entire poem here
Cohen writes
How could it happen? That outraged question springs now to everyone’s lips. But from Dutch tulips to Californian dotcoms, great heists have happened and will again. No flight from reality is as sweet as the illusion that money grows on trees.

Read all the Cohen piece here. Kipling was no fool, and requirements of decency and honesty will assert themselves even in a scoundrel time.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What's the difference ...

between Sarah Palin and W?
I watched the VP debate last night, but only with one eye and precious little enthusiasm. I think Joe Biden is an old hack who demonstrated himself dishonest back in the 80s, while I find Sarah Palin frightening. Anyone who thinks the deity favors her pipeline is scary. All she had to do to win in the debate was not to make as big a fool of herself as she has been lately. She didn't, so she did, at least to her devotees. I look at her and see a face that should be beaming out from a display class ad for real estate. She looks like a successful real estate broker and seems to think with the same Babbity single-mindedness, as if she had internalized all the trite maxims of the local boosters ... lots of vague cheerleading and piety and an overarching idea that cutting taxes is the only efficacious exercise of government power [and this from the governor of a state that battens on federal money].
From the blog of Tim Egan on the NYT:
George Bush entered the White House as a proponent of a more humble foreign policy and a believer that government should get out of the way at home. He leaves as someone with a trillion-dollar war aimed at making people who’ve hated each other for a thousand years become Rotary Club freedom-lovers, and his own country close to bankruptcy after government did get out of the way.

Read all the Egan stuff here. I'm sorry there does not remain time for an effective third-party movement to arise in the next four weeks.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pow! right in the liver

Wife went to town yesterday and at the customary burn rate of ca. $40/hour spent a couple hundred bucks. Nothing spendthrifty, just essentials. As expenditures like that are likely to trigger little fits of frugality, she brought home liver for dinner. It's something happens pretty often. We both like liver ... I cook it Italian with lemon juice, sometimes capers, sometimes basil, or cook it with bacon and onions. It's always soothing to look at the price sticker on top of the little container. It's been .99 for a pound for years. One buck for animal protein for two with a scrap usually left over for the pup. Yesterday, the sticker read $1.49. I dunno if there's a slot in the inflation stats for the price of liver, and I hope this isn't the first splash in a tsunami of rising prices. [About the Italian-style liver: slice it very thin, like a quarter-inch thick, dredge it in a little seasoned flour, cook it quickly in a mixture of butter and vegetable oil, then squeeze a lemon into the oil left in the pan and pour it over the liver. The lemon cuts that livery whang that even liver lovers sometimes find objectionable.]

The Panic of Aught-Eight

A historian named Scott Reynolds Nelson writes a fascinating piece on the current economic upheavals in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
If there are lessons from 1873, they are different from those of 1929. Most important, when banks fall on Wall Street, they stop all the traffic on Main Street — for a very long time. The protracted reconstruction of banks in the United States and Europe created widespread unemployment. Unions (previously illegal in much of the world) flourished but were then destroyed by corporate institutions that learned to operate on the edge of the law. In Europe, politicians found their scapegoats in Jews, on the fringes of the economy. (Americans, on the other hand, mostly blamed themselves; many began to embrace what would later be called fundamentalist religion.)
Nelson maintains that the circumstances parallel another, earlier crash than the Great Depression of the 1930s that was so vivid in the memories of my parents' generation. Read the whole piece here.