Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't Get Fooled Again

Don't know what to think about the bailout--should we or shouldn't we? Can we manage without? Must we? How much? What strings should be attached? Who's trying to keep them from being attached? Who is in whose pocket? How will we pay for this? What will be cut? The war? Corporate welfare? Or will it be student loans and food stamps?


Here, let's listen to this just as a reminder...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Last Child in the Woods

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass and white and red morning glories, and white and red clover,
and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter,
and the mare's foal and the cow's calf,...

--Walt Whitman

I like to play indoors 'cause that's where all the
electrical outlets are.

--A Fourth Grader in San Diego

So begins Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. I've just begun reading this, but I've heard so much about it for years and agree with everything I've heard: children lose a great deal of themselves when they don't connect with Nature, the expanse of the world expands them, connecting to Nature is calming and restorative.

I thought I should finally read this book, however, and so far I appreciate it. My kids have loved all of their cicada hunts and butterfly releases right in our own backyard this summer, but I'm wondering if there are more ways that I can feel comfortable that allow them their own unencumbered exploring of the natural world--without me around.

We don't have woods in our suburban neighborhood, but we do have a park with lots of clusters of bushes to make "forts" and rows of hedges where you can be a spy. I have dared to let them go to the park by themselves a couple of times now. Louv addresses this in the book as well: that is, that there is a pervasive notion that kids are in danger all of the time and must be watched, looked after, managed and have all of their "activities" planned out. No free time. No free space. What are kids losing with all of this caution? What might they gain from their own time and space in Nature?

What have you found with your kids? How much exploring do you allow?

Have you read this book? What did you think?

I know from my own childhood experiences that I benefited greatly from time in the woods. I know I learned of my own wildness and naturalness through camping trips and walks in the woods. I hope my kids are getting that too. At least to the extent that they run around and dig holes in our backyard, climb trees, and watch spiders at work, so far they don't prefer being indoors where all of the outlets are...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obama Won

I wasn't even going to post anything about the debate, because it was kind of staid really. There were no outstanding dramatic moments--not that a presidential debate should be dramatic necessarily. It's not there to amuse us. Does it make us laugh?! We're big people, it wants to know what we said. We KNOW what we said!! Does it make us laugh--does it?! Do we think it's there to f*$%^ing amuse us?! DO WE?!?!


Any way Obama won.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sub Prime Primer

Here it is all summed up in cartoon form. You just have to click on "next page" at the top to see it all unfold...

They were greedy fools.

Click here and read it for yourself. I think this cartoon does explain it well. I know it's hard for a lot of us to understand because it is a crazy way to try and make money. Throw out your logic and sense of decency as you read the cartoon, and then you'll understand it better.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Behind the Scenes Look at the Bailout

This just in! I got this from some news site--I don't remember which one. But, it shows the discussion of the bailout as it was happening LIVE at the time.

Let's listen:

And here we see how McCain derived his numbers. He's pretty sharp, really...

Perhaps I could be Secretary of State

Do you know what? Not only have I actually been to foreign countries in my life: Canada, England and France, but I've also been to Alaska! My husband and I were there on our honeymoon...

I think with this kind of experience with other countries, I could probably be Secretary of State or something. When I was in Alaska, I was almost in Russia! So, I have briefly experienced different foreign cultures and so probably have a bead on how to deal with all of 'em. Also, many foreigners come and visit my blog looking for information on kefir. See the visitor counter? Look at all of 'em!! Also, I like things like carpaccio, burritos and croissants. Also, sushi. Oh, and pot stickers. And curry. And borscht. I can list that food appreciation as some more of my very extensive international experience.

Here, we see Sarah Palin explain to Katie Couric how her proximity to Russia gives her international experience, much like my own, except I've actually been to more places than she has...

Watch CBS Videos Online

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Guess Where We're Going!

We're going to the zoo! We just got invited and it will be a lot of fun.

But, we can't stay all day. One of the kids has a class to attend and I have to take our perfectly non-polluting car in for emissions testing. That's where I'll talk to the kids about government programs--thems that works and thems that don't.

Have fun wherever you go today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Money, Money, Money, Money!

They've privatized profits and socialized risk. Hmmm. I thought conservatives hated socialism. I guess not when you're stealing...


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Greed--How's That Working out for Us?

$700 billion bailout. Estimates of over $2,000 for every man, woman and child. That's $8,000+ that my family is in for. How about yours? Who has been the most reckless here? You can't deregulate everything, encourage greed and spending and expansion to the point of entire areas of U.S. production being sent overseas for decades without it screwing up our economy at some point. Profit at any cost can no longer be the goal, can it?

One of Bush's first responses after 9/11 was to encourage everyone to go out and spend--we needed to behave normally or the terrorists would win. He didn't suggest we get involved in our communities, or try to understand the world better or to watch over each other. No. Go back to Starbucks, you suckers, and consume. Then, when the economy wasn't going so well, he instituted a stimulus package, so that we could spend even more. Because that would work, if we weren't such a bunch of whiners.

As Americans, we've been taught to believe that our role is to consume, that the American dream is to "make it", so that you can buy to your heart's content. Lending institutions made much bigger loans to people than it was remotely prudent and people took them, because if the bank thought they could handle it they could--they must know, right? The McMansion that they couldn't afford put them closer to the American ideal and they wanted it. Then, the bank could repackage and bundle and arrange the debt and sell it to the next tier in the pyramid scheme and make a load of cash--because if you're not expanding you're dying.

Greed. Pure and simple and awful and evil and one of the deadly sins.

How's that working out for all of us? Things looking up?

Do you see that Iraq War debt counter on the side there, on the front page? That shows $5,000 every second going to the war. Where are we getting that money? Where could that money go instead? Kind of silly to be critical of exaggerated notions of "tax and spend" liberals, now isn't it?! Kind of absurd to wonder how Obama 's gonna pay for plans that invest in US, and will give us a return in years to come, such as his Education policies, when Bush and his policies, and supporters of his policies have robbed all of us blind.

The other day at Park Day, before the bank failures, some of us parents were talking about where the Iraq War money could go instead. How about health insurance for everyone? How about a college education for everyone? Why can't we pay for that too? What would it mean, if everyone who could get good enough grades was allowed to go to college for free? How would that effect our economy, our society, our ability to solve problems? 'Cause we've got some big problems now, don't we? What if good health and an educated populace were our shared goals? Do I gain or lose if some poor kid in the projects somewhere is able to go to school and have his asthma treated? Does he become a productive member of society? Does he help to fix problems then?

What do we gain if there's a permanent underclass? What happens when the middle class falls lower and lower? Who gains? Follow the money. Bush. Cheney. McCain. Halliburton. Dieblod. Blackwater.

Greed. How's that working out for us?

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Poem for My Grandfather

I never met my Grandfather, he died a little bit after my older sister, D. was born. He was my father's father and his name was Louis (Lew-ee).

He was born in 1890. My Grandmother was 13 years his junior, born in 1903.

One of the most significant things I learned from my un-met grandfather, was the idea of having the ability to rise above your circumstances. I'm inspired by what my Grandpa did with his life.

He was born in Lithuania and like many thousands of others at the time, came to America with his family for a better life. He and his family ended up in Chicago and settled into an insular life, surrounded solely by other Jewish families. My Great Grandfather was either a junk man, or a rag man--I'm not sure which. [NOTE: My dad just let me know he was a junk man. Thanks Dad.] But either way, it involved recycling--wait to go Great Grandpa, nice scrambling!

Whenever I see pick-ups driving around our town, the driver looking out over at the garbage at the curb to see what metal can be picked out, with their rusted bed springs and mangled misshapen metal poles sticking out the sides, I see my Grandpa's dad there. Poor, poor people who are trying to make their way now, just as my Great Grandparents did so many years ago.

My Great Grandparents had 11 children, two died in childhood, the rest survived and made good lives for themselves, but never really left "their" group. [NOTE: OK. Almost all of that is wrong. My Dad just wrote to me and said that they had had 13 kids and 9 lived to adulthood--ripe old ages too. Thanks Dad!] They never fully assimilated, which my Grandfather did do.

When my Grandfather was supposed to be going to schule, he would go and play basketball at Hull House instead. See? It's in my genes... He got good at basketball and eventually was able to get a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. There, he kept himself by shoveling coal into the furnace at the Red Gym.

Later, he somehow got a job back in Chicago tutoring the Potter Palmer children, and accompanied them on a tour through Europe. Sweet gig, Louis!

In his school career, my Grandfather was befriended by a teacher who wrote him a poem. It's definitely romanticizing the notion of what it means to be a man, and yet I like it and think it's true. However, I also think it applies to women...

For Grandpa from his teacher, A. D. May 6, 1911.


To knit mighty muscles and furrow the brain,
To glory in hardship and laugh at the pain;
To scorn cowardly shirking, to hold fast to Duty,
Stern comrade, yet kindly, who turns life to beauty;
To be reckless of self in the battle for Right,
And to joy in the tumult and stress of the fight;
To care not for failure, if only it yield
Clearer insight to help win some other hard field;
To have faith that the laurels at last will belong
To him that endures--not merely is strong;
And to keep through the struggle, though fierce bruises smart,
A smile on the lips and a song in the heart.

That's nice, isn't it? Those are the attributes that I hope will grow and strengthen in my kids as they go through life. They already have some--they both have a strong sense of justice...woe to others if they think they've been wronged. But, they also have a sense of justice about others. My kids have joy.

I'm so glad I have this poem that obviously meant so much to my Grandfather that he kept it and I now have a copy. It connects me to Louis and my kids to him too. We can still learn from him and his life.

Thanks un-met Grandfather--love doesn't have limits, does it? Here's to a smile on the lips and a song in the heart!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thick as Thieves...

It's ironic that my post title here says "thick as thieves", as I am about to lift an entire post from Daily Kos and put it here. On the other hand, I am transparent, as in honest, as in I'm telling you where this post comes from. I'm even going to link it and tell you that Devilstower wrote it...whoever Devilstower is.

See? That's how honesty works--you say what really is. At least, you say as much as you really understand. You don't equivocate. You don't leave things out that shades the black and white and makes it a little grey. The oath after all is "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

On the other hand, I am not under oath here, like I would be if I ever were to testify to Congress about something...like, my involvement in wrongdoings with banks.

Wait! I haven't done anything wrong with any bank! I haven't enacted legislation that allowed my banking and Wall Street buddies to rob America blind--right IN FRONT OF ALL OF US!! But, others have to be sure.

So, let's get back to Devilstower and his essay here about how this whole banking failure/Wall Street failure/Insurance giants failure occurred. It's not an accident. It was foreseeable. It was preventable--you don't let the foxes guard the hen house. Cliche, but true.

Three Times is Enemy Action

Sun Sep 21, 2008 at 06:03:41 AM PDT

"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is Enemy Action."
-- Auric Goldfinger

James Bond's wealthy nemesis may have had an obsession with gold, but he judged, quite correctly, that if people keep putting your plans awry, that was likely their intent.

In 1982, the same year John McCain entered the Senate, a bill was put forward that would substantially deregulate the Savings and Loan industry. The Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act was an initiative of the Reagan administration, and was largely authored by lobbyists for the S&L industry -- including John McCain's warm-up speaker at the convention, Fred Thompson. The official description of the bill was "An act to revitalize the housing industry by strengthening the financial stability of home mortgage lending institutions and ensuring the availability of home mortgage loans." Considering where things stand in 2008, that may sound dubious. It should.

Seven years later, the S&L industry was collapsing. What was the cause? Garn-St. Germain handed the S&Ls a greatly expanded range of capabilities, allowing them to go head to head with full service banks, but it didn't give them the bank's regulations. Left to operate in an anarchistic gray area, S&Ls chased profits, indulged in amazing extravagances, and cranked out enough cheap mortgages to fuel a real estate boom. They also experimented with lots of complex, creative -- and risky -- investments, even though they didn't have the economic models to really determine the worth of the things they were buying. The result was a mountain of bad debts and worthless "assets." Does any of that sound eerily (or nauseatingly) familiar?

It wasn't a foregone conclusion. In 1985, three years after the deregulation of the S&Ls, the chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board saw that the situation was already looking shaky, with the potential to become much worse. He instituted a rule to limit the amounts and types of investments S&Ls could carry on their books in an effort to head off disaster. However, many savings and loans -- among them Lincoln Savings & Loan Association of Irvine, CA, which was headed by a fellow named Charles Keating -- promptly ignored these rules.

Now enters a familiar cast of characters. First to pop up was the universally beloved Fed-chief-to-be, Alan Greenspan. Greenspan argued against the loan board's new rules, and persuaded Reagan to appoint one of Keating's pals to the board to blunt the requirements. A quintet of senators, among them John McCain, began having meetings with both the management at Lincoln and the regulators at the loan board. ] Alan Greenspan also helped out with a letter to the regulators, asking that Lincoln be exempt from the new rules. With their help of Greenspan and their pet senators, Lincoln was able to stay in business an additional two years, at the end of which they failed -- taking the life savings of 21,000, mostly elderly, investors with them.

How involved was John McCain? McCain and Keating had known each other since 1981 and had become fast friends. Of all the "Keating Five," it was McCain who moved into the life of the Lincoln S&L chief. The two men vacationed together multiple times, with the whole McCain clan (babysitter included) heading out for Keating's private Caribbean property on Keating's private jet. McCain didn't think to actually report these trips, or pay for them, until the investigators were breathing down his neck. And McCain took his payment in the form of more than just vacations. Keating and other members of Lincoln's parent company padded McCain's pockets with $112,000 in campaign contributions.

In John McCain's biography, he called his meetings with Keating and regulators "the worst mistake of my life," though from the text you'd think this was a spur of the moment decision, not something that McCain did repeatedly over a space of years. Still, you might think that a "worst mistake" would stay fresh in his memory.

It certainly didn't fade quickly for the country. Following the S&L crisis, the Resolution Trust Company was formed to swallow up the debt of Lincoln and 746 other S&Ls gone wild, and taxpayers were left with the $125 billion bill. The resulting budget deficit forced cutbacks in other programs. The artificial real estate boom collapsed and housing starts fell to their lowest levels in decades. Finally, the whole nation settled in for a period nasty enough that three years later someone could still campaign around the idea "It's the economy, stupid."

Even so, by 1999 Phil Gramm -- who had entered the Senate two years after McCain and quickly become the economic guru of the Keating Five maverick -- put forward the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. This Act passed out of the Senate on a party line vote with 100% Republican support, including that of John McCain. (To be fair, the bill eventually passed again with a wide margin following revisions in the House.)

This act repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act. This may sound like a bunch of Congressperson soup, but the gist of it is that Glass-Steagall was put in place in 1933 to control the rampant speculation that had helped cause the collapse of banking at the outset of the depression, and to prevent such consolidation of the banks that the nation had all its eggs in one fiscal basket.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley reversed those rules, allowing not only more bank mergers, but for banks to become directly involved in the stock market, bonds, and insurance. Remember the bit about how S&Ls failed because they didn't have the regulations that protected banks? After Gramm-Leach-Bliley, banks didn't have that protection either.

Gramm wasn't done. The next year he was back with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which was slipped into a "must pass" spending bill on the last day of the 106th Congress. This Act greatly expanded the scope of futures trading, created new vehicles for speculation, and sheltered several investments from regulation.

As with both Gramm-Leach-Bliley and Garn-St. Germain, large parts of this bill were written by industry lobbyists. This famously included the "Enron Loophole" that exempted energy trading from regulation and was written by (big suprise) Enron Lobbyists working with Gramm. Not coincidentally, Senator Gramm, the second largest recipient of campaign contributions from Enron, was also key to legislating the deregulation of California's energy commodity trading.

Thanks to this fortunate trifecta of Gramm-crafted legislation, Enron was able to create "EnronOnline" and trade electricity in California with absolutely no oversight or transparency. They quickly worked out how to game the system. Previously, there had been only one Stage 3 rolling blackout in the history of California. Within months, the system had been manipulated by traders to generate 38 such blackouts and wholesale electrical prices had gone up more than 3000%. Despite production capacity equal to four times the demand during winter, energy traders even engineered a blackout in mid-January.

During the confusion of these deliberate "shortages" and "price spikes," the California administration of Gray Davis -- blind to speculator manipulations because of the walls erected by Gramm's legislation -- was forced to sign energy contracts at enormous rates. There was little choice, because most of California's public utilities were on the brink of bankruptcy from the rising wholesale prices.

In a single year, Gramm's legislation allowed speculators to bring the state to its knees. Enron alone looted California of $11 billion. The manipulations of the energy market were also a major factor in Davis getting the hook, helped usher the governator into power, and they still have repercussions in California's budget battles today. By the end of that year, the depth of Enron's deception could no longer be hidden, and the whole company came crashing down in the largest bankruptcy in history -- at the time. This brought more billions lost in mutual funds and pension funds across the country, and played a major role in the economic downturn of 2001.

But that was only the second act. The combination of Gramm-Leach-Bliley and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was a toxic cocktail whose total damage was greater than the sum of its parts.

The first Act promoted bank buyouts and mergers that reached such an insane pitch that the average consumer could only keep up by tracking the changing names on their checks and credit cards. Mercantile buys Ameribanc and Mark Twain. Firstar buys Federated and First Colonial. US Bancorp buys Mercantile and Firstar. And, because it allowed brokerages and insurance companies to mingle with banks, the Act cemented a trend that was already (and illegally) underway in which all those terms had become rather quaint. Is Wachovia a savings bank, an investment bank, a brokerage, or an insurance provider? The answer is "yes."

In allowing financial institutions to grow to Godzilla-sized proportions, Gramm-Leach-Bliley helped ensure that we would have financial entities that were "too big to fail." Rather than choosing to enforce rules that kept these institutions apart, the deregulators chose to create monster bankeragasurances whose downfall (and existence) was enough to threaten the whole system.

But if Gramm-Leach-Bliley removed the limits on size and scope, these new institutions still needed fuel. With many financial transactions operating on razor thin margins, and increasing automation sapping the profits from trading of all sorts, they needed a new way to generate the funds required to swallow their brethren in the merged fiscal corporation pond. For that, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was a godsend.

Among those instruments which the CFMA sheltered from regulatory scrutiny was something called the "credit default swap." A kind of insurance one bank could exchange with another, credit default swaps supposedly made it safe for banks to take on ever riskier forms of debt. The Act didn't invent these swaps, though they were relatively new. Instead, by placing them in a state where they were not only unregulated but almost perfectly opaque, credit default swaps were turned into the perfect vehicle to fuel a Wall Street revolution. No one had any idea what these things were actually worth, they were traded "over the counter" without being administered by any exchange, and even the SEC could monitor their existence only indirectly.

Who would cheer for a new kind of financial instrument that was difficult to understand, invisible to regulators, and impossible for even the whizziest of Wall Street whiz kids to value? Guess.

More recently, instruments that are more complex and less transparent--such as credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and credit-linked notes--have been developed and their use has grown very rapidly in recent years. The result? Improved credit-risk management together with more and better risk-management tools appear to have significantly reduced loan concentrations in telecommunications and, indeed, other areas and the associated stress on banks and other financial institutions.
--Alan Greenspan, 2002

Get that? Greenspan loved credit default swaps. He opined again and again that such instruments would be the salvation of the industry by spreading around risks. To the mighty Greenspan, both their complexity and their lack of transparency were good things, since swaps would only be handled by the big boys who knew how to play with fire.

When questioned about his support of Gramm's legislation, John McCain called his friend (and by then, campaign co-chair) Gramm "one of the smartest people in the world on the economy" and pointed out that Greenspan also favored the acts Gramm and his coalition of lobbyists had authored. If both Gramm and Greenspan were on his side, McCain couldn't possibly be in the wrong.

Except, of course, that he could.

From the beginning, there were plenty of people in the financial community whose opinion of these unregulated credit swaps was not as rosy as that of Gramm, Greenspan, and McCain. Chief among those speaking in opposition was SEC Chairman, Arthur Levitt. Levitt argued that what the industry needed was more transparency, especially when it came to complex instruments like default swaps, and he testified to this before Gramm's Senate Banking Committee,.

"In my judgment, the risk of this regulatory approach is simply unacceptable for America's investors."
--Arthur Levitt, 1999

Gramm paid no attention.

Credit default swaps did allow the banks to share risks. So much so, that banks raced each other in an effort to find more risks. They made it possible for the down payment on homes to become 3%, 1%, 0%. Skip the credit check, avoid the employment requirements, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! We've got a credit default swap, we can do anything!

The encouragement and "safety" that credit default swaps provided made the sub-prime mortgage market possible. Just as with the deregulation of S&Ls in the 1980s, the market was suddenly flooded with easy credit. The result was a real estate boom, soaring home prices, and a plague of "Flip that House!" shows on cable.

As the banks piled up crappy mortgages, they heaped on ever more of the credit default swaps -- and they still had no idea how to value the things. Worse, they began to trade the swaps themselves as if they were an investment, treating them like something worth holding instead of a big bundle of cartoon bombs whose fuses were already lit. Since very few loans were falling into default at the time, owning a default swap seemed like a way to collect fees without ever paying out. Banks wanted more, and more, and more.

A secondary market for trading swaps exploded into existence, and swaps were traded with absolutely no consideration for the nature or quality of the underlying investment. Swaps changed hands a dozen or more times, growing in "value" as they went. Worse still, no one regulated who could buy a swap, so it was (and is) perfectly possible for a company to acquire swaps that theoretically cover billions of dollars in loans, even if that company doesn't have a red cent on hand to cover those swaps should the loans default.

How big did this market become? Here's business correspondent Bob Moon and host Kai Ryssdal on American Public Media's Marketplace from back in the spring.

BOB MOON: OK, I'm about to unload some numbers on you here, so I'll speak slowly so you can follow this.

The value of the entire U.S. Treasuries market: $4.5 trillion.

The value of the entire mortgage market: $7 trillion.

The size of the U.S. stock market: $22 trillion.

OK, you ready?

The size of the credit default swap market last year: $45 trillion.

KAI RYSSDAL: That's a lot of money, Bob.

As in three times the whole US gross domestic product, Bob. And the truth is that Moon probably underestimated. The unregulated and poorly reported credit default swaps may have actually passed $70 trillion last year, or about $5 trillion more than the GDP of the entire world.

So, are you starting to get an idea of just how big a genie Phil Gramm and his pals unleashed?

With some regularity over the last eight years, fiscal whistle blowers have tried to raise their hands and register a protest. Um, sirs? Is it altogether a good idea to run up debts exceeding all the assets it's even possible to hold? But so long as no one actually had to pay off on the swaps, the party went on. Even usually conservative (in the fiscal sense) companies like AIG started to worry that they were being left behind and leapt headlong into the swap pool.

Shortly after Greenspan's departure in 2006, the Federal Reserve took the unusual step of issued a joint statement along with the SEC to warn about the risks associated with credit default swaps. But by that point, the damage was already severe. If swaps lost their value, most of those who had played the game would find their giant firms abruptly valued in pocket change. The only solution was to cover the problem with still more swaps and keep moving.

Then a funny thing happened. After years in which banks had handed out loans willy-nilly, guarded by the indestructible swap, people and companies started to really default on those loans. Credit slowed, home prices fell, and the whole snake started to eat itself tail first. Suddenly, credit default swaps were not sources of limitless cash. It turns out that an insurance policy -- even a secret, unregulated policy -- is occasionally expected to pay. Speculators started to look at the paper they were holding and for the first time realized it could all be worthless. Worse, it could (and did) represent a massive debt; one that no one had the funds to cover.

When Bear Stearns fell apart last March, it was only suspected that a big part of the effort in saving the giant investment bank was keeping their holdings in credit default swaps from unraveling and spreading to other institutions. Naturally, part of solving this problem involved creating a new credit default swap to cover Bear Stearn's potential debt. But the all-purpose swap was starting to lose its power. Shortly after Bear Stearns went belly up, AIG reported the largest quarterly loss in the company's history, taking a $11 billion hit on revaluing its holdings of swaps. The party was definitely coming to a close.

When AIG finally collapsed this week, there was no doubt about the primary cause of its failure. The previously well grounded company had "gotten itself involved with something called credit default swaps." Point of irony alert: Arthur Levitt now serves on the AIG board... or at least he did until the government had to take over most of AIG to salvage the company from the very idiocy Levitt had warned of in 1999.

This week, the Bush administration announced the beginnings of a plan to salvage what remains of the financial markets. At first glance, it appears that the plan will consist mainly of creating a kind of "garbage pit," a fund or group of funds -- cousins of the Resolution Trust that was created during the S&L crisis -- into which those people who have dabbled in bad debts can toss their problems. Only this time the cost to the taxpayers is at least $700 billion... and a big bite out of representative democracy.

The expansion of unregulated Savings and Loans in the 1980s brought on the collapse of that industry, a crippling of the economy, and left taxpayers holding the bag. Maybe that was only happenstance. Those pushing for the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act may not have known what they were doing.

The deregulation of the California electricity market, along with the protections provided to Enron through Phil Gramm's lobbyist-written legislation brought blackouts, fiscal and political chaos, and left taxpayers holding the bag. But the people who engineered that event -- people like Gramm and Greenspan -- had already seen what happened with the S&Ls. They should have known better. Still, perhaps that was only coincidence.

The sub-prime mortgage crisis that has not only come so close to utterly destroying the markets, but has ruined the value of many people's homes and left millions with mortgages they can't pay, was also the outcome of the deregulation created by these men. The very predictable outcome. When taxpayers are left holding the bag for $1 trillion this time around, it's hard to believe it's any sort of accident.

This is enemy action. This is a bullet deliberately fired into the economy by men willing to exercise their ideology regardless of the cost to taxpayers. Men who have every expectation that they can plunder the system again and again, while the public picks up the tab. John McCain may not have had his finger directly on the trigger, but he was there. He assisted. These were his personal friends and philosophical comrades. He may not be the high priest, but he has been a loyal acolyte in the cult of deregulation.

It may come as a surprise to the champions of deregulation, but nobody likes regulation. The restrictions that were placed on banks, S&Ls, and other institutions in the 1930s weren't put there because someone thought it would be fun. They were put in place because they addressed problems that had just been clearly and painfully revealed. They were put in place because they were necessary.

It's bad enough if John McCain didn't know that. It's far worse if he did.

Obama's Up!

Check out this latest poll from Gallup. But, before you do, let's have a brief discussion about the word "internals". "What does this mean?"you ask. I'll tell you. It means the pollster shows you how it arrived at its numbers by showing who was polled, what the sample size was and good stuff like that. Those are the internals. Unfortunately, pollsters don't always show their internals. So, when I tell you that some polls that favor McCain, might have asked more Republicans than Democrats, what does that bit of information do for your understanding of what they're telling us? Would that unrealistically skew the results? It tells me that something stinks in Denmark, that's what.

With 11 million more Democrats registered than Republicans, and more being registered every day, in every state, should polls be slightly weighted to the Democrats' side? Why, or why not? Please answer in essay form and put your pencils down at the end of the test time--just kidding!

This poll at least shows the sample size. Take a brief look here, and then at the link above in the first paragraph to read the internals for yourself. Click on it below, to see it more clearly.

Obama's up--but, what a roller coaster!

Good Morning Good Morning

I've got nothing to say, but it's OK.

Good morning, good morning, good morning...

Saturday, September 20, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, I bought three Obama shirts from his website to support his candidacy for president and to show the world that I support him. I can not wait to wear one to the Y while the Fox News is blasting on the TV as I pedal on the stationary bike. That ought to show somebody...somehow. The shirts just arrived and I happily wore one to the park yesterday.

Don't they look great?

My husband saw me in one of the Obama shirts when he got home and countered that with telling me that he intends to buy a CD--a brand new CD. That is definitely off the compact. That can't even be rationalized away like an Obama shirt can be.

My husband just thinks I wanted the shirts and it's convenient that they support the campaign. Perhaps... But, since they DO support the campaign, I'm looking at them as a gift from the Obama people to me for all of my support. (My friends at the park sort of suggested that line of reasoning to me--thanks guys) Who am I to turn down a gift, really?! Glad I could help!

Besides, maybe some undecided voter will see me walking in the hall at the library with my two cute little homeschooled kids and will think to themselves, "You know self, I've been on the fence too long. There's just too much riding on this election this time. I don't want the war to go on in Iraq. I want regulation on Wall Street and in the Mortgage lending markets. I want my kids to have health care and when they grow up not be drafted into one intractable war after another. I think there should be ice at the North Pole. Say, look at that nice woman with her perfectly behaved homeschooled kids wearing that dynamite looking Obama t-shirt! Now that's some stranger's opinion that I value and look--she's for Obama! Hmmmm... That's it!! I'm off the fence! Obama it is!! Yes we can! Yes we can!"

That could happen, right?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Crazy Dream

Let's enjoy some music from Los Lonely Boys. They're sort of from a Stevie Ray Vaughan tradition of Texas blues/rock. And, they're a trio of brothers. Nice.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Homeschooling Visit to Trader Joe's

Yesterday, after a class the kids are in with their friends, we took A. to Trader Joe's with us on our way home for a playdate.

In the car, I reminded the kids that we would be in a store with other people shopping, and that they therefore needed to be quiet and polite and to stop the Pokemon talking they were doing back and forth with each other. Are you familiar with this? The characters can only say their names, and they have squeekey voices and repeat the same name over and over. The kids are all very good at it and did a dead on impression of Pikachu. "Pee-kuh-CHOO!!!"

The kids were great. They left their uncanny impressions of Pikachu in the car and went with me into the store. After the first few aisles, they asked if they could please go look for Bubba, the killer whale plush toy that is hidden on the shelves somewhere. If you find him, you can get a treat from a box and then you get to hide the toy for some other kid to find. My kids love doing this, and so does A.

As they went off on their hunt, a little old woman noticed the kids gleefully going on this quest, and she said to me "No school today?" OK other homeschoolers, I know you've gotten this question at some point. I always tighten up a little bit, even though I know it is an innocent question. There's no judgment in it, and yet, I always feel a little defensive, because I will explain that we're homeschoolers, and you just never know how people will react to that... I answered, "We're in school all the time--we're homeschoolers." I hate my response, and feel I should practice another one so I'm more relaxed and less smarmy--We're in school all the time...lame.

Any way, the woman responded enthusiastically and said "Oh good for you!" It was right then, that I could hear from 2 aisles over squeals of delight and excitement and so I quickly explained to the little old woman that the lesson we were working on right now was how to be quiet in stores, and it was one that we had to learn over and over. She laughed and smiled and obviously loved kids. I found the kids and quickly reminded them that they had to be quiet and that I could hear them from another part of the store and then I congratulated them on their victorious quest--they had found Bubba!! They were quiet for the rest of the time in the store and were happily chomping on their granola bars as we went to the check out.

I think even sounds of happiness are not accepted in public spaces, small indoor public spaces especially. Yet, kids being happy would be nice if acceptable, but it's usually not. So, we try to be quiet in a shared space.

My daughter had a star sticker right in the middle of her forehead and I had one on the back of my hand because I had joined her astronomy club (I had the choice of Astronomy, Micro-Biology, as in, the gross stuff our bodies produce, or Biology). So we were in the club and the nice bagger noticed the stickers and I explained the club and he asked if we knew who invented the telescope. My son and he said at the same time, "Galileo." And then my son continued, "Actually, the telescope was already invented and tourists would use it, but Galileo refined it and made it much stronger." The bagger was impressed and laughingly said that he knew he'd be shown up!

On the way to the car, my son said that he should have added that it's Galileo Galilei.

You always think of what you should have said after, don't ya?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yes We Can! Yes We Can, Can...

Yesterday, in Colorado, Obama spoke about the differences between McCain and himself regarding financial institutions and regulation. Obama is for regulation and McCain is against it. For the last 7 years, Bush has been about deregulation too...and now we are seeing where that has led us.

Here's a speech from Obama speaking about McCain and he makes this point among others,

If you want to understand the difference between how Senator McCain and I would govern as President, you can start by taking a look at how we've responded to this crisis. Because Senator McCain's approach was the same as the Bush Administration's: support ideological policies that made the crisis more likely; do nothing as the crisis hits; and then scramble as the whole thing collapses. My approach has been to try to prevent this turmoil. In February of 2006, I introduced legislation to stop mortgage transactions that promoted fraud, risk or abuse. A year later, before the crisis hit, I warned Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke about the risks of mounting foreclosures and urged them to bring together all the stakeholders to find solutions to the subprime mortgage meltdown. Senator McCain did nothing.

Obama continues,

His outrage at Wall Street would be more convincing if he wasn't offering them more tax cuts.

I think that's an excellent point. If you're against something, you don't give to it, do you? Also, isn't it important that we have a president who understands economics and how these forces effect Americans?

And now for something completely different...

Remember the Pointer Sisters? I used to see them on The Carol Burnett Show and the Sonny and Cher show. Good times... No, not the show, I'm just commenting on the experience. You know what I'm saying.

Any way, the Pointer Sisters sing this,

Yes We Can, Can

Now's the time for all good men
to get together with one another.
We got to iron out our problems
and iron out our quarrels
and try to live as brothers.
And try to find a piece of land
without stepping on one another.
And do respect the women of the world.
Remember you all have mothers.
We got to make this land a better land
than the world in which we live.
And we got to help each man be a better man
with the kindness that we give.
I know we can make it.
I know darn well we can work it out.
Oh yes we can, I know we can can
Yes we can can, why can't we?
If we wanna get together we can work it out.

And we gotta take care of all the children,
the little children of the world.
'cause they're our strongest hope for the future,
the little bitty boys and girls.

We got to make this land a better land
than the world in which we live.
And we got to help each man be a better man
with the kindness that we give.
I know we can make it.
I know darn well we can work it out.
Oh yes we can, I know we can can
yes we can can, why can't we?
If we wanna, yes we can can.

Also, an excellent point. Let's just all try, OK? Let's try to behave decently to one another. Let's try to be kind. Let's be honest in all of our dealings. Come on!

I know darn well we can work it out. If we wanna, yes we can can.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Plastic Spiders...

It's plastic spider season! It's the time of year when thousands of useless plastic doodads will cross everyone's path, especially parents and kids, in the days leading up to Halloween. The plastic stuff will kick around for a while and then be thrown out to be replaced by Christmas plastic doodads right around the corner.

Thinking about plastic spiders leads me to think about how my life might have gone.

My life has not gone in a straight path. I think that's probably true for lots of people as well, I know I'm not alone in that. I didn't finish college *hangs head in shame* and I never had a business career despite my tall height. My very successful aunt who worked in an advertising agency had told me that my height would be an advantage when I got a career--she thought that it could be intimidating...I never went that way, thanks though Aunt C.

When my husband and I were dating, I felt some regret--a lot of regret--that I hadn't finished school and that my life had taken some turns and twists and I felt that I had not gone the way I should have. Maybe I should have had a career in advertising as many in my family had had. I should have finished school at Harvard, Colombia, Penn State, Madison, Wheelock, Cornell, Yale, Dartmouth, University of Chicago or any of the other places people in my family have successfully had academic careers and then went on to stellar business careers. I shouldn't have dropped out and been aimless and depressed and married to the wrong guy and then stayed with him too long and...and...and.

My husband, boyfriend at the time, pointed out to me that the business world is not all it's cracked up to be. He shared his very insightful world view and explained that the giant freighters filled with giant cartons of plastic spiders chugging their way across the ocean from China were the result of several business meetings and angry phone calls and refining of designs and always looking at the bottom line. How could we shave the plastic spider cost--could we shorten the legs and still have a good design? Could we use a cheaper plastic? Could we make the body more narrow? Are there other vendors we can get material from? Can we use some of that slave prison labor in China?

Really? You're kidding me, right? But, of course he wasn't kidding me. These products really are made and people really are having earnest discussions with one another about spider legs and vendor costs. How are plastic spiders going to be made unless people design them and figure it all out? It could just as easily be kitchen knives or makeup or power tools. It's all the same discussion. At least until all of the jobs are outsourced.

My husband telling me all of that did make me feel better. There would be no way I would want my life spent figuring out how to shave the cost off of plastic spider legs. Of course, I could have done other things than pursue a lucrative career in plastic spider production, but it's still OK that my life took a crazy route--I saw different things and learned different things than I would have if my life had gone straight down the middle. I learned a lot, actually.

My life is wonderful now. I love my husband and my two kids. I love our lifestyle. I love our friends--I really do. They are a wonderful community of support and endless stimulation. I know really interesting, creative people. I love my family, and only wish that we could see one another more often.

So, it's OK that I had a certain trajectory with my life and then got off course. That landed me here and not with the plastic spiders. My human loves are greater than any business love would have been. I'm not knocking anyone else if they want to design the spiders and have earnest phone calls about it all. Go for it. I'm just saying that I prefer to be earnest about this election, for example, because it's too important not to care. I'd rather get worked up about making sure my kids have a sense of kindness and justice and fairness. I feel lucky that I get to care about the things in life that I feel are important and seldom do I feel compelled to care about things that aren't...like plastic spiders from China.

Monday, September 15, 2008

McCain, Worst of the Keating Five

Well. I really hadn't paid attention to the Keating Five scandal when it happened at the time. I was young and I only came away with the understanding that banks had failed and Senators were implicated somehow. It was a huge amount of money that the FDIC had to pay out, which means me, you, and everyone else too had to pay through our taxes.

I have recently found out more about the Keating Five and how McCain was involved. It's not pretty.

The way the bank, Lincoln Savings and Loan and by the way also 20% of other banks at the time, failed was by the insiders giving themselves loans that they didn't have to repay...um, I'm just going to call that stealing... Charles Keating did this to the outrageously, heinous, unbelievable amount of $3.4 BILLION dollars. Meanwhile, he was a friend to some senators, had given thousands in contributions, and turned to them for support to get the federal investigators off of his back as the crime was beginning to be found out.

McCain was a congressman at the time of his friendship with Keating, and then became a senator as censures were handed out for wrongdoing to the senators. The Senate felt that it could not censure McCain as he had been a Representative when the unethical actions on behalf of Keating took place. The other Senators either left in disgrace immediately or within one term. McCain was able to stay.

McCain tried to stop an investigation of a criminal friend who had ripped off the American people $3.4 billion dollars?! What the hell! How is he even still in office?

With friends who rip off the American people $3.4 billion dollars and with not knowing how many houses he actually owns, I can see why McCain thinks under $5 MILLION dollars is middle class.

This is from a blog that has all sorts of information about the Keating Five scandal and McCain's involvement:

What is the Keating Five?

For anyone not aware of the Keating Five, here’s a very simple summary:

Charles Keating owned a savings and loan in California. He was illegally using the money of his bank’s customers to give loans to himself and friends that they didn’t have to repay, and to speculate on risky real estate investments, which was strictly forbidden by U.S. law (the latter was one cause of the Great Depression).

When the feds found out what was going on and launched an investigation into Keating and his company, Keating called five U.S. Senators whom he had wined, dined, and lavished with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations and personal gifts for years.

Keating asked the five Senators to tell the feds to bug off, and the five Senators, later known as the Keating Five, obliged, meeting with federal investigators twice and pressuring them to stop investigating Keating’s crimes. They bought Keating some time, but the feds didn’t give up and eventually Keating was nailed. The reason the feds were so persistent was because Keating wasn’t playing with mere chump change. Keating blew $3.4 billion through illegal personal loans and bad investments, and the FDIC eventually had to reimburse Keating’s customers who had been ripped off. (The FDIC is a part of the federal government funded by taxpayers dollars, so when Keating stole from his customers you and I were the ones who paid for it.)

(Background Info - Keating wasn’t the only Savings and Loan owner who was committing fraud, 20% of the S&L’s that failed during that three year period were found to have been caused by fraud and/or insider trading. The failure of the Lincoln Savings and Loan and other S&L’s pushed the country into a recession, costing the U.S. government $126 billion dollars in FDIC insurance payouts to investors. All of this came to a crescendo during the first year of the presidency of George H.W. Bush, who pushed through the S&L bailout plan to keep the economy afloat.)

When the involvement of the Keating Five was made public, a scandal erupted and the Senate Ethics Committee launched their own four month long hearing into whether the Keating Five senators had violated Senate ethics rules. It was a giant mess (see the Keating Five Videos section). The other four Senators left office either immediately or within one term. John McCain was formally rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for exercising “poor judgment” for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating, but because McCain accepted Keating’s gifts of travel and vacations to Bahama while McCain was a member of the House of Representatives (he served one term there before moving to the Senate), the Senate claimed they had no jurisdiction to censure McCain. (However the meetings to pressure federal regulators occurred during the first few months of McCain serving in the Senate in 1987, so that excuse doesn’t hold up)

John McCain then went back to the drawing board and re-invented himself as “the Straight-Talk Express” and the media gobbled it up. “Tax-Evading-Criminal” doesn’t sound as catchy as “Straight-Shooting-War-Hero”.

Ever since the scandal, when McCain lies today, it’s never questioned, because he’s a “straight talker”. The man has more skeletons in his closet than any politician in history. The Keating Five is just one bone.

There are two fantastic articles about the Keating Five we highly recommend reading.

One is from 1989, written by the Phoenix New Times, called McCain: The Most Reprehensible of the Keating Five. That article does a good job of capturing the anger at the time at John McCain and the other corrupt Senators. It took an incredible spin job for McCain to have survived the scandal.

The other article is from Slate.com, written in 2000 and titled, Is John McCain A Crook?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The shoe on the Other Foot

I saw this posted on Mothering.com and I thought I'd post it here as well. There is some question as to who originally wrote this, but the ideas are already out there. Thought provoking...

How Racism Works

What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review? What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class? What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said "I do" to? What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization? What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard? What if Obama were a member of the "Keating 5"? What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

permission from darrell taylor to reprint for discussion purposes.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

John McCain Lies

People have questioned McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as a running mate for several reasons, not the least of which is she's a HUGE liar. McCain is too, as it turns out, so it's actually fitting that he chose her.

McCain's lack of any kind of intellectual honesty really bothers me. That any person would have so little integrity still offends my trusting sensibility...I know that the world is imperfect and that politicians, in general, spin. I know that. But, there should be some modicum of common regard for true words. There should be some sense of shared humanity that requires decency when recognized...

Here's a little sample of McCain's dishonesty in action.

New Purchase Confessions

We've been doing pretty darn well on our little life experiment here of not purchasing any new things. Really, we have. We have kept to our compact mostly. But, at the Legoland Discovery Center the other day, I let the kids buy themselves some lego--some sort of Star Wars vehicle (my son tells me it's clone wars related...whatever that means exactly), and my daughter got a fire engine and an ambulance--a rescue vehicles theme there for her.

When we went camping last week--and when I say camping, I kind of mean that in the loosest sense possible in that we were at the tiniest state park in existence and on the other side of a creek surrounding the campsite were condos and houses who seemed to think that their lights should be on all night in their back yards that sent glowing streaks through the trees into our campsite...it was kind of a dud experience...and it rained...and we never took our canoe off of our car...and we only stayed one day...my kids said that they loved camping and my husband said that yeah, we ought to try that some time--my husband had to buy new nylon rope for the tarp. So we had that purchase too.

I've bought some "educational" things, but those are not a part of the compact--that's my kids' education and I can buy new if I want to. Although, my son busts me on that saying that they don't need the new maps I got them (oh yes they do because they're accurate), or the Shakespeare books--we could have gotten them used somewhere or checked books out of the library. Yes, well, I know that, but that is only a reflection of his literal, black/white thinking. There are shades of grey, son, hopefully you'll learn that soon.

I've not bought any new yarn this whole time, but I've also not found a sweater to unravel and use the yarn for knitting something else. My husband has bought lumber to make things, to frame out the windows in the kids' fort and make the little dutch door. We changed our phone company and got a new cell phone as part of the deal. We have not been pure.

Have we purchased new clothes? No, except for the kids performances in various dance/acting groups they're involved in. I have not purchased new clothing other than underwear and socks for anyone in this family in 8 months since we started the compact in January. Have we bought any CDs or DVDs or Books or Magazines? No. We have bought things from Goodwill and some of them seemed to be new--but they were at Goodwill, so not part of the usual commerce flow. Any new electronics? No. Any new beautiful things for my hair? No. No new jewelry, no new perfume, no new decorative items for the house. No. No. No.

This isn't too far from how we used to live. We were never huge consumers. This is not a difficult lifestyle--we are free of feeling any kind of pressure or gnawing desire to get and acquire and upgrade and consume. That feels pretty good. We don't need it, we're not going to buy it, it just doesn't come into play around here at all.

But, by God, my kids did need their lego and my husband did need his rope and lumber and we were given the new phone and I needed the kids to see the real relative sizes of the different places of the world and so I needed to get those maps. Because truth does matter, and that's why I'm confessing all of this to you.

We don't buy it...except when we do.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

I'm trying to teach my children well. I think they're learning good lessons from my husband and my family and me and all of our friends. I'm hoping they will know how to find the truth, and how it changes and how it can be covered up and obfuscated. (Sarah Palin and John McCain...)

Any way, let's enjoy some music. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sarah Palin Lies

Sarah Palin Lies: it's a list and it's what she does. Look kids!--it's a verb and a plural noun and it's what this woman does all of the freakin' time.

Let's take a look at the lies, shall we?

Here's only a partial list, because it can be updated daily--every time she repeats lies and when she makes up new ones. She's sassy and has a lot of energy.

Plane sold on e-bay--a lie

Was against the "bridge to nowhere"--a lie

She supports women through her policies--a giant, cruel, outrageous lie

Is fiscally conservative--a lie

Never pressured Monegan to fire her brother-in-law, a.k.a. "Troopergate"--a lie

These are just a few of the lies--I'm not even going to link to the lies she has told about Obama. We can just concentrate on her and her record.

Reasonable, thinking, sensible Republicans--do you think she is representative of your beliefs? Maybe you're a republican because you are fiscally conservative--are her policies in accordance with that? Maybe you're a republican because you are socially conservative--do you really think her abstinence only programs benefit young people--her pregnant teenage daughter included?

She lies. She is lying. She will lie. She has lied. She will have lied. She lied, when she would have lied, and was lying at the time. It's a constant. If Sarah Palin is speaking, there is every possibility that she is lying--again.

And here we are listening to her lies. Her sweet little lies.

Oh well. Let's listen to some music to take our minds off of all of this discord. Let's just forget about all of this bald faced dishonesty.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oh, to be Awed!

We were driving to our field trip yesterday, and my daughter saw out of the corner of her eye a big, black limousine.

"Wow!! Look--a limousine!!!" she said with her unbridled enthusiasm and raw excitement and not a single filter in place. Pure. Guileless. Awed.

She has seen limousines before--it's not a completely new experience. But, boy is it exciting when she sees one again. Her excitement has nothing to do with any kind of notion of coolness, or prestige, or luxurious living. None of that is even a concept for her, it's not part of her understanding of the world. No. Her excitement and utter enthusiasm is because the limousine is a big, crazy long car.

May you forever find things in your every day life to be excited about, daughter--and you too son. I'm glad you can be awed even by a black limousine going down the road.

Life is cool. I'm glad you already know that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Our Election From Your View

Hello overseas visitors! I'm glad to see you coming here, visiting and reading.

I thought that since a number of you visitors to this blog are from countries other than the United States, perhaps you could all lend some perspective on what you see happening here in the States during this election.

What is your take on it all? Who do you want to win--why? What do you think of our nominees' campaigns? What does your media say about it? What are your reporters asking?

What is unbelievable to you? What is shocking? What is surprising to you?

What is reaffirming to you? What makes you think it will all be OK here in the United States? Do you think it will all be OK?

Is this election a part of daily conversation where you are? Are people talking about it? What do your family and friends think about it all?

Takk, Terima Kasih, Xie Xie, Do je, Hvala, gracias, grazie, merci, tak, obrigada, ta, cheers, danke, kiitos, aitäh, dank u, ahsante, ευχαριστία, благодарственное письмо, gracias, tack, ありがとうございます。 (arigatou gozaimasu), ‏(الاسم) شكرا ل, (dhanyavaad), /dhan-vahd/, /Shuk-riyah /, תודה, 감사합니다 (gamsahamnida), dziękuję, pronounced [ʥɛ̃ˈkujɛ], diolch, Ca'm on, A (shaynem) dank, na gode, and thank you, I appreciate any answers you have for me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

When is a Shed Not a Shed?

When is a shed not a shed? It's when your talented, creative, fun, loving husband decides to put up a dividing wall in your ridiculously overly large shed and make a little playhouse for the kids. Who knew? Are you allowed to do that?! Yes, as a matter of fact you are.

Let's take a look...

Here you see the business end of the shed. Just beyond, is the upside down canoe which may or may not be sheltering some wild animal and our power lawn mower which has been supplanted by a reel mower, and a bit of the clothes line. Oh, and someone was thinking it would be fun to write on the shed with mud. Hmmmm. I think I might know who did that.

Well look at that--at this end are two little windows!

Look--a little table, some chairs, books, a notepad and a pencil and markers.

Here is a deck. This deck was made by my husband helping a colleague rip out his deck, taking the wood home, making the deck here and painting it. It turned out nicely didn't it? At the left, you see a little chair that Uncle D. made for the kids a couple of years ago from a single piece of wood. It was a Christmas present and the kids love it.

Well hello Mr. Ed!! I mean, here's the kids' dutch door.

Here is an out of focus view of inside the playhouse. See how great the door looks? It seemed a little out of square at first and I accused my husband of trying to remake the Hee Haw set, but it seems to be OK now.

There has been some discussion as to whether we would be dry walling the playhouse. I come down on the drywall side, my husband seems to think that's not very fortish. It's not very "Hey, let's plan an adventure because we're lively kids and we have vivid imaginations and we don't need no stinkin' walls in our private club/fort/playhouse area!" Maybe. On the right wall you see a nice broom and dustpan to keep the space tidy--oh and baby Megan can have a little nap right there too. If the kids want to have a tea, the tea set is right there just to the left of the cradle. My son is at the age now where he might want to sit out a tea party, but we do have guests who would enjoy it with my daughter. Binoculars--check! Deck of cards--check!

Reference area.

Seating area and The Daring Book for Girls. Do you know this book? Every bit as good as The Dangerous Book for Boys--full of interesting facts and and inspiring ideas.

Dividing wall. Some discussion as to whether we will paint a trompe l'oeil fireplace and mantle on the wall. My daughter seems to think we will do it and move her wooden kitchen in as well and my son seems to think that it is a stupid idea--no way! The discussion continues...In the meantime, you can stick a note or two up there.

Goodbye wood shack/fort/club/playhouse! See you tomorrow for more adventure planning!

Thanks husband for giving our kids this. It has turned out wonderfully so far, the kids love it and I love that you would even think to do this for them. You are a great Dad and the kids and I are lucky to have you.

Wait, I should probably just say that to you directly instead of writing it here and sharing it to all the world via cyber space. But, I'm going to make you read this post, so--hello! I love you!! The world should know that wonderful, loving, kind, fun people like you exist. You are what makes the world lovely.

But, maybe drywall would be a bit safer. I'm just saying. Just throwing it out there for a 30,000 ft. view. Just runnin' it up the ol' flag pole and seein' who salutes. Who's with me?

Sunday, September 7, 2008


My husband was flipping through channels a little while ago and stopped on America's Next Top Model. He was watching, and then he blurted out, "I have no idea what they're talking about!"

Sorry, Babe. You will never understand this stuff. Nice try though, you gave it a go.

He gave up and went to football. I have no idea what they're talking about...

Yin and yang.

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words, or a Laundry List of Errors

Enough said...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

No Barracuda for Sarah

It seems the Wilsons didn't like Barracuda being played at the end of McCain's speech and have sent a cease and desist order to the Republican party. They feel like Palin in no way represents their feelings and there's irony in that Barracuda was written about the predatory nature of the music business especially towards women.

They said,

"Sarah Palin's views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image. The song 'Barracuda' was written in the late 70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The 'barracuda' represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there's irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."

Nancy continued,

With that elephant in the room, Heart's Nancy Wilson felt compelled to personally respond. "I think it's completely unfair to be so misrepresented," she said in a phone call to EW.com after the speech. "I feel completely f---ed over.

This is not the first time that an artist has told the RNC to stop playing their music. Maybe Pat Boone would still allow it...

Let's honor the Heart women with their music. This one is for Obama who supports all sorts of policies that help women.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Best Line From Right Now

"Mom! Doesn't Mace Windu kind of look like Obama?!"

Yes, son, he kind of does. Except Obama has a little more hair. Also, he doesn't always dress in neutral colored tunics. And while he supports the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms, he might take exception to light sabers.

It will be good to have someone from the Republic in the White House and not anyone from the Dark Side.

Use the Force, Obama. Use the Force.

Best Line During McCain's Speech

Yeah, only McCain didn't say the best line last night.

The best line was from the protester who stood up wearing the Iraq Veterans Against the War shirt and had emblazoned on a black banner,

You Can't Win an Occupation

After the banner was taken away, he stood with his hands passionately raised making peace signs.

Can you win an occupation? I don't think so...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A 9/11 Victim Speaks

This, from Daily Kos and reprinted with permission:

A 9/11 victim speaks

Thu Sep 04, 2008 at 06:16:39 PM PDT

OK, I've not been watching the RNC. But they have apparently pulled something about a 'tribute' to 9/11. And they are going to have McCain start his speech at 9:11 Central time

UPDATE McCain started at 9:11

I am outraged.

So, I will re-post something. I hope you don't mind.

I'm a victim of 9/11. I was in the building when the plane hit.

Compared to some people, I was lucky: I wasn't injured. I kept my job. I got home easily. But compared to the vast majority of Americans, I am a victim. I had glass in my hair. I lost a year's work, and some irreplaceable items. My family went crazy for a while. My kid had nightmares. You explain to a 5 year old why (in his words) "They crashed into the building on purpose?" or reply to "I thought pilots were good people".

But I am a victim another way.

I share part of this other victimhood with all Americans. I am a victim, not of terror, but of the so-called `war on terror'. I am a victim of a government that is out-of-control. I am a victim of crushing national debt. I am a victim because I live in a country that went from having the sympathy of the world to one that is a pariah, an outcast among nations, a rogue state. I am a victim because I now have to `watch what I say'. I am a victim because my rights are violated, not by some nebulous and inimical group of terrorists, but by my own government.

They do not speak for me

But in another way, I do not share this other victimhood. My victimhood is being abused.

I have watched for years as my government - our government - has whittled away my rights, stolen my freedoms, and wrecked the constitution in the name of a false security. I have watched and watched and watched, as they have used my name - my victimhood - to make me a victim once again.

They do not speak for me

So, I will post this diary, and I will take action. I will volunteer. I will give money. I will make a difference. This is MY country, this is MY victimhood, and I will not have it abused. I am no martyr; I have no death wish; I hope that no terrorist ever strikes anywhere again. But the founders of this country knew what they were doing. They wanted freedom. They DEMANDED freedom. They put their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line to win freedom. And now it is reduced to this.

But it is worse even than this; it would be one thing to pay too heavy a price to increase our safety. But we have paid the price for nothing. We have arrested thousands of people, and let them go. We have spied on our own citizens, and found out nothing. We have allied ourselves with torturers, and yet, we are not safe. Indeed, by making our enemies unite, we have made ourselves weaker, and our enemies stronger.

This victim demands an end to the 'war on terror' that is really a war on America.

Obama for President.

Do You Want to Secede From the Nation?

What kind of patriotic person becomes a member of a group that wants Alaska to secede from the nation? Seriously, have you ever thought, "You know what? I think Illinois should quit the Union. It's time we go our separate ways." I bet not. Oklahoma, have you thought that? New Jersey, you? Wisconsin, California, Oregon have any of you thought that?

I know our Southern friends at one point thought it...but, lately? I don't think folks in Atlanta or Baton Rouge or Memphis think, "Yeah, it's still not working for us--we're out of here. Let's quit this stuff!" Maybe the folks with the stars and bars gloriously fluttering in the wind behind their pick up trucks might think they'd like to split, but not most thoughtful, patriotic people. They know we are one people and one country...just as Obama has so eloquently pointed out numerous times. That is America, not ideas of secession.

A glittery Swarovski crystal flag pin doesn't a patriot make.

"Keep up the good work, and God bless you." Palin said to the Alaska Independent Party convention...this year!

Oh, and God Bless America...I guess.
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