Michael Jackson – Farewell

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While I’ll admit to not being much of a Michael Jackson fan in recent years, I do have to say that he has left behind him and enormous body of work. The young boy with the amazing voice who I believe started singing professionally at the age of eight had a certain something. Charisma? Charm? Talent? A special light? I don’t know but it did reach people.

Off the top of my head I can think of many of his songs that I loved. Billie Jean, Thriller, Beat It, I’ll Be There… His music has definitely been part of my life soundtrack and will remain so.

Though later in his life he resorted to what can only be considered extremely weird behavior, not the least of which was the endless plastic surgeries designed to make him look more and more like a mannequin – as well as other activities that we aren’t going to discuss here – the fact is, the man brought music to the world. And that music touched millions world wide.

Farewell Michael Jackson – may you sing now with the angels.

Yay, a New Tax!

I got this information in my email box yesterday. I must say I found it alarming, although more and more the policies of the new administration are alarming to me. Here’s the scoop:

1. Gas prices jumped 20% last month
2. Apparently there is a bill being pushed that will jump them even higher.
3. It is called cap and trade – apparently a new energy tax hiding in ‘green’ clothing. The premise being that if energy is regulated more and costs more, we’ll use less of it and somehow that makes things better. All that will happen if they do get their wish of less use is that prices will go even higher, because how else will they make up less revenue than they want? Hello $5 a gallon gas, coming to a summer near you.

Don’t believe me? How would the following affect you, personally?This new energy tax would:

1. Raise inflation-adjusted gasoline prices by 74 percent
2. Raise electricity rates 90 percent after adjusting for inflation
3. Raise the cost of living of a typical household by $1,600 a year
4. Raise residential natural gas prices by 55 percent
5. Destroy 1-3 million jobs per year, every year until 2035

This new energy tax is neither an energy nor an environmental solution. It’s a tax. And nobody thinks they’re under-taxed.

Roll Call is reporting that Nancy Pelosi wants this passed by the Fourth of July recess. Wow, she just can’t move fast enough to destroy the economy, eh?

Click on this link to sign the Stop the Energy Tax petition, and spread the word. If we let this genie out of the bottle my friends, I don’t think we’ll ever get him back in.

Oh yeah, check out the vid – in the words of the great one, no less…

McClintock Rawks

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Tom McClintock is a well known California state legislator and a man after my own heart. Sadly, when the scandalous governor of California, Gray Davis, was recalled, rather than putting Tom in the driver’s seat, the people of California opted for the Governator. The fallout from whom we are still experiencing.

Tom gave a speech recently and I reprint it in full here. It’s worth the time to read, at least I think so.

The Eve of the American Reawakening

Rep. McClintock gave the following speech to the Council for National Policy in Washington DC on May 16, 2009.

Here, in the winter of our despair, I want to pause to take stock of the state of our nation on this date of May 16th.

Voters have swept our party from office after a failed Republican administration that abandoned conservative principles. The most left-wing President in our nation’s history has taken office with a 66 percent approval rating and strong majorities in both houses. His agenda includes radical intervention into energy markets, highly inflationary monetary policy, a determination to dramatically reduce our military spending while dramatically increasing overall domestic spending with deficits as far as the eye can see.

That was the state of our nation on May 16th…1977.

You remember those years. Jimmy Carter’s policies brought us double digit unemployment AND double digit inflation; interest rates at 21 percent, mile-long lines around gas stations, embassies seized with impunity and a military so weak it couldn’t even project a simple rescue mission.

But then, just a few years later, it was morning again in America. Four years of Jimmy Carter produced eight years of Ronald Reagan, and looking back on it, that wasn’t such a bad trade, was it?

Abraham Lincoln once said that if the voters get their backsides too close to the fire, they’ll just have to sit on the blisters for a while.

The American people have some very painful blisters to sit on for the next four years, but the good news is that they’re already starting to figure that out.

On inauguration day, the Rasmussen poll gave the President a net approval rating of 28 points. Yesterday, that figure was seven points. During the fall campaign, Rasmussen reported that the generic Democratic candidate for Congress had a 16-point advantage over the generic Republican candidate. As of May 10th, Rasmussen reports the generic Republican now has a one-point advantage over the Democrat.

Although the President’s personal popularity remains high, most polls are showing a decidedly increasing skepticism over his policies. For example, yesterday Rasmussen reported that by a margin of 57 to 19 percent, Americans say that tax increases will hurt the economy.

What we are seeing in the polls is the gradual awakening of the American people. When things are going reasonably well – or even reasonably poorly – most people don’t pay a lot of attention to politics because there are too many other pressing things going on in their lives. But when a crisis approaches, that’s when you see the strength of a Democracy emerge, and it is an awesome thing. One by one, individual citizens sense the approach of a common danger and rise to the occasion. They begin focusing a great deal of attention on politics and they start making very good decisions.

We saw that two summers ago, when the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill was set to glide through both houses of Congress on broad bi-partisan majorities. But the American people had finally had enough of being told there was nothing the government cared to do to defend the integrity of our borders and the sovereignty of our nation. And McCain Kennedy didn’t even make it to a final vote.

We saw that last summer, when gasoline prices hit $4 a gallon and the American people had finally had enough of being told there was nothing the government cared to do to get out of the way of domestic oil production. And in the span of just a few months, they turned 180 degrees on the issue of offshore oil drilling and nuclear power.

We saw that just a month ago, when Rick Santelli told a routine cable broadcast that he was sick and tired of being forced to pay his neighbor’s mortgage – and the whole trading floor erupted in applause. He suggested that Americans need to rekindle the spirit that produced the Boston Tea Party, and suddenly, from every corner of America over 800 taxpayer protests erupted across the country on April 15th. These protests weren’t sponsored by parties or politicians. They were a grassroots uprising by a silent majority that will not remain silent any longer.

And yet I read the other day of a new chorus of hand-wringing that said we had to get over our nostalgia for Reagan, that we had to be mindful and respectful of the fact the “other side has something,” and that we have nothing, and that “you can’t beat something with nothing.

It’s the same kind of hand-wringing that Ulysses S. Grant confronted at the Battle of the Wilderness among generals overawed by Robert E. Lee’s aggressiveness, audacity and success. Grant, turned to his distraught generals, and said “Bobby Lee this, and Bobby Lee that! You’d think he’s going to do double somersaults and outflank us on both sides and the rear. Stop thinking about what Bobby Lee’s going to do to us, and start thinking about what we’re going to do to Bobby Lee. Now get some guns up here.”

To those who say we should put the Reagan era behind us – I have a better idea. Let’s put the Bush era behind us.

To those who say we should redefine our principles, I have a better idea: we don’t need to redefine our principles; we need to return to them.

To those of the Republican establishment, who misled our party for years, who dismantled so much of what Ronald Reagan accomplished and now tell us “the other side has something” and we have nothing. To them I can’t improve upon Cromwell’s words: “You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing; it is not fit that you should sit here any longer. You shall now give way to better men. Now depart and let us have done with you, I say, in the name of God, GO!”

“The other side has something and we have nothing?”

What is the something the other side has – that some say we have to be respectful and mindful of?

Statism. Shortage. Paternalism. That’s their “something” that seems to so overawe and over-impress these scions of a failed party establishment.

Statism, Shortage and Paternalism is what we are told to be mindful and respectful of? I don’t think so.

Their statism is “something” so extreme that the entire national debt accumulated from the first day of the George Washington administration to the very last day of the George W. Bush administration will literally double in the next five years and triple in the next ten.

The tax increases already proposed to support it will rob every family of more than $2,500 from its purchasing power every year. We’re supposed to respect that? The American people don’t respect it. The American people know that you cannot spend your way rich; that you cannot borrow your way out of debt and you cannot tax your way to prosperity. And they know that if you live well beyond your means today, you must of necessity live well BELOW your means in the future. And that’s not a future we want for our children.

Their entire policy is predicated on maintaining shortages of everything from health care to energy and then using the force of government to ration that shortage according to their own whims. The “something” that they propose to solve their government-induced shortages is having bureaucrats tell us what medical treatments our kids may have and when they may have them; raising energy prices until we bicycle to work; telling us what kind of light bulbs to use, where to set our thermostats, when to use our appliances.

And then there’s Paternalism. That’s what Rick Santelli was talking about. When your neighbor buys the house he can’t afford – it’s now your job to pay his mortgage. When the fraternity brothers of Paulson and Geitner party their investments into the ground – now it’s your job to cover their losses. When the reckless country-clubbers of General Motors and Chrysler give away the farm to the UAW – now it’s your job to make up the difference, and by the way, now it’s Barney Frank’s job to tell you what kind of car you may buy.

That is the “something” that seems to send these self-described “New Republicans,” into paroxysms of awe and policy-envy.

That’s the “something” that some people are so deathly afraid of saying “NO” to. Churchill said, “Alexander the Great remarked that the people of Asia were slaves because they had not learned to pronounce the word “NO.” Let that not be the epitaph of the English-speaking peoples or of parliamentary democracy … There, in one single word, is the resolve which the forces of freedom and progress, of tolerance and goodwill, should take.”

What is the “nothing” that we have that so dismays and disgusts these same messiahs of mediocrity – this “nothing” that’s convinced them that we must wean ourselves from our unseemly nostalgia with such irrelevant has-beens as Reagan, and Lincoln and Jefferson – I add the others because they stood for exactly the same principles as Reagan.

We stand for freedom.

We stand for abundance.

We stand for individual responsibility.

Freedom. Abundance and Responsibility. That is our platform.

Those who call that “nothing” are the same failed leaders who disdained it during the Reagan years and dismantled it as soon as the Reagan years were over.
They stand for statism. We stand for freedom: The God-given right to enjoy the fruit of our own labor; the right to raise our children according to our own values; the right to express our opinions and our faith freely and without reserve; the right to defend ourselves and our families; the right to enter into voluntary associations with each other for our mutual betterment without an army of busy-bodies telling us what is best for us.

They stand for the rationing of shortage. We stand for abundance: what happens when free men and free women enjoy the liberty to go as far as their desire, talent and imagination can guide them and as far as their labor, industry and enterprise can take them. Societies prosper when freedom protects the rights of each of us to decide on our own what we will produce and what we will consume. Government exists to protect the conditions that produce abundance, not to ration shortages that government has caused.

They stand for paternalism. We stand for personal responsibility. That means you stand by your promises. That means you tell your customers the truth about your products and investments. It means if you bring a child into the world then by God you look after that child. And it means if you make a bad decision, you set it right and you learn from it – and you realize that the bad decisions we all make from time to time is the price we pay for the freedom to make all the good decisions in our lives.

Freedom. Abundance. Responsibility. Ladies and Gentlemen, that ain’t “nothing.” That’s everything.

That’s everything our country is, everything our country stands for. That’s everything ten generations of Americans have fought to defend. That is everything that the happiness and prosperity of society depends upon. That is everything that we have – everything that we are – everything that we hope as Americans.

Jefferson called it the “sum of good government” which he described as “a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

At the risk of politically incorrect nostalgia, nine years before he became Governor of California, Reagan put it this way during a commencement address to his alma mater. He said, “This is a simple struggle between those of us who believe that man has the dignity and sacred right and the ability to choose and shape his own destiny and those who do not so believe. This irreconcilable conflict is between those who believe in the sanctity of individual freedom and those who believe in the supremacy of the state.”

Lincoln said much the same. He said, “That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles – right and wrong – throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other is the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, ‘You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”

And today, our country faces this tyrannical principle in actual practice.

The Left would condemn our children to the failure of government schools run by teacher unions. We would liberate parents to select the school and the teacher that best meets their child’s needs and hold the school and the teacher accountable for the results.

The Left would condemn our families to sky-high energy prices; we would free America’s vast energy reserves and limitless supplies of clean, cheap electricity through nuclear power, hydro-electricity and clean coal.

The Left would condemn our health care to bureaucrats who’ll decide what treatments we may have and when we may have them. We would provide the tax credits to bring a basic health plan within the financial reach of every family – a health plan they could chose, they could own, and they could change if it failed to serve them.

The Left would deny union members the right to a secret ballot; we would free employers to pay bonuses to union members above and beyond their union contract.

The Left would plunder our children of their prosperity tomorrow to pay for the unprecedented expansion of government today. We insist on a government that does what families do every day: work hard, waste not and live within our means. And that promise needs to begin with renouncing the failed Bush administration that violated every one of these tenets.

The Left offers stifling central planning to manage every aspect of our lives; they offer higher and higher taxes and more and more costly regulations. We offer freedom.

It’s ironic that the same rocket scientists who say we have to listen more to the opposition’s message obviously haven’t been listening to our own.

We have the most powerful message in the history of mankind. It is freedom. And to those who say we have no messengers – look around at each other. Yes, Ronald Reagan was a great communicator, but as William Saracino has said, “He wasn’t communicating cookie recipes.” And if we learned anything at all from that great man, it was that every one of us needs to be a messenger.

In February of 1861, Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural train paused in Indianapolis and he spoke these words: “Of the people when they rise in mass on behalf of the Union and the liberties of their country, it may be said ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against them. I appeal to you constantly to bear in mind that not with the President, not with the office-seekers, but with you is the question, ‘Shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the latest generation.’”

That is our clarion call. Ladies and Gentlemen, what has happened to our nation has happened on our generation’s watch, and it is our generation’s responsibility to set things right.

Does anyone here have any doubt how this battle will end as long as we stand firm? I think the Left is starting to figure that out too, and behind the smarmy smirks of superiority, their real sentiments are showing through.

The Department of Homeland Security refuses to use the word “terrorist” to describe Al Qaeda. It has replaced the term “acts of terrorism” with the term “man-made disaster” so as not to offend Islamic extremists. But it doesn’t hesitate to declare every American who believes in Constitutional principles or who defended those principles on far off battlefields as “potential domestic terrorists.”

That offers real insight into the Left. Churchill put it this way: “They are afraid of words and thoughts. Words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home – all the more powerful because forbidden – terrify them. A little mouse – a little tiny mouse – of thought enters the room and these mighty potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar out thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind.”

Think about what terrifies the Left. Letters to the editor. Calls to talk shows. Blogs on the internet. Comments after newspaper editorials. Taxpayer tea parties.

Why did they react so viscously to the tea parties? You remember the tale of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” – once the townspeople realized that there were many others who believed as they believed, the façade collapsed.

So let’s not disappoint our friends on the left. Let us all here today resolve that we’re going to spend at least ten hours a week agitating and educating in every forum we can find.

When the American Founders adopted the Declaration of Independence, they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. They were speaking quite literally. When they pledged their lives, they meant it. The King had already warned that a noose awaited every one of them. When they pledged their fortunes, they meant it. Lewis Morris had just received word that his estate in New York had been burned to the ground, that his family had become refugees and that his two sons had enlisted in the rag-tag army around General Washington.

How little history demands of our generation in defense of those same principles. We aren’t asked to pledge our entire fortunes – just a small portion of our earnings in support of the causes and candidates we believe in. We aren’t asked to pledge our lives – only a small portion of our lives until we have set things right.

But our sacred honor – that history demands of us in full. That we leave today highly resolved not to fail or falter until we have restored freedom as the cornerstone of our government. Because if we fail to do that, then what history will demand of our children and grandchildren is unthinkable.

So let us honor the memory of Reagan and Lincoln and Jefferson and all those placed freedom above security and principle above politics. To those among us who would do otherwise, as Shakespeare said, “He who hath no stomach for this fight, let him now depart.”

And then let us together write the next chapter of the American Republic: that just when it appeared that the principles of American freedom were faltering, this generation rediscovered them, rallied to them, revived them, restored them, polished them and passed them on shining and inviolate to the many succeeding generations that followed.

If you’d like to know more about Tom, click here.

Pork Out

Love him or leave him, Newt makes some very good points in this video. I realize that we all feel a little desparate with the state of the economy but creating further and astronical debt is not going to fix anything. The more we allow our government to ‘bail out’ the bagillionaires with our money and feed our tax dollars into their vested interests the more we are surrendering our personal freedoms.

Our current president ran on a platform of change, but I see no change other than the fact that spending is getting worse and indebting us more, not less. Take the couple of minutes to watch this vid and tell me what you think.

Changing of the Guard…???

In just a few short hours we will swear in a new president. To many, he represents hope and change – or perhaps it is just the hope of change. But I wonder, will any change do?

I know that too, there are many out there who will heave a collective sigh of relief when our current president returns to private life after passing the torch to his successor. And with him (some believe) a whole litany of problems, mistakes, missteps, bad moves, poor decisions and (at best) misguided strategies, with him back to the ranch. As well as runaway spending, insurmountable national debt that our children and grandchildren will inherit, bail outs and I suppose pretty much everything that is wrong with this country.

We are making history here – the first black president (well, half-black and wasn’t Bill Clinton the first one?) and apparently by virtue of that fact alone, our country and the world opinion of same will miraculously reverse and once again, the streets of America will be paved with gold.

Well…actually…not so fast, bub. According to the new administration’s plan, we will in fact, be giving more bail outs to other victims because conventional wisdom dictates that you can’t bail out one without bailing out the rest. 600,000 new jobs sounds impressive until you realize that that translates into 600,000 more government employees to interfer in your life and with your personal liberties while you kindly pay their mortgages and automatic pay raises with your tax dollars. Then too, while GW Bush will get no praise or pass from me for the deficits run up during his two terms, at least he never exceded 4% of the GNP (Gross National Product) whereas the new President Obama’s plan is estimated to be more like 15% of the GNP. The deficit will just continue to rack up into the trillions of dollars, folks. Perhaps the hope part of this scenario is more about the hope that we the taxpayers will be able to keep at least some of our paychecks?

Hillary Clinton is going to rehabilitate our tarnished reputation abroad with her mad diplomatic skilz and the new Treasury Secretary only owes a mere $40,000 in back taxes – although since he’ll be the one overseeing the IRS, I’m sure he’ll be able to work out a good payment plan for himself.

I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture. Though what you may not realize is that this post is not really about Bush or Obama, or liberal or conservative – it’s really about the status quo. What I’m trying to point out is that despite all the campaining and debating and electing and so forth that by and large there just really isn’t that much difference between politicians and parties. That no matter what they tell you or promise you they are going to continue doing what politicians do: harness more and more money and power. Largely gaining that power with your money (not theirs) while you happily surrender it and your personal freedoms because of a promise they will never keep.

So my friends, before we get all excited about the new face and the new look in the White House let’s face the fact that aside from appearances nothing is really going to change.

Doom and Gloom for 2009…

I have to admit that I haven’t really been keeping up with current affairs lately. I think I got such a sour taste in my mouth over the election and the snoozefest candidates that I just put on my blinders and haven’t really taken them off since.

However, recently I thought I would see what was going on in the world at large and how things were going. Yikes, not so good from what I gather. Apparently evil Israel is perpetrating bad deeds against the poor Palestinians again (hey a little war never hurt anyone, right?) and of course I didn’t need to read anything to notice that gas prices have come back into affordable range again – although I think I saw somewhere that oil was in the $30-$40 a barrel range now. Those poor day traders and futures speculators must be the ones that all the newspapers are worried about losing their jobs, huh?

And the bailouts, apparently, are still rolling out – I’m just waiting to see Writer Chick and friends on the list in my daily paper. No word yet, but I’m sure it’s coming – Zelda too is waiting with baited breath. We both sure could use our bailout money too – and it’s way less than the mortgage and auto industries are getting so you’d think the check would be cut sooner, wouldn’t you?

Our new soon-to-be Prez has been selecting his cabinet members and aside from Hillary becoming the Secretary of State (are you fricking kidding me? she’s the most diplomatic democrat around these days? yikes!) the usual suspects are all lining up and fighting over offices with a view in the West Wing. Does make one wonder though if maybe there were some ‘arrangements’ made before hand, you know? Like, ‘we get you in and then you bring us back in, right?’ know what I mean?

As to the doom and gloom, well I have to say that there are an amazing number of articles, columns and editorials discussing our not so eventual demise here in the U.S. Apparently we are to start the beginning of the end somewhere after the first month of the new administration’s takeover. A depression worse than the one that nearly destroyed the country in 1929, civil unrest and war, and to top it all off, the rest of the world will just be divying up America in digestible bits ( more on that one later) to any interloper with a b.b. gun and halloween mask. The unemployment rate will skyrocket to 25% and we’ll need a wheel barrow just to carry the worthless dollars it will take to buy a loaf of Wonder Bread. Bummer.

I guess business start ups will be at an all time low, don’t you think? I wonder though – if that happens, will there still be an internet with get rich quick schemes and free porn? How about reality shows? One called, Depression, perhaps. Although that could be confusing since people might think it was just about an unhappy fellow on psych drugs… How about Starbux? Will we go back to the nickel cup of joe and maybe the designer coffee will go for an outrageous 25 cents? Sam’s Club, Costco, Home Depot, Lowe’s? Or will most of us just be roaming the countryside in our hybrid converted SUV’s looking for work picking fruits and vegetables? Or fighting outside the gated landfills trying to get to the recyclables waiting there for any smart depression era entreprenuer to take advantage of? Seriously, what would a modern day depression look like folks, have you ever pondered it? Apparently, the newspaper folks are and many other concerned citizens, what about you? What do you think it would look like?

The Blessings and Traps of Motherhood – by cA Hughes

Hi, I am christine of All the Elbows and Annie asked me to do a guest post for her and I thought this would be an interesting topic:

I am not a fan of Britney Spears. The few times I’ve heard her “music” I felt like committing suicide on my ears. And generally speaking, I am not a fan of celebrity, its gossip and so on. But I can’t help knowing some of it. Cruising the internets is a guarantee to come across a headline or twenty. Also there are those who are into it that I talk to, who will share their knowledge of the famous with me. The place in my brain where something meaningful should probably be, like the square root of a large number, the birthday of someone important or the secret to life, is the news of Kevin Federline being awarded custody of the sons he fathered with “pop tart” Britney Spears. (My understanding of quantum physics should be where pop tart is, damn its!)

What I noticed right away when I saw the headline is that even though Spears has had the required and pandemic makeover and looks “good” again, several stories covering this court decision had an old or utterly unflattering image of her accompanying the article. I was struck by this tactic and it got me thinking about Mothers, Motherhood, Womanhood and how women, though moving forward outwardly and economically and sexually, are still held to the archaic standard of what women should be as Mothers in the eyes of our society.

The fact that a Mother loses or relinquishes custody of her kids is, apparently, unforgivable, a mystery . As a Mother, a Woman is expected to provide, or oversee, the primary care of children in the home, and anything other than that is perplexing, disdainful, bringing harsh judgement and outrage. Even I question such a Mother- How could she? What kind of woman doesn’t want her kids?

Fathers do it all the time. Fathers can still be good Men and good Fathers even if they only have limited custody of their children, weekend visits and holidays.

Look at the following image:

Britney Spears looks, well, not her best. A little sloppy for a Woman trying to get custody of her sons. Now I’m sure this is not how she looked on the day the case was settled, she has been made-over, I wouldn’t know for sure, but I think that such trickery does damage to our ideas of Women as Mothers and reinforces the idea that Mothers as secondary or peripheral caregivers are ugly, sloppy, unworthy.

See how Kevin Federline, who was given primary custody, is shown as dapper, in a suit…

I am a mother. I love my children very much and I enjoy being their mom, but there is no other job/position/calling under such strict scrutiny while also being gravely undervalued as a most important role in our society. For those who chose and are able to remain home with children, it is a blessing to a family, the children and eventually our society. Yet, for these same Women, there is the idea of being uninteresting as individuals, people. It seems that on some deep level, they are regarded as Mothers instead of individuals- like these two concepts are mutually exclusive. Because Mothers are supposed to be completely fulfilled as people by mothering rather than mothering being part of what fulfills them. Suddenly, they are defined solely by their care of the children/family rather than their wit, humor, intelligence outside of how these are applied to their Mothering.

Fathers also play an integral role in the raising of well-adjusted children, but somehow are given more slack in how involved they are in the time, emotion and energy spent in the process.

My question is why? Why are Mothers held to this rigid standard? Why are they judged much more harshly for being the visiting parent when custody situations like this occur? Are stay-at-home Dads held to this same standard? (I think they get it worse. It’s almost automatic to assume that the Man is “lazy” because only a lazy man’d want to stay at home and do nothing all day like us Women…) What do you think?

(thanks, christine – I loved this and think my readers will too.)

You Think the Economy Sucks Today?

Zelda sent me this very informative and eye opening article today. Good reading. Unfortunately, the links didn’t transfer when I did the cut and paste, so you’ll have to go the Atlanta Journal’s website if you want to follow those.

Today’s crunch feels like ’70s

By Michael E. Kanell
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/13/08

High oil prices, a sluggish economy, persistent inflation, an unpopular president and the Eagles are out on tour.

Sounds like a rerun of the 1970s.

But it is also a snapshot from the summer of 2008 —- even if it does conjure images from the past.

“The similarities are there,” said economist Gerald Lynch of Purdue University. “That was a miserable time for the economy. And the clothes were ugly, too.”

Wide ties may not be making a comeback, but hints of the era’s economics are in the air.

One of the stars of that original ’70s show was stagflation, a term invented to describe a mix of rapid inflation and near-stagnant growth. The word has re-entered the economic vocabulary of late.

“As far as I can see, the wheels have fallen off the wagon,” said Peter Miralles, president of Atlanta Wealth Consultants. “This is as close to the ’70s as we have seen in the past couple of decades.”

First, the sluggishness: Gross domestic product the past two quarters has expanded by less than 1 percent. The economy shed 438,000 jobs in the first six months of the year, while the official unemployment rate has climbed to 5.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the official measure of inflation has been running slightly higher than 4 percent per year —- while energy prices have more than doubled.

Yet comparing the current moment to the 1970s can offer some reassurance: Today’s numbers pale beside the Hotel California Era.

In 1975, unemployment peaked at 9 percent, fell for a while and then climbed to 7.8 percent in 1980. Inflation hit double digits in 1974 and 1975, slipped back and then roared up, cresting at more than 13 percent in 1979 and 14 percent in 1980. It was a time, too, when the nightly news rattled the American psyche.

The first half of the decade saw the revolution-promoting Weathermen, Watergate, the bitter, bloody end to the Vietnam War and the Arab oil embargo. The second half of the ’70s brought the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution.

“There was a kind of extremism in the air,” said Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute, a conservative, Washington-based think tank. “Conditions now are also kind of frightening. But the situation is not as extreme.”

Still, today’s list of potential villains sounds like a cast from the past.

The most obvious repeat offender is oil. Oil prices quadrupled in the mid-1970s, then soared again after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Now, U.S. troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is renewed talk about a U.S. conflict with Iran, and oil prices are at it again. Crude has doubled in the past year, and the economy again is struggling.

“Oil was at the scene of the crime in both cases,” said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the liberal Economics Policy Institute in Washington. “If you have a police lineup, you really want to have oil in it.”

And it’s not just oil —- global demand has shoved prices higher on a range of commodities from rice to steel.

But inflation this time has some brand-new accomplices: the housing crash; the subprime meltdown that followed; and the crunch in credit that the meltdown triggered.

“This is a very different world,” Bernstein said.

For starters, the sources of inflation are different. During the 1970s, workers —- often through powerful unions —- insisted on raises that matched higher consumer prices.

Those higher payroll costs were then added to the prices businesses charged, which were then used by workers to demand higher pay.

“You can’t have a wage-price spiral without wage pressures, and we ain’t got wage pressures,” Bernstein said. “That is a huge difference.”

It’s not just that business costs don’t rise as much. Companies are also less likely to pass them along.

Many are so afraid of losing customers, they don’t dare raise prices as much as their costs. Instead, they slash their own costs or accept a smaller profit margin —- and potential inflation never gets to consumers.

What worries some economists is that, eventually, companies must pass along costs. Other economists argue that the official inflation numbers are wildly understating the pain consumers already feel.

“The part that concerns me the most is that the government numbers do not actually represent what’s going on,” said Miralles of Atlanta Wealth Consultants. “I just don’t buy it.”

If the plot of the rerun does mimic the original, then the pain is only getting started.

Led by then-Chairman Paul Volcker, the Federal Reserve decided that inflation was so dangerous it had to be stopped —- even if that meant choking off growth. So in 1979, interest rates were raised dramatically.

The economy spun into back-to-back recessions starting in January 1980.

As the economy stalled, the inflation rate leapt to a high of 14.6 percent. After the second recession, unemployment climbed to a peak of 10.8 percent.

But the Fed won its war: Inflation was dormant for the next two decades.

Even now, inflation —- at least the official measure of 4 percent —- seems modest enough to let the Fed keep rates low.

In the past two years, the Fed has cut the benchmark rate from 5.25 percent to 2 percent.

Any inflation-fighting would mean moving them upward again, which would likely slow the economy more.

At least some inflation may be coming from a “bubble” —- speculation that could pop if demand slackens.

“If oil is a bubble, and there’s a good chance it is, then its bursting would lessen the inflationary threat a lot,” said Doug Henwood, author of the book “Wall Street: How It Works and for Whom” and editor of the economics newsletter Left Business Observer.

Waiting for the scenario to play out, consumers and companies alike must do their best to plan, hoping to protect and nurture their assets.

“There are quite a few parallels to the ’70s, and that is a concern,” said Frank Butterfield, principal with Atlanta-based wealth managers Homrich & Berg. “The ’70s were a bad time for financial assets. Stocks did poorly, bonds did poorly. That could happen again.”

To navigate long term, Butterfield suggests diversifying portfolios, buying inflation-protected securities, using hedge funds and “rebalancing” investments as you go.

The economic trouble so far has been manageable, he said. “Things were worse in the ’70s than they are now.”

Most experts say the U.S. economy seems stronger than it was in the shaky ’70s, more flexible and —- most important during an energy crisis —- more efficient.

The economy is about half as dependent on oil as it was at the time of the first oil shock in 1973, said Robert Whaples, chairman of the economics department at Wake Forest University.

“The ’70s were a period of pretty slow productivity growth,” he said. “There are important parallels between the two periods, but I don’t think we will get double-digit unemployment or double-digit inflation rate.”

Some things do return. The Eagles, after all, are playing summer concerts and promoting their latest album. But no amount of hindsight can truly tell the future.

As the Eagles themselves put it: “Who is gonna make it? We’ll find out —- in the long run.”

That was 1979.

GASOLINE

Now: Gas prices have doubled in a little more than three years. They are up a little more than one-third in the past year. Gas is costly but plentiful.

Then: Gas prices tripled during the decade, rising almost 50 percent from 1973 to 1975, and by 80 percent in 1979 and 1980. Shortages forced restrictions on sales.

PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL

Now: 28 percent

Then: 29 percent

IRAN

Now: Tension between the United States and Iran over nuclear programs and U.S. involvement in Iraq has led to higher oil prices.

Then: Iranian Revolution in 1979 overthrew a U.S. ally, led to a long hostage crisis and sent oil prices skyrocketing.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Now: In the past year and a half, official unemployment has increased 25 percent. It remains historically modest: 5.5 percent.

Then: After the Arab oil embargo, unemployment rose by more than 80 percent.

INFLATION

Now: Consumer prices are up 4.1 percent in the past year, the government says, but critics say the data understates reality.

Then: Consumer costs were up an average of 8.12 percent a year through the decade, peaking at 13.3 percent in 1979.

PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH

Now: 2.58, average, 2000-07

Then: 1.73 percent, average 1971-80

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Energy Information Administration, Gallup Poll, PollingReport.com.

The Air Car & Other Green Stuff???

Well, it’s been a busy week for new green solutions for the price of gas. Though I hate that term green solutions – how about non-tyranical, got you by the balls, solutions? Yeah, I like that better. Anyway, I give you the Air Car! Tada!

(here’s the scoop) The Compressed Air Car developed by Motor Development International (MDI) Founder Guy Negre might be the best thing to have happened to the motor engine in years.

The $12,700 CityCAT, one of the planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units. MDI says it should cost only around $2 to fill the car up with 340 liters of air!

The Air Car will be starting production relatively soon, thanks t o India’s TATA Motors. Forget corn! There’s fuel, there’s renewable fuel, and then there’s user-renewable fuel! What can be better than air?

For more info, check out the website here. (HT to Marli)

And Zelda sent me this:


From The Times
June 14, 2008
Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol
Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide ‘renewable petroleum’
Some diesel fuel produced by genetically modified bugs

Some diesel fuel produced by genetically modified bugs
Chris Ayres

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.

Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.
Related Links

* Biofuel: a tankful of weed juice

* The arithmetic of crude oil

What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

LS9 has already convinced one oil industry veteran of its plan: Bob Walsh, 50, who now serves as the firm’s president after a 26-year career at Shell, most recently running European supply operations in London. “How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to grow a multi-billion-dollar company?” he asks. It is a bold statement from a man who works in a glorified cubicle in a San Francisco industrial estate for a company that describes itself as being “prerevenue”.

Inside LS9’s cluttered laboratory – funded by $20 million of start-up capital from investors including Vinod Khosla, the Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Sun Micro-systems – Mr Pal explains that LS9’s bugs are single-cell organisms, each a fraction of a billionth the size of an ant. They start out as industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli, but LS9 modifies them by custom-de-signing their DNA. “Five to seven years ago, that process would have taken months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he says. “Now it can take weeks and cost maybe $20,000.”

Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.

For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.

The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.

Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready.

The closest that LS9 has come to mass production is a 1,000-litre fermenting machine, which looks like a large stainless-steel jar, next to a wardrobe-sized computer connected by a tangle of cables and tubes. It has not yet been plugged in. The machine produces the equivalent of one barrel a week and takes up 40 sq ft of floor space.

However, to substitute America’s weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.

That is the main problem: although LS9 can produce its bug fuel in laboratory beakers, it has no idea whether it will be able produce the same results on a nationwide or even global scale.

“Our plan is to have a demonstration-scale plant operational by 2010 and, in parallel, we’ll be working on the design and construction of a commercial-scale facility to open in 2011,” says Mr Pal, adding that if LS9 used Brazilian sugar cane as its feedstock, its fuel would probably cost about $50 a barrel.

Are Americans ready to be putting genetically modified bug excretion in their cars? “It’s not the same as with food,” Mr Pal says. “We’re putting these bacteria in a very isolated container: their entire universe is in that tank. When we’re done with them, they’re destroyed.”

Besides, he says, there is greater good being served. “I have two children, and climate change is something that they are going to face. The energy crisis is something that they are going to face. We have a collective responsibility to do this.”

Power points

– Google has set up an initiative to develop electricity from cheap renewable energy sources

– Craig Venter, who mapped the human genome, has created a company to create hydrogen and ethanol from genetically engineered bugs

– The US Energy and Agriculture Departments said in 2005 that there was land available to produce enough biomass (nonedible plant parts) to replace 30 per cent of current liquid transport fuels

***

Now, I don’t know if any of this spells solutions but I do think it’s nice to know that there are those out there looking for solutions and trying to get us there.

UPDATE: Ger sent me a link to a vid for another company called Tessler Motors they offer this car:

Which is fully electric, power efficient and fast – plus there is a solar option which means it is energy positive – and according to their website they have already worked out the recylcling issues for both the tires and battery which is built into the purchase price. Though, I’d be curious to know if they have included the safe disposal of the battery acid as well, since that is my particular concern with electric vehicles. If they have managed to find a way to reuse the batteries, as is the case with current standard car batteries that would make me happy. There isn’t enough data on their website to answer this question, however.