Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back from Tuscany

It's hard to think that it was just yesterday that I was tramping around a vinyard in Chianti. Later, we explored the town square in the Tuscan hilltown of Greve, pictured above, on a rainy Saturday afternoon. If you a looking for a silver lining in the economic meltdown, it's low air fares and hotel bargains. We availed ourselves, and spending a week in the 15th century atmosphere of Florence, Italy is a fine antidote to the punishing reality of the news. While I am very tired from a long journey home, it seems incredibly quiet in Wilmette. We saw a lot of great sights in just a week, and I'll share some if any of my pictures turned out. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lolcat on the Bailout

Over at Obamiconme, you can upload pictures and faeryize your own photos. I liked this picture of the Cheez kitty (lolcat) I found over there. Somehow the message really spoke. I can hardly wait to faeryize the First Dog, that is when the the First Family can find a free $3,000 Portuguese Water Spaniel from a dog shelter.

Is it 2012 yet?

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Revolution Will Travel by Luxury Bus

If we were to imagine something like the French Revolution here, I suppose one of the first things would be killing, injuring, or perhaps just intimidating the well-to-do. Since it appears that the well-to-do are being counted on to balance the US budget with increased taxes, that might not be a good idea

Nevermind. I don't support the AIG bonuses, and I imagine you don't either, but will you be driving in a luxury bus past houses lived in by AIG executives with the express purpose of harassment? That would to make them feel extra safe and secure in their own homes, for sure. And think of the children! Over in New England, such plans exist for tomorrow. An AFL-CIO group is scooping up people in the region for a drive-by of Wilton, Connecticut, where the major news is coyote attacks.

If I lived among the executives of AIG, I'd be packing up the kids and the dogs for the weekend and heading out of town. I would figure that the government would be a far fairer target, especially since Connecticut Chris Dodd let it be known that the government knew of those bonuses all along. We would also notice that there's a distinct air of astroturfing here. The drive-by group are strong backers of Obama, who has suggested that his supporters get busy getting people in line for his new policies in Washington.

UPDATE: They're not just planning to drive by, they're ringing the bell!

Obama - So Many Jokes, So Much Fun on Leno

"Brownie Tim Geitner, you're doing a helluva job!"

The President "addressed the nation" last night and covered all the serious news in Washington: March Madness basketball playoffs, update on the First Dog, and an improved bowling score.

How lucky can America get to have a President so on top of things?

Best line of the night belonged to Jay Leno: "Well, when will the money -- this money was given out to the banks. I would have thought by this time it would have sort of trickled down to Main Street, to people wanting to get loans -- I mean, it all went out there months and months ago. Where is it?" (Transcript)

Missing Persons at the US Treasury

Just in case you have been wondering about that talk about missing persons at the Treasury Department, here's a statistic to knock your socks off. Eighteen (yes, 18) Treasury Department officials are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. To date, three have been nominated. No hearings have yet been held.

On the US Treasury's web site, the officials listed are those of the Bush administration under Hank Paulson.

But not to worry, President Obama revealed last night on the Tonight Show that he has been practicing, and has increased his bowling score to over 120. I know that fact will help America sleep more soundly at night! (Unless, of course, you're like that friend of one of the younger members of our family with a string of superior work reviews. She called hysterical last night that her boss threatened to fire everyone as of today, and she's not working for a private corporation but a publicly funded agency.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tax Hike Not Fair; Also Wrong

Hats off to Illinois minority leader Senator Christine Radogno, who I heard speaking on the radio last night. She was pointing out that while Gov. Quinn's take hike plan may lower taxes on some four person families, it will be a tax hike on single moms. That violates Gov. Quinn's own professed desire for "fairness" completely, and exposes the proposed Illinois Income Tax increase for what it is: a 50% tax hike with deductions increased in a clever enough manner to hush up the majority of opponents.

Even Illinois Democrat leaders understand that Taxpayers want budget cuts and reform, not tax increases.

Illinois government must be cut down to size. That is the only way to do right by the people.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CEO Guide to Jetting

While Congress continues spending like drunken sailors and putting AIG (which it effectively owns) on the hotseat, thankfully private enterprise is not yet dead or totally lacking in ideas how to keep their employees working.

Do send your CEO friends this guide to jetting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Have a Lovely St. Patrick's Day

Wherever you go and whatever you do, May the luck of the Irish be there with you!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Just for fun, the History Channel has lots of fun facts, history, quizzes, and more at their St. Patrick's Day page.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Where Does the Buck Stop if At All?

"WASHINGTON: The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about a populist backlash against banks and Wall Street, worried that anger at financial institutions could also end up being directed at Congress and the White House and could complicate President Barack Obama's agenda." -International Herald Tribune

You think? With a 50% tax increase in Illinois on the table, and Washington spending as if the money was flowing into the Treasury in great heaping gobs, I'm dismayed and disgusted. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has to get a grip and plan some major budget cuts for Illinois rather than simply raising taxes. Failure to do so means that his rhetoric about the people is less than empty. Every day the government seems to come up with a new way to remove the average citizen from keeping the fruits of his labor. Quinn can do better, much better, and failure to do so would be pure cowardice on his part. Has the man who long cultivated the image of the tax-payers’ champion and advocate for fiscal responsibility switched sides?

The Administration in Washington needs to hunker down and do something about the crisis at hand rather than acting as if its hands were tied. Clucking about concerns, planning additional fund raising, and appearing on the Tonight show are campaign tactics. It's high time that the newly elected government started governing. Unfortunately, the President wants to stay on the road and make campaign appearances rather than do the job he was elected to do.

We've posted up Harry Truman's old "The buck stops here" sign in hopes that our Governor and the President might be able to digest its message.

Chaudhry, Asan, and Kurd: Heroes for Today

Huge news. Today dawns as a very good day in government, and that would be in the government of Pakistan. While the press has regaled us with unending stories about terrorists in that far off land, the three gentlemen, pictured above, have been working day and night for the restoration of the rule of law in a country considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world.

To the left is Iftikar Chaudhry, Pakistan's former Chief Justice, who will be restored to that position on March 22, 2009, following almost a year and a half of political action on his behalf. In the center is Aitzaz Ahsan , former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. To the right is Ali Ahmad Kurd, cuurent president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

When former Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, imposed an "Emergency" in late 2007, he removed Justice Chaudhry from his position as Chief Justice. Other judges who failed to swear a loyalty oath to Musharraf were removed as well. Thousands of lawyers were arrested, including those above. The American Bar Association and bar associations in the UK and Europe rallied their members on behalf of Chaudhry and the Rule of Law in Pakistan, and Chaudhry garnered numerous international awards.

The removal of judges and jailing of thousands of lawyers marked the beginning of the end for the unpopular Musharraf, who resigned in August of 2008.

After the election in February, 2008--the original date postponed by Musharraf-- the succeeding government, headed by Benazir Bhutto's PPP (Pakistan People's Party) failed to restore the judiciary. Despite renewed calls for restoration following Musharraf's resignation, nothing was done. There was outrage from many of the educated and politically interested, in particular, thousands of members of Civil Society and hundreds of lawyers. Aitzaz Asan and Ali Kurd, two of the most vocal advocates for the restoration of the judiciary, continued to encourage their countrymen. All three gentlemen suffered threats, house arrest, and government threats in Pakistan, but continued to work on behalf of their cause.

Today, Pakistan is jubilant with the news of the restoration. As the United States will also benefit from courts that follow the law rather than decision by phone-a-friend, we should rejoice as well.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day Parade!

You'll have to head downtown early if you want to see the Plumber's Union dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day. That takes place at 10:45 am and the location has been moved this year. Head to the Columbus Drive bridge or upper or lower Wacker between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive. The Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade starts at noon, and the map of the route is at the left. The parade will also be carried on WGN Channel 9 and WLS Channel 7.

Last year I made some Irish soda bread using this recipe. I didn't use any caraway seeds though, and used a vinegar and milk substitute in place of the buttermilk. Since everyone loved it, I might make some more this year.

While St. Patrick's Day isn't until Tuesday, today is a great day to begin the celebration!

Financial Crisis Priorities

"We did not have a housing bubble collapse because we don't have a national health insurance program. We don't have toxic waste clogging the balance sheets of the banks and other financial institutions because of carbon emissions. . . . [W]hen your house is on fire, you don't water the lawn." Michael Barone says that the first priority in Washington must the the financial crisis, the real problem at hand.

Meanwhile, Mark Steyn tells the news to American's hopey-changey youth: "When you come to take your seat at the American table (to use another phrase politicians are fond of), you'll find the geezers, boomers and X-ers have all gone to the men's room, and you're the only one sitting there when the waiter presents the check." And the Teleprompter Kid? "This is the guy who keeps telling us this is the worst economic crisis in 70 years, and it turns out it's just a 1-percent decline for a couple more months, and then party time resumes?" Steyn also reveals the unmentionable fact about the carmakers, "General Motors has 96,000 employees but provides health benefits to over a million people. . . . GM is a welfare project masquerading as economic activity."

But not to worry, it's all good and spin will care for us all. Over at the Daily Kos we are counselled that "The biggest reason to be optimistic may just be the fact that the blowhards on CNBC and Fox still think the sky is falling." How clever is that?

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's Going to be So Over Between Me and Governor Quinn

We have said a lot of nice things here about Governor Quinn here over the past few weeks, and we meant them all. Now, with talk of a huge Illinois Income Tax increase, it looks like the honeymoon will be totally over. We mean that, too, even if he continues to fly coach class on commercial airlines.

Bummer, we were so hopeful . . .

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wisdom from the Past

Too bad this gentleman is long dead; his expertise could be used in Washington.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Destruction at the Dawn of Life

"The question of whether to destroy human embryos for research purposes is not fundamentally a scientific question; it is a moral and civic question about the proper uses, ambitions and limits of science. It is a question about how we will treat members of the human family at the very dawn of life; about our willingness to seek alternative paths to medical progress that respect human dignity.

"For those who believe in the highest ideals of deliberative democracy, and those who believe we mistreat the most vulnerable human lives at our own moral peril, Mr. Obama's claim of "taking politics out of science" should be lamented, not celebrated."

Read the entire article

Monday, March 09, 2009

Barbie Millicent Roberts Celebrates 50th Birthday

Pictured to the left, all ready for St. Patrick's Day festivities, is Barbie Millicent Roberts.  Today is her birthday.  She was born fifty years ago in Willows, Wisconsin. Having engaged in more than 108 careers, she has also been privileged to enjoy custom fashions from over seventy famous designers.

Ms. Roberts looks quite good at her age.  Her manufacturer, Mattel,   freely admits that she has had a little work done. And at her petite weight of 7.25  ounces, she will probably have to go a little light on the cake!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

No Free Car for Me

OH NO! I hope it didn't bother you when I started screaming again

After the stimulus passed I was screaming because I totally forgot to get a dream house with a large mortgage I couldn't afford.

Now I'm screaming not only because I totally forgot to get a dream house with a large mortgage I couldn't afford, but I also forgot to get a second mortage. How stupid was that? Turns out I could have had a luxury cruise and and a super spiffy car all for free.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Will Our Children Rise Up and Call Us Blessed?

American Minute for March 7th

On MARCH 7, 1774, the British passed the Boston Port Act, closing the harbor to all commerce to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party. Surrounding towns rallied by sending food. William Prescott, who later commanded at Bunker Hill, wrote: "Providence has placed you where you must stand the first shock...If we submit to these regulations, all is gone." William Prescott continued: "Our forefathers passed the vast Atlantic, spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy their liberties, both civil and religious, and transmit them to their posterity...Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed?" Upon hearing of the Boston Port Act, Thomas Jefferson led the Virginia House of Burgesses, May 24, 1774, to declare a Day of Fasting. The Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, retaliated by dissolving the House of Burgesses two days later. Jefferson's Virginia Proclamation stated: "This House, being deeply impressed with apprehension...from the hostile invasion of the city of Boston in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose commerce and harbor are, on the first day of June next, to be stopped by an armed force, deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the members of this House, as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights." 

- Bill Federer at the American Minute  (emphasis added)

h/t Illinois Review Blog

Listening In on the Market Watchers

So while I was over at Google Finance looking at the chart of the  Dow Jones Industrial Average for yesterday's post, I took some time to look at the messages between people watching the market in their running patter of market commentary. I chose some representative posts, which I found very interesting.

"I think preparations have to be made now. Mass bankruptcies are unavoidable. This is crazy, crazy I say! What has the world come to. I don't want to work on a goddamn wind farm."

"Media plus Obama ( Mr. do Nothing) equals DOW below 5000 and all our retirements and investments gone."

"The big boys from freddie-mac and fanny may that got the big goverment bailout and bonuses opened there own business buying up the premeum propertys for pennys on the dollor from forclosers. What a inside job. . . . I say hang them in front of wall street from the gallows. Wild in the streets soon. CORPARATE RIPOFFS. THEIVES!!!!!!!"

"These are Ex-Countrywide executives and yes, you're absolutely right, they need to be watching their back all the time. I say cut their heads off and jab them on top of light posts along main street USA."

"In the last six months, an average 401k has fallen by 30 - 50%, and the equity in their homes has all but dispapeared. How are these people supposed to live? Social Security doesn't have enough money to sustain them.

"We are soooo F*cked. If you are like me and in your 30's, you got to start feeling a little HOPELESS."

"But it took almost three years after the '29 crash to reach bottom of approx 89% loss in value. This time the pace is MUCH faster."

"Sorry to burst your bubble but your rallies havent been working lately. Good luck with it!"

"My gun store told me that gun prices are going to reach the moon this year, because their wholesale distributor already warned them. There is huge demand right now and if you add that to the hyperinflation that is coming, the working class stiff will soon be priced out of owning a firearm."

"In California rifle prices are through the roof . . . Friend of mine paid 1600 dollars for a rifle on which Rock River Arms lists the MSRP @ $1100."

"You heard me! Even Obama said that stocks look like a good investment at these levels. Take out a second mortgage on your house and put all your money in C and GM. Everybody will win! Weeeee! "The fundamentals of our economy are strong!"

"Did Obama mention whether being long or short was the good investment at these level?"

Friday, March 06, 2009

To the White House: Forget the Inheritance, the Problem is Now

The financial problems plaguing this country are not limited to those inherited from the last administration. The lack of interest projected by the President when it comes to financial matters is taking its toll as well. The President has got to get a grip and encourage the nation. He has to abandon his crazy spending ideas and batten down the hatches. A nation is a terrible thing to waste.

Pictured above is the Dow Jones Industrial Average with the red line marking what has happened from election day until today. Down 3,000 points. This isn't a little moving back and forth from day-to-day like a tracking poll best ignored--as the President put it--to get things right; this is a major meltdown.

Life savings are being lost, businesses are going down the drain, and people are wondering if their cash in the bank will be there when they go to get it. When people buy stock they're trying to buy something that has future value. When the only certain future is uncertainly, the market will try to price that as valiently as it can. Today's market is not solely attributable to an inherited problem, this is a problem in the White House as well. The leadership vacuum created by a president who fails to address the problem by reassuring and encouraging his fellow citizens is frightening and it must stop.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Enemies? Recalling the Days of Richard Nixon

White House enemies in the first 100 days of a new adminis- tration? Totally bizarre. Most new presidents spend their first few months in office moving beyond their campaigns. They work on mending partisan fences and becoming a president of all the American people. Traditionally, it's an era of good feeling as the country adjusts to a new leader, whether or not they voted for him.

I was never much of a Rush Limbaugh fan. In fact, I didn't care for him at all. But I can learn to like him if Washington D.C. is going to become some big-people equivalent of the grade-school playground. I'm glad that Limbaugh has issued his debate invitation, and I hope he gets a favorable response.

Many Americans are too young to remember President Richard Nixon. While he was president, Barack Obama was a child living in Indonesia, far away from the US evening news. That's probably why he missed how bizarre people thought a "White House Enemies List" was. How he missed learning about it in history class when he returned to the US I am not sure. Presidents are supposed to have important enemies, like whole nations or empires or ideologies, not individual American citizens.

The Nixon Enemies List--including the Master List of Political Opponents--has been written about extensively, and is considered to be evidence of Nixon's increasing problem with paranoia while in office. Real questions remain whether Nixon completely succumbed to mental illness in the last days of his administration. Debate continues whether the enemies list or talking to the pictures on the wall is more important in that assessment.

While the President looks pretty healthy to me, this is nuts.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Very Bad Morning Start in Wilmette

At the left is what's happened to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) since election day 2008, and the picture isn't pretty. On the right, below, is the stock price chart for gun maker Smith and Wesson for the past 30 days (shortly after the inauguration). Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?

Wilmette is suffering in the wake of the news of the horrible murder-suicide in Wilmette yesterday and I've been on edge all day. Somehow I turned the volume up on my clock radio, and I woke up this morning with loud ugly music from WFMT, guaranteed to offput all but the sturdiest of listeners. Then I stepped on the cat who stuck her paw under my foot at the refrigerator, and everyone was screaming including me and the cat. Of course, I left the house late, and my mood hasn't improved at all. I was pretty sure I had a headache, but I think the truth is that it's just nerves.