Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why Should I Starve Just Because Clerical Workers Are?

For the first year since 1975 There will be no COLA or cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries of Social Security or Social Security Disability payments. Increases are evidently calculated based on the earnings of urban wage earners and clerical workers.

I am frankly miffed that just because they are starving I should? Economists do this song and dance about the fact that due to the economy there has been no raise in the cost of living ergo no raise for us to adjust to it. What world are they living in?

My property taxes went up because due to decline in sales of consumer goods the gross receipts proceeds went down and to make up for that property taxes must go up. Because of the houses that fell to hurricanes and fires insurance went up. When do we start telling people where not to build? And so I expected a raise in my escrow payments on my mortgage but $61 a month?

Seems there is a new federal law that either mandates or allows (banks read allows as mandates) our mortgage holders to hold "extra money" over and above what it takes to pay taxes and insurance annually. I can either give them $650 interest free before March 1st or pay the $61 more a month. BTW I also do not earn interest on that.

So then the current electric bill has that item called fuel adjustment on it. It appears in the winter when the providers of the power my coop resells raise their fees. That was almost $17 of my bill this month. The more I heat my house the more that raises. Because of energy bills last year I have decided to learn to live at under 60 degrees. And I get to that balmy level with the wood stove and the passive solar addition to my home. I no longer use my clothes dryer. If it is too cold to dry clothes outside they hang around in my hall. The good news there is KWH used has dropped from 716 last year at this time to 534 this. But cost per day only lowered by 7 cents which says ole government of mine that the cost of living has gone up. Or should I say the cost of not freezing to death.

I don't have to hire clerical workers. And I certainly cannot afford to hire anyone to do anything around my rural property. But it is still costing me much more to live this year than it did last or the year before. So much more that I am considering deleting Medicare Part B from my insurance coverage. I cannot afford to go to the doctor even if I have to only pay 20% so why pay for something I don't use. And it would net me $96 more a month which just might cover the increases in energy and escrow. Then if I stop eating. . .

Well, it is something to consider. If I starve to death (or freeze to death) my sister has to come up with the money for the cremation. Then I would be warm at least.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What Are They Thinking?

I used to teach skiing. And I was one of what seemed a dwindling group of people that argued about the ecological soundness of ski resorts. There really are some good points I will not clutter this blog up with today.

That those pluses for the environment are on the ever lighter end of the scale in relationship to the mega kilowatts spent every night to blow snow, and the diesel fuel used to groom that snow more and more finely to please the diminishing consumer (skiing is not a growth sport) is another matter for more in depth discussion. This blog was going to be about the Angel Fire Resort announcing night skiing beginning on this Saturday. And how very inappropriate that seemed in juxtaposition to the conference on global warming taking place.

We are tree huggers in New Mexico. Part of the reasons we are so in trouble every summer because of wild fires is groups like Carson Watch that worked to ban logging and also stopped harvesting of dead and down trees for firewood. Our various Chambers of Commerce and tourist bureaus headline our unpolluted night skies. Where I live five miles south of Angel Fire nothing competes with the stars at night but the moon. And by 9:30 at night in Angel Fire only the street lights are on and their have been movements to turn those off for star gazers.

And to this mix comes a corporation that will do anything for the all mighty tourist dollar. They have installed lights and will now begin night skiing. I have to feel sad for all the owners of ski-in/ski-in houses and condos along the trails. Many of them already bitch and moan about the noise the snow making machines make all night long. Not to mention the snow cats grooming the newly made snow all night. Now they need to contend with the glaring lights. I suppose there will be a rush on blackout shades.

That is what this was going to be about. Then I Googled an image for this blog. I knew that resorts very close to metropolitan areas did night skiing to capture the after work sports fan. But I was shocked to see the number of ski resorts that now tout night skiing from Arizona to Vermont. All those mega watts of candle power illuminating once pristine mountain skies, warming the night, wasting energy that so many of us are trying to save by turning off every spare light in the house and switching to those awful energy efficient florescent bulbs.

Am I working on tolerating 62 degrees over 72 in my house so they can warm of the atmosphere with all that candle power for a few people to ski after the sun goes down? I am sure night skiing is just the tip of the power wasting iceberg (all of which are melting away) but before Obama demands accountability from the Chinese maybe we need to show some here. It costs the average ski area between $3000 and $10,000 a night in electric power to blow snow. And we talk about the shortage of clean power in the US?

And there is night golf, and night tennis. And Phoenix that mists its walkways with water it steals from the Colorado Watershed. Not to mention watering it 150 golf course in an area that gets less than 6 inches of rain a year. This shit has got to stop. We need to align ourselves with the earth we live upon not try and force it to be what will generate money for the already extremely wealthy.

If God had wanted night skiing in New Mexico she would have  made the stars brighter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

They Just Don't Get It!

I was having coffee with a friend yesterday and managed to catch a few minutes of President Obama's bashing of the banks. He singled out financial institutions for causing much of the economic tailspin and criticized their opposition to tighter federal oversight of their industry.

"It was, as some have put it, risk management without the management," he said.

The president also told CBS' "60 Minutes" that "the people on Wall Street still don't get it. ... They're still puzzled why it is that people are mad at the banks. Well, let's see. You guys are drawing down $10, $20 million bonuses after America went through the worst economic year ... in decades and you guys caused the problem," Obama said in an excerpt released in advance of Sunday night's broadcast of his interview.

Upon returning home I received an e-mail from the New York Times saying that Wells Fargo was selling 10.4 billion dollars in new stock to repay the $25 billion TARP loan. Citigroup had just repaid $20 billion but still owes us more. Surely this was not just to get the president off their butts? And it isn't. They are still the Scrooges in this story. By repaying these loans from the American taxpayer the restrictions on the practice of obscene end of the year bonus is lifted. Be prepared to hear about how much their CEO's will be getting as Christmas Presidents. 

Everyone is getting into the Christmas spirit. Bank of America paid back $45 billion on December 9th. And they sidestep the President's stated objective of forcing borrowing banks to make more loans to small businesses and homeowners bottom up in their mortgages.

But my question is where did Wells Fargo get the $10.4 billion in stock? And where were they hiding the other $35 billion. Weren't they about to go belly up when we bailed them out? It is possible it was hidden the same place G.W. Bush's 22 million missing e-mails were. But we found those. During his eight years in office lots of controversial electronic mail on iffy decisions went missing. Key here is to know merely pressing the delete button obviously does not work. Consider that bank CEO's. Your real financial balance sheets can be found.

As a side issue I was Googling an image for this blog on banking and Monopoly seemed appropriate. Parker Bros still has that smiley and lovable banker despite current polls that put people of that ilk up in the most hated list. And I found this image for the electronic version of the time honored game we all loved to fight over. No more paper money to dole out. You can do it all with plastic. And you can begin training your  children to just swipe that credit card as the tender age of eight. Merry Christmas.

Isn't this a large part of how we got into this mess in the first place? Everyone was not playing with real money. And obviously still aren't. But the good news is Christmas spending is down 50% from last year, which was not a banner one, plastic or no plastic.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

If the Shoe Fits Wear It

As we approach Christmas the news seems to get sillier and sillier. Angelina Jolie recently criticized President Barack Obama because he had not gotten around to her treasured issue. (Frankly, I did not even bother to look at what the issue was).  BTW, Angelina, I think he has been a bit busy. There have been two wars to fight, health care reform, and saving the US economy from the brink of a depression. Though I doubt you have noticed any of that.

And it seems that Bill O'Reilly of Fox News (I have put news in italics because I believe it is misused) feels he has been maligned in an episode of Law and Order: SVU. The episode deals with a serial killer of illegal immigrants. In one scene, a character named Randall Carver, played by veteran actor John Larroquette, is sitting on a park bench talking to Fin, the detective played by Ice-T. In defending the actions of the man who killed the immigrants’ children, Larroquette's character says, "Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, all of 'em, they are like a cancer spreading ignorance and hate...They've convinced folks that immigrants are the problem, not corporations that fail to pay a living wage or a broken health care system..."

Well, yes. So what is your point Bill? O'Reilly called the "far left" Wolf (creator of the show) a "despicable human being" whose show is "out of control." I wonder if it has yet occurred to Mr. O'Reilly that most of us viewers would have hardly noticed if he had not called it to our attention? But then that would require thinking. My father used to always say, "If the shoe fits, wear it." Obviously O'Reilly has chosen to wear this particular pair of shoes left hanging casually hanging around a television show. A fictional television show.

In the top news stories on Yahoo's News page the O'Reilly story was first. Lady Gaga's (who in the #@$@ is she?) reindeer hat was second, and the "shocking" news that Tiger Woods was taking a leave from golf to tend to home matters was fourth or third. There was a story about a ten year old iceberg drifting toward the Australian coast that merited a read.

Definitely the silly season! Except this is beginning to seem the norm on news shows and news internet sites. Maybe the word news needs to be in italics all the time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One Bright Spot of Sanity

I noticed this morning that it had been a while since I had done a new post for Travels with Charley. So I went searching for something newsworthy that the talking heads had not masticated to death. And finally found myself totally out of the political realm.

Richard Wright, a 49 year old painter and muralist, has been awarded the Turner Prize. The Turner Prize is awarded annually to a body of work by an artist under 50, and born, living or working in Britain. I find it very hopeful that in an age of multiple wars, continuing threat of global nuclear anniliation, global warming, governors using jets to visit mistresses in a foreign country, wives taking after their mates with golf clubs, Barbie and Ken sneaking into the White House to get a reality tv show, and car bombs in Iraq that art is still being created and awards for it continue.

Why save the human race if there isn't art, music, literature, scientific discovery, higher callings, and thinking outside the box? If we are just squabbles on the Senate floor over health care, vain seeking of attention with potentially hazardous pranks, acquisition of wealth for the sake of acquisition only, murderous actions over differences in religion, power for the sake of seduction, and midnight fights over our mates indiscretions then set off the bombs. We are a waste of air.

I applaud Richard Wright. And the foundation that awards the Turner prize yearly. Let's follow their example and praise art and not war.

That said I think I am going to change the primary focus of this blog. No politics for the sake of politics. I will instead focus on news and issues that crave attention while the media runs endless retakes of Tiger Woods' predawn motor accident and Sarah Palin's electability in 2012. That isn't saying that I will not from time to time have something to say about Sarah (especially if she has an affair with Tiger) but I want to focus more on the positive in the news in 2010 and I might as well begin now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

War Weary

I didn't watch President Obama's prime time address last night. It was available on via live feed and I checked the web page for exact broadcast times.

Unlike GW, Obama is a good speaker and interesting to listen to. I managed to avoid all prime time addresses by GW for eight years. And I have managed to catch almost all of Obama's. But as the clock rolled to the time for the on-line broadcast I went instead to AARP's game site to play 3-Dimensional Mahjong.

This morning I got up and went back to to at a minimum catch excerpts. Instead I watched the analysis. And as I did so I came to a startling conclusion about myself. An epiphany. I don't like to watch anyone talk about war. Especially wars that have gone on for longer than WWI and WWII combined. Enough already!

Charlie Gibson used the term "war weary." I am war weary, the nation is war weary. If we are all so tired of war why don't we just stop it? It is certainly well past the time. It seems as if my lifetime has been defined by war. I was born in the closing days of WWII. Dad, a bomber pilot, was missing in action (and found) during Korea. Then there was Vietnam, my generation's war. So many of my friends went and did not come back. Then Iraq I and now Iraq II. And we are the third nation to try and win in Afghanistan. I think we have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that goal is impossible. Surge or no surge.

Obama did say one thing I can heartily back: The only nation I am interested in building is our own. So let's stop spending all those billions in countries that are not grateful and spend it here instead.