Sunday, November 30, 2008

China losing luster says Business Week

"A new survey finds rising worries about product quality and intellectual-property theft. More U.S. companies are looking to Mexico and their own backyard." Not fast enough. Especially food items. I picked up a box of holiday decorated Kellogg's Rice Krispie squares--an unfamiliar product. These days I'm looking for details. If it is not made or grown in the USA or Canada and is a food or health and beauty item, I put it back on the shelf. This one had only the decorated candies "made in China." No thanks. There is no reason for the USA to be importing food items, and I don't care what the trade agreements are, when we don't have the will to hire enough inspectors. Link. "Distributed by" tells you nothing. . . except that it probably wasn't grown or made in the USA.

Media hype wrong again

So much for all the gloom, doom and disaster the media were promoting. Who are their sources? The people went out on Black Friday and increased spending by 3% over last year. And for once I'm glad. The jobs they saved may be their neighbors or their own. Now we'll get all the qualifying stories from the journalists and consultants who got it wrong. The "yes, but," excuses.

Anyone in retirement years can see we're heading for a bad time, just open your latest statement. It's not like 2004 when the Kerry/Edwards campaign continually bad mouthed the economy for over a year, Bush, new jobs, etc. and the media chimed right in. It's not 2006 when the Democrats took over Congress by campaigning on the bad economy (that wasn't) and then rode it into the ditch by making no corrections the president wanted. The week after the 2004 election it was all good economic news again. Because we don't have time for it turn around like it did in the late 80s, and the late 90s and after 9/11, it's going to be a challenge for retirees--especially if they don't fix that 70.5 age for drawing down IRAs based on Dec. 31, 2007 balances. People my age didn't grow up expecting everything, so we are probably better off than the younger boomers who thought life would always be a bigger house, or a new leased car every other year, or a vacation in Aruba.


"By the 8th century, Advent, the origins of which are apparently to be found some three or four centuries earlier in Gaul, had become an integral part of the Christmas cycle and was understood to be the beginning of the church year. The season has two parts. From the first Sunday through December 16 there is an eschatological emphasis, and the days from December 17 to Christmas Even look toward Jesus' birth. The Nativity is thus properly understood as the guarantee of the second advent; as Christ came once in humility, so he will come again in glory." . . .

"in the single word "come" (Prayer of the Day, Lutheran Book of Worship) the prayer, which is addressed directly to Christ, voices the longing appeal of the church for the advent of its Lord." . . .

"The appointed color sequence is found for the first time at the beginning of the 12th century; usage varied. . . " from violet to purple, and now the preference listed in the LBW is blue. Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship, by Philip H. Pfatteicher, (Augsburg Fortress, 1990), chapter 5, "The Propers," p. 207

Library snacking reflects society

When I returned to work in the mid-1980s, the big discussion, at least at OSU and I assume other academic libraries, was food in the libraries. It was a huge maintenance problem and the trash was a problem both for staff and users. I don't recall much alarm then about health, obesity, and the greening of everything. So we pretty much went to a "no food and drink" policy as a preservation plan (of materials and staff) which soon was chipped away first in Health Sciences, as I recall. You just don't tell doctors, even those in training, where they can eat, drink or sleep. So then came rules about permanent holders, lids, sippy cups, etc. There was a snack machine in the room next door to the Veterinary Library, which the librarian before me raged about (he had other problems, including borrowing money from faculty and not paying it back, and not showing up for work--but oh, he watched that machine!). I've lost track of what the current plan is--the main library at OSU has been closed for renovation for several years. My library was torn down and replaced and I've only been in it once, although I planned it.

Libraries, like churches, give in to society's cultural norms and to common business practices, and are not the moral and ethical touchstones they aspire to be. So now in the 21st century library cafes are becoming popular. Even my local public library has tried to push that one, although you can walk across the street to a shopping center and get a nice cup of coffee served to you. The book, The Survey of Library Cafes, surveyed the current trend (40+ libraries, mostly public), and although I haven't read it, here are some of the highlights:
    The study presents data from a survey of more than 40 academic and public libraries. The libraries provide data about their library cafes and other food service operations, such as vending machines. The report has more than 100 tables of data exploring a broad range of issues related to library cafes, such as their finances, impact on patron traffic, staffing and maintenance. Data is broken out for academic and public libraries, and by size of library, for easier benchmarking.

    Some of the findings of the report are that:

    - Snacks account for nearly 71% of the income of library cafes, though lunch adds a not at all negligible 20.83% of total revenue and breakfast chips in with another 8.33%, according to The Survey of Library Cafes.

    - Salads in this era of health consciousness chipped in only a mean of 4.5% of sales, more in the public than college libraries. All salad sales came from the larger libraries, those with more than 600,000 annual patrons.

    - The average price of a cup of coffee in the library cafes was $1.49, perhaps reflecting the Starbuck-ization of the library café. This figure also takes into account those libraries that gave their coffee away.

    - More than 40% of the library cafes offered outdoor eating. Close to 65% of the libraries in the sample had vending machines, with an average of only about three vending machines per library.
So, libraries contribute to obesity on the one hand, then buy books on dieting and alarmist titles about an obese population on the other. I'd have to look at it to see if these cafes are subbed out to private contractors or they use library-hired staff, but either way, the building is paid for by you, the tax payer, and it competes with your business community which also has to pay taxes to support the library. Nice job if you can get it.

It looks terribly expensive for the compiled data--55 pages and 80 euros! I'm wondering if authors' intention is to provide library directors, like ours, data to convince their board and voters that they need the next bond issue to open a cafe, yada, yada:
    "This report gives extensive data on library cafe sales volume, best selling products, impact on library maintenance costs, reasons for starting a cafe, affect on library traffic and many other issues regarding the decision to start and manage a library cafe."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The word terrorist returns to print

Did you notice? As early as October 2001 Reuters asked its reporters to not use terrorist when referring to 9/11 hijackers/attackers. But this week with the attacks in Mumbai (Bombay) it's in vogue again. Even Barack Obama used it. "The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and Nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks." Doesn't that sound familiar, even if he wants them to do the heavy lifting? Belligerent. Bellicose. I think both Clinton and Bush said something very similar years ago. Anyway, apparently there are journalists, experts and commentators who still don't get it, that this might take some time to analyze and figure out. Maybe caution? Here's one Indian who's just telling it like it is. Smoke Signals.

For your listening pleasure

"Alison Krauss and Union Station have recorded 10 of Ron Block’s songs since 1992, including the beautiful “In the Palm of Your Hand” from the Alison Krauss and the Cox Family album (I Know Who Holds Tomorrow) and “A Living Prayer” from Lonely Runs Both Ways, which received a 2006 Gospel Music Association Dove award for the Bluegrass Song of the Year."

Thank you Sue at Inner Dorothy, a pastor of a United Church of Canada.

A Living Prayer

In this world I walk alone
With no place to call my home
But there's one who holds my hand
The rugged road through barren lands

The way is dark, the road is steep
But He's become my eyes to see
The strength to climb, my griefs to bear
The Savior lives inside me there

In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

In these trials of life I find
Another voice inside my mind
He comforts me and bids me live
Inside the love the Father gives

In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

Also see this link.

Good Bye Mr. President

I don’t know how long this will be on his opening web page, but Steven Curtis Chapman has a song thanking the outgoing president. All Americans can be proud of the way the out going and in coming presidents are working together.

“Whether you voted for him & love him, or you’ve disagreed with all his policies and dislike him... Could we all agree on this? We owe President Bush a sincere thank you. As the historic Inauguration of President Elect Barack Obama approaches, pauses to thank our outgoing President for his service to our great country.”

It really is a beautiful song. It looks like we’re entering a new phase of terrorism--at least I see the newspapers have returned to using that word. Now the sleepless nights will belong to the Obamas.

More jobs promised--what does it mean?

The Lex Column weighs in:
    "I have already directed my economic team to come up with an Economic Recovery Plan that will mean 2.5m more jobs by January of 2011." Barack Obama chooses his words very carefully. What the US president-elect has not promised is the "creation" of 2.5m new jobs. Nor will millions of jobs be "saved". So what does 2.5m "more" jobs actually mean?

    For example, more jobs might mean trying to put the current and soon-to-be unemployed back to work - in effect raising, or at least stabilising, the size of the workforce. Alternatively, he may be saying that if 4m jobs are to be lost over the next two years (very possible at current run-rates), the number would be 6.5m without his recovery plan. Of course, under both scenarios the economy has benefited. But clearly the second outcome is horrendously more painful. . .

    Finally, the Obama plan is on questionable theoretical turf. Obviously 2.5m additional paper-pushers, or 1,000-worker teams building 50 bridges-to-nowhere in each state, are not desirable. But even creating so-called productive jobs is problematic. . . A new job building a wind farm here could mean one less mechanic at a factory over there. [or a lost town in Ohio dependent on coal due to his promised destruction of our industry through cap and trade, nb] Mr. Obama is right to try to kick start demand--and right to be vague about promises he may not be able to keep. [when hasn’t he been vague?] The Lex Column, Financial Times, Nov. 28, 2008

Cutting costs at church

It adds up. Closing 2 days of the week, and eliminating donut holes. But what if. . .

Thank you, Emily, for that reminder!

What would we do without our friendly government or academic reminding us of what we already know, but somehow like petulant children, refuse to use.
    “Pace yourself. Eating slowly can help reduce overall intake over time,” said Emily Lisciandro, a clinical dietician [my spell check says dietitian, but the dictionary says this spelling is OK] at the Ohio State University Medical Center. “Also, gauge your eating habits and if you find you have overindulged, eat sensibly in the days that follow.”

    Before going to a party, a healthy snack can curb your appetite and help you avoid less healthy options, say Lisciandro. Avoid the temptations of overeating by sipping on a beverage or chewing a piece of gum and don’t use dieting after the holidays as an excuse to eat more, she advises.

    There are still many healthy, seasonal food options such as turkey, fruits and vegetables, and the following minor changes will help you enjoy your favorite foods:
      •Have a piece of pumpkin pie topped with fat-free whipped topping or a piece of angel food cake, which is better than eating a half-batch of iced cut-out cookies.

      •Watch out for beverages loaded with calories. Choose hot cider instead of eggnog.

      •Check cooking magazines for lighter versions of your favorite recipes.

      •Substitute egg whites for whole eggs, use skim evaporated milk instead of heavy cream and look for fat-free or lighter versions of whipped toppings, cream cheese and other foods.

    Lisciandro also suggests focusing on other fun holiday activities -- besides eating. “To burn extra calories, chop wood for a fire, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away when going to the mall, or participate in seasonal activities such as sledding, ice skating or skiing.”
After we got back home on Thursday loaded with left overs from my daughter's fabulous meal, my husband took two walks and I took one. Noticing that my favorite slacks didn't fit, I actually stepped on the scale. I'm not even eating the pumpkin pie and cherry pie and honey baked ham she sent home. But I will also avoid chopping wood, sledding and ice skating. (Wonder where Emily lives? Between Cleveland and Buffalo?)

Story from OSU Press Release.
Burning calories after dinner

Friday, November 28, 2008

Michael Vick's dogs

Twenty two dogs confiscated from convicted felon and former NFL quarterback Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels now live at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah and have their portraits on wine labels. And 92% of Down Syndrome babies are aborted, and Planned Parenthood is promoting gift certificates to do it.

This is rich

Obama has noticed the rich farmers getting government subsidies. Duh! Line by line he's going through the budget. Maybe he'll notice how much of the food support for the "hungry people" is actually welfare for farmers and the food industry?
    "President Bush actually sought a $200,000 annual income cap on subsidy payments, but Congress couldn't bring itself to vote on anything below $750,000. And even that got killed by the likes of Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, who as it happens helped Mr. Orszag get his current job running the Congressional Budget Office. The Members ended up passing a $300 billion bill in which nearly every crop, from corn to sugar, won subsidy increases. Mr. Bush vetoed it in May but was overridden.

    The vote in the Senate was 82 to 13. Mr. Obama missed the roll call, issuing a campaign statement saying that the bill was "far from perfect" and would have preferred "tighter payment limits." However, he added that "with so much at stake, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good." And he then went on to rake Mr. Bush and John McCain (who opposed the bill) for "saying no to America's farmers and ranchers, no to energy independence, no to the environment, and no to millions of hungry people." In other words, given the chance to support cuts in farm subsidies for the rich, Mr. Obama chose instead to attack his Republican opponents for doing precisely that." WSJ Nov. 26
Now that he's going to be president, he'll have to leave that empty suit in the closet and show up for votes.

Why the non-profits are watching Team-O very carefully

Their jobs are on the line. The government uses non-profits* to outsource their programs--i.e., the government is really much, much larger than it looks. President Bush believed in "partnerships with private industry and non-profits." This is not the Obama plan.

For instance, the AAHSA (American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) we read:
    AAHSA [according 2002 testimony by Thomas W. Slemmer, NCR president] represents more than 5,600 mission-driven, not-for-profit members, senior housing, nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living, and community services organizations. Every day, our members serve more than one million older persons across the country. AAHSA is committed to advancing the vision of healthy, affordable, ethical long-term care for America. Housing is a critical part of the long-term care continuum. Our members own and manage more than 300,000 units of federally assisted and market rate housing, including the largest number of sponsors of Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly.
Representing close to 6,000 members, all not-for-profit and many faith-based, AAHSA does a lot of testifying on Capitol Hill. Looking through the various press releases during the campaign, it was extremely careful not to take sides or rattle any cages. That's a lot of careers, jobs, salaries, benefits, regulations, consumers (the elderly) and their families. And that's billions in government grants. Here's what Obama said in October in a letter to HUD:
    Because of the fiscal mess left behind by the current Administration, we will need to look carefully at all departments and programs. We plan specifically to look at work that is being contracted out to ensure that it is fiscally responsible and effective. It is dishonest to claim real savings by reducing the number of HUD employees overseeing a program but increase the real cost of the program by transferring oversight to contractors. I pledge to reverse this poor management practice.
Let's put aside the fact that a member Congress, which has oversite for the "fiscal mess" including the Barney Frank and Chris Dodd dog and pony show which precipitated our melt down, attributes the blame to Bush, he the Great O-Hope, next president, is going to fix it. How? By taking all those contracts away from the not-for-profits and faith-based organizations. He will Katrinasize the Old Age Industry in the U.S., one of the fastest growing demographics in the country. He'll Amtrak it into chaos and bankruptcy by returning these programs to the ever more inefficient federal government.

I personally think the oversite for these grants is outrageously lax, I could probably start a non-profit using calico cats to fight dementia in the elderly and wouldn't need to report how inefficient I was unless I spent more than X-amount of $$. But I wouldn't expect better from HUD if it had its sticky fingers in the pie directly from the beltway to Beaverton. Even if he doesn't return all the jobs to HUD, HHS and USDA, he'll so over regulate them that they might as well become government agencies in name if not in fact. I do not expect to see his favorites on the Left like ACORN lose their funding (hundreds of entangled in every imaginable non-profit from nutrition to housing to health), but if you're working in a faith-based agency, you ought to be very, very scared.

Many of the experts on government like Karl Rove, are applauding his "moderate choices" and retreads which will insulate him from his "change and hope" no-program ideas, but I'm not convinced. Sorry Karl, I think you're wrong on this one. I think the radical left is just waiting for all these billions currently out sourced to the faith-based and conservative/benign not-for-profits.

*Non-profit and not-for-profit are often used interchangeably, but the first seems to be an agency and the second an organization, for instance, Lutheran Social Services would be a non-profit but it might be a member of a not-for-profit like AAHSA.

** Photo from Cat Woman who rescues and finds homes for cats.

My secret fat

Today I got a warning in my e-mail, and an offer to buy a book promoting the secret to weight loss, telling me that we’re getting fat because of “MSG and other excitotoxins.” That’s not my problem, but I'm sure it will sell some books. This morning I stepped on the scale and it announced the bad, bad news. Since our trip to Italy this summer (6 months ago) I’ve put on 10 lbs. And that’s why my favorite, all wool, beautifully made, brown tweed Pendleton pants suit doesn’t fit as cold weather slips into Ohio. Now, there may be MSG in my food, but my problem is MGS, not MSG. More Gratuitous Snacking. Boxes of crackers have mysteriously made their way into my grocery cart, as have blocks of sharp cheddar cheese. I discovered an oreo cookie knock-off made with peanut butter for the filling. Three or four of those in the middle of the afternoon have given me just the MGS lift I needed. And let’s not forget my healthy breakfast of a sliced apple and ¼ cup of walnuts. The ¼ cup has grown to ¾ cup. And where in the world did those huge asiago bagels come from that I individually packaged and froze? They sure knocked out some plans to eat only 3 or 4 vegetables for lunch.

No, buying a book of diet secrets won’t be part of my plan.

Backstory: In September 2006 upon returning from my sister-in-law's wedding in California, I determined to lose 20 lbs by February 1, 2007 and I did. In the processes of giving up some favorite things (see my Thursday Thirteen), I also stopped snoring, had fewer back strains, and fewer colds (although that may be a coincidence). Just to make the personal political, let me remind you that the billions of dollars of your tax money the federal government is currently spending on programs and research to get the overweight poor and low-income quintiles to change their diets are destined to enrich only the USDA and HHS government workers if my experience changing my own habits and tastes is anecdotal evidence worth noting.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Over the river and past the golf course

We began the day with a lovely service at church with pastor Eric Waters preaching. I hope it's on the church web site, because it was certainly fabulous and worth listening to again. Our son and our son-in-law's father attended with us. Lots of wonderful hymns and seeing many faces from our scattered 9 services. Then it was off to our daughter's for a fabulous meal, two naps (turkey overload), and lots of left overs to bring home. A lovely table set with her Lenox wedding china and crystal.

Honey baked ham
roast (to perfection) turkey
baked and browned squash
fresh green beans
fresh beets
mashed potatoes
home made cranberry sauce
home made applesauce
wild rice and mushrooms
traditional stuffing
turkey gravy
rolls, deviled eggs, pickles, olives, etc.
several red wines
pumpkin pie
cherry pie
We just sort of rolled in the door when we got home. Tomorrow I'm back to the veggies and sensible eating. I couldn't get into my favorite pants suit before we went, and it will certainly be impossible now!

Praying for Obama

Of course, I will. The Bible tells me so. But today I was reading a blog about a Socialist Spanish Senator who converted to Catholicism and changed her views on abortion and is now pro-life. Wow. What would it take. . . I wondered. Then I found another blog called Obama Hears A Who.
    Obama Hears A Who! is an inquiry into the possibility of persuading Barack Obama to change his mind on the abortion issue and become pro-life.

    Many pro-lifers will consider this to be an exercise in tilting at windmills. (And Obama himself said in a speech to Planned Parenthood that "I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield!")

    But I beg to disagree, not only because of believing in a God of surprises who swoops in with Black Swans, but also because of the fact that Barack Obama is made in the image and likeness of God and we have a responsibility to try and persuade him because of that. . .
The blog has only been around about two months but is interesting. The reference to Black Swans is unexpected events that totally change direction of a presidency burying the campaign promises--9/11 for George Bush, a man who had plans for his domestic policy but not jihad terrorists, and the September financial meltdown for Barack Obama, who was anti-war and pro-social programs, but will need to rebuild not just a national economy, but a global economy.
    [Nassim] Taleb is fascinated by the rare but pivotal events that characterize life in the power-law world. He calls them Black Swans, after the philosopher Karl Popper's observation that only a single black swan is required to falsify the theory that "all swans are white" even when there are thousands of white swans in evidence. Provocatively, Mr. Taleb defines Black Swans as events (such as the rise of the Internet or the fall of LTCM) that are not only rare and consequential but also predictable only in retrospect. We never see them coming, but we have no trouble concocting post hoc explanations for why they should have been obvious. Surely, Mr. Taleb taunts, we won't get fooled again. But of course we will. WSJ

As we gather to enjoy Thanksgiving

Let's remember one of the popular myths from our history--The Great Depression. Myth #4, Where the market had failed, the government stepped in to protect ordinary people.

"Hoover's disastrous agricultural policies involved the know-it-all Hoover acting as his own agriculture secretary and in fact writing the original Agricultural Marketing Act that evolved into Smoot-Hawley. While exports accounted for 7% of U.S. GDP in 1929, trade accounted for about one-third of U.S. farm income. The loss of export markets caused by Smoot-Hawley devastated the agricultural sector. Following in Hoover's footsteps, FDR concentrated on trying to raise farm income by such tactics as setting quotas on production and paying farmers to remove acreage from production -- even though this meant higher prices for hard-pressed consumers and had the effect of both lowering productivity and driving farmers off their land."

It was the poor who were hurt the most by the government's policies during the depression. We did not get out of it through benign, enlightened federal programs, taxing the people with one hand, and handing a little back with the other. Don't be fooled again!

Yes, do contribute to your local food pantry--there really are hungry people, and in keeping with a long tradition in the USA, conservative Christians will be contributing the lion's share. But keep in mind how poverty figures are juggled by bureaucrats so that it is never eleminated (they would lose their jobs). These figures do not take into consideration the huge transfer of wealth in the form of health care (Medicaid, Medicare, SCHIP), food programs (food stamps, school nutriton, etc.), housing programs (vouchers, affordable housing trusts, etc), Social Security and tax right offs, so that the 95% of us who were to get a tax break under Obama can't, because so many people don't pay federal income tax. Also, about 50 million of our 300 million people aren't citizens and probably need to go home and live on the kindness of their own governments. That would considerably reduce our expenses. If women would marry the father of their children, that could also reduce some government spending. The proportion of children living in female-headed households doubled between 1970 and 2003, rising from 11.6 percent in 1970 to 23.6 in 2003. There are a lot of women living with men who should be kicked out of the house simply for not contributing to expenses! Also, poverty figures include people who are only in that group briefly, such as college students or people just starting out, or the elderly who have wealth, but not income.

Indeed, there will always be a gap between the rich and poor, even if the bottom makes $200,000 a year and the top $200,000,000; and it is the gap and not the actual income or benefits that determines the philosophy of the party about to take over the $400 billion or 12% of our GDP we're currently spending on low-income and poor people.

How feminists in the church killed the pronoun

When feminists write about Rahab or Sarah or Mary Magdalene, I don't know if they allow themselves the luxury of using the feminine pronouns, her and she, or if they just keep repeating their job description or name. This is what they do to our Father God and his son, our Lord Jesus Christ and the person and work of the Holy Spirit. It's possible, given all the hymns, liturgies, committee and commission reports, feminists (male and female) may eventually kill as many masculine pronouns as they have female babies (in many cultures, even our own, male children are preferred). The following statement, now almost 20 years old, is from "The Oxford Declaration on Christianity and Economics," which was issued as a broad consensus following the Second Oxford Conference on January 4-9, 1990, which resulted from a 3 year study beginning at the January 1987 gathering at Oxford (I'm assuming it was called the First*). Notice anything missing? Anything repeated? Masculine pronouns.


A. Creation and Stewardship

God the Creator

1. From God and through God and to God are all things (Romans 11:36). In the freedom of God's eternal love, by the word of God's omnipotent power, and through the Creator Spirit, the Triune God gave being to the world and to human beings which live in it. God pronounced the whole creation good. For its continuing existence creation is dependent on God. The same God who created it is present in it, sustaining it, and giving it bountiful life (Psalm 104:29). In Christ, "all things were created . . . and all things hold together" (Colossians 1:15-20). Though creation owes its being to God, it is itself not divine. The greatness of creation-both human and non-human-exists to glorify its Creator. The divine origin of the creation, its continued existence through God, redemption through Christ, and its purpose to-glorify God are fundamental truths which must guide all Christian reflection on creation and stewardship.

Appears as a Word document at
Even the passage from Romans 11 has been changed (and probably reflects modern English translations to please feminists on the committees):

"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

This is why modern Christian vernacular, at least in English, sounds so clumsy and repetitious--so political. Why many leave the liberal denominations or just leave church all together. This paragraph just begs for a pronoun:

15. For Christians, work acquires a new dimension. God calls all Christians to employ through work the various gifts that God has given them. God calls people to enter the kingdom of God and to live a life in accordance with its demands. When people respond to the call of God, God enables them to bear the fruit of the Spirit and endows them individually with multiple gifts of the Spirit. As those who are gifted by the Spirit and whose actions are guided by the demands of love, Christians should do their work in the service of God and humanity.
Although this won't explain the loss of masculine pronouns, I think we all know the source of hatred behind that, it is interesting that this document on Christianity and Economics cites the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which does not mention the name of God (I did a "find" command) or even the idea of God, but the U.S. Declaration of Independence uses God in the first sentence, followed by Creator, Supreme Judge, Divine Providence. The U.N. document is a declaration of rights, as is our Declaration of Independence. Our Constitution doesn't use the word God, but the word "God" or "Supreme Ruler" appears in most of the state Constitutions, and ours is a nation of states.

If you're reciting something in church and it just doesn't sound right--it's cumbersome or ugly or awkward--look for a committee trying to be inclusive to the degree that humans become omnipotent, and God an afterthought.

* Stewardship Journal, Winter 1991, has a special section on the Oxford Declaration with responses.

Update: How much hate from feminists? "Students at an Ottawa university are pulling out of a Canada-wide fundraiser that provides close to $1 million a year for cystic fibrosis research and treatment, arguing that the disease "has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men" — something experts say is untrue." CBC News
I guess that policy will leave out gay white men with AIDS. Actually, the only people I've known with CF were women.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dingle Dangle Dingell

The letter from Henry I. Miller was buried in the letters column--would have been better as an op-ed, but is still available on-line. Miller writes about (D-Michigan) Rep. John Dingle's Inquisition Politics, saying that his defense of the auto industry was the least of his faults.
    "Mr. Dingell was a master of the politics of personal destruction. In acrimonious hearings, he made vile and untrue accusations against prominent scientists, university administrators and business executives, relying on his congressional immunity to avoid being sued for slander.

    In performing his committee's oversight role over the FDA, Mr. Dingell acted as a kind of self-appointed grand inquisitor. He and his staff often summoned agency officials to humiliating and abusive hearings and demanded that they produce mountains of documents on unrealistically short deadlines. His investigators even helped themselves to FDA files that contained confidential business information, a clear violation of federal law.

    Mr. Dingell lost track of the constitutional division of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. His actions were often grossly inappropriate."
Why do we have so many Dingells of both parties in Congress? This behavior is certainly not limited to him. A prize example of why we need term limits.

Henry I. Miller, M.S., M.D., is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where his research focuses on public policy toward science and technology, including pharmaceutical development, the new biotechnology, models for regulatory reform, and the emergence of new viral diseases. He headed the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993.Link. Twenty five cents of every consumer dollar goes to a product regulated by the FDA, an agency he says is dysfunctional, a swamp in need of draining, according to a recent article he wrote for the Washington Times.

The Bible or the Bard?

Take the quiz and see how you score. I didn't do so good.

The Bible or The Bard?

Score: 70% (7 out of 10)

I care, I really do

Just not enough to print out 23 pages, and it's much too complicated to read on screen. Here it is: "A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED: LIBRARIES AND THE GOOGLE LIBRARY PROJECT SETTLEMENT" Link to ALA/ARL paper. Besides, it's time for a nap, and all the medical studies seem to agree that naps are good for you. Although, I'd do it anyway.

The Science of Prevention

It's not getting more lab tests, as reported in today's WSJ--at least not at my age. Recently a relative broke her foot. In helping her into the ER, her husband broke his finger. Last week I made my husband promise that he wouldn't get on a ladder to clean the gutters at our summer home. Men his age die falling off ladders. I chatted yesterday with a woman whose arm was in a sling and she said she injured herself pulling out the hose to water her plants before winter. A friend of a friend fell down the stairs carrying things in both hands and broke his left wrist and his right ankle--and then tried to drive himself to the emergency room. And yet if you were to read the medical news or watch the TV health stories, you would think all you needed to do at my age was eat fruits and vegetables, never microwave anything in plastic, hide the salt shaker, and lower your cholesterol by eating boring stuff (my lunch today was 5 vegetables and 2 brownies--all the colors, just like mom said ;-) ).

I suggest you all go read Sandy, my blogging friend and nutrition writer, Junk Food Science. She doesn't write about junk food, she writes about junk science about food. Today she's writing about where you get your medical news. JAMA is one of my favorite magazines, but if I remove the slick, thick advertising pages, it's quite skinny.

Meanwhile, I'll just remind you that you can't beat good genes. That's still the number one factor in good health and a long life, and you didn't have a thing to do with it. If you're still alive tomorrow, give thanks for your parents and grandparents who gave you a good start. My mother died in her 88th year, her brother at 99, her father at 94, and her sister is still going at 92. Dad died at 89, his father at 92, and his grandfather was 88 in 1950 when he died, and one of his daughters is still going at 92. Second, don't smoke; third, drink alcohol only in moderation, and if you think a 6 pack after work is moderation, you need to relearn the meaning of the word; fourth, reduce your calories; and fifth, get some regular exercise.

Here's a photo of OSU's President Gordon Gee leading some university employees on laps around the Oval. It looks to me that most of the folks falling in line here are already fairly trim. I've noticed that at the Senior Center dance class too--all the ladies dancing, from late 70s into early 90s are quite trim. I have no idea, and neither do the researchers, which came first--the fitness, or the activity.

Sew Homemade

When I was a little girl, my mother made a lot of my clothes--the rest were "hand-me-downs" from my two older sisters. With the left over fabric she made clothes for our dollies. She even made our underwear! But it never looked like this.

She also made clothing for my brother--these coveralls were sewn from my dad's WWII camouflage.

Today I upgraded my Memory Patterns blog, which was completed several years ago but has a lot of old photos of sewing projects. In checking some of the old links, I found the above pattern.

Obama Names Bill Clinton to Presidential Post

That Iowahawk is such a kidder, but still . . . it surely looks that way. Those of you afraid of a Bush third term with McCain, are you happy about the Clinton third term?

WASHINGTON DC - Ending weeks of speculation and rumors, President-Elect Barack Obama today named Bill Clinton to join his incoming administration as President of the United States, where he will head the federal government's executive branch.

"I am pleased that Bill Clinton has agreed to come out of retirement to head up this crucial post in my administration," said Obama. "He brings a lifetime of previous executive experience as Governor of Arkansas and President of the United States, and has worked closely with most of the members of my Cabinet."

Idea for transferring your wealth to Washington

Here's an idea for those of you who want to be patriotic (Joe Biden's term), to share/spread your wealth (Obama's philosophy), and get universal health care off the ground (Hillary's plan from the 90s). I read this week that $16 billion is spent annually on tailgating! That would fund the CDC for more than two years. So all you Obama supporters just have to give up your fall tailgates, send the money to President elect Obama, and he'll be able to share the bounty with government salaried workers. Neat idea, huh?

Whether your Buckeye is a Republican or Democrat, Jack Park's new book will be a welcome sight under the Christmas tree.

Almost 50 years ago

"On January 25, 1959, at the Roman Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Pope John XXIII announced his intention of convoking a council of the church to open its windows, as he put it, to let in fresh air. The ultimate goal of the council was to be Christian unity. After nearly four years of extensive preparation, the council met in four sessions from October 11, 1962 to December 8, 1965 and was a momentous event not only for the Roman Church but for all of Western Christianity. . .

. . .the Second Vatican Council . . showed the Church of Rome to be not the monolithic monarchy many thought it to be but rather a living body capable of remarkable change, renewal, and renovation--a model for the rest of Christianity. Moreover, the churches of the Reformation, and Lutherans especially, saw in the working and the documents of the council an acceptance of basic principles of the sixteenth-century Reformation:
  • the primacy of grace,
  • the centrality of Scripture,
  • the understanding of the church as the people of God,
  • the use of the vernacular language.
It was as if the Lutheran Reformation had made its point at long last. Indeed, some Lutherans observed that the place in the modern world where the principles of the Reformers were most clearly at work was the Roman Church. . ."
Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship; Lutheran liturgy in its ecumenical context, by Philip H. Pfatteicher, (Augsburg Fortress, 1990) p. 1

Yes, it certainly was an optimistic time, since even today 50 years later many Lutherans will not worship together or share in Holy Communion with another synod. And there are some of us old time transfers (1976) from other denominations (Church of the Brethren and Presbyterian in our case) who wish someone would close the windows or maybe lower them for a year or two--at least in terms of tinkering with our Sunday service. We were just getting the hang of the LBW (or as we non-liturgical types call it, the green book, which replaced the red book, Service book and hymnal) when the mid-week informal/contemporary service at UALC migrated to a spot on Sunday morning back in the 80s, and now has pretty much taken over. Only a few stubborn old timers who enjoy complex theology in their hymns, a real choir, confession of sins, and creeds show up for the two traditional services (out of 9). However, if you read Pfatteicher's book, LBW really isn't so traditional after all but reflects constant change over two thousand years, beginning with a bunch of rag-tag, frightened Jewish Christians gathering after Jesus' resurrection to follow his instructions, "Take and eat; this is my body given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Guided imagery and the Christian

The Ohio State University Faculty and Staff Assistance Program offers two online videos to help faculty and staff manage the stress and financial pressures that many are experiencing in these difficult economic times. There are two: a 13-minute “Walk, Talk & Breathe: Learning to Manage Stress in Difficult Times” and the 23-minute “Relieving Financial Stress.” I only watched a few minutes, and I might have giggled at the poor quality and nasal voices, if I hadn't recognized immediately that the University is perilously close to pushing religion on its employees when it gets started on guided imagery to relieve stress. But aside from the spiritual nature of it, I think I would have hired a professional to do the voice overs or actors, instead of squirmy, self-consious university staff, because we are just all accustomed to seeing pros on screen.

Yes, exercise and breathing correctly can probably help stress levels--walk briskly or jump rope and you'll feel the stress go; but so can cutting up your credit card, listening to some quiet music, and kneading a batch of home made bread. None of those require reaching down into your inner being and pulling out a plum--your very own god-likeness. Guided imagery is just a form of "new age" religion, based on the very, very old age forms of eastern religions and mysticism.

Here's what the voice of Lisa will do, according to the blurb (in my opinion, Lisa doesn't have the voice for this): "With gentleness and vision, Lisa guides us to the shore of our inner wisdom, and helps us to remember that if we consistently bridge back to it, it will never fail us." And here's what Christianity teaches about that "divine center"--your inner wisdom or core that Lisa's going to help you find--it is the source of sin and rebellion and false gods. You may think you experience God (I doubt she says that but I only listened to a few minutes), that same God which is a universal consciousness, residing within everyone, guiding them on the path to some sort of peace or perfection, but it's a lie. That makes us all little gods. That's the oldest story in Genesis. This denies everything Christians know about reality, about sin, and about solutions.

If you are feeling stressed about finances, open your Bible--don't turn to the university or the government. I think finances and wealth may be the #1 topic--and centers on this verse, "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Ps 24:1

See The empty promise

Journal abuse

If a student or faculty member abused a library journal as badly as staff approved procedures, they'd probably lose their library privileges. Look at the cover of this journal

When the journal (Cultural Critique, No. 3, American Representations of Vietnam (Spring, 1986), was "checked in" after being received in the mail, it was smacked with a black ink date stamp, showing it was received January 2, 1987 at Ohio State University Library. Must be an old stamp, because the official name is The Ohio State University Libraries. Then the check-in-clerk marked it with a grease pencil. MAI in the upper right means that it was destined for the Main Library at Ohio State University, one of maybe 20 locations within the system. Then she scribbled the call number, volume and year across the cover. The brown stuff at the bottom looks like someone spilled coffee with cream on it--perhaps a user, but might have happened at check-in. The back cover, presumably by the same photographer, John Carlos Rowe, has a date due slip pasted over it, blocking about 1/3 of the picture. But the defacing didn't stop there. Before this journal was bound permanently (in 2006 according to a pasted stamp on the inside), it was "strap bound," with holes punched into the margins to keep several issues strapped together inside homemade cardboard covers, so when you open this volume, every page has four holes.

Eventually as things became more automated, grease pencils were discontinued and small stickers with call number and date received replaced the scribbling; I'm not sure about the temporary bindings since I haven't worked there in over 8 years. But I am still surprised when I see this sort of disregard not only for the artist, writers, publishers, but also the reader who may have found something useful in the cover. And publishers continue to include information on the cover or book jacket that may be no where else in the piece, and some libraries toss the book jacket, and paper covers may be removed if the book or journal is rebound.

I had no interest in resurrecting the Vietnam War, which is what this issue of Cultural Critique did, however, no author or group should have its work taken so lightly by those who say they preserve and protect information for future generations.

Prize for the most green words in one paragraph

The best reason to take care of the planet isn’t global warming--it’s as simple as keeping your home clean and attractive--we live here, so be nice to yourself and your neighbors! It’s like putting good food in your body so your brain and nervous system work well--not that you'll cure cancer or prevent dementia. But being green is also a marketing tactic for some businesses; a religious, pantheistic faith for some; a warm, emotional feel good for others; a power trip for some even on an in-house task force or committee of a college, church or corporation; and most important, a way to gain total political control at the local, state, federal and international level through laws, regulations and treaties.

This paragraph should get a prize for the most trendy, "gosh-I’m-so-green" words:

“We sell ourselves as a green-focused firm,” says HOK Architect Casey Visintin, LEED-AP. “Our community service program reinforces that and shows how our principles affect the community.” At the same time, he says, the collaborative project shows that sustainable strategies can be achieved at any level.


The story which appears in the AIArchitect This Week is about a very large architectural firm with offices all over the world transforming “an unused back lot” of a school into an outdoor classroom for learning and investigation.

It had all the feel good elements of a good green story--
    ”members of the firm volunteering their week-ends”
    “collaboration with the parents and principal”
    “tangible illustration of the firm’s values,”
    “Spanish immersion program school”
    “outdoor classroom in the sciences”
    “opportunity to learn about environmentally friendly practices”
Notice in these stories the word "profit" never appears. One would think that client needs and payroll were met with just happy-clappy, feel-good goals and motives. Also, I question any business "volunteering" their staff in mandatory projects. Do employees who have their own families and hobbies (or even gardens) object to giving up their week-ends to benefit someone else's family and green space? (This was not a poor school but a public magnet school--language immersion--and someone in HOK had ties, probably a child enrolled there or a spouse on staff.) And did the children (no mention they were consulted about this) have ideas that maybe this "unused lot" of an urban school might have been their only play space for ball or chase games or just hanging out?

Remembering the outdoor time where I went to grade school, we managed to be pretty active on concrete, asphalt, dirt and grass. We even managed to run the bases in skirts, crinolines and white bucks. Now the children will need a special grant from USDA for exercise to reduce obesity, topped off with an HHS grant to teach them social skills and how to communicate face to face to make up for being on-line in their free time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

There's something wrong with the math

This kind of cold calculation really sets my teeth on edge.
About 34 million caregivers provided unpaid help valued at $375 billion to family and friends last year, up from $350 billion in 2006, according to a report being released Thursday by AARP, a large advocacy group for older Americans in Washington, D.C.

The typical U.S. caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who works outside the home and spends more than 20 hours a week providing unpaid care to her mother, the report says. Those tasks include personal care and everyday tasks as well as health-related interventions such as administering medications.
Last Sunday friends picked us up for Bible study; Friday night our neighbors drove and we all went out to dinner. Are they unpaid taxi drivers? Is there a value there that someone needs to be calculating? Last week my husband raked leaves at our summer home. Yesterday I prepared birthday dinners for my children. Is he an unpaid gardener, and am I an unpaid cook? Where do I turn in my time card to the government or academic tracking this?

How many additional hours would that 46 year old need to work in order to pay someone for 20 hours to provide nothing close to the care she is giving her mother? How many hours of work to put Mom in the nursing home at $5,000 a month?

WSJ article

Text of Michael Mukasey's speech

The Attorney General was addressing the Federalist Society about the accomplishments of the Bush administration when he collapsed (apparently fainted, and was released from the hospital the next day). I thought this part of his speech was interesting--shows how even so-called distinguished lawyers get their information from hostile, non-legal sources rather than doing their own research:
    As the end of this Administration draws near, you would expect to hear broad praise for this success [8 years of no further attacks within the U.S.] at keeping our Nation safe. Instead, I am afraid what we hear is a chorus with a rather more dissonant refrain. Instead of appreciation, or even a fair appraisal, of the Administration’s accomplishments, we have heard relentless criticism of the very policies that have helped keep us safe. We have seen this in the media, we have seen this in the Congress, and we have heard it from the legal academy as well. . .

    For example, earlier this year, the head of a legal organization that prides itself on what it calls its “nonpartisan approach to the law” gave a speech condemning what he called “the oppressive, relentless, and lawless attack by our own government on the rule of law and our liberty.” According to this person, we live now in a -- “time of repression” where the “word ‘Patriot’ names a statute that stifles liberty,” and where we face “assaults by our government on constitutional rights, the Separation of Powers, and the Geneva Conventions.” You can practically hear the rumble of tanks in the background.

    It is interesting—and telling—that even in the published, written version of these remarks by a lawyer, the references and footnotes are not to statutory texts, the Constitution, treaties, or laws. Instead, the author relied on such authorities as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Review of Books. This style of criticism can be called many things—provocative perhaps, or evidence that the author could be regarded by some as well-read —but what it cannot be called is a reasoned legal critique."
The entire speech is well worth reading.

A Father's love

This is one of the most beautiful videos I've seen. A picture of how God carries us in love.

"Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father-and-son team from Massachusetts who together compete just about continuously in marathon races. And if they’re not in a marathon they are in a triathlon — that daunting, almost superhuman, combination of 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. Together they have climbed mountains, and once trekked 3,735 miles across America.

It’s a remarkable record of exertion — all the more so when you consider that Rick can't walk or talk. . . "

Dick the father is over 65 and Rick graduated from college in 1993. He works at a computer laboratory working on a system to develop a wheelchair controlled eye-movements, when linked-up to a computer. Story here. The Hoyt's racing history.

New blog skin

Well, what do you think? The owner-designer of these skins is in the upper left hand corner--sort of came with it. I've tried several. You have to start with "minima" design of blogger dot com. Once you get the hang of it, it is quite easy. The hard part is it doesn't change your color fonts, and I really had a time getting some of them to show up.

I practiced on my Retirement blog--used a Thanksgiving scheme.

Theology and Religion

Resource list at Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

Lilly in Indianapolis must have more money than God.
    The Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion is wholly funded by grants from Lilly Endowment. Inc. This $8.1 million grant brings the total grant amount received from the Endowment to $35 million for 17 years of programs.

    The Wabash Center organizes its activities around five areas: strengthening teaching and learning; developing the professoriate in theology and religion; supporting teaching environments in theological schools and religion departments; understanding new technologies in teaching and learning; and developing scholarly literature on theological teaching.
It looks to me (browsing through the grants) that if you're a pastor and you have a dream for sabbatical, say singing gospel songs in Fiji, all you have to do is apply.

The Freedom to Abort Act

It's known as "Freedom of Choice" Act but that's a euphemism, because another human dies by the choice of a woman (who may in fact have no choice at all being pressured by boyfriend, employers, parents or friends). We have about 1.2 million abortions a year, but that is a slight reduction from 1.5 a few years ago, and that has feminists worried. Some women are chosing not to abort, when clearly it would be in "the best interests of society" because they are minorities, poor, not too bright, or have a terrific career ahead if unincumbered if they could be convinced to abort the life within.

Freedom of Choice Act - Declares that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to: (1) bear a child; (2) terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or (3) terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect her life or her health.

Prohibits a federal, state, or local governmental entity from: (1) denying or interfering with a woman's right to exercise such choices; or (2) discriminating against the exercise of those rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information. Provides that such prohibition shall apply retroactively.

Authorizes an individual aggrieved by a violation of this Act to obtain appropriate relief, including relief against a governmental entity, in a civil action.

Full Text of FOCA

"The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do." -- Senator Barack Obama, speaking to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, July 17, 2007

If you are a Christian doctor or nurse, LPN, etc., you will not be able to exercise your conscience: "Federal protection of a woman's right to choose to prevent or terminate a pregnancy falls within this affirmative power of Congress, in part, because" . . ."reproductive health clinics employ doctors, nurses, and other personnel who travel across State lines in order to provide reproductive health services to patients." And if this works like other government edicts about ethics and morality your church will not be allowed to speak out against abortion without losing it's government medical benefits for staff, government protection of pension benefits, and its tax exempt and non-profit status. All local ordinances and regulation of abortion will now be disallowed, including parental notification.

"This Act applies to every Federal, State, and local statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action enacted, adopted, or implemented before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act."

Twilight breaks records

No gratuitous sex, aggression or violence? A woman director? A woman producer? A woman screenwriter? A woman author? An independent film company? And over $70 million opening week-end. Guess that covered the cost to make it and assures the sequel.
    Starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, TWILIGHT tells the story of 17-year-old Bella Swan who moves to the small town of Forks, Washington to live with her father, and becomes drawn to Edward Cullen, a pale, mysterious classmate who seems determined to push her away. But neither can deny the attraction that pulls them together...even when Edward confides that he and his family are vampires. Their unorthodox romance puts her in physical danger when Edward's nemesis comes to town and sets his sights on Bella.
My daughter was one of the millions who contributed to its success, giving herself a birthday treat on opening day. She'll go again (and again) with her husband. She's a fan because she read the book, and said although the script was close she wasn't sure anyone who hadn't read the book would be able to follow the story. She loves movies and doesn't seem to mind vampires, the weird and the strange, also being a fan of The DaVinci Code, Harry Potter and Anne Rice. After she sees them a few times at the theatre, she buys them on DVD. I rarely go to movies, so I find out from her what's going on.

If you were to Google Stephanie Meyer + teen sex, as I did, you'll be treated to all sorts of snarky book reviews. I think it is like abortion--if even one makes it through, it seems to threaten the moral values of all the rest.

How to miss the point with Google

Finding the mysterious ways readers get to your blog is a never ending source of delight for bloggers. Today I found that a search on "worms in oreo cookies" brought someone here. That was a real head scratcher and I just couldn't resist following the link. It was this one:
On being white in America.

The phrases that Google wisdom found were
    "Although I haven't found a scholarly article that traces when the worm turned and it became bad to be White in America, . . ."


    "Increasingly, being Catholic, if you are also white, will get you no "brownie points" (pardon the pun); and if you are a middle-class or wealthy African-American, you just might be white on the inside (oreo) and have sold out your heritage since you are too rich and educated to be an Uncle Tom."
Isn't Google amazing? But I've seen even stranger leaps from people who actually read the blog entry!

But sometimes, I check the search back, and this one to the AOL robot/spider search, and find information I'm interested in, like today's AOL: "womans home companion magazine-paper dolls" brought someone here, but by back tracking, I found many more sites about magazine paper dolls I hadn't checked.

Ten years ago we librarians used to say that the WWW was like a library where everything was on the floor, or like hunting through someone else's garage, but it's much better organized these days with so many finding aids. More like the books and magazines I store in the bathroom.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

So you think you want government health care?

The United States used to have a rail transportation system the rest of the world envied. What happened?
    Amtrak was created by Congress in 1970 to take over the money-losing passenger rail service previously operated by private freight railroad companies in the United States. More than half of all rail passenger routes were eliminated when Amtrak began service on May 1, 1971. Although Amtrak’s route system has remained essentially the same size, it represents a mere skeleton of what was once the United States’ passenger rail network. During Amtrak’s 32-year existence, the federal government has spent $1.89 trillion on air and highway modes. In the same time frame, Amtrak has received just over $30 billion in federal subsidies. While the United States once had a passenger rail system that was the envy of the world, a lack of capital investment has stalled the advancement of corridor development throughout the country. Dependent upon an annual federal appropriation, Amtrak’s national network is constantly threatened by under-investment, lack of a clearly articulated federal rail policy and an uncertain future.
Amtrak: Background & Facts

Use a land line for important presidential-type talk

"President-elect Barack Obama may not find it that hard to give up his BlackBerry after all. Verizon Wireless has announced that some of its employees accessed his personal cell phone account records. The wireless provider apologized to the president-elect and said it would discipline the employees involved." Story here. Read the DNS story in the December Wired, and you may switch to land line anyway. Maybe the Verizon employees will just get a wrist slap like Gov. Strickland's
pro-Obama employee who plumbed the depths of Joe the Plumber's records in our state data bases. Routine, she says, for people in the news!

Is required "voluntary" service marxist?

Obama's website has already backed down on the mandatory service idea, as he is backing down on many of his glorious ideals and themes. Personally, I think it will return in sort of a revised, refreshed WPA type thing. His campaign site was "scrubbed" so I won't look at the old version. I'm not sure bait and switch is more Republican, Democrat or Socialist, but we sure see a lot of it--although usually it's within the first 100 days of the administration, not the time between the election and taking the oath.

Maybe some of the Clinton retreads pointed out to him the bulging federal government give aways that already support millions of jobs at "volunteer" pay, particularly through faith-based agencies and non-profits carrying water for the federal government. The aid these programs supply to the poor and disadvantaged, the disabled and mentally ill, is so siphoned away by thousands of jobs in the chain between the grant and the hand-out, it's criminal a form of money laundering to bring home the pork to keep the elected folk in office. A side benefit is everyone from the president on down can feel warm fuzzies in a nation whose economy is over 70% built on consuming and very few people are truly poor.
    The Obama administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.
There are already so many organized volunteer agencies, groups and opportunities in place that your head could spin trying to select one that, 1) suits your skill level, 2) addresses a true need, and 3) doesn't bloat the state or federal government by asking for more taxes so it can give it back to you through block grants to churches, local agencies, and university studies.

I could work 40 hours a week, at no pay, just in USDA funded activities, not just distributing food, but on global warming hype, on questionable housing programs, and convincing old people to eat their fruits and veggies in hopes of slowing dementia. None of this would make an iota of "change" in the long run, but I could feel good about keep thousands of people "up stream" from the agency and the federal government employed.

On the other hand, the local and state regulators are making it very difficult to actually get physically close to a person in real need, so you may have to settle for raking leaves, licking envelopes, or shoveling snow.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How to grow a government program

Many government programs fail. You can track these at the Expect More website. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it means "expect more spending," instead of expect more for the money already spent. There are way too many government programs, and the list has grown under President Bush. According to this website, 28% of Federal programs are Not Performing. A rating of Results Not Demonstrated (RND) indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing.

Let's just look at one program--and even reading through its history you wonder why it was ever considered necessary, the Food Stamp Nutrition Education (FSNE).
    "FSNE began in 1988 when cooperative extension faculty in Brown County, Wisconsin and University of Wisconsin extension staff discovered that by committing state and local funding and contracting with the state food stamp agency, an equal amount of federal dollars could be secured to expand the reach of nutrition education to low-income persons in that area. Other universities soon followed. In 1992, seven states conducted FSNE using $661 thousand in federal funds. By 2004, FSNE was conducted throughout the country using nearly $460 million, with $228.6 million in Food Stamp Program administration funds and the remainder contributed by the states.
Here's why it got an RND rating:
    "There are no standardized performance measures across State programs to gauge progress. The scope of nutrition education efforts varies widely, making it difficult to establish meaningful outcome measures to capture the program's progress. While States collect some data on participation, the data collected is limited and ambiguous and varies across programs.

    The program's mission and goals are not clearly established in statute or regulation. The program relies on guidance to establish program policies. While nutrition education is clearly intended to contribute to advancing the program's purpose, the Food Stamp legislation and regulations are silent on the specific goals of nutrition education.

    It is unclear if funds are spent effectively to increase participation and improve nutrition-related behaviors. The program grew from $660,000 in 1992 to over $147 million in 2002. This rapid growth, coupled with the program's unlimited matching source of funding, lends itself to greater oversight."
So here are the suggestions,
    "Developing efficiency measures to assess program effectiveness related to its goals.

    Developing a plan to increase the use of evidence-based food and nutrition education initiatives across States.

    Seeking legislation to make nutrition education a component of the Food Stamp Program and developing a plan to publicize regulations."
In other words, there were no measurable results for all that money, and it could be moved to another program. That doesn't mean the money stream will stop. And even if people misunderstood the program or didn't apply correctly, would they have misunderstood it to the amount of $460 million? Maybe the solution is to write the programs in understandable English?

Other government programs are listed as ineffective. They seem to be like wayward children--the government never gives up on them.

DNS (Domain Name System ) article

in Wired, December 2008 about a hacker, Dan Kaminsky, who discovered a hole in the system that would allow him to impersonate any website -- banking sites, medical, government, e-mail websites -- to attack unsuspecting users.

If you think 9/11 was scary, if the September 2008 meltdown of our government and finances frightened you, just read this article. [shiver] Kaminsky’s bug was squashed, but it makes you wonder how many more might be out there waiting for some who had enough time to think about it and play around (he was recovering from a shattered elbow).

“Collapse,” by Joshua Davis, Wired December 2008, p. 200

I don’t see December on their archive page yet--you read it in the library if you‘re not a subscriber. But the story has appeared in tech blogs and other magazines in July and August, which I never read. Davis is a good writer--of suspense.

Big Green Tent

See what I mean about greengoes?

Here's the Greenbuild 08, November 19-21 hype
    "Next up was USGBC president and CEO Rick Fedrizzi, with a high-energy stump speech rallying the unwieldy, many-shades-of-green eco-building community. He was adamant: the severe recession will NOT sink the sustainable design market.

    His big-tent stem-winder veered all over -- from market data to the survival of the planet, social justice and racial harmony. And, since an Obama presidency bodes better for green business than the alternative, he gave thanks for Nov. 4 as Abe Lincoln's image flashed on the jumbo screens. Never mind the hoary business injunction against politics...

    We then segued, by way of an excellent African childrens chorus and dance troop, to Desmond Tutu. Nobody else could or would try to invoke the deity, the Bible, partisan politics, excessive defense spending and liberation struggles in the name of green building and address a bunch of conventioneers as divine agents of change. But he made it work . ."
Never mind that Obama will tax them to death if they try to make any money. Dream on silly architects and building trades.

We look like a Hallmark card

my husband said this morning. "The table is set with the good china, you're preparing food in the kitchen, and I'm putting up the Christmas tree." Celebrating birthdays tomorrow, so I'm getting the food ready today so that we can all go to church. Usually, this doesn't happen, but each year I can hope. It's pretty awkward. I go to church at 7 a.m. to pray, my husband ushers at the 8:15, and then we are all supposed to meet up for the 11 a.m. traditional service. Then it's back to the house for dinner. This year, we hope that 1) everyone gets to church on time, and 2) my husband can keep them busy decorating the tree while I put everything in the oven to warm up. It's sort of like eating leftovers since everything except the meat is prepared today. Here's the menu:

Boneless pork roast with orange sauce
dressing with apples, bacon and onion
buttered, spiced carrots
mashed potatoes
scalloped corn
pumpkin pie with whipped cream

I tried a new scalloped corn recipe--the kind you make with a corn muffin mix. I used to make it from memory, but the memory's shot. Not sure how that is going to work out--it sort of looks like a cake. My husband hates corn so the only time I fix it is when there will be someone else to eat it. And bacon. No matter what brand I buy it seems so tasteless. Has anyone else noticed this? It never gets crispy and yummy--just lies there and takes up space. Is it low-cholesterol pigs? Too many antibiotics and hormones? I wish they'd stop messing with our food. Maybe it's just my taste buds. They are my age, after all, and probably wearing out.

When I looked on the internet for a corn recipe, and bunches of happy cooks were contributing theirs (all with canned corn), of course one of the grow-your-own vegans drops by and insults everyone by saying she would never eat that garbage, but "y'all have a good day." Don't you just hate that on bulletin boards? Everyone's chatting and exchanging ideas and being so friendly, and then Mrs. Poo Poo I'm better than You chimes in.

Fall 1971, probably taken for birthdays

Our son has been battling a cold, and possibly the flu, so we may be a very small group. He's dragging to work, and then goes home and goes to bed. He never eats much, but at least I can send home the left overs. My cold seems to be undercover for now with the Zicam and the Clariton and extra sleep. At least, it hasn't gotten to that stage yet where I'd call it a cold.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Family Photo

It's a dictionary! Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, unabridged (1948) Here's the story of Merriam-Webster. My recollection is that this was a gift from my maternal grandmother Mary to our family for Christmas 1949, with a set of encyclopedias the next Christmas, although it's possible they were together, perhaps a 2-fer special. It remained in my parents' home for over 50 years, and was often used because my father was a cross-word fan, and they both would turn to the dictionary to answer questions just like we might use google today. Dad died in 2002, and I was probably the only one who requested this--at least I don't remember anyone else asking for it. It is sitting in my dining room on my mother's sewing cabinet, which she probably gave me sometime in the 1970s. Behind the sewing cabinet are the sliding glass doors for my early 1960s Paul McCobb china hutch which I don't use anymore, but didn't know where to put them. Ordinarily you don't see them, but they show up gray in the photo.

The last time I used this dictionary was this morning about 5:30 a.m. Here is the sentence that stumped me: "Psychopannychia emerges as relevatory of the young Calvin's thought." I had never seen "relevatory" before. Neither had Mr. Webster. And if it isn't in Webster's 2nd, I don't need to know!

Foreclosure counseling

Yesterday I was listening to 700 am in Cincinnati and heard an ad for Hope Now Alliance which was all warm and fuzzy about helping people facing foreclosure. "Betcha they put them there," was my response to the radio. So today I looked them up. Yessiree, same old gang that put people into homes with "gift" downpayments, and balooning mortgages and probably did no credit checks or background sifting are part of this group, thrown together to get more government money for foreclosure counseling when they were about to loose their sorry as- jobs in the mortgage industry.

So how does a floundering GSE with ties to Congress and in the tank lobbyists for Obama (if no party is mentioned, assume Democrat, because Republicans are usually noted) put on a Santa Claus face?
    "Freddie Mac** has instructed its national network of mortgage servicers and foreclosure attorneys to stop all planned foreclosure sales and evictions involving Freddie Mac-owned mortgages during the holiday season.

    The move is designed to give more homeowners facing foreclosure or eviction additional time to take advantage of the newly announced streamlined mortgage modification program, says Freddie Mac CEO David M. Moffett.

    This should allow homeowners to work out agreements with mortgage services to avoid foreclosure. All foreclosure sales slated from Nov. 26, 2008, to Jan. 9, 2009, will be temporarily stopped. The program applies to single-family and 2-4 unit properties.
Not all these apples are bad, but I wouldn't want to be in the same basket with ACORN and La Raza, one a communist agitation group spoiling many elections with illegal voters, the other wants the SW to return to Mexico.

    ACORN Housing Corporation
    Catholic Charities USA
    Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, Inc.
    Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Atlanta
    HomeFree- USA
    Homeownership Preservation Foundation
    Housing Partnership Network
    Mission of Peace
    Mississippi Homebuyer Education Center- Initiative
    Mon Valley Initiative
    Money Management International, Inc.
    National Association of Real Estate Brokers- Investment Division, Inc.
    National Community Reinvestment Coalition
    National Council of La Raza
    National Credit Union Foundation
    National Foundation for Credit Counseling, Inc.
    National Urban League
    NeighborWorks America
    Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America
    Rural Community Assistance Co.
    Structured Employment Economic Development Co.
    West Tennessee Legal Services, Inc.

**Who is Fred? The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC) (NYSE: FRE), commonly known as Freddie Mac, is an insolvent government sponsored enterprise (GSE) of the United States federal government.

The FHLMC was created in 1970 to expand the secondary market for mortgages in the US. Along with other GSEs, Freddie Mac buys mortgages on the secondary market, pools them, and sells them as mortgage-backed securities to investors on the open market. The U.S. government seized control of the mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE), called GSEs, in September 2008, placing the liabilities of more than $5 trillion of mortgages onto the backs of the U.S. taxpayer.

From Community Organizer to President of the World

An amazingly brief journey when you consider how little we know about the building blocks of Obama‘s political DNA. Consider this. Barack Obama:
A Radical Leftist’s Journey from Community Organizing to Politics

The better term for "community organizer" is community agitator working within a 501(c)(3) frame work* as a non-profit. These organizations are very powerful now within the frayed fringes of the federal and state government because of their non-profit status which allows them full use of government funding without any security clearance or oversite. Unless a group gets more than $500,000 a year, no one questions what is done, and records only need to be kept 3 years, so good luck in tracking their activities or even their names. They split, reorganize and morph into new organizations eligible for additional grants. They were able to be participants through the various housing and home grants to threaten banks which brought down our economy with the aid of the 2006 Democratic take-over of Congress, who with the exception of Pelosi, Reid, Frank, Dodd and Obama, seemed unaware of the tainted salad bowl on the buffet table of pork. However, the chef's help was there from the Bush administration which grew these programs to unheard of amounts from the Reagan era and combined them with private partnerships which fueled the building boom.** In this way, the eight years of George Bush directly built the frame work for the Obama take over.

And the Communist Party USA hack intones the party line and fills in the bridges to somewhere--Kansas, Hawaii, California, Africa, Chicago, to Washington DC:

    “. . . an African-American poet and journalist by the name of Frank Marshall Davis, who was certainly in the orbit of the CP – if not a member – and who was born in Kansas and spent a good deal of his adult life in Chicago, before decamping to Honolulu in 1948 at the suggestion of his good friend Paul Robeson. Eventually, he befriended another family – a Euro-American family – that had migrated to Honolulu from Kansas and a young woman from this family eventually had a child with a young student from Kenya East Africa who goes by the name of Barack Obama, who retracing the steps of Davis eventually decamped to Chicago. In his best selling memoir ‘Dreams of my Father’, the author speaks warmly of an older black poet, he identifies simply as "Frank" as being a decisive influence in helping him to find his present identity as an African-American, a people who have been the least anticommunist and the most left-leaning of any constituency in this nation – though you would never know it from reading so-called left journals of opinion. At some point in the future, a teacher will add to her syllabus Barack’s memoir and instruct her students to read it alongside Frank Marshall Davis’ equally affecting memoir, "Living the Blues" and when that day comes, I’m sure a future student will not only examine critically the Frankenstein monsters that US imperialism created in order to subdue Communist parties but will also be moved to come to this historic and wonderful archive in order to gain insight on what has befallen this complex and intriguing planet on which we reside."
*501(c)(3) exemptions apply to corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. Technically, they are not supposed to use government funding for political advocacy , but that is a joke considering they can use it for “educational” purposes. Also, other 501C groups can set up a 501c3 for more money for education.

**Read through this advertisement Rally for Home Ownership which promotes "gift" downpayments and their relationship to "private" lenders (under threat using CRA guidelines) and home builders.

Blue skies and sunshine in Columbus

My husband is creeping along on Rt. 4 about 10 miles an hour. Says it is very slick and icy (called to let me know where he is). He's returning from Lakeside and four hours of leaf raking, a fall routine he's had for 10 years--although most of our neighbors there close up on Labor Day and reopen in April or May, and don't worry about leaf pick up schedule.

Gorgeous fashions! I was watching El Gordo y La Flaca last evening and their guest/side kick Steve(?) had a clip of a fashion show interview he'd done. Oh my! Clothes so feminine and graceful and fabrics so lush they recalled old 30s movies, or trimmer times of the 1950s. I certainly hope that trend will spread. Not that I could afford them or have a place to wear dressy clothes, but there is a trickle down effect. I don't know enough Spanish to catch the event or the designer, but let's hope it catches on. So tired of sloppy and casual. I left the room for a few minutes and when I came back the news was on. Those info-babes on Spanish language TV certainly dress differently than ours. Eye popping, if you get my drift. The man, however, was completely covered.

Also flipping through the channels I got the last few minutes of the Republican Governors Conference last week on c-span. They do seem excited about Bobby Jindal, and were praising him for the Gustav response. We keep passing out my homemade Palin-Jindal 2012 pins.

Feels like I might be coming down with a cold. I'm overdue. Haven't had one since September 2007. So I've been trying Zicam--a friend swears by it. If I could get 1 week colds like other people, I'd be happy. Mine usually last 3 or more weeks.

I had a long chat with one of my uncles last night and caught up on the family news. I think he's closer to my age than my father's--maybe 10 years older than me. He mentioned some grandchildren I didn't know about and a change of address for one of my aunts in California, so I suggested he write down the children's names and birth dates and mail them to me. I seem to be the only person in the family that does much with genealogy. Doesn't make much sense to know who was where in the 17th century if you don't know where the 21st century cousins are. I don't care much for my new version of Family Tree Maker 2008. I don't seem to be able to do the old functions I knew under the 7.0 version.

I volunteered at the Senior Center lunch room yesterday. They really have nice lunches--we served choices of hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken salad, an Italian soup, broccoli soup, creamed chicken on toast, applesauce and usually someone brings in cookies or cake for a dessert to share. Although I have a regular service day, I've subbed a number of times, so don't seem to have a regular partner yet. Harold, my Tuesday partner, says I'm good. I think it's my experience at Zickuhr's Drug Store counter when I was in high school and college coming back to me. I have worked a few times with a woman who has a disabled daughter, and hope to help her out a bit so she can get out of the house more. On both Thursday and Friday there is line dancing right before lunch, and I enjoy watching them. I'm not going to figure this out, since even the medical journals can't, but I notice all the dancers are trim. Now are they trim because they exercise, or do they exercise because they're trim? One woman is 92 and seems to be having a lot of fun.

Advent's just around the corner, so I'll be helping on Wednesdays at church with lunch and communion. You don't ever want me in charge of the kitchen, but I can set a table and stir the soup.

Note: Here's an interesting Google trick. If you type "Zickuhr drug store" into Google and click on images, the first batch of photos that come up are all from my blogs, although I think only one is a photo of the drug store. I guess the other photos are on the same page as an entry about Zickuhr's.