Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, February 28, 2009

No No No

Now who stands behind the President and who wants failure?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lipstick on a Pig

Palinit

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Changeling

In the news recently is the Obama plan to subsidize home mortgages. I keep seeing resentment from people that keep pointing out that these bad mortgages were taken out by foolish people, in essence bad people, selfish people. Many of these "bad mortgages" were taken out prior to Hurricane Katrina. Our society hasn't seemed to recognize this fact, but it was Hurricane Katrina that really marked the point of no return for the economy. Before Katrina (BK) it made a lot of sense to a lot of people to finance a gas-guzzling SUV and a fuel-hungry mega-home out in some sub development in the sprawl of any one of America's major cities. After Katrina (AK) there were a lot of people who began to slowly realize the foolishness of this kind of living, and especially began to realize that paying a premium price for this lifestyle was downright ignorant.
What brought on this change in perspective?
Katrina.
OK, so how?
Katrina impacted the housing market in two very significant ways.
First, it caused an immediate and very significant spike in the price of gasoline. That was when gasoline suddenly flew from around $2.50 a gallon to $3.50 a gallon. The price didn't stay up there but for the first time this century the cost of gasoline became a factor in our calculations of suburban sprawl. Could we really continue our SUV madness? Could we continue to imagine that we could live where we have no choice but to drive our steel shields dozens of miles whenever we wanted to do anything.
The second Katrina effect was a large increase in homeowners insurance along the Gulf Coast. Florida was significantly impacted by this. Homeowners insurance became a deciding factor for anyone on a budget and a major factor in calculating the value of a home.
We have short memories, but BK it was good to buy a home under nearly any circumstances. Our president encouraged an "ownership society." Credit of any kind at all was feeding the economy.
Now these people who have been impacted by the aftereffects of Katrina were foolish to mortgage these homes.
Same event. Same point in time. Same people. Same home. Same loan. Good judgment BK. Foolishness now.
What changed?
Well you see, back BK, wealthy investors were making tons of money in this market. Now to save these mortgages, to rescue home values, to keep people from becoming homeless, the wealthy are being asked to support future taxes to provide relief now.
BK, money coming in to the bank accounts of the wealthy.
AK, future taxation of the wealthy to blunt the impact of this foolishness.
And since the wealthy never take responsibility for the impact of their speculation, the blame must be assigned to the people who (wisely BK) foolishly took out these loans.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Ponzified Winter

I have been getting an education this winter in human behavior. I've known for a long time that compensation for work isn't based on anything like fairness. There are a lot of jobs that require a lot of know-how and hard work but pay like dirt. There are a lot of earning opportunities that don't require much at all besides a strong ability to convince other people and that make a fortune for the gifted.
This winter's story of Bernie Madoff has everybody thinking about Ponzi schemes. Ponzi schemes are scams that take advantage of the way our hopes and dreams can blind us to reality. They offer large returns on modest investments, seemingly relatively risk free. What some of us don't want to realize is that this approach can be applied in areas other than simple investment. They can and do permeate our modern world.
The recent housing bubble was a Ponzi scheme. Builders and real estate agents promised us that with very little down payment we could have our dreams come true and at any point of our choosing in the future we could have all of our investment plus a healthy gain on it returned to us by selling our property, divesting ourselves of the investment. Under those conditions we were perfectly comfortable paying rapidly inflating prices for real estate. The success of the investment scheme depended on this inflation.
This winter I have been seeing health-related Ponzi schemes. In exchange for modest but significant investment they offer huge and even miraculous health results even though none of them claim to be cures. What makes them most recognizable is the way the sales pitch makes no attempt to differentiate the product from the profits you can make by selling the scheme. It isn't the product that you sell, it is the sales scheme, the means for making your dreams come true.
When we think of a scam, we think of an investment in something that doesn't work. We think we are wasting our money spending it on a scam. But how would we think about it if we could be certain of not only not losing our money but making money, making lots of money? Would it still feel like a scam to us? That's what makes a Ponzi scheme different from an ordinary scam. In a Ponzi scheme we make money. We make tons of money and we make it easily. We don't labor for it.
This winter I have seen the sales pitch for what appear to me to be health-related (for lack of a better term) Ponzified earning potentials. In all three instances, individuals testified to incredible health cures by using products that nobody actually understands. Big words are used to describe how the technology works. Synergy is one of them. Quantum is another. But nobody really understands how the system physically works. It just works. In one case it was ions absorbed through your feet. In another it was polymer nanotechnology changing the molecular structure of liquids or neutralizing cell phone SAR (specific absorption rate) damage. In yet another it was nutrients missing from our modern diet.
In each of these three cases, the physical product seemed to be overpriced, probably was, probably was extremely overpriced. But in the age of production outsourcing, extreme overpricing is normal for us. We see it all the time. But in each of these cases, the product was of less significance than the amazing money to be made selling it. The real sales pitch was that by selling this product, you can rise to the high side of the middle class lifestyle.
This promise of riches, just as in the financial market Ponzi schemes, becomes the cure. That's the hard part to understand. The ionizing foot cleanse, the polymer nanotechnology EMR shields, and the miracle nutrition plans all claim the same results, all seem to cure the same disease conditions, and they all work miraculously. But the only thing they have in common is that they all relieve the stress involved with making enough money to buy happiness. They all relieve stress related to making money.
So are any of them real? I mean, if you could buy this same stuff in WalMart would it still miraculously cure us? Would it cost this much to buy? Would we get the same relief if in our minds this was an expense and not a miraculous earning opportunity?
Like I said before, this winter has been quite an educational experience for me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Motherhood Worse than Smoking

If you thought smoking was disgusting, read what Ann Coulter has to say in Human Events about being a single mother.

Friday, February 13, 2009

No Solution Solution

Like just about everybody these days with living brain cells, I have been trying to make sense of the financial situation we are facing now and to nobody's surprise, I think, it makes absolutely no sense to me at all. If I had to guess, and I've probably said this before, we are in the predicted outcome in Atlas Shrugged where the captains of industry and finance are on strike. They're the bosses, though, so they don't have to tell anyone that's what they're doing. But that's just my guess.
Unfortunately, nobody who appears in public on any of the media has any better answer than this.
For a very long time now Republicans have wanted to terminate social spending by government. Since they can't overcome the political power of the people here in America, they have chosen to spend us into a depression believing the solution will come when American voters finally realize that we cannot afford social spending.
That is delusional reasoning, but so what. Republicans are delusional.
It may be that this recession/depression we seem to be in is as temporary as was the spike last year in gasoline prices. It may be that in a few years everything will just simply be back on track and back to business as usual, Wall Street heading back up, home price speculation heading back up, consumer spending heading back up. But it also may be that we've reached the inevitable outcome of free trade and outsourcing, a tipping point that forces America's working class to join the third world labor market.
I'm not inclined yet to think that is the best solution to this problem, or even if indeed it is the best solution, that it is the one America will choose. And it is increasingly clear to me that bailing out the banks and Wall Street, bailing out the captains of industry and finance, isn't going to help us either. In fact I'm increasingly convinced that they are holding the economy ransom - either government hands over all future tax revenues to them or they will shut the economy down completely. They have the power to do this.
But suppose the government were to say, hey you private banks and industries, you go right ahead and run your business however you want. We are setting up a government bank to compete with you and we are going to set it up in such a way that we won't have to turn to you to get money. And don't bother coming to us for money. Our money is for loaning to individuals and industries that have the best interest of America in mind, not the interests of the wealthy few. Maybe even this - you captains of finance will not even be allowed to touch our currency. You have your own. Deal with it.
Do you suppose just the threat of that might be enough to shock the wealthy into reviving the economy on their own?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

None of Your Business

Maine's Bangor Daily News has featured a very strange story the past two days. It involves a man who was shot to death in Belfast, Maine last December 9th in his High Street home by his wife. Wednesday's above-the-fold headline was "Report: 'Dirty bomb' parts found." Today's headline featured in the same front page spot read, "Officials verify dirty bomb probe results." If that doesn't grab your attention, there's more.
It seems that the shooting victim, 29 year-old James Cummings, may have been a bit of an unsavory individual. A California transplant from Fort Bragg, it is reported that he was a Hitler fan and collector and neo-Nazi type who was deeply disturbed at the election of Barack Obama. He had been collecting in his home radioactive materials and explosives and had instructions on how to build a dirty bomb. It is reported that he was sexually and physically abusive of his wife Amber although some of his neighbors weren't aware of that.
The facts about the dirty bomb materials was not revealed to the public until it appeared online in a leaked document posted on WikiLeaks. Apparently the document, connected with the FBI and the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center, was intended to alert Washington officials concerned for inauguration security of the Maine find.
Oddly enough, the front page of today's News also had pictures of Belfast Police Chief Jeffery Trafton and Maine Public Safety Commissioner Ann Jordan, both of whom wanted to assure that there was never any hazard posed to the public. Now I'm in no position to explain what that means, but I would imagine if either of these authorities were to be pressed into explaining how that could possibly be the case, they would explain that they mean after the shooting, after police had secured the house. To say that a violent neo-Nazi in possession of radioactive materials and explosives with knowledge on how to build a bomb and motive for committing an act of terrorism or murder posed no risk to the community seems just a little bit far-fetched to me? Know what I'm saying?
Now we all know what really happened here, don't we? A man seething with racial hatred, a violent wife abuser, moved to Maine and set up residence on a side street in Belfast, a bustling tourist community on the coast. Somehow he managed to remain below the radar while he beat and abused his wife and collected radioactive materials, explosives, and bomb-making instructions. He was not considered dangerous by Maine and Belfast authorities until after his wife had shot him to death in their own home. Investigating this shooting, police discovered the bomb-making materials and along with state authorities and the FBI, removed the materials from the home. Some locals suspected something unusual was going on, but local and state authorities kept this incident secret, never announcing to the public what had been going on right under our noses. The secret came out online a month ago but it was never revealed to Mainers until yesterday's breaking story in the Bangor Daily News. Wishing to cover their tracks, both local and state officials assured the public yesterday after the story had broken that there was never any danger to the public.
Even more troubling than all this were some of the early comments published today from the News's online connection made by "greyhawk1" and "HarryofBangor." I won't contaminate my blog with their right-wing take on this, but to say the least, it is disturbing that people in Maine would not see the danger in what was taking place last year in this Belfast home, and that in the eyes of the authorities, this was none of our business anyway.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sinking Feeling

Dear President Obama,
This morning for sure, although in general ever since you appointed Rahm Emanuel as your Chief of Staff, I have been having this sinking feeling about your promise to do business differently, presumably ethically, in Washington. Why this morning? Well first there was yesterday's fiasco with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, whom I might start calling Junior if he doesn't start showing some signs of manhood soon, whose reassurances concerning America's banking disaster sent Wall Street into decline. But this morning I read this at TPM Muckraker (read the comments to this post too) about Robert Wolf, a member of your prestigious Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Barack, this isn't "hope" nor is it "change we can believe in." This is business as usual. This is Ken Lay advising Dick Cheney on America's energy policy, you know?
Get a clue before we lose our faith in you!
Bill

Monday, February 09, 2009

Infuriated

I am infuriated. Today's Bangor Daily News carried an op-ed written by Barack Obama titled "Partisanship must not impede stimulus." It appears on page A7 of the February 9, 2009 Bangor Daily News. Obama's op-ed is accompanied by an illustration drawn by Paul Tong.
The same editorial appears online at pressdemocrat.com but is accompanied by another Paul Tong illustration, this one being complimentary to the President.
The illustration chosen by the Bangor Daily News depicts a lanky black man dressed in a white shirt, cuffs rolled up, stooped over and awkwardly holding a long-handled shovel with which he is shoveling cash from a pile laying on the ground, some of it even under his left shoe. This black man, in every way appearing as a well-dressed slave in labor, is attempting to feed a shovel full of this cash to a scowling and distrustful bull. The expression on the black man's face, quite clearly Obama's face, is one of passivity, content, maybe even submission.
I showed the picture to my wife, pointing out to her that it was being used to illustrate Obama's own editorial. She also found it to be in very poor taste.
So I called the Bangor Daily News at (207) 990-8000 and was directed to Susan Young, the person responsible for the op-ed section. She confirmed that it was the Bangor Daily News which selected this particular Paul Tong illustration. Susan said it was the copy desk which made the selection. I asked her what her opinion of the illustration was. She said it was odd. I told her what I saw in it but she couldn't seem to share that perception. She suggested that the illustration perhaps didn't go along with the article since the illustration depicted the bank bailout money rather than the stimulus legislation, but argued that if the News has to look at everything that might imply some racial overtones, it'll be a long four years. I suggested that while that may be true, the paper should show some sensitivity towards anything that might depict slavery!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Bipartisan Challenge

Since Obama took office I've been struggling with this idea of his that he wants to restore unity in Washington. He wants Congress and the Washington bureaucracy to work in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation so that America can solve the problems that have resulted from Washington's partisan conflict. I wish Obama well and hope that he actually is able to tackle this problem that is increasingly splitting America in two. I have even had imaginings that if I were in Obama's position and this stimulus package were to come to my desk endorsed by few if any Republicans, I would veto the bill and tell Congress to come back with a bipartisan solution.
But a sneaky little voice keeps whispering in my ear saying the Republicans aren't going to let this happen. Republicans think differently than the rest of us think. To understand what I mean, here's an email that I received yesterday. It looks like it's been circulating for awhile, but still this is where the Republican Party seems to stand these days:
*************
Can't win an argument with a Republican? Here's why: their positions make no sense.
You first have to subscribe to the following system of belief:
TO BE A REPUBLICAN, YOU NEED TO BELIEVE:
1. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.
2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's Daddy made war on him , a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a 'we can't find Bin Laden' diversion.
3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Viet Nam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational drug corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.
9. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMO's and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.
10. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
11. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
12. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.
13. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.
14. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.
15. Supporting 'Executive Privilege' for every Republican ever born, who will be born or who might be born (in perpetuity).
16. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80's is irrelevant.
17. Support for hunters who shoot their friends and blame them for wearing orange vests similar to those worn by the quail.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

NSA and 911

I just watched a one-hour NOVA program on PBS television titled "The Spy Factory." The program focused on the National Security Agency's role in the War on Terror including what they knew about the 9/11 terrorists prior to the attack. Most of this information has been the topic of speculation primarily among so-called conspiracy theorists but as it turns out, it is entirely real.
One thing that really bugs me after watching this show is that it is quite obvious that the NSA was monitoring bin Laden and al-Qaeda, had their phone numbers, was monitoring bin Laden's personal cell phone purchased in New York, the al-Qaeda control center in Yemen, and the terrorists themselves here in the US. There is no way that the NSA did not know what was happening. NOVA answers that by alluding to the idea that the NSA had nobody in government that it could report those facts to.
Just how gullible does NOVA think its audience is? Of course the NSA has people in government that it reports to.