Saturday, April 26, 2008

People love free money

If you thought this blog was about the "big Bush" tax rebates rushing into the hands of taxpayers nationwide, then you'd be wrong.

The title for this post is actually a quote from Senator Tom Harkin which was published by the International Hearald Tribune on April 24, 2008, in an article written by David M. Herszenhorn, titled:

On Capitol Hill, it's farm politics as usual - (link to full story)

Sen. Harkin must be feeling like a lone voice on Capital Hill, as he admitted there was not much he could do about the massive farm subsidies contained in the Farm Bill set to be passed at a cost upward of $300 billion because "I don't have the votes," adding, "People love free money."

My favorite quote actually appears earlier in the article, emphasized by me in this excerpt;
But even strong proponents of the bill, like Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the Agriculture Committee, concede that farm interests are deeply entrenched and that there is little appetite for change among many farm state lawmakers, especially when it comes to the direct payment program.

The direct payments are based on the amount of land that certain farmers own, and Harkin, who has sought to eliminate the payments, said that many recipients of the money then use it to acquire more land and qualify for more payments.

"It's like the black hole in space that astronomers talk about, everything gets sucked in and nothing ever comes out," he said.

"This is the black hole of agriculture. It doesn't make sense, but farmers continue to get it."

Important points brought out in the article with respect to the new Farm Bill:

  • does little to address many of the most pressing concerns

  • will not change biofuel mandates that are directing more corn to ethanol and contributing to a global run-up in food prices

  • will do little to ease worldwide food shortages

  • demonstrated (by Ken Cook) that the farm subsidies it contains would mostly benefit a small number of wealthy crop producers

  • and, at a time of unprecedented volatility in the futures markets, it will not require tougher regulation

Indeed, many experts say the biggest step Congress could take would be to eliminate the direct payment subsidies in favor of a new revenue assurance program that would help farmers in times of need, but save money in boom years when crop yields are strong and prices high.

Let's pause and think about that comment a minute.

Did you happen to see this Globe & Mail news story out of Canada where Ottawa is planning to pay $50 Million for a swine kill owing to the massive surplus in the pork industry right now?
EDMONTON — In what is being called an unprecedented move, the federal government will pay Canadian pork producers $50-million to kill off 150,000 of their pigs by the fall as the industry teeters on the brink of economic collapse.

The animals are being destroyed at slaughter plants and on pig farms in a bid to cull the swine breeding herd by 10 per cent.

Most of the meat is to be used for pet food or otherwise disposed of, but up to 25 per cent of it will be made available to Canadian food banks.

“The value that the market is providing to hog farmers for their breeding animals has fallen to virtually nothing,” said Martin Rice, executive director of the Canadian Pork Council on Monday.

But, I digress.

Back to the Bush rebates (because I can't resist commenting on it)...

Recipients receiving their checks in the weeks ahead might want to think twice about using it to go on a shopping spree. Try checking out the product origins of the items you purchase and see how much of that money you'll actually be sending to China instead of helping to curb the recession here at home. Those "made in China" tags are mighty prevalent, wouldn't you say?

In my most humble opinion, I just can't resist applying someone else's quote to the situation.

"It's like the black hole in space that astronomers talk about, everything gets sucked in and nothing ever comes out."

But I don't want to go down that road of "torchture and politics" (link).


Monday, April 21, 2008

Pop E Quiz

Quick Quiz: How many times was the word "truth" delivered in the Pope's many pre-written public addresses given during his visit to the USA?

Think it's not significant?

In my humble opinion, in this day and age, it's sometimes difficult (at times, bleeping impossible) to get to the "truth" of anything. And the closer I get to the "truth" of some things, the more I come to believe that maybe... just maybe... we're not ready for the truth.

And that's sad in so many ways...


Because it means that those who are in full possession of the "truth" are marching the rest of us down the path they've chosen for us.

This incredible country was united by a truly remarkable document known as The Constitution of the United States of America. It was quite possibly the greatest gift your ancestors bestowed upon you. Treasure it.

I wish I could say more.

I wish I could tell you the 300 reasons why it's more important today than ever before. I wish I could explain, in 13 words or less, what I've discovered... and the 3 key areas that we need to rebuild to keep this great nation strong.

The good news is -- it's not too late.

The bad news is -- I'm concerned that too many people will continue to deny the truth, even when the evidence is all around us -- in plain sight.

How sad is that?

In His first public address on the Whitehouse lawn, the Pope referenced a quote from Pope John Paul II that goes something like this: "In a world without truth, freedom loses its value."

Think about it...

'Nuff said.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Indiana Tremors

If you were awake, like me, around 4:40 a.m. you might have felt the earth tremble slightly... it's not your imagination. It was an earthquake.

The desk and floor in my home office began vibrating, shaking the chair I was sitting on at the time. I heard light cracking sounds in the walls. Nothing fell off the cluttered shelves in my office, though.

It lasted about a minute.

Thinking I had imagined the whole thing, I went to the stairs and called up to my husband, "Did you feel that, too?"

He had just gone up to bed after a long night of work (nightshift at the plant) and hadn't yet fallen asleep. He said he had felt the whole bed shake and heard a few things clanking together up there. He felt a second, much lighter shaking happen about a minute after the first (while we were talking).

What an awesome experience.

About 15 minutes after the tremors stopped, we went online and checked the USGS site to see how big it was and where the epicenter occurred.

By that time there was only 1 event listed on the site, 19 miles SSE of Olney, Illinois -- a 5.4 magnitude -- and it had received only 139 reports in 114 zip codes with a maximum intensity of five (V).

There is a section where you can report your experiences after a quake has occurred in your area.

Naturally, I clicked the link, completed the form, and by the time I submitted my family's experience they had already set up a second event reporting link (21 miles SW of Vincennes, Indiana) which had received 3,752 reports from 1285 zip codes with a maximum intensity of 8 (VIII).

As I type this, there is now only the Vincennes listing -- downgrading it to a 5.2 magnitude quake -- with 8580 total reports. This may change since most of the data coming in is consolidated and revised every few minutes. You can check it out here.

That's another first for me, since moving to Indiana.

So far, I've seen my first small tornado whip right across our front lawn, my first eyewitness of a meteorite bursting into flames as it fell to earth (during the Superbowl between the Bears and the Colts) ...and now my first experience of an earthquake, even though the epicenter was quite a distance away.

It reminds me again of the awesome wonder and power of natural occurrences and the strong, yet at the same time fragile, nature of our tiny planet.

All I can say now is...


Monday, April 14, 2008

Plum Crazy

Regardless which side of the CAFO issue you side with, this little piece of news might scare the bleep out of you. I can't believe they would even consider this:
Dangerous Cattle Virus On U.S. Mainland?

Bush Administration Likely To Build New Foot And Mouth Research Facility Near Farms

(AP) WASHINGTON, April 11, 2008 (link to full story)

For those who aren't familiar with the disease, here's a brief excerpt which may give you some idea of it's volatility:
Foot-and-mouth virus can be carried on a worker's breath or clothes, or vehicles leaving a lab, and is so contagious it has been confined to Plum Island, off Long Island's northeastern tip, for more than a half-century - far from commercial livestock...

The existing lab is 100 miles northeast of New York City in Long Island Sound, accessible only by ferry or helicopter. Researchers there who work with the live virus are not permitted to own animals at home that would be susceptible, and they must wait at least a week before attending outside events where such animals might perform, such as a circus.

...An epidemic in 2001 devastated Britain's livestock industry, as the government slaughtered 6 million sheep, cows and pigs. Last year, in a less serious outbreak, Britain's health and safety agency concluded the virus probably escaped from a site shared by a government research center and a vaccine maker. Other outbreaks have occurred in Taiwan in 1997 and China last year and in 2006.

And quite frankly, I was not amused when I read this part:
The Homeland Security Department is convinced it can safely operate the lab on the mainland, saying containment procedures at high-security labs have improved.

Uh, yeah, right -- like they can prevent dangers such as lysteria, salmonella, E. coli, etc. from entering our water and food supply? (The most recent salmonella-in-cereal recall is a prime example -- first chickens, then eggs, then salad fixings ...and now, even puffed wheat?! What the...?)

When did HSD become experts on Agriculture (or food safety, for that matter)?

Oh yeah, that's right -- they have a whole 5 years experience in that arena -- since that's when these types of facilities were transferred under their umbrella (2003). Silly me... it must have slipped my mind. (sarcasm intended)

Pause for thought:
Asked about the administration's finalist sites located near livestock, [Dr. Robert] Breeze said: "It seems a little odd. It goes against the ... safety program of the last 50 years."

The former head of the U.S. Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service said Americans are not prepared for a foot-and-mouth outbreak that has been avoided on the mainland since 1929.

"The horrific prospect of exterminating potentially millions of animals is not something this country's ready for," said Dr. Floyd Horn.


I'm not so certain there hasn't been an outbreak since 1929. In case you missed this quote when reading the article:
The chairman, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and the head of the investigations subcommittee, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., are threatening to subpoena records they say Homeland Security is withholding from Congress. Those records include reports about "Crimson Sky," an internal review about a publicized 1978 accidental release of foot-and-mouth disease on Plum Island and reports about any previously undisclosed virus releases on the island during the past half century. (emphasis added by me)