Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A New Year

The changing of the year is such an odd thing. It's a date on the calendar and this year we'll roll over the '05 to '06. It'll be two months before I quit writing '05 on everything needing a date.

Still, the roll over always makes people look back and look forward. You'll talk about it in social events and the media will fill up with lists of best and worst, biggest and most important and on and on.

I've mixed feelings about '05. The immediate circle of family and friends seems well and in a couple of cases doing very well. Then there are the instances during '05 when things took some bad turns. Our town didn't need a big church fire that turned out to be set by a couple of foolish teenagers. And a day or two later it sure didn't need a major tornado.

And I don't know where to start on the national/international stage of '05. That's the part where I want to look forward to '06 and pray for something good to come of what we have now. It's frustrating and hard to know where to start if I want to make some improvements.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Deep winter

Winter solstice has passed marking the deepest, darkest point of the winter. Ahead of the solstice came snow and bitter cold. As the hours of daylight shortened and shortened, the cold intensified and the snow piled up.

Like it does, the weather is now moderating. Snow is turning to slush and the sky, even on a sunny day, is hazy and grey.

Christmas time.

Family will gather here tonight. We'll eat, open some gifts and wander off to church services. At one time we could say the extended family patronized doggone near every church in town. Things are a smaller scale now with people having passed and others moving away.

Lately, my own church-going is limited to occasions: a baptism, Christmas, a special service. Not so long ago church was every Sunday and I spent a fair amount of time volunteering. Not so much now.

It's not that anything happened. First it was other activities, then it was general business, and now it's limited interest. Sunday is one day that I don't usually have to climb out of bed and make a forced march into work. Oh, we're all still up and at it but the hubbub is for a hockey game or other such thing.

But, I'm looking forward to the Christmas Eve service tonight. It's very traditional and I think I'll find some comfort in the shared familiarity of the rituals and communion. And there's the singing. Methodists have the best hymn book in the business. Not that Christmas is a big test for the Methodist hymnal since most of the songs are shared widely within the Christian faith.

Still, I look forward to the comfort. And I wish and pray for peace and comfort for this whole old world. Too many people's lives torn up, too much wreckage. Time to breath deep and face ways to make some positive changes in the time ahead.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christmas, as in merry

I'll say Merry Christmas anytime and to anyone during the Christmas season. Likewise if I want to say Happy Holidays. I won't feel bad about it. Those friends, acquaintances, and strangers of other particular faiths and beliefs will hear it all the same.

There is no assault on Christmas or Christianity. This is a Christian country, fairly conservative, and reasonably secure. Christians here are the huge majority. No one is threatening Christians, or Christmas in this country.

When some idiot starts whining about how people and institutions now "must" say Happy Holiday" or "season's greetings" instead of Merry Christmas, I gag. Say it any way you want. If Wal-Mart is trying to be inclusive with the use of Happy Holidays, I expect it has more to do with marketing than attacking Christmas.

What is being threatened is decency, rule of law, understanding. For 30 years the conservatives have waged war on every decent public institution, policy and program there is. Its attacks are crafted around the evils of big government spending, taxes, and "entitlements."

On face value, things conservatives say can sound sensible. Who wants a lot of tax? Who wants the government running your life? Who doesn't want you to take care of yourself? What conservatives mean when they say such things is the destruction of social security, the end of public education, and the hoarding of wealth for the comfort of the comfortable.

If your rights as a citizen get trampled all the better because that only expands the privileges enjoyed by the scum of wealth that's steadily drifting to the top of the pond. The rest of us may drown and the wealthy will only find a way to profit selling us faulty life preservers.

So my foot is down. I'll join with my true conservative friends who are appalled at waste, who are offended by greed and corruption, and criminality. They've been betrayed, too.

Nope. We're seeing in Washington D.C. the result of one party rule. Oh, they have minions running off at the mouth all the time about everyone steals, and gay rights, and abortion, happy holidays, and gun control. All freak shows to keep people fractioned off and fighting about things while the conservatives gorge on wealth.

Conservatives, those who have grabbed the Senate, the House, the White House, the judiciary and the media, are firmly in control with a handful of conservative interests seated in corporate America. They've stolen and corrupted everything and they turn around and blame it on everything and everybody else.

Right now they're braying about corrupt liberal Democrats. Sorry, no excuse. You can't squeal about someone stealing your candies when you've got the candy store all locked up in your greedy mitts.

Time to go vote folks. Time to vote them out in a big way. Mind you, I'm not too worried about Democrat or Republican. Go vote for people you've vetted to the best of your ability who are willing to stand up to greed. Vote for people who have the backbone to put the interests of the nation ahead of themselves and the political machine that greases their palms.

I can safely argue with my true conservative friends later about details. But right now, we have to turn back and turn around the filth that's taken over our nation in the name of "conservatism." Those who have an iron grip on our nation are liars and con men of the most miserable sort.

They're so sick that they're willing to use Christmas, one of our most holy celebrations, to drive their greedy lust. Folks, if you're Christian and living in the U.S.A., relax. Nobody is trying to take it away from us. But a lot of people are using it.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


It takes over your schedule, your Sundays, your holidays. It takes over your budget, your social life, your spare time. It takes over your mind, your vision, your soul.

It's hockey; another great game ruined by adults. The idea that a bunch of kids could get together and slap a puck around without coaches, referees, clocks is a Norman Rockwell vision long dead.

The season starts and you face 26 weeks of running, spending and dealing with people you'd normally never know. You'll drive hundreds of miles, eat who knows how much crap from rink concession stands, and then get up and do it again. And again.

And it's never enough. You have to go to tournaments where you try to sleep in overpriced motels and spend more money on crap food and more time running to ice rinks with people you'd wonder about if you ran into them anywhere else.

That's all so the kid can play another game or two of hockey; a great game ruined by adults.

So, I try to maintain a perspective. Hockey is a helluva workout for the kid. If he's playing hockey he isn't doing something else. Hockey won't preclude bad behavior but I still figure every hour spent with hockey is at least that hour stolen from booze, drugs and unprotected sex. Like buying time and banking it.

And now, most suddenly, we see this coming to an end. The time is fast arriving where if he wants to play hockey it'll be on his own. No more, "time to take me to the rink, dad." No more, "did you see the way I skated that guy down?" No more, "Man, did you see Dave and I set that goalie up?"

No more long drives through bleak winterscapes talking about life, music, movies, getting a muffler for the old truck, people, how to behave, school, building new pig pens. No more guys hanging around in the garage goofing off and farting.

That'll all end with the hockey, too. And the kid will move along to his own life whatever that may be. And he'll have what we shared, too, I hope. The whole thing was special. Every challenge, every time I shook my head and wondered what the hell. All of it is growing up.

Tonight, when I drop him off at the rink, I'll bite my tongue, and when I drive back through town I'll look around on the streets for kids his age and I'll think, "My kid's playing hockey."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Random thanks

I could find only one news mention of X-Box riots. Riot is probably too strong a word. Melee, or scuffle, or disturbance perhaps better describe what happened outside of a Wal-Mart somewhere in suburban Maryland.

Suburban Maryland. Meh.

Since today is the day for thanking the crap out of everything and everyone, I'm thankful for only one reported X-Box disturbance. The Youthful Ones here say they are surprised by even one. Gamers, they say, are a bunch of geeks and fighting and scuffling are out of character.

Still, it's the X-Box release. People waited overnight in the cold to be there to buy the silly things. That's passion and video gamers are passionate. Limited supplies isn't something this bunch is used to. That's why I expected some broader level of savagery.

So, back to saying I'm thankful for only one reported incident. Maybe gamers have a better depth of character than I expected.

And I'm thankful for the whole list of obvious other things such as my healthy family, a safe warm place to live, and a supportive community that has had its share of challenges this past year. People in this country at the community street level are still generous, caring, and decent.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Gun deer season

Someone please name a band, "Gun Deer Season." Please.

As I key this into the computer, 600,000 people are in the woods and fields of Wisconsin hunting deer. The radio said 600,000 and I have never tried to verify the number. It's about the same each year so I think it's in the old ballpark. Back in '68 I recall a commentator say the number of deer hunters in Wisconsin was about the same as the number of troops we had in Vietnam at the time.

My recollection of the '68 gun deer season and Vietnam is one of those oddities of my flypaper memory. You know, if I had to remember something really important it'd be gone but that odd speck of trivia pops into my conscience.

Then my brain leaps into the present and the next image filling my head is all those orange-clad hunters being loaded on airplanes and flown to Iraq. If the sight of drunken fat white men armed and looking to shoot something didn't force the insurgents into instant surrender what would?

Friday, November 18, 2005

About time

Is it surrender to leave Iraq as suggested by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa)?

Rep Murtha says:

"This war needs to be personalized. As I said before I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our OBLIGATION to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.

Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME."

Murtha doesn't leave it to chance by adding:

My plan calls:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq

For some reason I don't see a retired Marine colonel surrendering.

Besides, who the hell would we surrender to? Our real enemies, and we had far fewer of them than most people thought, are more interested in the continued killing anyway. GWB and OBL are a pair of sick fucks who need each other.

I thought the invasion of Iraq was a dumb idea at the get go. Just on the surface of thing you could see we were sending our military into a spot where they'd be surrounded and out numbered every day. No WMD, no link to terrorists, No "gathering threat."

So you go, Murtha, go. On an average day I'd disagree with you on about everything else under the sun. But I have a feeling that wouldn't bother you in the slightest, either.

Thank you. Your courage is a living example to every one.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Odd notes

It seems so out of fashion to wish for a peaceful world, an end to hate, poverty and a zillion other human maladies. Is there no profit in peace? Is that really why it's so essential to have a huge war machine and to drag our country into conflict?

War seems so desperate to me. And to go out of one's way to have a war is a senseless criminal act. At least I think it's criminal. Keep in mind I'm old fashioned and out of fashion.

But seriously, is there no profit in peace? Because if peace were profitable, would there be as many wars? Or am I barking up wrong trees. While I'm at it, I've never seen the profit in poverty either. Prospering people with full bellies and families living threat-free would appear to have more profit potential than people living in crushing poverty and ignorance.

I guess there needs to be exploited, impoverished people to provide cheap labor to make trinkets for the rich at the lowest possible cost so there's an impressive margin to fuel the layer of increasingly wealthy people who can continue to buy the bobbles manufactured in cheap labor shops.

Or something.

I think it's the responsibility of the wealthy capitalist to redistribute wealth. Capitalists can best redistribute wealth through job creation. Capitalists also have a responsibility to assure justice for their workforce and protection from violence.

If the capitalists don't start doing a better job of wealth distribution, I fear we just keep going through the same old cycles where the world gets a few hyper wealthy individuals controlling everything and injustice and poverty gets so bad that the cycle breaks violently.

Maybe the war machine can buy off or kill enough people so all that remains are the hyper wealthy and their servant bots. Then they'll turn on themselves.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More organic notions

After that last post, I started thinking about whether organic food production can be mass marketed. Many people in organic production object to scale, large scale that is. A large farm, even if adhering to organic guidelines, is basically no longer organic. At some threshold, size of the operation becomes objectionable in and of itself. Or so some say.

Clarifying my own thoughts isn't easy since I'm prone to listen to new arguments and change my mind. A few things about my attitude have remained consistent. I'm not an organic food purest. In fact I really don't care what people put in their mouths. Organic food production's greatest potential is environmental via reduced use of chemicals. And I'm not saying conventional production is bad either, but it is energy intensive and things we do to reduce energy use are good imho.

Organic food, again my opinion, is no higher quality or any better for you than any other food. Chicken shit on an egg is only a dirty egg and it makes no difference what lead up to the laying of that egg. Likewise with any other food.

My point of advocacy is fresh local production. I'm not too worried about organic production practices as such but I do like fresh, locally grown food where I can see and know the grower. Direct marketed food has all the appeal I need. Organic? Okay, but it's not a first criteria. And I'm perfectly happy buying food from a supermarket or restaurant and not think about organic for a second.

This brings me back to mass marketing of organic production. Confronted by shelves full of food in the supermarket, I'd probably go along throwing things in the cart I wanted and buying primarily on price. If the organic tomato was more expensive, I'd probably grab the lower cost tomato all other things being equal.

If organic food production begins to enter mass market channels, as it is, it'll be competing on price value with other foods. Some people are going to pay a "premium" but not a substantially large amount when the products are side by side. For organic food producers to maintain a wider profit margin than commodity foods they need to stay away from mass production.

Buy direct locally produced food, I say.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Organic questions

That the organic food rules make it onto a segment of the ABC World News Tonight tells us the topic has popular mass interest. Rule changes are pretty boring. But ABC reported that organic foods are now a $14.5 billion a year business.

Honestly, I don't know what practical effect the court ruling and the debate about the regulations has but it's obviously created some concern for someone. At stake at all times is the meaning of the term organic food.

I bet if you did a survey of people's attitudes, you'd find pretty favorable perceptions about organic food. You'd hear that it's healthier, higher quality and better for the environment. Probably the only negative thing people would report it that organic products are expensive.

Of course, I'm guessing at a survey outcome.

All that positive feeling is something you can take to the bank. Money, especially billions, gets the attention of the big food complex. Here is where the premise of organic production gets interesting. First of all, can organic farming methods serve a mass market? Many organic producers do claim comparable yields in certain crops. Secondly, can organic foods stand the mass processing and distribution system and stay organic? Space in supermarkets devoted to organic is expanding suggesting that the effort is being made to answer question two.

Without any recent interviews with organic producers under my belt, I'm guessing there's some conflict afoot. The higher prices paid for organic production has helped draw a steady stream of farmers into the endeavor. While organic pioneers were out to make a statement and save the world, many people converting to organic methods are now looking at the extra money.

If organic methods became universally used, you'd be inclined to think that'd be a great thing for everyone assuming everyone's perceptions of the value of organic food are truthful.

What's true here and what's simple assumption? On top of that, you have to have some agency constantly and honestly upholding standards.

Another question for you. Does organic farming want to become mainstream?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Pure organic?

A handful of producers holding forth against big ag and big food has grown into, well, something that is starting to look like big ag and big food. So I exaggerate. Organic food production and processing is still a playground weakling compared to the whole agri-food complex.

But our weakling is starting to sprout some muscles of its own and the big boys on the playground have had to take a sidelong glance at the growth. Back when organic production was a handful of noisy producers there wasn't much interest beyond drawing definitive lines in the playground turf between who did what and how.

And as long as most of the food went from farmers to local customers it was a cute little niche. It was when the organic food started to get into the food processing and distribution chains that big ag and big food decided to get a piece of the margin.

Processed food can go to a supermarket shelf. On the shelf, organic products begin to squeeze all those other processed food products. And an organic "premium" looks good to Wal-Mart so they want more. They want mass production. They want it cheaper.

Hold it, I digress toward a rant.

Recently, there was a court ruling that basically said organic is organic and you don't go adding anything to it.

Chicago Tribune
Oct. 26, 2005

The law allows products that are 95 percent organic to carry the USDA organic seal, while products with at least 70 percent organic ingredients can advertise that they are made with organic ingredients. The Agriculture Department allows manufacturers to use up to 5 percent non-organic or synthetic ingredients and still receive the organic label, provided organic ingredients aren't available.

Court: No synthetics, period.

...a federal appellate court ruled in June that synthetic products couldn't be used at all in products with the organic label; companies often use such products as thickening agents or to give their products consistency. The court also ruled that the Agriculture Department could not give a blanket exemption to non-organic agriculture products, such as spices and oils, unless they were approved during a public process.

The court further ruled that dairy farmers must feed their cows 100 percent organic feed in the transition year before their milk could be sold as organic; currently, the USDA allows farmers to feed them 80 percent organic feed, and 20 percent conventional feed.

Processors went to the USDA to get that court ruling overturned. As far as I can tell at this point, the existing rules will continue as stated in the Chicago Tribune article. If the court ruling holds, then a whole bunch of processors have to make new labels or take products off the shelves.

web site for the global seed industry

Like organic standards used throughout the world, the U.S. organic standards have always allowed specific synthetic materials that are essential to making numerous organic processed products. These are non-agricultural materials, including items such as baking powder and a type of pectin, that are necessary in certain production and processing practices and have been used in producing foods for decades.

The current labeling requirements of the USDA National Organic Standard includes a 100% organic category (fresh and processed products) as well as the organic category (95% or more organic ingredients), and the made with organic category (70% or more organic ingredients.) Consumers have a choice in the products that they purchase because of these clearly defined labeling categories.

This is an issue that no doubt fractures organic producers. By allowing these processing additives, it's possible to expand the market, perhaps helping to make it a mass market for organic labels. The downside it that lax rules in processing will lead to food that's labeled as organic but not really organic in spirit or form.

More info:

USDA National Organic Program (NOP)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

One party rule

I was brought up in a time when Russia was the enemy. We did air raid-like drills preparing for a time when nuclear missiles would rain down for no reason except for the evil and greed of Russia.

It all felt likely as I remember seeing Nikita Khrushchev on television at the United Nations pounding the podium and shouting about burying the United States.

We were told that the people of Russia lived in tyranny. There was only one political party and everything was done for the good of the party. People were killed for daring to stand up to the party. Everyone worked like slaves and the rulers were certainly crazy and were working hard at taking over the world. If they succeeded, every human on the plant would work for the party and live under tyranny.

As a free country, it was imperative to stop communist Russia and end communism at all costs. We were told we'd loose our freedoms. Again and again the evils of one party rule were drilled into our heads.

Punch the remote ahead to U.S.A. in 2005.

The Republican party is in control of the presidency, the senate, the house, the judiciary, and the media. Republican interests control the ever-consolidating corporate board rooms of the world. It's about money and power, tons of it for a handful of people with the rest of us working to keep it that way.

One party rule.

What? Do I say that like it's a bad thing?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wilma update

Word just traveled through the family grapevine that the Florida branch of the clan is okay. Some water blown under a door, power out, but telephones working. It's great news since Lee County was right in the middle of the hit.

Scandal of choice

Which scandal are you following? There's so much delightful filth.

Here's my list:

Plame, Wilson/Rove, Cheney
Tom Delay
Bill Frist
Ted Stevens A bridge too far

The list in order of my highest fascination first. If you're not into news much, there's a federal investigation underway concerning the public "outing" of undercover CIA agent, Valerie Plame.

This scandal is on my list first because it involves spies, treason, lies, deception, cover ups and war. Spies have always interested me. The interest is based probably in the fact that my life is so mundane while the life of a spy seems so dangerous and glamorous like James Bond.

My travels have taken me to a few places in the world but I see spies traveling to all of the top hot spots with unlimited funds and getting into tight places with only their wits to get them out. Oh, and of course a trick watch maybe and a tricked out car.

I've read Helen MacInnes, John le Carré, Len Deighton, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Ian Fleming and possibly a few more that escape me now. Speaking of spy books, I think The Tailor of Panama by John le Carré is a plausible account of how lies and delusion can get you into a war.

In my spy world, all the spies are heroes who do the right things and it's all about truth and justice and freedom. That's pretty silly, I know, and it's even sick. I've actually met a CIA *representative* once and it wasn't all that cool.

Anyway, that's why when it hit the news about two years ago that a CIA agent's cover was blown, my interest was piqued. I've followed the investigation on and off ever since. The whole sordid mess is in the new more because the federal grand jury looking into the case is drawing to a close.

Indictments could get handed out any day now. The facination is in the detail for me but a lot of people are giddy about what may happen. Some of the top people in Washington D.C. may well end up in the slammer for their treason.

Real life is more unfortunate than my spy world. If evil has been done to make certain people even richer and more powerful, I want simple justice. So for now, I wait and watch as this drama unfolds.

Hurricane Wilma

This morning I see Hurricane Wilma is hitting southwest Florida as a Cat. 3 storm. All I can do right now is wait and hope my family there pulls through.

Friday, October 14, 2005

War mom

The opportunity came along to visit with a woman whose daughter and son-in-law are in the armed forces and both have done two tours of duty in Iraq. I didn't ask her what they did or which branch of the service they are in.

She is an old friend, someone I have known since early childhood. Back when Bush invaded Iraq, she was one of the vocal supporters going as far as to participate in pro-war demonstrations opposite the anti-war demonstrations that cropped up in our hometown. The anti-war group was on the one side of the Main Street bridge and the pro-war group formed on the other side.

The two groups chanted and shouted back and forth at each other. I remember driving down Main Street one afternoon after work and having the two sides shouting at me. I remember looking left and right and seeing so many familiar faces on both sides, including hers.

Small town America split and me driving down the middle. Most people were driving down the middle. The whole thing remains a powerful literal metaphor.

We visited today at length. Both of kids are back in the states right now and are fine. I asked if they'd have to do another tour and she said she didn't know. It looked like a two year rotation thing to her and if that's the case the kids could return to Iraq next year.

I told her I hoped we had the mess wrapped up by next year. She thoughtfully, and sadly, shook her head in the negative. "I hope so, too," she said quietly. She said the kid's attitudes are good. We agreed a positive attitude was for the best and that in reality, you have little choice but to have a positive attitude.

Her demeanor was somber and reflective. There was none of the fire and passion in her affect I had seen that day years ago on the Main Street bridge. Her kids are okay. Their attitudes are good. They're career military and knew war was a part of the deal.

There's no conclusion here. And I have too much respect for my friend and her kids to ask obvious and rude questions. While we visited, she was cradling her first grandchild from another of her offspring. Mostly the three month old slept in her arms waking once in a while to grasp at her grandmother's breast and stretch.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Troubling it is

Never one to revel in the disgrace of a public figure, I took the whole business with Tom DeLay (R-TX) this week with some mixed feelings. It's good to put the crooks on notice and hopefully in jail but it's really sad a powerful public figure gets to this spot.

That's my natural moderate side speaking. Basically, the guy is rotten to the core and finally lost track of all the fixes he put in. There's the senate majority leader, too, up to his eyeballs in some stock sale insider trade scandal.

It doesn't get any better than this. Public servants? They have chain gangs in Texas don't they? Let him serve the public there.

I think the whole sad state of affairs is deliberate. Republicans are so rotten, that actually getting caught in your rotten-ness is a badge on honor. For years now, people will whisper about how they got set up by a bunch of godless, baby-killing faggots and that the country is clearly going to hell for it.

The whole thing becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy. Government is bad, see. See? It's bad, it's so bad that we'll cut it and curb it and control it and you know, you shouldn't worry about it much 'cause we're the republicans and we're going to give your money back 'cause government is so awful that we can't have taxes. Forget about public schools, they're rotten government-run so get 'em off our backs. Get rid of that stinking social security thing because it's a tax and a government program and government is rotten, see. See?

Oh, don't you worry. Watch TV, go to church, work at minimum wage, have some kids. Yeah, teach 'em at home 'cause we don't want no stinking public school taking our precious tax money. It'll be okay. Say your kid is sick? No problem, man. Just pull your sorry ass up by the boot straps. You're tough, you're proud, you're American damn it and no governments needs to be wiping your nose for you. Sick kid? Buy some drugs, man. Over the counter shit, it'll work 'cause we removed that stinking bad government regulation stuff on medicine.

What, you sorry bastard, no money for medicine 'cause your job is shit and you're late on the rent? What kind of wuss are you? Quit bitching, man and sell your blood. Everything is good now 'cause we took care of that stinking government thing and you know it 'cause that's what I'm saying and you have to believe it.

What? You don't believe it? Man, in the act of ending rotten government we passed some laws for dealing with stupid whiners like you, see. See? You gotta be a terrorist saying you don't believe what we say. So we got laws for you, man. You'll be hearing from the law about those things your saying, man. You're headed to jail.

We got the best damn jails in the world now that we got the things away from that stinking rotten government. Private-paid cops and jails, man. They ain't gonna worry about your sorry whining, see. See? Straight to jail, man 'cause we passed some laws, see. See? No judges, either. Just swift ass justice according to the laws we passed. Right on into the private jail.

You'll be sorry for complaining and lying about us. That private jail ain't worryin' about criminal rights, man. And you're a terrorist to boot 'cause you said you don't believe. Oh yeah, that jail is gonna reform you with a cattle prod. We passed some laws, man. No government needed for terrorist criminals like you daring to disagree with us.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

All Around Numbness

My relative in Florida comments there's a certain numbness setting in about hurricanes. That was his response when I mentioned they were lucky to have missed the Rita train.

I can see that. Everyone is getting a little worn down by the barrage. It's wearying and it's not just hurricanes. Many of us are busy trying to hold onto jobs and take care of kids and a lot more of us are now taking care of kids and parents. Then you add the extra stress of these huge events that are totally out of anyone's control.

And you keep adding them and keep adding them and at each new horror you wonder how it's all going to affect you and yours. After a while you begin to assimilate the barrage by just getting numb. Numb is a good word. Not really depression, certainly no longer excitement, not exactly indifference either.

Numb like you've been hit repeatedly until sensation fades. You know you're still taking the hit and you know you have to respond in some way but now there's an auto player on and you're just slugging along. It's a sad state.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Never say never

When I started this blog, I had no intention nor desire to write about presidential politics. Not that I didn't have my opinions. I just felt I'd be more comfortable sticking with issues more directly related to agriculture.

But Chimpy pisses me off. And he alarms me. He's not a man but a spoiled, cowardly, little boy bully. If he was my kid I'd slap him hard up side the head for his insolent, snotty attitude.

Then I'd turn him over to the cops for criminal prosecution. New Orleans is quickly going to become the same opportunity for the war profiteers as Iraq. The slop is headed into the troth and the swine will wallow in the swill of taxpayer money.

It's full-feed time folks. The slop hopper has busted open like a levee and the criminals are gorging. It's big time bragging gluttony. Unabashed. There's is nothing to stop it.

And the pathetic little boy/man will spin to the nation tonight in a pretend game. I can hear the kid's coaches: "That's all right Georgie, oh yes, I know it's so hard but it's all really just a little make believe. You can do it and we'll have milk and cookies afterward. Oooo! How about a little extra time on the trike? Yeah, that's a good little boy."

Sick little bastard. Heh, even if he did get turned into the cops for corruption, they'd have to prosecute Chimpy as a child.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Shallow man

I've never bought into the notion President Bush was dumb. There's something wrong with the man but it isn't stupidity. Something is missing but not the brain.

Am I the only one in the world offended by his behavior? Truthfully, I think he could have acted quicker or sooner in helping move rescue and relief operations. But on that alone I'd be willing to cut Bush a little slack.

It's the way he acts that causes me to worry. Why would a grown man in his position of authority have firemen flown in to have as a prop? How can a grown man in his position of authority say the things he says about "Brownie" and be eating cake and strumming guitars in the face of such a disaster?

How does he do it? And I haven't even brought up the lies. People just keep taking it and it goes on like nothing is the matter. I know 14 year old boys with far more maturity than President Bush.

He needs help from someone other than Karl Rove.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Presidential Oath of Office

The oath to be taken by the president on first entering office is specified in Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

That's it.

Worse & worse

The situation in New Orleans is so beyond belief. I've been in the city a few times and don't pretend to understand the lay of the land very well. But I've been watching reporting from the Convention Center and just can't believe it.

Water drops are finally getting there now? Or are they? A convention center seems like a natural place for people to move toward. So why aren't there concerted efforts by officials to be there in force to help people and start moving them to safer places? Day after day, I've watched this obvious point with increasing concern.

And what of the hospitals? In any catastrophe shouldn't hospitals get secured immediately? I know the Coast Guard had to be stunned by the scale of the mess they flew into but shouldn't someone have directed them to the hospitals to provide security and as evacuation points?

What the hell. Hospitals. Hospitals are another logical place for people to go seeking help and so is it obvious only to me that the early, first response is to secure hospitals?

You're not going to evacuate the population of a major city by helicopter anyway. Even big ones only hold a few people at a time.

Agghhhhhaaa. Just nuts.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Help the South

What passed through the neighborhood here is a mini-disaster compared to what has happened and is happening in the deep middle south. New Orleans, much of Mississippi and Alabama all hammered by Hurricane Katrina now struggle to get through another day.

I can't begin to visualize the scale of this wreak. Our tornado savaged an area about 12 miles long and two miles wide. Inside that zone are places completely leveled and places left untouched. In contrast, Katrina ravaged an area hundreds of miles square. With the flooding, the hurricane's ugly menace remains for weeks, months and maybe years.

Give generously. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army are my recommendations. I've had the honor of seeing both in operation in different contexts including our local tornado relief. Outstanding work and dedicated people.

When it comes to helping people in crisis, both agencies are top shelf. And top shelf help is what is needed in the south right now.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


The warnings were up by mid-afternoon and it was one of those days you could tell someone was going to get it. As I left work there were tornados to the west and north of us but nothing close. By the time we made it home more places were getting the take cover warning.

We went about our routines only keeping a watch on the sky and radar. I was messing around outside and watching the clouds when Jan came out on the deck to tell me there was a tornado sighted in Oregon and it was headed east. When I turned my head west and looked, the whole field near us seemed like it was lifting and the sky above was starting to turn.

I joined Cory, Jan and the dogs in the basement. At first there was little to notice but in a few seconds the roar began and the house started to rattle and shake. The power went out. We sat there until it got quiet and then I went back out on the deck to see what had happened.

To my immediate east the nasty beast was right there ripping, shredding and tearing. It was huge and then it calved into two before merging back into one in a few seconds.. Things were still flying around and the sky was savage so I headed back into the basement.

After a few more minutes of quiet, we went back out. Neighbors were also coming out to calls of, "are you alright? You okay?" Everyone was taking stock. There was a roof gone from a house behind us and there was other roof damage to see. Trees and limbs were down, windows blown out. Everyone was safe.

Our house was intact. Maybe some single damage. The yard and the trees were covered in shredded insulation from when the roof blew off the house behind us. But again, we were okay.

Now came the sirens, a sound we'd hear most of the night. Then came the med-flight helicopters which kept up until dark. At first light in the morning, the news helicopters poured in like a bunch of angry hornets. Helicopters gradually gave way to airplanes.

On the ground, heavy equipment and emergency service vehicles took to the streets. Many streets were closed off. Volunteer efforts began right away. Several days later we now have the steady sounds of construction and the "yeep, yeep, yeep" of machinery moving debris.

A few photos here...>

Sunday, August 14, 2005

No news is cow news

When I pick up the Sunday paper and see a large color photo of a dairy farm covering the upper left corner above the fold, I think, "oh, now what?" That's what I saw when I pulled the paper out of the mailbox this morning.

On further inspection, the article was about the day in the life of a large animal veterinarian. The article had nothing. On the online version in the Wisconsin State Journal, the article was also featured prominently and cued up under the "news" section.

News? It was a human interest feature. What the heck was it doing pasted into the hot news part of the paper and what was it doing under the news section of the online version? There's nothing wrong with human interest stories and in fact the piece was pleasant and complementary to its source.

After reading a couple of paragraphs I moved on to the "news" I was looking for in the paper. Call me nuts, but I first look for news, then comics, then business, then sports. If I'm looking for human interest I expect to find it in the section of the paper (typically) given over to warm and fuzzy.

Later, I returned to the front page article and read it because I was worried I was missing some news buried down in the story. Nope. Still nothing. There are a few other really soft articles on the front page, too.

Talk about your slow news days.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

$58,000 project

It's hard to think that a youth project with a $58,000 payoff is amateur. Fifty thousand is a professional level sum. Yet, 16-year-old Kellon Whitley Sturtevant, Wis., took home $58,000 from the Governor's Blue Ribbon Sale at the Wisconsin State Fair, Aug. 10.

The winning bid for Kellon's state champion steer came from Metcalf's Sentry, a grocery store with outlets in Madison and in the Milwaukee area. Kenosha Beef International and Smithfield Packerland were there to drive the bidding with Metcalf.

That kind of money can influence behavior. State fair auction scandals have hit several states. When the steaks get high, the steak often gets questionable. A $58,000 payoff at a livestock auction buys a kid a bachelors degree at a good university.

Sums like $58,000 cause people to try things perhaps they wouldn't. Sometimes these efforts get outside the boundaries of right and wrong, good and bad. Big money puts big temptations on the table.

As long as we're aware of the temptations, aware of what is right and wrong, know the difference between good and bad, these kinds of high profile youth livestock projects are great. Tending animals is demanding and risky.

Congratulations, Kellon. I wouldn't know you if I ran into you at a sale barn. I'm just hoping that if I do, that you're the kind of person I can look up to and trust doing business with.

Milwaukee Journal article

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Cow Gas

The Los Angeles Times carried an article today about air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. The gist of the piece was that cows, dairy cows, are causing pollution on par with cars.

san joaquin valley

Dairy has grown in the valley. According to the article there are 2.5 million cows there and the numbers are increasing. All these cows are creating organic gasses that mix with the atmosphere into a polluted cocktail.

Okay. The local air quality district is attributed with saying, "...dairy farms are the biggest single source of smog-forming gases." There is citizen outrage and the dairy business community is predictably reactive. Of note is reference to "fart science."

I think a second of humor is warranted.

It's always too bad when one thing gets singled out as the sole cause of the problem in the San Joaquin Valley. You bet there are a lot of dairy cows there and I have to believe those cows do produce some gasses. But the San Joaquin has a rapidly expanding human population that also altered the environment by building houses, businesses, malls, roads and yes, driving more cars, eating more food and well, having gas too.

If everybody could take some personal responsibility for their activities, it'd be more defensible to talk about solving the greater problem when addressing specific spots. That's pretty idealistic. I guess it's easier to get mad and start ripping the other guy.

And there's a practical side to things as well. How do you get a cow to stop or reduce its gas emissions? Is there a converter available? An accusation of this sort causes dairy producers to conclude someone is out to get them and the weapon is the environment.

Then you get an equally predictable reaction that dairy producers are a bunch of greedy eco-wreckers because they take exception to the charges.

What we need are some bridge builders willing to start working on both ends of the situation. I do hope, in this case and thousands of others, bridge builders will step forward and start doing some of the hard work and making some of the sacrifices it'll take to clean up the environment and keep food moving into our cities and towns.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Right at the fair

Our county fair concluded Sunday on one of the hottest days of the year. There were 110 degree heat indices. Fair officials decided mercifully to let the livestock go home early Sunday morning before the day had heated up.

Livestock suffers big time in heat and to have them struggling with hot weather plus the stress of being away from home, well, getting them off the grounds during the cool of the morning was the best thing.

As far as I know, everybody made it safely home or to market. People were dunking their chickens, soaking their hogs, aiming big fans at the cows and keeping the horses well watered. It's good to see people who know animals working to keep the critters safe and alive.

Water now

Okay, so the whole drought thing I was talking about earlier is subsiding. At least on the surface it's much better. But, like I said, droughts are funny things and you can have a rainy spell and still be in trouble.

Locally at least, our crops are going to turn out. Well, the growing season isn't over yet, but the crops are in good shape now. We've had substantial rain and the heat has broken. That'll make the season a pretty good one if we're favored from here on out.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hot goes on and on

Yesterday, the Wisconsin State Journal carried a story about the drought. That makes it official. Governor Doyle is declaring a drought emergency which sets up the process by which the state can get federal aid and help farmers and others affected by the weather.

According to the map in the paper, Illinois is in much worse shape than is Wisconsin. People from Illinois buying sweet corn from my daughter's produce stand are telling her how wonderful things look here compared to there. There's a big high pressure ridge built in over Canada and it isn't moving.

People are wondering out loud if hurricane Emily might carry inland far enough to either bring rain to the Midwest or dislodge the stagnant high pressure dome. We'll see. Right now it looks like Emily is going to hit Mexico. It's a long way from Mexico to Wisconsin. Places farther south may benefit.

It's odd to be thinking about getting help from something as destructive as a hurricane.

Friday, July 15, 2005

All about the weather

We're in a drought. Contrary to popular myth, it will rain during a drought. It just won't rain everywhere and it won't rain very much. And oddly enough, you can even get a flood or two in the middle of a drought. That makes no sense on the surface, but it's true.

About the floods and rain in a drought; dry ground gets very hard and cracked. Along comes an isolated downpour and the water falls so fast it can't soak into the soil so it starts flowing. The result is a flood. A flood in the middle of a drought. In fact, the worse the drought gets, the more likely it is to flood.

And rain does fall during a drought. It just isn't distributed very well. Locally, we had more than an inch of rain the other day. Our crops responded to the drink with a flush of new growth. A few miles away, the crops are shriveled and pointed still searching the sky for relief.

I once interviewed a old Oklahoma farmer. The topic of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl came up and I asked him how he was able to stay and keep his farm when so many others had fled. He explained that "God just favored us, son. Each season we'd get a couple of those showers other places didn't get. It was just enough to make a part of a crop and we had just enough to keep the bills paid."

To compound the situation here, we've had high temps and some days of very low humidity. It's conditions just like this that makes me think about the nature of God. What caused the rain to fall over our little patch of earth the other day? We'll get crops. Without more rain, the yields are going to be cut. But we'll have a crop.

"God just favored us, son." I'll never forget it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Food Terror

There are people in the world looking to harm us. That much I know and believe. Invading Iraq was a dumb idea with nothing to do with protecting our nation's people. That's all I care to say about that.

For those seeking to do us harm, you have to take a look at our food production, processing and distribution systems. Mass production, mass processing and mass distribution channels are bound to have some weak spots.

I'm not sure how to go about protecting it or even sure how to assess the risk potential. You have to think like a terrorist and look for places to inflict the most damage. A recent government report about food chain vulnerabilities was suppressed apparently because it was "an instruction manual for terrorists."

I don't know. You also have to add mass media to the equation. Terror works on the collective head of a population. An attack needn't reach the proportions of the World Trade Center attack to inflict panic and create instability. Just the thought that something bad was in the food or affecting the food might be enough.

The agricultural business community needs to keep its head up. There are efforts underway to better assess and track animal movement, for example. Response procedures are crucial and need careful definition and understood command chains.

We all live under a thin veneer of protective technology. It probably wouldn't take a lot to punch a hole in that veneer.

Friday, June 10, 2005

raw trouble

You can put anything in your mouth and swallow and I don't care. Really, just go for it. That's not to say I think you *should* put certain things in your mouth and swallow. Raw milk comes to mind.

If you're adult and making choices for yourself about drinking raw milk, then I respectfully advise you it's a risky idea. Bacteria live everywhere and a complete menu of bacteria is found on all kinds of farms and bacteria love their milk. Even the short list is pretty impressive: e.coli, salmonella, listeria.

You can get a home pasteurizer for about $300 or pasteurize milk with things you have around the house. Pasteurization is heating the milk to 145 degrees and keeping it at 145 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

The argument that raw milk is somehow better for you is spectacularly stupid. Calculating probabilities isn't my strong suit but it's fair to compare drinking raw milk with gambling. The odds are unknown to me, but if you're drinking raw milk you're living on the edge.

People have also told me raw milk tastes better. Pasteurization does affect taste. But milk harvested right from the cow and pasteurized is as fresh a taste treat as there is and you get to enjoy it without thinking about invisible nasties working over your guts.

Finally, if you're pushing raw milk out the back door of your farm to families with kids, you're risking their lives, too, not to mention exploiting ignorance for your gain.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

agricultural world

Will the word return to its agrarian roots once we've tapped down our pools of oil? In the purest sense, there wouldn't be much choice. People will find ways to eat. Probably more concerning is how such a transition might take place.

Conditioned by disaster movies, it's easy to think first of a sudden calamity that severs our links to oil and technology followed by a grim scenario of death and destruction. But oil supplies will dwindle. It may happen faster or slower but oil will play out gradually over years.

Eating depends on a food supply and eating is central to staying alive. With oil supplies gradually drawing down, the strain on the food supply chain from farm to fork also will increase. Modern commercial agriculture is petroleum dependent and as oil gets more expensive, the system gets more expensive, too.

There certainly is the potential for people, a lot of people, to grow their own food. My small suburban yard could produce a bunch of food if the time was spent to grow, harvest and store crops. We'd be spending our time growing food instead of commuting to jobs that may not be there in the post oil glut age.

There's a Rolling Stone magazine article by James Howard Kunstler called The Long Emergency. If we can set aside some of the obvious doomsday stuff, we should all see the potential.

Still it's the social aspect that has me concerned. Can our social system adjust with out killing each other? If the oil supply dwindles gradually, I'm optimistic enough to think we can make the needed changes. If the oil supply plays out more quickly, a transition is going to be more painful.

I've listened to interviews with Jon Thompson, former president of Exxonmobil. Thompson always stressed energy efficiency and encouraged a national energy policy based on it. Thompson, I thought, was always pretty blunt about oil supplies while managing to stick to the soothing reassurances required of an oil executive.

Leadership is needed badly. And I don't mean someone who thinks they have all the answers. I'm talking about the kind of leadership that can draw together people from the oil company board room to the most strident environmentalists. Leadership would demand dialog and then develop a whole menu of programs to attack energy and food production all across the range of diversity.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

organic thoughts

There was a mildly thought provoking essay about organic food by Ron Johnson in Agri-View, a statewide agricultural newspaper.

Agri-View Newspaper

The upshot from Mr. Johnson was that most people probably don't wake up and go to sleep each day worrying about good safe food. I think he's right. But there is a feeling that organic food is somehow better or better for you than regular old store-shelf stuff.

This isn't something we can quickly discuss because so often the whole debate, such as it is, resembles theology versus science. Enough people share a value system that favors organic food production to have created a growing market. The presumptions with organic food production are that it's produced in such a way as to not harm the environment and therefore is free of any substance that might make its way to your table.

We're all right with that. Shoot, less use of chemicals is a noble notion and one I think many producers will agree with.

What happens though, is that millions of people eat conventionally produced food and fare just fine. Those eating organic food do fine, too, I'm sure. Do the people eating organic feel or live better? I bet many will tell you they are healthier for the choice.

We just don't know with scientific certainty. People will tell you they feel better when they quit smoking, quit drinking, quit eating meat, quit reading newspapers. I feel better after a few days away from work.

There isn't much of a controversy in my mind about organic food production. The country is apparently affluent enough that people can base what they eat on a personal value system having little to do with supported facts. If the amount of chemicals used in food production is reduced then so much the better.

So enjoy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

left right and down the middle

About the time I sit down at the key board to say all the things I mean to say, my mind goes blank. Initially, I was going to go on about how hard it is to vote for Republicans. But then I realized it's almost as hard to vote for Democrats.

Both parties right now are driven by extremes.

The more one party characterizes the other, the more that party does to live up to the characterization. Republicans are corrupt, war-mongering, greedy, big government deficit spenders while Democrats are painted as godless baby-killing faggots.

The second you think that's nuts, something comes along and makes it all seem true, say a grueling war or absurd fights over church and state issues. All of this is muddled by media impressions. There isn't so much a thing as facts as impressions. Media can get the facts right sometimes and still create a false impression.

Politicians are quick to exploit impressions. Media manipulation is big industry and high art. Whatever, it all gets carried into the crevasses as people imitate what they see as conventional wisdom. You may wonder why things are a little out of focus around the local school board or village council.

Friday, May 06, 2005

yapping for attention

As much as internet communications promise to bring people together, people defy the promise. There are several blogs I routinely read, mostly liberal, and I take a spin though the conservative blogs, too.

Then I quit because I get discouraged. Reluctantly, I return in a few days to affirm nothing much has changed. If this is a conversation then I must understand the language of barking canines.

So much is flat nonsense. It's a text-based flea market. One gets attention by barking loudly which sets off a louder chain of barking and howling. Sometimes I want to kick a noisy dog right into the basement where it can't be heard or set off any more howling in the neighborhood.

That's the discouraging side. That is, discovering in my own character the urge to shut someone up. I used to think it was better to have people's ideas and opinions right out in the open where we could all have a look. Now that I'm able to view so much, I guess I'm surprised at how daft it all becomes.

Which is the point in the first place.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

organic values

In the field of agriculture (har), the production of organic food has earned a fair share of press and a growing (har) market. Organic food sounds so appealing. After all, who can be against safe, wholesome food? None of us, no?

If we want safe wholesome food why do we eat so much crap?

Okay, too many questions, too rhetorical. For the record, I have long supported the idea of organic food production and even more so have promoted community supported agriculture (CSA) organic or otherwise.

But I'm no purist. My main replies to people who start in on me about how bad modern commercial farming practices are is to A) Grow your own really, B) get connected to a CSA farm, C) speak with your money and buy organic.

I sincerely believe you can get good food in the basic suburban supermarket, too. But if you're really worried about it, take your money into the market and use it. On point C, it looks like more people are doing exactly as I suggest and creating new niche markets for farmers as they spend.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

first one


Never one to think this is a serious endeavor, I do think it's worth a stab. A thrust?

So we'll see how it goes and how it looks and how it works.