Monday, May 23, 2011

"Kicking the can"

I thought I would post some of the most recent inputs I've been receiving about our government's failure to address the financial crisis.

From Dr. Gary North (5/17/2011):
The worst crisis from the government's point of view is the national debt crisis. It leads to calls for reduced government spending. For this crisis, the government has this well-orchestrated response:
  1. An admission that it is real, but not imminent
  2. A promise to deal with it later
  3. A call to spend more now to spend less later
  4. Kabuki theater [According to Wikipedia: "classical Japanese dance-drama . . . known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. . . . (The word) kabuki can be interpreted as "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre. The expression kabukimono (歌舞伎者) referred originally to those who were bizarrely dressed and swaggered on a street."]
This week, the issue of the U.S. government's debt ceiling comes up for discussion in Congress. The Secretary of the Treasury has offered a dire forecast. There will be a double-dip recession unless Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling once again. Congress does this every year, but this year there is pressure from new House members not to raise the ceiling. Meanwhile, the government is in the middle of a $1.65 trillion on-budget deficit. Like a tornado, the deficit will hit the political will of Congress. There is no basement storm shelter. There is no safe room.

Congress's will to resist will be flattened, as it is every year. Usually, this vote has been pro forma. The media may mention it, but not as a prime-time story. It is always assumed that Congress will rubber stamp the proposed increase, in order to avoid a partial shutdown of the government -- maybe 10% of operations. For Congress, this is regarded as a level-5 tornado, not a squall.

The debt limit will be reached this week. Geithner says that he can juggle accounts until August, but at that point, the government will have to default -- the big D.

Speaker of the House Boehner has said that there will be a hike in the debt ceiling, but it will be a very special kind of increase. He said on the CBS Sunday morning news show, Face the Nation, that "we're going to do it in a way that addresses America's long-term fiscal challenges." . . .

In a previously recorded segment of the show, President Obama invoked what has become a familiar refrain: the recurrence of the 2008 crisis. If investors ever "thought the full faith and credit of the U.S. was not being backed up, if they thought we might renege on our IOUs, it could unravel the entire financial system. We could have a worse recession than we've already had."

Of course, neither Boehner nor Obama mentioned the possibility of cutting Federal spending in order to balance the budget this year and thereby avoid having to raise the debt ceiling ever again. Such a strategy is too radical. The proposed official solution is to raise the ceiling again, and to promise that this will not always be necessary, because economic growth will raise tax revenues One of These Days, Real Soon Now. The budget will be balanced. The recession will not arrive. They promise.

This year is different. The discussion is front-page, prime-time news. This is because a handful of first-term Congressional Republicans in the House are making noises about cutting spending in order to reduce the size of the increase. They don't have the votes, as we will see. These Congressmen say publicly that they see what is economically necessary, but economics has little influence in Congress. The majority of the members think they can kick the can down the road for another year. In 2012, they will all campaign on responsible spending. The operational definition of "responsible spending" never changes: "kick the can again."


In his interview in front of an audience, President Obama warned about the consequences of a default by the U.S. government. It could unravel the worldwide economic recovery. You can see the video here.

He is correct. If the Federal government ever stops paying interest on its debt, the repercussions in the financial markets would be severe. It would be worse than the crisis in the fall of 2008.

The problem we face is this: with every increase in the Federal debt ceiling, the likelihood of default increases. The politicians' solution to the threat of default is to delay the default.

The government is trapped. It really does face the prospects of default if the debt ceiling is not raised. The alternative is to cut spending drastically before August. But that would be a form of default. Certain groups that have been promised largesse from the Federal government would find that the promises were not binding.

The problem is now selective default. The Congress and the White House always agree to defer any form of default. This is why we can be sure that selective default is inevitable. The deficit numbers do not allow the government to escape the increase in the debt ceiling.

We know from decades of experience that selective defaults are not politically acceptable. So, the deficit keeps growing. The debt ceiling keeps getting raised. This is done in the name of default-avoidance.

The battle over the debt ceiling is a sham. If Congress cannot legislate spending cuts that will balance the budget, then there is no possibility that it will put a cap on total expenditures by means of a debt ceiling. There was no significant reduction in the deficit earlier this year. The deficit in fact rose compared to last year's forecast.

This is why the debate over the deficit is American kabuki theater. It is a way to score debate points for next year's elections. Candidates will be looking for published statements of incumbents' opinion on the debt ceiling. Everyone in Congress wants to position himself or herself as taking the responsible path to national prosperity.

The problem they face is this: to cut the deficit specifically is to alienate voting blocs that are dependent on transfer payments from the Federal government. They refuse to make specific cuts for this reason.

Each political party is more afraid of the alienation of specific voting blocs than it is with the general threat of the debt ceiling as a political issue. So, they do not specify what must be cut. Therefore, nothing will be cut.

An interviewer who wants to sink a candidate asks him to identify what programs he recommends cutting. The candidate mumbles.

Boehner said that everything should be on the table except raising taxes. This plays well to conservative voters. But where is this table? Whenever the debate over the annual budget gets laid on the table, the specific cuts are not made.

Boehner says we must now look at "the big picture." Indeed, we should. But Congress never does. Congressmen look at the small picture: the swing voters in their districts. These voters can usually make or break a re-election campaign. So, the Congressman seeks to retain the swing voters who elected him two years earlier while not losing his core constituency. He does not want voters to defect to his rival. So, he dares not propose specific cuts. Specific cuts alienate specific swing voters.

He said that Congress must not kick the can. But he announced that it must kick the can on the debt ceiling this time. When a politician says that Congress must not kick the can, but then says it must kick the can this time, so that it won't have to kick it next time, he is saying that Congress will kick the can.
And this from Porter Stansberry (I hate his (and so many other internet marketers') videos; they take way too long to "watch"/listen to them. So if you wait till the video starts, then hit the "Close Window" X button, you will be given the opportunity to stay on the page. Click "Cancel" and you will be able to read a full typescript of the video.) Here's just a small portion of Stansberry's longer presentation:
as late as the 1970s, America was the world's largest creditor. But by the mid-1980s we'd become a debtor to the world. And since the late 1990s we've been the world's LARGEST debtor.

Today, our government owes more money to more people than anyone else in the world.

And that was before the financial crisis!

With all of these bad debts piling up, we've had to begin repaying our debts by printing trillions of new dollars. And now, finally, the impact of this is being felt in a big way.

As our creditors continue to figure out what's happening, we're going to have very, very big problems.

I believe our creditors (which includes foreign countries and other investors here and abroad) will either completely stop accepting dollars in repayment... or greatly discount the value of these new dollars. I'm sure you think that sounds crazy, but as I'll show you, it is already happening.

This will make our consumption-led way of life impossible to afford.

And I'm confident it will lead to an end of the U.S. dollar standard.

Keep in mind, the U.S. dollar has been the world's reserve currency for decades now... so most Americans don't have a clue about what the repercussions are of losing this status.

And maybe you think it could never happen... but the truth is, this is exactly what happens when countries get too far in debt or when they consume too much or produce too little.

In fact, the exact same thing happened to Great Britain in the 1970s.

Most people don't know this, but British Sterling was the reserve currency for most of the world for nearly 200 years... for most of the 18th and 19th centuries.

It continued to play this role until after World War II, when America was forced to prop up Britain's economy with foreign aid – remember the famous Marshall Plan, when we gave billions to help European countries rebuild?

Unfortunately though, Britain pursued a socialist national agenda. The government took over all of the major industries. Like Barack Obama, Britain's leaders wanted to "spread the wealth around." Pretty soon the country was flat broke.

The final straw for Britain came in 1967, when things got so bad the Labour Party (the socialists) decided to "devalue" the British currency by 14%, overnight. They believed this would make it easier for people to afford their debts.

In reality, what it did was make anyone holding British sterling 14% poorer, overnight, and it made everything in Britain, much, much more expensive in the coming years.

And for the country as a whole, it ushered in one of the worst decades in modern British history.

Most Americans don't know about Britain's "Winter of Discontent" in the late 1970s, when the government put a freeze on wages. There were continuous strikes in nearly every sector... grave diggers, trash collectors... even hospital workers. Things got so bad at one point that many hospitals were reduced to accepting emergency patients only.

In 1975, inflation in Britain skyrocketed 26.9%... in a single year!

The government also imposed what was known as the "Three Day Week" in 1974. In short, businesses were limited to using electricity for only three specified consecutive days' each week and they were prohibited from working longer hours on those days. Television companies were required to cease broadcasting at 10:30pm... to save electricity.

The extreme problems in the economy led to Britain being nicknamed, "the sick man of Europe."

Just how bad were things, exactly?

Well, here's a photo of the garbage that piled up because they didn't have enough money to pay trash collectors a fair wage...

And here's what John Blackburn, from Wetherby, recently told the BBC television channel about his experience during this period...

John Blackburn, from Wetherby said:
"I was a control engineer at Huddersfield Power Station at the time and part of my duty was to switch off the supply to various substations around the town, according to an official rota. On many an evening shift I would have to switch off the power to my own home before going back for a candle-lit supper!"

Imagine... Britain was a global superpower for 150 years. But when they started intentionally devaluing their currency, things went straight down hill.

Maybe you don't think something similar can happen here... but I'm telling you... it's already underway!

In fact, the exchange value of the U.S. dollar has fallen about 13% since June 2010. And its rate of decline is accelerating.

What happened to the British currency is now happening to the U.S. dollar.

As Barron's recently reported:
"When the monetary written decades from now...2010 could be a watershed marking the beginning of the end of the dollar-based, Western-centric monetary system."
As the U.S. dollar continues to lose its position as the world's currency, gas, oil, and other commodities will continue to skyrocket. Almost EVERYTHING we consume will immediately get more expensive. All the clothing, furniture, and household goods we import from China.

All the food we get from Central and South America... all the electronics, televisions, computers, and cars we get from Asia and Europe. In fact, it's happening, right now before our eyes.

Everything is getting more expensive...

In fact, each week, The Wall Street Journal has a section called �Cash Prices.' It lists dozens of commodities, everything from wool, zinc, tin and pork... to gold, silver, platinum, and lead.

I recently checked these listings in the paper's March 1st, 2011 edition. And the numbers were mind-boggling...

In short, of the 88 prices quoted ... 85 items are more expensive today than they were just a year ago... many significantly so.

Oil is up more than 50% from a year ago. Silver is up more than 100%–so is cotton, and coffee. Tin is up 90%. Oats are up more than 70%. So is wheat. Butter is up more than 40%. So is sugar.

Again, of the 88 prices quoted, the only three physical commodities that are cheaper today than they were a year ago... natural gas, eggs, and chickens.

Everything is more expensive! In some cases... MUCH more expensive.

And yet the government says there is no inflation? How is that possible?

It's unbelievable to me that they think the American public is going to fall for this.

U.S. businesses have certainly caught on...

As Wesley Card, the head of a clothing company that includes brands like Dockers and Anne Klein, recently said: "It's really a no-choice situation. Prices have to come up."

And when you look back further than a year, the numbers are even more startling...

The chart below shows how much a few key commodities have skyrocketed in price, just since the beginning of 2009...

And the point here is simple: As we print more money, the price of the world's most essential commodities have soared. This is NOT a coincidence.

Around the world, as we print, prices soar... citizens protest... governments get overthrown. And it's only going to get worse...

Because we can NOT stop printing because we can't actually afford our existing debts. No one wants you to know this. No one.

That's why, despite the obvious inflation going on all around the world, the Fed continues to say there's no inflation at all.

And that's the scary part, to me. Just like in a Banana Republic, the government is radically devaluing the dollar and totally lying to everyone about what is really happening.

Whether you realize it or not, there is already a "run" on the dollar. Many of our creditors, like the Chinese, are getting out of the dollar as fast as they can via strategic commodities, like copper. That's partly why commodity prices are soaring.

Unfortunately, skyrocketing commodity prices are just the beginning.

There are other disastrous consequences to the U.S. dollar losing status as the world's currency...

For example, there would be much less demand for U.S. dollars around the globe, so interest rates will skyrocket. Already, just look how quickly rates have moved up in recent months...

Instead of getting a mortgage at today's low rates of 5%, it may soon cost you 8% or even 10% or 15%.

Imagine what that would do to housing prices!

Stock prices will likely plummet by at least 40% in a matter of weeks as a result of this event in the currency markets.

It will cost every American business A LOT more money for supplies and materials. No one will be able to get a loan... and no bank will want to make loans.

In short, when the U.S. dollar loses its spot as the world's 'reserve currency,' it will cause a brutal downturn in the economy, which I expect will be about 10-times worse than the mortgage crisis of 2008.

As Barron's recently reported:

"The demand for dollars from the rest of the world has been of inestimable benefit to the U.S. economy. It quite simply allows Americans to consume more than they produce and save less than they invest; in other words, to live beyond our means."

You see, what will also happen as a result of this currency crisis, and the end of the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency, will be massive inflation, the likes of which we have never seen before.

When everyone is trying to get rid of their dollars, the government is printing more and more to pay debts, and no one wants to own them, the crisis will reach epic proportions.

Just look, for example, at what happened to one European country that faced this type of crisis in the 1990s...

This is what happens during a major hyperinflation in the real world.

The World's Most
Expensive Loaf of Bread

In the early 1990s, the national government of one European nation had spent nearly all its savings. So what did they do next? Simple... they began to steal the savings of private citizens by limiting people's access to their money in government-controlled banks.

And of course, to finance the daily operations of maintaining their basic infrastructure, they started printing money, big time. Even so, the country's basic infrastructure began to fall apart. There were potholes in the street, broken water pipes... elevators that never got repaired... and entire construction projects that simply shut down, before being completed.

The unemployment rate was more than 30%... and the government just kept printing money.

As San Jose State University Economics Professor Dr. Thayer Watkins, an expert on countries that try to inflate their way out of big debts, wrote on this particular disaster:

"The government tried to counter the inflation by imposing price controls. But when inflation continued, the government price controls made the price producers were getting so ridiculously low that they simply stopped producing. bakers stopped making bread... slaughterhouses refused to sell meat to the stores... other stores closed down"

So what did the government do next to try to curb inflation?

Well, one bright idea they had was to force stores to fill out government documents every time they increased prices. They thought that this would slow down price increases, because the paperwork would take so much time!

But like many government plans, this one had terrible, unintended consequences.

Since stores had to dedicate an employee to do nothing but register this paperwork, and since the process took so long, stores began to raise prices on basic goods at even higher rates, so that they didn't have to come back and file more paperwork!

Incredible, isn't it?

So next the government created a new currency... which basically removed six zeroes from the old one. So 100,000,000 old units were soon worth 100 new units. Of course, this didn't work either... it never does.

Between October of 1993 and January 1995, prices increase by, get this: 5 quadrillion percent. That's...


In other words, a loaf of bread that cost $1 in 1993, suddenly cost


Yes, that's $50 TRILLION.

I know, it's laughable... but I can guarantee that the people of this once proud European country weren't laughing one bit, especially those living on a fixed income.

[John's comment: "1993 to 1995"? I hadn't heard of this hyperinflation. Maybe Stansberry got his dates mixed up? He's pulling our leg? What's he talking about? . . . I did a Google search on inflation five quadrillion percent.

Oh! A paper by Dr. Watkins popped right up! --Yugoslavia. "The worst episode of hyperinflation in world history," says Dr. Watkins.

So now I can add Yugoslavia to my list of country's of whose hyperinflation I'm aware: Germany, Argentina, Chile, Vietnam, and so many others.

And we in the U.S. think we're going to escape?]

Of course, at this point, the country completely fell apart. As Dr. Thayer Watkins wrote:

"The social structure began to collapse. Thieves robbed hospitals and clinics of scarce pharmaceuticals and then sold them in front of the same places they robbed. The railway workers went on strike and closed down the country's rail system."

At this point, businesses and citizens across the country basically refused to take the local currency.

Instead, everyone started dealing in German Marks. Keep in mind, the daily rate of inflation was nearly 100%.

Can you imagine the panic in a society when the price of just about everything doubles... every single day? It was absolute pandemonium, and the economy basically came to a grinding halt. It was like living in a war zone. Truckers stopped delivering goods. Stores, restaurants, and gas stations all shut down.

In another ridiculous government move, the government actually made it illegal to NOT accept a personal check.

Imagine... you could write a check... and in the several days that it typically takes for a check to clear, inflation would wipe out almost all of the cost of covering your check.

Of course, as is typical, the government took none of the blame. As Dr. Thayer Watkins reported, the government's official position was that the hyperinflation occurred "because of the unjustly implemented sanctions against the people and state."

Again... I know what you are thinking... "just because it happened in Europe doesn't it mean it can happen here, right"?

Well guess what...

The same thing that happened in this European country – Yugoslavia – also just happened in Iceland and Greece, but on a less dramatic scale. . . .
And then there is Martin Weiss who asks--and answers in the assertive: Will the U.S. default? Is it really possible?

It's not only possible, it is already happening. They're just hiding it. Kind of.

Take a look.

Okay. So we've got all these screaming "the sky is falling" disaster pundits. What is a nice, sane, reasonable person supposed to do?

I'd say, first of all, you want to get educated about this stuff.

Read Weiss' article. He makes some solid suggestions.

Read the rest of Stansberry's lengthy article. He concludes with several practical suggestions, including an appeal to subscribe to one of his newsletters.

Maybe you would like to read The Hyperinflation Survival Guide published at the behest of Harry E Figgie, Jr, the CEO of Figgie International, Inc., back in the late '80s. --I wrote about it back in November.

Come to think about it, maybe you'd even like to read some of my past posts about hyperinflation here on my John's Corner blog.

Funny how one's own "ancient history" can come back to life!

I don't remember how I found this last week. But I was stunned. I didn't know (or, I guess I should say, I didn't remember!) that such an interview even existed, much less that someone might have a record of it.

I had little doubt I was the only male secretary, or only one of very few male secretaries at MSU. But I had no idea until I saw the title of the recording that I was the only one of 1400 secretaries.

I wonder what I said in that interview?

Brings back memories of an interesting time in my life!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A unique vision

Daughter Amy has been posting some amazing descriptions of life on the farm--the gut-wrenching challenges as well as the joys. But in the middle of one of her posts, she mentioned some new photos they had taken of themselves and their farm.

I was astonished by the color . . . the vision . . . the photographer brought to the project. I mean, I have never seen Amy and Phil laugh the way the photographer got them to laugh (scroll down a bit).

And then I went to the second link Amy provided--to the series of photos that the photographer somehow took at her own wedding. How did she do that? Not only how did she get the pictures snapped, but . . . let me just say I have never seen someone use color, focus and light in such a sustainedly creative manner. Clearly, she has a unique photographic vision.

And I, for one, enjoy it!

VERY impressive.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Unintended consequences of national health care: incentives

I met with a new vitality and longevity doctor last Friday. We had a great time swapping stories and perspectives.

"I'm all for evidence-based medicine," he said. "The only problem is, whose evidence? And how much is required?"

I will give just two examples from my own experience:
  • Thyroxine: Kaiser Permanente (at least the doctors I've been dealing with) takes the perspective that a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) test is "good enough" to tell whether and how much you need thyroxine supplements. Problem is--and I've seen it in my own body, not to mention read enough stories of others: Your TSH may come back in the "normal" range but the actual thyroxine hormones--T4 or T3 (not to mention Reverse T3)--may be completely wacked out. Or, as many (primarily women) have discovered, their T3 levels may, according to the standards of the laboratory, be within the low "normal" range, but they are feeling sluggish and exhibiting all the signs of significantly low thyroxine. "But the test shows you are normal," says their conventional doctor. "Yeah, but my body says I am low."

    Guess who's going to "win" this particular battle?

    The only way the woman is going to win is to find a doctor who is willing to consider the broader range of diagnostic symptoms than the TSH test and the supposedly "normal" range.
  • Testosterone: Yipes!

    According to the latest LabCorp standards, "normal" serum levels go all the way from 193ng/dL on the low end up to 740ng/dL on the high. Strangely, up until sometimes late last year, their "normal" range went from 280ng/dL to 800. And while that was LabCorp's standard, my longevity and vitality doctor was recommending a range of 700 to 900 as optimal.

    Well, I can tell you from experience that, at least for this guy, at 441, I was definitely below optimal. From the mid-500s up to 900, I was doing very well. When I hit 194 last year (supposedly "normal," right????), I was in major trouble. I had no physical response at all. Without getting graphic, let's say it was as if all the nerves had been cut to a certain portion of my anatomy that, when healthy, would have plenty of neurological receptors.

    But there was nothing.

    Kinda scary when you think you might have a few years, yet, to live! Or, at least, you'd like to imagine you might have a few more years left.

    But "evidence-based medicine" would have told me that my labs were "normal," even if they did come back at the bottom edge of normalcy.
So my doctor and I were discussing things like that.

He brought up the upcoming/expected healthcare program from our federal government.

"The bill is 2,000 pages long," he said. "We are told we can expect that there will be approximately 100 pages of regulations for every page in the bill. In other words, 200,000 pages of regulations.

"Guess what the penalties are if a doctor breaks one of the regulations?"

"I have no idea," I said.

"A $100,000 fine for the first offense," he said, "and it goes up from there."
According to Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment blog,
The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology “will determine treatment at the time and place of care”. They are charged with deciding the course of treatment for the diagnosis given by the doctor.

Now it becomes obvious why there has been a big push towards the implementation of universal electronic medical record use. It becomes a tool to completely control the physician and the patient. Those physicians and hospitals that choose to practice individualized patient care in consultation with their patients will be punished because they are not “meaningful users of the system over time.”

Beginning January 1, 2013 penalties for doing the right thing for a patient will cost the doctor $100,000 for the first offense and jail for the second offense. This will have a chilling effect and may be the straw that completely breaks the foundation of good medicine – the doctor patient relationship.
And then he said almost exactly the same thing my last pre-Kaiser general practitioner said to me: "I'm going to quit practicing medicine. It's not worth the risk."

My last pre-Kaiser GP, who may be about 60 years old at this point (he would have been in his low 50s back when I dealt with him) said he had made only $75,000 a year in the last three years of his practice; he felt he received no honor anymore as a doctor; all of his decisions were second-guessed and overridden by the insurance companies ("A high school graduate reads down a list and tells me, 'Yes, you can do that,' or, 'No. You may not provide that kind of service to your patient.'). My brother-in-law, who owns a carpet store can win trips to Hawaii, but if I so much as accept a pen from a pharmaceutical salesperson, I am charged with ethics problems. . . ."

He quit.

The doctor with whom I was speaking last Friday made another comment that struck me with respect to my old GP's comment about honor: "We are no longer called 'doctor,' anymore. We are called the same thing as nurse practitioners, chiropractors, and hospital orderlies: We are all 'healthcare providers' or 'healthcare workers.'"

"Why would anyone go through all the pain and agony of a full medical education to wind up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt . . . and earning $75,000 a year?" asked my old GP.

"Why would anyone want to go through the pain and agony of a full medical education only to become a 'healthcare worker' on the same level as a nurse?" asked my vitality and longevity doctor.

One last comment he made:

"I did my residency in what was, arguably, the very best hospital in the country at the time. But I am paid no more by the government than the person who was trained at ___________" (and he mentioned a fine, but certainly not nationally-recognized facility). "What's the point?"

I'm sure there will still be those who desire to do the best or be the best, no matter what. But one does have to begin questioning the impact of incentives.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Food sovereignty

One of my sisters-in-law sent me a link to an article titled Maine Town Declares Food Sovereignty. Hunh? "Food sovereignty"? What's that?

Well, here's what it means to Sedgwick, Maine citizens:
the right “to produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing.” This includes raw milk, locally slaughtered meats, and just about anything else you can imagine. It’s also a decided bucking of state and federal laws. . . .

The proposed warrant added, “It shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights recognized by this Ordinance.” In other words, no state licensing requirements prohibiting certain farms from selling dairy products or producing their own chickens for sale to other citizens in the town.

What about potential legal liability and state or federal inspections? It’s all up to the seller and buyer to negotiate. “Patrons purchasing food for home consumption may enter into private agreements with those producers or processors of local foods to waive any liability for the consumption of that food. Producers or processors of local foods shall be exempt from licensure and inspection requirements for that food as long as those agreements are in effect.”

Imagine that--buyer and seller can agree to cut out the lawyers. That’s almost un-American, isn’t it?
There's a lot more about this ground-breaking legal attempt to break free from Big Brother. Check it out!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Music today . . .

More and more, I find myself getting "fed up" with the so-called "worship" songs we are asked to sing at church. Apparently, I'm not alone. At least not in my extended family. I try to remain silent about my own thoughts and feelings. But, it seems, almost every Sunday someone says something about the music . . . how this, that, or the next thing bugs them.

Yesterday was no different.

Except that Sarita brought our attention to a short article in The Week's "Health & Science" section. It matched something someone had just noted: How worship songs ("hymns"), in general, used to be relatively theologically deep and focused on God. Indeed, I remember how I used to comment about the almost third-person nature of so much of the music: not focused on "You"--"Oh, LORD, You . . .," but, rather, "He," "The Lord, He . . ." --"Lifted up was He to die . . .," etc.

When our family shifted over to a more charismatic/pentecostal church, the music became a bit more, if I may suggest it here, "interpersonal": "Lord, You are . . .," "I love You, Lord . . .," etc.

But at this point, strangely, the focus has shifted more and more, it seems, away from God and toward the members of the congregation, indeed, not to "us," even, but to "me," "my" and "I."

Indeed, it struck me last week as we were singing Michael W. Smith's I'm Coming Back to the Heart of Worship (It's All about You) how, strangely, by the way the "worship leader" kept repeating one part of a single line, instead of being reminded about how much "it" really is supposed to be all about Jesus, about God, the song became a paean of praise for each one of us because "I'm coming back . . . I'm coming back . . . I'm coming back . . . yes, I'm coming back . . .," etc.

But back to the article to which Sarita directed our attention:
A generation’s favorite tune: ‘I’m So Vain’
Young people “love themselves more today than ever before,” says University of Kentucky psychologist Nathan DeWall, and the proof is in their music.

He and his colleagues analyzed the lyrics of Billboard Hot 100 songs from the past three decades and found a steady increase in self-centeredness and hostility toward others.

“In the early ’80s lyrics, love was easy and positive, and about two people,” study co-author Jean Twenge tells The New York Times. “The recent songs are about what the individual wants, and how she or he has been disappointed or wronged.”

The study found a marked increase in the prevalence of the words “I” and “me” in song lyrics, and fewer instances of “we” and “us.” It also registered a jump in angry lyrics about hating and killing, and a drop in songs containing positive words like “love” or “sweet.”

The researchers suggest that rampant narcissism may be making it harder for people to connect with one another. They point to other surveys that show that more people are apt to feel sad and lonely now than in previous decades.

Same narcissism making it harder for people to connect with God, too?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

School lunches

I was reading the latest This is True and ran across a most amazing story about a woman who works in a public school and decided to eat the same lunch that the kids are served every day. She blogged about it for the full year.

Her entire view of food was transformed during that year.

I just looked at the so-called "food" the children are being served and was appalled.

Check out the article by Rebecca Dube about the Fed Up With School Lunch blog: Year of mystery meat.

[O]n the first day of school last January, [Mrs. Q, an employee in a Chicago area school] made her way to the cafeteria with the kids. Since that day, her commitment to eat lunch there every day has been tested by the prepackaged peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich that literally made her sick; by the monotony of processed, spongy meat patties; and by fears of being found out and losing her job. . . .

Day after day, patty after patty, she ate and she blogged, and began to find her voice: Her initial just-the-facts descriptions of gross meals evolved into funny stories about the kids at school and personal musings about food. She learned to drink the juice from the bottom of her fruit cup, just as the kids did. . . .

Mrs. Q almost didn’t do the lunch blog because of concerns it would take too much time away from her son, now 2, who suffered from chronic ear infections and colds when she started the project. But, ironically, he’s been the one to benefit most. As she wrote and thought more about food, and communicated with commenters on her blog, she realized her son’s health problems might be related to what he was eating. She cut out gluten and dairy from his diet, and his health improved dramatically.

“I wouldn’t have made those connections if I had not done this blog. I’ve seen a complete change in my son,” she said.

She and her husband are eating differently, too: “I would never have thought of feeding my family quinoa. It sounded too hippie. Now I like it.”
There's more in the story. And a whole lot more in the blog itself . . . which is continuing today with stories and photos of Mrs. Q's new and nutritious gluten- and dairy-free lunches.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Roundup Ready" GMOs tied to MAJOR life and health risks

I've been "sitting" on this one. I first heard about it in January and several times in February. I've "just" wanted all my ducks in a row. But I'm out of time.

Happily, Judith McGeary, founder and Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), has given me permission to copy her news item. She speaks in rather understated terms. Go to the original documents to which she refers, and we're talking about a warning letter from a man who has served for 40 years "in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks."

"Based on this experience," he says, "I believe the threat we are facing . . . is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency."

What is he talking about? A "micro-fungal-like organism" that is causing "infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%."

"In summary," he concludes,
because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA’s participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.
Dr. Don Huber, Emeritus Professor, Purdue University, and APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System, sent this letter to Thomas Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture, on January 17th. And what did Vilsack do with it?

He completely ignored it!

Here is Judith McGeary's summary:
Watch the video interview with Dr. Huber about the new pathogen that's threatening our food!

And then tell President Obama to say "no" to GMO Alfalfa and Sugar Beets

On January 17, 2011, Dr. Don Huber, an internationally-recognized plant pathologist and Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack alerting  him to a serious problem facing U.S. agriculture. This letter warned Secretary Vilsack of a previously unknown pathogen that "should be treated as an emergency."

Dr. Huber’s letter discussed the new pathogen in dire terms, saying that a top team of scientists had discovered a link between the new pathogen, the steady rise of plant diseases in Roundup Ready corn and soybean crops, and the high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortions of animal livestock consuming feed that had been treated with the weed killer Roundup.

The letter urged Secretary Vilsack not to approve Roundup Ready alfalfa because of the high levels "of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions," and to conduct research on the relationship between Roundup Ready crops, glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), and this new pathogen.

The USDA chose to ignore this warning and less than three weeks later approved two new GMO crops, including Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa, creating a threat to the primary forage feed for US livestock.

The letter, although intended to be confidential, was leaked by a third party, after which Dr. Huber gave permission for FARFA and others to post it.  The now-public letter unleashed a storm of accusations and recriminations, including a quick response from Monsanto.

Earlier this spring, FARFA worked with Food Democracy Now! on an interview with Dr. Huber to investigate these new findings and understand the latest science.  We were greatly alarmed by what we learned and appreciate Dr. Huber’s courage in coming forward to warn the government about this serious threat to the livelihoods of farmers, animal livestock, and our global food supply.

Watch the full interview with Dr. Huber on Vimeo  (the interview is a large file, so if you have trouble viewing it, you can also view individual short segments on Food Democracy Now's website)
More Information:
        Read Dr. Huber's second explanatory letter
        Read an in-depth interview with Dr. Huber by Acres USA

It’s planting season now. If these new Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds go in the ground, it will be too late to stop them from making their way up the food chain -- putting America’s crops, livestock, and ultimately our families at risk.


      Phone: (202) 456-1111
      Fax: (202) 456-2461

MESSAGE: "I'm appalled that President Obama and Secretary Vilsack ignored Dr. Huber's warnings about the threat posed by a new pathogen linked to genetically modified crops and Roundup.  It was wrong to approve GMO alfalfa and sugar beets without more research.  I insist that President Obama place an immediate moratorium on the planting of these GMO crops."


Together with Food Democracy Now!, we have drafted a letter to President Obama and Secretary Vilsack insisting that they suspend the sale and planting of Monstanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa seeds until independent third party scientific research can be conducted proving the safety of GMO crops.  Will you please sign on?

You can view the video and sign the petition on Food Democracy Now's website  -- scroll to the bottom of the page for the petition.  (note: because of the software, you will be automatically signed up for Food Democracy Now's email alerts, but you can choose to unsubscribe if you prefer)

See an HTML version of Huber's original letter about halfway down the page here . . . along with several other supporting documents.

Oh. Lest someone charge me with being "head in the sand."

* Yes, there are stories that Huber's colleagues at Purdue have claimed his concerns are overblown. "The proof isn't in."

* Okay. Maybe it's not all in. But that's really what Huber said, isn't it? He said, "Let's get the research right before unleashing this stuff in the wild." Specifically:
[W]e request USDA’s participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.

It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.
So why did Vilsack approve it? Why would our government keep marching forward despite the warning? Gotta keep Monsanto in profits? (See also this and this and this.) (???!!! USDA Allows Monsanto to Approve its Own Crops???!!!!)

* Or how's this for a more thoughtful perspective?

Monday, May 02, 2011

No!!! . . . I can't believe this! . . . The birth certificate from h*ll! It just keeps coming back.

So last night I receive a response to my first post on Obama's birth certificate.

Forget the PDF layers. Why is Obama's registration number out of sequence (higher number than that of two others who were born and registered after his birth)?
The Big Question now is what is the reg'n number for Virginia (Tamyia) Sunahara, born on that day. One site w/ a lot of info:
My respondent continues:
[S]suppose Obama is actually NOT qualified. What would actually happen? Would the US Supreme Court (current makeup!) vote to impeach him? Probably civil war before that. Why start civil war over this? There's plenty of other things far worse going on... and I doubt we'll have a civil war over any of it.
My thoughts: There probably won't be a full-fledged civil war over this. At least not over this, per se. But if the birthers were found to be correct all along--at least, if they were to be proven correct within the nearer rather than the longer-distant future, I expect several "heads will roll" in the federal government.

I mean, who is supposed to vet presidential candidates? Who failed to do his or her job? Who authorized the failure? Who said, "Stop looking?"

And what might it do to political relations if, indeed, it were found that the one side, who consistently and forcefully denied any hanky-panky, were to be found to have been wrong all along?


And in case you don't notice within the linked article--I had not heard this one before, and I didn't catch it the first time I read the article:
We know that Obama has been using a social security belonging to Jean Paul Ludwig who died in June of 1981 in Hawaii.
So birthers are now claiming Obama has been using someone else's Social Security number?!?

No big deal, you say? That's a felony (see, especially, subsection (7))!

But what is this? Wikileaks 2? More fraudulent "information" (that is no information at all) from the web?

Anyone who has absolute trust in Obama's trustworthiness who has been able to find a counter-balance to these charges?

As I said above, I didn't even know people were raising these charges and I couldn't find any decent opposing evidence in the time I allotted to this story. . . .