This is an agapanthus. It’s not quite blooming to this degree yet this year, but it’s got some buds. When they first appeared I thought of Ogden Nash:
The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn’t been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
I just found a copy of Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash at a different used bookstore today. I was walking out and noticed this lying flat on a shelf of hardbacks. $5 for a collection of 650 rhymes, verses and more? A no-brainer, that was.
The big news of the day is that the NSA is and has been collecting metadata from Verizon about its customers’ phone calls and the news that both the NSA and the FBI are and have been collecting data from most of the big Internet Service Providers.
Color me unsurprised. Congress has willingly authorized this activity since 9/11 in one form or another. Notice Senator Chambliss’s reaction today:
“This is nothing particularly new,” Chambliss said. “Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this, and to my knowledge we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information.”
I’m not particularly happy about this, but there are very few Congressfolk in either house willing to vote down a Presidential request that the intelligence agencies collect data they claim might keep us safe from terrorists. It’s unfortunate, but it’s probably permanent.
Kevin Drum has a blog post up which views the state of student loan debt with alarm and dismay, and I share his concern. He notes that it’s a generational thing, too:
It’s also yet another fault line between young and old that’s not likely to turn out well. My generation got a cheap college education when we were young, and we’re getting good retirement benefits now that we’re old.
Point of personal privilege, Mr. Drum. When I was a freshman at the (public) University of Arizona in 1968 full-time resident tuition was roughly $200 a semester. In 1979, after five-plus years out of school, I went to the (private) Hawai’i Pacific College in 1978-1979 to get the last 60 credits toward my Bachelor’s Degree and paid $900 a semester. I didn’t borrow a dime to pay that tuition (I had saved a fair bit of money while in the Navy and on Kwajalein during those five years). Neither at Arizona nor at Hawai’i Pacific did I ever pay more than about $80 for books in a semester.
I looked it up. Resident tuition at the U of A for the fall 2013 semester: $5,502. Tuition at what’s now Hawai’i Pacific University for fall 2013: $9,990.
There are a lot of reasons for that rise, I’m sure. In Arizona the state legislature has probably cut its support for state schools drastically in the intervening 45 years. Hawai’i Pacific has expanded its campus and its student body tremendously in 34 years, meaning it has expanded its faculty and staff correspondingly. I’m sure both schools have expanded their financial aid programs quite a bit. But for students who aren’t on good-sized scholarships, I see no way they don’t take on a large debt. That means each one has a millstone around his or her neck with (or without) the diploma. That debt has an impact on the entire economy. It reduces disposable income at the time of those students’ lives when they should be forming households, buying houses and white goods to fill them, and starting college funds for their children and retirement plans for themselves. If, instead, they’re writing a big check to a bank or to the Federal government to repay a student loan, none of that economid activity occurs. As Paul Krugman is fond of saying, “your income is my spending; my spending is your income.” Unless I’m a shareholder or executive of a bank, that’s not the case here.
It’s a mess, and it desperately needs to be addressed for the sake of all those college students. Remember, we’ve told them they have to have a degree to succeed in the new 21st century economy. They’ve listened and gotten themselves in a financial hole. Don’t we have a responsibility to help them out of it, even if it means writing down loans or reducing the interest rate on those loans to make them more manageable?
Boo hoo. Read what Dianne Belsom tells the House her South Carolina group did and does:
her group in rural South Carolina has about 60 members and “seeks to educate ourselves and fellow citizens on various issues pertinent to living in a free country.” The group also holds candidate forums in election years, she said.
“I’d like to note that our group is a small-time operation with very little money and this represents a complete waste of time by the IRS in terms of any money they would collect if we were not tax-exempt,” Belsom said.
Now look at what a little research from Steve M. at No More Mr. Nice Blog turned up. From a speech by Ms. Belsom’s fourteen-year-old daughter to her Tea Party group:
By getting involved in your local Tea Party- you can make a difference. You can stop America from becoming the totalitarian world of the Hunger Games. You can stop the national debt from increasing even more. You can stop Obama from being re-elected. You can ensure a better future for yourself, your children, and your grandchildren. And even though you’re just one person, and I’m just one person, if we all work together, we can change the world. There is strength in numbers- will you join me?
Additionally, her Tea Party group’s Issues agenda reads as follows:
TEA: Taxed Enough Already
At the very core of the Tea Party is the important issue of taxation on a state and national level. However, Tea Party values encompass far more than just taxes, and the Laurens County Tea Party also focuses on:
I don’t know how you define engaging in political activity, but I submit that most of those activities fit the term. That being the case, they shouldn’t get to hide the names of the donors, which is the sole real purpose of claiming 501(c)(4) status.
There are several Republican governors who are letting ideology get in the way of good sense. One of them is Rick Perry of Texas; another is Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. They’re among several who are refusing to expand Medicaid to cover their states’ poorest citizens as part of the Affordable Care Act rollout. Not only is this bad for those citizens, it’s fiscally irresponsible. It’s not just Democrats saying that now, though: it’s a new study from the Rand Corporation.
The Rand Corp. analyzed 14 states with governors who oppose the Medicaid expansion. It found their actions will deprive 3.6 million people of health coverage under Obamacare, forgo $8.4 billion in federal funding, and cost them $1 billion for programs that partially compensate medical providers who care for the indigent, according to the report published in the journal “Health Affairs.” Since nearly half of states may not undertake the Medicaid expansion next year, those figures could be even higher. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia plan to broaden Medicaid in 2014, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
“State policymakers should be aware that if they do not expand Medicaid, fewer people will have health insurance, and state and local governments will have to bear higher costs for uncompensated care,” Carter Price and Christine Eibner of the Rand Corp. write.
Ah, but never mind. Purity of purpose is much more important than the health and welfare of their states’ poorest people.
I am rapidly running out of non-profane words to describe these men. When even Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer is demanding that the Republican majority in the Arizona legislature agree to Medicaid expansion on pain of vetoes of other legislation they want, then her male counterparts’ obduracy and stubbornness looks even more childish than it already did.
I shouldn’t do that. $39 later I have the final chapter of Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld saga, God of Riverworld, which fills the last hole in that series for my library. I found a few Pratchetts I didn’t own, Mort, Eric, Soul Music, and Men at Arms. I added Dead Reckoning to my collection of Sookie Stackhouse books (only two left to find!), and I got the next to latest Amelia Peabody book The Tomb of the Golden Bird.
To top it off I found a copy of The Essential Santana, a 33-track compilation. I have vinyl Santana but not digitized, so this was a compromise.
I don’t know why I thought of this today, but I did. The first science fiction story I read was probably Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon. The first science fiction book(s) I bought were probably the books of the Lensman series by E.E. “Doc” Smith. Those led me to genre paperbacks of all sorts. I bought some of the Bantam Books reprints of the Doc Savage books. I bought some of the Fu Manchu books by Sax Rohmer. I bought all the Nero Wolfe books Rex Stout wrote, starting with Gambit. To this day I remember reading Chapter One, I think in the back seat of the family car while driving somewhere around Washington DC, being fascinated by a character who would burn a dictionary for its sins against language.
Earlier, before I was earning newspaper delivery money, I had been given all of John Blaine’s Rick Brant Science Adventure books, many of The Hardy Boys books and a fair number of Clair Bee’s Chip Hilton books. After I started making money I graduated to Ian Fleming’s James Bond books (I stopped watching the movies after You Only Live Twice, when they started getting further and further away from the source material and more and more campy).
Then we moved from Virginia to Guam and I had to get rid of almost all of my books, particularly since I was only going to be on Guam for the summer before heading for Tucson to attend the U of Arizona in 1968. Once I got to college I found the early Travis McGee books by John D. Macdonald, early Dick Francis thrillers, and Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm spy stories.
What’s that you say? Serious books? What, pray tell, were those? I read those when assigned, but these were more fun!
Yesterday I went to Safeway to pick up three or four things. While in the produce section I was waylaid by a bin of peaches saying seductively “Me! You want me!” So I pulled one of the little clear plastic sacks off the dispenser and picked up three of the stone fruits.
I got to the register, plopped my purchases down on the belt, watched as they were rung up, paid for them in the usual manner and picked them up. They made up three bags (the local Safeway is downright profligate with its sacks; all of this would have easily fit in one bag).
I got home and put stuff away. Then about two hours later I thought “Did I see the peaches?” I went to the fridge to check and didn’t see them. Looked in the countertop fruit basket. Nope, not there either. Checked the fridge again. Still not there. Thought to myself, “Maybe you changed your mind and put them back down in the bin?” Went back to the receipt. Nope, bought 0.88 lbs of white peaches @ $1.99/lb. I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I’d left them on the cashier’s table at the store.
Today I went back to Safeway but I forgot to bring the receipt along. I went to the Customer Service desk and explained what had happened and that I forgot the charge slip. “Not a problem. I can pull it up,” said the cheerful Safeway worker. I grant that I’m in there about every day and they know my name, but still, she pulled up the data and printed it out in about two minutes flat. There it was: a record of all those items from yesterday. Peaches, Cinnamon Rolls, a papaya, a cross-rib boneless beef roast and a package of mini-peppers, all there, along with my Safeway Club Card number and my credit card info.
I got my replacement peaches, but I also got a queasy feeling in my stomach. Look at how fast and easy a clerk at a grocery store could get my data!
Exxon had its annual shareholders meeting yesterday in the oil-soaked region of Dallas (there was a reason JR Ewing’s ranch was outside the city), and it did some reprehensible things. Most remarkably, its CEO, a man named Tillerson, responded to suggestions from environmental activists that the company set targets for reducing carbon emissions from its products and operations by saying this: “”What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”
Well, Mr. Tillerson, let’s think. If we don’t save the planet it’s a pretty sure bet that humanity will suffer too, unless Exxon’s got a super-secret plan for evacuating 8 billion people to some other hospitable planet in the galaxy. It probably doesn’t. Even if it did, I’m pretty sure it would want to recover its R&D costs like Big Pharma does, by charging each customer/rider exorbitant amounts of money to ride away from poor old decaying Earth. That would probably limit the number of people who could ride on the relatively small number of rocket ships to New Home or whatever the healthy planet would be named.
Nah. This is sounding like the plot of at least a dozen science-fiction books I’ve read (When Worlds Collide, for one) and there are probably another 100 with similar plots that I haven’t gotten around to yet.
No, I’m afraid Mr. Tillerson is too busy aiming for fat profits to keep him in the style he’s become accustomed to enjoying to worry about the long term health of the planet or its inhabitants. It’s a tough life, after all, trying to get buy on $40.3 million in 2012.
People like this will drive me back to drink.
The woman was obnoxiously stupid, continually getting her “facts” wrong (no, lady, it was John Wayne Gacy who was born in your home town, not The Duke), but she was good comic value.
Dana Milbank has some commentary on her retirement. Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo has a Top Seven List of her greatest blunders.
One can only hope the people of her district pick as her replacement someone marginally smarter . It won’t be hard.