mm504: Numb, but thawing

September 28, 2008
© Sharon Kennedy | Dreamstime.com

© Sharon Kennedy | Dreamstime.com

Trying not to feel too guilty about this month’s continuing violations of the blogger’s prime directive: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

Guilty, your honor, with an excuse.

It’s not like there haven’t been extraordinary events to write about, in the big world out there, and in the not quite silent interior world each of us populate, eternally alone.

Faithful reader will have noted the personal elements that seem to have cost us our creative rhythm.

Complicated, lately, by the recent edition of MUDGElet No. 3’s 50-inch HD plasma television (if the empty nest had to be invaded, at least there’s an extra dividend!), just in time for the football season and the exciting (for Chicagoans, surprisingly exciting) baseball late and post-season.

Football, especially, on the elderly 13-inch conventional TV that sits on a file cabinet in our home office, pales in comparison. And the only laptop in my possession (two, actually, in my custody) belongs to my employer, and it wouldn’t occur to me to blog on those machines. Inappropriate.

So, it’s a tough call, choosing between blogging and high-definition spectator sport, especially in these personally emotionally draining times, and especially on this Sunday evening when the often frustrating home team Bears are giving the Eagles a fight.

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mm503: The $700 Billion Fairy Tale

September 25, 2008
© Penguinn | Dreamstime.com

© Penguinn | Dreamstime.com

Don’t have the energy for a full fledged rant, but several stories and commentaries crossed the screen today, and made it clear that, in an administration that never stops scamming us, they’ve totally topped themselves.

The Yiddish term is Chutzpah, whose classic definition has a young man, caught with bloody hands after murdering his parents, asking the court for mercy, as he’s an orphan.

We begin with that stalwart bastion of progressive thought, Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune. Stalwart, yes, bastion, yes, progressive? Judge for yourself.

chitrib

The case against a federal bailout

Steve Chapman | September 25, 2008

The late comedian Jack Benny made a career of claiming to be a cheapskate. In one joke, a robber accosted him and said: “Your money or your life.” Getting no response, the thug repeated his demand. Benny replied, “I’m thinking about it!”

That’s the sort of dilemma posed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke in their proposed rescue of financial institutions. They predict dire consequences if they don’t get their way. But the consequences of letting them have their way are so awful that the alternative doesn’t look so bad.

What they prescribe is for the federal government to buy $700 billion worth of lousy assets from banks and other lenders, exposing taxpayers to a potentially crushing liability. This plan would nationalize the money-losing part of the financial sector, to the benefit of capitalists who have made spectacularly bad decisions—fostering more bad decisions in the future.

It would add to the liabilities of a government that is already living way beyond its means. It would give unprecedented power to a couple of officials who have proved highly fallible in trying to avert this alleged crisis. And it poses the risk of abuse and corruption because the government has no way to gauge the value of what it will buy….

Paulson and Bernanke say, and probably believe, that their program is for the good of us all. But remember what Thoreau thought of their 19th Century counterparts. “If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good,” he wrote, “I should run for my life.”

The case against a federal bailout — chicagotribune.com

Read a local media observer today who thought that this was the year that Chapman’s paper, the Chicago Tribune might endorse a Democrat for president for the first time. Ever. In over 150 years.

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mm502: Overwhelmed

September 24, 2008
© Martin Applegate | Dreamstime.com

© Martin Applegate | Dreamstime.com

Just don’t know where to start.

The news is bleak, nearly everywhere one cares to look.

Somehow, John McCain is still taken seriously, even as he escalates the stunts.

First, adopt wholeheartedly with relish the Karl Rove/Swift Boat outrageous Big Lie protocol that obliterated the last nice guy to try to win the White House.

Next, kowtow to the restive Christian wingnuts by selecting for his running mate wingnut magna, herself, Sarah Palin.

Now, clothe his attempt at abject ducking of the first debate in the name of somehow intervening in Congress’s Wall Street bailout negotiations. Senator “Fundamentally Sound” McCain. Whose economic advisor, the next Secretary of the Treasury should this country wake up to a nightmare on Nov. 5 is Phil “Stop Whining” Gramm. Yeah, I’m certain you can guys can be of assistance.

If it wasn’t so serious, it would be laughable.

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mm501: Noted Cubs fan tees off on McCain

September 23, 2008
© Misty Pfeil | Dreamstime.com

© Misty Pfeil | Dreamstime.com

George F. Will is one of the best known conservative commentators writing for a major daily newspaper. And, he makes no bones about his appreciation for the Chicago Cubs, who in the past few days have reached the next milestones in what should, by all rights, be their Brigadoon Year (go ahead, click the link — it’s one of my favorites, and you read it here first!).

Mr. Conservative Pundit George F. Will had some very cogent observations regarding the character of one John S. McCain, Republican presidential candidate. Unexpectedly, at least to this progressive observer, and to others who have picked up on this today, Mr. Will is not happy with Sen. McCain.

washingtonpost

McCain Loses His Head

By George F. Will | Tuesday, September 23, 2008; Page A21

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that “McCain untethered” — disconnected from knowledge and principle — had made a “false and deeply unfair” attack on Cox that was “unpresidential” and demonstrated that McCain “doesn’t understand what’s happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does.”

Senator, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission regulates the stock-related activities of publicly traded corporations.

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mm500: Blast from the Past! No. 54 – Edison vs. Tesla

September 22, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

First day back at work after a bereavement leave, and we’re still not ready for the world of blogging.

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of our favorite electrons. And with over 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, there’s lots to choose from.

I hereby stop apologizing for resuming our observance of the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

Originally posted November 16, 2007, titled “mm195: Edison gets the glory — Tesla won the war.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Every schoolchild, at least of MUDGE‘s generation, knew the name of Thomas Edison, America’s genius inventor. Not nearly so well known today is the reputation of Nikola Tesla, whose alternating current technology offered stiff competition to Edison’s direct current at the time when the nascent electric utilities were battling for the privilege of revolutionizing civilization.

That first battle ground, New York City, finally just yesterday, November 14 2007, after 125 years of service, converted the last direct current electricity service to alternating current.

Can you imagine any industrial artifact built today still being around in the year 2132, 125 years from now? We just don’t think that way any more. Ask the survivors and grieving families of those lost when the I-35 bridge at Minneapolis collapsed this past summer, at the youthful age of 40.

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mm499: Blast from the Past! No. 53 – Fuel without oil, or corn

September 19, 2008
© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

So it’s been pretty tough this week, as Faithful Reader might imagine, and we’re dipping our toes gingerly back into the blogging sea tonight.

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for resuming our observance of the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[2]

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, originally posted November 13, 2007, and with a woman vice presidential candidate, more germane than ever, titled “mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn.”

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s been an ongoing theme (here, here and here) at Left-Handed Complement: the pandering, wrong-headed concentration on corn derived ethanol as the U.S. main alternative to Saudi (and Nigerian, Gulf of Mexico and North Slope) petroleum to fuel our transportation system.

This past weekend, the NYTimes featured a fascinating look at non-corn alternatives to powering our SUVs.

biomassethanol

For years, scientists have known that the building blocks in plant matter — not just corn kernels, but also corn stalks, wood chips, straw and even some household garbage — constituted an immense potential resource that could, in theory, help fill the gasoline tanks of America’s cars and trucks.

Mostly, they have focused on biology as a way to do it, tinkering with bacteria or fungi that could digest the plant material, known as biomass, and extract sugar that could be fermented into ethanol. But now, nipping at the heels of various companies using biological methods, is a new group of entrepreneurs, including Mr. Mandich, who favor chemistry.

The conceptual problem with ethanol from corn has always rested in the strong suspicion that the energy required to process corn to burn in one’s automobile exceeds the yield of energy so created.

Ethanol from corn is a political hot button, especially for all of the presidential campaigners prostrating themselves before Iowa’s farmers — isn’t it high time to divest this country from its inappropriate emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary process?

You don’t see Georgia influencing election trends, and yet:

In Georgia alone, enough waste wood is available to make two billion gallons of ethanol a year, Mr. Mandich said. If all that material could be captured and converted to fuel, it could replace about 1 percent of the nation’s gasoline consumption.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Fuel Without the Fossil – New York Times

Obviously, there are some very bright people working hard at solutions, made increasingly economically attractive as the baseline of comparison to petroleum-based fuels persists in climbing inexorably toward $4/gallon.

And, corn-based or not, it looks like ethanol is going to be the end result of all of this chemical creativity, since it’s ethanol that has the Congressionally mandated tax credit.

MUDGE used to believe that the fuel cell guys had the answer, but what with the way the real world works, I can’t see corner hydrogen pumps popping up in many neighborhoods in my lifetime. So chemically derived ethanol will have to do.

Good to see U.S. innovation persists. Like the current IBM advertisements proclaim, it’s easy to say, and so very much more difficult to actually do.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm498: In her own words

September 16, 2008
© Constantin Opris | Dreamstime.com

© Constantin Opris | Dreamstime.com

So, on a beautiful, late summer afternoon, supported by family and some old friends, we buried her.

She was 81 years old, with four unique children, and lived long enough to see her nine surviving grandchildren grow into accomplished adults (the last three graduated college this past spring); and meet and get to know three great-grandchildren, the youngest of whom, born this past February, my lovely niece named for our long-deceased father.

Though made hollow by a disease whose terminal nature she was only slowly coming to grips with, she refused to give in to it, staying active and alert to the end, an end that was mercifully sudden.

She always told us that she would have to be carried out of that amazing lakefront home; and that’s exactly what occurred.

Yesterday, in the course of going through some old papers, my brother found an envelope from December, 1983, when she was a healthy 56 years old, marked “To my family.”

Once he read the handwritten letter to us, we realized that there was nothing more to do than to have him read it as her eulogy at the graveside service.

Turns out that there was more than one writer in the family.

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” Plato’s Apologia

Having reached the age and stage where one begins to think about how I would hope to be remembered, I write these words:

A very private person with a strong sense of self, I have always been inner directed. Yet because I’ve known what is most important to me, I have been a participant in a viable loving marriage and as my supreme accomplishment have raised children I am proud to know as friends. They will attest that, as they were growing up their mother frequently said, ‘it isn’t what one does that is important, but what one is’—and this I do believe! Core values—integrity, honesty, commitment have been a way of life for all of us. And in a world so readily torn asunder, the extended ties of family have been valued. Our differences perceived and accepted but a sense of loyalty extended. And it gives me pleasure to see my children’s good marriages and the transmission of an Ethical Code to their children.

Philosophically, I have never believed in a single answer, a single truth, a single solution, (nor, if pressed, a single God). Nor have I been paralyzed by crisis or confusion. That always has perhaps been my greatest strength: a quick assessment of the changed situation and an ability to decide upon a plan of action. I could make a decision. Between crises I have been content to retreat—perhaps to heal.

The recipient of a good education—I graduated from the University of Chicago at 18—provided by loving parents, I grew up as a person as opposed to merely a member of my sex. And without the need to advertise I have been comfortable with my Jewish identity. I have believed in understanding the world as I’ve found it, not only in the political sense but in more basic terms. Through a lifetime of extensive reading I acquired what one professional called “a gift of analysis”! This was sometimes helpful to my husband, but more satisfying to me.

We are all paradoxes; I’ve been no exception. I’ve liked stage center on my terms—and have always been happier leading a class than attending one. Yet, I’m equally content beachcombing and being alone with my books and garden.

‘Authorities’ have had little appeal in my life, as you might guess. I’ve always questioned. And I have always reserved the right to decide for myself what I do. That isn’t always noted by the world at large because I’ve never needed to lead the parade.

What I’ve had little patience for is the mediocre—in me or in others. Fine music (but well played), dynamic theatre and dance (not the second rate), good movies, exciting painting—all please. Above all, I love well-written books. However, I think I myself stopped painting when I realized that mine was third-rate stuff; the mere doing wasn’t enough.

I’ve had a good life. A warm relationship with parents and grandparents. Happily an extended period with my Mother. S___ has provided a stimulating life for us, filled more dramatically than most, plus such beauties as greenhouses in our home on the Lake and extended foreign travel—and such terrors as brain tumors and open heart surgery. I have come through a smashed hip and can walk (and indeed dance) again.

We have had special friends who have been valued because they have been equally ready to participate in our lives whether the days be good ones or horrid. And they have not kept us at arms length in their lives.

And it has been a distinct pleasure to know my grandchildren. There’s nothing I value more. With good luck I will see them grow and mature.

As I read what I’ve written, I’m not really sure I’ve scratched the proverbial surface. I’ll have to return to this later. How can one really explain one’s life?

And, remarkably, she wrote her own eulogy. In control to the end.

Goodbye, Mother.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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