Surprise: No Bailout

. Tuesday, September 30

The people spoke out, and for once, their representatives listened and voted per their constituencies' will. But, why are they surprised that the American people did not want to spend their money bailing out the businesses and corporations that have been raping them all along?

Those businesses get the average citizen going and coming: We are paying for them to be in business when we buy their products or services, when we pay tax on those products and services that the businesses don't, when we pay local taxes that end up going to businesses as incentives, when we pay our utilities, when we work for minimum wage to make them rich, when we apply for credit for purchases and then end up with hefty interest rates and finance charges, and on and on. Now they are worried that we didn't want to pay them for screwing up so badly that they are crumbling?  Who cares?  I don't. You want us to yell foul when one of us applies for welfare, but it's OK if businesses demand welfare to pay for their mistakes? Get real.

I think it would be a not-so-bad idea if the whole system crumbled so that a less greedy and hopefully more equitable system can be built to replace it. Let the stock market collapse all the way. I doubt we'd see much of a change anyway. Cudos to the House for doing their job.

New Crisis: Chocolate Threatened!

. Monday, September 29

If you think stress levels are high now, wait until you hear this. The bad news is that Indonesia has found unusually high levels of melamine in Cadbury Asia Pacific Chocolate products and has ordered every last bit of it removed from stores. Melamine, added to milk by suppliers, is an industrial chemical high in nitrogen that fools protein quality tests on watered down milk. A UK site called The Sun (which I will not link to because of a burst of popups that got through Firefox's barriers and where I found this yummy photo of chocolate) said that Cadbury is planning to cut 500,000 jobs worldwide in another cost-saving restructure, but there was no mention of the melamine tainted chocolate. In a relatively controlled panic, I headed over to the FDA web site to see if any recalls of the chocolate were issued here in the US. No chocolate warnings, but the FDA issued an advisory on Sept. 26 that said that melamine was found in Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products. That will be another crisis if they find the chemical in Maxwell House or Folgers! I'll let you know. In the meantime, unless we are now importing milk from China, which wouldn't surprise me, I'll stick with Hershey's Chocolate.

Goodbye Paul Newman

. Saturday, September 27

The legendary Paul Newman died this morning of cancer at his home in Westport, the age of 83. Thanks for entertaining us all these years, Paul. It won't be the same without you.

Ice Cream Made With Real (Breast) Milk

. Friday, September 26

Get this. Now, I'm no farmer, but it doesn't take much to figure out that cows need to be milked twice a day or they are in agony. I'm no scientist either, but humans have tapped into cow's milk for a long time now and reaped the benefits of its wholesomeness. A cow has four teats, but only produces one calf per year, which seems to me to mean that the cow produces a lot more milk than can be used by one calf. Sure, mass production has intervened in the natural process a bit to pull the calf off its momma to collect all the milk for human consumption. That's just the way it is with mass production of any of our food sources. But, PETA has decided to campaign against Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, saying that it is cruel to the cows and calves to harvest the milk, and they want the ice cream maker to use human breast milk instead. Sure, it's absurd, PETA says, but so is drinking milk from cows. What planet are these people from?

Inbox: An Economic Recovery Plan

. Thursday, September 25

Why oh why can these ingenious solutions come through my email, and probably to thousands if not millions of others in the same viral way, but the pundits in power never seem to get them? Here's a good one:

The Economic Recovery Plan

I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.

Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve It Dividend.

To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bona fide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up. So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billon that equals $425,000.00.

My plan is to give $425,000 to every person age 18+ We Deserve It Dividend.

Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So let’s assume a tax rate of 30%. Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes. That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam.

But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket. A husband and wife have $595,000.00.

What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?

  • Pay off your mortgage – housing crisis solved.
  • Repay college loans – what a great boost to new grads.
  • Put away money for college – it’ll be there.
  • Save in a bank – create money to loan to entrepreneurs.
  • Buy a new car – create jobs.
  • Invest in the market – capital drives growth.
  • Pay for your parent’s medical insurance – health care improves.
  • Enable Deadbeat Dads to come clean – or else.
Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+, including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.

If we’re going to re-distribute wealth let’s really do it...instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00 ("vote buy”) economic incentive that is being proposed by one of our candidates for President. If we’re going to do an $85 billion bailout, let’s bail out every adult U. S. Citizen 18+!

As for AIG – liquidate it. Sell off its parts. Let American General go back to being American General. Sell off the real estate. Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up.

Here’s my rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn’t. Sure it’s a crazy idea that can “never work.” But can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party! How do you spell Economic Boom?

I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion We Deserve It Dividend more than the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC. And remember, This plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.

Kindest personal regards,
T. J. Birkenmeier, A Creative Guy & Citizen of the Republic

You know what, Birk? I'm with ya man!

Long Awaited Upgrade to Toilet Paper is Here

. Tuesday, September 23

It was a long, arduous search this morning for any news that didn't contain Obama, McCain, Lehman Brothers, Wall Street or bail out. Searching for good news seemed futile...until this bit about the brand new, reasearcher developed (and they got paid for it too), 3-ply Quilted Northern toilet paper (oops, sorry; how crude of me) bathroom tissue. This new, supposedly softer and probably much stronger toilet paper bathroom tissue was released yesterday, just in time for the proverbial shit to hit the fan in the stock market. The advertising for the product targets older women 45 and up who view their bathroom as a sort of sanctuary. Fitting smack dab in the middle of that target market, the only thing I require of a bathroom at my age is that is it very, very close by; and I'd hardly call that a sanctuary. Harumph.

'They' Finally Say It's a Repression...

. Saturday, September 20

...and history will say that it began in the fall of 2007. Today, if there wasn't a government buyout of all the bad debt incurred by these financial idiots who loaned money on a song and a prayer, the banks would stop lending money and the economy would grind to a halt al la 1920s Depression. "That's clearly really bad," say the experts, the ones with doctorates in economics and the only ones capable of understanding what is going on. It's pitiful to think that our economy was thriving only because of the stock market, the housing boom and a huge mountain of personal debt. This is the first sign in this whole financial mess that the every day person was even considered important enough to mention. The result, after all the dust is cleared, is that people, every day people, will be more conservative and purchase without going in debt. Greed bit the hand that feeds it way too many times. What a novel concept.

My Money is Spent How?

. Thursday, September 18

I'm not going to tell you that I understand the stock market or the way these big financial companies work, because I don't. Not in the least. The only conclusion I can draw from it all is that what they are dealing and gambling with is less valuable than the paper money circulating that is supposed to be backed by gold. Real gold. Gold in heavy, hefty bars. These stock brokers and whatever other players involved watch numbers flash across a ticker at lightening speed and that's what they are dealing and gambling with - blips of neon light. The numbers represent, supposedly, a vast amount of money so voluminous that no human being could ever count it in a lifetime if it was piled right in front of him.

So, here's all these major trading firms, commercial banks, mortgage lenders and financial insurance companies all whining for help, to bail their asses out before their walls all come crumbling down. Not one single financial genius is looking at the real reason behind the "worst crisis on Wall Street since the Great Depression."

And it's all so simple, really. A few years ago, when gas prices started to go up - something we can't live without - but blue collar wages didn't, the squeeze began. The 90% of the population that holds only 10% of the wealth in this country pay taxes while the 10% that holds 90% of the wealth enjoy government tax breaks, incentives and yes, trillions of dollars in "bail outs." Well, you damned idiots, what did you expect would happen when you drained your consumer market dry with your greed? You got all the money - aren't you happy now?

What really pisses me off is that we are all so well programmed that we do nothing while our tax money is spent to bail out badly run businesses. But, bring up the topic of "welfare" and there's a mighty public uproar. Why is that? It's right to bail out business with gazillions of money, but it's wrong to spend less than 11% of the national budget on Public Assistance, Medicaid and Medicare?

I thought the Consitution of the United States reads "government for the people, by the people." People, not businesses. People. You and I kind of people. You and I and millions of other people that make up that 90% of the population that holds only 10% of the wealth.

Go ahead and slam me for my idealism, perhaps my naivete, and if you want, for my trashy language. If it makes you stop and think about this long enough to slap me upside the head, then maybe some of it will sink in. We the people are the majority, and it's about time that the majority woke up.

Plastics Linked to Major Health Ailments

. Tuesday, September 16

The Journal of the American Medical Association released the results of a major study that points to bisphenol-A, or BPA, a chemical widely used in many plastic food and beverage products, and heart disease, Type II diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities. The study showed that people within the study group with the highest levels of BPA were twice as likely than people with low levels to have those particular health problems. The FDA is defending its recent report that current levels of BPA are safe and denies that it ignored other studies not funded by the plastics industry. BPA is in 90 percent of the population, primarily from leaching out of plastics, and there is very little hope to avoid the chemical:
BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastic, a clear shatter-resistant material in products ranging from baby and water bottles to plastic eating utensils to sports safety equipment and medical devices. It also is used to make durable epoxy resins used as the coating in most food and beverage cans and in dental fillings.
Yale School of Medicine research supports the American Medical Association study, and adds more concern. Primates with BPA were found to have lost connectivity between brain cells that could lead to memory problems and depression.

Worry About Bank Deposits

. Monday, September 15

It's coming sooner than later, and an article today said that there is already a slow run on commercial banks.

That "run" could accelerate as people realize the FDIC fund has about $50 billion to "insure" about $1 trillion in assets at the nation's financial institutions, says Roubini. "They're going to run out of money" unless Congress acts soon to recapitalize the FDIC.
Keep in mind that the FDIC only covers up to $100,000 in any one account.  The FDIC has a "troubled bank" list, but it is only good up to June. Who knows what's been happening since then.

They All Came Tumbling Down


The 6 a.m. bell sounded on Wall Street this morning as a toll to mark the demise of two major financial institutions: Lehman Brothers filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Merrill Lynch struck a deal with Bank of America for an all stock buyout. The shock has rocked markets worldwide from Europe to China, Turkey to India. According to reports, that leaves Bank of America, already thinned by the Countrywide buyout earlier this year, and Citigroup as the two banks left capable of aiding the now ailing AIG. "It's clear we're one step away from a financial meltdown," said Nouriel Roubini, chairman of the consulting firm RGE Monitor.

The good news: Oil is now down to $93 a barrel. With the tension with Venezuela, a major supplier of US oil, it's unlikely that we'll see much relief at the pump.

Arkansas State of Emergency Panic Ahead of Ike

. Saturday, September 13

The Daily Citizen reports that Governor Mike Beebe's state of emergency yesterday because of gas supply line interruptions caused a widespread panic and gas station tanks were emptied within hours. Gas prices went up as well, most now near $4 per gallon, with rumors of $5 and even $9 per gallon in some areas. Beebe and the Arkansas Attorney General are aware of the hysteria and urge people to keep receipts and take photos of the marquis with the gas price as evidence in a strong effort to prosecute price gouging during the crisis. The pipeline that supplies Arkansas will remain shut down until Hurricane Ike is no longer a threat to the Gulf Coast.

Start a Movement

. Friday, September 12

“If we will decide to encourage rather than criticize, if we will make kind acts and thoughtfulness a part of our daily lives, that if for only one day of the year we will experiment by intentionally avoiding cynicism and meanness and choose instead encouragement, that we as individuals and also as a nation will change and in changing we will change our world.”
--Andrew Baker, organizer of the National Day of Encouragement and executive director of the Encouragement Foundation, a group that raises the awareness about the benefits of encouraging others.

Thank You, Soldier

. Thursday, September 11

Gas Prices Will Stay at Current Level

. Wednesday, September 10

OPEC president Chakib Khelil publicly announced the decision to cut back oil production based on the price drop from $147 to $102 per barrel. Usually cutbacks are more discreet, with this announcement quite the surprise. Also a surprise was that Russia sent Igor Sechin, a senior and influential deputy prime minister to OPEC's Wednesday meeting. There is only speculation as to the reason Russia sent such a senior official to this meeting, with the tension between the West and Russia over the Georgia invasion as the probable motivation.  Most oil-producing countries are happy with the current price per barrel, held steady by OPEC's production ceiling quotas, yet Saudi Arabia has been producing 750,000 bpd above its given quota, which leads the other countries to believe that Saudi Arabia is content with $90 to $100 price range. Meanwhile, Libya, Venezuela and Algeria are worried that this overproduction will cause an oversupply.

The Pentagon has proposed a $9 billion sale of air defense systems and helicopters to the United Arab Emirates, which includes a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile and radar system. It is expected that Congress will approve the deal within 30 days. While this deal between US companies (Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, etc.) and the UAE has been several years in the making, in recent years, the UAE has acquired several advanced weapons systems from several countries.

Though the AP did not join these two stories together, a connection between the two is glaringly obvious. Gas prices - and food prices as a result - will stay at the current level, and enforced by the military might of oil producing countries. The squeeze will never ease.

Blogs Cause Confusion as Opinion is Interpreted as Fact

. Monday, September 8

That the Election 2008 media coverage is biased is supported by the numbers. According to a Time article this morning, "McCain's Bias Claim: Truth or Tactic?", there were 17,455 articles about the presidential campaign during a six week period this summer. Obama received 38% more coverage than McCain, with the McCain articles 33% negative compared to Obama's 31%. It's also far more likely to find Obama's face on magazine covers than it is McCain's. This is due to the rise of an 'unknown' and the popular demand for analysis and information. Lately, the introduction of Sarah Palin to the scene has resulted in the same sort of "media feeding frenzy" that the Obama camp has enjoyed thus far.

As if the mountain of news stories about the campaign aren't enough to boggle the mind, blogs are contributing to the inferno by adding scores of undocumented, unresearched, unverified, unqualified opinions that only serve to cause and perpetuate mass confusion, near hysterical hate mongering and the spread of misinformation.

In my opinion, based on the above reported facts, it would be more honest, responsible and fruitful for bloggers to emphasize that what they present is opinion only. Be responsible in your writing and publishing because it is valid and valuable. That the press acknowledged the influence of what you write makes it so. Use the power wisely or we will all lose our credibility and voice.

FDA on Drugs

. Friday, September 5

The FDA is in the news today on two drug fronts. Today, it started to list prescription drugs under investigation for potential safety problems, with the intent to inform doctors and people alike. Last year, Congress ordered the FDA to post drugs that the agency is currently investigating in an effort to be more open to the public about what it is, exactly, that they are doing. The list is titled "Potential Signals of Serious Risks/New Safety Information Identified by the Adverse Event Reporting System" meaning that the FDA has identified a potential risk, but not necessarily a causal relationship between the drug and the risk.

Curiously, the FDA today ordered a stronger warning for four drugs commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis that are not on their drug list. In 240 cases, people taking Enbrel, Remicade, Humira or Cimzia developed a fungal infection called histoplasmosis, and 20% died because the diagnosis of the infection may have been late or overlooked entirely. Patients taking these arthritis drugs should call their doctors if they develop flu-like symptoms as these may actually be symptoms of histoplasmosis instead.

Cloned Dogs Can Reproduce

. Thursday, September 4

Meet Snuppy (center). He is the happy father of 9 puppies born between May 14 and 18. South Korean researchers said that his parenthood is the result of the first successful breeding of only cloned canines. Hwong Woo-Suk, the cloning expert stewarding the creation of Snuppy, is now on trial for fraud, embezzlement and other charges for faking research on human embryonic stem cells, but Snuppy is the real thing. The research team leader, Lee Byung-Chun, said the "breeding of cloned dogs opens the way for cloning sniffer dogs and seeing-eye guide dogs, which usually have to be sterilised for training and lose the ability to reproduce." As lofty a reason for cloning dogs as this may sound, it doesn't hurt that dog meat is a normal part of the South Korean diet.

Vetting the Smears

. Wednesday, September 3

I don't get the 'logic' behind the major media smear campaign aimed at Gov. Palin, especially since most points are irrelevant to doing the job of VP. (I also don't understand using the term "vetting" to describe the party's selection process. It sounds like hiring a veterinarian to check a horse for soundness issues before purchase.) It feels like there's some major money funneled to discredit and distract attention away from the issues that really matter. Just what is it that we're being distracted from? Fred Thompson fired back his response to it all last night by saying, "Some Washington pundits and media big shots are in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has actually governed rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit." Good point. I guess that's what we're not supposed to consider.

'Galactica' Down to Ten Episodes, Frak


Battlestar Galactica will return in January with its final 10 episodes. I don't quite understand why the show was canceled, considering that it has quite a following. It's so popular that it is solely responsible for the use of "frak" instead of the word it undeniably stands for. I'd say with that much of a positive influence on society, the show should go on!

Google's Chrome

. Tuesday, September 2

I just downloaded and installed Google's new web browser called Chrome. Within minutes, you see that a very small installer downloads quickly, and when you run that installer, it downloads the software and installs it very quickly. Major points for someone who is tired of all the bloat like I am. The interface is clean and unobtrusive, with more space allotted for viewing. The first thing that I noticed is that its render is very clean., and it handles font display much better than Firefox 3 and more true than Internet Explorer 7. The biggest perk is Chrome's speed, which is remarkable. You can read through all the tech specs yourself to learn how they did it, but downloads are so fast that you'll wonder how you ever suffered through IE7. Go get some Chrome!

Gustav Now in Arkansas


The National Weather Service puts Hurricane Gustav right over my head here in the central region of Arkansas. A look out my window confirms the clouds, rain and wind as predicted. Still, there's a Severe Weather Warning:



(Abundant moisture? Copious amounts of rainfall? Flash flooding is very dangerous? Well, OK. I'm completely informed now.) Added to Wednesday is a possibility of tornadoes along with thunderstorms. It's been quite a wet year around here...

Oil at $110, Bush and McCain Focus on Gustav

. Monday, September 1

A weakening Gustav, now at Category 2, reduced the threat to the Gulf's energy facilities which slid crude to around $110. Though downgraded, Gustav is pounding the Mississippi River delta with 110 mile an hour winds. Forecasters warn of extremely dangerous surges of 14 feet that threaten New Orleans' levees. About 10,000 residents remained in the area after the biggest evacuation effort in US history. Meanwhile, inland areas are warned to watch for tornadoes. Search and rescue will begin when winds slow to a safe level, probably later this evening.

Wanting to prove that he learned hard lessons during the Katrina disaster, President Bush is now headed to San Antonio and Austin, TX, the staging ground for emergency response. Staying out of the way of relief response efforts, he'll head to Louisiana later.

The shortened GOP Convention will now be a major fundraising drive for hurricane victims, with Cindy McCain and Laura Bush focusing on Gustav. While Cindy McCain and Sara Palin flew to St. Paul last night, Laura Bush made breakfast this morning for a group of delegates, and said that she was pleased to be able to vote for a Republican woman. She's as surprised as everyone else at McCain's pick, and said, "we know what kind of women Alaska produces. We know how tough and strong she is."